We can imagine the rhythmic movement of their feet as they marched around Jericho’s wall. The blast of the ram’s horn continuously shouted their intent. The children of Israel were in battle, ready to claim what God had already said was theirs to claim, the fall of the city of Jericho. It was one more step in securing the Promised Land.
Though it was deemed impenetrable, by faith Joshua believed God would make Jericho’s wall fall. Thus, they followed God’s plan. For six days, they marched once around the wall. Armed soldiers led the line, followed by the seven priests who blew the horns. Behind them, other priests carried the ark of the covenant with the rear guard following them. The rest of the children of Israel remained in silence waiting for the seventh day.
On the seventh day, they walked around the wall of Jericho seven times, and after the priest blew the horn, Joshua gave the signal. The children of Israel let out a great shout, and the walls of Jericho fell flat. You can imagine the chaos that ensued. Inside the city, some may have run. Some desired to fight. Yet, God had already won the battle for the children of Israel.
As the Lord instructed, the children of Israel proceeded to destroy everybody and everything in the city of Jericho, with only two exceptions. They were to save Rahab and her family, and they were to take the silver, gold, bronze, and iron to the treasury of the house of the Lord. Rahab received her privilege because she had helped the Israelite spies.
After the win at Jericho, Joshua and the soldiers were ready for the next battle at Ai. News of what happened at Jericho spread through the land. People were fearful of Joshua and the Israelites. Yet, the victory at Ai would not come as they hoped. During the destruction of Jericho, a man named Achan took some of the things for himself. God was angry, but Joshua and the rest of the Israelites did not know.
As planned, Joshua sent men to Ai. First, they spied out the land. These spies reported that they only needed a few men to defeat the people of Ai. Joshua sent the number of men requested, but when they went into battle, the people of Ai defeated them. Thirty-six Israelite soldiers died, and the rest were chased beyond the gates and beaten. The children of Israel became afraid. Joshua ripped his clothes, put dirt upon his head, and cried out to God. Why had this happened?
As Joshua cried to God and pondered what happened, God told him to get up. God explained that the people had sinned because they had taken the things meant for the treasury and put them with their own things. God said that the Israelites could not win until the matter was handled.
The next morning, Joshua determined which tribe the thief was from using lots. Then, one by one, each head of household came before Joshua for questioning. Finally, Achan stood before Joshua. Achan admitted his sin. He had taken a beautiful cloak, silver, and gold from Jericho and hid it. Messengers went to Achan’s tent and recovered the items. Achan and his household were sentenced to death. Once the punishment was issued, God was no longer angry. It was time for Joshua and his men to go win Ai. God assured Joshua that their battle was won.
Joshua chose 30,000 men to march into battle with him. Joshua sent some men to hide near the city. The rest remained with him. When the soldiers of Ai came to fight Joshua and his men, Joshua and his men pretended like they were afraid and ran. The soldiers of Ai chased them. When God told him to, Joshua held up his javelin to signal the hidden men. The hidden men rushed into the city and set it on fire. Joshua and the other men stood ready to fight in front of them. The soldiers of Ai could not go forward or backward. They were trapped. That day all the people in the city of Ai were destroyed. After the battle, God allowed Joshua and the soldiers to take the animals and goods of the city for them to keep. The city itself was left in ashes.
Resource: Joshua 6-8
- How do people usually fight battles? What was different about the battle of Jericho?
- Why do you think God was willing to fight the battle at Jericho for the children of Israel?
- How does it feel to win and then lose when you know you could have won?
- Why did the children of Israel lose the first battle at Ai?
- If one of your friends or family members did something that caused you and other people to lose, could you tell what they did? Why or why not?
- Achan knew Joshua was looking for something. Why do you think he did not admit what he did before Joshua went through all the other people?
- When Joshua and the Israelites won the second battle at Ai, no doubt existed that God was on their side. After the battle, God allowed them to take items as their prize. Why do you think God allowed the Israelites to take things from Ai but not Jericho?
- Can you share a story of how God won a battle in an unusual way for you or someone you know?
- Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. Joshua 6:1-2 ESV
- The Lord said to Joshua, “Get up! Why have you fallen on your face? Israel has sinned; they have transgressed my covenant that I commanded them; they have taken some of the devoted things; they have stolen and lied and put them among their own belongings. Therefore, the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you. Joshua 7:10-12 ESV
- And the Lord said to Joshua, “Do not fear and do not be dismayed. Take all the fighting men with you, and arise, go up to Ai. See, I have given into your hand the king of Ai, and his people, his city, and his land. And you shall do to Ai and its king as you did to Jericho and its king. Only its spoil and its livestock you shall take as plunder for yourselves. Lay an ambush against the city, behind it.” Joshua 8:1-2 ESV
- Obedience is the key to God fighting on your behalf.
- Even a small amount of evil among your family and friends can cause all to fall.
- Choosing God’s way ensures victory every time.
Father God, may we always seek to obey you. May we ask for forgiveness when we need to ask. May we never hide our face or sin from you. May we recognize the rewards you give us when we obey you. May our service to you serve as an example of what others should do. We ask this in your son Jesus’s name. Amen.
What were the most important lessons you learned from these stories? Why were these lessons important to you?