Chapter 5


The New Generation Circumcised

    • When all of the Amorite kings west of the Jordan and all the Canaanite kings by the sea heard about how the Lord had dried up the Jordan River so the Israelites could cross, they lost heart and lost their courage because of them.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “After news of Israel’s crossing of the Jordan River spread, all of southern Canaan was in a state of alert awaiting Israel’s expected invasion. With Israel’s impossible crossing of the Jordan, the Canaanites lost heart and were paralyzed with fear. They knew they faced the people of a God more powerful than any they worshiped.”

    • Then the Lord told Joshua to make flint knives and circumcise the Israelite men again, so Joshua did this at Gibeath-haaraloth. He did this because all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died in the wilderness. All the men who left Egypt in the exodus were circumcised, but none of the boys who had been born after the exodus, while the Israelites were in the wilderness, had been circumcised. The Israelites wandered 40 years in the wilderness until all the men who were old enough to fight in battle when they left Egypt had died, because they disobeyed the Lord and He vowed that He would not let them see the land He had sworn to their fathers that He would give to us- a land flowing with milk and honey. So it was the children of these men, raised up to take the place of their fathers, whom Joshua circumcised because they had not been circumcised along the way. After all the males had been circumcised, they remained there in the camp until they had recovered. Then the Lord told Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the disgrace of Egypt from you.” This is why that placed is called Gilgal to this day.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes that Gibeath-haaraloth literally means, “hill of the foreskins.”

      • On the backstory documented in verses 4-7, the same source writes, “This unexpected detour in the narrative provides an important reminder of Israel’s earlier refusal to believe that God would bring them safely into the land of Canaan (Numbers 14). This summary of God’s judgment upon their fathers reminded the present generation that trusting God was still necessary if they were to occupy the land their ancestors had forfeited. Further, it signaled the completion of God’s judgment upon the earlier generation.”

      • HCSB reminds us, “Circumcision was the sign of the Lord’s covenant with Abraham (see Genesis 17:10-14) and signified faith in Him. Through the ritual of circumcision the nation renewed its fidelity to the covenant.”

      • This is another convenient juncture to draw attention to the point I made in the last chapter regarding the memorial stones: not all items or practices associated with pagan nations are prohibited to God’s followers. Circumcision is yet another instance of a ritual also practiced by pagan nations that God commands to the Israelites, but for a different purpose/meaning. The ESV Archaeology Study Bible documents, “Circumcision…was practiced by other people in the ancient Near East, although usually as a sign of individual changing social status or rank (e.g., becoming a man at puberty) instead of as a sign of a covenant between a people and a deity.”

      • So God gave a common practice, circumcision, a very different meaning for the Israelites than the meaning their pagan neighbors assigned to it. In fact, He used this new meaning applied to a common practice to distinguish the Israelites from other nations. Guzik writes, “Circumcision was always a powerful act of consecration to God. In it, an Israelite said ‘I’m not like the other nations. I listen to God and do what He says I should do.’ It was stepping out in faithful obedience and identifying yourself as one of the LORD’s people. It was renouncing the flesh and the world. It was dying to self and living to God.”

      • The ESV Archaeology Study Bible includes this interesting information about Gilgal, “Gilgal means ‘circle/ring (of stones)’ or ‘to roll’ and is a common name for other sites. The name can refer to several characteristics of a settlement. For this site near Jericho, the name apparently has double meaning, referring to the circle of memorial stones and the rolling away of reproach, as explained by the author. The most likely location for the site is about 1 mile northeast of Jericho, where a cluster of mounds is located. During the Byzantine period a church was built over the traditional site. This church is depicted with twelve stones on the sixth-century-AD Madaba Mosaic Map of the Holy Land, which is still preserved on the floor of Saint George’s Church in Madaba, Jordan.”

“Madaba Mosaic Map depicting Gilgal church and 12 stones at center (north is to the left)” Image via

Israel Celebrates the First Passover in the Land

    • While the Israelites were camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, they celebrated Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. The day after Passover they ate unleavened bread, some of the land’s produce, and roasted grain. The day after they ate the produce of the land, the manna stopped appearing. Since the Israelites no longer had manna, they ate the produce of the land of Canaan that year.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “..the celebration of this Passover in Canaan marked the attainment of the goal God had been leading the Israelites toward. This Passover also anticipated God’s promised rest for his people in their new land.”

      • HCSB adds, “It marked a new chapter in the history of Israel, for with it the people began to live on the produce of the land of Canaan and no longer on manna which the Lord provided in the wilderness.”

The Commander of the Lord’s Army

    • When Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a Man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in His hand. Joshua went up to Him and asked, “Are You for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” He replied, “I have come as the commander of the Lord’s army.” Then Joshua fell with his face to the ground, bowed down and asked Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” The commander of the Lord’s army responded to Joshua saying, “Take your sandals off of your feet because the place you’re standing is holy.” Joshua obeyed.








