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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Joshua 5

 

 

Verses 1-9

EXPOSITION

THE CIRCUMCISION.—

Joshua 5:1

Which were on the side of Jordan westward. A large portion of the territory of the Amorites had, as we have seen (Joshua 3:10), been already conquered. The remaining tribes on the other side Jordan were apprehensive of the same fate. For "on the side," the original has "across." Having hitherto written of Israel as on the eastern side of Jordan, he continues the same expression after he has narrated the crossing. But writing as he did on the west side of Jordan, and for readers the vast majority of whom were on the west side of Jordan, he adds the expression "westward" (literally, seaward) to prevent any possibility of mistake. Until we were passed over. The Masorites, in the Keri, have corrected the text (Chethibh) into "until they were passed over." Kennicott states that this reading is confirmed by twenty-seven Hebrew MSS; which have probably adopted the reading from the Masoretic correction. The LXX. accepts the Chethibh. The probability, however, is that this is one of the many instances of a conjectural emendation of a difficult passage, it not having been seen that the historian was either quoting a document contemporary with the events described, or more probably using the word to identify himself as an Israelite with the acts of his fathers in past times. This is the opinion of Rabbi David Kimchi. Knobel refers to Psalms 66:6. See also Psalms 66:6 of this chapter, and Joshua 24:5, Joshua 24:6, Joshua 24:7; 11:17; cf. 19. We must not, then, assume from this passage that the Book of Joshua was written by one who himself had a share in the events recorded, in the face of many indications we have of a later origin (see Joshua 4:9, etc). A fuller discussion of this subject will be found in the introduction. Their heart melted. Confirming what Rahab had said (Joshua 2:11). Similar terror has often been struck into the hearts of peoples, especially of peoples enervated by habits of licentious indulgence, by the approach of enemies who have successfully and rapidly overcome obstacles deemed insurmountable. Such an effect was produced in Persia by Alexander's victories at the Granicus and Issus. Such an effect, again, was produced in Italy by the tidings of the approach of Alaric and Attila. If we may trust the monk of St. Gall, a similar terror fell on the degenerate Lombards at the approach of Charles the Great, after his daring passage of the Alps. In this case the miraculous element was added, and the inhabitants of Canaan, and of Jericho especially, remained for the time panic stricken, not daring to combine to strike a blow against these daring invaders, who in addition to their bravery seemed under the special protection of Heaven. When they had recovered from the consternation into which the passage of the Jordan had thrown them, the sense of an imminent danger forced them at last to make an effort at resistance (see Joshua 10:1-43).

Joshua 5:2

At that time. Ver. I is introduced in order to explain why Joshua ventured upon the circumcision of the children of Israel at so critical a period. Nothing could more clearly evince the spirit of confidence in Jehovah which animated not only Joshua, but all the children of Israel. We read of no murmurings, although it was well known that the performance of the rite of circumcision would unfit the Israelites for active service for some days. We may imagine, and even the silence of the sacred historian may be deemed eloquent on the point, that the marvellous passage of the Jordan had inspired the Israelites with an eager desire to renew their covenant with the God who "had done so great things for them already." And although, for religious reasons, they remained inactive for four or five days, a course of action from a military point of view highly injudicious, yet such was the terror the passage of the Jordan had struck into the hearts of the Phoenicians that no attack on them was attempted, and the inhabitants of Jericho (Joshua 6:1) remained under the protection of their strong walls. Sharp knives, or knives of stone ( צוּר; cf. צֹר, Exodus 4:25). The LXX; Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic versions, as well as the margins of our Bibles, render thus. On the other hand, several of the Rabbis give the same translation as the text of our version. The LXX. translator, following no doubt an ancient tradition, adds after Joshua 24:30, that these knives were buried with Joshua (see note there). The idea which has found great favour lately of a "stone age," as anterior to an "iron age," of the world, will hardly derive support from this passage. That the use of stone preceded the use of iron scarcely admits of a doubt. But from Genesis 4:22 we learn that the use of iron had been known hundreds of years before Joshua, and yet we find him using stone knives. And we may go further. In spite of the advance of civilisation in our own day, there are still millions of human beings who have not advanced beyond the "stone age." The idea, then, of an age in which the universal use of iron has supplanted the universal use of stone is an idea which facts compel us to reject, while admitting that the use of stone must have preceded the use of iron in the infancy of the human race. In these "knives of flint," Origen, Theodoret, and others see an allusion to Christ, the rock. The second time. For "circumcise again the children of Israel the second time," the literal translation is, "return ( שׁוּב) to circumcise," or, "return, circumcise" them the second time. This has perplexed the commentators and translators. It has been assumed that the text involves the idea of a former general circumcision of the people, and various are the expedients which have been resorted to in order to avoid the difficulty. Some copies of the LXX. would read שֵׁב for שׁוּב (or יְשֵׁב for וְשׁוּב Rosenmuller), and translate "sit down" i.e; halt), "and circumcise" The Vulgate leaves out the word altogether. The Syriac translates literally. The Arabic reads "tomorrow" for "again." The Rabbi Solomon Jarchi falls back on the expedient of a general circumcision ordered by Moses on the departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, on account of their neglect of that rite while they sojourned there, "Nam jam antea magna multitudo simul erat circumcisa illa nocte qua egrediebantur ex AEgypto." But this is rendered highly improbable by the fact that circumcision was an Egyptian as well as a Hebrew custom, and still more so by the improbability that such an important circumstance should have been passed over in silence. Knobel regards Abraham's circumcision with that of his household as the first time (Genesis 17:23). Perhaps the best explanation is that the word שׁוּב, though it is rightly translated "again" here, and in several other places in Scripture, carries with it the idea of a return into a former condition (kehre zuruck, Knobel). So Genesis 26:18, Genesis 30:31, Hosea 2:11 (9, in our version). In 2 Kings 1:11, 2 Kings 1:13 we have the king's return to his former purpose in the second and third mission to Elijah. Thus here the word is used of the bringing back the children of Israel to their former state, that of a people who were in the enjoyment of a visible sign and seal (Romans 4:11) of their being God's covenant people. The meaning therefore would seem to be, "Restore the children of Israel a second time to the position they formerly held, as visibly bound to me, and placed under my protection, by the rite of circumcision.'' "The person must be in favour ere the work can hope to prosper; his predecessor Moses had like to have been slain for neglect of this sacrament, when he went to call the people out of Egypt; he justly fears his own safety, if now he omit it, when they are brought into Canaan" (Bp. Hall).

Joshua 5:3

The hill of the foreskins. The name given to the hill where the circumcision took place.

Joshua 5:4

After they came out from Egypt. Rather "on their journey from Egypt." See next verse, where the same words are translated "as they came out."

Joshua 5:5

Now all the people that came out were circumcised. The Hebrew of this passage (which runs literally thus—"Now circumcised had they been, all the people who were going forth") is sufficient to refute the idea that there was a great circumcision of the people under Moses, on account of the neglect of the rile in Egypt. For, before the exodus, Moses was not in a position to perform any general act of this kind, as the history plainly shows, while after it such a rite could not have taken place, since the Hebrew הָיוּ denotes a state of things which was completed at the time spoken of, and therefore must here be rendered (as above) by the pluperfect. Them they had not circumcised. Here again the Hebrew is used of the perfected action, and is therefore rightly rendered by our version, giving the idea that the Israelites who were born in the wilderness had not been circumcised up to the point which our history has now reached. See also Joshua 5:7, where the same construction is found.

