Joshua and the Sabbath Rest

Sabbath Study, Part 15

In the book of Joshua, we find a familiar story that implicitly deals with an expansion on our understanding of the Sabbath observance.

And the LORD said to Joshua: “See! I have given Jericho into your hand, its king, and the mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all you men of war; you shall go all around the city once. This you shall do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. But the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. It shall come to pass, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when you hear the sound of the trumpet, that all the people shall shout with a great shout; then the wall of the city will fall down flat. And the people shall go up every man straight before him.” (Joshua 6:2-5)

Six days.
An entire week passed during this time: six days each of marching around Jericho one time, and one day of circling the city seven times. That one of these days was the Sabbath is obvious, although Scripture doesn’t tell us exactly which of these days it was. We will later see more clearly in the New Testament what we are seeing only dimly now: as Lord of the Sabbath, God decides what is permissible—and what is not—on the day of rest. Various religious works, and other acts of necessity, are allowed—and sometimes (as in this case) commanded.

The seventh day.
Adam Clarke contends that this seventh day was not a Sabbath day: “This was a mere religious procession, performed at the command of God, in which no servile work was done. Therefore Marcion’s objection, that the God of the Hebrews showed a changeableness of disposition in commanding the Sabbath to be kept sacred at one time, and then to be broken at another, is without foundation; for I must contend that no breach took place on this occasion, unless it could be made to appear that the day on which Jericho was taken was the Sabbath which is very unlikely, and which none can prove. But if even this were to be conceded, it is a sufficient answer to all such cavils, that the God who commanded the Sabbath to be set apart for rest and religious purposes, has always authority to suspend for a season the operation of merely ceremonial laws, or to abrogate them entirely, when the purpose of their institution is fulfilled. The Son of man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Commentaries Cited from
Hall, Kay.
Online Bible. Beersheba Springs: Ken Hamel, 2000. CD-ROM.

Commentaries Used
Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke