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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 5

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-15

4. The Dedication to the Holy War

Joshua 5:0

a. The Effect of the Invasion on the Inhabitants of the Land

Joshua 5:1

1And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites which were on the [other] side of [the] Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites which were by the sea, heard that the Lord [Jehovah] had dried up the waters of [the] Jordan from before the children [sons] of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children [sons] of Israel.

b. The Circumcision of the People

Joshua 5:2-9

2At that time the Lord [Jehovah] said unto Joshua: Make thee sharp knives [knives of stone], and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. 3And Joshua made him sharp knives [knives of stone], and circumcised the children of Israel at 4the hill of the foreskins. And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: all the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even [omit: even] all the men of war 5[had] died in the wilderness by the way, after [as] they came out of Egypt. Now [For] 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. 6For the children [sons] of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people [nation] that were [omit: that were] men [the men] of war, which came out of Egypt were consumed, because they obeyed not [hearkened not to] the voice of the Lord [Jehovah]: unto whom the Lord [Jehovah] sware that he would not show them the land which the Lord [Jehovah] sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 7And their children [sons], whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised: because they had not circumcised them by the way.1 8And 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 [healed]. 9And the Lord [Jehovah] said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore [And] the name of the [that] place is called Gilgal unto this day.

c. The Passover. The Corn of the Land

Joshua 5:10-12

10And the children [sons] of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even, in the plains of Jericho. 11And they did eat of the old corn [the produce] of the land in the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes and parched corn [roasted ears] in the self-same day. 12And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn [produce] 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.

d. The Captain of the Lord’s Host

Joshua 5:13-15

13And 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? 14And he said, Nay; but as captain2 of the host of the Lord [Jehovah] am I now come.3 And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord unto his servant? 15And the captain of the Lord’s [Jehovah’s] host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, for the place whereon thou standest is holy: and Joshua did so.


Starke has given to this chapter the somewhat clumsy yet substantially correct superscription: “The things which followed immediately upon the passage through the Jordan.” Thus we have here brought before us in succession, related and displayed, (a.) the effect of the invasion of Canaan upon the heathen, Joshua 5:1; (b.) the circumcision of the people, Joshua 5:2-9; (c.) the enjoyment of the bread of the land and the Passover in connection with the cessation of the manna, Joshua 5:10-15; and finally, (d.) the appearance of the war-prince of God (Joshua 5:13-15). In a critical point of view, this chapter offers, when compared with chapters 3 and 4, no difficulties, so to speak; since the continuity of the narration is interrupted by nothing and no repetitions occur. Even Knobel has received the same impression of the present chapter, except Joshua 5:10-12. He ascribes all the rest to one and the same author, namely, that of the “Law Book.” Since for us this “Law Book” in Knobel’s sense has no existence, we can agree with him only in so far as we believe that in Joshua 5:1-9; Joshua 5:13-15 we meet with the same hand.

As to Joshua 5:10-12, they stand nearly related to Joshua 4:17; Joshua 4:19, through the exact designation of time which characterizes them. In Joshua 5:10 also, as there in Joshua 5:12, Gilgal is mentioned, so that all which is reported between may be omitted, and in Joshua 5:10 the author takes up the thread which he had dropped in Joshua 5:4-15. On the other hand Joshua 5:10 connects itself easily and naturally with Joshua 5:9, so that there appears to be no absolute necessity to go back to Joshua 4:19. When, however, we examine Joshua 5:9 b more sharply, the whole turn of the sentence, and also the expression, here again repeated, “until this day,” presents itself as designed to introduce Joshua 5:10-12, which we must refer to the Elohistic document, on account of its character in other respects, and therefore regard as the proper continuation of Joshua 4:19.

a. Joshua 5:1. The Effect of the Invasion upon the Heathen. The verse stands in the most exact connection with Joshua 4:24. All the peoples of the earth were to learn how mighty is the hand of the Lord and fear Him. A first example of this effect is given by the Canaanites, whose heart melts, and whose courage flees. The terror which, according to the words of Rahab, had before seized them (Joshua 2:9-11), had been increased by the marvelous passage of the Jordan. A panic had fallen upon them.—בְעֵבֶר does not refer here, as in Joshua 1:14-15, to the country east of the Jordan, but as is shown by the careful addition יָמָּה to the west side of the river.—The more difficult Kethib עָבְרֵנוּ, is to be retained like לָנוּ, Joshua 5:6. “In עָבְרֵנוּ the author assumes the person of the people and speaks in their name, as in Joshua 5:6, comp. Psalms 66:6.” (Knobel).4

b. Joshua 5:2-9. The Circumcision of the People. This takes place upon an express command of Jehovah because, as Joshua 5:4-6 state, it had been omitted in the wilderness. The covenant-people should, as such, bear the sign of the covenant which Abraham had formerly received as a seal (σφραγίς) of the righteousness of faith (Romans 4:11), and with it, as a sanctified people, holy to the Lord, enter into the promised land.

