Joshua 5


Joshua 5:1–15

Israel is Circumcised after Crossing the Jordan

Outline of Chapter 5:

       vv.   1–8       The fear of the Canaanites and the circumcision of the Israelites

       vv.   9–12     The naming of Gilgal/the Passover/manna ceases in the land

       vv.  13–15    Joshua is confronted by the Commander-in-Chief of the army of God


I ntroduction: In Joshua 5, we have several tremendous historical events which take place. Because of the disobedience of gen X, those who were born in the wilderness during the 40 year delay were not circumcised. God would not let these men into the land until all their children had been circumcised. Furthermore, they could not celebrate the Passover until they had first been circumcised (Ex. 12:48). Then they observe their first Passover in the land, commemorating the deliverance of Israel out of the hand of Egypt (and foretelling the death of our Lord on the cross). Then, after the Israelites partook of the produce of the land, the manna ceased. Although it has not been mentioned for some time, this was how the people of Israel stayed alive was through the eating of the manna which God had provided for them day in and day out in the wilderness. Again, like the holding back of the waters, each and every person in Israel had to know exactly what God was doing on their behalf. Everyone experienced the holding back of the Jordan and everyone ate of the manna given by God from heaven. The intention of the miracles was to reach everyone. Finally, an interesting event occurs. God had given certain orders to Joshua but we are never told how he received them. Because Joshua does not say anything about how God spoke to him, it may have been the still, soft voice from within, based upon the doctrine which Joshua had in his soul. I hesitate to say something like this because there are these very, very spiritual people who pray about everything and they listen deep within their souls for that still, small voice of God, then they get this holy expression on their face and do just exactly what their old sin nature wanted them to do in the first place. You must realize that this is how most religious people are. If they are worse, then they will even tell you that God told them to do this or that. Joshua has been the faithful servant of Moses for forty years. He has trusted in Jesus Christ and he has doctrine in his soul. When 99.99% of the population wanted to do one thing, he wanted to do another, because it was God’s will. Joshua was a clear-thinking believer. Had Joshua been listening to that still, small voice, I could hang with that. However, in this chapter we will see the first Theophany in Joshua’s direct personal experience.

You might be the kind of person who takes in doctrine almost every day, unless it is much too inconvenient. Perhaps you are extremely busy—you’re in the midst of moving, let’s say, so that you put doctrine on the back burner. After all, there are only so many hours in the day. What we have here is a complete re-prioritization of things spiritual. The Israelites are in the midst of moving. They are moving into the land, they are going to conquer the land, so what do they stop and do? They stop to celebrate Passover, in commemoration of God bringing them out of Egypt and into the land; and then they set themselves apart to God through the rite of circumcision. What is first and prioritized is the spiritual. The other stuff comes later. This is as our life should be led. You don’t place God first in name only; you place Him first by understanding Him and understanding your place in this life. You get that only through God’s Word. Even by an in-depth study of what took place thousands of years ago, we are still able to get a grasp of God’s plan for us.

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The Fear of the Canaanites and the Circumcision of the Israelites



Smoother English rendering:

And so it came to pass when a hearing of all kings of the Amorites who [were] beyond the Jordan westward and all kings of the Canaanites who [were] by the sea how Yehowah caused to dry up waters of the Jordan from before faces of sons of Israel until our crossing over; and then their heart melted and no longer was a spirit in them from before faces of sons of Israel.



And so it came to pass when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west and all the kings of the Canaanites who resided by the sea heard how Jehovah caused the waters of the Jordan to dry up right in front of the people of Israel until they crossed over; in fact, their heart melted and they no longer had any inner strength before the presence of the people of Israel.

Although the vocabulary used in this verse is strictly Joshua’s, and although the meaning is clear, the translation is moderately difficult due to the way the verbs and nouns and thrown together. Let’s see a couple of good renderings and then take this one apart:


The Emphasized Bible      And it came to pass when all the kings of the Amorites who were over the Jordan westward and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how that Yahweh had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the sons of Israel until they had passed over that their heart melted and there was no spirit in them any more, because of the sons of Israel.

NASB                                Now it came about when all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard how the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan before the sons of Israel until they had crossed, that their hearts melted, and there was no spirit in them any longer, because of the sons of Israel.

Young's Lit. Translation     And it cometh to pass when all the kings of the Amorite which are beyond the Jordan, towards the sea, and all the kings of the Canaanite which are by the sea, hear how that Jehovah hath dried up the waters of the Jordan at the presence of the sons of Israel till their passing over, that their heart is melted, and there hath not been in them any more spirit because of the presence of the sons of Israel.


In getting a feel for Joshua’s use of the language, I am beginning to think that many time when he uses the wâw consecutive to begin a passage, it should be rendered and also. This is just a theory at this point. This is how he begins this passage (which is standard for him). What follows is the often used 3rd person masculine singular, Qal imperfect of hâyâh (ה ָי ָה ) [pronounced haw-YAW], which means to be. Without a specific subject and object, it often means and it will come to pass, then it came to pass (with the wâw consecutive). Strong's #1961 BDB #224. Then we have the simple kaph preposition or ke ( ׃) [pronounced ke], which means like, as, according to. When this is combined with an infinitive, it can also take on the meaning as, often, when, as soon as. No Strong’s # BDB #453. One could almost translate this: And so when a hearing of all kings of the Amorites and of all kings of the Canaanites occurred... This matches the Hebrew and our own English sensibilities. The only problem is that we have a lot of relative pronouns which will be thrown in there, completely confusing the use of hâyâh.


What follows is the construct of kôl (לֹ ) [pronounced kole], which means the whole, all of, the entirety of, all, every. Strong's #3605 BDB #481. With the construct we have the problem of either rendering this as all [the] kings of the Amorites or all kings of the Amorites; in the first place, we must throw in a the in order for this to translate smoothly, and in the second, we are removing the proper understanding of the construct. I will go with the latter translation, as it introduces no additional words.


The kings of the Canaanites are then further defined with the relative pronoun and the bêyth preposition and the masculine singular construct of ׳êber (ר ב ֵע) [pronounced ĢAYB-ver], and it means region across, beyond, side. With mêm, it means on the opposite side, on the other side. With the bêyth preposition, it means beyond. Strong's #5676 BDB #719. What they were beyond was the Jordan, which is modified by the noun west or westward. This gives us: And so it came to pass when a hearing of all kings of the Amorites who [were] beyond the Jordan westward...

This is followed by and all kings of the Canaanites who [were] by the sea. As you might recall from the first time the land was examined, the spies determined where most of the different tribes were living. “Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan.” (Num. 13:29).


This is followed by the untranslated direct object and the relative pronoun, ostensibly making the sea the object of the verb dried up. Since God did not cause the Mediterranean Sea to dry up, this relative pronoun has to go with the Jordan River, which occurs sometime later in this sentence. I don’t recall seeing something like this before. That is, my general understanding of the relative pronoun is that it refers to what came right before; however, here, with the direct object notation, it apparently refers to something later in the sentence. Let me give you just exactly what we have here: the relative pronoun ăsher (ר ש ֲא ) [pronounced ash-ER], which means that, which, when or who. It is a particle of relation, a sign of relation or a connecting link. Strong's #834 BDB #81. It is combined with the untranslated word êth (ת ֵא ) [pronounced ayth]. Êth is the mark of a direct object (it can also be used as a preposition denoting nearness. Strong's #853 (and #854) BDB #84 (and #85). Together, they mean how, Footnote according to a small portion of BDB. This would make perfect sense here.

What follows is literally, ...caused to dry up Yehowah waters of the Jordan from before faces of sons of Israel... Then we have the phrase until our crossing over. There is a dispute here concerning how this was in the original manuscript. It is written we (or, our), but read they (their). Several codices—the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Vulgate, and 3 early printed editions—have this both written and read in the 3rd person plural. In any case, it refers to the crossing over the Jordan by the Israelites. Footnote If the 1st person is found here, it carries with it an implication that the writer of the book of Joshua was one who took part in these activities (as you realize, I believe that Joshua was the author). However, the use of the 1st person in a narrative does not guarantee that the writer took part in the activities described. If a person informally recounted the Boston Tea Party, he might say, “And then we threw the tea over into the Boston harbor.” This does not mean that he himself threw some tea overboard, but that he identifies himself with the Americans who were a part of the protest. My intention her is not to straddle both sides of the fence, but to give you the arguments for various positions. There are so many personal things to be found in this book (particularly the last three verses of this chapter), that there is little doubt in my mind that Joshua wrote this book.

