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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged
Joshua 5

 

 

Verse 1

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.

The kings of the Amorites ... and ... Canaanites ... by the sea. Under the former designation were included the people who inhabited the mountainous region in the center and the south, a gigantic race (Deuteronomy 4:47; Deuteronomy 31:4; Joshua 9:10; Amos 2:9), including the Hittites and Hivites; and under the latter, those who were on the seacoast of Palestine as far south as Dor, and inland over the plain of Esdraelon, and inhabiting some places also in the Jordan valley, as Beth-shean, Zoar, and Sodom. The Amorites were the highlanders, or mountaineers; and the Canaanites were the lowlanders [Septuagint, di' basileis tees Foinikees, the kings of Phoenicia (cf. Exo. 15:35 , Septuagint)], the name "Canaanites" being sometimes used synonymously with 'Phoenicians' (Kenrick's 'Phoenicia,' pp. 42, 52).

On the side of Jordan westward , [ yaamaah (Hebrew #3220)] - seaward; i:e., westward. The author uses the word, from his point of view, to denote the western side, adding 'west' to prevent mistakes.

Their heart melted. They had probably reckoned on the swollen river interposing for a time a sure barrier of defense; but seeing it had been completely dried up, they were utterly paralyzed by so incontestible a proof that God was on the side of the invaders. In fact, the conquest had already begun in the total prostration of spirit among the native chiefs. "Their heart melted," but unhappily not into faith and penitent submission.


Verse 2

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

At that time - on the encampment being made after the passage.

The Lord said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives , [ charbowt (Hebrew #2719) tsuriym (Hebrew #6697), sharp knives (cf. Psalms 89:44, "edge of the sword"); but the Septuagint has machairas petrinas ek petras akrotomou, stone knives, of sharp-pointed stone; taking tsuwr (Hebrew #6698) in the sense of a rock, sharp and precipitous. So also Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic render the word] - stone knives; i:e., prepare, make them ready. Flints have been used an the early times of all people; and although the use of iron was known to the Hebrews in the days of Joshua, probably the want of a sufficient number of metallic implements dictated the employment of flints on this occasion (cf. Exodus 4:25). Harmer ('Observations,' 4:, p. 167) suggests another, though a fanciful, reason. Those who have given an account of the Egyptian way of embalming, tell us that it was an Ethiopian stone, called basaltes, that was used for opening the body to be embalmed, by which embalming it acquired a sort of immortality. In this view, might not Joshua be enjoined to use a like kind of knives for the circumcising of the Israelites, which circumcision the Jews of later times, at least, looked upon as a token and pledge of their resurrection from the dead, never to return to corruption? The precept to use stone knives might be intended to give some expectation of this nature.' Stone knives are still in Ethiopia (Abyssinia) used for religious purposes.

Circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. - literally, return and circumcise. The command did not require him to repeat the operation on those who had undergone it, but to resume the observance of the rite, which had been long discontinued. The language, however, evidently points to a general circumcising on some previous occasion, which, though unrecorded, must have been made before the celebration of the Passover at Sinai (cf. Exodus 12:48; Numbers 9:5), as a mixed multitude accompanied the camp. "The second time" of general circumcising was at the entrance into Canaan.


Verse 3

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

At the hill. Probably one of the argillaceous bills that form the highest terrace of the Jordan, or a rising ground at the palm forest.


Verse 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.

This is the cause why Joshua did circumcise. The omission to circumcise the children born in the wilderness might have been owing to the incessant movements of the people; but it is most generally thought that the nation, being regarded as for a time disowned by God, was forbidden to take the sign of the covenant, to neglect which in other circumstances would have been visited with the severest penalties. The true cause was a temporary suspension of the covenant with the unbelieving race, who, being rejected of the Lord, and excommunicated, were thrust back into the standing-ground of the unclean (Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 5:, ch.

i., sec. 4), and doomed to perish in the wilderness, and whose children had to bear the iniquity of their fathers (Numbers 14:33), though, as the latter were to be brought into the promised land, the covenant would be renewed with them. 'When Joshua led them across the Jordan-that is, when God was about to establish the covenant-it was discovered that the former had all died, while the latter only remained alive. The covenant, therefore, was really established with those who were uncircumcised, but had obeyed the voice of the Lord: it had been refused to those who, although circumcised yet were a stiff-necked generation. At the same time, on these persons who thus received an earnest of the covenant, because they hearkened to Yahweh, the sign was affixed, to denote that they were introduced to the covenant' ('Israel after the Flesh,' pp. 16, 25; Havernick's 'Introduction,' p. 157).


Verses 5-7

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.

No JFB commentary on these verses.


Verse 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.

When they had done circumcising all the people. No mention is made of the two tribes and a half east of the Jordan; but it may be that the rite was performed among them at the same time. Since the number of those born in the wilderness and uncircumcised must have been immense, a difficulty is apt to be felt how the rite could have been performed on such a multitude in so short a time. But it has been calculated that the proportion between those already circumcised (under twenty, when the doom was pronounced), and those to be circumcised, was one to four, and consequently, from so great a number of persons being free to operate, the whole ceremony could easily have been performed in a day. Keil calculates that, among the million of males who entered Canaan, 338,000 must have been under 20 years of age, and were consequently circumcised ('Commentary on Joshua,' p. 139). Circumcision being the sign and seal of the covenant, its performance was virtually an infeoffment in the promised land; and its being delayed until their actual entrance into the country was a wise and gracious act on the part of God, who postponed this trying duty until the hearts of the people, animated by the recent astonishing miracle, were prepared to obey the divine will, which was the condition on which alone the terms of the national covenant would be fulfilled.