Knives of stone. Thus and not “sharp knives” must we translate הַרְבוֹת צֻרִים. Joshua follows the custom of antiquity which, as Exodus 4:25 shows, performed circumcision with stone knives, because they had as yet no others. Afterwards this kind of knives, as being more venerable, were still employed in sacred transactions. [Among the additions of the LXX. at the end of this book, is the curious statement after Joshua 24:30 : “there they placed with him in the tomb where they buried him, the knives of stone (τὰς μαχάιρας τὰς πετρίνας) with which he circumcised the sons of Israel in Gilgal.—Tr.] “The testa samia with which the priests of Cybele castrated themselves (Plin. 35, 46), and the stone knives of the Egyptian embalmers (Herod. 2, 86), may serve as parallels” (Winer, Bibl. Realw., s. v. “Messer.”) The Vulgate has rightly fac tibi cultros lapideos; the LXX. mingle together a right translation and wrong interpretation: ποίησο ν σεαυτῷ μαχαίρας πετρίνας ἐκ πέτραςἀκροτόμου. Stone knives were found also at the discovery of the pile-dwellings, e.g. in the lake of Zurich near Meilen (1854), where I myself saw them. They are very finely ground, and cut, not indeed like a knife of steel, but better than one would believe. Always, however, the operation with these instruments was a very imperfect one, and in the case before us extremely painful.5

[Circumcise again.… the second time.

שֵׁנִית does not indicate, of course, that the circumcision of the same people was to be repeated, but that, as the whole people which came out of Egypt had been circumcised, so now there should be a circumcision of the present people. Cf. Keil, Bib. Com. in loc. Masius understood שֵׁנִית to mark the reintroduction of the rite with reference to its first employment by Abraham. Com. in Josuam, p. 81. This is too far sought.—Tr.]

Hill of foreskins. Perhaps so named from this transaction. Leviticus 19:23, where circumcision of the trees is spoken of, appears not to belong here [against an intimation of Knobel’s].

Joshua 5:4-7. Statement of the reason why Joshua performed this rite. Knobel expresses doubt whether what is here reported is historical fact. In support of this he appeals to the Elohist, who says nothing of such omission, Joshua 4:19 compared with Joshua 5:10. But even assuming that these passages are, as we concede, Elohistic, they do not suffice to impeach the historical character of the reason assigned, since they furnish at the most a very weak argumentum e silentio, while on the other side it is highly probable that although circumcision “had been sharply enjoined” on the Israelites at Sinai (Leviticus 12:3), they had, in their unsettled wanderings, neglected to follow the command of God. The same thing took place later in the case of the Passover, through hundreds of years, as we learn from 2 Kings 23:22.

Joshua 5:6. All the nation, the men of war. According to Numbers 14:22-30 the adult generation, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, were doomed to die in the wilderness, and a new generation must enter into Canaan. That the men of war specially are mentioned, agrees with Numbers 14:29-32, according to which all who were mustered after their number (Comp. Numbers 1:45 ff.), from twenty years old and upward, should die in the wilderness. Since, then, the former circumcised men of war were no more, their bodies having fallen in the wilderness, on account of disobedience, the present race of young men must, before they dare undertake the conquest of Canaan, first receive the sign of the Lord’s covenant of which we just now spoke.

