We have here a contest between God and the men of Jericho, and their different resolutions, upon which it is easy to say whose word shall prevail.
I. Jericho resolves Israel shall not be its master, Josh. 6:1. It was straitly shut up, because of the children of Israel. It did shut up, and it was shut up (so it is in the margin); it did shut up itself, being strongly fortified both by art and nature, and it was shut up by the obstinacy and resolution of the inhabitants, who agreed never to surrender nor so much as sound a parley; none went out as deserters or to treat of peace, nor were any admitted in to offer peace. Thus were they infatuated, and their hearts hardened to their own destruction—the miserable case and character of all those that strengthen themselves against the Almighty, Job 15:25.
II. God resolves Israel shall be its master, and that quickly, The captain of the Lord’s host, here called Jehovah, taking notice how strongly Jericho was fortified and how strictly guarded, and knowing Joshua’s thoughts and cares about reducing it, and perhaps his fears of a disgrace there and of stumbling at the threshold, gave him here all the assurance he could desire of success (Josh. 6:2): See, I have given into thy hand Jericho. Not, “I will do it, but, I have done it; it is all thy own, as sure as if it were already in thy possession.” It was designed that this city, being the first-fruits of Canaan, should be entirely devoted to God, and that neither Joshua nor Israel should ever be one mite the richer for it, and yet it is here said to be given into their hand; for we must reckon that most our own which we have an opportunity of honouring God with and employing in his service. Now. 1. The captain of the Lord’s host gives directions how the city should be besieged. No trenches are to be opened, no batteries erected, nor battering rams drawn up, nor any military preparations made; but the ark of God must be carried by the priests round the city once a day for six days together, and seven times the seventh day, attended by the men of war in silence, the priests all the while blowing with trumpets of rams’ horns, Josh. 6:3, 4. This was all they were to do. 2. He assures them that on the seventh day before night they should, without fail, be masters of the town. Up on a signal given, they must all shout, and immediately the wall should fall down, which would not only expose the inhabitants, but so dispirit them that they would not be able to make any resistance, Josh. 6:5. God appointed this way, (1.) To magnify his own power, that he might be exalted in his own strength (Ps. 21:13), not in the strength of instruments. God would hereby yet further make bare his own almighty arm for the encouragement of Israel and the terror and confusion of the Canaanites. (2.) To put an honour upon his ark, the instituted token of his presence, and to give a reason for the laws by which the people were obliged to look upon it with the most profound veneration and respect. When, long after this, the ark was brought into the camp without orders from God, it was looked upon as a profanation of it, and the people paid dearly for their presumption, 1 Sam. 4:3 But now that it was done by the divine appointment it was an honour to the ark of God, and a great encouragement to the faith of Israel. (3.) It was likewise to put honour upon the priests, who were appointed upon this occasion to carry the ark and sound the trumpets. Ordinarily the priests were excused from war, but that this privilege, with other honours and powers that the law had given them, might not be grudged them, in this service they are principally employed, and so the people are made sensible what blessings they were to the public and how well worthy of all the advantages conferred upon them. (4.) It was to try the faith, obedience, and patience, of the people, to try whether they would observe a precept which to human policy seemed foolish to obey and believe a promise which in human probability seemed impossible to be performed. They were also proved whether they could patiently bear the reproaches of their enemies and patiently wait for the salvation of the Lord. Thus by faith, not by force, the walls of Jericho fell down. (5.) It was to encourage the hope of Israel with reference to the remaining difficulties that were before them. That suggestion of the evil spies that Canaan could never be conquered because the cities were walled up to heaven (Deut. 1:28) would by this be for ever silenced. The strongest and highest walls cannot hold out against Omnipotence; they needed not to fight, and therefore needed not to fear, because God fought for them.