Four things about Joshua which I’ve been challenged about (Joshua 10)

Joshua base imageWe are getting towards the end our our series from Joshua and on the whole it seems to have been rewarding.  Normally I write something which extends what I have preached and publish it on Sunday morning.  But this week I want to do a little housekeeping; returning again to a couple of the themes which I have neatly sidestepped by making the land/kingdom connection and thus far I have been able to spiritualise the trickiest elements of Joshua.

A couple of our teenagers asked me yesterday, after Joshua 9, how could God be in control of everything and allow, indeed appear to even instigate, such bloody carnage, ethic cleansing and all around extreme violence.  John Bright, the influential biblical archaeologist, once said of Joshua “You simply cannot preach from this book, and you ought not to teach it to children. Shield our gentle ears from violence such as this!”

So here are my four areas of challenge:

1. Both the OT and the NT speak of “evildoers” worthy of divine destruction. For example, Ps 14:6 and 125:5 expect God’s destruction of other nations, and the prophets say the same of Israel (Isa 13:11; Jer 7:12-15). Jesus condemns the Pharisees for being a ‘brood of vipers’ (Matt 23:33). And the scene of the Great White Throne of judgment portrays a final day of reckoning with eternal destruction a certain outcome for some (Rev 20:11-15).

Final judgement helps to resolve the apparent injustice in the world today.  God does in the end give people their just desserts.  Sodom, Gomorrah (Gen 18—19), Jericho and Hazor are acts of God against the depraved and those who initiated hostilities against Israel. Israel’s northern and southern campaigns (Josh 10 and 11) were in response to those hostile initiatives, not pre-emptive strikes. This fact suggests that the people of ancient Canaan were not simply victims of injustice. At least some of them were God’s opponents.

I’m therefore challenged to remember that God is just and does hold each of us accountable, however uncomfortable that seems.

2. The level of violence in Joshua is still a really tough issue.

Certainly the book of Joshua, including its violence, has lots to teach us. After all it is part of biblical canon. However, what is obvious is that we cannot read Joshua just through the lens of Jesus’ ethical teachings and 21st century sensitivities. The world of Joshua shocks modern readers simply because it lies so far away from us. The ancient and our worlds are truly different.  They have a gaping chasm of three thousand years of cultural change. Our shock is a good thing. Our situation today is totally different from Joshua’s day. We are not part of an ethically defined covenant people entering a promised covenant land the inhabitants of which stand under God’s judgment. In short, there is nothing in these stories which can apply literally today.

Neither do Christians have a "Joshua option" of doing violence in Jesus’ name. Christians cannot resort to violence in support of a Christian cause. Some governments may treat Christians within their borders really badly.  This weekend’s International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church reminds us of that.  But Jesus’ teaching sets aside Joshua’s herem, just as the Kingdom sets aside the geographical land. We are to live in a far different way.  Indeed to love our enemies. The book of Joshua shows us what God did then, not what we should do now.  It is not prescriptive.

As we have seen, those who honour God’s greatness and do not teach Israel idolatry do remain in the land (e.g., Rahab, the Gibeonites). This parallels the Old Testa­ments inclusive themes and prepares the way for the ethnic inclusivity of the gospel (Acts 1:8; Rev 5:9; 14:6). Joshua displays the same mercy and compassion that Christians experience through Jesus Christ.

Curiously, the rest of the OT makes little mention of the herem policy or even Joshua himself. Reviews of Israel’s early history by Samuel (1 Sam 12:9-11), God (Mic 6:5, Jer 2:7), the psalmist (Ps. 105:43-45), and Ezekiel’s vision of restoration (Ez 40-48) make no reference to the conquest. The OT rarely recalls the violent conquest, never glories in its gore, and never promotes it as policy for the future. Only God can authorise what happens in Canaan, and he chose to do so in a specific time and place. Joshua is not named in the list of OT great people of faith in Hebrews 11; Rahab is!

I feel a little better!

3. I am reminded again that God is sovereign! God owns everything. As owner, only he has the authority to decide who may enjoy the use of his property and who may not . Herem is a frightening approach but one by which God, for whatever reason, chose then to exercise his sovereignty.