A land that floweth with milk and honey. Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Exodus 16:14; Exodus 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; Numbers 14:8; Deuteronomy 1:3, and often. “Milk and honey are productions of a land rich in grass and flowers which make residence therein pleasant and beautiful. Both articles were abundantly produced in Canaan, even in a state of devastation, Isaiah 7:15; Isaiah 7:22. Milk, eaten partly sweet and partly thick or curdled, that of cows as well as of goats and sheep (Deuteronomy 32:14), was prominent in the diet of the ancient Hebrews, as in that of the Orientals of the present day. This is because Palestine was and is so well suited to the care of cattle, comp. Winer. Realw. ii. 768 ff. The land yielded great quantities of honey also, especially that from wild bees (Judges 14:8; 1 Samuel 14:26; Matthew 3:4), and still yields it in its wasted condition” (Keil). [See references Introd. § 6, p. 27.] That we are to understand here real honey and not syrup, appears from its connection with milk. Keil quotes similar descriptions from Euripides and Theocritus. Thus it is said in Eurip. Bacchæ, Josh 142:

‘Pεῖ δὲ γάλακτι πέδον

‘Pεῖ δ̓οἴνῳ, ῥεῖ δὲ μελισσῶν


No mention is made here of wine, although the vine thrives extraordinarily well, especially in the region of Hebron. Compare also Numbers 13:21; Numbers 13:24, as well as the beautiful expression that each one dwelt, or should dwell, under his vine and figtree, 1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4.

Joshua 5:7. Them Joshua circumcised, that is, as in Joshua 5:3, Joshua ordered their circumcision. The operation itself was performed by the several fathers of families, as it is related of Abraham, Genesis 17:23 ff., for which Acts 16:3 also may be compared. Thus we most easily escape the difficulty which otherwise arises, (a) in view of the great number to be circumcised, and (b) of the shortness of the time, since according to Joshua 5:10 they celebrated the Passover on the fourteenth of the month Abib. We surely cannot think of help from the mothers and other women (Rosenmüller). We refrain from an exact determination of the number of those circumcised, such as Keil has attempted (pp. 74, 75).6

Joshua 5:8. Till they were healed. “When the whole people were circumcised they remained in their place (Exodus 10:23; Exodus 16:29) in the camp, that is, did not leave the camp nor undertake anything until they were healed. This is חָיָה, prop, to live, become lively (Gen 16:27), revive (Job 14:14; Ezekiel 37:3), then also to be healed (2 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 8:8). On the third day the pain was at its height (Genesis 34:25).” (Knobel.)

Joshua 5:9. The reproach of Egypt. The reproach which has attached to the people all the way from Egypt, and which consists in the misery of the people who had there become a people of slaves. This reproach had not yet been removed while they were journeying through the wilderness, because God had been angry with his people for their disobedience, and they on their part had neglected circumcision.7 Now a new day has dawned. The reproach is rolled away through the resumption of the sacred covenant-rite. Hence Isaiah also, at a later period, warns them (Exodus 30:1-5) against alliances with Egypt, lest the strength of Pharaoh should become a shame (בּשֶׁת) to them, and prophesies expressly that Egypt will be no help nor any profit at all, but a shame and a reproach. One day, however, a time will come, according to the testimony of the same prophet (Exodus 25:8), when the Lord will swallow up death forever, and wipe away the tears from every face, and take away the reproach of his people from off the earth. The reproach of former slavery is meant, the reproach of banishment, of widowhood, as it is called. Isaiah 54:1. חֶרפַּת is synonymous with בּשֶׁתּ or גְּרוּפָּה קָלוֹן ,בּוּז (Isaiah 30:5; Psalms 69:20; Psalms 119:22; Proverbs 18:3; Ezekiel 5:15).

And the name of this place is called Gilgal unto this day; according to the view of the author, because God had in this place rolled away the reproach from off his people. Knobel, Fürst, and others, question this derivation because two cities besides of this name are mentioned, one between Dor and Thirza (Joshua 12:23), and another, six Roman miles north of Antipatris (Deuteronomy 11:30), “which Eusebius still knew by the name of Magdala, and accurately indicates.” Accordingly other derivations have been sought. The name should signify, in reference to Joshua 4:19-24, the place of the stone-heap, or stone-heap monument, or = נִּלְגַּל, a wheel-shaped height, to which גֻּלְגֹּלֶת = Golgotha might be cited as analogous. Fürst, and Knobel (on Joshua 15:7) explain the word by circle, circuit, like the cognate גָּלִיל (hence Galilee), as also we have גְּלִילוֹת, Joshua 18:7, for הַגִּלְגָּל, Joshua 15:7, and according to LXX. גָּלִילJos 12:23. Subsequently גִּלְגָּל was pronounced גֻּלְגֹּל (Γολγων, Golgol), cf. Phœn. אִי־גִּלְגָּל (coast of the circle), pr. nom. of the city Igilgili (’Ιγιλγίλει, Ptol. 4, 2, litus Igilgilitanum, in Amm. 29, 5, 5; now G’i’-’gelli, near the river Ampsaga in Algiers); גָּלְגָּל (Gulgog), pr. nom. of a Phœnician settlement in Cyprus.” We adopt this last-named etymology, since manifestly these places previously bore the name Gilgal, and not, like Bethel or Bethlehem (Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:15; Genesis 35:19), a different one. But after a definite historical event had occurred here, which was recalled by the word, the name Gilgal was subsequently interpreted symbolically by the Israelites. Compare with this, out of the most recent history, the symbolical significance of the name Königgrätz = (dem) König g’räth’s [the king succeeds.]8

c. Joshua 5:10-12. The Passover, connected with the first Enjoyment of the Bread of the Land, and the Cessation of the Manna. On the special relation of this short passage, which in every view suits very well with the entire narrative, we have already commented, on Joshua 4:15-17; Joshua 4:19. “The children of Israel encamped in Gilgal where they had already pitched, according to Joshua 4:19, and observed the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at evening. The designation of time recalls Exodus 12:6; Exodus 12:18; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 9:3; Numbers 28:16, and is not met with elsewhere in the Pentateuch” (Knobel).

Joshua 5:11. On the morrow after the passover; not as Keil strangely supposes, on the sixteenth, but on the fifteenth, precisely according to the precept of the law, Leviticus 23:5; Leviticus 6:9

In the self-same day, “on which they observed the Passover.” For the evening of the fourteenth belonged to the fifteenth day, see Exodus 12:6; Genesis 1:5 (Knobel). [Or, the self-same day on which they ate the unleavened bread from the new grain. Tr.]—מֵעֲבוּר הָאָרֶץ, of the produce of the land. According to Gesen. the etymology is uncertain. Fürst derives עָבוּר from עבר = to make fruitful. Both compare the Aram. עוֹבָרָא, fœtus, surculus. Targum and Peshito use עָבוּר for דָּגָן and יבוּל. Instead of עבור הארץ, which occurs nowhere else in the O. T., תְּבוּאַת אֶרֶץ is used Leviticus 23:39, as well as here in the latter part of Joshua 5:12. In the translation, the distinction between the words is attempted to be preserved by “produce” (not old corn) and “fruit” (yield). The word תְּבוּאת means precisely “income” (from בוא).

Roasted, ears. Roasted harvest ears are meant; an article of food still much esteemed by the Arabs. [See Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, art. “Ruth, Book of,” p. 2756 b.]

Joshua 5:12. And the manna ceased on the morrow after they ate, etc. On the sixteenth therefore, the manna ceased, because the people had now arrived in Canaan, and no longer needed this bread of the wilderness (Exodus 16:15; Exodus 16:31 ff.; Numbers 11:6 ff.; Deuteronomy 8:3; Nehemiah 9:20; Psalms 78:24; John 6:31; John 6:49; John 6:58; Revelation 2:17). At this place also the ark was substituted for the pillar of cloud and of fire, as the guide in the way.10 They stand in the most intimate relation to each other, since in the plan of God, the historical development of the people was gradually to take the place of his immediate guidance and support.

In respect to the manna itself, it is well known that reference has often been made to the tamariskmanna of the Sinaitic peninsula, which results from the puncture of the leaves of the Tamarix mannifera, or orientalis, by an insect of the coccus family (Coccus manniparus), and in the form of a sweet, honey-like resin. So the whole body of rationalist interpreters, explain. On the other side, von Raumer (The March of the Israelites, p. 21 ff.) maintains that, “that manna of the Israelites differed from the present tamarisk-manna toto cœlo; the honest student of Scripture cannot possibly regard that “corn of heaven,” that “angel’s food,” as it is called (Psalms 78:25 ff.), with which God fed his people, as being the same as the louse-production (!) of the naturalist.” Stiff supranaturalism! to which even Hengstenberg and Keil do not agree. These assume rather that in the feeding with manna, “the supernatural rises on the ground of the natural, as in the case of the miracles in Egypt, and in that of the quail-food.” See Keil on this passage (p. 83 ff.).

