Tag Archives: Joshua 6

Joshua 6:15-27 – Destruction of Jericho

Last week the Divine Warrior laid out the battle strategy for Joshua.

  • A strategy that was anything but a typical battle strategy.
  • In our text today, the strategy is completed and comes to a successful conclusion.
  • I want to deal with three specific and repeated themes, not with the text in its entirety.





Joshua 6:16 (ESV) — 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.

Joshua 6:20 (ESV) — 20 So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.



At the seventh encircling of Jericho, the soldiers were to finally break their silence and shout.

  • In this instance, the Israelites would “have been sounding a war cry”, or a battle cry – John Howard.
  • The purpose would have been to:
    • (1) Frighten and intimidate the enemy – John Howard & Woudstra.
    • (2) Praise God for the coming victory – John Howard.
    • (3) Unify, Inspire and Encourage each other – Woudstra.



In the ANE, “mustering for a holy war took place by means of a blast of the trumpet” – Gerhard von Rad.

  • Like the battle cry, sounding the trumpets would also have served to do the 3 aforementioned things.
  • The Israelites used the shophar – “a curved musical instrument made of the horn of a ram” – TWOT.
  • It was important not only in the military life of Israel, but was also used in a religious context such as “expressions of praise” – TWOT.
  • Psalm 98:6 (ESV) — 6 With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!


In Guns of August, author Barbara Tuchman points out over and over the necessity of music in battle to unify, inspire and encourage.

“Cut off from the rest of the Belgian Army, the garrison troops and the 4th Division felt themselves deserted. Commandant Duruy, Lanrezac’s liaison officer at Namur, returned to Fifth Army headquarters to say he did not think the forts would hold out another day without some evidence of French help. ‘They must see the French troops marching along with colors unfurled and a band playing. There must be a band,’ he pleaded” – Barbara Tuchman.


“In dust, heat, and discouragement and fatigue beyond telling the British retreat continued. Trailing through St. Quentin, the tired remnants of two battalions gave up, piled up their arms in the railroad station, sat down in the Place de la Gare, and refused to go farther…Major Bridges wished desperately for a band to rouse the two hundred or three hundred dispirited men lying about in the square” – Barbara Tuchman.


Trumpet and Judgment:

It needs to be noted that in certain contexts the sound of the trumpet carried with it the idea of coming judgment.

  • No doubt, in our text, judgment was coming down on Jericho.
    • Something we discussed in our God-sanctioned war lesson.
  • But, importantly, as Paul tells us, there is coming one final blow of the trumpet that will carry with it eternal consequences.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:16 (ESV) — 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.





Joshua 6:19 (ESV) — 19 But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the Lord; they shall go into the treasury of the Lord.”

Joshua 6:24 (ESV) — 24 And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord.


There is a parallel in Joshua 6 with the Gospel of John.

  • In John’s Gospel, he portrays one’s status with Christ in black or white terms.
  • One is either in the light or in darkness.
  • One remains under God’s wrath or doesn’t.
  • One is drawn or isn’t.
  • One has ears to hear or they don’t.
  • And so on…


In Joshua 6, all the inhabitants, animals and things are either “put into the treasury of the house of the Lord” or “devoted to destruction”.

  • Significantly, in either case the idea was that they were “given over” or “set apart” for the Lord – John Howard.
  • Before we tackle the significance of being “devoted to destruction” I want to first deal with “the treasury of the house of the Lord”.


In Joshua, the “house of the Lord” probably refers to the “tent of meeting in the tabernacle” – Michael Heiser.

  • At the time of the attack on Jericho, the tabernacle was probably located at Gilgal.
  • The treasure itself would be used for “carrying out the Lord’s service” in the tabernacle – Woudstra.
  • From Moses to David and beyond, we see example after example of treasure being consecrated for use in the tabernacle.
    • Numbers 31:54 (ESV) — 54 And Moses and Eleazar the priest received the gold from the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tent of meeting, as a memorial for the people of Israel before the Lord.
    • 2 Samuel 8:11 (ESV) — 11 These also King David dedicated to the Lord, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued,


What went on in the tabernacle?