4. The reason for the annihilation of the Canaanites was that God "harden their hearts".   With hard hearts, they attacked Israel and thus were destroyed by God (Josh 11:20). This is the point one of my teenagers was making.  Isn’t God in control and therefore responsible all along for the violence?

Peter Morris commented on my herem post:

I have always thought that God’s words to Abraham in Genesis 15:16 throws a light on what is happening here. Clearly the Amorites were a decadent people in Abraham’s time. I cannot believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were not mirrored to some degree in the rest of the country. However God still gave the rest of the indigenous population [the Amorites] a further 400 years perhaps like Jonah and Nineveh for real repentance. With child sacrifice, every sort of sexual perversion and [else where we read that Sodom and Gomorrah] neglect of the poor, (Ez 16:49-50), so by the time of Joshua the cup of wickedness was overflowing and the Israelites were the means of God’s promised judgment made to Abraham all those years previously.  

I’m sure Peter is right on this. The moral trail is not:

God (hardens hearts) – Amorites (attacks Israel) – God (destroys), but
Amorites (appalling behaviour cf Gen15:16) – God (hardens hearts) – Amorites (attacks Israel) – God (destroys).

But I’m still a little troubled that Joshua 11 suggest that is was the current military aggression (contrasted with the peace-seeking approach of the people of Gibeon (v19; cf Jos 9)), rather than other moral failure which has caused the the Canaanite destruction. And it seems that had other Canaanites taken the Gibeonite approach, they, too, would have sur­vived!

Ultimately, we find ourselves entering the dark, foggy realm of God’s mysterious nature!  In the end, I’ll hang on to the perspective that God’s preference is for life and blessing over death and destruction (Ez 18:23; 33:11). The cross of Christ shows beyond anything else in history how God can use the most appalling injustice, pain and death to bring about life and blessing.

On being compromised (Joshua 9)

Joshua base image The phrase "peace for our time" was spoken on 30 September 1938 by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain in his speech concerning the Munich Agreement. It is primarily remembered for its ironic value. The Munich Agreement gave the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia to Adolf Hitler in an attempt to satisfy his desire for Lebensraum ("living space") for Germany. The German occupation of the Sudetenland began on the next day, 1 October.

Chamberlain concluded:

"My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time [emphasis added]. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And now I recommend you to go home and sleep quietly in your beds."

Less than a year after the agreement, following continued aggression from Germany and its invasion of Poland, Europe was plunged into World War II.

In 1947 Noel Coward wrote a play by the same name “Peace for our Time”.  Set in an alternative 1940, the Battle of Britain has been lost, the Germans have supremacy in the air and the British Isles are under Nazi occupation. Inspired to write this play after seeing the effects of the occupation of France, the famously patriotic Coward wrote: "I began to suspect the physical effect of four years’ intermittent bombing is far less damaging to the intrinsic character of a nation than the spiritual effect of four years of enemy occupation."

1. Enquire of the Lord (9.14)

Sometimes God answers in unexpected ways (8:18; James 1:5)

The word translated here as “ruse” occurs only six times more in the OT.  In a positive sense it is used in Proverbs to mean "prudence” or “shrewdness" (Prov. 1:4; 8:5, 12) whilst in just one case it is used negatively (Exo­dus 21:14 – “treachery").  So whilst “ruse” suggests a negative connotation here, is that fair? Faced with the events of Jericho and Ai, it is of little surprise that the Gibeonites are looking for a way to survive.

So maybe to call their approach "treacherous" does not sound quite right. They show no malice toward Israel (unlike the military machinations of the local kings). It is not a stalling tactic to enable some hidden Gibeonite army to overwhelm an unsuspecting Israel.  So maybe we should be more sympathetic, maybe the Gibeonites were be “shewd”!

On the other hand, as a result of the ruse, Israel were compromised:

(1) They had entered into a treaty with a nation in Canaan which Moses has specifically prohibited; and failed to annihilate them without exception (Deut. 7:2; 20:16-17).

(2) They had not “inquired of the Lord” (9:l4), which was remarkable indeed following the Achan crisis.  They risked losing God’s favour and the land itself. Thus, this failure to pray was reckless and implies overconfidence.

