Strongholds, Sins, and Siege Warfare

This post is the next one in my series on the book of Joshua. By now, we come to siege of Jericho. The story of Jericho goes like this: God told the Hebrews to walk around the walls of Jericho in silence for six days. On the seventh day, they are to walk around the city seven times and then blow a trumpet. The walls fall down miraculously and the Hebrews slaughter all of the inhabitants except for Rahab and her family.

The story of Jericho has been retold with animated, anthropomorphic vegetables known as “Josh and the Big Wall.”

In “Josh and the Big Wall,” God tells Joshua to trust him with a plan to capture the city of Jericho. The plan sounds silly and the other “vegetables” have their own plan to take the city. However, Josh/ Larry the Cucumber convinces the others to trust God through obedience.

Setting aside the kids’ story and the Sunday School lesson, the siege of Jericho is one of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament. It is also the most debated and contested in the archaeological world. For the secular materialists, the idea that a wall could fall down “miraculously” when people blow trumpets. And even if the walls did fall down, surely, there is a naturalist explanation like a coincidental earthquake.

In his book Ancient Siege Warfare, Paul Bentley Kern argued that “in salvaging the miracle”, it is possible that the trampling of the feet of 2 million plus men and women could cause a natural resonance that brought down the wall. After all, it is proven physically (and also tragically) if a rhythm matches the correct frequency, it could destroy a suspension bridge. Why not the same at Jericho?

I read somewhere that even the siege of Jericho never happened, that the Hebrews entering Canaan was not as violent as depicted, but a gradual entry and displacement of the indigenous peoples. It might have been in the Transjordan region, but once you cross the Jordan, it is a different story.

But sometimes, I think the more you move away from the miraculous, the more ridiculous the explanation sounds.

So what could Joshua have done? As Kern explains in his book, the Hebrews were a citizen militia army and thus lacked proper siege training. They had to rely on simpler tactics like storming ladders or hooks to pull down a wall. In the ancient world, it was the Assyrians and the Babylonians who had the knowledge and the manpower to conduct proper sieges.

First, the Hebrews could have built siege towers. But again, this requires technical knowledge, something that the Israelites lacked. And you need more than one siege tower. You need multiple towers to distract the enemy in multiple places.

If the besiegers could not break the wall, they could break the gate with a battering ram. This was cruder and required less wood than a siege tower. There was one problem. Most ancient fortresses had recessed the gate so that it created a kill zone: the left, the right, and from the front. Just look at Mycenae in ancient Greece which is contemporaneous with Jericho in the late Bronze Age.

Lion Gate, Mycenae

If you could not break the wall, if you could not break the gate, you could always break the man. Because sieges were time and resource consuming for both citizen armies and professional armies of any age from the 11th century BC to the 20th century AD, one possibility was to bribe the gatekeepers to open the gates on the right day. Plombo y plata – lead or silver. Joshua and the Hebrew army could not have done any of those things; they had no technical skills, little access to resources, and above all, not a lot of money.

That covers the siege warfare part. Because there is an additional detail I glossed over.

Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark.

Joshua 6:4.

The trumpets were made of ram’s horns. They were not made of brass, or silver or bronze. Why? Why is this detail so important but we often skip?

Because there is another book that gives the key. Paul Kern wrote from a secular viewpoint in trying to explain away what happened. In this book, the answer is plain. Recently, I read Max Lucado’s book He Fights For You. Max and Andrea Lucado describe the rams’ horn trumpet are used to declare victory. Yes, Victory. It was not a call to arms but to declare that the army has won. Wait, what? The walls haven’t even come down and the Hebrews are already declaring victory?

As I think more and more about the story of the siege of Jericho, I am more and more convinced that it could be symbolic of our own internal struggles. Our own sins and struggles that have long held us back. Some may call it “baggage” or “issues” but in reality, they are strongholds caused by our sin.

For some, the strongholds are psychological and not physical like a fortress. You do not even have to have to live a lifetime of abuse. Children as young as five months are in the juvenile court system. In my last year of college, I was an intern at CASA based in the Cook County courthouse. There, I worked with people who saw to the best interests of a child in the Abuse/Neglect division. The people who are supposed to love you and nurture as a child are the ones who did the hurt, whether through lack of knowledge or malice. Those who age out of the system without a CASA or a helping hand end up in the adult jail system.

Other strongholds are mental. The way you respond out of fear, anger, hate, malice, the strong recurring thoughts of bitterness, revenge, even blasphemy and cursing; OCD, AHDH, whatever you want to call it – your brain is NOT like a computer because you can’t reboot it or restore to a previous stable point. Even drugs (legal and otherwise) affect your brain – slowing your reaction times, increasing anxiety, and affecting your moods.

Or spiritual strongholds: pride, arrogance, and selfishness, can be just as deadly to the soul as a bullet is to the body or drugs and alcohol. You may never have suffered from substance abuse or addicted to gambling or watched porn, but can you honestly say you have never sinned through pride and being self-centered?

Lest you think this is all doom and gloom, that you will never be victorious over all the strongholds in your life, read on. The walls came down when the priests blew the trumpet. Just like that. I’ve wondered what God is thinking when that happened.

Maybe God looks at the people in Jericho and think: “Really? A 20 foot high wall? Come on. I’ve made the walls in Grand Canyon 9000 feet high.”

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8:11

Outside of the Bible, I can’t think of anyone who has ever come back to life, especially if they have been dead for more than three days. Coroners and forensic pathologists can tell you what happens to your body after the first hour, the twelfth hour, and then after two days. Everything shuts down and there is no way to resuscitate. It would take a lot of power to reverse the decay process. A lot. And medical knowledge that we don’t have.

But if you believe in the supernatural, believe and trust a God who can do anything, resurrection is very well within the realm of possibility. And if that power can make a person rise from the dead, that same power can give you victory over sin and the strongholds in your life.

I don’t know what strongholds each person has. I can’t see into their heads. I can look at mine and that’s about it. I don’t know what each person has gone through or will about to go through, but I can share my testimony. I can see the strongholds in my life…

…and I can see God’s victory. In Max Lucado’s book, he reminds us that the battle and the victory belongs to the Lord. HE will fight for you. Our response is to worship and trust him.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t see a doctor or a trained, licensed professional for help but the opposite. In fact, do go to AA or counseling or other licensed, proven support groups. But at the end of day, know that you are not alone and that you do not fight alone. You can have victory now!

PS. It look a while for me to think about the title. In the end, I settled for this one.

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