Why did there have to be seven priests holding seven trumpets at the Battle of Jericho (Joshua 6:4)?
This question may arise from simple curiosity as in a Sunday School class or it may be a request for a deeper understanding of the significance of the whole parade around Jericho. So, I will give a simple answer and then go on to suggest a deeper typological significance.
Seven Priests With Trumpets
Israel is entering into the land promised to them by Jehovah. But, the powerful, walled city of Jericho stands in the way. This city was a fortress and the people of the city were against Israel’s attempt to take possession of the land that Jehovah had promised them. Jehovah told them to march around the city for seven days. Each day the priests blew their trumpets and on the seventh day they blew the trumpets seven times and the walls collapsed allowing the army of the Israelites to overcome the city.
The first thing to notice is that the number seven throughout Scripture is connected with the thoughts of completeness, perfection, or rest. For example, on the seventh day of Creation God rested. Israel was given the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath on which to rest from labor. So, the seventh trip around Jericho completed the number of trips and on the very last trip their shout brought the wall down. Also, it was the priests that blew the trumpets because they were special servants of the Lord. Finally, the trumpets are trumpets of jubilee or trumpets associated with celebration and victory.1 So, God’s work is seen to be instrumental in overcoming the enemies of Israel so they could enter into the land that God had given to them. Similarly, God overcomes our enemies and we rejoice in the work of God for us.
A Closer Look
To understand more of the significance of this history for us, we need to remember that the histories in the Old Testament are spiritual lessons for us. The apostle Paul wrote “these things happened to them as an example [types], but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Cor. 10:11) The city of Jericho was standing next to the Jordan River, the river of death, and in opposition to Israel entering into their inheritance. The meaning of Jericho is “fragrance”2 and its inhabitants are afraid of and opposed to Israel. This all reminds us of the world in its opposition to Christ and those that follow him. The world seems pleasant (“fragrant”) to those who are under its spell. Yet, there is one, Rahab, who escapes the judgment on the city and through faith aligns herself with Israel. So, the story of Rahab becomes a gospel story.
For those who have received the gospel, there is further victory. We read in 1 John 5:4, “For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Just as Jericho stood in the way of Israel taking possession of their inheritance so the world stands against our enjoyment of our heavenly blessings. It is interesting to notice the dual aspect of overcoming in this verse. If we have been “born of God” then we overcome the world. This provides the foundation. Yet, the victory, the practical working out of the overcoming is through “our faith.” When we, by faith, lay hold of the promises of God, the world loses its power to influence us (1 Jn. 4:4–6, 5:19).
We are priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9) and to overcome the world we need to realize the value of that privilege before God. Then, in spite of the fact that we are presently living in the world, we will announce our victory in Christ over the world with trumpets of Jubilee (2 Cor. 2:14). This is important. It is in our knowledge of Christ’s victory over the world (Jn. 16:33) and the enjoyment of our part with Him by which we can overcome the enticements of the world. Furthermore, this is a joy that will be complete (seven trips) and persistent (seven days).
There is one more victory that the fall of Jericho represents. The victory over the world is fully accomplished when judgment settles the fate of the nations of the world once and for all. In this view, the seven blasts of the trumpets around Jericho preview the seven trumpets of Revelation. Similarly, Israel around Jericho is a preview of Israel which with the Lord of Glory judges the nations (Zech. 12:6; 14:14; Mic. 5:7–9; Obad. 14–21).
God’s purposes center in Christ. In the place where the Lord Jesus was humiliated He will be shown to be the glorious victor with those He has redeemed by His own blood (Rev. 5:9–10).
1. A special note is required here. Most modern translations call these trumpets “ram’s horns” (Josh. 6:4, 13). F. W. Grant explains in his notes on this passage in The Numerical Bible (Joshua to II Samuel, p 47) why these are the ordinary silver trumpets of Jubilee.
2. This would be the meaning for the inhabitants of Jericho.