  • Exodus 40:1–15 (ESV) — 1 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting. 3 And you shall put in it the ark of the testimony, and you shall screen the ark with the veil. 4 And you shall bring in the table and arrange it, and you shall bring in the lampstand and set up its lamps. 5 And you shall put the golden altar for incense before the ark of the testimony, and set up the screen for the door of the tabernacle. 6 You shall set the altar of burnt offering before the door of the tabernacle of the tent of meeting, 7 and place the basin between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 8 And you shall set up the court all around, and hang up the screen for the gate of the court. 9 “Then you shall take the anointing oil and anoint the tabernacle and all that is in it, and consecrate it and all its furniture, so that it may become holy. 10 You shall also anoint the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, and consecrate the altar, so that the altar may become most holy. 11 You shall also anoint the basin and its stand, and consecrate it. 12 Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the entrance of the tent of meeting and shall wash them with water 13 and put on Aaron the holy garments. And you shall anoint him and consecrate him, that he may serve me as priest. 14 You shall bring his sons also and put coats on them, 15 and anoint them, as you anointed their father, that they may serve me as priests. And their anointing shall admit them to a perpetual priesthood throughout their generations.”


We have to mention that both the tabernacle and all its religious artifacts point to Christ.

  • In other words, “the tabernacle was a type of God’s dwelling with men through Jesus…” – David Murray.
  • “A type is a real person, place, object, or event that God ordained to act as a predictive pattern or resemblance of Jesus’ person and work…” – David Murray.
  • For example, as the Israelites submitted to God’s tabernacle demands “they trusted in the Messiah, without knowing all the details of how fulfillment would finally come” – Vern Poythress.





Joshua 6:18 (ESV) — 18 But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them, you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel a thing for destruction and bring trouble upon it.

Joshua 6:21 (ESV) — 21 Then they devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.


As we mentioned, everything in Jericho was going to be consecrated to the Lord.

  • (1) Either put in service of His tabernacle
  • (2) Or devoted to destruction


How is destruction an act of consecration?

“The Hebrew phrase for ‘devote to destruction,’ cherem, refers to the destruction of life—human and otherwise—as an act of devotion to Yahweh. The destruction is an act of complete consecration; therefore the verb has a religious connotation: destruction is an act of sacrifice” – Michael Heiser.

  • Or to put another way, destruction can be seen as an “irrevocable surrender to God” of those things that “impede or resist” God’s Work – TWOT.
  • And the Lord tells Israel that if this is not done destruction will come upon “the camp of Israel” (6:18).


To make sense of this, we need to keep in mind, once again, the context and character of God issues from our God-sanctioned war lesson.

  • Additionally, this language “was targeted, not indiscriminate” within the book of Joshua – Michael Heiser.
  • It is directed against the tribes of Canaan.
  • Who, as we already saw, were especially wicked in God’s eyes.


Additionally, God instructed Moses in Deuteronomy 7:2-6 that this devotion to destruction of the Canaanites must occur, otherwise they will lead the Israelites astray.

  • Deuteronomy 7:2–4 (ESV) — 2 and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. 3 You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, 4 for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly.


BTW – There are those who think the Canaanites were related to the Nephilim (offspring of fallen angels and humans) of Genesis 6 – Michael Heiser.

  • As such, their wickedness was even more heinous in God’s sight.
  • The spies sent out by Moses to Canaan reported the following:
    • Numbers 13:33 (ESV) — 33 And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”


One more sobering aspect of this devotion to destruction was the role of the Divine Warrior – Christ.

  • Exodus 23:20–23 (ESV) — 20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 “When my angel goes before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and I blot them out,



But, vividly contrasted with Christ as judge is Christ as savior.

  • Rahab’s rescue from the devotion to destruction takes up most of the end of Joshua 6.
  • The stark contrast of Rahab’s rescue with Jericho’s destruction is “unusually significant” – Woudstra.
  • Richard Hess suggests that Rahab’s rescue was theologically possible because:
    • She had “ceased to be a Canaanite and ‘devoted’ [herself] to the God of Israel”
    • So she did not escape “devotion” to God, but by her faith, her “devotion” was salvation and not destruction.


