1. Exposition

What does it mean to devote the city to the LORD?

Joshua 6:17 (ESV)

17 And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the LORD for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.

The Hebrew term herem (translated by the ESV as devoted) refers to the irrevocable giving over of things or persons to the Lord.1 Sometimes it indicates that someone or something has been set apart for service or use in the sanctuary (Leviticus 27:28; Micah 4:13). In the context of cities, it refers to the complete annihilation of a place and its people. The word is used when God instructs Moses to devote to destruction certain cities and populations in the land of Canaan (Numbers 21:2–3; Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 9:5; Deuteronomy 13:15; Deuteronomy 20:17). Joshua was charged with carrying out these instructions as well, and he did so (Joshua 6:18–21; Joshua 8:26; Joshua 10:28–40; Joshua 11:11–21).

Complete destruction of the city implies that everyone was killed, including animals (Joshua 6:21).2