(Fought the Battle of Jericho)

When Africans were brought to America as slaves, they were mostly forced by their masters to become Christians. However, they were forbidden to learn to read and write, and so the stories from the Bible were learned verbally. Some of these stories they told as songs, songs we call gospel songs.

The story of Joshua and the Battle of Jericho comes from the old testament book of Joshua (Joshua 6:15-21), providing the story line for one of those old gospel songs. This song is believed to date to southern plantations in the early 19th century, although a precise location or date of creation is impossible to determine. The earliest publication of this song was probably in 1882 in a book Jubilee Songs by M.G. Slayton and in A Collection of Revival Hymns and Plantation Melodies by Marshall W. Taylor. Hidden in many of these old gospel songs was a subliminal message of hope for those enslaved. In this song, it was a message that faith in the Lord can bring down walls.

For me to tell a more complete story, I created a few original verses that I added to those normally sung. I did this to put the battle in context. I added that, after the death of Moses, the Lord chose Joshua to lead the Israelite army in reclaiming ancient Canaan. The Bible also describes the battle that brought the city walls down followed a weeklong siege of the city that doesn’t appear in other versions of the song. I also felt the need to summarize the moral of the story.

Was there a factual battle in which Joshua led the Israelites and ended up with the city walls falling? Ancient and biblical Jericho is now Tell es-Sultan in the West Bank. Archaeological excavations at the site have failed to substantiate the biblical story of the fall of Jericho. Critics claim the story was later created by kings of Judah. Your belief in the story likely is tied to your acceptance or skepticism regarding the veracity of stories in the Bible in general.

It doesn’t really matter whether you believe the story is biblical fact or a fantasy tale, it is still an upbeat story of hope that I enjoy playing and singing. There’s a lot of flute in my interpretation of this song. The opening flute solo and duet can be heard in its entirety in the preview link below.

Listen to a 1 minute preview of this track here: