Beth and her mother were watching "The Music Man" on the Disney Channel one night. During the song about pool -- Beth's mother's favorite song -- the man sang about the walls of Jericho coming tumbling down.
After the movie was over and Beth could speak without being rude, Beth asked her mother, "Mother, what did the man mean about the walls of Jericho coming down?"
"That's a story from the Bible, Dear One," said Beth's mother. "Here, let me turn off the television and I will tell it to you."
And this is the story she told:
One day, Joshua sent two men to spy on Jericho.
"Wait a minute, Mother," said Beth, interrupting the story before it had even had a chance to get started. "Isn't Joshua a man of God?"
"Yes he is, Dear One," answered her mother.
"Then why is he sending people to be spies?" asked Beth. "I thought spying was bad, like when you told me I shouldn't spy on you and Daddy at night even if your door is open a little and even if I hear worrisome noises."
"That's right most of the time, Dear One, but God knows that sometimes it's all right to spy if it is for a greater good," explained Beth's mother. "In this story, Joshua is sending men to spy on the evil town of Jericho so that the Israelites can kill all the sinners."
"Is that like when you told me that it's all right for me to spy through your bedroom door if I ever hear worrisome noises from in there and I know that you are out of town?"
"That's right, Dear One, but let me continue the story."
The spies went to visit a prostitute named Rahab and asked her if they could spend the night.
"Mother," Beth interrupted again. "If they are supposed to be spying, why are they visiting a prostitute? I thought that a prostitute was a woman who would let any man put his penis in her so long as he left her a bunch of money on the table by her bed?"
"That is true, Dear One," answered Beth's mother, "but sometimes spies must do strange things to get the job done. Now please, let me tell the story."
Somebody told the king that there were spies in the prostitute's house so the king sent a messenger to Rahab.
"I thought that spies were supposed to be secret," protested Beth. "They're not being very secret if somebody knew where they were and told the king."
"The story is shortened a bit so that it can be told quickly, Dear One," said Beth's mother. "The king probably had spies spying on the spies."
The messenger from the king told Rahab that she should bring the men who were staying in her house to the king because they were spies.
Rahab said, "Well, some men were here, but I don't know where they went. They left when it got dark. Maybe if you hurry you can catch them." But she knew that they wouldn't find the men because she had hidden them under some leaves on her roof.
Beth sighed: "How did Rahab know to put the men on the roof in the first place if she didn't know that a messenger from the king was coming?"
Beth's mother shook her head. "I told you that the story had been shortened a bit, Dear One," she said. "Rahab probably had spies spying on the spies spying on the spies."
"Oh," said Beth, and she made herself a resolve to try and not interrupt any more.
The messenger ran off and Rahab went up to the roof to talk to the spies. "I know that God promised you our land, and that your people are scary and make my people faint," she said to them. "We know about how God helped you across the Red Sea and stuff and how you kill everyone when you attack a town. Those stories really scare everyone. Your God is really powerful. I helped you out. So please, don't kill me and my family and take all our stuff when your army comes.
The men said to her, "You saved our lives. If you don't tell anyone about us, then we promise that we'll treat you fairly after God gives us your land."
Now Rahab's house was set on the city wall, so she lowered a rope down through her window and let the spies climb down it to get out of the city. "Go to the mountains so they don't catch you," Rahab told the spies. "Hide for three days and then leave."
The spies answered, "Don't blame us if you break your promise and tell on us. Put some red thread in your window and bring your family to your house. We'll make sure not to kill anyone in your house when we see the thread, but anyone who leaves your house will get killed and you can't blame us. And if you tell anyone about us, then we'll kill you all anyway.
"Okay," said Rahab.
"Why were the spies so worried about whether Rahab would tell anyone about them when the king already knew that they were there?" Beth asked.
"That's more spy stuff, Dear One," answered her mother. "Have faith that they knew what they were doing."
After leaving Rahab's house, the spies went to the mountains and stayed for three days. The king's men never found them, so they went home.
Later, the Israelite army showed up and stopped anyone from getting in or out of Jericho.
God said to Joshua, "Look, I gave you Jericho --"
"Wait, Mother, wait," said Beth.
"What is it now, Dear One," asked her mother, beginning to tire of the interruptions.
