JOSHUA 5
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[Yehoshua 5 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]

1 And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites [melachim of the HaEmori], which were on the side of Jordan [beyond the Yarden] westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites [ melachim of the Kena'ani], which were by the sea [Yam], heard that Yahweh had dried up the waters of Jordan [ the Yarden] from before the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], until we were passed over, that their heart melted [levav sank], neither was there spirit [ ruach] in them any more, because of the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel].

The massing of the Israelites upon the eastern bank of Jordan would have instilled fear into the hearts of the Canaanites. When the miracle occurred and the people of Israel were transported across to the western side of the river, the superstitious Canaanites would have become terrified.

It is likely that spies would have kept a discreet watch upon the progress of the Israelites as they neared Canaan. Reports would have been widely circulated concerning the overthrow of Og's kingdom by the Israelites, the kingdom of Bashan which incorporated more than sixty cities.

The Israelites had also annihilated the kingdom of Sihon, which had extended from the river Arnon to the Jabbok in the north. The Canaanitish tribes on the west of Jordan were apprehensive at the prospect of a similar disaster befalling them. They had good reason to fear. Thus, "their heart melted"; a reaction precisely predicted by Rahab (2:11).

Doubtless under the guiding Hand of a Providential God, the Canaanites remained panic-stricken for a time and therefore did not immediately bring their combined forces together to attack Israel. Having just crossed Jordan, Israel would have been most vulnerable at that time.

The respite gave them opportunity to consolidate their bridgehead in the land, to contemplate further strategy, and to fulfil the special commandment which Yahweh delivered to them shortly after they had passed over the river. *



2 At that time Yahweh said unto Joshua [Yehoshua], Make thee sharp knives [of flint], and circumcise [Bris Milah] again the children of Israel [ [Bnei Yisroel] the second time.

3 And Joshua [Yehoshua] made him sharp [flint ] knives, and circumcised [did Bris Mila] the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins [Bnei Yisroel at Givat HaAralot].

At first consideration, under the circumstances, this appears to be a strange instruction. This was a time of great danger for the Israelites. From a natural point of view there could not have been a more inopportune time for such action. The Israelites may have been subjected to a concerted attack by the Canaanites at any moment. Yet, without any sign of rebellion the people submitted to Yahweh's decree, knowing that it would leave their fighting men virtually incapacitated for several days.

And since circumcision typifies the cutting off of flesh, this is precisely what Israel did at this time! Which is to say, it was necessary for them to trust entirely upon Yahweh, believing that He would protect them. They declined to trust in flesh, rendering it powerless for a time.

Joshua was instructed to "make" the necessary knives. Would the Israelites not have carried such utensils with them? Undoubtedly. What, then, was the special significance in this directive? Simply, the nation was to embark upon a new beginning. This period of history, in

effect, marked the actual commencement of the kingdom of Israel in the land, with Yahweh as King.

The expression ''sharp knives" should be literally rendered "knives of stone". Why stone, when iron and other metals were well known (Gen. 4:22)? The answer lies in the significance of the word "stone" - the Hebrew, T'zur. Generally, the word has been translated as

"rock". It is one of the titles of Deity, and has been rendered "god" in Isa. 44:8 and Hab. 1:12.

Constantly in the scriptures, Yahweh is represented by this word (Deut. 32:4, 15, 18, 30, 31; 1 Sam. 2:2; 2Sam. 22:32, 47; etc.). The same word was used to describe the rock at Horeb, which typified Christ (cp. 1 Cor. 10:4). T'zur has been derived from a root which means "to confine, thus to besiege, or become an adversary". The word thus represents Yahweh as an unchanging, immoveable rock, who is an adversary to sin. The lesson being taught was intended to impress succeeding generations with the fact that the only really effective "knife" for "cutting off the flesh" is the influence of Yahweh Himself.

He will implant the impression of His truth in the minds of men and women who become susceptible to His word.


