Joshua 6

The Conquest of Jericho


Now Jericho was shut up because of the children of Israel (Joshua 6:1).

Jericho is located in the flat Jordan Valley plain just to the east of the Judean hills. The ancient city was built next to a large spring (known today as “Elisha’s Spring”), which was key to the survival of the city over the millennia. Located 820 feet (250 m) below sea level, Jericho is the lowest city on the surface of the earth. Rainfall averages 5.5 inches (140 mm) per year, although in some years there is virtually none.

The Amarna Letters

I have given Jericho into your hand and its king and its mighty men of valor (Joshua 6:2).

Some light is shed on the internal politics of Canaan about this time from the Amarna Letters (circa 1350 BC). These were letters, written in cuneiform, that were sent back and forth between the kings of Egypt and various places to the north, including Canaan. The one shown here (EA 299) was sent to Egypt by Yapahu, the king of Gezer, about 30 miles (50 km) west of Jericho. One thing the Amarna letters make clear is that at this time Canaan was divided up into city-states, each ruled by its own king.

The City Walls

And the priests shall blow the trumpets . . . and the wall of the city will fall down flat (Joshua 6:4-5).

This standing wall at Jericho provides an illustration of what the mudbrick city walls may have looked like at the time the Lord was preparing Joshua to encircle the city. This wall is some centuries earlier than the time of Joshua, and it was buried under later occupational layers at the time of the Israelite invasion (and thus it did not collapse).

Marching Orders

Pass on, and circle the city (Joshua 6:7).

In order to avoid archer fire, the Israelites may have circled the city from a moderate distance. This view also gives some idea of the height of the city above the surrounding plain. It was likely even taller in Joshua’s day, since the remains from the summit of the tell are not later than the time of the Conquest.

Holy Loot

Keep yourselves from the things under the ban (Joshua 6:18).

The Israelites were specifically prohibited from keeping anything from Jericho for themselves. Instead, they were to bring any metal items to the tabernacle for the Lord, and they were to burn everything else. The model shown here (from ca. 1900 BC) is of Egyptians bringing offerings to one of their gods, similar to what the Israelites were supposed to do.

Archaeology and Joshua

The wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him (Joshua 6:20).

The grain jars shown here were among dozens that were discovered at Jericho and date to about the time of Joshua. The excavators found these jars full of charred grain, indicating that the inhabitants of the city did not starve to death, and that whoever conquered the city did not attempt to recover the grain. This corresponds to the biblical account of Joshua’s conquest.

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