Now we have : And so it came to pass when a hearing of all kings of the Amorites who [were] beyond the Jordan westward and all kings of the Canaanites who [were] by the sea how Yehowah caused to dry up waters of the Jordan from before faces of sons of Israel until our crossing over... The designations Amorites and Canaanites have two different uses. These words are used as a general catch-all for the tribes found in the Land of Promise. In this usage, Amorite means westerner Footnote and refers to those who were in possession of the mountains. Footnote Canaanite is a general term for all the people who reside along the coast of the Mediterranean. Canaanite was a term more appropriately applied to those who inhabited the lowlands, who relied more upon trade than they did upon warfare and Keil and Delitzsch saw them as being more dependent upon the Amorites, who were probably the strongest of the Canaanite tribes. Footnote The writer gives the location of the Amorites as from the other side of the Jordan, saying that they were beyond the Jordan to the west—they added that last phrase so it was clear which side of the Jordan the Canaanites were on.


This is followed by the wâw consecutive and the Niphal imperfect of mâçaç (ס ַס ָמ ) [pronounced maw-SAUCE], and it means to dissolve, to melt; it is most often used figuratively for the heart becoming faint or fearful. Strong’s #4549 BDB #587. What is caused to melt is their heart. This is followed by the conjunction, the negative particle and the Qal perfect of the verb to be. Then we have the prepositional phrase in them and the adverb ׳ôwd (דע) [pronounced ģohd] (it is also written דֹע), a word which acts as both an adverb and as a substantive. In both cases, it carries the idea of continuation. As an adverb it means still, yet, again, besides, in addition to, even yet; and as a noun it means continuing, continuation, continuance, persistence. Strong’s #5750 BDB #728. With the absolute status quo verb to be and the negative, Joshua is indicating that we are dealing here with a condition which no longer exists. What no longer exists is they do not have a spirit within them. The remainder of the verse reads: from faces of sons of Israel. This second portion, therefore reads: ...and so their heart was melted and there was not in them still a spirit from faces [or, from the presence] of sons of Israel. There is a slightly different reading in the Septuagint, the Syriac, the Vulgate and the Aramaic codices: they read and their courage failed. The concept of this verse is still the same, in either reading.

All of this occurred not too far away from Jericho. The inhabitants of Jericho and throughout the land had heard of the Israelites and how God had led them out from Egypt, through the desert and to their front door. They certainly had lookouts and/or spies from all over the land observing what occurred (when there are two million people crossing a suddenly dried 10 to 20 mile stretch of river, it does not go unnoticed. The inhabitants of the land both saw a huge group of people; but even more frightening was that these people had a relationship with Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe. As Moses wrote in his song: “The peoples have heard; they tremble. Anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia. Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; the leaders of Moab—trembling grips them. All the inhabitants of Canaan have melted way. Terror and dread fall upon them. By the greatness of Your arm, they are motionless as stone until Your people pass over, O Jehovah. (Ex. 15:15–16). Or, as Rahab gave her confession: “For we have heard how Jehovah dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you completely destroyed. And when we heard, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you, for Jehovah your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:10–11). We have the same response indicated by the Gibeonites: And they said to him, “Your servants have come from a very far country because of the name of Jehovah your God; for we have heard the report of Him and all that He did in Egypt and all that He did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon and to Og king of Bashan who was at Ashtaroth.” (Joshua 9:9).

What caused the people of the land to be in particular fear was the fact that they expected that the Israelites would not be crossing into their land for a couple of months, until the end of the rainy season. The Jordan River was at a flood stage, so they had figured that the Israelites would be unable to pass over the river for awhile. When their G-2 force saw the Jews cross over dry-shod, they went into a sudden panic. This is why the Israelites camped next to Jericho and were not attacked by the inhabitants of Jericho. They recognized that God walked with the Israelites and that He led them across the Jordan River, the river they assumed would give them a couple of months of preparation time. With the sudden crossing of the Israelites, the Canaanites in Jericho locked all the gates into the city and tried to develop some sort of a plan inside, not knowing how much time they actually had remaining.

In the time the this, Yehowah said to Joshua, “Construct for yourselves knives of flint and turn back; circumcise sons of Israel twice.”



At that time, Jehovah said to Joshua, “Construct some knives out of flint and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.”

We return to Joshua’s standard way of writing-God commands him, he commands the people, and the will of God is accomplished. Circumcision is what shows every Israelite that he is different from all the rest of mankind. Every time an Israelites urinates, he sees that he is different from the rest of man. Scofield: Circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 17:10–14; see...Rom. 4:11). “The reproach of Egypt” (v. 9) was that, during the later years of the Egyptian bondage, this separating sign had been neglected (cp. Ex. 4:24–26), and this neglect had continued during the wilderness wanderings. The N.T. analogy is world conformity—the failure openly to take a believer’s place with Christ in death and resurrection (Rom. 6:2–11; Gal. 6:14–16). Spiritually, circumcision is putting to death the deeds of the body through the Spirit (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 5:16–17; Col. 2:11–12; 3:5–10). Footnote When God spoke to Abraham, He said, “This is My covenant, which you will guard and preserve, between Me and you and your descendants after you: every male among you will be circumcised. And you will be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin; and it will be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. Furthermore, every male among you who is eight days old will be circumcised throughout your generations, along with a servant born in the house or who is bought with money from any foreigner, who is not of your uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin, that person shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant.” (Gen. 17:10–12, 14). We studied circumcision in greater detail back in the book of Genesis.

The NIV Study Bible examines this from a more practical perspective: Metal knives were available, but flint made a more efficient surgical tool, as modern demonstrations have shown. Israel had to be consecrated to the Lord’s service before she could undertake the Lord’s warfare and take possession of the land. Footnote However, Barnes takes that one step further, because God had more in mind than the right tool for the right job. [The] circumcision wrought by Joshua and by means of knives of stone or rock, as symbolical of the true circumcision wrought by Christ, Who is more than once spoken of as the Rock (cp. I Cor. x.4; Rom. ii.29; Col. ii.11). Footnote Freeman goes into a little more detail about knives in general, mentioning that knives were not commonly used for meals (implying that they would, therefore, be less common than we would expect), citing that even today, orientals will often pull their meat apart during a meal rather than use a knife. Footnote

Even the Israelites recognized that circumcision was more than just a tribal rite—that it was symbolic. “Furthermore, Jehovah your god will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul, in order that you may live.” (Deut. 30:6). Paul confirms this centuries later: And in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by means of the removal of the body of the flesh by means of the circumcision by means of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, by means of which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the operational power of God, Who raised Him from the dead. And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions (Col. 2:11–13).

We find two verbs thrown together here: the Qal imperative of shûbv (בש ) [pronounced shoobv], which means to return, to turn back, to turn around. Strong's #7725 BDB #996. The second verb is the Qal imperative of mûwl (למ ) [pronounced mule], which means to circumcise. Strong’s #4135 BDB #557.

This verse does not mean that all the people of Israel were circumcised a second time for good luck. All the males who left Egypt 40 years ago were circumcised. However, because the older generation did not circumcise their own children, all of the males who were 40 years and younger are uncircumcised. This means the vast majority of the males except for Joshua, Caleb and Eleazar and those who were between the ages of 40 and 60. These are the ones who must be circumcised.

And so Joshua constructed knives of flint then kept circumcising sons of Israel unto a hill of the foreskins.



So Joshua saw to the construction of the knives of flint and the circumcision of all the sons of Israel until there was a veritable hill of foreskins.

Joshua personally did not necessarily circumcise anyone. There are times when the person in charge is named as the subject of the verb, when, in all actuality, it is those under him who are really accomplishing the task at hand, under his orders and guidance. The males were circumcised until there were about a million foreskins piled up. In many Bibles, we have that the Israelites were circumcised at Gibeath-haaraloth; that is the transliteration of hill of foreskins. Certainly, this could have been the nickname given to that place. Barnes calls this hill of foreskins “the emblem [where] of all worldly and carnal affections were buried.” Footnote

And this [is] the word which Joshua circumcised all of the people, those coming out of Egypt—the males: all sons of men of war had died in the wilderness in the way in their coming out from Egypt.