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Circumcision became the token of the Abrahamic covenant (Gen.17:9-14). Since it involved the cutting off of flesh, it represented a repudiation or disowning of the flesh (Deut. 10:14-16; Rom. 2:24-29), and it follows that it must also have signified a disowning of fleshly descent.

Tragically, Israel failed to appreciate that circumcision brought them into covenant-relationship with Yahweh only because of His grace and mercy. Instead, they became filled with pride at what they considered to be their exclusive elevation as the "chosen" people.

They refused to receive the constant exhortations of the prophets, that their call to separation from the nations also required their dedication to the word and will of Yahweh. Israel took pride in their privileges, but declined to acknowledge their responsibilities.

"Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God", wrote the apostle Paul ( 1 Cor. 7:19; cp. Jn.8:31-47 ).

Circumcision, although incorporated into the Law of Moses, was so treated because it was "of the fathers" (Lev. 12:3; Jn. 7:22). Thus, whilst forming part of the Mosaic Law, circumcision remained a constant reminder - and endorsement - of the Abrahamic covenant, which took precedence over the Law of Moses (Gal. 2:21; 3:16-18). The ritual was intended to instill humility in men. How tragic that it produced so much pride.

By and large, history shows that the nation of Israel failed to learn a fundamental lesson: that flesh was to be cut off in a willing and voluntary submission to God, and that Yahweh would cut off all who failed to live according to this disposition (Gen. 17:14). A false sense of security, and an attitude of self-esteem developed among Jews who were sufficiently misguided to believe that the mere act of circumcision identified them absolutely with Abraham. Surely, time and again throughout their history God has demonstrated to Israel the fallacy of such self-confidence.

A national circumcision had taken place before Israel departed from Egypt, prior to their partaking of the very first Passover (Ex. 12:43-48). A further circumcision probably took place at Sinai, but as the number involved would have been relatively small the occurrence at Sinai was not regarded as being a national event (cp. Num. 9:1-5 with Ex. 12:48).

The mass circumcision now carried out under the direction of Joshua took place at Gibeah-orlah ("Hill of the foreskins") which must have been quite close to Gilgal. *





4 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people (goy) 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.

A rather astonishing word has been recorded in the narrative in regard to this event:

"the people'

This is not a common word for "people" when the word is applied to Israel. It is, in

fact, the word goy (plural, goyim) which, throughout scripture - and in the language of the Jews - is commonly applied to gentiles. Useage of the word here taught a profound truth: Israelites were no different to gentiles and, apart from circumcision and a repudiation of the

flesh, had no relationship to the Abrahamic covenant insofar as it held promise of eternal life.

The word goy has been used to describe Israel when in a state of alienation from God. "Sinful nation, a people ladenwith iniquity. . ." (Isa. 1:4).

Thus, Joshua circumcised "all the people". Israel's hope of inheriting the land promised to Abraham was unmistakably linked with the spiritual significance of circumcision (cp. v.6).

Reference here to the "land" which God had promised to the fathers of Israel linked circumcision with the Abrahamic covenant.

The first stage of Yahweh's covenant with Abraham was now about to be fulfilled (cp. Gen. 15:16 with Ex. 3:8, etc.). The spiritual lesson to be learned from the act of circumcision is

clearly implied in this chapter. Those who had perished in the wilderness failed to inherit the land "that floweth with milk and honey" - words quoted directly from Moses: Ex. 3:8; Lev. 20:24;Num. 13:27; Deut. 26:9 - "because they obeyed not the voice of Yahweh". Although circumcised "in the flesh" by a circumcision "made by hands", they had not been touched in their hearts to comply with the requirements of the Truth.

Inwardly, they had not "cut off" the evil ways of the flesh (Eph. 2:11; Deut. 10:16). Tragically, that generation was so lacking in spiritual discernment they concluded

that ceremonial ritual could be substituted for intellectual conviction and moral disposition.

