In Joshua 6, God commanded the Israelites to circle the city 7 days in a row. Therefore, one of those days had to be a Sabbath. Would walking around the city, blowing trumpets, and carrying armaments have violated the Sabbath commands of the Torah?

The following response is by Joe Thomas (Savannah, Georgia)

By today’s standards, Jericho would be a small town.  Archaeologists estimate that it was about 6 acres in size, with the wall being about 2000 feet long—less than half a mile.

While the New Testament mentions a “Sabbath Day’s walk” (about 2/3 of a mile), it was a later tradition not found in scripture. The Jewish Targum (a commentary on the OT) referring to Exodus 16:29 (telling the Israelites not to gather manna on the Sabbath) states that the maximum distance Jews could walk on the Sabbath was 2000 cubits, or about 3000 feet.

Since the Sabbath Day’s walk was a later tradition, and the distance around Jericho was less than that, the marching itself does not seem to violate the Sabbath.

What about blowing trumpets or carrying arms?

Exodus 31:12-15 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Say to the Israelites,`You must observe my Sabbath.  This will be a sign between me and you for the generations to come, so that you may know that I am the LORD, who makes you holy. "`Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it must be put to death; whoever does any work on that day must be cut off from his people. For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. (NIV)

So what constitutes work? The Old Testament provides very few specifics to indicate what would count as “work.”

Exodus 35:3 says you cannot start a fire. Leviticus 23:35 says not to do any “regular work” (NIV, NET). In Numbers 15:32-36, a man is executed for gathering firewood on the Sabbath. In Nehemiah 13, business transactions on the Sabbath were considered a violation.

In Leviticus 23 the people were commanded to perform various sacrifices on the Sabbath.  God told King Saul that to obey is better than sacrifice, so if God commanded them to walk on the Sabbath, it was certainly permitted to obey that command.

Jesus performed miracles on the Sabbath (and was criticized for it). He also explained that the Sabbath was meant to be a gift to mankind by God, not a burden, stating that it is permitted to do good on the Sabbath.

The only verse I see that might indicate carrying trumpets or weapons would possibly violate the Sabbath was Jeremiah 17:21-22.

This is what the LORD says: Be careful not to carry a load on the Sabbath day or bring it through the gates of Jerusalem. Do not bring a load out of your houses or do any work on the Sabbath, but keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your forefathers. (NIV)

The emphasis here is doing work, not the act of carrying things. Therefore, we can assume that carrying trumpets and weapons on the Sabbath was not work, but a part of their worship as they obeyed Yahweh’s command to Joshua. Since it was obeying God, it would surely fall under Jesus’ definition of “doing good.”