But hold on! This assumes that if they had of consulted God, he would have unmask the Gibeonites and command Israel to kill them. Inquiring of God might have resulted in a surprising exception to herem.  In fact, as noted already, the Gibeonites wished Israel no harm, and God’s subsequent words, his first since 8:18 (his reassurance of Joshua and promise of victory at Gibeon) are telling. He said nothing directly about the treaty, but echoed 8:1 and this implies that Israel still enjoyed the same good restored standing. Indeed his relationship with Joshua, if anything, it seems to have become stronger — witness the astounding events of chapter 10 and 11. Furthermore, instead of luring Israel into idolatry, Gibeon historically served as a major centre of the worship of God before the temple was built (1 Kings 3:4-5). 

In fact, Joshua 11:15 and 11:19-20 show God’s approval of the Gibeonite treaty and imply that since they survived destruction, God had chosen not to harden their hearts — an act of sovereign divine grace. It is this sovereign guidance which accounts both for the Gibeonites’ request for peace and Israel’s agreement to a treaty.

So, on balance, I think that the “ruse” is much more “prudent” than “treacherous”.  The Gibeonites had a serious respect for God, no offensive idolatry, wanted peace not war, and seek a right treatment (9:25). On God’s side, he offers the kind of mercy to non-Israelites which he later offers to all nations.  This is wholly constant with my previous discussion on herem.

2. There’s a battle going on (Eph 6.12)

Great spiritual soldiers are:

  • People of integrity (9:15, Ps 15:4; Matt 5:37, 23:16-22)

  • People of mercy (9:24-25; Matt 15:22-28; 5:7)

  • People of prayer (Joshua 10)

3. Where are today’s Gibeonites? 

  • People near us who stand condemned?

  • People who only know a few basic things about God?

  • A way for us?

imageIn his book, The Celtic Way of Evangelism: How Christianity Can Win the West, George Hunter says

The Church, in the Western world, faces populations who are increasingly "secular" — people with no Christian memory, who don’t know what we Christians are talking about. These populations are increasingly "urban" — and out of touch with God’s “natural revelation”.  These populations are increasingly "post­modern"; they have graduated from Enlightenment ideology and are more peer driven, feeling driven, and "right-brained" than their forebears. These populations are increasingly "neo-barbarian"; they lack "refinement" or "class," and their lives are often out of control.  These populations are increasingly receptive — exploring worldview options from Astrology to Zen — and are often looking "in the wrong places" to make sense of their lives and find their soul’s true home.

Hunter shows how St. Patrick and his missionary movement won the barbarian Celts in Ireland to Christ and re-vitalised the faith throughout Europe, by setting up diverse “monastic communities” near main roads and within villages and towns.). The communities had priests and nuns, scholars, teachers, craftsmen, artists, farmers, families, and children. Worship, study, and work filled the day, making the communities beehives of all kinds of activities. These communities intentionally cultivated ongoing contacts with outsiders and welcomed visitors. Hospitality was essential. 

They worked as a team in their evangelism and built good relationships with the surrounding community.  Through contact with the community, outsiders learned some Scripture, came to understand Christian beliefs, were prayed for regularly, and eventually asked about making a commitment to Christ. In short,  it was true of these monastic communities then and most new Christians today: "Belonging comes before believing."

There is a Chinese verse which fits the experience of this Celtic mission and could be our prayer today:

Go to the people.
Live among them.
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build on what they have!

Cell outline

1. Why do you think the Gibeonites’ ruse worked?

2. What do you learn about the tactics of the enemy? 1Peter 5:8

3. Can you think of any verses that describe Satan’s schemes?

4. Read Deut. 20:10-15 as background explaining why the Gibeonites claimed to be foreigners. Also read Deut. 20:16-19 to understand the Gibeonites words of 9:24.

5. What mistake did the leaders of Israel make in dealing with the Gibeonites? (9:14)

6. In what area of your life have you relied more on your own strength than God’s wisdom?

7. How can you “inquire of the Lord” the next time you have an important decision to make?

8. How did Joshua deal with the Gibeonites when he found out what they had done?

9. What do the actions of Joshua in this story teach you about how to deal with the consequences of your own mistakes?

10. What do you learn about the importance of keeping the treaties that you make?

Going Deeper

1. Are we as Christians immune from deception? 1 Cor 10: 6-12.

2. What can we do to guard against the deception of Satan, sin and the world? 1 Jn 2:15-17

3. What is God saying to you right now about the issue of deception?


Take time to pray for those whose life situations brings them into places of spiritual deception as well as those who are challenged to compromise their faith.

