Joshua leads the Israelites over the Jordan River:
If Deuteronomy was Moses’ summary of the Law, then Joshua is the epilogue to Moses’ Pentateuch (the five Books of Moses). Joshua takes over from Moses to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land. Joshua is one of seven figures in the Bible who has their names changed to correspond with their specific role in salvation history. (Others, for example, are Abraham, Sarah, and Peter). Joshua’s original name was “Hosea” (meaning “salvation”; see Num. 13:8) but Moses changed it to “Joshua” (meaning “the Lord saves.”) Joshua is a type of Jesus. Interestingly, Joshua and Jesus are the same names in Hebrew, ישוע (“Yeshua”). Joshua bears the name of the Messiah, Yeshua, or in English, Jesus. In effect, “Jesus” is leading the chosen people of God into the “Promised Land.” In the New Testament, Jesus does, in fact, lead Christians into the promised land of Heaven. As Joshua prepares Israel to cross over into the Promised Land, they first prepare their provisions “for three days.”
Joshua Sends Spies to Jericho, and They Meet Rahab:
Joshua’s first conquest in the Promised Land will be Jericho, so he sends two spies to the city to reconnaissance it. They end up going “into the house of a harlot named Rahab, where they lodged.” (Josh. 2:1) Rahab conveys to them that tales of the Israelites and the Red Sea drying up have reached them, and the city of Jericho is terrified to fight the Israelites. So, Rahab tries to help them, and save her family’s lives. She says, “Now then, swear to me by the Lord that as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign, and save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (Josh. 2:12-13) The two spies answer her, “Our life for yours! If you do not tell this business of ours, then we will deal kindly and faithfully with you when the Lord gives us the land.” (Josh. 2:13) Rahab is a sinner (prostitute) and a Gentile (non-Jew). Yet, the Israelites agree to save her if she helps them. Rahab is saved by making a covenant with the people of God. Rahab has been defined by the Church Fathers as a type for the Church and Christians. She is a sinner, a Gentile, non-Jew, yet she is saved. Rahab also conspicuously shows up in the genealogy of Jesus (Mt. 1:5). Jesus’ lineage is not just to save the Jews. He has come with a universal mission to save all people. Rahab reflects this part of his ancestry. She is a symbol and a type of Church that will be saved by Jesus Christ. In this instance, she will be saved from the destruction wrought by Joshua on the city of Jericho.
Rahab’s Scarlet Cord:
Rahab then let the two Israelite spies down with a rope over the city wall. She tells them to go up into the hill country and “hide there for three days, until they return.” (Josh. 2:16) Again, as so many other times in the Old Testament, we see this motif of “three days.” This has Christological significance as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ three days in the tomb and death, where He was hidden. The spies tell her to: “Behold, when we come into the land, you shall bind this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down; and you shall gather into your house your father and mother, your brothers, and all your father’s household.” (Josh. 2:18) By the scarlet cord, the Israelites will know not to attack her house, so as to save Rahab and her whole family. Similarly, by the scarlet blood of Jesus are we (as spiritual descendants of Rahab) spared from death and destruction. By the “scarlet cord” of Jesus’ blood, much like the blood of the Passover Lamb on the Israelites’ doors, are we saved. The blood of the Passover lamb on the door equates to the scarlet cord on Rahab’s window equates to the blood of Christ on the Cross applied to our souls. Then, the spies departed into the hills where they stayed for “three days.”
