“And Yericho was locked and bolted, no one exited and no one entered.” Targum Yonasan explains that no one left the city to wage war against the Jews and no one was allowed entry for friendly purposes. Yericho’s petrified state was obvious to all. Hashem’s mighty revelations overwhelmed the Canaanite inhabitants to the degree that they opted to find security behind their fortified walls without maintaining any contact with the outside world.
It is interesting to study human nature, particularly the nature of a misguided pagan people. Through Rachav’s revelations we discovered long ago that the Canaanite inhabitants were incapable of making any serious attempt of defense. (see Yehoshua 2:9) Accordingly, their only logical option was to surrender and leave. Our Sages reveal that one wise tribe, the Girgashi, did so and fled to North Africa. Yet, the inhabitants of Yericho remained and sat behind their wall without even an attempt of defense.
This teaches us an important lesson in human nature and denial. Although the inhabitants witnessed the splitting of the Jordan, they didn’t envision the splitting of the wall of Yericho. They reasoned that as long as they made no contact with the outside world, they would be ignored. The Jewish people wouldn’t bother conquering the stronghold of the land. This feeling was undoubtedly the result of their fortified wall which they perceived to be protecting them. In response to this, Hashem miraculously brought down the wall of Jericho and revealed their foolishness. Yes, it came true. The same Hashem who cracked the Jordan waters cracked through the fortified wall of Yericho. They never were protected from Hashem and it now became an obvious fact to all.
How often are we in denial and believe that we can hide from Hashem? How much trust do we place on our little security blankets which are in reality nothing more than a figment of our imagination?
“And Hashem said to Yehoshua, ‘See that I have delivered into your hand Yericho and its king, strong warriors.'” This first encounter was intended to set the tone for all subsequent battles. The conquest of Yericho would be a clear miracle from Hashem without requiring much physical assistance. This would insure the Jewish people of Hashem’s involvement in all of their wars and their guaranteed success. Hashem therefore told Yehoshua to take note of this experience and learn from it. Realize that Hashem will continue being with you as long as you maintain your faith and devotion.
“And you shall encircle the city, all your soldiers should go around once- this should be done for six days.” The conquest of Yericho was an absolute miracle. The Jewish people surrounded the city for seven days. Then, after shofar blasts and people’s shouting the walls of Yericho tumbled over. No military strategy was necessary nor any powerful attacks. Yet only strong warriors were chosen for this miraculous mission.
The lesson from this is apparent. Although Yericho’s miracle would not be repeated, Hashem’s assistance would always be there. Even when the warriors would be involved in physical combat, Hashem would remaim silently involved. At the outset the warriors were given a taste of this. They definitely sensed Hashem’s hand at Yericho, through a miracle of such major preparations. This feeling was meant to continue throughout their battle for conquest even without Hashem’s open involvement. They therefore served in the lead position and drew strength and courage from this battle. They viewed this war as the prototype for all subsequent ones and learned to sense Hashem’s involvement in all their upcoming experiences.
“And seven Kohanim shall carry seven ram shofars in front of the ark and on the seventh day they should encircle the city seven times and the Kohanim shall blow the shofars.” The order of these instructions is somewhat peculiar to us. In the first passage the warriors were told to encircle the city for six consecutive days. In the second verse the Kohanim were instructed to carry shofars, to expand their encircling on the seventh day and to blow the shofar. From this order it seems that the actual shofar blowing was insignificant and that the seventh day’s procedure was crucial point to the entire maneuver. In addition, the position of the Kohanim’s role carrying and blowing the shofar each day suggests seems that it has much in common with the seventh day.
We learn from this that two distinct dimensions were in operation. The first was the Jewish warriors participation in the conquest and the second was the involvement of the holy ark accompanied by the Kohanim. As we have learned, the circling procedure served as a lesson of encouragement for the Jewish warriors. They learned that with faith and some effort on their part Hashem would deliver the enemy into their hands. But in addition the nations also learned an important lesson from this battle. They discovered that Hashem, Whose Presence resided atop the Holy Ark, was reclaiming His land. To this end it was essential for this first conquest to be an open act of Hashem. This would set the tone for all subsequent battles and establish to all that Hashem truly controls Eretz Yisroel.
The number seven is significant in Jewish tradition because it represents designation to Hashem. The Jewish people are permitted to engage in productive activity throughout their six day week. But on the seventh day they must return the world to its true owner. This special day, Shabbos, is declared “Hashem’s Day” and is totally devoted to His service. A similar lesson was displayed through the conquest of Yericho. The procedure included: seven days of circling the city; seven Kohanim; seven shofars and seven encirclings on the seventh day, incidentally Shabbos. All of this contributed to the understanding that Eretz Yisroel was designated to the recognition of Hashem, best accomplished through His children’s inheritance of His land.
We now appreciate the order of these instructions and their relationship to one another. The first verse introduces the role of the warriors and the encouragement they would draw from this battle. The second verse relates to Hashem’s lead role in the conquest and His display of this. The Kohanim were instructed to accompany the Holy Ark with shofars in hand. These shofars represented dignity and majesty rather than a penetrating call of war. They were to be understood as part of this majestic procedure and not as bullhorns of war. In essence, the Kohanim and their shofars were there in order to contribute to the recognition of Hashem’s role in the war. The conquest was set for Shabbos – the seventh day of their procedures- replete with all aspects of seven. We now understand why the seven kohanim and their shofars were mentioned in a separate verse in conjunction with the seventh day of conquest. The kohanim preceded theholy ark in travel and announced through their shofar blasts the arrival of Hashem to Yericho.
Subscribe to Yehoshua Reflections and receive the weekly class via e-mail.