Joshua 6: 1-14 – Military Strategy or Faith Strategy

Last week we dealt with the dilemma of God-sanctioned war.

  • We saw that to fairly deal with this dilemma we had to –
    • Understand character of Yahweh as taught OT.
    • Understand context of conquest – judgment and one-time event were two examples given.



The remaining chapters in Joshua are organized as follows (Bruce Waltke):

  • Giving/Taking the Land – 6-12
  • Alotting the Land – 13-21
  • Retaining the Land – 22-24


From this, we see that the land is of central importance to the Book of Joshua.

  • For this reason, we need to take a quick look a couple of important things the land represented.





(1) The first is that it is a fulfillment of God’s covenant and promises to Abraham and Moses.

  • Genesis 15:18–21 (ESV) — 18 On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, 19 the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, 20 the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, 21 the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
  • Genesis 17:7–8 (ESV) — 7 And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. 8 And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.”
  • Joshua 1:3 (ESV) — 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses.


An important offshoot of this is that God has securely located promise fulfillment in the physical – creation.

  • Unlike Israel’s neighbors who saw the “spiritual” as the bee’s knees.


We saw this in our series on resurrection.

  • People, nation and land were valued above some spiritual existence.
  • The Kingdom of God was to culminate in a physical existence under the Messiah’s reign, not a spiritual existence.
  • Eternal life is a physical life “in the age to come”; heaven is temporary.


(2) The second is that the giving of the Promised Land marked out huge move in redemption history from chaos to order.

“Israel’s crossing of the Jordan symbolically marks their transition out of the hostile, precarious, and chaotic wilderness [and slavery]. The moment of crossing into the good land drastically revises Israel’s being (cf. Josh. 23:15–16). Leonard L. Thompson says, “ ‘Land’ becomes a cipher [representation] for a total social order. The move into the Land is nothing short of that creative change from chaos to ordered cosmos” – Bruce Waltke.


This is seen in a number of ways.

  • The transition from God’s provision via manna to provision via the provisions of Promised Land itself – Sam Schultz.
  • God’s control of the “chaotic” waters of the Jordan that enabled entry into the Promised Land.
  • The appearance of the Divine Warrior to Joshua.
    • God was behind the conquest and the giving of the land.
    • His work enabled the Israelites’ taking of the land.
  • The coming allotment of the land to all the tribes of Israel.
  • And, of course, event after event in Israel’s history, culminating in Jesus Christ – the Ultimate Order.


A final thought on the Land:

“The land promises are fulfilled several times but have never been consummated. God fulfills the promises through Joshua (e.g., Josh. 21:43–45) but not completely (e.g., Josh. 13:1–7); he fulfills them more completely through David and Solomon (1 Kings 4:20–25; Neh. 9:8) but not consummately (see Ps. 95:11). There still remains a consummation of the Sworn Land for the people of God (Heb. 4:6–8; 11:39–40)” – Bruce Waltke





The Defense:

Joshua 6:1 (ESV) — 1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.


In war, any warrior worth his salt bristles at the idea of taking a defensive over an offensive posture.

  • Unless, of course, there are some very good reasons to do so.
  • This defensive posture was obviously based upon the knowledge of what Yahweh was capable of doing.


But this also presents us with a peculiar situation.

  • How are a bunch of slaves going to defeat a well-fortified and defended military outpost?
  • The Israelites are “a people unskilled in the kind of warfare that was now required” – Mark Woudstra.


The normal course of action is to lay siege and blockade.

  • Deprive them access to food and water and thus force them to surrender.
  • While at the same time building a way to access the fortress.


We see an example of this with Babylon’s siege of Jerusalem.

  • 2 Kings 25:1–3 (ESV) — 1 And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. 2 So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 3 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land.
  • Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem lasted over two years.


Another famous example is the Roman siege of Masada.

  • The Romans built a siege ramp 375 feet high and used a battering ram to penetrate the walls.


But the Lord gives Joshua a plan that is quite different.