God’s solution to an Achan heart (Joshua 7)

Joshua base image 1. The Reason for Spiritual Defeat

Self-confidence and neglected prayer?

The wrath of God because of sin? 1 Sam 15:23

2. The Threat of God’s Wrath: Ichabod

Ichabod (means inglorious in Hebrew) appear in the Books of Samuel as the brother of Ahitub and the son of Phinehas. He was born on the day that the Ark was taken into Philistine captivity. His mother went into labour due to the shock of hearing that her husband and father-in-law died and the Ark had been captured. She is said to have died shortly after having given birth to him, and having named him (1 Sam 4:21). His name is said to be a reference to the fact that the glory is departed from Israel, either in reference to the death of his father, or of Eli, or a reference to the loss of the Ark.

The process to Achan’s sin: He saw, he coveted, and he took. Gen. 3:6, 2 Sam. 11:2-4

3. The Impact of Sin

1. On his community (in their defeat). 1 Cor 10; Eph 4:30; 1 Thess 5:19

2. On his family (in their death). Acts 5; Rev 14:18-20; Is 63:1-6

The death of the whole family is another troubling aspect of the book of Joshua (see my discussion on herem).  Our 21st century shock comes from our sense of individual responsibility.  However, in many cultures and certainly in the Ancient New East household did take corporate responsibility for the actions of its individual members.  God held the whole of Israel for the actions of individuals.  We might see an echo in the sense of familial shame that some cultures apply when one person is found guilty.

In this case it is only those who where living in his household (v24) and not his entire family. The “devoted thing” was hid in the middle of the tent, dug into the ground. Therefore, everyone in the tent must have been aware of it and at the very least acquiesced in its stealth, and therefore shared in Achan’s sin. Therefore, God did not punish these people merely for the sin of the father. He destroyed the whole family because  “Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?” 1 Cor 5:6. The “whole batch” being Israel, and the “little yeast” being the household of Achan.  We see something of the same principle at work in Hebrews 10:26-31:

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

It also works in reverse for Rahab:

The city and all that is in it are to be devoted to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall be spared, because she hid the spies we sent. … Joshua said to the two men who had spied out the land, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring her out and all who belong to her, in accordance with your oath to her.” So the young men who had done the spying went in and brought out Rahab, her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. They brought out her entire family and put them in a place outside the camp of Israel. Joshua 6:17-23

So then, it seems that God did not destroy any innocent member of the household of Achan, but He did spare Rahab’s whole family for her righteousness.

4. The Appeal in Prayer

Can we be defeated? 1 Cor. 10:13

Our failure dishonours the Lord

Our plea is that the Lord will be glorified. Rom 8:28-29

5. The Mercy of God (v 14-21; 2 Cor 7:8-11; 1 John 1:5-9)

Experiencing the mercy of God comes from repentance.  In 2 Corinthians we are reminded that that sorrow lasts only for a little while (v 8). The kind of sorrow that God intends results in a change of heart: Your sorrow led you to repentance (v 9). The Corinthians did not merely regret what they had done but repented of it. Metanoia (repentance) denotes not just a change of mind about something but a reorientation of the whole person. Judas felt remorse for what he had done in betraying Jesus to the authorities but his remorse did not result in repentance. Feeling sorry is remorse. Repentance goes further. Repentance the wrong committed but also seeks to rectify it.

Cell Outline

Pick some questions from both sections:

Section 1
As we grow older the sins obviously become more serious. Why is it sometimes hard for us to admit them?

Do you agree or disagree with the statement that ‘the churches God uses are the ones filled with messed up people? Why? Luke 19:10

Why would God want to use ‘messed up people’? What do you think about this statement: “if you’ve messed up ‘bigger’ you may be a ‘bigger’ candidate to be used by God”? Exodus 4:10

Someone has said: “God doesn’t choose the prepared but he prepares the chosen”. Why is it possible that God is able to use someone who really feels they need God’s help compared to someone who ‘has it all together’? 1 Samuel 16:7

What areas in your life have you noticed that you are more likely to depend on God?

