Joshua 5

The Word Made Fresh

1When the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and the Canaanite kings along the coast heard how the LORD had stopped the flow of the river to allow the Israelites to cross over, they were filled with dread and feared they would not be able to face the Israelites.

2Then the LORD told Joshua to make knives of flint and circumcise the Israelites, 3and Joshua did so at Gibeath-Haaraloth. 4This was necessary because all the men old enough to take up arms had died on the journey through the wilderness after they escaped Egypt. 5They had been circumcised, but not those who were born during that time. 6They had been in the wilderness forty years and the men who had come out of Egypt died because they had not obeyed the LORD, and the LORD had decreed that they would not live to see the good and fertile land promised to their ancestors. 7Their children were the ones Joshua circumcised.

8They stayed in their camp until the surgical wounds were healed, 9and the LORD told Joshua, “Now the disgrace of Egypt is completely removed from them.” Joshua named the place Gilgal.

10On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month they celebrated the Passover at Gilgal. 11On the next day they ate unleavened bread and roasted grain gathered from the land they now occupied, 12and the manna stopped appearing on that day. From then on, they ate the crops the land of Canaan produced.

13When Joshua went to see Jericho he saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword. “Whose side are you on?” he asked the man, 14and the man said, “I don’t belong to either side. I have come as the commander of the army of the LORD.” Then Joshua bowed low in awe of him. “Does the LORD have a message for me?” he asked, 15and the LORD’s commander answered, “Take off your sandals. You’re standing on holy ground.” Joshua removed his sandals.

Commentary

1-9: The indigenous people are afraid when they hear that the Israelites have entered the land. Even so, Israel must acknowledge God’s part. They do so first of all with the ritual of circumcision. We learn, surprisingly, that circumcision has not been practiced by the people since they left Egypt. Joshua therefore commands them (at God’s command) to be circumcised. In this circumstance it serves as a powerful symbol of their unity as God’s people. It’s a good thing the Canaanites didn’t know they were healing from the surgical procedure; else the story might have turned out differently (see Genesis 34).

10-15: More events that mirror the Exodus: The Passover is celebrated on the eve of entering the land of Canaan, just as it was celebrated on the eve of leaving the land of Egypt. It is their first act of community worship in the Promised Land. In addition, the manna ceases as soon as they begin to eat the produce of the land, emphasizing that the land God is giving them is able to produce enough for them, unlike the wilderness through which they have come. Finally, Joshua’s leadership is further sealed by a sort of “burning bush” episode. In this case it is an armed angel in lieu of the burning bush, but the message is the same – “take off your sandals!” Joshua is now God’s chosen leader for the people. He and Moses were both born in Egypt.

Takeaway

Before leaving Egypt, they observed the Passover. Before attacking Jericho, they observed the Passover. Whenever we collectively undertake a task we believe God is calling us to, we should acknowledge God’s claim on us, and claim God’s presence with us. (In Christianity, the Passover’s counterpart is Holy Communion.)