Joshua 5:6

Till all the people. The Hebrew here is גוֹּי, not the usual word for people, but that usually applied to the Gentiles (equivalent to ἔθνος, by which word it is usually rendered in the LXX). It is applied to the Israelites in Joshua 3:17; Joshua 4:1; Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 26:2. See also Exodus 33:13. In the singular it means a people in the more general sense, a nation, as distinguished from a people in whom one has an interest. In the plural it always means the Gentiles. עַס. (LXX; λαός), the word usually applied to the people of God, is not used here, because the people who "provoked God in the wilderness" had made themselves in a sense a rejected people. Delitzsch regards this (after Calvin) as a sign that, for the time at least, the covenant between God and Israel was annulled, permanently in the ease of those who were condemned to die in the wilderness, temporarily only in their descendants, who were formally reconciled to God, and restored to their former covenant position by this solemn performance of the covenant rite of circumcision (see note on Exodus 33:2). So also Hengstenberg, 'Geschichte des Reiches Gottes,' p. 205. The difficulty about the passover may be met by supposing that those only who were circumcised—a constantly decreasing number, of course—were allowed to celebrate that feast. Knobel would understand that in consequence of the "unquiet, unsettled, uncomfortable life" the Israelites led in the wilderness, they could keep very few of the ordained feasts. He continues: "the Elohist knows nothing of any cessation." Nevertheless we read of no passover being kept after the one recorded in Numbers 9:5, so that if "the Elohist knows of no cessation," he knows as little of any continued observance of the feast. But there is no certainty on the point. Considering the loose way in which the word כֹל is used in Scripture (see, for instance, Genesis 4:14), we need not press the word to include all who were born after the departure from Egypt, but only those who were born after the rejection of the people recorded in Numbers 14:26, sqq. This rejection, be it remembered, did not include all the Israelites who were born in Egypt, but only those who were over twenty years of age (Numbers 14:29). The view of Kurz (3:323, Clark's translation), that circumcision was suspended on account of the continual movements of the Israelites, is refuted by Delitzsch's remark that the Israelites were not continually on the march, but that they often encamped in one place for a long period, a period far longer, in fact, than the time in which they abode in Gilgal. Delitzsch asks why this circumcision did not take place before, why it was not performed as soon as they crossed the brook Zered. The answer is that, until the Jordan was crossed, they had not taken formal possession of their own land. As soon as, under the Divine protection, they had crossed the Jordan, the long-delayed promise was fulfilled. God's covenant with Abraham was accomplished, and now they, in their turn, had to place themselves once more in the position of God's covenant people, bound to serve Him with their whole heart. For a fuller discussion of this question see Keil's Commentary, and Hengstenberg in the passage cited above. We may observe that God fulfils His part of the covenant first, and then it is man's duty to fulfil his. God, under the Christian dispensation, first places us in the state of salvation. Then it becomes our duty to make that salvation sure by overcoming God's enemies, by the help which He never fails to afford. Give us. This introduction of the first person into the middle of the sentence is unexpected. Some MSS. and editors read "to them" (see note on Numbers 14:1, and Psalms 66:6, where there is a similar change of person). A land that floweth with milk and honey. This, says Keil, "is a standing expression in the Pentateuch to express the great fertility of the land of Canaan. Milk and honey are produced by a land rich in grass and flowers, which were both of them plentiful in Canaan (see Isaiah 7:15, Isaiah 7:22). Milk, not only of cows, but of sheep and goats also (Deuteronomy 32:14), and eaten sometimes sweet, at other times thick or curdled ( חמאה), was a leading article of food amongst the ancient Hebrews, as it is in the present day in most Eastern countries, and Palestine was peculiarly fitted for the rearing of cattle. Honey also, especially that of wild bees, was found in large quantities ( 14:8, sqq.; 1 Samuel 14:26; Matthew 3:4), and is still found, notwithstanding its present desolate condition." Some have thought דבַשׁ to mean the newly expressed juice of grapes, which, under the Arabic name of dibs, is largely used at present in Palestine, and is even exported to other countries. But in Deuteronomy 32:13, Psalms 81:16, wild honey is clearly meant, which is to this day deposited by bees, in the clefts of the rock, whence it often overflows and is received into vessels placed beneath (see Proverbs 5:3; So Proverbs 4:11; Jahn, 'Biblical Archaeology;' and Smith's Dictionary of the Bible)

Joshua 5:8

Till they were whole. Literally, till they revived, as in Genesis 20:7; 2 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 8:8. Objections have been raised (see Keil and Delitzsch in loc) to the possibility of this circumcision taking place in one day. But it has been shown by calculation that between one-third and one-fourth of the people who remained had been circumcised already, and that therefore such an operation as this could be performed with the utmost ease in a very short time. The word גוִו is used here again, since the people were still Gentiles until the rite of circumcision was performed.

Joshua 5:9

The reproach of Egypt. Either

Keil incorrectly states that" the genitive always denotes the person from whom the reproach comes" (see Isaiah 54:4, "the reproach of thy widowhood," i.e; the reproach which is cast upon thee for being a widow; Ezekiel 36:30, "reproach of famine," i.e; the reproach which comes from being doomed to suffer famine). If we accept

HOMILETICS

Joshua 5:1-9

The great renewal of the covenant.

Matthew Henry very felicitously quotes here and combines the two passages (So Matthew 8:5 and Matthew 6:10), "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved, who looks forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?" Terrible as an army in the eyes of her enemies (verse 1); fair as the moon, clear as the sun, when the reproach of Egypt is rolled away (verse 9).

I. ISRAEL IS A TYPE OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN HER WARFARE AGAINST SIN. When God's Church resolutely binds herself to the conflict with the powers of evil, their heart must needs melt, neither is there spirit in them any more. "Then Satan doth fear, his citadels fall," says the hymn. For the Church comes in the strength of her Lord. The "strong man armed" must have his "armour, wherein he trusted," taken from him, and the spoils of human souls which he has so industriously acquired must be divided, because "the stronger than he" has come upon him and bound him. Satan has no weapons for a hand-to-hand conflict with the Body of Christ. His weapons are to corrupt, to deceive, to persuade to a spirit of compromise with the world. So it has ever been that he has triumphed by corrupting the Church of God. Whenever God's disciples have gone forth to battle boldly and unflinchingly against evil, they have been victorious. They first humbled impurity and licentiousness, as well as unbelief. If they did not destroy these enemies of the soul, they at least compelled them to hide their heads, to shrink into corners, to admit unwillingly the superiority of purity and faith by ceasing to parade sins of this kind openly before the world. Next came the conflict with brute violence, which was kept in awe by the sacred character of the ministers of religion. Shameless and cynical effrontery in vice among those very ministers of religion, when the Church became corrupt, was next put down, even in spite of the weapons of force and temporal authority. So in later days a good cause has ever been victorious against the most overwhelming odds, when it has been prosecuted with perseverance and faith. Witness the abolition of slavery, first here, and next in America, so that even the Portuguese themselves, once the most hardened offenders in this respect, are now offering their cooperation with the English to put it down. So, again, the voice of God's faithful ones has spoken, and men dare not now stand up to take away one another's lives in this Christian land for a few hasty words, spoken without reflection. This may embolden us when we take up our weapons of prayer and holy exhortation to denounce the sins that yet remain among us—the reproach of intemperance, the scandalous opium traffic by which the revenue of India is largely supported, our commercial dishonesty, and all the other reproaches of our age. Against these must the Church of Christ gird on her armour, and never cease to wage a conflict, until the promised day shall come, when "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea." But one caution must be borne in mind. When we buckle on our armour afresh to contend against our enemies, we must first cross our Jordan. We must solemnly, that is, sever ourselves from the wayward and wandering past. Like Daniel (Daniel 9:1-27), we must "speak, and pray, and confess our sin, and the sin of our people." And then we must solemnly renew our covenant, our broken covenant, with God. Then may we advance without fear to the attack, and if Jesus be our leader, the battle may be long, but we cannot fail to have victory in the end.

