As we were going over this week’s story today during the education hour, I was suddenly struck by the similarity between the fall of Jericho and the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis. In both cases ,the cities were slated for complete destruction by God. In fact, not JUST destruction. Joshua declares that anyone who even attempts to rebuild Jericho will be cursed! As far as I know, no other city was so singled out for eternal oblivion when the Israelites conquered Canaan.
But it’s not just a matter of the devastation.
In the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, the cities are to be wiped from the Earth, along with all the inhabitants, except for Lot and his family. Jericho was to be burned to the ground, except for Rahab and her family. Lot was visited by two strangers, and Lot showed them hospitality, even to the point of putting himself and his family in danger. Rahab welcomed the two spies from Israel into her house, even hiding them from the authorities in Jericho.
Of course, it’s not identical. Nobody gets turned into a pillar of salt in Jericho, and Sodom and Gomorrah weren’t besieged by any army, but I still find the parallels interesting. I wonder what was the sin of the people of Jericho that was so great, it warranted the same sort of treatment as Sodom and Gomorrah. I know that the “standard” explanation for the fall of Sodom and Gomorrah was the homosexuality of the residents there, but there is a counter argument that it was the violence and lack of hospitality that was actually the sin illustrated by the story. As far as I know, there is no mention in the Bible of the exact reason why Jericho was to be eliminated so completely. I wonder if it wasn’t the hostility of the city, in opposition to the hospitality of Rahab.
No real point to this. Just something I was wondering about. Any thoughts?
Interesting comparisons. Could it be more the moral depravity of the citizens of these cities than just their inhospitality? Maybe the profession of Rahab is an indication of the depth and widespread practices of immorality/homosexuality is the huge enclosed city of Jericho? If so then it compares also with the time of Noah.
There is also similarity with the story of the Levite and his concubine and the near destruction of the tribe of Benjamin. All of these stories are related typologically to the two witness and the harlot in Revelation.
Daniel Hawk in his commentary on Joshua sheds great light on this as well. Your comparisons are accurate and intentional. We know from Genesis that God was waiting on the sin of the people of the Land of Canaan to be full before issuing judgment on them. Now, hundreds of years later, the time has come. It is also interesting to note that just before Israel invades Jericho, Joshua encounters the Commander of the Divine Army and when he asks “are you for us or our enemies?”, the commander says “No.” This is not an Israel vs Canaan battle. This is a God vs sin battle (Hence there are exceptions on both sides. e.g., Rahab & family; Achan & family). God used fire to destroy the sinful cities of S&G. He uses the Israelite army (and divine power) to destroy Jericho. The writer casts the story of the two spies in the mold of the S&G account to show us that this is God enacting his judgement on wickedness of the peoples of Canaan. This time Israel is his instrument of divine wrath. Not unlike water and fire earlier in the redemptive story.