"What does God mean that he gave Jericho to the Israelites? I thought that they had brought a whole army to take it. Did God help them just walk in when they got there?"
"No, Dear One," answered her mother. "In fact, the Israelites surrounded Jericho because they couldn't get in."
"Then why does God say that he gave them Jericho? It's not theirs if they can't go in."
"Jericho is like your college fund, Dear One. Your father and I are saving money for you to go to college and although that money is yours, you can't have it until later. It's the same thing with Jericho."
"I get it," said Beth, and she settled back to listen.
God said to Joshua, "Look, I gave you Jericho. Walk around it once a day for six days with seven priests holding trumpets. On the seventh day, go around the city seven times and have the priests blow the horns. Tell everyone to shout when they hear the horns and that will make the city walls fall down.
Joshua gave the Israelites the instructions that God had given him. He also told them that they couldn't make any noise or talk until the horns were blown on the seventh day.
Beth spoke up again, "Even though God already gave Jericho to the Israelites, he wants them to do this thing to bring down the walls, right?"
"Yes, Dear One," answered her mother.
"But if he wanted to, God could have just brought the walls down himself without them doing all that stuff, right?"
"Of course, Dear One."
"Then God is just having them march and blow horns and yell like kind of a formality before they get their city, right?"
"Well then what am I going to have to do before you and Father give me my college fund? Are you going to make me not talk to anyone for six days? That's an awful long time."
Beth's mother looked down at her with a big, secret smile. "We'll talk about that when the time comes, Dear One. Just listen to the story for now." And before Beth could say any more, she continued.
Everything worked just like God had said it would. When Joshua heard the horns blow on the seventh day, he knew that it was time for the people to shout so he called out, "Shout because God has given you the city. God knows that it's a cursed city and everyone in it is cursed, too. Oh, except for Rahab the prostitute. And everyone living with her. That's because --"
"Are the people shouting while Joshua's talking?" whispered Beth, as if low volume would mean that she wasn't interrupting.
"No, Dear One," said her mother.
"But I thought that God said that they should shout as soon as the trumpets blew."
"That's right, but the Israelites knew that it's not polite to interrupt while someone is talking."
Beth took the hint and shut her lips.
Joshua continued, "Except for Rahab the prostitute and everyone living with her because she hid our spies from the government. Also, when you invade the city, don't take anything for yourselves because it is all cursed. If you take cursed things, then you curse yourselves and make trouble for us all. Of course, all the silver and gold, and all the brass and iron pots, are not cursed so long as you give them to me and don't keep them yourselves. I'll make sure that God gets them."
When Joshua was done talking, everyone shouted and the walls of Jericho fell down flat. When that had happened, the Israelites all ran into the city and killed all the people, as well as the oxes, sheep, and donkeys, with swords.
Joshua found the two men who Rahab had hidden and told them, "Go to the prostitute's house and get her and everyone with her." So they did.
Before she could stop herself, Beth said, "Wait! I thought that Rahab's house was on the city wall. Why didn't it fall down when the wall fell down?"
"It's a miracle of God, Dear One," said Beth's mother. "I suppose that the wall just fell away under it and left the house safe and sound."
Beth thought of what an amazing sight it must have been to see the prostitute's house floating in the air like that. She figured that the people inside must have gotten out by climbing down a rope from the window just like the spies had. It was a neat mental image. "Wow," she said.
When Rahab and her father and her mother and her brothers were safe, the Israelites burned the city.
Knowing that the story was almost over, Beth gave up trying not to ask questions. "Why did the Israelites burn the city down without keeping anything for themselves? I thought that God had given it to them?" she asked.
"If God gives you something, Dear One," said her mother, "you can do what ever you want with it, even burn it down. Besides, they did take some things, just listen."
All that the Israelites saved were certain valuable things which they made sure went straight to God's treasury.
Joshua didn't kill Rahab the prostitute or her family because they had been helpful, and they live in Israel to this day.
Beth thought about this for a moment. "You mean that Rahab and her family are still alive?"
"That is what the Bible tells us, Dear One," said her mother.
"Is their house still floating in the air?"
Beth's mother had to think about that one. "I suppose so," she said after a moment, "but God probably wouldn't like it if anyone lived there."
"Neat," said Beth. Then she smiled and hugged her mother. All her questions had been answered.
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