By Joe Yudin, CEO of Touring Israel
It was hot yesterday. Africa hot if you know what I mean (Thanks Neil Simon). It was one of those heat waves that we call in Hebrew a “Sharav”, when the winds blow out of the Arabian Desert and sends the temperature soaring at least 10 degrees upward. I was driving down to the Dead Sea from Jerusalem by way of Jericho. Jerusalem sits on top of a chain of mountains called the Judean Mountains. These mountains are between 500-800 meters high and it rains frequently there in the winter. They are beautiful, green, valley cut mountains in a heavenly setting, on the western side of the city. The weather was cool and pleasant when we left at 7 am but as soon as we started east, and upon our descent into the Judean Desert I watched as the van’s thermometer didn’t so much as creep up but shot up from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 85 in a matter of a few minutes. The trees disappeared and the beige, rocky, mountains were instantly upon us. The wandering tourists and Israeli working folk rushing off to their government or high tech jobs disappeared and the Bedouin shepherds with their flocks of goats and sheep were climbing the sandy, hillsides. As we sank gradually down to the lowest point on the surface of the earth, the sun became brighter, the hills reflecting more harshly the yellow light and the grassland disappeared completely.
We stopped briefly at Sea Level to snap a picture with the famous “Sea Level” camel and his wealthy Bedouin master before reentering the confines of air conditioning in my Mercedes Benz van. We descended to the end of the earth, or so it seemed, just 30 minutes from Jerusalem and off in the distance, not so far from the main highway was a city at the base of a dull yellow mountain, sleepy, dreary and uninviting, for all except the swarm of date palms swaying in the rocky, sand filled hot breeze at its center.
“There is Jericho” I said to my tourists as an afterthought. “Next stop the Dead Sea”.
“Jericho?” said a tourist. “Isn’t that were they blew the trumpets and God sent the walls crashing down?”
“Well yes, that’s one way to look at it.” I said. “Let’s pull over and take a look.”
I pulled into a small desert coffee shop run by some local Bedouin. They know me there and I didn’t even have to ask for a coffee, and boy do they make the best coffee. We sat down, Jericho sprawled out in front of us and I opened the Bible.
“Now remember,” I said, “The Hebrews that Joshua and Caleb lead into the Land of Israel have never seen civilization. They have lived in the desert for 40 years. The older generation who were slaves in Egypt, who were led out of that land by Moses have died out. These Israelites aren’t obedient slaves, they are a hardened, desert people who have lived off this harsh, fruitless land, and here they come, approaching Jericho. It doesn’t look like much does it?”
“No it doesn’t look very inviting at all” said the tourist.
“But what do you see?” I said “Look at its center and around the edges.”
The tourist said, “I see palm trees at its center and fields along the perimeter”.
“That’s right. Jericho is an oasis in the desert. At its center is the spring and the water is channeled to the fields which provide grain, fruit and vegetables.” Just then the waiter arrived with a bowl of dried figs and dates, as if on cue.
“Yummy” I say. “Imagine what the Hebrews felt after living on Manna and water coming out of a rock for 40 years.”
“They’re going to want this place” he said.
“That’s right. Nothing is going to stop these hundreds of thousands wild desert people from getting their hands on this fruit.” It really is so good. “Let’s take a look at what happened” I turn to the book of Joshua, Chapter 2.
“And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two spies secretly, saying: ‘Go view the land, and Jericho.’ And they went…”
“And it was told the king of Jericho, saying: ‘Behold, there came men in hither to-night of the children of Israel to search out the land.’”
I point these two verses out and ask if God just knocked the walls down, why was there such planning involved? Joshua sends spies into Jericho to check out the land. As a soldier I know that good intelligence is the best way to win a battle. Joshua apparently knew this as well. Let’s look at chapter 6:
“And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. And the seven priests bearing the seven rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the horns; and the armed men went before them; and the rearward came after the ark of the LORD, [the priests] blowing with the horns continually. And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp; so they did six days. And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early at the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times; only on that day they compassed the city seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the horns, that Joshua said unto the people: ‘Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. …And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city… And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein; only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD…”
The strategy is clear to any military tactician. Look at the land, it’s a desert. The wind is kicking up the sands, the small walled city encircled by tens of thousands of fighting men and hundreds of thousands of others, psyching the people of Jericho out on the first day and leading them into a lull each of the next six days by repeating the same actions of the previous day. But on the seventh day the tactics change. On the seventh day the Israelites blow their horns and shout out to the heavens marching around the small walled city not once but seven times.
“Look out at the city” I say. “Again, what do you see?”
“Sand” was the response. A few harmless, small sand twisters are making their way around and around in the hot desert wind.
“Imagine” I said, ‘Imagine if hundreds of thousands of people were marching around in a circle on a day like this. What would happen?”
“Sand storm” was the answer.
“And then, a shout of hundreds of thousands in unison with the shofars being blown? What would the Canaanites be thinking then?”
“That the wrath of the God of Israel will soon be upon them” was the answer.
“The perfect time to send in your army corps of engineers to disrupt the foundations of those walls don’t you think? Under cover of a sand storm and the Canaanites trembling in their sandals.”
“Yes, it makes a lot of sense.”
And remember Rahab who saved the Hebrew spies in her house which “was upon the side of the wall, and she dwelt upon the wall” and “Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.” This house which was a part of the walls of Jericho apparently were not destroyed as it says in the texts in Chapters 2 & 6. Some of the walls remained standing.
Does this mean that God has no place in this story? Absolutely not. What it does mean is that it helps to read between the lines a bit while standing and observing the place where it happened.
A military jeep drives by and some Israeli soldiers get out. They would also like some coffee after a long night on patrol.
‘Let’s go for a float” I say and we’re off.
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