What can you specifically do this week that shows you really are depending on God with any struggles or sins you feel are in your life? What inadequacies do you deal with that you feel like you can pray about that God can change?

Section 2

How do you explain the spies making such a big error in estimating the strength of Ai? (Compare 7:3 and 8:25)

What were the different steps in Achan’s sin? (7:21)? How does this pattern show the usual workings of sin? (James 1:15)? Can you think of any other Bible stories of a sinful action that followed this pattern? How do you see this pattern in your life?

What do you learn about God from the word “unless” in 7:12?

What had to be accomplished for restoration of fellowship with God and power against their enemy? (Compare the end of the chapter with the beginning.)

What important lessons do you learn in this chapter about (i) Sin (ii) Judgment for sin (iii) Forgiveness

How do you view these things in your life as compared to how God sees them? What steps can you make in your life to view these things the way God does?


Is there some area of your life that you have really struggled and overcome and you know that now God wants you to help others with the same struggles?

What are the possibilities of making restitution for something you have done wrong in the past?

Something on worship

image Abe passed me a long article on worship leading by Ruth Dickinson at Christianity magazine on worship.  Mostly it is about the American cult of worship leaders – something we a not immune to here but, in my view, to a much lesser extent.  However, by way of an antidote Dickinson suggests four things, correct the motivation for leading worship, correct the criteria by which we evaluate worship (which she calls participation), extending the range of worship options to include other arts and silence, and seeing worship as a 24/7 engagement with God.

Overall I found the comments on Participation most helpful, probably because she quotes Leonard Sweet and worship leader Andy Flannagan:

Take inspiration from writer Leonard Sweet, who says, “There is a new standard of excellence: the quality of the participation, not the quality of the performance.”

Consider whether singing along with someone from the front is the best way for your congregation to participate in worship.

“Worship that is sung is very prescriptive,” says Flannagan. “It leaves very little room for interaction, participation and individual creativity. I often ask people, ‘How do you know where your people are at if all you ever do is tell them what to sing?’ That’s what we do with our words on screens. It’s like karaoke. God desires our expressions of worship to be honest, heartfelt and of-the-moment, rather than us only relying on someone else’s words and experience, even though that is also an essential discipline. Obviously there needs to be a balance between an established canon of material that carries theology/tradition and spontaneous creativity, but I fear that at the moment, the pendulum has swung much too far in one direction.”

Joshua and Jericho: The problems!

image Anyone who has taken the trouble to look dispassionately at the Old Testament quickly comes across some very difficult passages.  Amongst the hardest is this one following Joshua’s victory at Jericho:

They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed (herem) with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys (6.17).

With the exception of Rahab and her household everything is put to death.  This is herem; the utter destruction of cities, nations, people and livestock.  Herem has a religious purpose.  Whatever is annihilated is assumed to have been consecrated to God for his exclusive ownership.  It now enjoys the highest degree of holiness (set apartness) and cannot be returned for normal use (Lev 27:28).

Not every act of destruction in the OT is herem: Only God can decide what is herem. So here, at Jericho, there is to be no humane exceptions for the elderly, disabled, women, or children. Everyone dies. Whilst other nations also engaged in religiously inspired liquidation, this command is from the God whom Christians worship as being the ultimate expression of love. And it leaves us troubled.

God applied herem at Jer­icho and Ai differently. He decreed all of Jericho to be herem and off-limits to Israel as plunder, but exempted sil­ver, gold, bronze and iron objects from destruction (they went into his treasury; 6:19, 26). At Ai, however, God also exempted any objects or animals the Israelites wanted to keep for themselves. An act of God’s grace to benefit his people?

But behind the varied applications of herem is a vital truth: God owns everything. His ownership gives him the authority to decide whether and to what extent humans may enjoy the use of his property.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it;
for he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the waters. Psalm 24:1 -2

The “earth” refers to what we call “property” today and “everything in it” is … everything. This includes everything that humans have created using the raw materials since the latter all belong to God. “All who live in it” refers to all earth’s inhabitants, including humans and animals. There are no areas marked “Property of X” or “Belonging to Y”; everything is marked “Property of God,” and there are no exceptions. God owns everything, and we humans own nothing.

