The story of Joshua is one of the most amazing in the Bible. Joshua was Israel's first real generals. After the Israelites were led out of Egypt and around the wilderness by Moses, they ended at the south end of the Promised Land. A place called Rephidim.
To the horror of the Israelites, a people called the Amalekites, a fierce desert nomad tribe, attacked them. Well, Israel didn't have such a thing as a regular army, but they chose Joshua to lead all the brave men of war. God had told Moses that the Israelites would never lose a battle for the Promised Land, and Joshua's untrained little army beat the Amalekites.
At the next stop, Moses left the Israelites and gave command to Joshua. Joshua moved the people north to the Jordan river just across from Jericho. He sent some spies to find out about Jericho's defenses.
I think we should stop here for a moment to find out what kind of man Joshua was--besides a general. By this time in his life, Joshua was eighty years old, and had been very close to God for forty years since the Exodus out of Egypt. He was one of the twelve spies that Moses had sent out forty years ago to see what the Promised Land was like. The other spies ignored that God had said He'd help them, and advised against going into the land and fighting the well-defended cities; some of which had giants living there. Joshua tried to tell the people that God would help, but they wouldn't trust God's word and go that day. God got so mad at them, He made them wander around the wilderness for forty years.
So trusting in God's word, or as I like to call it, Faithing, was something Joshua was good at. He had to be, because in order to get into Jericho, Israel ahd to cross the Jordan river. It was just at the end of the rainy season and the river was up and running pretty quick. There were no bridges or ferry boats and Joshua didn't have much to go on but god's word He'd get them across the river.
Now faithing doesn't really start until we start moving ourselves. That means that we take the first step we can figure out--even if it looks like it won't do much good. Well, the only thing Joshua could find to do to get to Jericho was to start walking that way; which meant walking into the Jordan river. Of course he didn't just do it off hand. He did what we should all do when working on God's promises. He studied the problem to see the best way to proceed, he reassured himself he was doing Right by God, and that, even if he, Joshua, didn't understand how is was possible, God had said it was. So Joshua had all three things covered: Right, Prudent, and Possible. Here's what he actually did. He told the priests to take the Ark of the Covenant and start walking into the river, and that the people would follow a thousand yards behind.
I bet some of those priests had to overcome a feeling of being silly. They were walking straight into a fast-moving river, and it sure didn't look like they could walk across. The Priests feet had hardly touched the edges of the water when the current and flow of the river slowed down to where you could see the sand on the bottom and it wasn't even being washed down stream.
The way it finished up was, the priests stood in the middle of the trickling river until all the Israelites passed over to the other side. But that was only a little story of Faithing by Joshua and the Israelites. Now we'll go back to the spies Joshua sent over to Jericho.
After searching around and asking a lot of questions, the spies went to a prostitute's inn. While they were there, word got to the king of Jericho that there were spies, and he sent men to capture them.
Now Rahab, the prostitute, could have been killed and all her family for helping these spies, but she wanted to go on living. So instead of turning them in, she hid the spies and said they weren't there to the king's men. That seems like a funny thing for Rahab to do until you know that she had heard about the Israelites and what had happened in Egypt. She believed that God was real and was helping Joshua's people. That meant she and her family would most certainly die when Joshua attacked Jericho. She believed God's word, and Faithed in two ways.
First, she hid the spies. Second, and this is the really neat way Rahab faithed, she hung a scarlet cord or ribbon out he window. The spies told her she'd be saved if she did that. There's another one of those silly looking things that God has us do sometimes to show His power. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Rahabs' House was located on the outside wall of Jericho.
Jericho was one of the best defended cities in the Promised Land. It had not one wall, but two. The outer wall was six feet thick, and the inner wall was twelve feet thick. It doesn't say for sure how many people lived in Jericho, but it had to be much bigger than the city of Ai, which the Israelites conquered right after Jericho. In that city, the Israelites killed twelve thousand people. I would guess that Jericho was at least a mile square.
An email got me to thinking about the size of Jericho. Here's some "thinking out loud" that I did in my reply.
I don't remember how I arrived at the one mile square figure, but I grew up in Chicago. If I were to figure a mile square in the area where I grew up, there might be a 1000 people on one city block. It takes eight long blocks to make a mile, and sixteen short blocks. That would make the population of a square mile somewhere near 110,000. This may be too high a number for Jericho. I think it is, but taking into consideration the fact that they didn't have a lot of multiple story buildings, like *my* neighborhood did, we could pretty safely cut that number in half . 50,000 people starts to sound close, even if still on the high side.
Then again, how much time and effort does it take to walk around a mile square city SEVEN times? That makes a 28 mile trip on the day the walls came down. At usual walking speed of 3 miles per hour, it would have taken them 9.33 hours! It's obvious, now, that the estimate of four miles around the city is too high. Getting a couple million people set up for the walk and then conquering the whole city after the walls came down looks like too long a day to fit everything in. What about lunch and dinner and a talk break? Well, let's attack the puzzle from the angle of walking around the city instead of the city's population and see what falls out.
Could the city have been only a mile around? That would have resulted in a walk of only two hours and twenty minutes on the last day. Seven miles divided by three miles an hour totals 2.333 hours. This is a nice small figure. It gives the Israelites plenty of time to set up around the city, walk the seven miles, and then spend the time after lunch conquering and burning the city. But in terms of my city blocks, a perimeter of only one mile means there would only be four of those city blocks of one thousand people per block.
That results in a population of only about 4000 people in terms of *my* neighborhood. And clearly, as I note above, the city of Ai had 12,000 that were killed. Jericho MUST have been bigger than Ai. It's said to be the oldest city over there.
Well, there's a bunch of thinking out loud. Thanks for listening. :-) Perhaps some of this figuring will help you decide on how big Jericho must have been. Now back to our story.
One night, camped outside of Jericho, a soldier appeared to Joshua, and said that he was the captain of God's army come to fight for Israel. I guess *he* told Joshua what to do. All Jericho must've laughed when they saw the Israelites war tactics.
Joshua had seven priests with rams horns walk in front of the Ark of God and blow their horns. All the men at arms walked before the priests. Joshua gave them very strict orders that no one was to shout or make any kind of noise at all. They were to all walk around the city one full time and come back to camp. The people had to do this for six days. Maybe God was testing them a little bit by not letting them talk. Remember forty years ago their parents had grumbled that they didn't want to fight and God had not let them even come into this land. Anyway, on the seventh day everyone was to walk around the city *seven* times. Imagine how boring that must have been. Thousands of people marching around that big city kicking up all that dust. And the heat. March, march. Sweat, sweat. Cough, couch. Frown, frown. Boy, I'd frown too. I'd sure want to quit; or at least take a mumble break.
Now comes the very best part of all. The walls. Two amazing and wonderful things happened at the same time. When the Israelites finished the seventh round of the city, they stopped, the priests gave a special blast on the rams horns, and the people turned to the walls and gave a great shout.
The first wonder was that the walls, both of them, fell in flat upon themselves. They just became a big ring of piled-up rocks. The second, Rahab's house, the one on the wall, because it had the red cord haning out the window, *didn't* fall down with the rest of the walls. All her family and their relatives were saved, too. They were in the house with Rahab.
It's hard enough to imagine those walls falling down from a shout, but can you picture the walls of a mile-square city crashing down with only one small section being left standing nice and high above the dust cloud, a small red banner fluttering in the updraft? What a sight!
Well, that pretty well tells the story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. He went on to beat all the other kings that lived around there and never lost a single man in battle; except when some disobeyed God's order not to keep any of the gold and silver. That time they were turned back and thirty-six men died.
Isn't it interesting how God showed us how these different people acted in trust on God's promises? The priests walked into the river, not knowing it would slow down to a trickle. Rahab and her folks were saved by merely hanging a ribbon out the window, and the mighty walls of Jericho fell flat because some people had enough *trust* to march around and shout at the city. Faithing takes a lot of courage and trust.
I hope that by hearing how the heroes of faithing in the Bible acted on God's word that He'd help them, you might know that He's there for anyone who believes in Him, and that He said He'd be there if you only ask; and act.
Be sure to check out the other Heroes of faithing listed in Hebrews, chapter eleven. See if you can tell what
each did that showed he trusted things that God had said. I also invite you see how the whole book of
Hebrews talks about faithing.
I love mail.