Notes on Joshua, Chapter 5

by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)

Jos 5:1, KJV And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which (were) on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which (were) by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.

Rahab had already spoken of this in chapter 2. She and her family used this fear to become believers in the God of Israel while the rest of the city did not. Rahab and her family were spared but no other citizen of Jericho survived. This is one of those occasions when fear either softens one’s heart to accept God and His grace, or else it hardens the heart against belief.

2 At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.

This is explained in the next few verses. The children of Israel did not need to be circumcised a second time; rather, this refers to the neglect of this practice during the years of wandering in the wilderness.

3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.

Logically, not Joshua himself, nor Joshua alone. There were at least 600,000 soldiers plus an unspecified amount of younger men and boys. Who knows how much time this circumcision would have required?

This verse probably means that Joshua gave the command for all males to receive circumcision. The text gives a further explanation in the verses to follow.

4 And this (is) the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, (that were) males, (even) all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt.

As a result of their disobedience and rebellion at Kadesh (Numbers 13-14). Only Joshua himself, Caleb, and those who were under 20 years of age survived.

5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people (that were) born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, (them) they had not circumcised.

Why they had not done this is not specified. Sadly, even Moses himself failed to circumcise his two sons and God was about to take his life for that omission. See Exodus 4:24-26 for this account.

6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people (that were) men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.

Referring once again to their disobedience and rebellion at Kadesh (Numbers 13-14).

7 And their children, (whom) he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. 8 And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole.

Nowhere is it specified how long a person might need to recover from this procedure. It is true that circumcision was commanded on the eighth day after a male child was born, however (Lev. 12:3). God was gracious to them during this time of recovery, giving each person time to heal.

9 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.

Gilgal became an important site for the Israelites. This place is mentioned several times, not only in Joshua but also in Judges, other historical books, and some of the prophets.

10 And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho.

They had crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month (Josh. 4:19) and now kept the Passover as God had commanded them.

11 And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched (corn) in the selfsame day.

Literally a foretaste of what the Lord had in store for them. This was harvest time (see chapter 3, verse 14) so there would have been something readily available in the fields.

12 And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

The Lord is making some significant changes for the Israelites: the miracles of crossing the Jordan, and that on dry ground; a new diet—they had complained about manna several times during the wanderings, but now, the crops of Canaan.

13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, (Art) thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but (as) captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15 And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest (is) holy. And Joshua did so.

One of only two times this was commanded in Scripture. Compare Moses’ reaction to the burning bush in Exodus 3, with Joshua’s encounter here. Moses was chosen to lead the people out of Egypt; Joshua, to lead them into the Promised Land. More comparisons and contrasts could be made.

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