The Destruction of Jericho

From Joshua 6:1–21 (NLT):
1 Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. 2 But the LORD said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. 3 You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. 4 Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. 5 When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” …
15 On the seventh day the Israelites got up at dawn and marched around the town as they had done before. But this time they went around the town seven times. 16 The seventh time around, as the priests sounded the long blast on their horns, Joshua commanded the people, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the town! 17 Jericho and everything in it must be completely destroyed as an offering to the LORD. Only Rahab the prostitute and the others in her house will be spared, for she protected our spies.
18 “Do not take any of the things set apart for destruction, or you yourselves will be completely destroyed, and you will bring trouble on the camp of Israel. 19 Everything made from silver, gold, bronze, or iron is sacred to the LORD and must be brought into his treasury.”
20 When the people heard the sound of the rams’ horns, they shouted as loud as they could. Suddenly, the walls of Jericho collapsed, and the Israelites charged straight into the town and captured it. 21 They completely destroyed everything in it with their swords—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep, goats, and donkeys.

Four hundred years before these events, God had promised the land of Canaan to Abraham. destructionOfJerichoBut he didn’t give it to them right away. He waited for the iniquities of the Canaanites to be complete. The fertility cults of the peoples of Canaan were the most depraved in the Mideast. They engaged in cult prostitution, idol worship, and the sacrifice of children by fire. God detested these practices. Since God sits outside of time—remember, he created time—he can see the future before it happens. So he waited and made the Israelites wait, giving the Canaanites every chance to reform, until the evil that was in their hearts reached a peak.

Then God sent the Israelites to the land under the leadership of Joshua. Yes, Joshua killed the Canaanite men, women, and children. But whenever Joshua offered them a way out, they refused to take it. These were not innocent people. They practiced the worst kind of depravity. And God had promised the land of Palestine to the Israelites. God’s goal was that through the Israelites, all the people of the world would be saved (Gen. 12:1-3).

It’s easy for us to sit back and judge. But who are we to judge the actions of a perfectly good, perfectly holy God? We cannot see the whole picture from beginning to end. Or the final result. In any event, the destruction of Jericho was a miracle. And archaeological evidence at the Jericho site points to its destruction as a fact. I’ve been there. I’ve seen it.

Next time we’ll look at a miracle of Jesus.

The Red Sea Miracle

In the Bible there are about 250 instances of miracles. Let’s look at one of the most powerful and cinematic—the parting of the Red Sea.

From Exodus 14:5–31 (NLT):

5 When word reached the king of Egypt that the Israelites had fled, Pharaoh and his officials changed their minds. “What have we done, letting all those Israelite slaves get away?” they asked. 6 So Pharaoh harnessed his chariot and called up his troops. 7 He took with him 600 of Egypt’s best chariots, along with the rest of the chariots of Egypt, each with its commander. 8 The LORD hardened the heart of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, so he chased after the people of Israel, who had left with fists raised in defiance. 9 The Egyptians chased after them with all the forces in Pharaoh’s army—all his horses and chariots, his charioteers, and his troops. The Egyptians caught up with the people of Israel as they were camped beside the shore near Pi-hahiroth, across from Baal-zephon.

10 As Pharaoh approached, the people of Israel looked up and panicked when they saw the Egyptians overtaking them. They cried out to the LORD, 11 and they said to Moses, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? What have you done to us? Why did you make us leave Egypt? 12 Didn’t we tell you this would happen while we were still in Egypt? We said, ‘Leave us alone! Let us be slaves to the Egyptians. It’s better to be a slave in Egypt than a corpse in the wilderness!’ ”
13 But Moses told the people, “Don’t be afraid. Just stand still and watch the LORD rescue you today. The Egyptians you see today will never be seen again. 14 The LORD himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.”

Escape through the Red Sea

15 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the people to get moving! 16 Pick up your staff and raise your hand over the sea. Divide the water so the Israelites can walk through the middle of the sea on dry ground. 17 And I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians, and they will charge in after the Israelites. My great glory will be displayed through Pharaoh and his troops, his chariots, and his charioteers. 18 When my glory is displayed through them, all Egypt will see my glory and know that I am the LORD!” moses_parting_red_sea_resistance2010

19 Then the angel of God, who had been leading the people of Israel, moved to the rear of the camp. The pillar of cloud also moved from the front and stood behind them. 20 The cloud settled between the Egyptian and Israelite camps. As darkness fell, the cloud turned to fire, lighting up the night. But the Egyptians and Israelites did not approach each other all night.

