Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This verse is strictly parenthetical. It is inserted to explain the declaration commenced Jos 5:14, and interrupted by Joshua's question and obeisance Jos 5:14-15, but resumed in Jos 6:2.
Straitly shut up - See the margin, i. e., not only shut, but barred and bolted.
The command of the Lord as to the mode in which the fall of Jericho should be brought about is given in these verses in a condensed form. Further details (see Jos 6:8-10, Jos 6:16-17, etc.), were, no doubt, among the commands given to Joshua by the Angel.
Trumpets of ram's horns - Render rather here and in Jos 6:5-6, Jos 6:8, etc., "trumpets of jubilee" (compare Lev 25:10 note). The instrument is more correctly rendered "cornet" (see Lev 25:9, note). Various attempts have been made to explain the fall of Jericho by natural causes, as, e. g., by the undermining of the walls, or by an earthquake, or by a sudden assault. But the narrative of this chapter does not afford the slightest warrant for any such explanations; indeed it is totally inconsistent with them. It must be taken as it stands; and so taken it intends, beyond all doubt, to narrate a miracle, or rather a series of miracles.
In the belief that a record is not necessarily unhistorical because it is miraculous, never perhaps was a miracle more needed than that which gave Jericho to Joshua. Its lofty walls and well-fenced gates made it simply impregnable to the Israelites - a nomad people, reared in the desert, destitute alike of the engines of war for assaulting a fortified town, and of skill and experience in the use of them if they had had them. Nothing line a direct interference of the Almighty could in a week's time give a city like Jericho, thoroughly on its guard and prepared (compare Jos 2:9 ff and Jos 6:1), to besiegers situated as were Joshua and the Israelites.
The fall of Jericho cogently taught the inhabitants of Canaan that the successes of Israel were not mere human triumphs of man against man, and that the God of Israel was not as "the gods of the countries." This lesson some of them at least learned to their salvation, e. g., Rahab and the Gibeonites. Further, ensuing close upon the miraculous passage of Jordan, it was impressed on the people, prone ever to be led by the senses, that the same God who had delivered their fathers out of Egypt and led them through the Red Sea, was with Joshua no less effectually than He had been with Moses.
And the details of the orders given by God to Joshua Jos 6:3-5 illustrate this last point further. The trumpets employed were not the silver trumpets used for signalling the marshalling of the host and for other warlike purposes (compare Num 10:2), but the curved horns employed for ushering in the Jubilee and the Sabbatical Year (Septuagint, σάλπιγγες ἱεραί salpinges hierai: compare the Lev 23:24 note). The trumpets were borne by priests, and were seven in number; the processions round Jericho were to be made on seven days, and seven times on the seventh day, thus laying a stress on the sacred number seven, which was an emhlem more especially of the work of God. The ark of God also, the seat of His special presence, was carried round the city. All these particulars were calculated to set forth symbolically, and in a mode sure to arrest the attention of the people, the fact that their triumph was wholly due to the might of the Lord, and to that covenant which made their cause His.
He said - The reading in the Hebrew text is "they said." Joshua no doubt issued his orders through the "officers of the people" (compare Jos 1:10).
Him that is armed - i. e. the warriors generally, not a division only. "The rereward" Jos 6:9 was merely a detachment, and not a substantial portiere of the host; and was told off, perhaps, from the tribe of Dan (compare the marginal reference) to close the procession and guard the ark from behind. Thus the order would be
(1) the warriors,
(2) the seven priests blowing the cornets,
(3) the ark,
(4) the rear-guard.
On the seventh day - Most probably a Sabbath day. The rising early would be necessary to give time for encompassing the city seven times. Jericho appears to have been a city of considerable size and population; and each passage of the large host round it could hardly have taken less than an hour and a half. Thus, with the necessary intervals of rest, the evening would be at hand when Joshua gave the signal to shout Jos 6:16; and the work of slaughter was probably commenced just as the hours of the Sabbath were passed.
Accursed - Better as in margin, ("devoted" (Lev 27:28 note). In other cases the inhabitants only of the towns were slain; their cattle and property became the booty of the victors. But Jericho, as the first Canaanite city that was captured, was devoted by Israel as first-fruits to God, as a token that Israel received all the land from Him. Every living thing was put to death (Rahab and her household excepted) as a sacrifice to God, and the indestructible goods were Jos 6:19 brought into the treasury of the sanctuary.
The part of the wall adjoining Rahab's house had not fallen along with the rest. Rahab and "all that she had," i. e., the persons belonging to her household, were brought out and "left without the camp of Israel." These words literally "made to rest outside the camp of Israel" - indicate that being still in their paganism, they were separated from the camp of the Lord. This was only for a time. They desired, and eventually obtained, admission to the covenant of the chosen people of God Jos 6:25.
Even unto this day - These words are rightly noted as implying that the narrative was written not long after the occurrences which it records.
Adjured - i. e. put an oath upon them; or, perhaps, actually caused them themselves to take an oath (compare Mat 26:63). The words of the oath have in the original a rhythmical character which would tend to keep them on the lips and in the memory of the people.
Buildeth this city - i. e. rebuilds the fortifications. Jericho was at once occupied by the Benjamites. Jos 18:21, and the natural advantages of the situation were such that it would not be likely to be left long desolate. Joshua speaks in the text as a warrior. He lays a ban on the re-erection of those lofty walls which had bidden defiance to God's host, and been by God's signal interposition overthrown. Hiel, the Bethelite, reckless of the prophecy recorded in our text, began and completed the circumvallation of the city a second time (see the marginal reference). Hiel did not found a new city but only fortified an existing one.
He shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born - i. e. when he begins this work his eldest son shall die, when he completes it his youngest shall die (see Kg1 16:34 note).
This chapter read in the light of the New Testament has indications of a further import and bearing than such as concerned Joshua and the Jews. As Joshua, the leader and captain of the Jewish theocracy, is a type of Christ, so is Jericho to be taken (with all Christian expositors) as a type of the powers opposed to Christ and His cause. The times which prepare for the close of God's present dispensation are signified in the days during which the people obeyed and waited; as the number of those days, seven, the number of perfection, represents that "fullness of time," known only to God, at which His dispensation will culminate and close. Thus the circumstances which lead up to the fall of Jericho are an acted prophecy, as was that fall itself, which sets forth the overthrow of all that resists the kingdom of which Christ is the head; and particularly the day of judgment, in which that overthrow will be fully and finally accomplished. Paul, in describing that day, seems to borrow his imagery from this chapter (see Th1 4:16).