Preparations to Cross the River Jordan:
Joshua moves the Israelites to Shittim before crossing over the Jordan River. There they waited for “three days,” and Joshua tells them to: “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will perform wonders among you.” (Josh. 3:5)
The Miraculous Crossing of the Jordan River:
Now, just as Moses had led the Israelites miraculously through the Red Sea as on dry land, so now too, Joshua, the new Moses, was going to lead the Israelites across the Jordan River as if on dry land. Just as the Israelites’ were “baptized” through the Red Sea, now too, they will pass-over the veil into the Promised Land. The Baptism of water leads to the entering the Promised Land. The priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant went into the Jordan River first and the waters miraculously dried up:
“priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap far off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off; and the people passed over opposite Jericho. And while all Israel were passing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.” (Josh. 3:14-17)
The whole nation of Israel crossed over the Jordan River while the waters had stopped flowing while the priests holding the Ark of the Covenant stood in the midst of the riverbed. Once they were all across, Joshua told them to set up twelve stones there as a “perpetual memorial to the Israelites.” (Josh. 4:7) This miraculous event exalted Joshua in the eyes of all the Israelites, to “know there is a living God in your midst.” (Josh. 3:10) And, when the priests carrying the Ark left the riverbed, as “the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up on dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.” (Josh. 4:18)
The Hill of Foreskins:
At this point, we learn that the second wilderness generation under the leadership of Moses had never been circumcised. So, the Lord tells Joshua: “Make flint knives and circumcise the people of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives, and circumcised the people of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. (“Hill of Foreskins”) And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt. Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people that were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised.” (Josh. 5:2-5) Moses had neglected his spiritual duty as part of the Covenant, perhaps this was another reason why God was angry with him and did not let him into the Promised Land.
They Celebrate the Passover:
Just as the crossing of the Red Sea is recapitulated by Joshua, so too now, they recapitulate the Passover celebration. The Passover is eaten before Israel embarks on their next miraculous stage, just as it was originally eaten on the night of Passover in Egypt, and again on Mt. Sinai after with the Covenant. The striking parallels continue between Joshua, the second wilderness generation, with Moses, and the first Exodus generation. The Passover is the feast par excellence. It is the ultimate Jewish feast that precedes the miraculous and the saving. It is the Passover that foreshadowed Jesus’ death on the Cross. This is what Passover predicted in word and action, and where it drew its ultimate symbology and power. The Passover Lamb of Christ, through His sacrifice of Body and Blood, that we are miraculously saved.
The End of the Manna:
As soon as the Israelites passed over into the Promised Land the miraculous manna ceased. The Israelites had lived off of and eaten the miraculous manna in the wilderness for forty years. But now, as soon as they step into the Promised Land, the manna stops. “And on the morrow after the passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased on the morrow, when they ate of the produce of the land; and the people of Israel had manna no more, but ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.” (Josh. 5:11-12) The manna is our Holy Eucharist. It is our food for the journey in this life. As soon as we cross over into the Promised Land of Heaven, we no longer have or need the Eucharist to sustain us. The Eucharist is the bread from Heaven that feeds us on our wilderness journey on the earth. Now, the Israelites no longer need the manna, as they will live off the fruit of the land of Canaan.
Joshua’s Vision Before Jericho:
“When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man stood before him with his drawn sword in his hand; and Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” And he said, “No; but as commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and said to him, “What does my lord bid his servant?” And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Put off your shoes from your feet; for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so.” (Josh. 5:13-15) Here too, just like the Angel of Death before the Passover in Egypt, the Angel of the Lord’s army stands ready to slay the pagans at Jericho. So often, it seems, we are predisposed to believe in Jesus and God as a milquetoast figure, but clearly the Lord in the Exodus years is a warrior God of fierce strength and justice.
The Conquest of Jericho:
The Lord tells Joshua that He has delivered Jericho into his hands. He instructs them to encircle the city and walk six times around it, with the priests and the Ark of the Covenant and ram’s horns. “On the seventh day march around the city seven times, and have the priests blow the horns. When they give a long blast on the ram’s horns and you hear the signal, all the people shall shout aloud. The wall of the city will collapse, and they will be able to make a frontal attack.” (Josh. 6:4-5) Then, Joshua commanded the people to follow the Lord’s instructions. Troops marched in front of the Ark. Then, the seven Levite priests carried the Ark with the ram’s horns. And behind the Ark marched picked troops. “The blowing of horns was kept up continually as they marched.” (Josh. 6:9) The people were to remain silent until Joshua gave the signal. They did this for six days.