II. ISRAEL IS A TYPE OF THE INDIVIDUAL SOUL IN THE SAME WARFARE. Just as in the case of the Church, so in the case of the individual, must there be the moment of conversion, the settled and deliberate resolve to break with the past, and the passage, under the guidance of the ark of the covenant, the law of God, and the conscience, the sign of His presence in the heart into the condition of fellowship with God. Then must come the solemn renewal of the covenant, the circumcision of the heart, the mortifying of the flesh, the cutting off even those innocent enjoyments which have been found dangerous in times past, through the weakness of the flesh. Then the feast by faith upon the flesh and blood of the true Paschal Lamb, the making memorial of our deliverance through Him from a cruel bondage, and then we must prepare for the assault. Nor need we fear defeat. Satan trembles when he sees us determined. His heart melts within him as he sees us advancing under the leadership of Jesus, the Captain of our salvation, and as long as we are resolute in the strife, the victory is secure. Yet it is not always won in the same manner. Some sins fall like Jericho, by the might of prayer. Some, like Ai, when evil has obtained a lodgment within, are only overcome after a shameful humiliation, repaired by a firm determination to put away the secret defilement. Others, like the rest of the cities which Joshua destroyed, will only succumb after a determined and persevering resistance. But the result is the same in the end. "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper," if thou art only steadfast in following wherever Jesus leads. "Terrible as an army is she who cometh up out of the wilderness, leaning on the arm of her beloved."

III. WORLDLY WISDOM MUST BE LAID ASIDE WHEN WE HAVE TO BATTLE WITH SIN. Nothing could be more foolish, humanly speaking, than for Joshua to have ordered a general circumcision of the children of Israel at this time. Simeon and Levi (Genesis 34:25) had taken advantage of this moment to overcome the Shechemites. And, leaving God out of the question, if the inhabitants of the land had descended upon the Israelites at the moment of their helplessness, they would have been sure of an easy victory. But these Israelites were under the protection of God. He could have worked another miracle to protect them from their enemies, as easily as He had brought them over Jordan. But He worked no miracle this time. He inspired terror into the minds of the inhabitants of Canaan, so that they dare not attack them. They were quite safe under His protection, as long as they obeyed His voice. This should teach us—

1. Not to slight the means of grace. "Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God." And yet it is equally true that he who refused to be circumcised as God had commanded him, "that soul" was to be "cut off from his people." So in these days, those who "forsake the assembling of themselves together," who make light of Christian baptism, who neglect the Lord's Supper, who treat with disdain the ordinances set up by lawful authority in the Church, who kick at authority and despise reproof, shall not be unpunished.

2. Not to combat sin with worldly weapons. Such maxims as "honesty is the best policy," and other similar ones which put the practice of virtue upon grounds of success in this life and worldly convenience, will always fail us at the critical moment. Let the temptation be only strong enough; let it only be clearly more to our advantage at the moment when we are assailed to yield than to resist, and the "cunning bosom sin" (George Herbert) will "blow away" all that" array" of "fences" which worldly wisdom has set around our actions. Nothing but the rooted conviction, "Thou God seest me;" nothing but the question, "How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?" will be powerful enough to defeat the assaults of sin in cases of secret overwhelming temptation. If that is not motive strong enough, nothing will be. Had the Israelites omitted to fence themselves with the protection of God's covenant, their prudence would not have availed them against the overwhelming numbers of their adversaries. But confidence that they were in the keeping of a higher power led them to consecrate themselves first to God, and then to go out to battle against His enemies and theirs.

3. Not to neglect our duty for fear of consequences. No one could have been under a greater temptation to do this than Joshua. By his obedience he was placing himself and his people in a position of the most imminent peril. Yet we hear of no hesitation. He does what he ought to do as a matter of course. Faith is weaker with the great mass of professing Christians than it was with Joshua. Both in public and private affairs men continually plead the urgency of the case as an excuse for a slight dereliction of duty. This is the case

(a) in affairs of State. And this is especially the case when the duty is what is (though erroneously) called a religious duty. Thus in India, some years ago, our missionaries were discouraged in their efforts, because it was supposed that British authority would be endangered by their successes. The opium traffic, above referred to, is defended on the ground of the evils to India which would result from a financial deficit. We sometimes hear "British interests" put above duty. Yet without attempting to decide whether this has been so in any given case, the broad general principle must be laid down that no fear of consequences to our vast and most valuable power ought to induce us, as a nation, to take one single step that cannot be defended on the grounds of abstract justice. We may be certain that in the long run the most conscientious policy will be the most advantageous. Yet even if not, "let justice be done, though the heavens should fall." We find the same tendency at work

(b) in the affairs of the Church. Those who are in high office in the Church often display over timidity from the sense of the grave responsibility that action throws upon them. Nor should such a sense of responsibility be absent. Yet where duty is clear there is no responsibility at all. Consequences in such a case should not be weighed. They may sometimes—though not so often as is supposed—serve to help in the decision where duty lies. But they cannot be pleaded as an excuse for neglecting duty. Lastly

(c), we come to the case of private persons, and we find the same tendency at work. The tradesman or professional man adopts the commercial morality of his fellows, whether it be right or wrong, and says that he shall be ruined if he does not. Let him take example by Joshua.

IV. THE SOLEMN RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT WAS A RENEWAL OF ITS RESPONSIBILITIES AND BLESSINGS. The covenant of circumcision had its spiritual meaning, which Moses as well as St. Paul pointed. "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your head."

1. It was a covenant of mortification. It implied the restraint of the lusts of the flesh by a painful process. This is to be the Christian's daily work. In the place of comfort, luxury, and ease, we are to be the disciples of Him who "had not where to lay his head." The promptings of our lower nature are constantly to be kept in check. Strict and severe moderation in all allowed comforts is our duty. Even our leisure and our recreations must often be broken in upon by the thought of the needs of those for whom Christ died, and for whom He would have us live. "Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow his steps." The Christian life, therefore, is incompatible with self indulgence.

2. It was a covenant of warfare. The covenant was solemnly renewed on the entrance into the promised land. But it was understood that, before the blessings of that land could be enjoyed, every nation that inhabited it must be extirpated. In like manner the Christian is pledged to an unceasing warfare with sin.

3. The covenant, once broken, could be renewed when the Israelites were willing to renew it. And so it is with the Christian. He may cast himself out of the favour of God by his disobedience. But God yearns after him, and, as in the parable of the prodigal son, sees him when "yet a great way off," and runs to meet him. Only there must be the willingness to endure the restraints of the covenant. The step to reconciliation is circumcision. That is, we cannot be reconciled to God until we have sincerely resolved to "mortify and kill all vices;" to live a hard and self denying life; to be watchful against the flesh and its tyranny, and to devote ourselves heart and soul to the service of our Master, with all its grievous restraints upon self pleasing and self interest.