So what is it that God finds so abhorrent about the Canaanites that warrants action that risks us doubting his very character?  The reason usually given is that he needed to protect Israel from the Canaanites disgusting but tempting religious beliefs, from apostasy.  But was Canaanite religion so attractive and Israel’s faith so fragile to warrant herem?  And is God so capricious?

In Joshua, the nations are dealt with so differently to elsewhere in the Old Testament.   Usually God is the merciful ruler of all peoples (Ps 96; Jonah), the defender of the weak of all nations (Ps 82), the one whom the nations seek (Isa. 2:1 -4). That view of God ought to mean that Canaanites should have been able to live in dignity. If then the warrior policies of Joshua are out of step with the God of the rest of the Bible, we should try and understand why that is the case rather than ignore the book. Not to have a good answer to what is happening in Joshua, will trip us up when we are next challenged by someone dismissing our God as a violent ethic cleansing tyrant.

So here is my understanding. Joshua’s war and land policies were time-specific and limited. They applied only to the conquest and settlement period and are not a precedent. But this does not answer the question of God’s morality. Let’s look again then at Joshua for other insights about God’s character. The book contrasts the acceptance of God’s plans by Rahab and the Gibeonites (2:9-11; 9-10) with the resistance to it by others (5:1; 9:1-2; 10:1-5; 11:1-5). This contrast suggests that the Canaanites perished for resisting God, and not for their religious decadence or economic oppression. Those who submit to God’s sovereignty are saved but resistance is met with force.

Indeed, L.G. Stone argues, that overall Joshua shows that obedience to the law is the test of anyone’s acceptance or resistance to God’s rule. Therefore this time-limited holy war (Stone’s term) is much more about “uncompromising obedience to God’s law” than about “territory or warfare”.  The experience of Rahab and the Gibeonites in receiving God’s compassion, in fact – his salvation, shows that God permits exceptions (Deut 20) to those who acknowledge his greatness.

Therefore, rather than promote violence as the normal treatment of those who lived in the land before Israel arrived, Joshua teaches three things:

  1. Those who honour God’s greatness and do not teach Israel idolatry may remain in the land (Rahab and the Gibeonites),
  2. Rigorous obedience to the law is God’s expectation for all peoples in the land (there are repeated references to the law and to Moses), and
  3. God shows righ­teous anger towards his opponents but his mercy and compassion towards those who turn to him.

Seen this way, the openness to some non-Israelites in Joshua parallels the inclusive themes of the rest of the OT, and antici­pates the New Testament’s emphasis on an international ethnically inclusive community (Acts 1:8,- Rev. 5:9, 14:6).

image Though small in area (about ten acres), Jericho is among the world’s oldest towns (founded ca. 8000 BC).  In the mid-1930s, ruins of both a double city wall on top the mound and a residential area on its southeast slope were dated to 1400 BC. Other spectacular evidence suggested the town’s great prosperity during the early Middle Bronze Age (from 2000 BC).  This gave rise to some excitement as it seemed to confirm the historical accuracy of Joshua.

However, later excavations indicated that by 1550 BC the mound itself showed only a few traces of prosperity. A violent battle then left the town barren and uninhabited for two centuries, and that erosion had washed away all but a few traces of occupation after that. It therefore seemed that except for a small, short-lived settlement around 1400 BC, Jericho was completely uninhabited from 1550-1100 BC. It was then rebuilt during Ahab’s reign (1 Kings 16:34).

In other words, notwithstanding what we read in Joshua 6, was there a fortified city of Jericho for Joshua and Israel to conquer?  The absence of a “fortified city,” however, does not necessarily mean that Jericho was completely uninhabited in Joshua’s time. Most Late Bronze Age towns were small and unwalled, and the evidence is of such a settlement at Jericho at the correct time. The “wall” of Joshua 2 and 6 might be well be the outer walls of houses (like Rahab’s) that together formed a protective circle around the city.

The latest scholarly opinions show differences in approach.  Some say that that the archaeological history of Jericho remarkably parallels the biblical account. For example, that the eastern walls fell before they were burnt (Josh 6:20-24).  Others argue that the Jericho of Joshua 6 was washed away by erosion and that the ruins lie under modern day roads and farmland. Whatever was there has long, long since gone, and that “Joshua’s Jericho” will never be found!

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