The Plan:

Joshua 6:2–5 (ESV) — 2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3 You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4 Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5 And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.”


Many believe that “the Lord” could very well be the Divine Warrior – Bruce Waltke.

  • If so, we have here the Divine Warrior drawing up the battle plans for the taking of Jericho.
  • And the plans are anything but the building of siege works and plans to blockade supplies.
  • In fact, the plans aren’t even a military strategy at all – David Howard.


What type of battle strategy is it?

  • A “ceremonial circling of the city rather than classic military tactics” – David Howard.
  • In other words, a “faith strategy” instead of a “military strategy”.


This faith strategy puts all attention on Yahweh in two ways.

  • (1) The Ark – Yahweh, represented by the ark, becomes in a sense the “siege worker” of Jericho.
    • God is symbolically present in the ark, and daily He is circling Jericho.
    • Judgment is coming and God is in the midst of it.
  • (2) Seven – The repetition of the number seven “is doubtless symbolical, recalling God’s works at creation” – Woudstra.
    • “The Lord who creates also works in the history of redemption. On the seventh day he will act on his people’s behalf” – Mark Woudstra.
  • After all, the Lord did say to Joshua, “I have given Jericho into your hand” (vs. 2).


The Orders:

Joshua 6:6–10 (ESV) So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.” 7 And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.” 8 And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.”


Joshua then dutifully passed on the Divine Warrior’s instructions.

  • We have no evidence that Israel balked at Joshua’s unorthodox battle plan.
  • They continued to endorse Joshua as Moses’ chosen replacement.


And it seems that Joshua understands that the Lord will be playing the primary role in the defeat of Jericho.

  • His first words to the people are, “Take up the ark of the covenant” (vs. 6).
  • In fact, in these four verses, the ark is spoken of 5 times.


Orders Carried Out:

Joshua 6:11–14 (ESV) So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp. 12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.


Just as the Divine Warrior had commanded and Joshua had ordered, the warriors and priests of Israel implemented the unorthodox plan.

  • And again, the ark is spoken of 4 times in just four verses.
  • There is no doubt that God is the “siege-worker” of this “faith strategy”.


Summary of Joshua 6:1-14:

“We cannot help noticing the strangeness of Yahweh’s method: armed men, seven priests blowing rams’ horns, the ark, the rear guard, such was the caravan that circled Jericho each day and seven times on the seventh day. But, as at the crossing of the Jordan, it is the ark of Yahweh that holds centre stage” – Dale Davis.


This teaches us:

  • 2 Corinthians 4:7 (ESV) — 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.


Additionally we can pull an interesting point of application out of this text – Silence.

  • Joshua 6:10 (ESV) — 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.”
  • For six days they circle Jericho in silence!
  • And presumably this was made all the more difficult by the teasing reigned down from the walls of Jericho by the Canaanites – James Boice.
    • Though scared at first, by the third or fourth day they must have been puzzled and emboldened.


What is this all about?

  • Be quiet before the Lord and let God speak – Boice.
  • Psalm 62:1 (ESV) — 1 For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation.
  • Habakkuk 2:20 (ESV) — 20 But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him.”


Joshua 6 – God-Sanctioned War

Last week we spoke about the Fear of God and the Divine Warrior.

  • We saw that fear of God, submission, worship and obedience are intimately related.
  • We also argued that Jesus is the Divine Warrior – the Angel of the Lord.
  • And that the Divine Warrior – the Cloud Rider – is a polemic against Baal.
  • Today we will talk about the Conquest of Canaan that the Divine Warrior legitimizes.



Throughout history, God’s name has been evoked to justify too many wars and atrocities.

  • Or if not in the name of God, in the name of a moral and just cause.
  • In the OT, and particularly Joshua, all of these claims are put forward to justify the Israelites conquest of Canaan.


Here is one such justification of the conquest:

“She cannot attain her ‘great moral ends’ without increased political power, an enlarged sphere of influence, and new territory. This increase in power, ‘befitting [her] importance,’ and ‘which [she is] entitled to claim,’ is a ‘political necessity’ and ‘the first and foremost duty of the State…What we now wish to attain must be fought for,…Conquest thus becomes a law of necessity’ – Barbara Tuchman quoting General von Bernhardi from The Guns of August.


