The Official Journal of the Ensign Trust, London





Courtesy of The National Message  July 1956.


The blazing sun heat down  upon the fortified town of Jericho,  the oldest  town in the world.  Not a sound disturbed  its quiet  siesta.  Hardly a bird stirred  in the shade of the beautiful palm groves around the fort. Here, within a distance  of fifty miles  from  the shimmering waters of the Mediterranean, the land dropped  steeply to no less than 1,300 feet below  sea level: the perfect sun trap.

But in this fourteenth century  before the birth of Christ. when Jordan’s muddy waters wandered through the domains of a hundred  petty princelings or more, an uncomfortable  stillness gripped the hot air – a stillness interrupted only by occasional earth tremors and distant rumblings, a sure  sign  of impending disaster, and rendered doubly alarming by the news filtering through to Jericho from the south.

Israelite  armies were on the move  under  their eighty five year old general. Joshua, issuing  in their thousands from the Sinaitic deserts. After forty years of enclosed desert life, following their expulsion from Egypt under  Moses, one  time  General of Egypt and conqueror of Ethiopia,  these tribesmen, in full battle array, were  on the march northwards, like a swarm of invading locusts.

Already a couple of Israelite spies had been chased out of Jericho and it was known  that someone in the fortress  probably  the  woman Rahab,  who  ran  that questionable establishment close by the citadel on the north west wall, had assisted their escape. By now they would be safe in the hill country. And Israelite intelligence of the Jericho defences would be complete.

But for the moment  the siesta claimed its own.

Size of Wembley

Jericho was not a large city. Its walls [there were two running parallel to each  other  around  the fort]­ enclosed an area of something like seven acres, about the size of Wembley Stadium.

Its main function was as a store city and administrative centre for the local populace, although  the twin walls, twelve and six feet thick and thirty feet high, afforded adequate protection against marauders: against ordinary marauders,  that  is.  For if  anything was guaranteed to instil panic into the fort’s defenders it was the knowledge that half a million land-hungry Hebrew people were piling up on the other side of Jordan, with Jericho right in their path!

What  was  the  Egyptian  monarch up  to? All the Palestinian sheiks acknowdged his overlordship. It was his duty to protect  his vassals and drive back these Hebrews into   their desert  haunts,  where  they belonged …..

Shout For VictoryThere can be little doubt that these were the thoughts and fears which possessed the Jericho garrison as the people deserted the cool palm groves and flocked into the fortress. They prepared to withstand a siege as Israelite troop concentrations built up barely a mile away. Perhaps the Egyptian relief force would arrive in time to raise the siege

Meanwhile the  posts shuttled back and  forth between Egypt and Palestine, the vassals, on their part, appealing  for help against the invading Hebrews  from across Jordan.

An Old Peasant Woman

Three thousand three hundred years later, in AD 1888, an old peasant woman  was ferreting around in Egypt at a place called Tel el Amarna,  and discovered some of these very letters in the ruins of Pharaoh’s Records Office.

In one of them Joshua is mentioned  by name and in circumstances which in archaeologist Sir Charles Marston’s opinion  suggest  that the  Egyptians actually connived with the Israelite military campaigns in Palestine.

Apparently Amenhetep III, a heretic  pharaoh, had turned from polytheism to something resembling lsraelitish  monotheism, and was favourably disposed towards securing Palestine to a people with roughly his own outlook and attitude, they were potentially reliable allies.

Whether or not this was so we cannot tell. But we do know  that  at  this  period, so  far  as  Palestine was concerned, Pharaoh’s foreign affairs went to pieces, and no force was sent to the relief of Jericho or to any other fortress  for that matter.

The Night Before

On the night before Israelite forces crossed the river, the sentries  patrolling Jericho ‘s wide walls must have seen the distant glow of a thousand camp fires as, beyond the swollen Jordan waters, Joshua inspected his troops and rallied them with the ringing challenge:

The Living God is among you!

The next morning  the battalions  assembled to the blaring of trumpets and faced the raging torrents of the flooding river. Beyond stood Jericho, bristling defiance. Upon the outcome of this first engagement depended the  morale of the  already sceptical Israelite  army commanders. If they failed to take this fort, resistance further north would be sure to stiffen.

For three days since their arrival at Jordan they had dithered watching the flood time torrents gush past. For three days the Israelite C in C had deliberately delayed the crossing. Why? No body knew for sure.

But it soon became very clear indeed,  unmistakable in fact; those hitherto gentle earth tremors burst suddenly into life with a thunderous roar

The sea saw it, and fled:

Jordan was driven back .

The mountains skipped like rams,

And the little hills like lambs.

Psalm 114

To the dismay of Jericho  and  the astonishment of Israel, the seismic upheaval collapsed the Jordan’s banks further upstream. Tons of clay fell across  the riverway, forming a temporary dam,  completely cutting off the waters.

With a triumphant shout the troops moved forward, the holy Ark of Israel preceding them, and effected  an unimpeded  crossing  to   the   further bank-an astonishing  phenomenon, and  one  which  has  been repeated in modern times. In 1927, for instance,  when an earthquake shook  Palestine, the Jordan river banks collapsed and piled up the waters  in a dam for twenty four hours, and it had to be admitted that the apparently naive Bible story was probably true after all.

Strange Tactics

If the woman Rahab had entertained any doubts as to the ability of the Hebrews  to demolish  Jericho  she certainly abandoned them  then and busied  herself displaying  the  scarlet cord  from  her  window-the agreed  signal to procure  the safety of her family and herself when the city fell.

The subsequent ‘siege’ of Jericho  must have been seven days of sheer mystery to the besieged, for Joshua employed what surely  ranks amongst the world’s strangest collection of war tactics.

For six days a phantom army marched around  the fort. Not a word was spoken  and not a weapon raised. The eerie  silence  was  broken  only by a company  of seven priests blowing rams hom trumpets, and the sun flashing upon the burnished  gold plating of the Ark of the Covenant as it followed the seven trumpeters.

High up in the keep the garrison look outs scanned the horizon in vain for signs of the relief force. Upon the thickly crowded walls,  thousands of frightened  eyes followed the silent procession, as for the seventh day in succession the golden Ark was solemnly paraded around the doomed city.

Seven  times they encircled  the city, accompanied already, perhaps, by the ominous grumblings of earth tremors that were to shake Jericho’s walls to the ground.

Centuries have  now  passed, and  we  may  never discover  the full truth of what  happened on that day Why did the fort’s walls ‘fall down flat’? Was it due to an earthquake? Almost certainly.

Then how were the Israelites able to time their attack so nicely as to coincide with such an upheaval? We may well ask that question for upon  its answer hangs  the explanation of a whole chain of apparently supernatural events favouring the history of that people.

There is, at any rate, no doubt as to what Joshua and his people  thought of it: The living God is among  you! and their subsequent history certainly demonstrated that.

Amongst the Rubble

Three millennia were to  roll  by before  British Professor Garstang was to poke about amidst the rubble of Jericho.

His investigations revealed  that the city ‘s walls had indeed  fallen flat just as the Bible said. And the burnt stratum of the fortress, treble the usual depth, suggests that,  again   what   the  Bible  says,  the  city  was  not plundered but was put to the fire.

Only the citadel and that section  of the north west wall close by appears to have survived the quake

Amongst the long-dead embers excavators found a piece of charred  cord. Was this all that remained of the rope by which Rahab let the two spies down  over the wall to safety? One would like to think so.