And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised all of the people who came out of Egypt—the males: all the men of war had died in the wilderness along the way when they came out of Egypt.

This verse explains why the circumcision had to be done—all of the men who had left Egypt—the men of war (in this case, who were twenty and above when the Israelites first stood on the edge of the land), had fallen dead in the wilderness. As you will recall, when Israel stood on the border of the land, the people rebelled and chose, at first, not to trust God and not to enter into the land. “As I live,” says Jehovah, “...your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, all who have grumbled against Me.” (Num. 14:28b, 29). And, forty years later, when the tribes were numbered again: but among these, there was not a man of those were numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai, for Jehovah had said concerning them, “They will die in the wilderness.” And not a man was left of them, except Caleb ben Jephunneh, and Joshua ben Nun (Num. 26:64–65; see also Deut. 2:14–16).

Because the ones having been circumcised, all the people, the ones coming out; and all the people, the born ones in the wilderness on the way in a coming out from Egypt—[they] had not been circumcised.



Because the only ones who had been circumcised were those who originally came out of Egypt; and all the ones who had been born in the wilderness along the way after having left Egypt—they had not yet been circumcised.


V. 5 begins with the conjunction kîy (י  ̣ ) [pronounced kee], which means when, that, for, because. Strong's #3588 BDB #471. This is followed by the masculine plural, Qal passive participle of mûl (למ) [pronounced mule], and it means to circumcise. Strong’s #4135 BDB #557. This should be rendered: Because, the ones having been circumcised... This is followed by the 3rd person plural, Qal perfect of to be. Then we have all the people, the ones coming out.


Next we have the wâw conjunction and the phrase all of the people, followed by the definite article and the masculine plural adjective yillôwd (ד  ̣י) [pronounced yil-LOHD], which means born. So we now have: Because the ones having been circumcised, all the people, the ones coming out; and all the people the born ones...

This is followed by in the wilderness on the way in a coming out from Egypt, [they] had not been circumcised. The concept is simple—those who walked out of Egypt, had been circumcised; however, most of them were now deceased, their carcasses gathering vultures in the desert. Those who were 20 and below when the Israelites refused to enter the land, the ones who did not go to war because of their age, were left alive and they bore children for the next forty years; however, no one was circumcised for the next forty years (forty years being a round number designation). Some authors go into great detail about this—Keil and Delitzsch, to a great extent—giving this topic perhaps more space and thought than perhaps it required. Footnote Concerning circumcision—possibly no one had been circumcised after Israel’s failure to enter into the land the first time. Prior to that, it is possible that some children had been circumcised. For all intents and purposes, the number of children circumcised after Israel left Egypt, if any, was so small as to be statistically insignificant, so that saying that no one had been circumcised for 40 years was statistically correct. So, those children born over the past 40 years needed to be circumcised—they needed to be set apart from the rest of the world. A fuller explanation will be given after v. 7.

For forty years, sons of Israel walked in the wilderness until a finishing of all the nation [or, the entirety of the generation]—men of the war, those coming forth out from Egypt who did not listen in a voice of Yehowah, Who swore—Yehowah to them—to not let them see the land which Yehowah swore to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing of milk and honey.



For forty years, these sons of Israel wandered in the wilderness until there came an end of that entire generation; i.e., the men of war who came out of Egypt and who did not listen to the voice of Jehovah; the same Jehovah Who swore to them that they would not see the land which Jehovah had sworn to their fathers to give to us—this land flowing with milk and honey.

Let’s just see what a couple of others have done:


The Emphasized Bible      Because for forty years did the sons of Israel journey in the desert, until all the nation who were men of war who came forth out of Egypt, were consumed, because they hearkened not unto the voice of Yahweh,—unto whom Yahweh sware that he would not let them see the land which Yahweh sware unto their fathers, that he would give unto us, a land flowing with milk and honey.

NASB                                For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord, to whom the Lord had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the Lord had sworn to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Young's Lit. Translation     ...for forty years have the sons of Israel gone in the wilderness, till all the nation of the men of war who are coming out of Egypt, who hearkened not to the voice of Jehovah, to whom Jehovah hath sworn not to show them the land which Jehovah sware to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey, are consumed;...

The forty years alluded to in this verse is a round number. It means for approximately forty years. At the reinstituted Passover, it would be exactly forty years since they Israelites had celebrated the Passover in Egypt. They left Egypt the next day or so. The Israelites cooled their heels for 38 years in the desert. 38 years had elapsed between their failure in the wilderness of Paran and where they were at this verse. “So, Jehovah’s anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of Jehovah was destroyed.” (Num. 32:13). “Now the time that it took for us to come from Kadesh-barnea, until we crossed over the brook Zered, was 38 years; until all the generation of the men of war perished from within the camp, as Jehovah had sworn to them.” (Deut. 2:14).

Barnes says of this passage: The statements of these verses are of a general kind. The “forty-years” of v. 6 is a round number, and the statement in the latter part of v. 5 cannot be strictly accurate. For there must have been male children born in the wilderness during the first year after the Exodus, and these must have been circumcised before the celebration of the Passover at Sinai in the first month of the second years (cp. Num. ix.1–5, and Ex. xii.48). The statements of the verse are, however, sufficiently close to the facts for the purpose in hand; namely, to render a reason for the general circumcising which is here recorded. Footnote


The first verb wherein there seems to be a disagreement is the Qal perfect of hâlake (׃ך ַל ָה ) [pronounced haw-LAHKe], which means to go, to come, to depart, to walk. It is one of the more common verbs in the Old Testament, being found about 500 times in just about every stem, a great many of those times used by Joshua. Strong’s #1980 (and 3212) BDB #229.


The next verb where there is some disagreement is the Qal infinitive construct of tam (ם ַ ) [pronounced tahm], and it means to be complete, to be finished, to complete, to come to an end, to cease. Strong’s #8552 BDB #1070. The infinitive construct of a verb can is a verbal noun which often functions like the English infinitive or the English gerund. It can have prefixed prepositions, the definite article and pronominal suffixes. It can act as a subject, a predicate, as the object of a preposition. What ceases or comes to an end is all of the, and then we have the masculine singular noun gôwy (י ) [pronounced GOHee], which you recognize as goy. This word means people, nation. Strong’s #1471 BDB #156. At least two early printed editions have the word generation here instead. That rendering is even more reasonable to our way of understanding.

From here, Joshua goes off on some descriptive tangents, first describing the men in question as men of the war, the ones coming forth out of Egypt who did not listen at a voice of Yehowah; and then Jehovah is described with Who swore—Yehowah to their fathers—to not their seeing of the land; and then Joshua describes the land: which Yehowah swore to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing of milk and honey.

Verse 6 gives us a rough idea as to why no one had been circumcised for the past 38 years. They walked in the wilderness for forty years until God had completed executing every man who was over the age of 20 when the Israelites first stood at the brink of the land, ready to go in. They had not listened to the voice of the Lord their God and so God placed them under the sentence of death. “As I live,” spoke Jehovah, “...your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. You will certainly not come into the land which I swore to place you, except for Caleb ben Jephunneh and Joshua ben Nun. Your children, however, whom you claimed would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness, and your sons will be shepherd for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer your unfaithfulness until your corpses lie in the wilderness.” (Num. 14:28b, 29–33). “For forty years I loathed that generation, and said they are a people who err in their heart, and they do not know My ways. Therefore, I swore in My anger, they would certainly not enter into My rest.” (Psalm 95:10). Dedicating their lives to God’s service through their children would have been incongruous with the death sentence passed upon them. Therefore, gen X did not circumcise their children. You see, the decision regarding a child’s circumcision is not his own, but the decision of his parents. Gen X made bad decision after bad decision, so it would be foolish to think that they would make one good decision and circumcise their children. In other words, it is the fault of parents that most of these men had not been circumcised.

