Joshua 6 / Hebrew – English Bible / Mechon-Mamre

Finally, some action! It occurs to me that as a kid, you’re told that the Book of Joshua is about the Israelites conquering the land of Israel, and then you’re forced to get through five chapters with no fighting! Chapter six makes up for all that in dramatic fashion.

The ritualized circling of the city of Jericho, the precursor to its walls being miraculously breached, istruly fascinating. I can’t help but think of the Shemitta and Yovel cycles. First, the armed host circled the city once each day for six days, just like the first six years of the Shemitta. On the seventh day, the priests and the Ark of the Covenant circled the city, representing the seventh year of Shemitta. The Yovel cycle, itself made up of seven seven-year cycles, culminates with blasts of the Shofar (or, the Yovel – a word that means horn) on the fiftieth year to announce the manumission of slaves, and the return of land to its original owners.

At the conquest of Jericho, seven priests, with seven horns, circled the city once each day for six days, and on the seventh, they circled it seven times. All the Israelites were silent until Joshua’s signal at the seventh circuit of the city, when they all cried out together. The slaves who had cried wordlessly to God from the depths of their enslavement finally found a voice, a voice like the sound of the Shofar, a kol teruah, and with it, they declared a Yovel in the land, when slaves were finally fully redeemed, when the land of their fathers, their inheritance, came back to them, and when they ate from a land that they had not sown. Though the crossing of the Jordan has strong ties to Passover, the conquest of Jericho seems to me to be more related to Shavuot, the holiday that anchors the latter part of redemption.