As analogous to this we might cite the miraculous feeding in John 6:0 where also the natural basis of bread and fish was present (John 6:9). The miracle consists in both cases in the increase, on the grandest scale, of the food which they already had. While now, even in the most rainy seasons, not more than fifty or sixty pounds is gathered, the Israelites gathered, according to von Raumer’s calculation, at least on certain occasions, near 600,000 pounds. It lay after the dew like frost around the camp (Exodus 16:14). God rained it on the Israelites (Psalms 78:25). This last expression, which however is employed also concerning flesh, Josephus follows when he says (Ant. iii. 1, 6), that it still rains manna in the wilderness of Sinai. Keil disputes this statement of Josephus, because (a) it is supported by no trustworthy authority; (b) it is made by him evidently on the ground of uncertain accounts which had come to him by hearsay. Recent travellers know nothing at all of any manna rain.11 The great abundance of the manna, therefore, remains a miracle. In respect to the substance also a difference between the manna of the Bible, and that of the present day seems to hold good, since the latter cannot be pounded, ground, baked in cakes, as is reported (Numbers 11:7-8) concerning the former. A further, “essential” difference we cannot assume, with Keil, at least not on the ground that “the present manna is used only as an accompaniment to other food and as a dainty, or even as a purgative medicine,” since Numbers 11:6 proves how greatly the Israelites loathed the manna as the solitary staple of their diet. Their soul was dried away (יְבֵשָׁה) upon it. They longed therefore for flesh, which the Lord also gave them (Numbers 11:31; Psalms 78:27; Psalms 105:40), as conversely he had before (Exodus 16:13) given them first quails and then manna. Keil concludes his explanation of our passage in these words: “The feeding of the Israelites with manna remains, therefore, a miracle of God which has indeed, in nature, a faint analogue, but can never be explained on natural principles.” In this he means right, as his preceding exposition shows, but ought rather to have said that this miracle rises indeed on a foundation given in nature, but can by no means be identified with the phenomenon of the manna still commonly exhibited at the present day, nor be fully explained by it.12

As to the etymology, the word מָן according to Exodus 16:15; Exodus 16:31, has its name from מָן, what?, but this is elsewhere only Chaldee. Gesenius derives it from the Arabic, and explains it as meaning part, present, gift, namely of heaven, as the Arabs actually call it. He thus follows Kimchi, and Ibn Esra, who also compare Heb. מָנָה. Fürst resorts to an extra-Semitic etymology, because the manna was strange to the Hebrews, and they (Exodus 16:15; Exodus 16:31) had no name for it. We think this unnecessary, and would rather refer the word to the unused root מָנָה = מָנַן, to divide, to part, to measure, precisely as מֶן, Psalms 68:24. Compare also שַׁן from חַן ,שָׁנן (in compounds like חַנִּיאֵל, sounded also חַן) from חָנַן.

c. Joshua 5:13-15. The War-Prince of God. As the people receive the consecration to the holy war through circumcision and the Passover, so Joshua, their leader, receives his through the appearance of the prince over Jehovah’s army, who commands him, as was done to Moses (Exodus 3:5), to take off his shoes because the place whereon he stands is holy.

Joshua 5:13. By Jericho [lit.: in Jericho], (cf. Joshua 10:16; Joshua 24:26; Genesis 13:18). The man bears a drawn (Luther: bare) sword in his hand. Such an one is borne also by the angel who meets Balaam in the way (Numbers 22:23), and not less by the Cherub at the gate of Paradise (Genesis 3:24). Joshua, thus proving that God has not in vain admonished him (Joshua 1:6-7; Joshua 1:9) to be strong and firm, goes near the apparition and asks the man: Art thou for us or for our adversaries? “The question was appropriate for the military leader of the Israelites” (Knobel.)

Joshua 5:14. “The one addressed answers in the negative, and belongs, therefore, neither to one nor to the other, but is rather the captain of Jehovah’s host, that is, prince of the angels. For these, called also the host of heaven (1 Kings 22:19), are to be understood as the צְבָא יי, as Psalms 103:21; Psalms 148:2” (Knobel). Compare further, 2 Chronicles 18:18, and Luke 2:13. And Jehovah himself is “Jehovah of hosts,” or more fully, “Jehovah God of hosts” (Jeremiah 5:14; Jeremiah 15:16), as God is called by the prophets and frequently, in the Psalms, Isaiah 6:3; Isaiah 37:16; Isaiah 51:15; Jeremiah 33:11; Amos 9:5; Psalms 24:10; Psalms 80:8; Psalms 84:2; in the N. T. James 5:4. On the significance of this angel see below, Theological and Ethical.