For them, the result was inevitable.

May those who would strive to become faithful servants of the Deity in this present evil age appreciate the humbling lesson to be learned from the failure of the generation which perished in the wilderness.

Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times

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.

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 Yahweh: unto whom Yahweh sware that he would not shew them the land, which Yahweh sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.

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.

The ceremonial ritual of national circumcision was completed. All "the people" - again, the word goy - were confined to the camp "till they were whole". This is a remarkable expression. It incorporates the Hebrew word chayah, meaning "to live". In Gen. 2:7,

concerning the creation of man, it is recorded that "Yahweh Elohim . . . breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living soul. . .". The word chay, which occurs twice in Gen. 2:7, has been derived from the word chayah, which has been rendered

"whole" in Josh. 5:8. The similarity of ideas being expressed is quite unmistakeable. In the act of circumcision, the cutting off of flesh was to symbolise the beginning of a new life.

The similarity to the symbology represented in baptism is clear (cp. Rom. 6:3-4).

9 And Yahweh 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.

The word "rolled" has been rendered from galal, from which gilgal has been derived. This is a work which only Yahweh can do. No man can "roll away" from his life the "reproach" which is brought upon him through sin and its effects.

An illustration of this is shown in the life of the perfectly Godly man, Jesus Christ. Although a righteous man, he nevertheless recognised the need to submit to his Father in this way:

"He rolled himself on Yahweh. . ." (Ps. 22:8, A.V. marg., the same word as occurs in Josh. 5:9, though the tense is different in the Hebrew).

All who would follow Christ are urged to manifest a similar spirit: "Roll thy way upon Yahweh. . . Roll thy works unto Yahweh, and thy thoughts shall be established. . ." (Ps. 37:5; Prov. 16:3, A.V.marg.).

It should be observed that Israel's "reproach" - or, disgrace-was related to their association with Egypt. If those who have committed their way into the hands of Yahweh affiliate with spiritual Egypt (Rev.11:8) they will become defiled through such an association, becoming

identified again with ''the house of bondage" (Ex. 13:3, 14; 20:2,etc.).

It is through spiritual circumcision - now enacted through the act of baptism - that the "reproach" brought upon men through association with Egypt, may be "rolled away" (Rom. 6:18-22). Through performance of this rite, with its numerous spiritual connotations, Israel were now to learn specific fundamental lessons: Their break with Egypt was to be final and complete; they were now dedicated to serving the God of Israel, and "Him only" (Matt. 4:10,

cp. Deut. 6:13); and they were to resolutely set forth in the warfare against sin.

These are lessons which must be imprinted upon the mind of those who would enter the waters of baptism with the objective of becoming reconciled to God through the sacrifice of Christ.

Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times.

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.

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.

The rites of circumcision having been completed, it was appropriate that the nation, almost immediately afterwards, partook of the Passover. Circumcision had been a necessary pre-requisite to the partaking of the Passover, since the Law expressly stated that

"no uncircumcised person shall eat" of the Passover (Ex. 12:48).

The lesson would be unmistakeable to those who were spiritually-aware: there is

little point in seeking covenant-relationship with Yahweh unless there is willing compliance with divine commandments and precepts. Thus, as with Israel of old, so with Believers of modern times: first, manifest a disposition which shows a willingness to cut off the flesh; then, embrace the blood of the Passover Lamb, the crucified Christ.

During the wilderness wanderings Israel had kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, in the second year (Num. 9:1-5). There is no other record of the Passover having been kept during that period.

Now they kept the Passover for the first time in thirty eight years. They had crossed Jordan on the tenth day of Abib, and therefore had had to select and pen their lambs on the same day.

These two inter-related acts-national circumcision and the keeping of the Passover - signalled the opening of the campaign against the serpent-power of the gentiles.

More than 400 years later Samuel certainly understood the significance of these events. After Israel's victory over the Ammonites Samuel said, "Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. . ." (1 Sam. 11:14).