They abode in their places in the camp until they were whole. That would be several days (see the note at Genesis 34:25; Genesis 34:29). It is calculated that, of those who did not need to be circumcised, more than 50,000 were left to defend the camp, if an attack had been then made upon it.


Verse 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.

Rolled away the reproach of Egypt - the taunts industriously cast by that people upon Israel as nationally rejected by God by the cessation of circumcision (cf. Exodus 32:12; Psalms 39:8; Ezekiel 16:57; Ezekiel 34:15) (Rosenmuller, in loco). But other texts seem to warrant the phrase being taken in a passive sense: that which exposes Egypt to reproach; namely, uncircumcision (cf. 1 Samuel 17:26); but see the note at Genesis 17:11, where it is shown that the rite of circumcision was to some extent practiced in Egypt. Gesenius renders the words, 'the stain resting on Israel ever since their departure out of Egypt.' But this rendering is not consistent with the view we have taken of the last clause of Joshua 5:2. Rosenmuller's interpretation, referring to the stigma arising from the lack of circumcision, is the best; and the renewal of that rite was a practical announcement of the restoration of the covenant (Keil).

Gilgal , [ Gilgaal (Hebrew #1537), a circle, a rolling away (Golgotha comes from the same root; the rolling away of the reproach of God's people), or generally with the article, ha-Gilgaal (Hebrew #1537). Septuagint, Galgala]. The word Gilgal was not at first applied to a city, though it was in later times (1 Samuel 7:16). It was the first place pronounced "holy" in the Holy Land (Joshua 5:15) (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p. 287).


Verse 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.

Kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even - the time fixed by the law (see Exodus 12:18; Leviticus 23:5; Numbers 28:16).

Thus, the people having been circumcised, the national existence was commenced by a solemn act of religious dedication. There is no record of more than one Passover having been observed during the whole sojourn in the wilderness (Numbers 9:1).


Verse 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.

They did eat of the old corn , [ mee`abuwr (Hebrew #5669), grain; not "old corn," as in the English version]. This was conformably to the law (Leviticus 23:5-14).

Parched grain - new grain (see the note at Leviticus 23:10), probably lying in the fields. Roasted-a simple and primitive preparation, much liked in the East. The grains of wheat, in the harvest season, while they are not yet thoroughly dry and hard, are roasted in a pan, or on an iron plate, and constitute a very palatable article of food: this is eaten along with bread, or instead of it, (cf. Ruth 2:14) (Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2:, p.

394). This abundance of food led to the discontinuance of the manna; and the fact of its then ceasing, viewed in connection with its seasonable appearance in the barren wilderness, is a striking proof of its miraculous origin. It has been previously shown (Exodus 15:27; Exodus 32:6; Deuteronomy 11:6; Deuteronomy 11:28; Joshua 1:11) that the manna was not the sole food of the Israelites from the time of its first fall until this period. The supply of manna was given to relieve their necessities, when no other food was procurable, and it was given only to the extent and during the period their need required.


Verse 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.

No JFB commentary on this verse.


Verse 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?

When Joshua was by Jericho - in the immediate vicinity of that city, probably engaged in surveying the fortifications, and in meditating the best plan of a siege. The effect of this impressive scene, here described, is greatly marred by the intervention of a new chapter, which breaks the continuity of the narrative.

There stood a man over against him with his sword drawn. It is evident from the strain of the context that this was not a mere vision, but an actual appearance, the suddenness of which surprised, but did not daunt, the intrepid leader.


Verse 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?

And he said, Nay , [ lo' (Hebrew #3808)] - No, used absolutely in answer to a question, 'I am not; i:e., a man either of your party or of the enemy's.

Captain (Exodus 15:8) of the host of the Lord - either the Israelite people (Exodus 7:4; Exodus 12:41; Isaiah 55:4), or the angels (Psalms 148:2), or both included; and the Captain of it was the Angel of the Covenant, whose visible manifestations were varied according to the occasion, and who on this occasion appeared to conduct God's people into the land of promise. Some consider this to be the created angel (Exodus 33:2-3) who was substituted for the Angel of the Presence (Exodus 33:20-23) in superintending the Sinaitic economy, after the grievous offence caused by the people in the affair of the golden calf. But the address and the adoration of Joshua, the holiness communicated to the spot by the presence of this Personage, and the application to him of the name Yahweh (Joshua 6:2), identify Him with the Angel the Lord, the Second Person of the Trinity. His attitude of equipment betokened his approval of, and interest in, the war of invasion.

Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship. The adoption by Joshua of the absolute form of prostration demonstrates the sentiments of profound reverence with which the language and majestic bearing of the stranger inspired him. The real character of this personage was disclosed by His accepting the homage of worship (cf. Acts 10:25-26; Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8-9), and still further in the command, "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot."


Verse 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.

For the place whereon thou standest is holy , [ qodesh (Hebrew #6944) huw' (Hebrew #1931)] - it is holiness (Exodus 3:5). For the place whereon thou standest is holy , [ qodesh (Hebrew #6944) huw' (Hebrew #1931)] - it is holiness (Exodus 3:5).

 


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Bibliography Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 5:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-5.html. 1871-8.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, November 17th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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