Am I now come.13 For what, is not told, since Joshua interrupts the angel, and with the deepest reverence asks: What speaks my Lord (אֲדֹנָי as Genesis 19:18, not אֲדֹנִי, should be read [?] because Joshua recognizes the man as a higher being; Knobel) to his servant.

Joshua 5:15. Loose thy shoes from off thy feet, prop, throw off thy shoes from thy feet. We point according to Exodus 3:5, שַׁל־נְעָלֶיךָ מֵעַל רַגלֶיךָ instead of נַעַלְךָ and רַגְלֶךָ. [This change is of very doubtful warrant.] De Wette and Luther also adopt the plural in their translations. The shoes must be removed because to them cleaves defilement from the earth, which God has cursed (Genesis 3:17.) Hence the priests also must wash their hands and feet, when they entered the sanctuary (Exodus 30:19; Exodus 40:32), and went in probably barefooted. But a direct precept to go barefoot is nowhere found.

For the place .… is holy. It is holy from the appearance here of the angel. Probably the latter communicated still further to Joshua what he was to do. Knobel supposes directions for the approaching war, as well as promises and encouragements; rightly.

[There is much in favor of the view advocated by Keil, and many before him, that the communication of the angel to Joshua is contained in Joshua 6:2-5. Chapter Joshua 5:13 to Joshua 6:5, would thus constitute one paragraph; Joshua 6:1 being a parenthetical statement of the historical circumstance which gave occasion for this divine intervention; and the division of chapters ought to be before or after the entire paragraph. That the Angel should be at last recognized by the narrator as Jehovah and so designated, Joshua 6:2, is in full accordance with Genesis 18:17; Genesis 18:20. This conception of the scene prevents the theophany from being so aimless and void of result as it otherwise appears.

Is it accidental merely that the former appearance also of the Jehovah-angel, to Abraham, is represented as having occurred immediately after the circumcision of his family, Genesis 17:0.—Tr.]


1. Circumcision and the Passover were the two covenant signs and seals (σφραγίδες) of the O. T.

The former was, as Christ himself testifies, older than Moses; it was of the fathers (John 7:22), since God, as Stephen says, Acts 7:8, had given the covenant of circumcision to Abraham. By it the nation was, through its fathers and youths, consecrated to Jehovah. That was to be indeed a holy people, which belonged to him as the people of his possession. To the true Israelites, therefore, who perceived in the circumcision of the flesh an index to the circumcision of the heart, which must be freed from all impurity even through pain, it was a token of exalted honor.14 In later times, indeed, upon the entrance of heathen customs, many became ashamed of it, and artificially removed the traces of it. It was performed, as is well known, on the eighth day (Genesis 17:12; Luke 2:21), and only he who was circumcised could partake of the Passover which was the other covenant sign of the O. T. (Genesis 12:1 ff., and especially Gen 12:43 ff.). This latter was of Mosaic origin, and was first of all a meal of thankful, joyous remembrance of the deliverance of the people out of Egypt, of their exemption (פֶּסַח) from the plague, of the rescue from the house of bondage. Both signs point beyond themselves to other and greater things, to baptism and the Lord’s supper, which are of a more universal, spiritual nature, but just as exactly and intimately connected with each other as circumcision and the Passover.

2. The captain of the Lord’s host is the angel of the presence or face (Exodus 23:20) in whom was God’s name (Exodus 5:21), of whom God says to Moses (Exodus 33:14), “My presence shall go, thereby will I lead thee.” From the passages quoted he assumes an altogether peculiar position towards God, who raises him above all other angels, so that we may perhaps recognize in him the λόγος incarnandus. Comp. also Proverbs 8:30.


The terror of the Canaanites.—The heart melts, courage flees when one knows not the living God yet hears of his mighty deeds.—Where there is no confidence in God there is no courage. The consecration of the people for the occupancy of the Holy Land through, (1) the circumcision of the warriors born in the Wilderness. (2) The Passover kept by all Israel.—Circumcision and the Passover in their typical relation to baptism and the Lord’s supper. The sacraments of the Old and those of the N. T.—As the enjoyment of the paschal lamb and the sweet bread was conditioned on the circumcision of the participant, so is that of the Holy Supper on baptism.—Of the true circumcision, which is performed not on the body but on the heart (Romans 2:29; Colossians 2:11).—Death the punishment of disobedience.—Through the wilderness to Canaan!—The heavenly Canaan much richer, more lovely and beautiful than the earthly, of which, however, it is said that it is a land flowing with milk and honey.—To-day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you! This word is fulfilled, (1.) at Gilgal; (2.) much more gloriously at Golgotha.—The reproach of Egypt—sin and its misery.

