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JOSHUA 5

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Israelites Circumcised The Second Generation Circumcised The First Passover in the Land The Circumcision at Gilgal Terror of the Peoples west of the Jordan
5:1 5:1
Circumcision of the Hebrews at Gilgal
5:2-12 5:2-12 5:2-7 5:2-7 5:2-3
5:4-9
5:8-9 5:8-9 Celebration of the Passover
5:10-12 5:10-12 5:10-12
The Commander of the Army of the Lord A Theophany Joshua and the Man with a Sword Prelude: A Theophany
5:13-15 5:13-15 5:13-15 5:13 5:13-15
5:14a
5:14b
5:15

READING CYCLE THREE(from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

CONTEXTUAL INSIGHTS

A. Joshua 5:1-12 really describes two covenant acts:

1. The circumcision of the people of God (Jos. 1-9)

2. The observance of the first Passover since they left Egypt (Jos. 10-12)

 

B. Joshua 5:13-15 is an appearance of the angel of the Lord (theophany) in a very similar way to Exodus 3. It seems to be intentionally parallel to show that God was with Joshua as He was with Moses.

 

C. Circumcision was a command by God to Abraham (cf. Gen. 17:9-14). It was a physical symbol of the covenant between YHWH and Abraham and his descendants. It was performed on the eighth day after birth, even if that occurred on the Sabbath.

Most ancient peoples of the ancient Near East were circumcised (except the Philistines who were from the Aegean Islands). However, for all but Israel it was a puberty rite, a passage into manhood.

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): JOSHUA 5:1
  1Now 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.

5:1 "kings of the Amorites" These people had city-states, like the Philistines and Greek peoples. These native inhabitants of Canaan lived in the hill country (cf. Num. 13:29; Deut. 1:7,20; Jos. 10:6). See Special Topic: PRE-ISRAELITE INHABITANTS OF PALESTINE.

"Canaanites" These people lived along the coastal plain (shephelah). Often Amorites and Canaanites are used as a collective term for all of the native tribes of the Promised Land.

"their hearts melted" The verb (BDB 587, KB 606, Niphal imperfect) was used earlier in Jos. 2:11. What a powerful metaphor (cf. Isa. 13:7; 19:1; Nah. 2:10). It is used of the Israelis' fear in Jos. 7:5 and Deut. 1:28; Ezek. 21:7. YHWH's acts encouraged the Israelites and terrified the Canaanites.

NASB, NKJV,
NRSV"there was no spirit in them any longer"
TEV"lost their courage"
NJB"lost all courage to resist"

This term (BDB 924) can mean "breath," "wind," or "spirit." Here it is used for the human spirit (person) being discouraged and intimidated (cf. Jos. 2:11; Ps. 76:12; 77:3; 142:3; 143:4; Pro. 18:14; Isa. 19:3). It is parallel to "their hearts melted."

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): JOSHUA 5:2-7
 2At that time the Lord said to Joshua, "Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time." 3So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. 5For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6For 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 their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7Their children whom He raised up in their place, Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them along the way.

5:2 There are three Qal imperatives in Jos. 5:2:

1. "make," BDB 793, KB 889

2. "again" (literally "turn" or "return"), BDB 996, KB 1427

3. "circumcise," BDB 557, KB 555

This was an act of covenant obedience and an act of faith because they were so close to Jericho and would be unable to defend themselves for several days. Circumcision for adults is a painful and debilitating experience (cf. Gen. 34:25).

"Make for yourself flint knives" These flint knives became a traditional instrument with which to perform circumcision because they are very sharp (cf. Exod. 4:25). It is unusual that the Septuagint of Jos. 24:30 tells us that these very flint knives were later buried with Joshua.

NASB"the second time"
NRSV"a second time"
TEV-- omits --
NJB"(a second time)"

It seems that for some reason the children of Israel did not circumcise during the wilderness wandering period. It is obvious from Exod. 12:48 that to partake of the Passover one must be circumcised. The term "the second time" (literally, "return," BDB 996, KB 1427) is not found in the Septuagint and probably in Hebrew means "return again" (shub) which refers to the institute of circumcision (cf. Genesis 17), not that someone would be circumcised a second time.

5:3 "So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth" Joshua himself did not personally make all of the flint knives, nor did he circumcise all of the people. The priests or Levites may have circumcised the people. However, the men apparently separated themselves from the rest of the camp and performed the circumcision at a precise geographical place which came to be known as "the hill of the foreskins."

5:4 "This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them; all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way" Because of the unbelief of the spies, all of the men who were twenty years old and older were condemned to die in the wilderness wandering period (cf. Num. 14:29-35; 26:64-65; Deut. 2:14-15).

5:5 "For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised" The Egyptians and most other Semitic people which surround the Jewish nation also circumcised their male children. The only uncircumcized group of people in this area were the Philistines who invaded Palestine about 1250 b.c. They were from the Aegean Islands (i.e., Greek culture). However, most other Near Eastern cultures viewed circumcision as a rite of passage from childhood to manhood, but for Israel it was a religious symbol of the covenant which was performed on the eighth day after birth (cf. Genesis 17).

5:6 "forty years in the wilderness" The number "forty" is very common in the Bible. Sometimes it should be taken literally, but at other times it is symbolic for a long period of indefinite time. The Hebrews stayed at Sinai two years and the wilderness wandering period lasted thirty-eight years. See Special Topic: Symbolic Numbers in Scripture.

