To Build Up and To Destroy: Day 7


grey and brown brick wall

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on

Now Jericho was shut up inside and out because of the Israelites; no one came out and no one went in. The Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers. You shall march around the city, all the warriors circling the city once. Thus you shall do for six days, with seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, the priests blowing the trumpets. When they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, as soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and all the people shall charge straight ahead.’ So Joshua son of Nun summoned the priests and said to them, ‘Take up the ark of the covenant, and have seven priests carry seven trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark of the Lord.’ To the people he said, ‘Go forward and march around the city; have the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.’

 As Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. And the armed men went before the priests who blew the trumpets; the rearguard came after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. To the people Joshua gave this command: ‘You shall not shout or let your voice be heard, nor shall you utter a word, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.’ So the ark of the Lord went around the city, circling it once; and they came into the camp, and spent the night in the camp.

 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. The seven priests carrying the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord passed on, blowing the trumpets continually. The armed men went before them, and the rearguard came after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. On the second day they marched around the city once and then returned to the camp. They did this for six days.

 On the seventh day they rose early, at dawn, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout! For the Lord has given you the city. The city and all that is in it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers we sent. As for you, keep away from the things devoted to destruction, so as not to covet and take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel an object for destruction, bringing trouble upon it. But all silver and gold, and vessels of bronze and iron, are sacred to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.’ So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpets, they raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat; so the people charged straight ahead into the city and captured it. Then they devoted to destruction by the edge of the sword all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys.

Joshua then pronounced this oath, saying,
‘Cursed before the Lord be anyone who tries
   to build this city—this Jericho!
At the cost of his firstborn he shall lay its foundation,
   and at the cost of his youngest he shall set up its gates!’

 So the Lord was with Joshua; and his fame was in all the land. – Joshua 6:1-22, 26-27

“Joshua fit the battle of Jericho! Jericho! Jericho! Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, and the walls came a tumblin’ down”

Hands down, that is my favorite song about genocide!

I think what irks me most about this story is God’s insistence on total destruction. It’s not enough that they kill all of the fighting men who might come against them, but they are commanded to kill women, children, and all the livestock. Rahab gets a pass because she helped out the Israelite spies.

That’s nice.

I’ll be honest, I don’t find this story redemptive at all. We’re supposed to admire Joshua and his army for their absolute dedication to God’s command. We’re supposed to see their faith in God to deliver the city to them as a virtue. We’re supposed to think the good guys won.

The good guys who spent a week psychologically torturing their opponents before slaughtering them. Yay.

As we build a faith that makes sense for our day and time, we have to recognize that some things just don’t age well. This story seems to not only justify war but a scorched earth philosophy to war. I think that’s heinous and it’s hard for me to get behind this as God’s will.

No wonder the disciples were confused that Jesus wasn’t sending them out to call down fire on the heads of the Samaritans. This was part of their history of what a Savior was supposed to look like.

It’s part of ours too.

This text can’t live beside “blessed are the peacemakers” in my heart. I don’t know that they can live side by side in any heart, unless you have a distorted view of what “peacemaking” looks like.

So, as I build a faith that informs the world I want to see, I leave this story to the wayside, knowing that at one time it served as tale extolling God’s faithfulness.  Some will accuse me of picking and choosing when it comes to scripture. They are absolutely right. We all do it. This story does not fit my image of who God is and I worry about a faith that accepts this as part what God would want.

Sorry, Joshua.

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