Joshua 6:20, 21: The Destruction of Jericho

Verse 20:[1] So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that (Josh. 6:5; Heb. 11:30) the wall fell down flat (Heb. under it[2]), so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.

[With the people shouting, etc.] Hebrew: and the people shouted, and they sounded with trumpets.[3] It is a hysteron proteron: For the sounding of the trumpets was the signal to the people to shout. Hence Vatablus in his notes, The people shouted after they had sounded with horns (Bonfrerius). The people was howling while they were sounding the trumpets, that is, when they began to sound. Note the faith of the people, who with such a glad acclamation had celebrated the triumph, as having the victory in hand, before they had seen the wall fall (Masius).


Verse 21:[4] And they (Deut. 7:2) utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.

[And they killed all, etc.] Or, and they destroyed whatever was, etc. Note the singular restraint of the soldiers, that, although in need of all things, they abstained in such great abundance of all things, having been commanded with one little word, etc. But, that the elderly, children, infants, etc., are killed, it could appear to be cruelty and brutality. Responses: 1. The judgments of God (the reason of which far surpasses our understanding, Job 42:3) ought to be admired by mortals with modesty and submission, and not to be evaluated according to our reasonings perplexed with manifold darkness and error, Job 40:2. 2. Life itself is the gratuitous gift of God; and no one is able to complain whenever He that gave freely recalls it again. 3. All sin is such a foul thing, even that common defect of human origin, that by no sufficiently worthy punishment is it able to be expiated according to the righteousness of God. By that defect, if infants be expurgated, God has not caused them pain to punish, but so that He might bless them with greater glory (Masius). They urge Exodus 20:5. [See the response in the Notes on that place.]

They utterly destroyed all, etc.: Being commanded to do so by the sovereign Lord of every man’s life; and being informed by God before that the Canaanites were abominably wicked, and deserved the severest punishments. As for the infants, they were guilty of original sin, and otherwise at the disposal of their Creator, as the clay is in the hands of the potter; but if they had been wholly innocent, it was a great favour to them to take them away in infancy, rather than reserve them to those dreadful calamities which those who survived them were liable to.

[1] Hebrew: וַיָּ֣רַע הָעָ֔ם וַֽיִּתְקְע֖וּ בַּשֹּֽׁפָר֑וֹת וַיְהִי֩ כִשְׁמֹ֙עַ הָעָ֜ם אֶת־ק֣וֹל הַשּׁוֹפָ֗ר וַיָּרִ֤יעוּ הָעָם֙ תְּרוּעָ֣ה גְדוֹלָ֔ה וַתִּפֹּ֙ל הַֽחוֹמָ֜ה תַּחְתֶּ֗יהָ וַיַּ֙עַל הָעָ֤ם הָעִ֙ירָה֙ אִ֣ישׁ נֶגְדּ֔וֹ וַֽיִּלְכְּד֖וּ אֶת־הָעִֽיר׃

[2] Hebrew: תַּחְתֶּיהָ.

[3] Hebrew: וַיָּ֣רַע הָעָ֔ם וַֽיִּתְקְע֖וּ בַּשֹּֽׁפָר֑וֹת.

[4] Hebrew: וַֽיַּחֲרִ֙ימוּ֙ אֶת־כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר בָּעִ֔יר מֵאִישׁ֙ וְעַד־אִשָּׁ֔ה מִנַּ֖עַר וְעַד־זָקֵ֑ן וְעַ֙ד שׁ֥וֹר וָשֶׂ֛ה וַחֲמ֖וֹר לְפִי־חָֽרֶב׃

2 thoughts on “Joshua 6:20, 21: The Destruction of Jericho

  1. Matthew Henry: ” The entrance that was opened to them into the city by the sudden fall of the walls, or at least that part of the wall over against which they then were when they gave the shout (Joshua 6:20): The wall fell down flat, and probably killed abundance of people, the guards that stood sentinel upon it, or others that crowded about it, to look at the Israelites that were walking round. We read of thousands killed by the fall of a wall, 1 Kings 20:30. That which they trusted to for defence proved their destruction. The sudden fall of the wall, no doubt, put the inhabitants into such a consternation that they had no strength nor spirit to make any resistance, but they became an easy prey to the sword of Israel, and saw to how little purpose it was to shut their gates against a people that had the Lord on the head of them, Micah 2:13. Note, The God of heaven easily can, and certainly will, break down all the opposing power of his and his church’s enemies. Gates of brass and bars of iron are, before him, but as straw and rotten wood, Isaiah 45:1-2. Who will bring me into the strong city? Wilt not thou, O God? Psalm 60:9, 10. Thus shall Satan’s kingdom fall, nor shall any prosper that harden themselves against God.”

  2. Again, Matthew Henry: “The execution of the orders given concerning this devoted city. All that breathed were put to the sword; not only the men that were found in arms, but the women, and children, and old people. Though they cried for quarter, and begged ever so earnestly for their lives, there was no room for compassion, pity must be forgotten: they utterly destroyed all, Joshua 6:21. If they had not had a divine warrant under the seal of miracles for this execution, it could not have been justified, nor can it justify the like now, when we are sure no such warrant can be produced. But, being appointed by the righteous Judge of heaven and earth to do it, who is not unrighteous in taking vengeance, they are to be applauded in doing it as the faithful ministers of his justice. Work for God was then bloody work; and cursed was he that did it deceitfully, keeping back his sword from blood, Jeremiah 48:10. But the spirit of the gospel is very different, for Christ came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them, Luke 9:56. Christ’s victories were of another nature. The cattle were put to death with the owners, as additional sacrifices to the divine justice. The cattle of the Israelites, when slain at the altar, were accepted as sacrifices for them, but the cattle of these Canaanites were required to be slain as sacrifices with them, for their iniquity was not to be purged with sacrifice and offering: both were for the glory of God.”

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