This battle was a Spiritual one. Joshua and the army of Israel were only along for the ride.
On the 10th day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.” On the evening of the 14th day of the month , while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land; unleavened bread and some roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land. There was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate of the produce of Canaan (Josh 4:19, 5:2,10-12).
The crossing of the Jordan was at least as big a miracle as the crossing of the Red Sea. The Jordan River was at flood stage that spring, but the Lord stopped the flow of the river so that the water piled up upon itself and the whole nation crossed over on dry ground (Josh 3:13-17). A column of people 400 abreast would have required all day to cross while the flood waters piled up higher and higher. When the kings of the various tribes inhabiting the land heard about this “their hearts melted and they no longer had the courage to face the Israelites” (Josh 5:1).
You have to admire the Lord’s show of strength here. This rag tag army of desert nomads was closely watched as they arrived on the East Bank of the Jordan. No doubt the Amorite kings felt secure since the flooding and swollen river separated them from this strange group. But the Lord, Who ordained the laws of nature in the first place, simply overruled one of them and caused the river to stop flowing. Imagine the looks on the faces of those watching this grand spectacle. And when they had crossed, did the Lord send them into battle formation and prepare them to face the fiercest enemy in all the land? No, they camped in full view of the enemy, enjoyed some of the produce of the land, and had all their fighting men circumcised. Four days later, having healed somewhat, they celebrated Passover for only the 3rd time in their history, and then they prepared for the coming battle. You have to suppose the inhabitants of Jericho just stood on the walls of their fortress and watched all this, too afraid to attack even while the Israelites were incapacitated. Makes me think of Proverbs 16:7: “When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies live at peace with him.”
A Man With A Plan
Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither”, He replied, “But as the commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence and asked Him, “What message does the Lord have for His servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals for the place where you are standing is Holy.” And Joshua did so (Josh 5:13-15). Any doubt Joshua might have had about the identity of this Visitor was erased when he heard the same command previously given to Moses at the Burning Bush (Ex 3:4-6). Here was the Son of God in an Old Testament appearance, the Heavenly Joshua giving the earthly one his battle plan. And what a plan it was. (Joshua is Hebrew for Jesus).
Now Jericho was tightly shut up because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and fighting men. March around the city once with all the fighting men. Do this for 6 days. Have 7 priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the Ark. On the 7th day march around the city 7 times with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the city wall will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in” (Josh 6:1-5). And so it was. At the sound of the trumpets on the 7th day and the 7th time around, the people shouted and the walls fell down. The Israelites marched in and destroyed every living thing in the city; the people, the animals, and all their possessions. The city was put to the torch and a curse pronounced over its ashes.
This battle was a Spiritual one. Joshua and the army of Israel were only along for the ride. The Lord wasn’t on their side; they were on His. The first 6 times around the city was to show that with man alone the victory would be impossible (6 is the number of man, incomplete without God). The final seven showed that with God all things are possible. 6 (man) + 1 (God) = 7 (complete). The total of 13 circuits represents the apostasy of the inhabitants of Jericho that brought this judgement upon them. 13 is the number of apostasy or rebellion.
Remember the Lord’s promise to Abraham. “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and they will be enslaved and mistreated 400 years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You however will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the 4th generation your descendants will come back here for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.” (Gen 15:13-16)
(By the way the 400 years and the 4th generation are 2 different things. For 400 years the children of Israel lived in Egypt. But it was 4 generations from the promise of a deliverer to their arrival in the land. In generation 1 Moses’ birth and destiny were foretold to his parents (Hebr 11:23). As an adult Moses spent 40 years in Midian waiting for the people of his generation (2) to die so he could go back to free the Israelites (Ex 4:19). The people he freed, generation 3, had a crisis of faith and died in the wilderness (Num 14:31-35). Their children, generation 4, accompanied Joshua across the Jordan to claim the land.)
Then there’s the Lord’s admonition to Israel in the desert before they crossed the Jordan, “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witch craft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist, or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you (Deut 18:9-12).
In the only war of aggression Israel has ever fought, they were agents of God’s judgement against a people who had known the Lord but abandoned Him for pagan idols. Having given them over 400 years to repent of their detestable practices and return to Him, He finally ran out of patience and brought judgment against them. Referring to the people living in the land, He commanded the Israelites, “Do not leave alive anything that breathes” (Deut 20:16-18). In describing the conditions there He had said, “Even the land was defiled, so I punished it for its sin and the land vomited out its inhabitants (Leviticus 18:25). Had the Israelites been faithful to this command, many of the problems they face today would have been avoided (Judges 2:1-3).
Now you know the adult version.