4. The renewal of the covenant removed the reproach of Egypt. The Scriptures of both the Old and New Testament are full of God's mercy to penitent sinners. "Is Ephraim my dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For since I spake against him I do earnestly remember him still" (Jeremiah 31:20). "Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him:… for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found" (Luke 15:22-24). The past is forgotten when the sinner turns to God. "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." "Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls (1 Peter 2:25. See also 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Ephesians 2:1-6, etc). We may approach God in all confidence as our loving Father (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12); not from any trust in our own merits, but because we are "accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6).

HOMILIES BY E. DE PRESSENSE

Joshua 5:6-11

The Two Sacraments of the Old Covenant

Circumcision and the passover were the two sacraments of the old covenant. The first set forth the truth that enrolment among the people of God must be accompanied with the putting away of evil. The second represented the past deliverance from the bondage of Egypt, and the future deliverance from all the perils of the wilderness by entrance into Canaan, and the final possession of the land of promise. On the eve of the decisive conflict, God commands His people to make a solemn renewal of these two covenants. Israel must be afresh consecrated to Him by that covenant of circumcision which symbolises holiness by the crucifixion of the flesh, and by that passover feast, which is at once the symbol of past and future deliverances. Thus also should the Christian gird himself for the conflict of the spiritual life. When he enlists under the banner of his God, he ought, as it were, to renew his baptismal vows, by what St. Peter calls "the answer of a good conscience," thus dedicating himself to God in the renunciation of all the defilements of sin, by that circumcision of the heart which was the deep truth signified by the old fleshly rite. And further, by partaking of the Christian passover feast, he should testify his entire trust in redeeming love by receiving this most sacred pledge of love, and deriving from it the needed renewal of spiritual strength. That which is true of the individual Christian is true also of the Church. It requires to be constantly baptized a fresh with the Spirit of God, and to receive the pledges and seals of the grace of redemption, as a preparation for its spiritual conflicts. There is one remarkable feature in the sacred narrative. It is said that on the occasion of this first passover celebrated beyond the Jordan, the Israelites "did eat of the old corn of the land" (Joshua 5:10, Joshua 5:11). Thus they not only had in this feast a pledge of the promised deliverance, BUT AN EARNEST OF THE GOOD THINGS TO COME. They not only had a fresh guarantee of the promise, but a beginning of its fulfilment. The same thing is true of the Christian sacrament. While it is an essentially spiritual feast, it still gives in part that which it sets forth and symbolises. Faith receives the Holy Spirit in baptism, and feeds upon the invisible Christ in the Lord's Supper. Christ is to the soul "the living bread which came down from heaven" (John 6:31). Thus even before the Jordan is crossed, the Christian soul eats of the corn of the land of promise.—E. DE P.

HOMILIES BY R. GLOVER

Joshua 5:9, Joshua 5:10

Sacramental consecration of life.

We may with advantage linger over the story of this chapter. It has lessons which will never die, and appeals which will never grow old. It is a testimony against a form of evil so common and so dangerous that all branches of the Church of Christ suffer from it. It brings before us the question of the neglect of sacraments, and the wisdom of repairing that neglect. To bring the chief points before us, observe first—

I. WE ARE PRONE TO NEGLECT THE SACRAMENTS OF GOD. The neglect reported here strikes us as very strange. With the great miracles in recollection which had accompanied their leaving Egypt, it should, we feel, have been impossible for them to have forgotten or disobeyed their God. But here we have the statement that the entire nation had neglected the sacramental circumcision; and the narrative leaves some uncertainty as to whether there had not been some irregularity in the observance of the passover as well. It is not easy to explain such neglect. Perhaps the first sacrament was overshadowed by the law given at Sinai, the preoccupation with the new rites leading to the neglect of the old. The more so as, excepting the precept implied in the word, "No uncircumcised person shall eat thereof," there was no precept given at Sinai concerning this rite. Probably the neglect of the one carried with it the neglect of the other. Possibly some sullenness and dissatisfaction with the length of their desert wanderings intensified this feeling. However that may be, here we have the fact that beneath the eyes of the law giver the people neglect the observance of one or both of these rites. It is not, I think, that they are under any interdict, as some have imagined. There is no trace of a prohibition to observe them. It seems to have been simple, sheer neglect. If we feel it strange they should neglect these rites, we ought to feel it stranger still that they find so many today who resemble them in doing so. Like Israel, we have sacraments. As they had one for the individual confession of belonging to God, we have the rite of Baptism; as they had the social sacrament of the Passover, we have that of the Lord's Supper. But everywhere, from some reason or other, we see both neglected. Both meant to be observed by those who can make intelligently the avowals which they express, both are neglected. Sometimes, through carelessness and misconception, baptism will be neglected; but sometimes, merely because it is irksome, or because it seems not essential to salvation, or because it carries with it reproach for Christ, or involves responsibility, persons are found neglecting the rite of baptism, which the Saviour meant them to observe. And for much the same reasons the other, the social sacrament, is neglected. Around every Christian Church there is a fringe composed of persons alive to the glory of the gospel who yet shrink from the formal rites of covenant with God. How much they lose by it, none can tell. The mental clearness; the safety that lies in a well-defined position; the higher purpose; the greater ease with which the confession of Christ is made anti the denial of Christ avoided; the closer and firmer fellowship with God's saints, with all its quickening influences—these are all forfeited by the dull neglect of a blessed rite. And how much the Church and the world lose by their lukewarmness, by their refusal of service, by their unintentional but serious influence in abating the spirit of religious earnestness! Of these they never think. It is more agreeable to the indolence of their natures, or the timidity of their hearts, to abstain from all avowals; and so, like Israel, they neglect the sacraments of God. Let those guilty of such action remember that the sacraments are commandments which cannot be neglected without sin on the one hand and danger on the other. Secondly observe—

II. GOD PERMITS US TO REPAIR OUR NEGLECT AND ENTER INTO COVENANT WITH HIM. It is a marvellous thing that we should be permitted to enter into covenant with God; that in rites in which all the promises made are made by Him, not by us, He should bind Himself to be our redeeming God; that in the one sacrament He should make offer of cleansing from all guilt, and in the other of the bread of immortal life. It is a matter more marvellous still that to those who have neglected those rites for stretches of years He yet extends the permission to approach them. But so it is. Here is an illustration of this willingness. He had little hope of much honour or satisfaction from Israel. They would be a rebellious and gainsaying people through all their future. Yet here He allows them again to resume their relation to Him, to "lay hold on his covenant." It is no slight mercy to us that God is willing still to enter into an "everlasting covenant with us, ordered in all things and sure." If now our neglect is regretted, let not despair prolong it. Whatever falseness to conscience we have been guilty of, He keeps the door open, and gives us what we have no title to expect—the opportunity to repair neglect. He lays it as a charge on all to observe these covenant rites, so that we cannot without being disobedient keep outside of a covenant relation to Him. Belong to the Church of the redeemed. Let the name of God and of the city of God be upon you. When God permits us to repair our neglect, let us do so. Thirdly observe—

III. ALL BEGINNING ANY NEW ENTERPRISE SHOULD BEGIN IT WITH GOD. Israel has a great task before it. He will do well to lay hold on God's strength to help him. The messenger of God's justice, he must himself be just. "They must be holy who bear the vessels of the Lord." Exposed to great strain and great difficulty, they act wisely to close with God, and gain Him on their side. In this we have lessons for several classes. First, for the young, and those beginning life. When life is yet all before you, and the struggle with your foes yet to come, join your redeeming God in solemn saved from wreck had this been done. covenant. Many a life would have been Save yours. You will be saved many a grief, and come safe out of every danger, if in the beginning of your career before leaving Gilgal you enter into sacramental covenant with your Saviour. Well begun is half done. And a good beginning of the better life secures its perfectest and easiest development. The earliest is always the most convenient season for the great religious decisions of life.


