Hebrew cheerem; "a thing or person devoted;" so, accursed to the Lord, and incapable of being redeemed, and, if a person, doomed to death (Leviticus 27:28-29; 1 Corinthians 12:3; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:9; Romans 9:3, compare Exodus 32:32). "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren," lit. "I was wishing," i.e., the wish was rising within me, so intense is my love for Israel, that I myself were sacrificed in soul as well as body for their sake, were such wish lawful, which it is not; the wish remained incomplete, checked by calmer and more sober thoughts, which vehement zeal for the moment forgot. It never passed beyond the region of deepfeeling, wherein he was transported momentarily out of all other considerations into the all absorbing one, "an ecstasy of charity" (Bacon). "ANATHEMA-MARANATHA" (i.e., "the Lord cometh") 1 Corinthians 16:22.
An Aramaic watchword of the first age, suitable for believers in all ages: If He come not to bless, He shall come to smite with a curse) alludes to Malachi 4:5-6; "To those who fear in the New Testament 'love' the Lord's name, He comes as the Sun of Righteousness with healing on His wings;" but to those who fear and love Him not, lie will come smiting the earth with a "curse" (cheerem or anathema). Paul pronounces the anathema on those loving Him not, while as yet He is not come, that by fleeing to Him now they may escape the curse and gain the blessing. Paul is God's inspired mouthpiece proclaiming the doom to which those not loving Jesus are set apart, and his inspired prayer of anathema is but praying that (God's will be done. In the Old Testament forcible setting apart to His glory of what ought to have been, but was not willingly, consecrated to Him, is implied.
So in the case of Jericho the city was so devoted to destruction, and all in it, except Rahab; and the silver, gold, brass, and iron, were consecrated to Jehovah (Joshua 6:17-26). Similarly Israel's vow (Numbers 21:1-3): "if Thou wilt deliver this people into my hand, I will utterly destroy (Hebrew make a cheerem or anathema of) their cities." Therefore they called that place Hormah (Chormah), i.e., the place made a (cheerem) or anathema of; put under a ban; devoted to God for destruction as accursed). This gives the true view of the dooming of the Canaanites; the sinners themselves were to be made an awful example of God's punitive justice to which they were set apart; their possessions were properly the Lord's, but were given by Him to Israel as a gift henceforth to be used to His glory.
The degree of the work of destruction varied: men alone (Deuteronomy 20:18); men, women, and children, the cattle and spoil kept for the army (Deuteronomy 2:34-35); every living creature (Deuteronomy 20:16; 1 Samuel 15:3); virgins excepted (Numbers 31:17). Had the Canaanites humbled themselves before God's judgment and submitted, they would have been spared; but they were given up to judicial hardening to their own ruin (Joshua 11:19-20).