Joshua 6-17-26: The Ban

Read: Joshua 6:17-26

Joshua 6 lists the Jericho as one of the cities that was under “the ban” translated from the Hebrew word “חרם” (pronounced “herem”). Cities under the ban were things devoted to destruction – that is every living thing in the city: men, women, young, old, sheep, oxen, and donkeys alike. The purpose for this destruction was so that Israel would not be tempted to be as the people living in the city under the ban, worshiping pagan gods. Joshua then cursed the city, saying that the one who tries to rebuild the city will lose his first and last born. This was later fulfilled in 1 Kings 16:34 during the time of Elisha when Heil attempted to rebuild the city of Jericho. The ban sets the stage for the next chapter when one Israelite disobeys the ban and keeps some of the plunders for himself and would lead to their defeat against the city of Ai (Joshua 7:1).

Some ethicists have called into question the goodness of God in relationship to God telling the Israelites on this and other occasions to utterly destroy the people of a city. Some have even gone as far as to allege that this is God advocating genocide. What these allegations fail to take into account is that God is acting in justice against the cities. Deuteronomy 13:13-18 talks about conditions of cities turning to serve pagan gods – such cities commit “abominations” against God – perhaps the strongest word used to describe sins that are the most abhorrent morally and such acts were used in the idol worship of false gods. The Canaanite people are listed among those who were under the ban (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). Archaeological evidence has shown that idol worship of many ancient Canaanite cities included child sacrifices, sexual indecencies, and other horrific occult practices that those who worshiped such gods did to appease these gods. God wanted the people of Israel to not only shun such acts, but not even be tempted by such acts. The act of destroying the cities as such was in part God’s judgment and a way of showing the gravity of abominable sin. God abhors such behaviors and wants his people to realize the weight of them. If anything, it shows that God does not tolerate abominable sins.

What is certain though, is that all of sinned (Romans 3:23). And what else is also certain is that the reality of the matter is that all people are effectively under the ban because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). God does not delight in the demise of the wicked, but would rather they repent and turn to God (Ezekiel 33:11), as Rahab the harlot did. God can redeem those who do repent and humble themselves before him. He made a way for everyone to have the ban removed by every person trusting God to save them through Jesus!  The appropriate response of every person alive is to realize that they are sinners, repent, and believe that God can and will save those who call on his name!

Lord, I don’t want to be under the ban, rather under your grace and mercy!