We have here an account of the cavalcade which Israel made about Jericho, the orders Joshua gave concerning it, as he had received them from the Lord and their punctual observance of these orders. We do not find that he gave the people the express assurances God had given him that he would deliver the city into their hands; but he tried whether they would obey orders with a general confidence that it would end well, and we find them very observant both of God and Joshua.
I. Wherever the ark went the people attended it, Josh. 6:9. The armed men went before it to clear the way, not thinking it any disparagement to them, though they were men of war, to be pioneers to the ark of God. If any obstacle should be found in crossing the roads that led to the city (which they must do in walking round it) they would remove it; if any opposition should be made by the enemy, they would encounter it, that the priests’ march with the ark might be easy and safe. It is an honour to the greatest men to do any good office to the ark and to serve the interests of religion in their country. The rereward, either another body of armed men, or Dan’s squadron, which marched last through the wilderness, or, as some think, the multitude of the people who were not armed or disciplined for war (as many of them as would) followed the ark, to testify their respect to it, to grace the solemnity, and to be witnesses of what was done. Every faithful zealous Israelite would be willing to undergo the same fatigues and run the same hazard with the priests that bore the ark.
II. Seven priests went immediately before the ark, having trumpets in their hands, with which they were continually sounding, Josh. 6:4, 5, 9, 13. The priests were God’s ministers, and thus in his name, 1. They proclaimed war with the Canaanites, and so stuck a terror upon them; for by terrors upon their spirits they were to be conquered and subdued. Thus God’s ministers, by the solemn declarations of his wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, must blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in the holy mountain, that the sinners in Zion may be afraid. They are God’s heralds to denounce war against all those that go on still in their trespasses, but say, “We shall have peace, though we go on.” 2. They proclaimed God’s gracious presence with Israel, and so put life and courage into them. It was appointed that when they went to war the priests should encourage them with the assurance of God’s presence with them, Deut. 20:2-4. And particularly their blowing with trumpets was to be a sign to the people that they should be remembered before the Lord Their God in the day of battle, Num. 10:9. It encouraged Abijah, 2 Chron. 13:12. Thus God’s ministers, by sounding the Jubilee trumpet of the everlasting gospel, which proclaims liberty and victory, must encourage the good soldiers of Jesus Christ in their spiritual warfare.
III. The trumpets they used were not those silver trumpets which were appointed to be made for their ordinary service, but trumpets of rams’ horns, bored hollow for the purpose, as some think. These trumpets were of the basest matter, dullest sound, and least show, that the excellency of the power might be of God. Thus by the foolishness of preaching, fitly compared to the sounding of these rams’ horns, the devil’s kingdom is thrown down; and the weapons of our warfare, though they are not carnal nor seem to a carnal eye likely to bring any thing to pass, are yet mighty through God to the pulling down of strong-holds, 2 Cor. 10:4, 5. The word here is trumpets of Jobel, that is, such trumpets as they used to blow withal in the year of jubilee; so many interpreters understand it, as signifying the complete liberty to which Israel was now brought, and the bringing of the land of Canaan into the hands of its just and rightful owners.
IV. All the people were commanded to be silent, not to speak a word, nor make any noise (Josh. 6:10), that they might the more carefully attend to the sound of the sacred trumpets, which they were now to look upon as the voice of God among them; and it does not become us to speak when God is speaking. It likewise intimates their reverent expectation of the event. Zech. 2:13; Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord. Exod. 14:14; God shall fight, and you shall hold your peace.
V. They were to do this once a day for six days together and seven times the seventh day, and they did so, Josh. 6:14, 15. God could have caused the walls of Jericho to fall upon the first surrounding of them, but they must go round them thirteen times before they fall, that they might be kept waiting patiently for the Lord. Though they had lately come into Canaan, and their time was very precious (for they had a great deal of work before them), yet they must linger so many days about Jericho, seeming to do nothing, nor to make any progress in their business. As promised deliverances must be expected in God’s way, so they must be expected in his time. He that believes does not make haste, not more haste than God would have him make. Go yet seven times, before any thing hopeful appears, 1 Kgs. 18:43.
VI. One of these days must needs be a sabbath day, and the Jews say that it was the last, but this is not certain; however, if he that appointed them to rest on the other sabbath days appointed them to walk on this, that was sufficient to justify them in it; he never intended to bind himself by his own laws, but that when he pleased he might dispense with them. The impotent man went upon this principle when he argued (John 5:11), He that made me whole (and therefore has a divine power) said unto me, Take up thy bed. And, in this case here, it was an honour to the sabbath day, by which our time is divided into weeks, that just seven days were to be spent in this work, and seven priests were employed to sound seven trumpets, this number being, on this occasion, as well as many others, made remarkable, in remembrance of the six day’s work of creation and the seventh day’s rest from it. And, besides, the law of the sabbath forbids our own work, which is servile and secular, but this which they did was a religious act. It is certainly no breach of the sabbath rest to do the sabbath work, for the sake of which the rest was instituted; and what is the sabbath work but to attend the ark in all its motions?
VII. They continued to do this during the time appointed, and seven times the seventh day, though they saw not any effect of it, believing that at the end the vision would speak and not lie, Hab. 2:3. If we persevere in the way of duty, we shall lose nothing by it in the long run. It is probable they walked at such a distance from the walls as to be out of the reach of the enemies’ arrows and out of the hearing of their scoffs. We may suppose the oddness of the thing did at first amuse the besieged, but by the seventh day they had grown secure, feeling no harm from that which perhaps they looked upon as an enchantment. Probably they bantered the besiegers, as those mentioned in Neh. 4:2; “What do these feeble Jews? Isa. this the people we thought so formidable? Are these their methods of attack?” Thus they cried peace and safety, that the destruction might be the more terrible when it came. Wicked men (says bishop Hall) think God in jest when he is preparing for their judgment; but they will be convinced of their mistake when it is too late.
VIII. At last they were to give a shout, and did so, and immediately the walls fell, Josh. 6:16. This was a shout for mastery, a triumphant shout; the shout of a king is among them, Num. 23:21. This was a shout of faith; they believed that the walls of Jericho would fall, and by this faith the walls were thrown down. It was a shot of prayer, an echo to the sound of the trumpets which proclaimed the promise that God would remember them; with one accord, as one man, they cry to heaven for help, and help comes in. Some allude to this to show that we must never expect a complete victory over our own corruptions till the very evening of our last day, and then we shall shout in triumph over them, when we come to the number and measure of our perfection, as bishop Hall expresses it. A good heart (says he) groans under the sense of his infirmities, fain would be rid of them, and strives and prays, but, when all is done, until the end of the seventh day it cannot be; then judgment shall be brought forth unto victory. And at the end of time, when our Lord shall descend from heaven with a shout, and the sound of a trumpet, Satan’s kingdom shall be completely ruined, and not till then, when all opposing rule, principality, and power, shall be effectually and eternally put down.