Understanding the Old Testament

Preparing for the Battle of Jericho

(All quotations are from the New American Standard Bible translation)

Having received his marching orders and assurances of victory from the Lord, Joshua took command and ordered the Israelites to prepare to cross the Jordan River into Canaan—with the warriors of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh crossing first. (Joshua 1:10-14)

Then he secretly sent two spies to Jericho to view the city and the surrounding land. (Joshua 2:1) A common prostitute (as opposed to a temple prostitute) named Rahab gave them lodging and hid them when Jericho’s king sent men to find them. She even misdirected the king’s men by saying that the two spies had left the city, and later told the spies how to escape when they left. (Joshua 2:2-7, 2:16)

But what Rahab said may have been even more valuable than what she did, for she told the two Israelite spies that the inhabitants of Jericho were terrified of them. (Joshua 2:9-11) This must have been a big confidence booster for Joshua and the Israelites.

In return for her help, Rahab asked only for the safety of herself and her family when the Israelites attacked. The spies readily agreed, so long as she would gather her family into one house and tie a cord of scarlet thread in her window to ensure that the Israelites would know which house to avoid. (Joshua 2:17-18)

When the time came to cross the Jordan River, the Ark of the Covenant led the way, carried by the priests. (Joshua 3:3, 3:8, 3:13-15) This showed the Israelites that this was something special, because the Kohathites—a branch of the tribe of Levi—normally carried the Ark (Numbers 4:15).

When the priests’ feet touched the river, the water upstream was dammed up at the city of Adam. (This was not quite the same as what happened at the Sea of Reeds, where the waters simply parted.) This may have been due to an earthquake upstream. In the past earthquakes have caused the riverbanks to cave in and temporarily dam up the Jordan River. Of course, the miracle was in the timing, for the river stopped flowing just when the Israelites needed it to.

The priests stood in the middle of the riverbed with the Ark while the people crossed over. (Joshua 3:17) Joshua 3:15 and 4:18 tell us that the river was at flood stage, so it would not have been easy to cross, and would have cut off their escape if they had been attacked. Thus, the people displayed faith by merely agreeing to cross, and again during the actual crossing. This demonstrates how far the Israelites had come since their forefathers’ cowardice and hesitation forty years earlier.

When all were safely across, the Lord instructed Joshua to have twelve men—one from each tribe—carry a large stone from the dry riverbed and construct a memorial along the shore to remind the Israelites and their children of what the Lord had done for them. (Joshua 4:1-7)

On the western shore of the Jordan, the Israelite males were circumcised—for that had not been done during their forty years in the wilderness—and then celebrated the Passover. (Joshua 5:2-11) And on that day the manna ceased. (Joshua 5:12)

Question to ponder or discuss
: Just as the stone memorial reminded the Israelites of the miracle that enabled them to cross the flood swollen Jordan River, Jesus gave us communion to help us remember Him and what He did for us. Why do you think God gives us reminders like those?

.Copyright 2018 by Don Davidson

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