Is it just me, or is the story of the Fall of Jericho a little bizarre? I felt like a three-year-old as I read this chapter, as I realized I was asking why? to just about everything. Why did God want tens of thousands of people to march around the city? Why did they do it for seven days? Why not just one time? Why were the Israelites told they couldn’t make a sound—except on the final day, when they shouted? If God just wanted to get rid of everyone in the city, why did He spare Rahab and all her family? And if He wanted to get rid of the people, why did He have the Israelites kill all the animals?
Why, why, why?
Well, what I’m about to write is something that’s not written in the record, but it’s my way of trying to make sense of all these oddities. First of all, the chapter starts with this tidbit of information: "Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in." (vs 1) The people in Jericho were terrified of Israel, just as Rahab had told the spies. What if God had the Israelites march around the city for an entire week to give people in the city time to respond to the Spirit, as Rahab obviously had? After all, wasn’t God’s purpose to save heathen people through the Israelites?
Walls in ancient cities aren’t like the walls in our homes. You could sit or stand on them, even walk on them—sort of like the Great Wall of China. So, if the gates of the city were barred shut so that nobody could come in or go out, and you heard that your enemies (the people you were so afraid of) were going to approach your city, what would you do? You might climb up on the wall and have a look. But it must have been an awfully odd sight to see these people you’re so afraid of doing nothing but marching in circles. After the first day’s parade, do you think there would have been more or fewer people on the wall the second day? How about the third? The fourth? What if the entire city of Jericho was sitting on the wall by the seventh day, watching the Israelites, maybe laughing at them, maybe throwing things at them? Was the wall engineered to handle all that weight at once? And what would happen if there was a sudden shift in that weight—say, maybe when these tens of thousands of previously-silent soldiers suddenly let out a scream. Do you think all the people of Jericho would have jumped?
I don’t speculate about that to diminish any miracle that occurred when the walls fell down. Let’s face it, if God wanted to topple the walls of Jericho, He could have done it on Day One. But maybe, because He’s such a master of human nature, He was using the people’s curiosity to draw them out. Maybe He hoped there would be a different outcome than the falling of the walls. Maybe He hoped there would be a few more Rahabs in the bunch. And maybe there were. Maybe all the people who died that day didn’t die because they were personally wicked. Maybe they just died because they lived in Jericho—like all the animals who were killed that day.
But regardless of what was happening on the spiritual landscape, I’m sure the people of Jericho felt secure in their city. They might have been afraid of the Israelites and their God, but with the gates shut up so tightly, I’m sure they thought there was no way the walls would ever come down. Some of us probably have areas like that in our lives. We’ve shut them up so tightly that even we can’t find the way in any longer. But God is a master of human nature, and if we have any walls that need to come down, He knows how to get through them. We can trust Him to work with us where we are and give us all the opportunities we need to respond to Him.