The Fall of
chapter is based on Joshua 5:13-15; 6; 7.]
Hebrews had entered Canaan, but they had not subdued it; and to human
appearance the struggle to gain possession of the land must be long and
difficult. It was inhabited by a powerful race, who stood ready to oppose
the invasion of their territory. The various tribes were bound together by
the fear of a common danger. Their horses and iron battle chariots, their
knowledge of the country, and their training in war, would give them great
advantage. Furthermore, the country was guarded by
fortresses--"cities great and fenced up to heaven." Deuteronomy
9:1. Only in the assurance of a strength not their own could the
Israelites hope for success in the impending conflict.
One of the
strongest fortresses in the land--the large and wealthy city of
Jericho--lay just before them, but a little distance from their camp at
Gilgal. On the border of a fertile plain abounding with the rich and
varied productions of the tropics, its palaces and temples the abode of
luxury and vice, this proud city, behind its massive battlements, offered
defiance to the God of Israel. Jericho was one of the principal seats of
idol worship, being especially devoted to Ashtaroth, the goddess of the
moon. Here centered all that was vilest and most degrading in the religion
of the Canaanites. The people of Israel, in whose minds were fresh the
fearful results of their sin at Beth-peor, could look upon this heathen
city only with disgust and horror.
Jericho was seen by Joshua to be the first step in the conquest of Canaan.
But first of all he sought an assurance of divine guidance, and it was
granted him. Withdrawing from the encampment to meditate and to pray that
the God of Israel would go before His people, he beheld an armed warrior,
of lofty stature and commanding presence, "with his sword drawn in
his hand." To Joshua's challenge, "Art thou for us, or for
adversaries?" the answer was given, "As Captain of the host of
the Lord am I now come." The same command given to Moses in Horeb,
"Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou
standest is holy," revealed the true character of the mysterious
stranger. It was Christ, the Exalted One, who stood before the leader of
Israel. Awe-stricken, Joshua fell upon his face and worshiped, and heard
the assurance, "I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king
thereof, and the mighty men of valor," and he received instruction
for the capture of the city.
to the divine command Joshua marshaled the armies of Israel. No assault
was to be made. They were simply to make the circuit of the city, bearing
the ark of God and blowing upon trumpets. First came the warriors, a body
of chosen men, not now to conquer by their own skill and prowess, but by
obedience to the directions given them from God. Seven priests with
trumpets followed. Then the ark of God, surrounded by a halo of divine
glory, was borne by priests clad in the dress denoting their sacred
office. The army of Israel followed, each tribe under its standard. Such
was the procession that compassed the doomed city. No sound was heard but
the tread of that mighty host and the solemn peal of the trumpets, echoing
among the hills and resounding through the streets of Jericho. The circuit
completed, the army returned in silence to their tents, and the ark was
restored to its place in the tabernacle.
and alarm the watchmen of the city marked every move, and reported to
those in authority. They knew not the meaning of all this display; but
when they beheld that mighty host marching around their city once each
day, with the sacred ark and the attendant priests, the mystery of the
scene struck terror to the hearts of priest and people. Again they would
inspect their strong defenses, feeling certain they could successfully
resist the most powerful attack. Many ridiculed the thought that any harm
could come to them through these singular demonstrations. Others were awed
as they beheld the procession that each day wound about the city. They
remembered that the Red Sea had once parted before this people, and that a
passage had just been opened for them through the river Jordan. They knew
not what further wonders God might work for them.
For six days
the host of Israel made the circuit of the city. The seventh day came, and
with the first dawn of light, Joshua marshaled the armies of the Lord. Now
they were directed to
march seven times around Jericho, and at a mighty
peal from the trumpets to shout with a loud voice, for God had given them
The vast army
marched solemnly around the devoted walls. All was silent, save the
measured tread of many feet, and the occasional sound of the trumpet,
breaking the stillness of the early morning. The massive walls of solid
stone seemed to defy the siege of men. The watchers on the walls looked on
with rising fear, as, the first circuit ended, there followed a second,
then a third, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth. What could be the object of
these mysterious movements? What mighty event was impending? They had not
long to wait. As the seventh circuit was completed, the long procession
paused, The trumpets, which for an interval had been silent, now broke
forth in a blast that shook the very earth. The walls of solid stone, with
their massive towers and battlements, tottered and heaved from their
foundations, and with a crash fell in ruin to the earth. The inhabitants
of Jericho were paralyzed with terror, and the hosts of Israel marched in
and took possession of the city.