What about those who were between the ages of 40 and 60? That is, who were children at the crossing of the sea of reeds? They had all been circumcised and many of them had since gotten married and bore children while in the desert. They were not under the same curse (apart from those who went along with the apostasy of their parents). However, they had no guidance from their parents with regards to the rites associated with their relationship to the God of the Universe, so that they were lax in their spiritual responsibilities. Besides, they did not have access to the Scriptures as we do today. We take for granted that most of us have a Bible or several Bibles in the home. We don’t appreciate that that is a recent development in the history of man. For awhile there was possibly but one copy of the books of Moses, and that was certainly not in a library that anyone could check out. Therefore, without the spiritual traditions of the fathers, their sons had nothing to carry on. God, in His grace, still sustained the Israelites in the desert. He continued to provide His cloud, His pillar of fire, and the manna. God saw to it that the younger generation would be kept alive while the older generation died out.

Allow me to go out on a tangent here. There is no such thing as female circumcision in the Bible. That is barbaric, confused and cruel. This is an evil twist on God’s Word. The few who practice such a thing today reveal their own spiritual darkness, as well as their hatred for their own children. Now, I realize that I am speaking to a tiny, tiny minority here, so let me expand this. One of the rationales given for female circumcision is that the woman will be less likely to stray from her marriage. You can lock a child up in a closet and they will probably make fewer bad decisions than had you let them out of the house. However, everyone has free will and part of growing up is learning how to make choices. It is better to guide a child and instruct them carefully in the choices that they make rather than to not allow them to make any decisions in the first place. A child who is successful in college, or successful in their first few years out of the house is a child who has learned to make good decisions on their own prior to that. You cannot make each and every child’s decision up to the age of 18, put them on their own and expect them to make good decisions on their own. This is a learned process. The result will be some bad decisions. However, as every parent knows, an 18 year old can make decisions which will negatively impact them for the rest of their lives and these will be decisions which we will not be able to overrule. Therefore, by that age, they will have had to have been allowed to make some good and bad decisions on their own, as well as experience the results of these decisions.

And their sons He raised up instead of them. Joshua circumcised them for they were uncircumcised for they had not circumcised them in the journey.



And He raised up their sons instead of them; and Joshua circumcised them who were uncircumcised as their fathers had not circumcised them along their journey from Egypt.


Hopefully, we can get away with looking only at two words here. Instead of them is the prepositional phrase which begins with the preposition tachath (ת ַח ַ ) [pronounced TAH-khahth], which means instead of. Strong’s #8478 BDB #1065. This has with it a 3rd person masculine plural suffix.


In the way is a prepositional phrase which begins with the common bêyth preposition, the definite article and the object dereke (׃ך ר  ) [pronounced DEH-reke], which means way, distance, road, journey, manner, course. Strong's #1870 BDB #202.

You will notice that Joshua is a meat and potatoes man who tends to belabor certain incidents. What point he is making, however, is not one which is repetitive. Joshua tells us that these sons had not been circumcised because they, the ones who fell in the desert, the ones who did not listen to God—they did not circumcise them. And Moses told them: “Moreover, your little ones who you said would become a prey, and your sons, who this day have no knowledge of good or evil, will enter there, and I will give it to them, and they will possess it.” (Deut. 1:39).

I had always assumed that the children of Israel, due to their disobedience, did not celebrate the Passover or circumcise their children out of their disobedience to God. That is, they were supposed to, but they just did not. Barnes offers a different explanation: The reason why circumcision was omitted in the wilderness, was that the sentence of Num. xiv.28 seq. placed the whole nation for a time under a ban; and that the discontinuance of circumcision, and the consequent omission of the Passover, was a consequence and a token of that ban. The rejection was not, indeed, total, for the children of the murmurers were to enter into the rest; nor final, for when the children had borne the punishment of the fathers’ sins for the appointed years, and the murmurers were dead, then it was to be removed, as now by Joshua. But for the time the Covenant was abrogated, though God’s purpose to restore it was from the first made known, and confirmed by the visible marks of His favour which He still vouchsafed to bestow during the wandering. Footnote

After God brought Moses to Egypt, the Israelites celebrated the Passover in Egypt, as a part of the protection afforded them by God. That is, those with the blood of the lamb slapped on their door frame would be passed over by the Angel of Death. Then the Passover was celebrated one more time, prior to the entrance into the land in the second year (Num. 9:1–14). For both of those Passover’s, God came to Moses, and spoke to Moses about observing the Passover. By all accounts, it was assumed that Israel would enter the land and take it almost immediately after that Passover. What happened, of course, was that the Israelites failed to enter the land, to take the land which God had given to them.

With this understanding, Israel no longer enjoyed this special relationship with God. They had disobeyed God when it came to going into the land, and God had rejected the adults of that generation, promising to waste them in the desert. Such a change in their relationship would preclude celebrating the Passover, which looked back to their deliverance from Egypt and the passing over of the families with the blood on their door frame. That is, it does not make any sense to celebrate deliverance from death when you have been condemned to death. Therefore, neither God nor Moses initiated an observance of Passover for the next 38 years. Similarly, circumcision was a sign of dedication of the parents—not of the children, as they have no say in the matter. However, given the circumstances of the relationship between God and gen X (“I loathed that generation!”), circumcision would have been inappropriate. This does not mean that some did not continue to circumcise their children, but the entire meaning was lost; and the vast majority did not. It was ritual without reality. God had condemned these people to death—He was going to execute them; it would make little sense to celebrate His deliverance and one’s dedication and subservience to Him.

Barnes, again: The years of rejection were indeed exhausted before the death of Moses (cp. Deut. ii. 14); but God would not call upon the people to renew their engagement to Him until He had first given them glorious proof of His will and power to fulfill His engagements to them. So He gave them the first fruits of the promised inheritance—the kingdoms of Sihon and Og; and through a miracle planted their feet on the very soil that still remained to be conquered; and then recalled them to His Covenant. It is to be noted, too, that they were just about to go to war against foes mightier than themselves. Their only hope of success lay in the help of God. At such a crisis the need of full communion with God would be felt indeed; and the blessing and strength of it accordingly granted. The revival of the two great ordinances—circumcision and the Passover—after so long an intermission could not but awaken the zeal and invigorate the faith and fortitude of the people. Both as seals and as means of grace and God’s good purpose towards them then, the general circumcision of the people, followed up by the solemn celebration of the Passover—the one formally restoring the covenant and reconciling them nationally to God, the other ratifying and confirming all that circumcision intended—were at this juncture most opportune. Footnote

And so it came to pass when they finished all the nation to circumcise; then they remained beneath them in the camp until a healing of them.



And so once they finished circumcising all the nation, those who were circumcised recuperated in the camp until the were healed.


Again, we don’t have to look at a lot of vocabulary or grammar in this verse. We have the 3rd masculine plural, Qal imperfect of yâshabv (ב ַש ָי ) [pronounced yaw-SHAHBV], which means to remain, sit, dwell. Strong's #3427 BDB #442. We have a repetition of the prepositional phrase instead of them. It is obvious that it is not used the exact same way here. Again, this is the word tachath (ת ַח ַ ) [pronounced TAH-khahth], which, more properly means the lower part, that which is below (when used as a substantive. As a preposition, it can mean below, under, beneath. As an adverb, it can mean below, beneath. So, what we have here, literally, is under them, beneath them, below them. Strong’s #8478 BDB #1065. The ones who were circumcised remain below, beneath those who did the circumcising. This is obviously an idiom for being under the weather (another idiom).


What they waited for was the Qal infinitive construct of châyâh (ה ָי ָח ) [pronounced khaw-YAW], which means, in general, ➊ to live, to have life. It also means: ➋ to continue safe and sound (Joshua 6:17 Num. 14:38); ➌ to live again, to revive (I King 17:22 Ezek. 37:5); ➍ to recover health, to be healed (Gen. 20:7 Joshua 5:8); ➎ to be refreshed when one is weary or sad (Gen. 45:27 Judges 15:19). Strong's #2421 & 2425 BDB #310. With the ׳ad preposition and the 3rd person masculine plural suffix, it means until a healing of them.

Barnes is of the opinion that the circumcision of the men took place on the 11th of Nissan (the first month) and that this was followed by the celebration of the Passover on the 14th. Such an operation would disable a person for a few days with respect to going to war, but not necessarily with respect to observing the Passover.

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The Naming of Gilgal/The Passover and Manna Ceases in the Land

And so, Yehowah said unto Joshua, “The day I’ve rolled away a reproach of Egypt from you [all];” and so they called a name the place the that Gilgal until the day the this.



