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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 5

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations



The Amorites and Canaanites hear of this, and are afraid, Joshua 5:1.

The males born in the wilderness are circumcised, Joshua 5:2-9.

The passover is celebrated, Joshua 5:10.

They eat of the corn of the land, and the manna ceaseth, Joshua 5:11,Joshua 5:12.

Christ appeareth to Joshua in form of a man of war; he worships him; the place of his presence holy ground, Joshua 5:13-15.

Verse 1

The Amorites and the Canaanites are mentioned for all the rest, as being the chief of them for number, and power, and courage.

Westward: this is added to distinguish them from the other Amorites, eastward from Jordan, whom Moses had subdued.

All the kings of the Canaanites; so the proper place of this nation was on both sides of Jordan.

By the sea; the midland sea, all along the coast of it, which was the chief seat of that people, though divers colonies of them were come into and settled in other places.

Jordan was their bulwark on the east side, where the Israelites were; for it is very probable they had taken away all bridges near those parts; and the Israelites having been so long in that neighbouring country, and yet not making any attempt upon them, they were grown secure; especially now, when Jordan swelled beyond its ordinary bounds; and therefore they did not endeavour to hinder their passage.

Their heart melted; they lost all their courage, and durst attempt nothing upon the Israelites; not without God’s special providence, that the Israelites might quietly participate of the two great sacraments of their church, circumcision and the passover, and thereby be prepared for their high and hard work, and for the possession of the holy and promised land, which would have been defiled by an uncircumcised people.

Verse 2

At that time; as soon as ever they were come to Gilgal, which was on the tenth day; and so this might be executed the next, or the eleventh day, and that in the morning: on the thirteenth day they were sore of their wounds, and on the fourteenth day they recovered, and at the even of that day kept the passover.

Make thee sharp knives; or, prepare, or make ready, as this word is sometimes used. As it was not necessary for those who had such knives already to make others for that use; so it is not probable that such were commanded to do so, but only to make them sharp and fit for that work. They are called in Hebrew knives of flints, not as if they were all necessarily to be made of flints, but because such were commonly used, especially in those parts, where there was but little iron; and because such knives were oft used in this work, as the Jewish doctors note, and in such like works, as the heathen writers relate. Thus we call that an ink-horn which is made of silver, because those utensils are commonly made of horn.

Circumcise again; he calleth this a second circumcision, not as if these same persons had been circumcised once before, either by Joshua, or by any other, for the contrary is affirmed below, Joshua 5:7; but with respect unto the body of the people, whereof one part had been circumcised before, and the other at this time, which is called a

second time, in relation to some former time wherein they were circumcised; either,

1. In Egypt, when many of the people, who possibly for fear or favour of the Egyptians had neglected this duty, were by the command of Moses (who had been awakened by the remembrance of his own neglect and danger thereupon) circumcised; which during the ten plagues, and the grievous confusion and consternation of the Egyptians, they might easily find opportunity to do. Or,

2. At Sinai, when they received the passover, Numbers 9:5, which no uncircumcised person might do, Exodus 12:48; and therefore it may not seem improbable, that all the children born in that first year after their coming out of Egypt, and all they who peradventure might come out of Egypt in their uncircumcision, were now circumcised.

Object. 1. All that came out of Egypt were circumcised, Joshua 5:5.

Answ. 1. This may be true, but he doth not say when and where they were circumcised; nor doth he deny that this was done to some of them, either in time of the plagues in Egypt, or at Sinai.

2. All is very oft used of the greatest part, as is confessed.

Object. 2. All the people that were born in the wilderness were not circumcised, Joshua 5:5.

Answ. 1. Understand this also of the greatest part.

2. This is limited to them that were born by the way, as it is said there, and emphatically repeated, Joshua 5:7, i.e. in their journeys and travellings; which insinuates the reason why they were not circumcised, because they were always uncertain of their stay in any place, and were constantly to be in a readiness for a removal when God took up the cloud: but this reason ceased at Sinai, where they knew they were to abide for a considerable time; and seeing they took that opportunity for the celebration of the passover, it is likely they would improve it also to the circumcision of their children or others, which they ought to prize highly, and to embrace all occasions offered for it; which though the people might, it is not likely that biases would neglect.

Object. 3. They are said to have remained uncircumcised forty whole years in the wilderness, Joshua 5:6.

Answ. i.e. For almost forty years; as the same phrase is used Numbers 14:33,Numbers 14:34; Numbers 32:13, when there was above one year of that number past and gone. Or,

3. In Abraham; and so the sense may be, The first circumcision conferred upon Abraham, and continued in his posterity, hath been for many years neglected or omitted; and so that great and solemn pledge of my covenant with you is in a manner wholly lost, and therefore it is but fit and necessary to have this long-interrupted practice of circumcision revived, and to have Abraham’s posterity circumcised a second time for the renewing of the covenant between them and me again.

Verse 3

i.e. He caused this to be done; and because it was to be done speedily, the passover approaching, it was necessary to use many hands in it, either priests and Levites, or other circumcised persons, who, at least in those circumstances, were permitted to do it.

The children of Israel, i.e. such of them as were uncircumcised. And though it be not mentioned, it is more than probable, that the Israelites beyond Jordan were circumcised at the same time.

Verse 4

This is to be restrained to such as were then above twenty years old, and such as were guilty of that rebellion, Numbers 14:0, as it is expressed below, Joshua 5:6.

Verse 5

They; either their parents, or the rulers of Israel, whose omission hereof was not through neglect; for then God, who had ordered the neglecter of circumcision to be cut off, Genesis 17:14, would not have left so gross a fault unpunished; but by Divine permission and indulgence; partly because they were now in a journey, in which case the passover also might be neglected, Numbers 9:10,Numbers 9:13, and in that journey the passover was but once observed; and partly because there was not so great a necessity of this note of circumcision to distinguish them from other nations, whilst they dwelt alone and unmixed in the wilderness, as there was afterwards.

Verse 6

All the people; the Hebrew word commonly signifies the Gentiles; so he calls them, to note that they were unworthy of the name and privileges of Israelites.

He would not show them, i.e. not give them so much as a sight of it, which he granted to Moses, much less the possession and enjoyment of it. Or showing is put for giving, as it is Psalms 4:6; Psalms 60:3; Ecclesiastes 2:24.

Verse 7

Them Joshua circumcised; which God would have now done,

1. As a testimony of God’s reconciliation to the people, of which circumcision was a sign, and that God would not further impute their parents’ rebellions to them.

2. Because the great impediment of circumcision was now removed, to wit, their continued travels, and frequent and uncertain removal.

3. To prepare them for the approaching passover.

4. To distinguish them from the Canaanites, into whose land they were now come.

5. To ratify the covenant between God and them, where of circumcision was a sign and seal, to assure them that God would now make good his covenant, in giving them this land; and to oblige them to perform all the duties and services to which that covenant bound them, of which circumcision was the beginning and foundation, all which they were expressly joined to do, as soon as ever they came into Canaan, Exodus 12:25; Leviticus 23:10; Numbers 15:2.

Verse 8

Free from that pain and sore which circumcision caused, Genesis 34:25. It was indeed an act of great faith to expose themselves to so much pain and danger too in this place, where they were hemmed in by Jordan and their enemies; but they had many considerations to support their faith, and suppress their fears: the fresh experience of God’s power and readiness to work miracles for their preservation; the great consternation of all their enemies, which they might observe and rationally presume; the considerable number of the people who were above forty years old, and therefore circumcised before this time, their great general being one of this number; the time it would require for their enemies to bring together a force sufficient to oppose them.

Verse 9

The reproach of Egypt, i.e. uncircumcision, which was both in truth, and in the opinion of the Jews, a matter of great reproach, Genesis 34:14; 1 Samuel 14:6; 1 Samuel 17:26. And although this was a reproach common to most nations of the world, yet it is particularly called the reproach of Egypt; either,

1. Because the other neighbouring nations, being the children of Abraham by the concubines, are supposed to have been circumcised, which the Egyptians at this time were not, as may be gathered from Exodus 2:6, where they knew the child to be an Hebrew by this mark. Or,

2. Because they came out of Egypt, and were esteemed to be a sort of Egyptians, Numbers 22:5, which they justly thought a great reproach; but by their circumcision they were now distinguished from them, and manifested to be another kind of people. Or,

3. Because many of them lay under this reproach in Egypt, having wickedly neglected this duty there for worldly reasons; and others of them continued in the same shameful condition for many years in the wilderness.

Verse 10

This was their third passover: the first was in Egypt, Exodus 12:0; the second at Mount Sinai, Numbers 9:0; the third here; for in their wilderness travels these and all other sacrifices were neglected, Amos 5:25.

Verse 11

The old corn; the corn of the last year, which the inhabitants of those parts had left in their barns, being doubtless fled for fear of the Israelites into their strong cities, or other remoter and safer parts.

On the morrow after the passover, i.e. on the sixteenth day; for the passover was killed between the two evenings of the fourteenth day, and was eaten in that evening or night, which, according to the Jewish computation, whereby they begin their days at the evening, was a part of the fifteenth day, all which was the feast of the passover; and so the morrow of the sixteenth day was

the morrow after the passover, when they were obliged to offer unto God the first sheaf, and then were allowed to eat of the rest.

Parched corn; of that year’s corn, which was most proper and customary for that use.

In the selfsame day; having an eager desire to enjoy the fruits of the land.

Verse 12

God now withheld

the manna,

1. To show that it was not an ordinary production of nature, as by the long and constant enjoyment of it they might be prone to think; but an extraordinary and special gift of God to supply their necessity.

2. because God would not be prodigal of his favours, nor expose them to contempt by giving them superfluously, or by working miracles where ordinary means were sufficient.

On the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn, i.e. on the seventeenth day.

Verse 13

By Jericho, Heb. in Jericho, i.e. in the country or territory adjoining to Jericho, whither he went to view those parts, and discern the fittest places for his attempt upon Jericho, as generals usually do.

A man; one in the appearance of man.

With his sword drawn, in readiness to fight, not, as Joshua thought, against him, but for him and his people.

Verse 14

He said, Nay, I am neither Israelite nor Canaanite.

Captain of the host of the Lord; either,

1. Of all creatures in heaven and earth, which are God’s hosts. Or,

2. Of the angels, who are called the host of heaven,

1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Luke 2:13. Or,

3. Of the host or people of Israel, which are called the Lord’s host, Exodus 12:41. The sense is, I am the chief Captain of this people, and will conduct and assist thee and them in this great undertaking. Now this person is none other than Michael the Prince, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1; not a created angel, but the Son of God, who went along with the Israelites in this expedition, 1 Corinthians 10:4; not surely as an underling, but as their Chief and Captain. And this appears,

1. By his acceptance of adoration here, which a created angel durst not admit of, Revelation 22:8,Revelation 22:9.

2. Because the place was made holy by his presence, Exodus 3:15, which was God’s prerogative, Exodus 3:5.

3. Because he is called the Lord, Heb. Jehovah, Joshua 6:2. What saith my lord unto his servant? I acknowledge thee for my Lord and Captain, and therefore wait for thy commands, which I am ready to obey.

Verse 15

Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, in token of reverence and subjection: see on Exodus 3:5. The place is holy, consecrated by my presence; which when it was withdrawn, it was no more holy than any other place, the reason of its holiness being removed.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 5". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mpc/joshua-5.html. 1685.
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