The Seven Day Siege of Jericho:
Seven is the sacred number of the Covenant, and it is the day of the Sabbath, when Israel shall rest. The whole Exodus is geared towards “rest” and worship of God in the Temple in the Promised Land. The whole Exodus from the beginning is oriented towards worship. (Ex. 4:23; 5:3) The siege of Jericho is presented as an offering dedicated to God as part of a liturgical ceremony. “On the seventh day they rose early at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times: it was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout; for the Lord has given you the city. And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction; only Rahab the harlot and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers that we sent. . . . So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people raised a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. Then they utterly destroyed all in the city, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and asses, with the edge of the sword.” (Josh. 6:15-21) As they marched around the city 7 times on the 7th day, the priests blew their trumpets, and the people shouted. When they had done all of that, the walls of the city collapsed, and the Israelites conquered Jericho. Joshua was faithful to his promise though and commanded Rahab and her family to be saved. It is through Rahab’s line that the Messiah would later come to be born.
The Liturgical Conquest of Jericho:
The conquest of Jericho is more liturgical in nature than strategic and military. The Israelites are led by the Levite priests in processions around the city. They do this procession each day for six days. Then, they do the liturgical procession seven times on the seventh day. The priests are in the procession carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the holiest object in the Old Testament. The priests are also carrying the ram’s horns, sacred objects, which herald the destruction of the pagan town of Jericho. If the Israelites’ celebrated Passover before the siege of Jericho, then they seven days of circumambulation around the city of Jericho coincided with the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The siege of Jericho began with the ritual Feast of the Passover, and continued with the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. On the last day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the walls of Jericho come collapsing down. The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread are prefigurements to Jesus’ death and Crucifixion, and to the Holy Mass and Eucharist respectively. By way of typology then, by Jesus’ Body and Blood through His death, and the Holy Eucharist of the Mass, we will conquer sin and evil in the world. The Israelites show us physically how we are to conquer spiritually through religious ritual and liturgical worship.
The Fall of Jericho, Trumpet Blasts, and the End of the World:
The fall of Jericho has long been understood by the Fathers of the Church as a prefigurement of the end of the world. Just as the world will be full of evil-doers under the control of the Antichrist, so too, was Jericho under the control of pagan idolatry. Only the harlot Rahab and her family renounced Jericho and pledged allegiance to the Israelites. In the end of the world, only a remnant of the people, the Church, will renounce the Antichrist and pagan idolatry, and cling to the faith (ie, Christianity). But, it is through their faith, and the blood of Christ (ie, the scarlet cord) that they will be saved. Just as Rahab was saved from Jericho, so too, will the Christian remnant gain salvation from the Antichrist, the world, and death. Salvation will come liturgically through the foreshadowed feasts of the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread (ie, through Jesus’ Cross and holy sacrifice of the Mass in the Eucharist). The Levite priests are blowing the trumpets throughout the procession. The trumpet (“shofar”) is associated with the Feast of Trumpets (or “Yom Teruah” the Feast of Blowing ‘Trumpets’). This is to symbolize the end of the world. The ram’s horn (the “shofar”) is a reminder of the ram that Abraham sacrificed in place of Isaac. The ram was the substitute sacrifice for Isaac, just as Christ, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed in our place, as our substitute. Trumpets signaled Yahweh’s descent upon Mt. Sinai to the camp of Israel, amidst fire and darkness, thunder and lightning, and trumpet blasts, a foreshadowing of God’s return at the Second Coming of Christ. The Book of Revelation reveals the end of the world and Jesus’ Second Coming all amidst trumpet blasts. At the final trumpet blast, the walls of the Antichrist will come crashing down, and the New Joshua, Jesus, will return to destroy the evildoers (Jericho), and save the Christian remnant (Rahab).