Bible Study #31: The Battle of Jericho
Fr. Anthony Perkins, St. Mary's (Pokrova) in Allentown
17 April 2018
Make the pure light of Your divine knowledge shine in our hearts, Loving Master, and open the eyes of our minds that we may understand the message of Your Gospel. Instill also in us reverence for Your blessed commandments, so that overcoming all worldly desires, we may pursue a spiritual life, both thinking and doing all things pleasing to You. For You, Christ our God, are the Light of our souls and bodies, and to You we give the glory, together with Your Father, without beginning, and Your All Holy, Good, and Life- Creating Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen. (2 Corinthians 6:6; Ephesians 1:18; 2 Peter 2:11)
Warm up question:
Why does God appoint leaders (messiahs) and prophets in the Old Testament? Why not just communicate His will directly with every human being personally? What can we learn about His plan for us from the way He works with us (i.e. the human race).
The Battle of Jericho (and this is the right time of year to remember it!)
Joshua 2: send in the spies and cue the harlot with the heart of gold
St. Jerome. Why two spies? After the law [i.e. Moses] was dead—Jesus desires to lead his people into the gospel [Holy Land] and sends out two men on secret mission to Jericho. Two messengers he sends: one to the circumcised; the other to the Gentiles, Peter and Paul. Jericho seeks to kill them; the harlot takes them in, meaning, of course, the church gathered together from the Gentiles.
St. Caesarius of Arles. Why two spies? Joshua sent two spies because the true Joshua (i.e. Jesus) was going to give two commands of love. In truth, what else do the men whom the true Joshua sends announce to us except that we should love God and our neighbor?
Origen. Why a harlot? Because the church, as I have often said, gathered from the multitude of Gentiles, was then called a prostitute (because it had gone after false gods), therefore the church is found in the figure of Rahab, the hostess of saints (“the unfaithful wife is sanctified through her faithful husband” 1Corinthians 7-14).
St. Paul (Hebrews 11:31) By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
St. James (James 2:25) Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?
[And note that she is part of the genealogy of Jesus Christ! Matthew 1:5]
St. Augustine. Is deception okay? Lying is wrong … As for its being written that God dealt well with the Hebrew midwives and with Rahab the harlot of Jericho, he did not deal well with them because they lied but because they were merciful to the men of God. And so, it was not their deception that was rewarded, but their benevolence; the benignity of their intention, not the iniquity of their invention.
St. Jerome. Even the cord has meaning. So, too, with a mystic reference to the shedding of blood, it was a scarlet cord which the harlot Rahab (a type of the church) hung in her window that she might be saved at the destruction of Jericho.
Joshua 3-4: the Ark allows the people to pass over the Jordan (read during Theophany)
Why did the “Jordan turn back”? Note the similarities with the crossing of the Red Sea. Joshua is “exalted” at the Jordan as Jesus is. We are baptized into the Gospel as the Israelites crossed the Jordan to get to the Holy Land.
Joshua 5: The Circumcision, the Passover, and The Angel (read on Holy Saturday)
Note: no one who is unclean can celebrate the Passover. This is why they waited until all were circumcised and healed to celebrate it. The timing of the switch from manna is interesting.
Origen. On discernment. And so you must beware and exercise great care in order to discern with knowledge the kinds of visions, just as Joshua the son of Nun, when he saw a vision and knew there was temptation in it, immediately asked the one who appeared to him and said, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” So, then, the soul progresses when it comes to the place where it begins to distinguish between visions; and it is proved to be spiritual if it knows how to discern them all. That is why, as well, one of the spiritual gifts, given by the Holy Spirit, is mentioned as “the ability to distinguish between spirits.”
Origen. On holiness. [T]he chief of the army of the power of the Lord sanctifies every place to which he comes, for Jericho itself was not a holy place. But because the chief of the army of God came there, the place is said to be holy.
St. Jerome. On the safety of God's presence. Now, grasp the mystical meaning of Holy Writ. As long as we are walking through the wilderness, it is necessary that we wear sandals to cover and protect our feet, but when we shall have entered the Land of Promise, we shall hear with Jesus [Joshua], the son of Nave [Nun]: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place upon which you are standing is holy.”
Joshua 6: The destruction and cursing of Jericho
Tertullian. Points out that one of the seven days MUST have been a Sabbath (and that, in general, the Law was not universal or atemporal). Interesting to think of the seventh day as the day when things culminate and order prevails.
St. Maximus of Turin. On preaching. We believe that the priestly trumpets of that age were nothing other than the preaching of the priests of this age, by which we do not cease to announce, with a dreadful sound, something harsh to sinners, to speak of what is dismal, and to strike the ears of evildoers with, as it were, a threatening roar, since no one can resist the sacred sounds and no one can gainsay them. For how could feeling creatures not tremble at the word of God when at that time even unfeeling ones were shaken? And how could human hardheartedness resist what a stone fortification could not withstand? For just as, when the stone walls were destroyed, the clash of the trumpets reached the people within, so also now, when evil thoughts have been destroyed, the preaching of the priests penetrates to the bare parts of the soul, for the soul is found bare before the Word of God when its every evil deed is destroyed. And that the soul is bare before God the holy apostle says, “But all things are bare and uncovered to his eyes.” In this regard, before the soul knows God and accepts the truth of the faith, it veils itself, so to speak, under superstitious works and surrounds itself with something like a wall of perversity, such that it might seem to be able to remain impregnable within the fortifications of its own evildoing. But when the sacred sound thunders, its rashness is overthrown, its thinking is destroyed, and all the defenses of its superstitions break asunder in such a way that, remaining unprotected, as it is written, the Word of God might penetrate even to the division of its spirit and its inmost parts. Just as the ring of the sacred sound destroyed, captured and took vengeance on a hardhearted people then, so also now the priestly preaching subjugates, captures and takes vengeance on a sinful people.
St. John Chrysostom. On repentance and salvation. Compares “Let Rahab live.” to the Gospel.
Teaching Point: Do what God instructs even when the end result is not clear.
Franke, J. R. (Ed.). (2005). Old Testament IV: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1–2 Samuel (p. 8). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.