Israelites had not gained the victory by their own power; the conquest had
been wholly the Lord's; and as the first fruits of the land, the city,
with all that it contained, was to be devoted as a sacrifice to God. It
was to be impressed upon Israel that in the conquest of Canaan they were
not to fight for themselves, but simply as instruments to execute the will
of God; not to seek for riches or self-exaltation, but the glory of
Jehovah their King. Before the capture the command had been given,
"The city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein."
"Keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves
accursed . . . and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it."
inhabitants of the city, with every living thing that it contained,
"both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass,"
were put to the sword. Only faithful Rahab, with her household, was
spared, in fulfillment of the promise of the spies. The city itself was
burned; its palaces and temples, its magnificent dwellings with all their
luxurious appointments, the rich draperies and the costly garments, were
given to the flames. That which could not be destroyed by fire, "the
silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron," was to
be devoted to the service of the tabernacle. The very site of the city was
accursed; Jericho was never to be rebuilt
as a stronghold; judgments were
threatened upon anyone who should presume to restore the walls that divine
power had cast down. The solemn declaration was made in the presence of
all Israel, "Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and
buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his
first-born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it."
destruction of the people of Jericho was but a fulfillment of the commands
previously given through Moses concerning the inhabitants of Canaan:
"Thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them." Deuteronomy
7:2. "Of the cities of these people, . . . thou shalt save alive
nothing that breatheth." Deuteronomy 20:16. To many these commands
seem to be contrary to the spirit of love and mercy enjoined in other
portions of the Bible, but they were in truth the dictates of infinite
wisdom and goodness. God was about to establish Israel in Canaan, to
develop among them a nation and government that should be a manifestation
of His kingdom upon the earth. They were not only to be inheritors of the
true religion, but to disseminate its principles throughout the world. The
Canaanites had abandoned themselves to the foulest and most debasing
heathenism, and it was necessary that the land should be cleared of what
would so surely prevent the fulfillment of God's gracious purposes.
inhabitants of Canaan had been granted ample opportunity for repentance.
Forty years before, the opening of the Red Sea and the judgments upon
Egypt had testified to the supreme power of the God of Israel. And now the
overthrow of the kings of Midian, of Gilead and Bashan, had further shown
that Jehovah was above all gods. The holiness of His character and His
abhorrence of impurity had been evinced in the judgments visited upon
Israel for their participation in the abominable rites of Baalpeor. All
these events were known to the inhabitants of Jericho, and there were many
who shared Rahab's conviction, though they refused to obey it, that
Jehovah, the God of Israel, "is God in heaven above, and upon the
earth beneath." Like the men before the Flood, the Canaanites lived
only to blaspheme Heaven and defile the earth. And both love and justice
demanded the prompt execution of these rebels against God and foes to man.
the armies of heaven brought down the walls of
Jericho, that proud city
whose bulwarks, forty years before, had struck terror to the unbelieving
spies! Thy Mighty One of Israel had said, "I have given into thine
hand Jericho." Against that word human strength was powerless.
faith the walls of Jericho fell down." Hebrews 11:30. The Captain of
the Lord's host communicated only with Joshua; He did not reveal Himself
to all the congregation, and it rested with them to believe or doubt the
words of Joshua, to obey the commands given by him in the name of the
Lord, or to deny his authority. They could not see the host of
angels who attended them under the leadership of the Son of God. They
might have reasoned: "What unmeaning movements are these, and how
ridiculous the performance of marching daily around the walls of the city,
blowing trumpets of rams' horns. This can have no effect upon those
towering fortifications." But the very plan of continuing this
ceremony through so long a time prior to the final overthrow of the walls
afforded opportunity for the development of faith among the Israelites. It
was to be impressed upon their minds that their strength was not in the
wisdom of man, nor in his might, but only in the God of their salvation.
They were thus to become accustomed to relying wholly upon their divine
God will do
great things for those who trust in Him. The reason why His professed
people have no greater strength is that they trust so much to their own
wisdom, and do not give the Lord an opportunity to reveal His power in
their behalf. He will help His believing children in every emergency if
they will place their entire confidence in Him and faithfully obey him.
the fall of Jericho, Joshua determined to attack Ai, a small town among
the ravines a few miles to the west of the Jordan Valley. Spies sent to
this place brought back the report that the inhabitants were but few, and
that only a small force would be needed to overthrow it.
victory that God had gained for them had made the Israelites
self-confident. Because He had promised them the land of Canaan they felt
secure, and failed to realize that divine help alone could give them
success. Even Joshua laid his plans for the conquest of Ai without seeking
counsel from God.
