In Joshua 1-4, God demonstrated His provision for Israel by establishing Joshua as their new leader. In Joshua 5-8, Joshua led the people to follow God’s law in the conquest of the Promised Land. When Israel obeyed the demands of the old covenant, they enjoyed success in Canaan. But the disobedience of one man, Achan, brought harm to many. The reference to Rahab in Josh 6:25 links chs. 1-4 with chs. 5-8. Having entered Canaan, Joshua spared Rahab and her family just as he had promised.
The initial scene of Joshua 5 demonstrates the significance of the law in the conquest of Canaan. Israel’s battle was spiritual as well as physical. Rather than marching straightaway into the land and attacking the inhabiting nations, Israel obeyed the Lord’s command that males born after the exodus should be circumcised (Josh 5:2-9; see Gen 17:9-14; Exod 12:48; Lev 12:3). Israel also kept the Passover according to the law (see Exodus 12; Numbers 9; Deuteronomy 16) before their military conquest (Josh 5:10-12).
Israel’s devotion to the law demonstrated their dependence upon God in the conquest of Canaan. And in the battle plan to take Jericho (Joshua 6), God showed His jealousy to fight for Israel. Jericho was especially fortified because it was a city within range of any seeking to conquer it by way of the Transjordan plains (Josh 6:1). Israel followed God’s plan, marching around the city for six days (Josh 6:6-14). After receiving the final instructions on the morning of the seventh day (Josh 6:15-19), the volume of their corporate shout at the sound of the trumpets demolished the fortified walls of Jericho (Josh 6:20-21). According to the word of the Lord, Israel placed the gold and silver plunder of the battle into the Lord’s treasury (Josh 6:24-26). The degree of success in the initial conquest of Canaan was evident in the cursing of any who attempted to rebuild Jericho (Josh 6:26-27).
But all had not gone as well as Joshua thought. Joshua 7 begins with “However” (Josh 7:1). Achan had stolen some of the plunder that was to be set apart for destruction (Josh 6:18-19, 24; see Deut 7:2; Num 31:11, 12, 21-23). Achan’s sin had several consequences: the Lord’s anger burned against all of Israel (Josh 7:6:18; 7:2, 10-18), Israel’s first combat mission ended in defeat and the death of three dozen soldiers (Josh 7:3-5), and Achan was destroyed, along with the stolen plunder, his family, and all that he had (Josh 7:20-26).
Nevertheless, as is clear in Genesis-Deuteronomy, God’s word of discipline is never His last word to those who turn to Him in repentance (see Exodus 32-23; Numbers 12-15). The successful conquest of Ai, through another divine plan of attack in Joshua 8, confirmed that the Lord would not abandon His covenant faithfulness to His people. Established in the land, Joshua and Israel gave allegiance to the Lord by enacting the ceremony of commitment to the law on the peaks of Mount Ebal and Mount Gerazim (Josh 8:30-35), just as the Lord had commanded in Deut 27:1-8.
The faithfulness of Rahab, Israel, and God in Joshua 5-8 provide windows for observing how New Testament writers employed the Old Testament.
(1) In Matt 1:5, Matthew noted Rahab’s place in the genealogy of Jesus. Rahab was a foreigner and a prostitute in Jericho. But when she feared the Lord and His people, she acted faithfully in hiding the spies Joshua had sent to scout out the city (Joshua 2). Joshua spared her and her family (Josh 6:25) and Matthew provides snapshots of what followed. Rahab became a part of Israel through her marriage to Salmon. They had Boaz, who would be the great grandfather of King David. Rahab’s story anticipates God’s grace to Gentiles and Jews together in Christ.
(2) In Heb 11:30, the author wrote, “By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after being encircled for seven days.” The author’s concern was not with Israel or Joshua or the particular individuals who marched. Faith works, Hebrews notes, it acts and has an effect. The unseen God alters the visible, even mighty walls, as God’s people trust Him.
(3) References to trumpets in 1 Cor 15:52, 1 Thess 4:16, and in the seven trumpet judgements in Revelation 8-11 recall the blowing of the trumpets at the battle of Jericho in Josh 6:4 (see also Num 10:1-10). In Scripture’s storyline, trumpets call God’s people to remember Him and signal that He is about to remember them in deliverance.