Also, Jehovah had said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Therefore, they named that place Gilgal, which remains its name until this day.


Let’s first deal with the name Gilgal. The verb, rolled away is the Hebrew word gâlal (ל ַל ָ ) [pronounced gaw-LAHL]. Strong’s #1556 BDB #164. The name of the city is gilegâl (ל ָ  ׃ל  ̣ ) [pronounced gilg-GAWL]. Strong’s #1537 BDB #166. This is an interesting play on words, as the vocabulary form of the verb is much closer to the name of the city than its usage in this verse, which is galôthîy (י ̣ת ַ) [pronounced gah-loh-THEE]. That is, what you would expect is that the name of the city and the use of the verb in this verse would be more similar than the name of the city and the verb in vocabulary form.


What is rolled away is the feminine singular construct of cherepâh (ה ָ  ׃ר ח) [pronounced kher-PAW], which means a reproach, a taunt, scorn, shame, disgrace. Strong’s #2781 BDB #357. These Israelites, because their parents had not circumcised them, were under great shame and disgrace. It is called the shame of Egypt because God led their fathers with a mighty hand out of Egypt with marvelous signs and wonders; and when it came for them to go into battle against those who occupied to land—which land God had given them—they fell apart. This was a shame and a disgrace to be a part of this incredible deliverance, and then to fall apart. As we will see throughout the rest of Joshua, there will be very few Jewish casualties in their war against the peoples of the land of Canaan. The shame of Egypt also refers to what an incredible shame it would have been for the Israelites to have perished in the desert. Recall when God was going to destroy this people, and Moses argued: “Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘With evil, He brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your burning anger and change Your mind about harming Your people.” (Ex. 32:12). God, again, at the failure of the Jews outside the border of Canaan, told Moses that He would kill the entire population of Jews and begin afresh with Moses, and Moses again argued: “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought this people up out from their midst.” (Num. 14:13b). “Otherwise the land from which You brought us could say, ‘Because Jehovah was not able to bring them into the land which He had promised them and because He hated them He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.” (Deut. 9:28; see Deut. 32:27 as well). The original plan was to take the Israelites out of Egypt with great signs and wonders. Then, a year or so later, they were to enter into the land and take the land. The Israelites were under great shame that it was now forty years later, God had killed off all those who were adults who left Egypt, and they had still not entered into the land which God gave them. Those in Egypt who recalled what had occurred forty years previous were also cognizant that the Israelites had not entered into the land which God gave them, and this was a disgrace to the Israelites, because it reflected badly upon Jesus Christ, their God. Finally, the physical sign which set the Israelites apart from the Egyptians was circumcision—every time a Jew urinated, he saw that he was different from all those in the Gentile world. Finally, this expression probably refers to taunts actually uttered by the Egyptians against Israel, because of their long wanderings in the desert and failures to acquire a settlement in Canaan..These reproaches were now to end; for they had actually entered Canaan, and the restoration of the Covenant was a pledge from God to accomplish what was begun for them. Footnote

One of the things which we should understand from this passage is that the degeneracy of the parents certainly affects their children. We have two generations which are as different as night and day; however, the Israelites all spent 40 years outside the land because of the degeneracy of the older generation. The bad decisions which we make affect those around us in much greater ways than we realize. The sons born in the desert should have been born in the land, but were not due to the failure of their parents. They should have been enjoying the fruits of the land, but they did not, as their parents did not go in.

We have already mentioned Gilgal, and for those who are confused that Gilgal has been mentioned twice in Joshua 4, and is named here in Joshua 5:9, need only keep in mind that Joshua does not write in a completely chronological order. I.e., God does not, just for a few moments, drop in to name the city. It is highly unlikely that God suddenly came down from heaven after the circumcision, and said, “Call the place Gilgal; okay, gotta run, I’m pretty darned busy today.” Much of God’s speaking to Joshua was done only once or twice, and Joshua recalls what was said by God and he inserts it topically. The circumcising of the sons of Israel set these men apart to God and now God can use them and God can bless them.

One of the areas of great confusion to Christianity at any given time is the difference between salvation and one’s life in Christ. When an evangelist tries to get you to give your life to Jesus, to dedicate your existence to Him, that evangelist is getting the cart before the horse. There are people who have emotionally given their lives to Jesus who are not saved. An evangelist gave this great message and they started crying because they were actually convicted of the Holy Spirit, and then they ran up to the altar and dedicated their lives to the Lord; they said, whatever I have, I give to you, Lord. If that is all you have done, you are not saved! You don’t get saved by dedicating your life to Jesus. You are saved by relying on Jesus, by trusting in Him, by placing your faith upon Him. When it comes to my salvation, my trust is 100% upon His work on my behalf on the cross. Maybe I should be more accurate—it is based upon His suffering on my behalf on the cross. I cannot even imagine the tremendous suffering which He endured on my behalf, taking the punishment which I personally deserved for the sins I have committed and will commit. You will notice in my salvation, there was nothing about giving my life to Jesus or dedicating my life to Him. That is a separate issue entirely. If you coterminously believe and dedicate your life to Him, you are not saved, as you are adding works to your faith. Salvation is free, it is unconditional and there are no works involved whatsoever. Now, after salvation, which does include eternal life and eternity in the presence of God, we do have a life. At that point in time, if we want to dedicate all that we have to Him, then that is fine (although my feeling here is most people do this at some great point of emotion while under the control of the old sin nature). We have to have a life which is fully His, but that is done not by a one-shot dedication, but by being in fellowship and growing through the knowledge of His Word. While in fellowship and while growing, God can use and bless us. These Israelites were already saved; they were already on the other side of the Jordan. After they crossed the Jordan, then God had them circumcised, and after they were circumcised, then God used them. There is an order to God’s plan.

And so the sons of Israel camp in Gilgal; then they prepared the Passover in the fourteenth day of the month in the evening in [the] plains of Jericho.



So, the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal. They also kept the Passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of this month on the plains of Jericho.


The second verb is ׳âsâh (ה ָ ָע ) [pronounced ģaw-SAWH] which means to do, to make, to construct, to fashion, to form, to prepare. Strong's #6213 BDB #793. Because most of the forty years of the time spent in the desert is not recorded in Scripture, we do not know whether the people of Israel kept the Passover or not. On the one hand, they had a strong spiritual leader in the man of Moses; on the other hand, they were a very negative group of people. They rebelled against going into the land and taking it. Once God pronounced sentence against them, they no longer participated in the rituals marking their relationship to God.

Two early printed editions and the Aramaic text add after Passover, in the first [month]. That this took place in the first month is confirmed by Joshua 4:19. Whether in the first month is added or not, the sense of the verse remains unchanged, as that is the time of the Passover. The two previous Passover’s were celebrated in Ex. 12, right before leaving Egypt and in Num. 9, after a year in the wilderness, after being spoken to by God.

The NIV Study Bible explains: The ceremonies took place in the month of Abib, the first month of the year (Ex. 12:2). At twilight on the 14th day of the month the Passover lab was to be slaughtered, then roasted and eaten that same night (Ex. 12:5–8). Israel had not celebrated Passover since Sinai, one year after her release from Egypt (Nu. 9:1–5). Before the next season she had rebelled at the border of Canaan, and the generation of the exodus had been condemned to die in the desert (Nu. 14:21–23, 29–35). For that generation the celebration of Passover (deliverance from judgment) could have had little meaning. Footnote

And so they ate from produce of the land on a day after the Passover—unleavened cakes and parched grain in a substance of the day the this.



So they ate from the produce of the land on the day after Passover; they ate unleavened cakes and parched grain on that particular day.

Although God had given the Israelites much more than the land on the west side of the Jericho, when they crossed that Jericho, that indicated that they were ready to take what God had provided for them. Therefore, they were now officially in the land. Being in the land was just as much a theological concept as it was a geographical one. That is, their crossing the border indicated that they were now in God’s will. Allow me to be more accurate: over the past year, Israel has been growing spiritually and has been in God’s will. Prior to coming over to this side of the river Jordan, they had hours and hours of Bible teaching by Moses, preparing them for this time. They were in God’s will during that period of time. Being on the other side of the Jordan would have taken them out of God’s will. However, what they had done was to reach a spiritual peak, a growth spurt, a level of spiritual maturity which was confirmed by being on the other side of the Jordan and by their celebrating Passover and by being circumcised. There is a period of time when we are growing and our spiritual production is meager, if not nonexistent. A baby Picasso or Einstein accomplishes very little in the first few years of his life; just as a baby Moses or a spiritual baby Paul also accomplished very little. However, once a certain level of maturity is reached, then we shift into second gear—that is, we find ourselves in a place where God begins to use us. The Israelites, by their actions, reveal that they are ready to be used of God to take the land. Now, once in the land, they are given a new category of blessings. Outside the land, their sustenance was attended to by the provision of manna, which appears to be an all-purpose bread from heaven, provided supernaturally. However, in the land, they are given a new and much greater variety of foods grown therein. That is, they have reached another level of blessing from God.