It should be noted that whereas Gilgal was regarded as the place where the kingdom had formally commenced, it was to be, in effect, the very place where the kingdom came to an end. In endeavouring to make his escape from the Babylonians, Zedekiah "fled" from

Jerusalem, and went "by the way of the plain". He headed south, perhaps intending to make a dash for Egypt. But the Chaldeans knew of the attempted escape and "pursued after" Zedekiah and his entourage.

They caught the King of Judah "in the plains of Jericho". Which is to say, in the general area of Gilgal (Jer. 39:4-5). No mere coincidence, surely. Certainly, salutory lesson for all succeeding generations: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. . ." (Gal. 6:7).

The kingdom ended where it began. It was just and fitting that it should be so, since the

nation deserved only divine disapproval and censure for their rejection of Yahweh's word.

Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times.

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.

At Gilgal, the Israelites fed upon "the corn of the land" (Roth.). In that area the barley had ripened, but not the wheat (cp. 3:15 with 2:6). Often in scripture the eating of food is associated with spiritual blessings:

"Trust in Yahweh, and do good. Dwell in the land, and feed on fidelity. . ." (Ps. 37:3, Roth.). "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. . ." (Matt.4:4, cited from Deut. 8:3).

They ate "unleavened cakes". The feast of Passover was associated with the Feast of unleavened Bread, first mentioned in Ex. 12:15. The Passover began on the fifteenth day of the month (Lev. 23:16), continuing for seven days. It has often been suggested that "leaven" is a symbol for corruption, and is therefore used in the Bible only in a bad sense. This is not altogether correct. Leaven is a term to represent whatever may promote the process of fermentation in dough.

Leaven is symbolic for moral depravity and erroneous doctrine (Gal. 5:9;Matt. 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Lk. 12:1). Whilst the term certainly symbolises the "spreading" of that which is ungodly, it is also used in a good sense (Matt. 13:33). However, generally, when leaven is referred to in the Scriptures, it is used in a bad sense.

Thus, the keeping of the Passover in Egypt, followed by deliverance therefrom, did not represent the finality of Israel's calling. Every time the feast was kept - "at the beginning of months" (Ex. 12:2) - it was to mark a new "beginning" for Israel.

There was to be a continual renewal and rededication on the part of all Israelites. An understanding of this principle enhances the significance of the unleavened bread in relation to the Passover: Israel were to remain free from the moral and spiritual corruption of Egypt, or gentilism.

The present-day counterpart of these ideals is represented in the bread and the wine, which is to be partaken by Christ's disciples on the first day of each week. Such represents a renewal of their covenant, and a re-dedication of their lives to Yahweh.

Since the Israelites had now been brought into the Land of Promise where sufficient food would be available, the Manna ceased. Being the staple diet of the people during the wilderness wanderings, its regular availability had been vital to the survival of the nation. It is, however, relevant to note that God did not cause the Manna to cease until other

adequate sustenance was available for His people. It has ever been so,

in spiritual matters.

"Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat. . . without money and without price . . ." God "giveth grace unto the

humble. . ." (Isa. 55:1; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5).

Yahweh's continuing provision for the spiritual needs of mankind may be summed up simply

in the words of the Lord Jesus: "My Father giveth you the true bread. . . for the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. . ." (John 6:32-33).

The fact that the "seed" of the "righteous" are not to be seen "begging bread" has both a literal and spiritual connotation (Ps. 37:25). In subsequent generations, faithful Israelites looked back to the days of Moses and Joshua, associating the provision of Manna with spiritual

instruction:

"Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy Manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst. . ." (Neh. 9:20). Such words epitomise Yahweh's purpose to ultimately redeem all His faithful servants. "They shall hunger

no more, neither thirst any more. . . for the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne will feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters. . ." (Rev. 7:16-17).

Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times.

