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Top Ten Old Testament Stories: #6 Joshua and the Walls of Jericho


In the last story of the Exodus from Egypt we timed the life of Moses to approximately 1400-1201 B.C., and there we also mentioned that Joshua is the leader that took over after Moses to lead the Israelites into the promised land. What is incredibly exciting and interesting is that there is archeological evidence that dates the fall of Jericho to 1400 B.C., which is quite consistent with the biblical timeline (http://www.nytimes.com/1990/02/22/world/believers-score-in-battle-over-the-battle-of-jericho.html). The site was first discovered in 1868 by Charles Warren, and in the 1930’s John Garstang discovered the network of collapsed walls, but it was not until the 1980’s that carbon dating corroborated the historical timing of the ruins.



Without getting political, let us just say that sometimes a transition of leadership is challenging to an organization, regardless of whether it is a company, a nation, a church, or the descendants of Jacob wandering the desert in prehistoric times. It is remarkable that in the story of Joshua we have such an excellent model of transition of leadership, and in this article, after summarizing the events, we can discuss how Joshua is able to be a little different from Moses, while still serving in the same Spirit and maintaining the same credibility in leading the people of Israel.



Much like Exodus from Egypt, the story of the battle of Jericho is popular enough that most people have heard it many many times already. After the spies scoped out Jericho with the help of Rahab the harlot (Joshua 2), the Israelites crossed the Jordan river (Joshua 3), and came to the seemingly impregnable city (Joshua 6). Based on the instructions given to Joshua by God, the ark of the covenant was marched around the city, led by seven priests blowing seven trumpets with armed guards in front and behind them. The first six days, they went around the city once, and on the seventh day they went around the city seven times. After the seventh time around the city on the seventh day, the priests blew their trumpets and the Israelites “shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat” (Joshua 6:20). They spared Rahab the harlot and all who where in her house, but the rest of the city was burned to the ground.



We have spoken before about Moses and the credibility he earned as a representative of God to the people of Israel, by aligning himself with God’s will. If this is a quality that is only specific to Moses, then it is not relatable to us today, but if we see the same pattern with Joshua and other leaders in the Old Testament that find their source of strength to be from God rather than their own abilities. It is remarkable how Joshua is able to draw from his experience serving under Moses to apply the same values of leadership to a novel situation with a similar result of God’s glory shining through those who accept His sovereignty.

In overtaking Jericho, Joshua had the option of finding another way to attack that seemed more sensible than just walking around it, but his faith in God transcended the logic that begged for more effective military tactics. We may struggle in our discernment to know what God is asking us to do, but at times we may be faced with the challenge of knowing exactly what God wants us to do, but it doesn’t seem to make any sense. It is hard to imagine Joshua’s reaction hearing the game plan not having some sense of incredulity - “ok, yeah, we walk around 7 times … then what? What do you mean that’s it?” - granted there does not seem to be any hesitation between verses 2-5 where God gives the instructions and verses 6-7 where Joshua dutifully passes them along to the priests. Whether or not he truly had some measure of doubt, the action of participating with God in executing His will is more important, as we see with Peter letting down the net in Luke 5:5 at the word of Christ, and not because it makes any sense. This is important for us to keep in mind when we are clear on God’s will for us, that we must consider doing what does not make sense to us at first, with the hope and expectation that it will later be made clear that this was the best way.

If we are to study models of leadership, one of the most basic approaches is to look at the perspective. What is a leader’s orientation? If the leader is oriented to self only, then the decisions become self-aggrandizing and self-serving. If the leader is oriented to the people, then the decisions will be selfless but in great respect limited by the leader’s ability to make proper decisions with limited information and limited abilities. However, if the leader takes the same approach as Moses and Joshua and is properly oriented to seek after God’s will, then we must believe that God will meet us halfway and in the very least compensate for our inevitable mistakes.

Series Name: Top 10 Old Testament Stories

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