The last few words are interesting. We find them translated on that very day (Owen), in this self-same day (Young), on this very day (literally, from NASB), and on this selfsame day (Rotherham). We begin that phrase with the bêyth preposition (in, during, at, by) and the singular feminine construct of ׳etsem (ם צ ע ) [pronounced eh-TSEM], which is translated several ways, officially as bone, substance, self; however, with the word day, it means self-same or in that very same day. The relationship here is the substance, or the greater portion of the day is what is in view. Strong’s #6106 BDB #782. Unleavened bread is bread which is made without yeast, which is symbolic of the pervasiveness of evil. If you do not eat a bread made without preservatives and made with yeast in time, it will grow mold. Unleavened bread, on the other hand, will last a lot longer period of time before growing mold upon it. The mold is a sign of corruption, which is why leaven is seen as evil. The leaven certainly causes the bread to taste good at first and seems to measurably improve its quality; however, it will, in a very short time, cause the bread to quite obviously go bad. During the week of the Passover celebrations, they were to only eat unleavened bread (Ex. 12:15 Lev. 23:6). The unleavened cakes which they ate were those which were made from the grain of the new land. It appears from this passage that the unleavened bread which they ate with the Paschal lamb was not from the new land.

We do need to spend a little time with the precise dating here, lest we be accused of glossing over some particular points. The term Passover is sometimes used just for the day (or evening) that the Passover lamb is offered; sometimes it refers to the entire eight day celebration (the Feast of the Unleavened Bread), and it might refer to the Passover meal and the next day when the first fruits were presented, as Barnes suggests. ”In the first month on the 14th day of the month at twilight is Jehovah’s Passover. Then on the 15th day of the same month there is the Feast of Unleavened Bread to Jehovah; for seven days you will eat unleavened bread. On the first day you will have a holy convocation; you will not do any laborious work, but for seven days, you will present an offering by fire to Jehovah...speak to the sons of Israel, and say to them, ‘When you enter th eland which I am going to give to yo and reap its harvest, then you will bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. Then he will wave the sheaf before Jehovah for you to be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest will wave it...Until this same day, until you have brought in the offering of your God, you will eat neither bread nor roasted grain nor new growth. This is to be a perpetual statute throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.” (Lev. 23:5–7, 10–11, 14). The Passover meal occurred on the 14th of Nissan, the offering of the first fruits on the 15th, and the eating of the first fruits either later on the 15th or early on the 16th. Barnes goes with the 16th; however, I think that it makes perfect sense to offer the first fruits and then to partake of the first fruits. There does not seem to be a reason that they are handled on separate days.

My thinking is that they were so glad to be in a place where there was grain that they spend the better portion of the day harvesting the grain and making bread cakes from it. There was no harm in enjoying God’s blessings. Also, you will note that they were given some of the blessings of the land prior to taking the land. God does give us blessing on a day-by-day basis. That is, we don’t have to become spiritual giants, accomplishing all that God has for us, and then He blesses us. God began blessing the Israelites by giving them victory on the other side of the Jordan, and then giving them the fruits of the land at their crossing. He gives us a little at a time and, at some point in time, we suddenly look around us and realize how much God has blessed us.

And so the manna ceased from [the] next day in their eating from produce of the land and there was no more for sons of Israel manna. And so they were eating from fruit of a land of Canaan in the year the that.



And there was no manna given the next day after they ate from the produce of the land. From then on, they ate from the fruit of the land of Canaan beginning in that year.


The first verb is the Qal imperfect of shâbvath (ת ַב ָש ) [pronounced shawb-VATH], which word you certain recognize. This is the word for cease, decease, rest [because something has been completed]. It is certainly related to the word Sabbath. Strong's #7673 BDB #991. The manna ceased from that day forward because its purpose had been completed. It was completed from, and we have the feminine substantive of mâchŏrâth  ָר ֳח ָמ) [pronounced mokh-or-AWTH or moh-khŏ-RAWTH], which means the morrow (the day following a past day), the next day, the following day. An oddball thing here is that we have a short Qâmats, which looks exactly like a Qâmats to me. This letter is mentioned in Strong’s and the “o” pronunciation is found in both Strong’s and in The New Englishman’s Concordance; however, this must be a rarity, as I don’t find it in Mansoors’s Hebrew nor is there a different, short Qâmats listed on the WordPerfect keyboard. Strong’s #4283 BDB #564.

It appears as though the Passover was celebrated on the 14th; there was breakfast on the 15th of manna; there was the offering of the first fruits on the 15th and then, very likely, an eating of the first fruits on the 15th, later in the day. On the 16th, God no longer gave Israel manna, a great historical occurrence. And the sons of Israel ate the manna forty years, until they came to an inhabited land; they ate the manna until they came to the border of the land of Canaan (Ex. 16:35). Footnote NIV Study Bible: This transition from eating manna to eating the “produce of the land” (v. 11) ended 40 years of dependence on God’s special provision. Manna was God’s gift for the desert journey; from now on he provided Israel with food from the promised land. Footnote


We also have two different words which indicate produce. The first is a very rare noun, found only in this portion of Joshua, the masculine substantive ׳âbûr (רב ָע) [pronounced aw-BURR or gaw-BURR], and it means produce, yield, and possibly corn. Keil and Delitzsch indicate that this is the new corn; i.e., corn from that year, not from the previous. Strong’s #5669 BDB #721. The second word is the much more common tebûâh (ה ָאב  ׃) [pronounced teboo-AW], which means product, revenue, yield. Strong’s #8393 BDB #100.

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Joshua Is Confronted by the Commander-in-Chief of the Army of God

Keil and Delitzsch: Having been confirmed and fortified in the covenant with the Lord through the observance of the Passover, Joshua determined to proceed at once to the work intrusted to him, viz., the conquest of the land of Canaan. But the town of Jericho, which was surrounded with strong walls, as the border defence of Canaan against any foe approaching from the east, had its gates shut before the children of Israel. And whilst Joshua was ddep in mediation concerning its capture, the angel of the Lord appeared to him to announce that the Lord had given Jericho and its king into his power, and would miraculously throw down its walls. Footnote

And so it came to pass for a being of Joshua in Jericho so he lifted up his eyes then looked and, behold, a Man standing before him and His sword being drawn in His hand. So Joshua went to Him and so he said to Him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?”



And so it came to pass while Joshua was in Jericho that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and observed a Man standing before him, His sword being drawn in His hand. Then Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are you on our side or the side of our adversaries?”


Joshua is not known for his interesting sentence structure. I might remark on something interestingly put together which Moses wrote, or upon something that Job said, but Joshua’s vocabulary and sentence structure is pretty rigid and limited. However, here we have hâyâh (ה ָי ָה ) [pronounced haw-YAW] (which simply means to be) used first as a 3rd person masculine plural, Qal imperfect; and then as a Qal infinitive construct, following the lâmed prefixed preposition. This is followed by the phrase Joshua in Jericho. This verse is rendered variously as When Joshua was in Jericho (Owen), And it cometh to pass in Joshua’s being by Jericho (Young), And it came to pass while Joshua was at Jericho (Rotherham), Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho (NASB). The bêyth preposition indicates proximity. Young gives us perhaps the most literal of the translations and the others indicate that a time factor was involved; i.e., this all took place while Joshua was near Jericho. Strong's #1961 BDB #224.


After the Qal active participle of the verb to stand, we have lâmed and the preposition neged (ד ג נ ) [pronounced NEH-ged], which means in front of, in the sight of, opposite to. With the lâmed prefixed preposition, neged means in front of, before, in the sight of, in the presence of. This compound preposition is combined with the 3rd person masculine singular suffix. This is rendered standing over against him (Young, Rotherham), standing opposite him (NASB), standing in front of him (NIV), and stood opposite him (NKJV).