This particular claim was made by one of the general’s of the Kaiser’s German Army just before the beginning of World War I.

  • We can say with certainty that this justification was complete nonsense.
  • And yet, why is the God sanctioned war of the Israelites not?


Dale Ralph Davis says the following of Joshua’s Conquest:

  • There are many “dilemmas with the conquest”.
  • And to deal with them we “must see the Old Testament’s view”.


So Davis raises two questions.

  • (1) What are the dilemmas of the conquest?
  • (2) What is the OT’s view?


Dilemmas of the Conquest:

One need only look at a few texts of Joshua to see the dilemma.

  • Joshua 8:24–25 (ESV) — 24 When Israel had finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open wilderness where they pursued them, and all of them to the very last had fallen by the edge of the sword, all Israel returned to Ai and struck it down with the edge of the sword. 25 And all who fell that day, both men and women, were 12,000, all the people of Ai.
  • Joshua 10:29–30 (ESV) — 29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah and fought against Libnah. 30 And the Lord gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.
  • Joshua 10:34–35 (ESV) — 34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon. And they laid siege to it and fought against it. 35 And they captured it on that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword. And he devoted every person in it to destruction that day, as he had done to Lachish.
  • Joshua 10:40 (ESV) — 40 So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the Lord God of Israel commanded.


According to the author of Joshua, “the Lord God of Israel commanded” the destruction “with the edge of the sword” all those in the cities they fought against.

  • We are told they left “none remaining”.
  • We are told that “both men and women” were killed.
  • We are told that all inhabitants were to be “devoted to destruction”.


So that is the dilemma.

  • God commanded the killing and displacement of a people – men and women (children?).
  • Israel is killing people because God told them to do so.


BTW – A Texas mother, Deanna Laney, said exactly the same thing as the reason she murdered 2 of her children.

  • She killed them on God’s orders.
  • She was found not guilty by reason of insanity.


So having understood the dilemma, we need to now examine the OT’s take on the conquest.


OT View of the Conquest:

Peter S. Williams says an apologetic for the Conquest begins with two important things.


First –

  • ANE Context – For the Conquest to be properly understood, it must be understood within the context and setting in which it takes place.
  • To read it any other way is not to read it with integrity.
  • Specifically, the context includes:
    • (1) Yahweh is the one true God
    • (2) He owns and creates life.
    • (3) He uses nations to bring judgment against other nations.
    • (4) Good and evil are real and He opposes evil.
    • (5) There exists a spiritual world every bit as real as the physical world in which good and evil are at war with one another.


Second –

  • God’s Character – Yahweh has a certain character that requires our trust.
    • He can do nothing inconsistent with that character.
    • He can’t lie.
    • He can’t murder.
    • If He takes life, He is justified in doing so because He is its author.


Paul Copan sums these up well this way:

“God’s commands to Israel to wipe out Canaan’s idols and false, immoral worship illustrate the cosmic warfare between Yahweh and the dark powers opposed to his rule. Yahweh—“the Lord of hosts” (cf. Ps. 24:7–10)—is a “warrior” (Exod. 15:3) who opposes all that mars the divine image in humans, all that threatens human flourishing, and all that sets itself in opposition to God’s righteous reign. ‘Yahweh wars’ aren’t simply a clash between this and that deity; they represent a clash of two world orders: one rooted in reality and justice, the other in reality-denial and brute power; one representing creational order, the other anticreation” – Paul Copan.

  • This is the OT view of the Conquest.


The point of understanding these two things – Context and Character – is relevant because:

  • To characterize the Conquest as just another religiously justified war ignores the context and historical claims in which the Conquest took place.


In other words, it is certainly reasonable to argue the OT claims about God and His action in history are bogus.

  • And because of that, the Conquest was an immoral and unjustifiable military action.
  • However, given the Context and Character issues, it is not reasonable to decry the God of the Bible as a genocidal maniac.
  • This view does not honestly account for how the Conquest meshes with its Context and the Character of the God the OT reveals.


