Untitled Sermon (3)
The story of Israel’s first victory in the land is told in exquisite detail. Just as the crossing of the Jordan was treated as an important event to be solemnly undertaken, with proper ritual preparation and commemoration, so also the taking of Jericho was to be done properly and in order. God gave precise instructions for the taking of the city, which involved careful ceremonial circling of the city rather than classic military tactics (vv. 2–5). Joshua, as God’s faithful representative, instructed the people accordingly (vv. 6–7). The dramatic buildup and climax of the action is told in vv. 8–21, and, in the aftermath, several loose threads are tied up. The story is repetitive, and the Old Greek version is shorter than the MT version, leading many scholars to postulate very complex histories of the supposed growth and development of the account, by the accretion of either many literary strands or many separate traditions. As with chaps. 3–4, however, such postulates are not required by the text, and here too one can make sense of the Hebrew text on its own merits.2
The detail with which the account is told emphasizes the importance of this city and its destruction.3 It was the first city captured by the Israelites, and, as such, its capture represented the entire takeover of the land.4 The Israelites’ taking of other cities and their kings is compared several times to what happened to Jericho (8:1–2; 10:28, 30). And at the end of Joshua’s life, when he summarized the taking of the land, Jericho was the only city he mentioned by name, even though he mentioned seven nations and several kings who fought against Israel (24:8–13).