Verses 10-12

EXPOSITION

THE PASSOVER AND THE CESSATION OF THE MANNA.—

Joshua 5:10

And kept the passover. In reference to the question which has been discussed above, whether the passover was kept after the rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea, Keil notices, as a remarkable fact, that not only no mention of a passover as having been kept is found in the Pentateuch, after Numbers 9:1, but there is not even any instance given of the law of sacrifice having been observed in the plains of Jericho; see above, Joshua 4:13. "Vides ergo quia nemo immundus facit pascha, nemo incircumcisus sed quicumque mundus fuerit et circumcisus, sicut et apostolus interpretatur dicens etenim pascha nostrum immolatus est Christus. Itaque diem festum celebremus non in fermento veteri, sed in azymis sinceritatis et veritatis" (Origen, Horn. 5, on Joshua). "When soldiers take the field, they are apt to think themselves excused from religious exercises (they have not time nor thought to attend to them); yet Joshua opens the campaign with one act of devotion after another" (Matthew Henry).

Joshua 5:11

The old corn. The produce of the land; literally, that which passes from off it, from עָבַר to pass over. Whether new or old we have no means of telling. The barley would be ripe (see note on Joshua 2:6), but the wheat harvest had not yet taken place. The morrow after the sabbath. The 15th Nisan (see Numbers 33:3). The law of the wave sheaf (Le Joshua 23:10, Joshua 23:11) was intended to apply to corn raised by the Israelites on their own land, after Canaan had been divided to them for an inheritance (see Exodus 23:16). And parched corn; i.e; ears roasted at the fire, and the grain afterwards rubbed out, a custom still in use among the Arabs (see Le Joshua 2:14; 1 Samuel 17:17; 2 Samuel 17:28, etc. See also for the precept here followed, Leviticus 23:14). This verse therefore adds some confirmation to the view that until their arrival in Palestine a full observance of the precepts of the law was impossible (see above, Joshua 5:6).

Joshua 5:12

The manna ceased. It ceased when the Israelites entered a cultivated region. The eastern portion of their inheritance, though well suited for pastoral purposes (see Joshua 1:12), was not a land of agricultural produce. Therefore the manna did not cease until the Israelites had crossed the Jordan.

HOMILETICS

Joshua 5:10-12

The passover and the cessation of manna.

I. THE RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT MUST BE ATTENDED WITH THE OBSERVANCE OF ITS LAWS. When the Christian desires to return and to serve God after a period of disobedience and rebellion, he must prepare himself, by repentance and mortification, to feed on the flesh of the slain Lamb of God in the sacrament which He has ordained. Thus he makes a memorial of the death of Christ, through which alone he has obtained pardon; he feeds on the flesh and blood of the Son of God; he applies to himself all the blessings which come from the Sacrifice of the Cross. And he moreover calls men to witness, by thus joining his brethren in the solemn celebration, of his intention to be henceforth an obedient servant of Christ. Thus he sets his seal to the vow of obedience which he has just made, he invokes the sympathy and assistance of his brethren in his recovery from the snare of Satan; he binds himself to them anew in his renewed participation with them in the new life of the Spirit.

II. WHEN THE PROMISED LAND IS ENTERED, ALL EXTRAORDINARY DISPENSATIONS OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE CEASE. This is the case

1. In the history of the Church. Nothing is more remarkable than the way in which all the miraculous gifts of God, healing, prophecy, the working of miracles, ceased when Jesus Christ had ascended into heaven. Up to His coming the world had been under tutors and governors, and the Father needed continually to intervene with revelations and portents, and interferences with the ordinary course of nature. After His coming these were gradually withdrawn. The Church passed from the region of the extraordinary dispensations of God's providence to the ordinary working of His laws. Before those laws were fully matured, there needed perpetual interferences to compensate for their imperfection. His whole counsel once made known in Christ, the laws of the spiritual, like those of the natural world move on in their regular course.

2. In the history of the individual. When man is wandering in the wilderness, an alien from the covenant of God, and out of His favour, he is net under the ordinary dispensations of God's grace. He is kept alive, so far as he lives at all, by unexpected manifestations of His mercy. Smitings of conscience, restraints of circumstances, checks imposed in unexpected ways to the unrestrained indulgence of his passions, prevent him from dying a miserable death in a land where no bread or water is. But when he returns to the fold of God these extraordinary manifestations are vouchsafed no longer. There are the ordinary supplies of grace to be obtained in God's Church—the treasures of God's Holy Word, the answers to daily public and private prayer, the uplifting of the heart which follows on the exercise of prayer and praise, the outpouring of Divine life which follows on the devout reception of Holy Communion. And all these have their blessed results in a steady growth in grace. The miraculous manna ceases. In its stead we eat of the old corn of the heavenly Canaan, in which we find ourselves placed by the loving-kindness of the Lord.

III. THE PASSOVER MUST NOT BE EATEN BY THE UNCIRCUMCISED. Hence we ]earn that no one can spiritually feed on Christ who is harbouring unrepented sin. Such an one is not fit to come to the Christian Passover, the Sacrament of Holy Communion. He may "carnally and visibly press the sacrament with Iris teeth, yet is he in nowise partaker of Christ." He who would feed on "Christ our Passover," who "has been sacrificed for us," must do so with the unleavened bread of purity ( εἰλικρινεία) and truth. And finally, none can sit down at the marriage supper of the Lamb save he that hath on the wedding garment. Compare the rules for the passover in Exodus 12:43-49; and Numbers 9:10-14.

HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE

Joshua 5:12

The special and the customary.

This verse is one of the proofs that the supply of manna was miraculous, ceasing as it did at the exact moment when it was no longer needed. Other proofs are, that a double portion fell each Friday, and none on the Sabbath; and that if kept longer than a day it became corrupt and stank, except on the day of rest, when it remained pure and wholesome. Let us look at—

I. Manna, as A SPECIAL PROVISION FOR A SPECIAL EXIGENCY.

1. The exigency shows us that even under the guidance of God there is no exemption from trial. At first all had seemed easy and comfortable. Passing through the sea as on dry ground, the Israelites soon beheld their late tyrants dead on the seashore. The bitter waters of Marah were sweetened and Elim furnished its wells and palm trees for their refreshment. A month passed. The dough cakes were nearly finished, and provisions began to fail. The murmuring of fear and discontent was heard. Those whom the sea had not devoured quaked lest the hungry wilderness should destroy them. Forgetting the tasks and bondage of Egypt, they remembered only its fleshpots, garlic, onions, and bread, and now they could wish rather to have died in ravenous plenty than live in noble penury. The Almighty will thus prove His people. He does not always conduct them by easy roads, for He values the discipline of their spirits more than the external comfort of their bodies. Faith is to be tested that it may come forth as "gold tried in the fire."

2. The provision assures us that under the leadership of God all real wants will be supplied. The glory of the Lord had appeared in the cloud. Quails—feathered fowl—were sent in the evening, and in the morning, manna—bread from heaven. God would not suffer His people to remain in absolute need. He would give them the "finest of the wheat," and "honey out of the rock." They should have the bread of angels and the meat of kings. Infinite wisdom and might sit on the throne, and these are engaged for the believer's support. The light may flicker, it shall not be extinguished; or if ordinary sources of relief raft, other springs shall be discovered. "Your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." The gift by God of His beloved Son to die for the world is the transcendent example of God's benevolence. Christ is the true Manna, which satisfies the hunger of the soul. Christianity, or the scheme of redemption, is the remedy which Eternal Love has devised to meet the emergency of a sin stricken world hastening to ruin.

