“And Yehoshua awoke in the morning and the kohanim carried the ark of Hashem.”
“And the seven kohanim carried the seven ram shofars walking before Hashem’s ark while constantly blowing the shofar, with the lead tribe preceding andthe end tribe following the ark constantly blowing the shofar.”
This account of the second day is an exact replica of the earlier report with one noticeable omission: the involvement of the Jewish nation. In fact as we examine these passages we discover that the entire focus is on the ark and the shofar blowing. Although any mention of the lead and end tribes means the involvement of the entire nation, for some reason the nation itself was intentionally omitted from the report.
This suggests that the upcoming acts of encircling the city served a different purpose than the first day. The initial procedure of surrounding the city symbolized the people’s control over Yericho. They surrounded and encircled it to indicate that Yericho was within their tight grasp and under their complete control. Having achieved this first step, it was now time for the second one: Hashem claiming the city. This would be facilitated through an extended procedure of preparatory actions. Hashem’s glory would soon be revealed after the Jewish people and the inhabitants of Yericho recognized His arrival. For this the shofar was chosen to draw focus on the presence of Hashem atop the ark and to announce His upcoming arrival.
However, the true impact of the ark depended on one thing – the shofar. Through it the kohanim and lead and end tribes who accompanied the ark announced its travel. They sounded the shofar throughout this daily routine of encircling Yericho to alert everyone of Hashem’s imminent approach.
The Jewish nation was also involved in this procedure of accompanying the ark. During this second day their role was somewhat passive – to accompany the ark and gear themselves for Hashem’s pending invasion. Any direct mention of the people would mean an active role in the procedure. In truth their initial active role had been achieved and, as the passages reflect, their role after this was somewhat subordinate and went almost unnoticed.
“And they encircled the city once on the second day and they returned to the camp – this was done for a six day period.”
This passage continues the theme of the above passages. It seems logical to us that this one passage should suffice. We have already seen the detailed account of the encircling procedure for the first day. All that now remained was to inform us that this was standard procedure for all six days. Why did the Scriptures repeat the entire procedure on the second day and then include the remaining days as well?
This observation suggests a distinction between the first day and the subsequent ones. As we have noticed, there was a significant change in the description of the procedure of the second day with the omission of the nation itself. Although the kohanim and lead and end tribes were mentioned, no specific reference was made to the involvement of the nation. They occupied a prominent position during the first day yet were totally omitted on the second. Apparently their role in the procedure shifted from one of active involvement to one of passive and subordinate nature. The Scriptures’ repetition here helps inform us that this shift continued for all six days until the final day during which the people once again played a major role.
This insight is shared with us through the careful structure of this account. The first day stands apart with a complete description of the procedure, including the entire nation. However, the second day begins a new phase in the procedure with the total focus placed on the ark and its accompanying pieces. This phase warranted a detailed account of its key people and their role in the procedure. Finally, the Scriptures continue and state that this phase continued for the duration of the six day period. This teaches us that aside from the first day, the nation assumed a backseat role in the procedure for the remainder of the six days.
“And they awoke on the seventh day at the crack of dawn and encircled the city in this order seven times. Only on this day did they circle seven times.”
This passage seems to be somewhat redundant. We have been explicitly told that on each previous day they encircled the city but once. If the seventh day included seven acts of encircling it was obviously something unique and restricted to that day. Why does the Scriptures repeat this obvious point and stress it?
One possible explanation for this could be the following. Our Sages inform us that this seventh day had a double connotation to it. One – it was the seventh day of the procedure; additionally, it was the seventh day of the week. It is possible to understand that the unique procedure of this day was actually related to the Shabbos, the seventh day of the week.
From the vantage point of military procedure, everything was complete. They encircled the city one time which completed the cycle of seven. However, they encircled an additional six times to stress the significance of the Shabbos dimension in this conquest. The Scriptures allude to this by stressing that only on this day – day seven of the week – did they encircle the city seven times. Today’s unique procedure of seven accentuated the seventh day – Shabbos – and highlighted its specific dimension in the conquest.
Subscribe to Yehoshua Reflections and receive the weekly class via e-mail.