The first Passover on the soil of Canaan: (1) A feast of thankful remembrance; (2) a feast of blessed hope. The bread of the land although not manna, yet also bread from heaven!—There is a manna which never fails. Comp. John 6:0, Revelation 2:0.—The true bread of life.

The consecration of the army-leader Joshua by the appearance of the captain of God’s army. (1) Who stood opposite him? (2) How did Joshua behave? (3) What command did he receive?—The brave question of Joshua: Art thou for us or our adversaries?—The prince of the Lord’s host in his relation to Christ the prince of life.—Joshua’s humility the more beautiful because accompanied with steadfast courage. So should Christians also be as Joshua was, courageous and humble minded. They will be so if they themselves know the true source of courage and humility, the living God.—Loose thy shoes from off thy feet, for, etc. Comparison of the call of Moses (Exodus 3:0) and the consecration of Joshua.—Comparison of the consecration of the leader Joshua and of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:0).—”And Joshua did so.” Let us also always do what God commands.

Starke: God’s words and works have not the same effect with the ungodly and the pious.—If the Israelites could not without the bodily circumcision enter the earthly Canaan, how should it be possible for any one without the spiritual circumcision of the heart to enter into the heavenly Canaan.—Who loves God, him God loves in return and reveals Himself to him (John 14:21).—Even the exalted in this world should not be ashamed to bow the knee before God. 1 Kings 8:54; Psalms 95:6.

Bibl. Wirt: When God will punish a land or a people He gives them first a fearful and faint heart, Leviticus 26:36; Deuteronomy 28:65; Deuteronomy 11:25.

Cramer: He who will have prosperity and a blessing, must begin his enterprise with God, with his word and the use of the holy sacraments, Proverbs 1:7, Matthew 6:33. God usually performs no miracles when one can have natural means to accomplish something, and then He points us to the ordinary way of subsistence and toil; He will bless that and will support us therein. Therefore, Christian, sing, pray, and go on in God’s ways.

Gerlach: “The Lord cometh,” when his people especially feel their need of his help, and become comfortably conscious of his presence and aid, Genesis 18:1.

[Matt. Henry (on Joshua 5:13-15): Observe, I. the time when he was favored with this vision; it was immediately after he had performed the great solemnities of circumcision and the Passover; then God made Himself known to him. Note, we may then expect the discoveries of the divine grace, when we are found in the way of our duty, and are diligent and sincere in our attendance on holy ordinances.

II. The place where he had this vision; it was by Jericho.… There he was (some think) meditating and praying; and to those who are so employed God often graciously manifests Himself. Or, perhaps, there he was to take a view of the city, to observe its fortifications and contrive how to attack it, and perhaps he was at a loss within himself how to make his approaches, when God came and directed him. Note, God will help those that help themselves: Vigilantibus non dormientibus sucurrit lex—”The law succors those who watch, not those who sleep.” Joshua was in his post as General when God came and made Himself known to him as Generalissimo.—Tr.]


[1][Joshua 5:7.—More accurately: And their sons he raised up in their stead: them Joshua circumcised; for they were uncircumcised; for they had not circumcised them by the way.—Tr.]

[2][Joshua 5:14.—Scarcely any problem is more perplexing to the translator of the O. T. than to find appropriate designations for the officials and dignitaries, civil and military, among the Jews and related nations. The word שׁטִרִים has already afforded an illustration. An identical revision of the entire O. T. with reference to this point would doubtless be requisite to remedy the difficulty, and could then, from the very nature of the case, attain only to partial success. The English Vers. is, however, unnecessarily vague. Thus, besides “captain,” as here, שַׂר is rendered by at least a dozen different terms, while “captain” answers to nearly or quite as many Hebrew words. The same is true of נָשִׂיא, prince, and in a great measure of many others. The result is indistinctness and confusion to the reader where the Hebrew to the Hebrews was probably clear and specific. Doing our best, we could not, perhaps, from our inadequate terminology in this sphere, do with less than three different words for שַׂר, in its civil, military, and occupational applications; as captain or general (used 1 Chronicles 27:34), governor, chief. And so mutatis mutandis with the rest.—Tr.]

[3][Joshua 5:14.—If, as many suppose, the angelic communication was interrupted here by Joshua’s startled sense of awe and reverence, the connection would be better indicated by a dash in place of the period, thus: Am I now come—And Joshua etc.—Tr.]

[4][Yet this form of expression has been not without reason long held, and still is by Keil and others, as a proof that the narrative was written by one who had shared in the transaction.—Tr.]

[5][See Dr. Hackett’s addition to art. “Knives,’ in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, Amer. ed.—Tr.]

[6][Keil elaborately calculates that from 670,000 to 720,000 required to be circumcised, while there were besides from 280,000 to 330,000 circumcised in early life who might perform the labors of the Passover celebration.—Tr.]

[7][Besides the common answer to the question, Why the rite of circumcision had been disused for thirty-eight years in the wilderness, namely, that the unsettled condition of the people would not allow it to be practiced conveniently or safely (?) Masius subjoined: “Quod filii non circumcidermtur, pœnœ species fuisse videtur qua Deus non tam ipsos plectebat filios quam impiorum parentum urebat animos, quum viderent liberos suos sacrosancti fœderis symbolo carere. Huc enim, mihi certe, videntur spectare illa in Numeris xiv.. 33 Dei verba, cum dicit: Vestra ipsorum corpora, etc., q. d. quia abdicastis vos a mea familia per rebellionem, filis quoque vestri adoptionis nota carebunt quamdiu vos in vivis eritis. Several modern critics (Keil, Hengstenberg) make this the principal reason for the long abeyance of circumcision.—Tr.]

[8][There is no evidence, however, that there had been any town or inhabited place here before to require a name at all. No trace of one has been discovered or is likely to be. It was merely a suitable camping-ground, as they found it, perhaps on the easternmost verge of fertile land—Josephus says it was about one and a quarter miles from Jericho,—and was named simply by and for themselves. And why not Gilgal (as suggested by “rolling”) then as well as anything? It certainly is not against this that people of the same language gave the same name to many other places for related reasons.—Tr.]

[9][And yet, considering that the law forbade them (Leviticus 23:14) to eat roasted ears, etc., until the day on which they brought an offering to their God, which offering (Joshua 5:12) was to be made on the day in which they “waved the sheaf,” which again (Joshua 5:11) was the morrow after “the Sabbath” (commonly understood to mean here the day of “holy convocation,” i.e. the fifteenth of the month), there is much reason for Keil’s view. And so many commentators have always held. The chief doubt seems to rest on the reference of the word Sabbath in this passage. See the main points of the dispute indicated in Smith’s Dict, of Bible, Art. “Passover,” (g) p. 2346, and Pentecost, note b, p. 2341 f.—Tr.]

[10][This is probable, yet the pillar of cloud and fire has for some time disappeared from the narrative.—Tr.]

[11][Comp. the phenomena of “Honey-dew” familiar to every naturalist. This sometimes occurs over wide districts of America and Europe in such abundance as to drop freely from the leaves and twigs of various species of trees, while yet several years may elapse without any at all, or at the most only a trifling quantity being seen. Apiarians have much occasion to notice it. Whether it is uniformly the excretion of Aphides in any of their widely different kinds, or sometimes a direct exudation from the trees, and if the latter, from what cause, are still disputed questions. On the whole subject of the manna see the Dict. of the Bible, s. v.; Ritter in Gage’s Transl. ii pp. 271–292.—Tr.]

[12][Dr. Stowe in the Bible Dict. s. v. regards it as wholly miraculous.]

[13][The עַתָּה, “now,” in this phrase is probably designed to indicate that the speaker is present to make a communication of importance, cf. Daniel 9:22; Daniel 10:11; Daniel 10:14. So Masius, referring to those passages: “Significant iste verba eum qui sic loquitur de re quapiam singulari adesse, suamque prœsentiam declarare.”—Tr.]

[14][On the significance of circumcision, see Ebrard’s interesting views in his Dogmatik, § 526, briefly stated by the present writer in the Baptist Quarterly for July, 1869.—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 5". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/joshua-5.html. 1857-84.
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