II. THE CESSATION OF THE MIRACULOUS SUPPLY teaches us—

1. Not to expect to be furnished directly from God with what He enables us to procure by our own exertions. Apparently the inhabitants of the land had fled for refuge to Jericho and the neighbouring towns, abandoning to the Israelites the harvest ripening in the fields and the old stores housed in the granaries. The Almighty economises His acts. Extraordinary occurrences are for extraordinary needs. We see in the life of Christ that He would not perform wondrous works merely to gratify inordinate curiosity or to satisfy the demands of unreasonable scepticism. The lesson of realising our responsibilities is important. It will not do to indolently expect the Divine providence and power to supply the lack of human effort. Prayer and work must go together. Not only faith is necessary, but exertion, if the Divine purposes are to be accomplished. If on a specially appointed mission our Father may take care of us as He does of the birds of the air, it is ordinarily our duty to "sow and reap and gather into barns," but without anxiety or corroding care.

2. To be thankful for a return to ordinary ways and means. The Israelites got tired even of "angels' food;" they loathed "this light bread," with all its sweetness. As at present constituted, variety is pleasing to men. Certainly man is not yet fitted for the splendours and employments of the beatific state. Moses and Elijah spent many days on the mount with God, but probably a return to earthly scenes was essential to their continued life. When glorified, man may be able to live entirely on the manna of heaven, the life hidden with Christ in God. In seasons of affliction wondrous revelations are sometimes granted; there is a support given which raises the soul above the surrounding sorrow, causing it to exclaim, "It is good to be here!" Deprived of the usual ordinances and channels of consolation, the Spirit ministers of the things of God, illumines the sacred page, makes the promise of Christ's presence a fulfilled reality. Nevertheless, it rejoices the Christian to be permitted to resume wonted occupations and to enjoy the customary privileges. To revel for a time in the glorious scenery of the Alps does not diminish the saris-faction with which we behold again the quiet beauty of our much-loved home. As the ceremonies connected with the passover were renewed, the exchange of manna for ordinary corn was at least fitting, if not absolutely necessary.

3. The duty of keeping in remembrance past displays of the might and compassion of God. According to Exodus 16:32, a (golden) pot was to be filled with manna and deposited in the ark as a memorial of grace and favour received in the wilderness. Naught more treacherous than the memory. The picture of the past is a dissolving view that grows fainter dally until it disappears from sight. To remember what the Almighty has done is pleasing to Him and beneficial to us. It rebukes ingratitude and faithlessness. Hence the need of erecting our altars, which shall call to mind continually the blessings which have been bestowed.

III. THE DIFFERENT FORM WHICH GOD'S INTERPOSITIONS ASSUMED, varying according to the requirements of His people. The following verses narrate the appearance of Jehovah to Joshua, and the instructions given respecting the siege of Jericho. The stoppage of the manna nowise implied the withdrawal of the Divine presence. The tolls of the wilderness were left behind, the dangers of Palestine commenced. Help must be afforded by different means. And the Christian life calls into prominence certain principles at certain crises. Today we want food, tomorrow weapons; today strength, tomorrow guidance; now hope, then charity. We are variously tested; and manifold are the aids of the Divine Spirit; thus a perfect character is cultured. The text speaks to us of the everlasting rest into which we hope to enter. It shall be a Sabbath in which we shall live on the principles which were made ours during the working week, and it shall also be a Canaan where we shall no longer need the food of the wilderness. Faith, as trustful love, shall survive forever, whilst faith, as believing hope, shall vanish in glorious sight and full fruition. What a Passover shall that be when the Supper of the Lamb is celebrated! The intermediary dispensation shall terminate. "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father." Can we anticipate with joy the renouncing of the life on earth for a life beyond the grave? "He that eateth me," said Christ, "shall live forever. "To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna.."—A.


Verses 13-15

EXPOSITION

Joshua 5:13

When Joshua was by Jericho. The preposition בְּ, the principal meaning of which is "in" signifies here "in the immediate neighbourhood of," as in 1 Samuel 29:1 (where, however, the LXX. read "in Endor"), Ezekiel 10:15. Perhaps Joshua had ascended some hill in the close vicinity of the city to reconnoitre it alone, and here he received the directions which resulted in the miraculous capture of the city (see also Genesis 13:18, where בְּאֵלנֵי cannot mean in the oaks," nor בְּחֶבְדוֹן "in Hebron"). The LXX. translates the first by, παρὰ τὴν δρῦν. The Vulgate has "juxta" (cf. Genesis 14:13). Origen is much hampered in his exposition here by the translation "in." He asks how Jericho can possibly be holy ground when it is still in the possession of the enemy; and answers ingeniously that wherever the captain of the Lord's host is must needs be holy ground). He lift up his eyes. Usually, though not always (cf. Genesis 13:10), used of an unexpected or marvellous sight (see Genesis 18:2; Genesis 22:13; Numbers 24:2; 1 Samuel 6:13; 1 Chronicles 21:16). A man. This Divine or angelic vision came, as was often the case, in human shape (cf. Genesis 18:1, Genesis 18:2; Genesis 19:1, Genesis 19:2, Genesis 19:10; Genesis 32:24; 13:3, 13:6, 13:11; Daniel 10:16, Daniel 10:18; Daniel 12:6, Daniel 12:7. See note on next verse). With his sword drawn in his hand. As in Numbers 22:31; 1 Chronicles 21:16 (cf. Genesis 3:24). And Joshua went unto him and said. It appears from this, says Calvin, that Joshua was alone, and was prepared to fight with the apparition, if it appeared that he had fallen in with an enemy. For at first, unexpected as the appearance was, he recognised nothing supernatural in it.

