Walls of Jericho

Chapter 7 Summary

Israel had spent the last 40 years on a road to nowhere. A lot can change in 40 years. All of the people who were slaves in Egypt had died, except for two, Joshua and Caleb. Moses had died too. Joshua had been his right-hand man, and he was Israel’s new leader. The wilderness of disobedience and defeat was behind them now, and a new generation camped at Canaan’s edge.

A lot had changed during the wilderness years, but God had not. The promise He’d made to Abraham over 600 years before was about to turn into reality. The LORD spoke to Joshua saying, “Be strong and courageous, for I am with you.  Be careful to obey my law.”  Joshua listened well. He had spied out the land as a young man and trusted God to give it to them as He’d promised.  Now he sent two spies into Jericho to appraise the land.  They were hidden in the house of Rahab, a prostitute who protected them from the king of Jericho.  She boldly confessed her faith in the LORD as the one true God who had given the land to Israel.  The spies responded to her faith by agreeing to save her whole family when they attacked Jericho.

This new generation of Israelites had heard the stories about crossing the Red Sea on dry land; now, their first steps into the Promised Land were taken across another patch of dry land when God parted the Jordan River – another highway leading into God’s promise.

When they reached Jericho, the military strategy was unorthodox.  The priests marched the Ark of the Covenant around Jericho’s walls each day for six days.  On the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times. Their parade concluded with the sound of trumpets and shouts as they completed a seventh circle around the city.  Amazingly, the walls of Jericho collapsed!  Jericho was destroyed and Rahab and her family were saved.

The land of Canaan was a place of conquest and victory for Israel. When Israel obeyed, God faithfully delivered her enemies into her hands.  When they failed to trust Him, they missed out on the fulfillment of those promises. Even the temporary defeat at Ai caused by disobedience was later turned to victory when the people followed God’s command.  In the annihilation of entire cities we see God’s holy intolerance of sin. In the account of Gibeon we see God’s mercy extended to a people who were willing to follow the true God. After taking the entire region by force, Joshua divided up the land by tribe as Israel’s inheritance.

The chapter closes with Joshua’s final words as he recounts the stories of God’s faithfulness and deliverance. God will keep His promises. He will also let us choose whether or not we will participate in the blessings of His promises. These stories of God’s people are our stories too, and like Joshua we must, “Choose this day whom you will serve.” Joshua stated he and his “household [would] serve the LORD.”  Which will you choose?

Before we move on to the study I want to share with you something I put in the weekly reflection concerning some of the disturbing images of chapter 7.

I have to be upfront with you before we get going on this blog topic today. Reading through the accounts of Joshua and Chapter 7 of the Story make me uncomfortable and a bit troubled. There is a lot of death, killing and utter destruction. I would really love to tell you that I have figured out ways of making myself comfortable with this or explain it away, but Christians can not avoid these pieces or simply just make them symbolic pictures.

After struggling with this topic for some time I have concluded that I am not supposed to be comfortable with this. It is true that the Bible contains graphic stories of sin, evil, and death. But it also includes the overarching grand narrative of love, redemption and grace. It showcases a God who asks us to not criticize him about his acts of justice, but instead come alongside him and grieve over a world that has misused the gift of freedom and has picked evil instead of good. When that does occur, God acts in righteousness, and the world discovers that consequences exist for evil behavior. The Prophet Isaiah speaks to this when he says:

“At night my soul longs for you, indeed, my spirit within me seeks you diligently; for when the earth experiences your judgements the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness.” (Isaiah 26:9)

As you read these difficult stories, join me in lamenting the horrific acts and the justice that demanded God to act in punishment. In the same way we can also see the wonderful picture of love and faithfulness that the Old Testament highlights as God’s foremost characteristic.

On to the study…

Rahab, A Woman of Flaws and Faith

When the story of Joshua opens, the Israelites are outside of the Promised Land while the Canaanites are inside the Promised Land.  For God’s divine plan to move forward, the Israelites need to take up residence in the land while the Canaanite inhabitants must be removed from the land.  This is but one of many ironies in the book of Joshua.

The character of Rahab is another prime example of irony in the Joshua narrative.  She is the quintessential Canaanite!  Yet she has more faith than the nation of Israel had while they wandered in the wilderness for the last 40 years!