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 Yahweh 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 Yahweh's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

The Captain Of Yahweh's Army (Vv.13-15)

Joshua was a man of faith; he was also a man of initiative. Realising that the fortress-city of Jericho now barred the Israelites' way, he quietly and thoughtfully moved to a position from which he couldobserve the city.

He was not a man to minimise the difficulties. He faced the situation squarely, observing the city with the eye of a military leader and a man of faith. He could not help but be impressed with the apparent advantages which the people of Jericho enjoyed, insofar as their

defences were concerned. Yet he remained quite confident thatYahweh would lead His people onward to victory until the land was conquered.

Meditating upon these matters, his attention was suddenly distracted. "He lifted up his eyes and looked" - an expression often used in the Bible to introduce an unexpected, impressive sight (cp.Gen. 18:2; 22:13; 1 Chron. 21:16, etc.).

"Behold! There stood a man drawn in his hand!"

Alerted at this unforeseen intrusion, Joshua reacted as might be expected of a military man: adopting a stance indicating that he was prepared to fight, he challenged the Stranger: "Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?" The question speaks eloquently of Joshua's uncompromising stand in relation to the Truth. In the warfare of faith he recognised only two sides: them and us!

The Stranger, unmoved and unafraid, gazed calmly at Joshua. "Nay", he replied, "but I, as prince of the host of Yahweh, have now come" (Roth.). The identity of this angelic being has not been revealed, but he was almost certainly the same angel who had earlier appeared

to Moses at the burning bush. The similarity in language would indicate this (cp. Ex. 3:1-4).

How apt were the words of Isaiah, to be written so long after the times of Joshua: "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them: in His love

and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them, and carried them all the days of old. . ." (Isa. 63:9).

As could be anticipated in a man who lived by faith, Joshua's reaction was immediate and appropriate. He "fell on his face to the earth". Then he asked: "What are my Lord's commands to his servant?" His first response was to show reverence; his second, to seek guidance and direction. Resolutely, and revealing an attitude of total submission, Joshua expressed - both in word and action - his willingness to conform to whatever was demanded of him.

This prompt manifestation of faithful deference is indicative of a strongly disciplined

spiritual life. Joshua's disposition was not one of outward show. He exhibited the

spirit required in one who would be faithful to Yahweh. "Rend your heart, and not your garments. . . Yahweh is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit. . ." (Joel2:13; Psa. 34:18).

Joshua was aware of that which the Law taught in regard to war between Israel and her enemies; and he would uphold the teaching of the Law in that regard as in other respects (see Deut. 20:1-4). The angel responded to Joshua's humility. "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy . . . " Immediately, Joshua's thoughts would have gone back in time to the turning point in history, when an angelic being had uttered identical

words to Moses from the midst of the burning bush. At once, Joshua knew that he was prostrated in the presence of Elohim.

From this incident Joshua learned a compelling lesson which he was never to forget: as he meditatively viewed the city of Jericho and wondered how he would mount his military campaign against it, Yahweh's angel appeared to show him the way. Joshua, though a

great and courageous spiritual warrior, still needed to be led and guided by Yahweh.

So it must be with all who would become faithful servants of Israel's God. And Yahweh will always respond to the needs of His people, in His own way and in His own wisdom.

"For He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee . . . " (Heb. 13:5; Deut.

31:6; Josh. 1:5).

Now that Israel had safely and miraculously crossed Jordan, they were to become a people at war. Yet, it was not their war: it was Yahweh's war. And therefore a holy war. So it is with God's faithfulservants down through the ages; in every generation, they are a people

at war against sin.

And by what means do they ultimately gain the victory? By doing precisely as Joshua did. Hearken submissively to the word and will of Yahweh, and heed faithfully His words of instruction. "Yahweh is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? . . . if God be for us, who can be against us?" (Ps. 118:6; Rom. 8:31). Joshua obeyed the voice of his heavenly visitor. He removed his shoes. And waited for the voice of instruction to continue

Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times.