Joshua 5:14

And he said, Nay. Many MSS. which are followed by the LXX. and Syriac versions, have לוֹ for לאֹ here. The Chaldee and Vulgate read לאֹ, and the Masorites do not reckon this among the 15 passages in which לוֹ is read for לאֹ (Keil). But when Keil adds that a comparison of this passage with Joshua 24:21 decides the point, he is going too far, since כִּי often stands, like the Greek ὅτι, before a quotation, in the place of our inverted commas (see, for instance, Genesis 29:33; Exodus 3:12, etc). The various reading has no doubt arisen from the ambiguity of the passage, for it appears grammatically doubtful to which part of Joshua's question the particle of negation applies. Yet it is obvious enough practically that it is in answer to the last portion of it. But as captain of the Lord's host am I now come. Literally, "for (or but) I, the captain of the Lord's host, have now come." As though he would say, "the struggle is now imminent; the conflict is all but begun; and now, at the critical moment when my help is needed, I, the captain of the hosts of the Lord, the leader of all that vast army of unseen confederates, who are destined to marshal the forces of nature, the elements of supernatural terror and dismay, on the side of the Israelites, am come to help you." That the Lord's host must mean the angels is clear from such passages as Genesis 32:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 103:20, Psalms 103:21; Psalms 148:2; St. Luke 2:13 (aft 2 Kings 6:17). Hengstenberg, in his 'Christology,' illustrates by Matthew 26:53. Two opinions have been held by the early Church concerning this manifestation. The first regards it as the appearance of the Son of God in a visible form; the second supposes it to have been a created being—an angel—through whom Jehovah was pleased to manifest Himself. The former opinion was general in the earliest ages of the Church. The appearance of the Arian heresy, however, brought this interpretation into discredit. It was felt to be dangerous to admit it, lest it should lead to the notion that the Loges, however great and glorious a being he might be, however superior to all other created beings, was nevertheless removed by an infinite interval from the Supreme God Himself. The Jewish interpreters differ on the point. Maimonides and others (see next note) do not regard the appearance as a real one. The majority seem to have supposed it to have been the Archangel Michael. We will proceed to examine the scriptural and patristic evidence on the subject. That appearances, believed to be manifestations of God Himself in a visible form, are recorded in Scripture, is a fact which cannot be denied. Thus we have the voice of God ( קול יְהֹוָה) walking in the garden (Genesis 3:8). Again, in Matthew 15:1-39; though first God appears to Abraham in a vision, the nature of the manifestation would seem to have changed in some respects afterwards, for we read" he brought him forth abroad" (Matthew 15:5). Again, in Matthew 18:1-35; we find that Jehovah "appeared" to Abraham as he dwelt by the oaks of Mature (Matthew 18:1), and the narrative would suggest that Jehovah Himself appeared, and two attendant angels. This is further corroborated by the fact that Abraham remains in conference with Jehovah, while the two angels who arrived in the evening at Sodom do not appear to have been spoken of as Jehovah, or to have received Divine honours from Lot. The "man" who (Genesis 32:24) wrestled with Jacob is described afterwards (Matthew 18:30) as "God." The "angel of the Lord" who (Exodus 3:2) "appeared" unto Moses "in a flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush," is immediately afterwards described as Jehovah and Elohim (Matthew 18:4), and, as in the present passage, Moses is instructed to remove his shoe from his foot in consequence of the holiness of the place in which so great a Being appeared. And here we are led to investigate the nature of that mysterious being who is described as "the angel of the Lord," the "angel," or, as the word is sometimes translated, "messenger of the covenant." He appears to Hagar (Genesis 16:7), and she immediately proceeds (Matthew 18:13) to express her belief that it is God whom she has seen. The angel who appears to Abraham at the sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22:11, Genesis 22:12, Genesis 22:18) speaks of Himself as God. The voice of the angel, again, is regarded by Leah and Rachel as the voice of God (Genesis 31:11, Genesis 31:16), and He calls Himself so (Matthew 18:13). Jacob speaks of the angel as having "redeemed him from all evil" (Genesis 48:16), but here the term Goel, though it means a ransomer, is not necessarily connected with moral evil. After His appearance to Hoses in the bush He becomes the special guide of the children of Israel. His divinity is again asserted in Exodus 13:21, for the Being there spoken of as Jehovah is described in Joshua 14:1-15 :19 as His angel. The solemn terms in which the God of Israel refers to him in Exodus 23:20, Exodus 23:21 must not be passed over. He is the "Angel of Jehovah." He is sent to "keep" Israel "in the way." They were to take heed and not rebel against Him (so LXX); for, adds Jehovah, "My name is in His inward parts" (not בּוֹ but בְּקִרְבּוֹ denoting close and intimate union). Cf. verse 93 and Exodus 32:34; Exodus 33:2. This angel is called the Face, or Faces, of the Lord (Exodus 33:14; cf. Isaiah 63:9), and is thus specially identified with the revelation of Him, like the term εἰκών in the New Testament. The angel that withstood Balaam assumes a tone of authority in harmony with this view (Numbers 22:22-35). Whether the angel at Bochim ( 2:1) were a Divine or human messenger does not appear from the narrative, and the word is occasionally, as in Haggai 1:13, used of a prophet. But the appearance to Gideon and Manoah has a Divine character ( 6:11-22; 13:8-22). And the special reference to Jehovah, the angel of the covenant, in Malachi 3:1 seems to point in a special manner to the Second Person in the Blessed Trinity. This view, as has been stated, is the view of the earlier Fathers, nor does there seem any reasonable ground for its rejection by those of later date. The idea that the Logos, always the medium of the Father's revelation and impartation of Himself, in creation as in redemption, frequently took a visible form under the old dispensation in order to communicate the Divine will to mankind, does not in the least militate against the doctrine of His consubstantiality with the Father. On the contrary, it rather emphasises the fact which the New Testament teaches us throughout, that the Logos was ever the manifestation, the ἐξήγησις (John 1:1-51) of the Father, the eternal medium whereby He communicates Himself beyond Himself. This was in the main the view of the earliest Fathers. They might use an incautious expression now and then, but they ever intended to be true to the doctrine of the Consubstantial Son of the Father, who took a visible shape to convey the Father's mind to man. Thus Justin Martyr ('Dial. cum Tryphone,' 56) cites Genesis 18:1, Genesis 18:2 to prove that, as he says, "there is another God under ( ὑπὸ) the the Creator of all things, who is called an angel because he announces ( ἀγγέλειν) whatever the Creator of all things desires him to announce." This being, he adds, "was also God before the creation of the world." He was another God than the Creator of the world in number ( ἀριθμῷ), not in mind ( γνώμῃ). And from the expression "the Lord rained down fire and brimstone from the Lord out of heaven" (Genesis 19:24), he deduces the belief that this Being was "Lord from beside ( παρά) the Lord who is in heaven." He proceeds to cite the passages from the Old Testament which have just been mentioned, and to draw from them the conclusion which has just been drawn, that this Being was one who ministered ( ὑπηρέτοῦντα) to God who is above; the word, the ἀρχή whom He begat before all creation (see. 60, 61). Similarly Theophilus ('Ad Autolycum, 2.22) says that the Word of God held a colloquy with Adam in the person (or representation, προσώπῳ) of God. Irenaeus ('Adv. Haer.,' 4.7, 4) speaks of the Being who spake to Abraham at Mamre and Moses in the bush as superior to all created angels, and as, in fact, the Word of God; though afterwards (Joshua 20:1-9 :11) he modifies this statement into a manifestation of "claritatem et dispositiones patris," "secundum dispositionum ejus causas sive efficaciam." It is to be remembered that we unfortunately chiefly possess Irenaeus in a very unsatisfactory Latin dress. Similar passages may be found in Clem; 'Alex. Paed.,' 1.7; and Tertullian, 'Adv. Prax.,' 14. The latter says that God was "invisible as the Father, but visible as the Son," the latter being the means whereby the former was revealed. The passage from Clement is embodied and improved upon in a passage in the 'Apostolic Constitutions,' which presents the primitive doctrine on this point in clearer language than any other. "To Him (Christ) did Moses bear witness, and said, 'The Lord received fire from the Lord, and rained it down.' Him did Jacob see as a man, and said, 'I have seen God face to face, and my soul is preserved.' Him did Abraham entertain, and acknowledge to be the Judge and his Lord. Him did Moses see in the bush. Him did Joshua the son of Nun see, as captain of the Lord's host, for assistance against Jericho" ('Apost. Const.,' 5.20). One passage more will be cited on this point. "Who else," says Origen, in his Homily on this passage, "is the prince of the host of the virtues of the Lord, save our Lord Jesus Christ? … Joshua would not have adored," he adds, "unless he had recognised God." The fact that the later Fathers rejected this interpretation would not be sufficient to outweigh primitive testimony at once so explicit and so general, unless it were supported by the strongest arguments. The fact that it was rejected rather from prudential motives, and that such prudence was, in point of fact, entirely unnecessary, robs the later interpretation of much of its weight. Thus much at least is certain, that we may adopt the earlier one without fear of prejudicing thereby the doctrine of the divinity of Christ. Further information on this point will be found in Hengstenberg's 'Christology,' in Liddon's 'Bampton Lectures' (Lect. it), in Bull ('Defens. Fid. Nicen.,' Joshua 1:1), and in Keil's Commentaries upon the various passages of the Old Testament, cited above. "He here appeared as a soldier, with His sword drawn in His hand. To Abraham in his tent He appeared as a traveller; to Joshua in the field, as a man of war. Christ will be to His people what their faith expects and desires" (Matthew Henry). And Joshua fell on his face. The apparition had no doubt taken Joshua by surprise. He believed himself to be alone, when suddenly he found himself confronted by a warrior, with his sword drawn. Uncertain, in those days when Divine interposition was more common than it is now, whether what he saw was a proof that he was watched by enemies, who had resolved to cut him off by surprise, or whether God had vouchsafed to appear to him, but evidently quite prepared to expect the latter, he addresses a question to the apparition, which of itself implies at least a half belief that what he saw was something above nature. He needs but the simple reply just recorded to lead him to prostrate himself in simple faith before the Mighty One who now stood before him to be the defence and shield of His people from all their adversaries. Maimonides, in his 'Moreh Nevochim,' and others have regarded this as a vision seen by Joshua when he was alone, plunged in deep meditation on the difficult task before him. But without denying that many of the. Divine interpositions recorded in Scripture (as, for instance, that in Genesis 22:1) took place through the inner workings of the mind as the medium of their action, yet here, as in Genesis 32:1-32; and most probably in Exodus 3:1-22; we have visible appearances of God to men in deep anxiety of heart, pondering "great matters" which were "too high for them." Whether we choose to accept or reject the historical narrative as a whole, there can be no rational ground for doubting that the Hebrew historians wrote under the full persuasion that they and their forefathers lived under a dispensation of continual Divine interpositions, sometimes taking place by secret inward intimations, sometimes through the Urim and Thummim; sometimes, at a crisis in the history of the nation or of an individual, by actual external appearances of God in a visible form, and that we have here an account of one of these. The purport of the appearance is, however, obscured by our present division of chapters. The narrative proceeds without a break as far as Joshua 6:5. Joshua 6:1 is simply parenthetical and explanatory. Thus we gather that Joshua was meditating the plan of his future campaign, and deliberating on the best mode of capturing the strong walled city close by which (verse 13) he stood, when God appeared to him in the form of a warrior, and solved all his doubts by commanding him to prepare for a miraculous intervention of His Providence, and in the place of warlike expedients to resort to a religious ceremony, which should be the external token to all the surrounding nations that the invading host was under the protection of the Lord of heaven and earth; a fact of which they were more than half convinced by the supernatural passage of the Red Sea and the Jordan (see Joshua 2:10; Joshua 6:1).