      • Who is this commander of the Lord’s army?

      • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Scholars disagree whether the commander was an appearance of God, the pre-incarnate Christ, or an angel.”

      • Personally, I have a very strong opinion on the identity of this figure. I believe that He is the pre-incarnate Christ- the second person of the Trinity- one and the same as the figure otherwise mentioned in the Old Testament as “the Angel of the Lord.” This view is the one that I feel is undeniably supported by the preponderance of evidence. I will list these evidences below:

      • The article from “Who was the commander of the army of the Lord in Joshua 5:14?” points out that, “Those who favor the view that Joshua met an angel appeal to the fact that no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20).” However, this apparent contradiction is solved when one considers the complete testimony of Scripture which indicates that it is the Father that has not been seen (John 1:18; 6:46). As a matter of fact, long before the New Testament was written, the early Jews had figured out on the testimony of the Old Testament Scriptures alone that there was something more complicated going on with the One God of Israel, known as Yahweh. We’ll take a more in depth look below.

      • Dr. Michael Heiser makes a compelling case for identifying this Man as “the Angel of the Lord,” the figure throughout the Old Testament that Jews historically associated with the visible presence of Yahweh. This concept is commonly referred to as the Jewish “Two Powers” theology and is an undeniable refutation of the allegation that historical Jewish monotheism precludes the concept of complex unity (or a “godhead,” so to speak).

        • Heiser writes, “An important clue to identifying this ‘man’ as the angel of Yahweh is the drawn sword in his hand. The Hebrew phrase here occurs only two other times: Numbers 22:23 and 1 Chronicles 21:16. Both explicitly name the Angel of Yahweh as the one with the ‘drawn sword’ in hand.” (The Unseen Realm, p. 146)

        • Additionally, Heiser points out, “The connection is unmistakable on two other counts. Joshua bows down to the man, an instinctive reaction to the divine presence. The commander orders Joshua, ‘Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ The wording comes from Exodus 3:5, the burning bush passage. The angel of Yahweh was in that bush.” (The Unseen Realm, p. 146)

        • Heiser uses the incident with Gideon documented in Judges 6:11-24, which is one of multiple Old Testament passages that could be cited, to very clearly illustrate the relationship between Yahweh and the Angel of Yahweh. On this passage of Scripture Heiser writes (The Unseen Realm pp. 147-148):

          • In verse 11 the angel sits down under the oak tree for the conversation. He makes his visible presence known to Gideon in verse 12. There is no indication that Gideon considers his presence at all strange. Gideon’s disgruntled reference to Yahweh in verse 13 makes it clear he doesn’t know the man is Yahweh. The reader, however, knows that, since the narrator has Yahweh taking part in the conversation (vv. 14-16).”

          • The scene is reminiscent of the burning bush (Exod 3) except that both Yahwehs have speaking roles. This serves to put the two characters on the same level to the reader. That tactic is by now familiar- putting both figures on par to blur the distinction. But in the case of Judges 6, the writer also makes them clearly separate.”

          • That there are two clearly separate Yahweh figures becomes more dramatic after verse 19. Gideon asks the man (who is logically the angel of Yahweh) to stay put while Gideon makes a meal for him. The stranger agrees. When Gideon returns, he brings the meal to the tree (v. 19). The narrator has the Angel of God receiving it. Again, that’s logical since the angel had sat there at the beginning of the story.”

        • Now comes the shocker. The angel of Yahweh burns up the sacrifice and then leaves (v. 21). But we learn in verse 23 that Yahweh is still there and speaks to Gideon after the Angel’s departure. Not only did the writer blur the distinction between the two figures, but he had them both in the same scene.”

        • For more information on the Jewish two powers concept, the interested reader may refer to Heiser’s article, “The Two Powers in Heaven.”

        • For more information on the visible and invisible Yahweh, interested readers may refer to Heiser’s companion website for his book The Unseen Realm, specifically the page for chapter 18.

        • At this source, Heiser explicitly articulates the relationship of Jesus and the Angel of the Lord which aligns with my view:

          • The angel of the Lord (Yahweh) in the OT is Yahweh in human form. Some of the things said about that angel (who is Yahweh) are applied to Jesus in the NT, thereby linking Jesus to Yahweh via the angel. Consequently, the angel of Yahweh = the second person of the Trinity made visible as in human form in the Old Testament. Jesus = the second person of the Trinity *become incarnate” as a man. The Angel of the Lord was not the second person incarnate (conceived in the womb and born of a woman). So, Jesus and the Angel of the Lord are related, but still distinct concepts — but both were God in human form. But only one was incarnate.”

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