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Be Strong and Courageous—How Joshua Used a Shofar

Steeped in tradition, the shofar is a ceremonial instrument crafted from a ram's horn. According to Jewish tradition the Jericho shofar is designed in the shape of the one Joshua used to bring down the walls of Jericho.




History of the Shofar

According to some scholars, the shofar goes back to ancient times when it was believed that making loud noises on the New Year would ward off demons and guarantee a joyful beginning to the New Year.


In terms of its Jewish history, perhaps the most well-known biblical reference to the shofar is found in the Book of Joshua, where shofarot (plural of shofar) were used as part of the Israelites' battle plan to overtake the city of Jericho:


"Then the Lord said to Joshua… March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams' horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have all the people give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the people will go up, every man straight in. (Joshua 6:2-5)."


According to the story, Joshua followed God’s commandments and the walls of Jericho fell and they were able to capture the city. The shofar was usually brought to war so the troops would know when a battle was starting. Whoever would blow the horn would call out from a hilltop. All of the troops could hear the sound regardless of their position because of its distinct sound.


The Battle of Jericho

The Battle of Jericho featured one of the most astounding miracles in the Bible, proving that God stood with the Israelites.


After the death of Moses, God chose Joshua, son of Nun, to lead the Israelites. Under His guidance, they set about to conquer Canaan. God said to Joshua, "Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go." (Joshua 1:9, NIV).


Spies from the Israelites sneaked into the walled city of Jericho and stayed at the house of Rahab. Although she was a prostitute, Rahab believed in God. She hid the spies from the king's soldiers, and when the time was right, she helped them escape.


Rahab made the spies swear an oath. She promised not to reveal their plans. In return, they vowed to spare Rahab and her family when the battle began. She was to tie a scarlet cord in her window as a sign of their protection.


Meanwhile, the Israelites continued moving into Canaan. God commanded Joshua to have the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant into the center of the Jordan River, which was at flood stage. Once they stepped into the river, the water stopped flowing. It piled up in heaps up and downstream to allow the Israelites to cross on dry ground. God performed a miracle for Joshua, just like he did for Moses when He parted the Red Sea.


Lessons Learned

Joshua's strict obedience to God is an important lesson to be learned from this story. Throughout, Joshua did whatever he was told and the Israelites prospered under his leadership.


As Moses' apprentice, Joshua learned firsthand that he would not always understand God's ways. Human nature sometimes made him want to question God's plans. Instead, he was strong enough to obey.


Joshua's courage and strong faith in God directed him to obey. It didn't matter how unreasonable God's command seemed. He also drew from the past, recalling what appeared to be impossible deeds that God had performed through Moses.


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