Israelites had begun to exalt their own strength and to look with contempt
upon their foes. An easy victory was expected, and three thousand men were
thought sufficient to take
the place. These rushed to the attack without
the assurance that God would be with them. They advanced nearly to the
gate of the city, only to encounter the most determined resistance.
Panic-stricken at the numbers and thorough preparation of their enemies,
they fled in confusion down the steep descent. The Canaanites were in hot
pursuit; "they chased them from before the gate, . . . and smote them
in the going down." Though the loss was small as to numbers--but
thirty-six men being slain--the defeat was disheartening to the whole
congregation. "The hearts of the people melted, and became as
water." This was the first time they had met the Canaanites in actual
battle, and if put to flight before the defenders of this little town,
what would be the result in the greater conflicts before them? Joshua
looked upon their ill success as an expression of God's displeasure, and
in distress and apprehension he "rent his clothes, and fell to the
earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord until the eventide, he and
the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads."
Lord God," he cried, "wherefore hast Thou at all brought this
people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to
destroy us? . . . O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their
backs before their enemies! For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of
the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our
name from the earth: and what wilt Thou do unto Thy great name?"
from Jehovah was, "Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy
face? Israel hath . . . transgressed My covenant which I commanded
them." It was a time for prompt and decided action, and not for
despair and lamentation. There was secret sin in the camp, and it must be
searched out and put away before the presence and blessing of the Lord
could be with His people. "Neither will I be with you any more,
except ye destroy the accursed from among you."
had been disregarded by one of those appointed to execute His judgments.
And the nation was held accountable for the guilt of the transgressor:
" They have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also
stolen, and dissembled also." Instruction was given to Joshua for the
discovery and punishment of the criminal. The lot was to be employed for
the detection of the guilty. The sinner was not directly pointed out, the
matter being left in doubt for a time, that the people might
responsibility for the sins existing among them, and thus be led to
searching of heart and humiliation before God.
Early in the
morning, Joshua gathered the people together by their tribes, and the
solemn and impressive ceremony began. Step by step the investigation went
on. Closer and still closer came the fearful test. First the tribe, then
the family, then the household, then the man was taken, and Achan the son
of Carmi, of the tribe of Judah, was pointed out by the finger of God as
the troubler of Israel.
his guilt beyond all question, leaving no ground for the charge that he
had been unjustly condemned, Joshua solemnly adjured Achan to acknowledge
the truth. The wretched man made full confession of his crime:
"Indeed I have sinned against the Lord God of Israel. . . . When I
saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels
of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekel's weight, then I coveted
them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst
of my tent." Messengers were immediately dispatched to the tent,
where they removed the earth at the place specified, and "behold, it
was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. And they took them out of
the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, . . . and laid them
out before the Lord."
pronounced and immediately executed. "Why hast thou troubled
us?" said Joshua, "the Lord shall trouble thee this day."
As the people had been held responsible for Achan's sin, and had suffered
from its consequences, they were, through their representatives, to take
part in its punishment. "All Israel stoned him with stones."
was raised over him a great pile of stones--a witness to the sin and its
punishment. "Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley
of Achor," that is, "trouble." In the book of Chronicles
his memorial is written--"Achar, the troubler of Israel." 1
was committed in defiance of the most direct and solemn warnings and the
most mighty manifestations of God's power. "Keep yourselves from the
accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed," had been the
proclamation to all Israel. The command was given immediately after the
miraculous passage of the Jordan, and the recognition of God's covenant by
the circumcision of the people--after the observance of the
the appearance of the Angel of the covenant, the Captain of the Lord's
host. It had been followed by the overthrow of Jericho, giving evidence of
the destruction which will surely overtake all transgressors of God's law.
The fact that divine power alone had given the victory to Israel, that
they had not come into possession of Jericho by their own strength, gave
solemn weight to the command prohibiting them from partaking of the
spoils. God, by the might of His own word, had overthrown this stronghold;
the conquest was His, and to Him alone the city with all that it contained
was to be devoted.
millions of Israel there was but one man who, in that solemn hour of
triumph and of judgment, had dared to transgress the command of God.
Achan's covetousness was excited by the sight of that costly robe of
Shinar; even when it had brought him face to face with death he called it
"a goodly Babylonish garment." One sin had led to
another, and he appropriated the gold and silver devoted to the treasury
of the Lord--he robbed God of the first fruits of the land of Canaan.
sin that led to Achan's ruin had its root in covetousness, of all sins one
of the most common and the most lightly regarded. While other offenses
meet with detection and punishment, how rarely does the violation of the
tenth commandment so much as call forth censure. The enormity of this sin,
and its terrible results, are the lessons of Achan's history.
is an evil of gradual development. Achan had cherished greed of gain until
it became a habit, binding him in fetters well-nigh impossible to break.
