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The city is to be devoted to Yahweh, it and all that is in it. Only Rahab the prostitute will live, she and all who are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. Bible

“Devoted.” The Hebrew word translated “devoted” is cherem (#02764 חֵרֶם or #02763 חֶרֶם ), and means a thing that is “devoted.” It can be “devoted” to Yahweh in the sense of being set apart to Him and therefore being His and holy (cp. Lev. 27:21, 28, 29; Num. 18:14), or it can be a thing “devoted” to Him in the sense that it is an abomination to Him and thus it will be destroyed; in that case, “devoted to destruction” is the meaning. Thus when something is “devoted” it can be “devoted to Yahweh” for sacred use, or “devoted to destruction,” and the context determines what “devoted” means in any given occurrence. However, even if a city, such as Jericho in this context, was “devoted” to destruction, the metal articles in it were to be brought into the Tabernacle treasury (Josh. 6:19). It is worth noting that the Arabic word “harem” comes from the root word for “devoted” and refers to a part of a palace or house that is “devoted” (set apart for special use) and used for the women.

The majority of the time that cherem is used in the Bible, it is used of the enemies of God and animals that are “devoted” to destruction and are killed (cp. Josh. 2:10; 6:20-21). If a person took something that was devoted, that person became devoted (Josh. 6:18) and would be put to death. That is why the Mosaic Law said that if a person becomes “devoted,” then they were to be put to death (Lev. 27:29). That is what happened to Achan and his family (Josh. 7).


Commentary for: Joshua 6:17