Joshua – Week 5: The Fall of Jericho

Chapters 5 – 6 – The fall of Jericho

Literary context

What is the general outline of the story?

  • It starts with a brief introduction, again depicting the fear of the Canaanites
  • Then there is a purification rite, followed by a celebration of the Passover.
  • Joshua is confronted by the Lord’s commander.
  • Following this confrontation, the Lord gives Joshua instructions for the capture of the city
  • The next section describes how the instructions of the Lord are followed, with the story reaching a climax when the Israelites circle the city of Jericho 7 times on the final day.
  • The fall of Jericho is followed by a description of how the city is destroyed, Rahab saved and Joshua cursing it.
  • As part of the larger story, this narrative is preceded by Israel crossing the Jordan which in turn is preceded by the story of the spies meeting Rahab.
  • The narrative is followed by Achan’s sin and God’s judgment over Israel because of it.

Note the comparison with Moses: the covenant renewal – first circumcision to confirm the promises made to Abraham and then the Passover meal to confirm the promises made to the nation when they left Egypt. Further, they both struck fear into their enemies, and they both took their sandals off before the Lord.

Joshua 5:1 links this passage with the crossing of the Jordan and emphasises the fear of the enemies of Israel.

Note the perfect obedience of Joshua to God’s commands – especially related to the circumcision. Flint knives were used to perform this ritual. Even though metal was available, the flint knives were probably the best tool to perform this procedure. It is therefore not indicative of the time period in which they lived.


Some translations talk about circumcising the Israelites again. This may be reference to the fact that in Egypt there was a partial circumcision (possibly because of the tools available – there were no flint knives in Egypt) whereas in Canaan, where flint knives were in abundant supply.

Question: Why perform the circumcision now and not earlier? In Egypt, circumcision was a sign of going into manhood whereas for the Israelites circumcision meant entrance into the covenant community. Before entering the Promised Land, the uncircumcised or partially circumcised first had to go through the ritual first.

Regarding the Passover meal – a ritual that was linked with the circumcision – there are clear allusions to the act of baptism as well as the Lord’s Supper.

The meeting with the Lord’s commander was interesting. Was it the Lord himself or an Angel? It seems not the Lord, but yet he accepts worship. He is neither friend nor foe, indicating that the Lord is above “politics”.

Historical context


There has been several excavations around the sites making up the biblical Jericho (now called Tell es-Sultan). None of the excavations have conclusively proved the possible dates of the exodus, or the account of the fall of Jericho. There is definite evidence of a complete destruction of the city and its walls – the only issue is around the date that does not tie up with other evidence. We are therefore not able to draw any conclusions based on the archaeological evidence. Given the fast erosion that takes place in the area, some scholars believe that the city destroyed and taken in Joshua’s time lies underneath the modern road and agricultural land next to Tell es-Sultan. It has been suggested that the walls fell because of providentially sent earth-tremors. There is on average 4 major earth quakes per century in the area. Generally speaking the biblical account is not disputed because of the realistic manner in which the story is recounted and the faithful reflection of conditions.

The origin of the name “Jericho” is uncertain, but there seems to be some allusions to the moon-god Yarih, but others suggest a meaning related to a “fragrant place” or as a city “founded by a deity”.

The city is about 16km NW of the mouth of the Jordan at the Dead Sea and 2km NW of present day Jericho.

The “ban” is significant in that it “feels” morally unjustified. However, there is extra-biblical evidence of similar practice of other nations in war. For Israel this was a religious act, separating themselves from the evils of the conquered enemy.

Analysing narrative

The narrative is a drama, analysed according to the following guidelines:

  1. Setting the stage

The setting establishes the mood of the story and tells us where it took place in space and time.

Which verses deal with this initial stage in the drama development? In a sense I would say that this would consist of the whole of chapter 5.

Ask the “where, what, who, why, when and how” questions.

  1. Understand the characters

List all the characters in the narrative. Always remember that God is always, at least as a minimum, a background character in the story. Characters may be individuals or groups (e.g. Philistines or Pharisees and so on).

Always look for at least one believer (usually the hero), one unbeliever (usually the villain) and one undecided individual or group (often the character around which the main point of the story is illustrated).

Which verses deal with the introduction of the characters? Classify them into believer, unbeliever and undecided – if possible/relevant in this drama

The enemies (Amorite and Canaanite kings), God, Joshua, the Israelite men, the Commander of the Lord’s army, the people of Jericho, the priests, the people, the armed men, Rahab and her family, the two spies

What can we learn from each character?

  1. The conflict

The conflict usually has one of three types of focal points: a test, a quest, or a choice. A test try or probe the mental, moral, or spiritual character of a story’s hero; in a quest, the character pursues a goal, which he usually obtains despite obstacles in the path; in a choice, the main character must decide between two courses of action.

In a sense, all three types of focal points are present, but the “quest” is the most dominant type of focal point. The quest is the taking of Jericho.

  1. Crisis or climax

The climax is the moment of greatest tension – there where you hold your breath and wonder what will happen next. Who will succeed or fail?

The climax of this story is when the nation, after the protracted narration telling of the 6 days of walking around the city, shouts after hearing the blasts from the priests’ horns. Will the city’s walls fall or will the nation make a fool of themselves?

  1. Resolution

Here is where we find out what happened. When you find the crisis and resolution of a drama, you usually find the main point as well.

The walls of the city collapses and the Israelites take the city, destroying everything in it, just as the Lord commanded.

  1. Following actions

The action following the resolution of the drama often interprets the story. It may indicate the main lesson or show how the story fits into the meta-narrative of redemptive history.

In this case, the “following actions” consist of the instruction to rescue Rahab, burning the town and taking the valuables for the treasury and the curse of Joshua. The sections ends with the statement that Joshua’s reputation spreads throughout the land. What are the lessons to be learned from the following actions?


What is the topic of the text?

What does the passage teach about this topic?

What is the main point of the teaching (topic and what is says about topic)?

How does this main point apply to me or my audience? (One has to be very specific here)

What is the redemptive focus, i.e. how does the text surpass a list of things to do, avoid or believe, and point to Christ?


What was the original meaning of this passage?

What are the principles?

How can we apply each principle in a situation today?

Verify the application to other passages in Scripture.4

Christian business principles, based on Biblical Truth