21 Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the LORD opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. 22 So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!
23 Then the Egyptians—all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and charioteers—chased them into the middle of the sea. 24 But just before dawn the LORD looked down on the Egyptian army from the pillar of fire and cloud, and he threw their forces into total confusion. 25 He twisted their chariot wheels, making their chariots difficult to drive. “Let’s get out of here—away from these Israelites!” the Egyptians shouted. “The LORD is fighting for them against Egypt!”

26 When all the Israelites had reached the other side, the LORD said to Moses, “Raise your hand over the sea again. Then the waters will rush back and cover the Egyptians and their chariots and charioteers.” 27 So as the sun began to rise, Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the water rushed back into its usual place. The Egyptians tried to escape, but the LORD swept them into the sea. 28 Then the waters returned and covered all the chariots and charioteers—the entire army of Pharaoh. Of all the Egyptians who had chased the Israelites into the sea, not a single one survived.

29 But the people of Israel had walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, as the water stood up like a wall on both sides. 30 That is how the LORD rescued Israel from the hand of the Egyptians that day. And the Israelites saw the bodies of the Egyptians washed up on the seashore. 31 When the people of Israel saw the mighty power that the LORD had unleashed against the Egyptians, they were filled with awe before him. They put their faith in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

The Red Sea miracle put God’s power and glory on display for all the ancient world to see. News of it spread far and wide. It put fear into the hearts of those who worshipped other gods. And it confirmed Moses as the Israelite’s leader and God’s messenger. (See this link for a possible scientific explanation of how this could have occurred.)

Next time, let’s look at another Old Testament miracle—the destruction of Jericho.

Why Do Miracles Occur?

So why would God interrupt the normal course of events with a miracle?

First of all, a miracle is an event God wants people to notice. Here’s a general observation: With the exception of the creation of the universe and of life, God doesn’t seem to create miracles unless an observer is present. After God created the universe, it seems he relied upon the natural laws he created that put the stars, galaxies, and planets together. When he created life, he did so suddenly, at certain points in earth’s timeline. That is what the fossil record and genetic evidence tell us. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution cannot explain why all species, without exception, appeared suddenly, fully formed, and without all the intervening intermediate species his theory had predicted. For the species that are now extinct, what the fossil record shows is that they existed for a long period of time and then disappeared suddenly. They never morphed gradually into anything else. Despite the evidence to the contrary, scientists cling to evolution like flies to tarpaper. Believing in a Creator God is too upsetting for a worldview dedicated to scientific pantheism.

But we’re talking about miracles. And God does miracles so people will notice them. But why?

Here’s our answer. God creates miracles for one of two reasons:

  1. To confirm a messenger of God.
  2. To confirm God’s message.

In both cases the miracles glorify God. Counterfeit miracles, which we’ll talk about later, always glorify a creature or a created thing.

Let’s take a few examples, starting with Mary’s virgin birth. incarnationWhy would God have Mary conceive via the Holy Spirit, without sexual relations? This is outside the natural order.
Here are a few reasons I can think of:

  • In Isaiah 7:14 prophecy predicted it would be so. So the virgin birth fulfilled a prophecy.
  • This miracle confirmed Mary as the one who would bear the Savior of all mankind.
  • It confirmed Jesus as divine and gave glory to God.

What about Moses’s parting of the Red Sea? Why would God allow that miracle?

  • Because it confirmed Moses as God’s messenger and leader of the Israelites.
  • It confirmed God’s favor on the Israelites as his chosen people.
  • It glorified God in an unmistakable, powerful way. The news of this event spread far and wide.

What about Jesus’s many miracles? Such as turning water into wine, feeding thousands from a single small basket of bread and fish, or walking on water?

  • They confirmed Jesus as God’s Son.
  • And they confirmed Jesus’s message of salvation.

Now we can see why God uses miracles and why they’re important. They are unique, one-time events that glorify God. If they weren’t unique no one would notice them and they wouldn’t fulfill their purpose of confirming God’s messengers or his message.

Next we’ll look at a couple of instances in the Bible that document some miracles.