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׃

Joshua 6:17: Herem-Warfare against Jericho, Part 1

Verse 17:[1] And the city shall be accursed (or, devoted;[2] Lev. 27:28; Mic. 4:13), even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.

[Let it be accursed] Let it be altogether wiped out and destroyed (Vatablus). Let it be accursed by vow; see Deuteronomy 12 and what follows (Grotius). What חֶרֶם, a devoted thing, is, see on Leviticus 27:21, 29 (Bonfrerius). It is the same thing as ἀνάθεμα/anathema, a devoted thing, to the Greeks (Masius). Thus is called both what is dedicated in sacred places, and what is immolated and destroyed (Masius on verse 19, similarly Lapide). It signifies: 1. a thing devoted to God; 2. the very destruction of the thing; 3. things accursed and worthy of destruction, as in verse 18. But there is one and the same reason for those diverse notions, That what things were dedicated to God, those were able to be among no man’s goods (Masius). In other cities of the Canaanites there was to be a sparing of nothing; but here the very city was to be burned. What is the reason? 1. God was requiring this city as the firstfruits (Lapide, Hebrews and Jonathan and Theodotion in Masius). But the firstfruits ought to be rendered untouched to the Lord (Lapide). 2. Lest in this beginning of the war, the eager soldier in need of all things, with immoderate plunder taken, as this was a most opulent city, should excessively burden himself, and should become prone more to leisure and then to luxury than to war (Masius). 3. They long since deserved this for their long standing and most shameful acts (Bonfrerius). So that all, being instructed by the loss of plunder, might understand that the victory is acquired by the power of God alone, and might ascribe nothing to their own strength (Masius). But, in conquering other cities, the Hebrews fought fiercely (Lapide). 5. By the severity of the first punishment God willed to instill terror in the rest of the enemies (and to call them to repentance), since a war of the very harshest kind was continuing (Masius, similarly Lapide).

Accursed, that is, devoted to utter destruction, Leviticus 27:21, 29; Deuteronomy 12. This he spake by instinct or direction from God, as is evident from 1 Kings 16:34. To the Lord; partly, because the firstfruits were appropriated to God; partly, lest the soldiers being glutted with the spoil of this rich city, should grow sensual and sluggish in their work; and partly, to strike the greater terror into the rest of their enemies.

[Let Rahab alone live[3]] Through you; that is, let her remain alive (Piscator). I prefer to translate חָיָה as to be saved, because it is also said of that which is in her house, in which verse 23 teaches that furniture is include (Masius).

[She hid, הֶחְבְּאַתָה] The last letter is duplicated; it is put in the place of הֶחְבְּאָה, which would normally be expressed הֶחְבִּיאָה (Piscator). Thus יְשׁוּעָתָה is an omnimodal salvation (Drusius). They translate it, she hid in honesty, or faithfully (Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Drusius). Two reasons for her discharge are assigned: 1. Religion, on account of the oath, concerning which verse 22. Although Joshua or the people were not able to be obliged by that, because it was not undertaken by their authority (Bonfrerius). 2. Gratitude, which is here indicated (Bonfrerius, similarly Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וְהָיְתָ֙ה הָעִ֥יר חֵ֛רֶם הִ֥יא וְכָל־אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֖הּ לַֽיהוָ֑ה רַק֩ רָחָ֙ב הַזּוֹנָ֜ה תִּֽחְיֶ֗ה הִ֚יא וְכָל־אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתָּ֣הּ בַּבַּ֔יִת כִּ֣י הֶחְבְּאַ֔תָה אֶת־הַמַּלְאָכִ֖ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׁלָֽחְנוּ׃

[2] Hebrew: חֵרֶם.

[3] Hebrew: רַק֩ רָחָ֙ב הַזּוֹנָ֜ה תִּֽחְיֶ֗ה.