Let’s look at a couple of examples of maintaining the integrity of the Context.

  • (1) The context of Conquest as Judgment
  • (2) The context of Conquest as One-Off Event


Conquest as Judgment:

  • Genesis 15:16 (ESV) — 16 And they shall come back here in the fourth generation, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”
  • Leviticus 18:24–25 (ESV) — 24 “Do not make yourselves unclean by any of these things, for by all these the nations I am driving out before you have become unclean, 25 and the land became unclean, so that I punished its iniquity, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.
  • Deuteronomy 18:12 (ESV) — 12 for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord. And because of these abominations the Lord your God is driving them out before you.


God’s act of engaging in battle is not for the sake of violence or even victory as such but to establish peace and justice” – Paul Copan.


Peter Williams makes a couple more important points about Conquest as Judgment.


(1) The conquest of the Canaanites was not genocide.

  • God didn’t use the Israelites to judge the Canaanites because of their race.
  • But, because of their wickedness.
    • Canaanite wickedness is well-documented and involved infant sacrifice.
  • Israel was merely the instrument of His judgment.


BTW – because Israel was the instrument of God’s judgment doesn’t mean that Israel was somehow qualitatively better – as the OT makes plainly clear.


(2) The fact that it was not genocide was demonstrated by at least two things.

  • (A) This same type of judgment was incurred by Israel itself.
    • Because of Israel’s wickedness they were also judged and dispossessed from the land by the Assyrians and the Babylonians.
  • (B) The fact that Rahab, a Canaanite, was saved by her recognition of the one true God.


Conquest as One-Off Event:

  • This is an oft overlooked and significant observation by Peter S. Williams.
  • The Conquest was a one-time event.
  • In other words, this was not something that took place routinely in Israel’s history.


And importantly, it was preceded by a number of significant PDA’s – “public displays of awesomeness”.

  • And these just happen to be some of the most spectacular miracles in the Bible – Peter S. Williams.
    • Yahweh split the Red Sea.
    • He led the Israelites and fed them.
    • He cut off the Jordan River.
    • He appeared as the Divine Warrior


BTW – the significance of the PDA’s can be seen in Christ’s ministry as well.


Additionally, the Canaanites knew of these things; they could have responded as Rahab did.

  • Joshua 2:10 (ESV) — 10 For we have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you devoted to destruction.
  • And no doubt they heard how Yahweh cut off the Jordan River as well!


So just as Paul said about Jesus’ work in history – “this has not been done in a corner” (Acts 26:26).


These two examples – Judgment and One-Off Event – show the importance of Context to understanding the Conquest.

  • To rip the Conquest out of its context will lead to false conclusions.


And this also shows us God’s role in initiating the Conquest:

  • He covenanted with and called out a people by His own will, not because they were “better”.
  • The Conquest was not grounded in the greed of an empowered political leader.
  • The Conquest was grounded in the covenant faithfulness and holiness of God.
  • And it was obtained not by professional soldiers, but by a nation of slaves.
  • A nation of slaves set free by supernatural acts of God in history.
  • And these acts of God included miracle after miracle witnessed by the nations.



  • This is a difficult topic, admittedly.
  • We can only begin to skim the surface of all the dilemmas it raises and the answers offered.
  • But I hope that we have at least provided a beginning for you to explore further.


Miscellaneous Info:

(1) Many scholars, like Paul Copan, suggest that the cities attacked by Israel were not cities at all.

  • They were actually military outposts containing mainly soldiers.

(2) Scholars also suggest that ANE historiography engages in hyperbole as part of its genre.

  • “Scripture is similar to other ancient historiography in that it may use large numbers hyperbolically in military contexts” – David M. Fouts (JETS 40/3).
  • “The use of figurative language, including numerical hyperbole, does not mitigate the historical reliability of an account” – David M Fouts (JETS 40/3).
  • “Again, the sweeping words ‘all,’ ‘young and old,’ and ‘men and women’ were stock expressions for totality, even if women and children weren’t present” – Paul Copan.