Young translates the Qal passive participle of to draw as an adjective which describes sword: and His drawn sword in His hand. This gives us: And so it came to pass for a being of Joshua in Jericho so he lifted up his eyes then looked and, behold, a Man standing before him and His sword being drawn in His hand. There appears to be some distance between them, but Joshua becomes transfixed by this Person, apparently focusing on no one else at the time (we don’t know if Joshua was alone, if this was a vision, or what). We then have the verb hâlake (׃ך ַל ָה ) [pronounced haw-LAHKe], which means to go, to come, to depart, to walk. Strong’s #1980 (and #3212) BDB #229. The verse which comes to mind is Jesus speaking to a crowd of Jews, saying: No man can come to Me unless the Father Who sent Me draws him; and he I will raise up on the last day.” (John 6:44).

Joshua’s last sentence is rendered variously as: “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” (NASB, Owen); ‘Art thou for us or for our adversaries?’ (Young); and “For us art thou, or for our adversaries?” (Rotherham). There is no verb, but the interrogative particle pretty much functions as a verb as well as an interrogative. This is an interesting thing that Joshua says. At first, I thought, as most did, is that Joshua was not certain whether this was an enemy or whether this person was an Israelite. This is not what Joshua is saying. All of those who belong to Jericho are locked up in Jericho—the town is sealed with no one leaving and no one going in. Joshua was aware of that. He was not ignorant of his enemies forces or habits. He assumed that what he had here was an Israelite who had drawn a sword apart from his orders. Joshua assumed that he was commander-in-chief of the Israelite armies and here he finds what he assumes is an Israelite drawing a sword. Now, if the person is an Israelite, he should not be drawing the sword because Joshua has not given the order to bear arms. That would mean that the person would have to be an enemy, but the town of Jericho is sealed up. So Joshua asks the man, not actually out of a desire to know if he was or wasn’t, but to put this man in his place as being under his command. McGee: Joshua may have thought, “There is someone down there who doesn’t seem to know that I am the general here. I’d better go down there and put that fellow in his place!” So he walked down there, and, according to our translation, say, “Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” Now in good old Americana, he said, “What’s the big idea? Who gave you an order to draw a sword?” Then that One,...the pre-incarnate Christ, turned to him, and when He turned, He said, “Nay, but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come!” Footnote

This is called a theophany; that is, an appearance of God the Son to man prior to the incarnation. This appearance can take many forms—a burning bush, a man, an angel, a cloud. In any case, this is God appearing before man, generally to an individual, and speaks directly to that man. We have already had one situation where Jesus Christ appeared with a sword—He appeared before the ass upon which Balaam rode in Num. 22:22–35, making Himself first manifest to the ass and then to Balaam. When David sinned against God by numbering the people, God appeared before him and his men in I Chron. 21:16–19.

We do not have theophanies in the New Testament. God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in different times and in diverse ways, in these last days has spoken to us by means of a Son, Whom He appointed heir of all things, through Whom also He made the ages. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He then sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:1–3). After the incarnation, the death and the burial of our Lord, we no longer have theophanies but Christophanies—that is, our Lord appears to man as Jesus Christ, as He did to St. Stephen at his martyrdom or to Paul on the road to Damascus.

The first thing that comes to my mind is when did this actually occur? Did Jesus Christ first appear to Joshua and then give him his marching orders or did Joshua see our Lord after the completion of Passover and the circumcision of Israel. This verse began with the wâw consecutive, which is usually an indicator of consecutive action, but, as we have seen, this is Joshua’s style of writing and that very little of this book is in exact chronological order. Chunks of it are—that is, the crossing of the Jordan, the celebrating of the Passover, the attack upon Jericho—these things come in the order in which they are placed in this book. However, when we look closer at the crossing of the Jordan, the individual events are not in chronological order. Because this reads at Jericho (or, in Jericho), it would be most reasonable to suppose this occurred after the crossing of the Jordan and prior to the attack upon Jericho.

The NIV Study Bible pictures Joshua as going to scout out Jericho himself. This may have been the case, as Joshua 6:1 implies that Joshua scoped out the Jericho himself. However, their footnote in this verse reveals a basic misunderstanding between a theophany and a Christophany (the footnote distinguishes between the two for the Old Testament); furthermore, they imply that this could be just an angel doing God’s bidding. As we will see, that is clearly not the case. An angel does not make the ground around him holy, nor do we bow down before angels.

And so He said, “No, for I [am] a commander of an army of Yehowah. Now I have come.” So Joshua fell to his faces [upon the] earth then He prostrated himself. Then he said to Him, “What [is] my Lord saying unto His servant?”



And then He said, “No, for I am the Commander-in-Chief of the army of Jehovah. I have now arrived.” So Joshua fell on his face upon the ground and worshipped Him. Finally, he said to Him, “What would you say, my Lord, to your servant?”

Let me give you a few other renderings:


The Amplified Bible           And He said, No [neither]; but as Prince of the Lord’s host am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and worshiped, and said to Him, What says my Lord to His servant?

The Emphasized Bible      And he said—Nay, but I as prince of the host of Yahweh have now come. So Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped Footnote , and said unto him, What is my lord speaking unto his servant?

NASB                                And he said, “No, father I indeed come now as captain of the host of the Lord.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, “What has my lord to say to his servant?”

Young's Lit. Translation     And He saith, ‘No, for I am Prince of Jehovah’s host; now I have come;’ and Joshua falleth on his face to the earth, and doth obeisance, and saith to Him, ‘What is my Lord speaking unto His servant?’

We clearly have a theophany here, which is an appearance of God to someone in the Old Testament. Joshua recognized this and fell down and worshipped Him, just as Abram, at age 99, worshipped Jehovah many centuries previous (Gen. 17:1–1); just as Moses and Aaron did roughly a year previous to this (Num. 20:6).

There are some groups and some individuals who don’t believe that Christ is God, so what we need is the big picture here. In the Old Testament, we have many theophanies—God appears to man in the form of an angel, another man, as a burning bush. However, after the incarnation, throughout the New Testament, we no longer have any theophanies in the Bible. God no longer appears as an angel, as another man, or as anything else. Why? Because God appears as Jesus Christ. After the death and resurrection of our Lord, we still have no theophanies. When Paul is stopped and blinded, it is not by a theophany but by Jesus Christ. John at Patmos does not have a theophany as a vision, but he sees Jesus Christ. St. Stephen, in a vision prior to his martyrdom, sees Jesus Christ and the glory of God. We don’t have any theophanies after the incarnation because that was the act of God taking on a human form. In the Old Testament, every time we see a theophany, that is Jesus Christ, coming to earth in a form that we can see. Jesus Christ is the revealed member of the Godhead. Jesus Christ is God come in the flesh. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God; and the Word was god. He was in the beginning with God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we behold His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1–2, 14). Christ Jesus...although He existed in the form of god, did not regard equality with God a thing of profit to be held, but He emptied Himself [of the proper function of deity], taking the form of a bond-servant, being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by become obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philip. 2:5b–7). For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form (Col. 2:9). He came to us as a man, as one of us, faced with the same temptations and we have. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (Heb. 2:18). For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).


We all have our different views on war, some of which came about as a result of Viet Nam. We have in this verse the word tsâbâ (א ָב ָצ ) [pronounced tsawb-VAW], and it can mean army, war, or warfare. It is usually translated host in the KJV, which is the pansy translation, as we are speaking of war and warfare. Strong's #6635 BDB #838. Many assume that the host or army which is referred to is the army of Israel. Jesus Christ is, no doubt, the Commander-in-Chief of the army of Israel. However, here tsâbâ is in the singular, and, according to Keil and Delitzsch, Footnote the army of Israel is in the plural when so-called, as in Ex. 12:41. Here, the army referred to is the army of heaven—all of the elect angels. This explains the answer of Jesus Christ—”No!” Joshua asked Him if He were a member of Joshua’s army or a member of the army of his enemy, and our Lord answers him, “No.” Footnote He is not a member of either army—He is Commander-in-Chief of the greatest army of all—of the whole host of heaven.