I.  Rahab’s Vantage Point- Joshua 2

For the second time, God was ready to hand over the land of the Canaanites to the Israelites. Joshua was leading a whole new generation, who had not lived through the miraculous deliverance that their fathers had experienced.  But the stories from their history, and their own experiences of the power of the One True God, had given courage to the Israelite soldiers.  It had also “melted the hearts” of all the cultures around them. Rahab could see the coming doom. She knew that the God of the Israelites was the “God of Heaven above and on the earth below”.  She had realized that before the Israelite spies appeared on her doorstep.

Discover Rahab’s vantage point from Joshua 2. Read Joshua 2

1. Why did Rahab have so much information about the Israelites and the attitude of the Canaanites?

 

2. What two events particularly persuaded Rahab to believe in God?

 

3. Describe the morale of the Canaanites.

 

4. What actions put Rahab on the side of the Israelite invaders? (v. 4-6)

Rahab’s lie:  While it is not God’s ideal that we lie “our sin in Adam has created an ethical mess from which we sometimes can’t (don’t) extricate ourselves” (Howard). Is there ever a time when a lie has been okay in your life? How do you know?

v. 11

v. 12-13

v. 15-16

5. What was the promise that the spies had made to Rahab from Joshua 2: 12-21.

 

6. What was their promise to her? (v. 14)

 

7. What was Rahab’s situation now?  Did she have anything to lose by making an agreement with the spies?

 

8. Who would ultimately have to guarantee this promise? (v. 12)

II. Joshua’s Vantage Point- Joshua 1:3—6

The spies and Joshua were relying on the information of a Canaanite prostitute. Her help was invaluable, not only because she protected them but because of her description of the poor morale among the Canaanites in Jericho.  She risked her life and the lives of her family on her beliefs.  But Rahab was not the only one who made a courageous decision. Joshua was following orders and he was under no obligation to honor the spies’ verbal contract with a prostitute who belonged to ‘the enemy’!

  • Read God’s instructions in Deuteronomy 7:1-2 and 20:16-19.

1. What had God specifically commanded Joshua to do to the people they would conquer?

 

2. Were they allowed to make any agreements or contracts with the people of Canaan?

  • Review the mission that God had given Joshua from Joshua 1.

3. What state of mind did God want Joshua and the Israelites to have?

 

4. What was God’s repeated promise to Joshua?

  • Joshua led the Israelites into battle.  Joshua 3—6

5. How did the Israelites cross the Jordan river?  (3:16)

 

6. How many soldiers approached Jericho? (4:13)

 

7. What was necessary before the Israelites could enter the land?   Why? (5:5-8)

  • Discover how Joshua viewed Rahab.  Joshua 6:17-19.

8. What were Joshua’s instructions about Rahab and her household?

 

9. Why could Joshua’s order to rescue Rahab and her family be considered courageous?

 

10. What do you think Joshua meant when he said “But keep away from the devoted things, so that you will not bring about your own destruction by taking any of them” Joshua 6:18.

When Rahab confessed “for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:11), she effectively identified herself with the Israelites.  She demonstrated through her actions that she no was no longer a Canaanite at heart. We have no knowledge of how Joshua came to the conclusion that Rahab should be rescued and saved from destruction.  We do know however, that God promised to be with Joshua. God knew Rahab’s heart.  He accepted her as one of the “treasures” that were devoted to Him. In fact, Rahab carried the most precious treasure of all; she is one of Jesus’ ancestors! God wanted Rahab to be saved.

 

III. Our vantage point.

1.  What is your unique vantage point in life?

 

2.  Discuss how these insights that have helped you see the wisdom of following Christ.

 

3.  What does the salvation of her family tell us about God’s kindness to Rahab?

 

4.  Family is usually highly treasured.  Do you think God cares about your family as much as you do?  Why?

 

5.  How can we devote ourselves and our family to God?

Key Question:  How do you need to “change sides” in your life to join forces with others in God’s Kingdom?

For Additional Reflection:

Read the full account of the Fall of Jericho and the events that followed from Joshua, chapters 3—7.  Note the various times and ways that Joshua and the Israelites worshiped God:

Was God intimately involved with them, or withdrawn?

Is there a subject in Chapter 7 that you wanted to talk about? What questions came to your mind when you read the chapter?

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