▣ "perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord" This goes back to the unbelief of the twelve spies (cf. Numbers 13-14). Only two of them, Joshua and Caleb, had faith to enter the promised land (cf. Num. 14:38). Biblical faith is based on trusting in God and His word.

▣ "the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give us" This refers to the patriarchal blessing of Abraham in Gen. 12:1-3. The same promise of a land is given to both Isaac and Jacob and later to the children of Israel. The initial promise to Abraham involved a land and a seed. The Old Testament majors on the land while the New Testament majors on the seed (Messiah).

▣ "a land flowing with milk and honey" The land of Palestine was known by this descriptive title in both Assyrian and Persian documents. It was a very fertile place!

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): JOSHUA 5:8-9
 8Now when they had finished circumcising all the nation, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. 9Then the Lord said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." So the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.

5:8 "they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed" The Hebrew term "healed" is literally "life" (BDB 310), but it is used in the sense of being revived (cf. 2 Kgs. 20:7) from the physical procedure of circumcision.

There seems to be somewhat of a difficulty when one understands the chronology based on 4:19 compared with 5:10. It seems that only four days intervened which would be much too short a period of time for the men to be healed unless there was a miraculous healing from God. When one looks at this chapter one wonders about the military strategy of circumcising all of your men of war in the face of a hostile Canaanite population. Jericho was only a mile or so away. But, again, one must remember (1) the supernatural presence of God; (2) the paralyzing fear that the Canaanites had of the Israelites; and (3) the fact that not all of the men needed to be circumcised (those who were under twenty at the rebellion).

5:9 "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you" The term "Gilgal," meaning "wheel" or "circle," may be a play on the word "rolled away" (BDB 164 II, KB 193, Qal perfect, cf. Ps. 119:22).  There has been some discussion about what is referred to here: (1) some see it as referring to the slavery of Egypt (cf. Gen. 15:12-21); and (2) others say that it refers to taunts by Israel's enemies that YHWH delivered from Egypt only to destroy them in the desert (cf. Exod. 32:12; Num. 14:13-16; Deut. 9:28).

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): JOSHUA 5:10-12
 10While the sons of Israel camped at Gilgal they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho. 11On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year.

5:10 "they observed the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month on the desert plains of Jericho" Notice that they were in the promised land and this is apparently the first observance of the Passover since they left Egypt, Exodus 12. The Hebrew day began at evening, as in Genesis 1. This date becomes the time every year for Passover (see Special Topic: Passover, cf. Exod. 12:18-19; Lev. 23:4-8; Num. 28:16-25).

5:11 "unleavened cakes" We learn from Exod. 12:15-20 that to the one day Feast of Passover was attached a seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread.

5:12 "The manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land" This was predicted in Exod. 16:35. The manna (BDB 577) was a supernatural manifestation of God's provision which was collected every morning except for the Sabbath (cf. Exod. 16:16-24). It began at a precise time and ended at a precise time (YHWH's supernatural provision).

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): JOSHUA 5:13-15
 13Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?" 14He said, "No; rather 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?" 15The captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy."

5:13 "Joshua . . . behold a man was standing opposite him with his sword in his hand" We learn from this account that the man was an angel or a physical form of God (theophany, cf. Hard Sayings of the Bible, pp. 191-92). It is significant that the term for "man" is not the normal term "adam" (BDB 9), but the term "ish" (BDB 35), which can refer to a spiritual being (cf. Exod. 15:3; Isa. 42:13). The same imagery of an angel with a drawn sword is also in Num. 22:31 and 1 Chr. 21:16. Apparently the drawn sword was to reassure Joshua that YHWH would fight for them (cf. Deut. 1:30).

▣ "Joshua went to him" Joshua moved towards this man; what a sign of bravery! He does not know if he is friend or foe. This old warrior was ready to fight any foe!

5:14 "No" This is understood in several ways: (1) "no" (NKJV, JPSOA); (2) "neither" (NRSV, TEV, NKB); or (3) "indeed" (grammatically it is possibly the emphatic Hebrew letter lamed).

▣ "I indeed come now as the captain of the host of the Lord" The term (BDB 978) "captain" can mean "prince" (cf. Isa. 9:6) This is the only place in the Old Testament where this full title is used. It is used of national angels in Dan. 10:13,20,21; 12:1. Jewish sources assert that this is Michael, the national angel (prince, e.g., Dan. 12:1) of Israel (Aggadat Bereshit 32.64).

NASB"the host"
NKJV, NRSV,
TEV, NJB"the army"

The term "host" (BDB 838) refers to (1) the "army of heaven" or (2) the heavenly bodies (stars, sun, moon, in past ages about astral worship). Here, in a military passage it would refer to the captain of the armies of YHWH.

▣ "Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, 'What has my Lord to say to his servant'" Because Joshua is told to remove his sandals in verse 15 this account is very similar to Moses' meeting with God at the burning bush (cf. Exod. 3:5). The dialogue of this encounter is not really given until 6:2ff.

▣ "Remove your sandals" This was a command (BDB 675, KB 730, Qal imperative). Removing the sandals was a sign of respect, openness, or worship (cf. Exod. 3:5). Joshua was well acquainted with this account!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. Why did the children of Israel not circumcise during the Wilderness Wandering period?

2. What does circumcision symbolize?

3. Why did they not observe the Passover in the wilderness?

4. Why did the manna cease?

5. Who is the person described in Jos. 5:13-15?

 

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