Let’s look at the Hebrew: His title begins with the word sar (ר ַ) [pronounced sar], and it means chieftain, chief, ruler, official, captain, prince, commander. This is a term primarily used of soldiers. Strong’s #8269 BDB #978. Our Lord here is said to be Commander-in-Chief of the army of Jehovah. Footnote Now, perhaps for a moment, you are confused. You thought Jesus was Jehovah and now He says that He commands the armies of Jehovah. It is simple—Yehowah is the proper noun used in the Old Testament for any individual member of the Godhead. Elohim stands for the Godhead and a triune unity. Jehovah here, at the end of the verse, refers to God the Father. Now, back to the topic at hand: Jesus Christ is the Lord of the armies; He is the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of God. He rules over the troops of Israel. So now, what does a loving, merciful Jesus do? Does He immediately disband the army? Does He institute sensitivity training toward the Canaanites and their different culture? Does He promote understanding and kindness toward the other nations in the land, as they have worth? No! Hell, no, in fact. Jesus Christ, as Commander-in-Chief of the armies, will send the Israelites into battle to destroy the Canaanites. No one dies in battle apart from having first been offered the gospel and everyone who has believed in Jesus Christ is allowed to remain on this earth to complete the responsibilities which God has designed for them (unless they are negative toward God, in which case they can be taken out under the principle of the sin unto death). In other words, it does not matter if you are in the midst of a city riot, in the middle of a war, in the middle of a natural disaster—God has control. We aren’t going to accidentally die before our time. No unbeliever who might, given another ten minutes or another ten years, believe in Jesus Christ, will be taken out of this world prematurely. We live in an incredibly violent world and among some sin natures whose predilections would cause you to faint and there are times when great violence must occur to cleanse the human race of the degenerate. It is cleansing and the best illustration which I have seen given is the concept of cancer. A cancer is a renegade group of cells which are multiplying out of control and are destructive to the body. The only cure which we know for cancer right now is to completely cut out the cancerous tissue from the body. The same must be true for groups of people who have reached a cancerous state. This is what had happened to the Canaanite people of the Land of Promise. Their degeneracy was unparalleled so that their population was only 0.01% believers. Footnote They were producing thousands of people in population and corrupting each and every one of them, turning them against the Creator Who bought them. They were a destructive and evil people and had reached the point where the only reasonable way to deal with them was to destroy them. So God, as Commander-in-Chief of all the armies of Israel, would direct Joshua to go into the land and to destroy all the human population of that land. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not personally callous about war. To me, there are few things more terrifying and evil than war. However, that is primarily my upbringing and my culture; the Bible teaches that there is a certain nobility in war; that there is great dignity in the profession of a citizen-soldier; and that war is both inevitable and often the route of the righteous. There are hundreds of thousands of men who have made sacrifices greater than we can ever imagine in order to preserve the freedom of this nation wherein we are allowed to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. We should never lose sight of the fact that these men are heroes and to be given the greatest human respect. It is because of them that we are able to worship Jesus Christ and to speak in His name.


Let’s look at the rest of this verse. Near the end, we have the 3rd person masculine singular, Hithpael imperfect of shâchah (ה ַח ָש ) [pronounced shaw-KHAH], which means to bow down, to prostrate oneself, to do obeisance to. Strong’s #7812 BDB #1005. The Hithpael is the reflexive stem. One of the reasons that we know this is Jesus Christ, apart from the title Commander of the armies of Jehovah, is the fact that He does not rebuke Joshua for worshipping Him. And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said to me, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brothers who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev. 19:10; see also Acts 10:25–26 Col. 2:18 and Rev. 22:9). An interesting point: in the Old Testament, we have no command not to worship angels, as Jesus Christ was manifested to the Israelites as the Angel of Jehovah. Bringing up such an issue would have been confusing at that time. However, we are able to grasp the difference between worshipping some angel and worshipping Jesus Christ since His incarnation.

There can be made an argument that Joshua did not fully recognize the Angel before him as Jehovah God. The Hebrew word for falling down before Him can be used of Oriental respect given to a superior or to a king (II Sam. 9:6 14:33); and, furthermore, the word Lord is not the word that we render Jehovah but simply denotes superior rank. What I am saying here is that hidden deep in the Hebrew is the fact that Joshua did not immediately know Who he was talking to. He at first thought He was just a man; then, when he fell down before Him, he assumed his rank might by that of a commanding angel. However, the subsequent verses indicate that Joshua finally caught on that he was speaking to Jehovah, the Lord of the armies of God. Since this was written at least seven years after the fact, Joshua’s very specific use of vocabulary tells us just what Joshua’s thinking was at the time.


Joshua’s question to our Lord began with an interrogative, with which is often supplied a verb—some form of to be. Then we have the masculine singular substantive âdôwn (ןד ָא ) [pronounced aw-DOHN], the word we often know as adonai; and this word means lord, master, owner, superior, sovereign. It is a word used of both man and God; and here of God. Strong’s #113 BDB #10.


This is followed by the Piel participle of the very common verb bvar (ר ַב ָד) [pronounced dawb-VAHR], which means to speak, to declare, to proclaim, to announce. In the Piel, it is stronger and it can carry with it the idea of providing guidance and direction, if not a set of mandates (and this would be determined by context). Strong’s #1696 BDB #180.

The appearance of the Angel of Jehovah to Joshua confirms that the invasion of the Land of Canaan is a part of God’s plan and that the armies of heaven are in full force behind him. Joshua will take orders from the Angel of Jehovah as a superior officer. Furthermore, this alleviates the burden of the most important decisions from Joshua. Joshua will be told to destroy all the people of the city, save Rahab and her family, a decision that some of us would find disconcerting.

And said [the] Commander of an army of Yehowah unto Joshua, “Put off your shoes from upon your feet for the place where you are standing upon it, holy it [is].” So Joshua did so.



And the Commander-in Chief of the armies of Jehovah said to Joshua, “Remove your shoes from your feet, for where you standing is holy.” So Joshua obeyed Him. Footnote

It is clear in this verse that the Commander-in-Chief of the armies of God is Jehovah. A great man or a high ranking angel does not cause the ground around him to be holy. Only God can cause the area in His manifest periphery to become holy. It is at this point that Joshua recognizes that he is speaking to God.


Notice that God’s first direction to Joshua is not one of friendliness or of informality. God and man are completely different. God cannot have fellowship with man, as man has an old sin nature, he has personally committed sin and he carries with him Adam’s imputed sin. The gap between man and God is much greater than we can fathom. One of the symbols of being upon hallowed ground—i.e., being in the presence of God here on earth—is the removal of one’s shoes. The verb is the Qal imperative of nâshal (ל ַש ָג ) [pronounced naw-SHAHL], which means to draw away, to put off, to slip off, to fall off, clear away. Strong's #5394 BDB #675. We find almost the same thing when Moses saw the burning bush. When Jehovah saw that Moses had turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Ex. 3:4–5). The sandals acted as a barrier between the man’s feet and the defilement of the ground beneath him. It is the sandals which kept the man’s feet from the dust and from the defilement of the earth. However, in the presence of God, the earth in that area is no longer defiled, but holy, so there was no reason to wear sandals. Shoes, in the ancient world, and to some extent, today, were removed prior to entering into a home (or, into a sanctuary) so that the defilement from without would not be tracked into the home.

Zodhiates shows himself to be more on the ball than the NIV Study Bible at this juncture. He writes: the man who is called “the captain of the host of the Lord” is actually the Angel of the Lord, a preincarnate appearance of Jesus Christ (Ex. 3:2–6; Judg. 6:12, 16). This is seen in the use of the phrase in verse fifteen: “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy.” No man or angel could pronounce a place “holy.” The angel of the Lord also appeared to Moses in the burning bush and used this phrase commanding Moses to take his shoes off (Ex. 3:5). Footnote

Ending the chapter right here was a fairly arbitrary thing to do. The action will continue into the next chapter. Keil and Delitzsch fully agree: If there is any place in which the division of chapters is unsuitable, it is so here; for the appearance of the prince of the angels does not terminate with ch. 5:15, bu twhat he had come to communicate follows in ch. 6:2–5, and ch. 6:1 merely contains an explanatory clause inserted before his message, which serves to throw light upon the situation. Footnote Any other approach to these two chapters is myopic and completely confuses the interpretation thereof.

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