While fostering this evil, he would have been filled with horror at the
thought of bringing disaster upon Israel; but his perceptions were
deadened by sin, and when temptation came, he fell an easy prey.
similar sins still committed, in the face of warnings as solemn and
explicit? We are as directly forbidden to indulge covetousness as was
Achan to appropriate the spoils of Jericho. God has declared it to be
idolatry. We are warned, "Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
Matthew 6:24. "Take heed, and beware of covetousness." Luke
12:15. "Let it not be once named among you." Ephesians 5:3. We
have before us the fearful doom of Achan, of Judas, of Ananias and
Sapphira. Back of all these we have that of Lucifer, the "son of the
morning," who, coveting
a higher state, forfeited forever the
brightness and bliss of heaven. And yet, notwithstanding all these
warnings, covetousness abounds.
its slimy track is seen. It creates discontent and dissension in families;
it excites envy and hatred in the poor against the rich; it prompts the
grinding oppression of the rich toward the poor. And this evil exists not
in the world alone, but in the church. How common even here to find
selfishness, avarice, overreaching, neglect of charities, and robbery of
God "in tithes and offerings." Among church members "in
good and regular standing" there are, alas! many Achans. Many a man
comes statedly to church, and sits at the table of the Lord, while among
his possessions are hidden unlawful gains, the things that God has cursed.
For a goodly Babylonish garment, multitudes sacrifice the approval of
conscience and their hope of heaven. Multitudes barter their integrity,
and their capabilities for usefulness, for a bag of silver shekels. The
cries of the suffering poor are unheeded; the gospel light is hindered in
its course; the scorn of worldlings is kindled by practices that give the
lie to the Christian profession; and yet the covetous professor continues
to heap up treasures. "Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed
Me" (Malachi 3:8), saith the Lord.
brought disaster upon the whole nation. For one man's sin the displeasure
of God will rest upon His church till the transgression is searched out
and put away. The influence most to be feared by the church is not that of
open opposers, infidels, and blasphemers, but of inconsistent professors
of Christ. These are the ones that keep back the blessing of the God of
Israel and bring weakness upon His people.
church is in difficulty, when coldness and spiritual declension exist,
giving occasion for the enemies of God to triumph, then, instead of
folding their hands and lamenting their unhappy state, let its members
inquire if there is not an Achan in the camp. With humiliation and
searching of heart, let each seek to discover the hidden sins that shut
out God's presence.
acknowledged his guilt, but when it was too late for the confession to
benefit himself. He had seen the armies of Israel return from Ai defeated
and disheartened; yet he did not come forward and confess his sin. He had
seen Joshua and the
elders of Israel bowed to the earth in grief too great
for words. Had he then made confession, he would have given some proof of
true penitence; but he still kept silence. He had listened to the
proclamation that a great crime had been committed, and had even heard its
character definitely stated. But his lips were sealed. Then came the
solemn investigation. How his soul thrilled with terror as he saw his
tribe pointed out, then his family and his household! But still he uttered
no confession, until the finger of God was placed upon him. Then, when his
sin could no longer be concealed, he admitted the truth. How often are
similar confessions made. There is a vast difference between admitting
facts after they have been proved and confessing sins known only to
ourselves and to God. Achan would not have confessed had he not hoped by
so doing to avert the consequences of his crime. But his confession only
served to show that his punishment was just. There was no genuine
repentance for sin, no contrition, no change of purpose, no abhorrence of
confessions will be made by the guilty when they stand before the bar of
God, after every case has been decided for life or death. The consequences
to result to himself will draw from each an acknowledgment of his sin. It
will be forced from the soul by an awful sense of condemnation and a
fearful looking for of judgment. But such confessions cannot save the
So long as
they can conceal their transgressions from their fellow men, many, like
Achan, feel secure, and flatter themselves that God will not be strict to
mark iniquity. All too late their sins will find them out in that day when
they shall not be purged with sacrifice or offering forever. When the
records of heaven shall be opened, the Judge will not in words declare to
man his guilt, but will cast one penetrating, convicting glance, and every
deed, every transaction of life, will be vividly impressed upon the memory
of the wrongdoer. The person will not, as in Joshua's day, need to be
hunted out from tribe to family, but his own lips will confess his shame.
The sins hidden from the knowledge of men will then be proclaimed to the