The Israelites fled Egyptian slavery. God promised to deliver them into a land where they could live as free people. After two generations of wilderness wandering, they were free enough from the ways of slavery and ready for new life in a new land. Historians believe that other tribes, inspired by the story of flight from slavery and by the life of freedom promised by Israel’s God, joined those who had fled Egypt. God called Joshua to lead the people into the promised land.
In preparation for the conquest of Jericho, the Lord instructs Joshua what the people are to do. God has determined that the land will be theirs. By marching, blowing horns, and finally shouting, they will conquer the city. Following this seemingly silly plan constitutes people’s obedience to God. Though the Israelites had armed men, the priests are the primary actors, blowing horns and carrying the Ark of the Covenant, sign of God’s presence. It is troubling to learn the story that God led one people in conquest of another. Historians speculate that the way of life established by the Israelites in the promised land was, at least at the onset, one of freedom and justice displacing the local systems of exploitation.
Is this story literally true? Whatever the facts, the story tells that God kept the promises made to Moses and the people. In partnership with God, God’s leaders chosen for the people continued to accomplish what seemed otherwise impossible.