Joshua 5:15

Loose thy shoe from off thy feet. Cf. Exodus 3:6. We have here a clear proof (see also Joshua 6:2) that He who now spoke to Joshua was a Divine Person. The loosing the shoe from the feet is regarded by Origen and other patristic commentators as emblematic of the removal of worldly engagements and pollutions from the soul. Now Jericho was straitly shut up.

HOMILETICS

Verses 13-6:21

The vision and the command.

Three points demand our special attention in this passage. First, the apparition to Joshua; next, the command that was given him; and, lastly, the results of that command, the fall of the walls of Jericho, and the subsequent sack of the city. Each of these points yields important lessons.

I. HE WHO APPEARED WAS THE SON OF GOD. This seems the most probable conclusion from the foregoing notes, as also from the fact that Divine worship was paid to Him by His own command (cf. Revelation 19:10; Revelation 22:8, Revelation 22:9). The Son of God was ever the link of communication between God and the external world. By Him God created it; through Him He has been forever pleased to deal with it; He revealed the final dispensation of God's will to it; He shall come again to judge it. Under the patriarchs and the law He temporarily assumes a visible shape to communicate God's purposes to man; under the gospel He eternally retains the visible form of man to save the world. He was the Angel of the Old Covenant; He is no less the Angel or Messenger of the New. And by His Spirit He still reveals God's will to man, though no longer by means of a visible form. And thus the continuity of God's dealings with man is preserved. It is "one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and the uncircumcision through faith;" one God who has adopted the same means throughout, yet with ever-increasing efficiency, to bring man back to his obedience.

II. HE APPEARED WHEN JOSHUA HAD BEEN CAREFUL TO OBEY GOD'S COMMANDS. "To him that hath shall be given." Joshua had been careful to restore the broken covenant between Israel and Jehovah. He had then ordered a general celebration of the great Israelitish national festival. And having thus discharged his religious, he was now intent upon his worldly, duties, both of which he performed with an equal devotion to God's commands. He was, doubtless, now either reconnoitring the city, or lost in reflection how he should best capture it. Then appears the Captain of the Lord's host, and gives him full directions for his task. So to the Christian warrior against sin will the Son of God appear, and direct him in his task, when he has duly sought the Lord in the appointed ordinances of religion, and is seriously addressing himself to the task of battling with sin.

III. JOSHUA IS SURPRISED, BUT NOT DISMAYED, BY His APPEARANCE. He was in the way of duty, and he had been biden. (Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:9) to "be of good courage." Therefore he boldly questions the apparition, prepared to welcome him, if he proved to be a friend, to do battle with him if he turned out to be an enemy. God's dispensations often come to us in such doubtful guise that we are compelled to question with them. But whereas men are generally apt to be terrified when "beneath a frowning Providence" God "hides a smiling face," the boldness of Joshua should be our example. "The Lord is on my side, I will not fear what man doeth unto me" (Psalms 118:6), should be the perpetual attitude of the Christian. Thus the true Joshua set His face as a flint to go up to Jerusalem (Mark 10:32; Luke 9:51), careless of the dangers that awaited Him there. So when opposition or distress come upon us because of our religion, we should not fear. It is the Captain of the Lord's host come to aid us in our assault on some stronghold of sin. If we boldly go up to Him and question Him, He will tell us who He is.

IV. JOSHUA IS COMMANDED TO DO REVERENCE TO HIM WHO APPEARS TO HIM. The removal of the shoe from the foot, on entering a holy place, was in order that nothing that defiled should be brought in (see Revelation 21:27). So when Jesus appears to us to give us instructions concerning any great struggle that is impending over us, we must "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us," and devote ourselves with single heart to the work that we have in hand. There must be no secondary motives, no worldly ambitions, no desire of gain or applause, cleaving to us as we buckle to our task. What these bring in their train we see in the case of Ai. In awe of the Divine Presence, and that we may duly receive the Divine commands, we must recognise the fact that we are on holy ground, and that God requires of us an absolute devotion to His will.

HOMILIES BY J. WAITE

Joshua 5:13-15

The captain of the host.

As Moses, on entering on his mission, was favoured with a marvellous Divine manifestation (Exodus 3:1-6), so with Joshua, now that he is about to make his first onslaught on the strongholds of the Canaanites. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in a flame of fire. God spoke to him from the midst of the bush that burned but was not consumed. The supernatural radiance was the vehicle of the Divine Presence. God clothed Himself with light as with a garment. The vision and the voice were alike wonderful. The apparition in Joshua's case was of a different kind. It was the common semblance of a man prepared for battle. There seems to have been nothing supernatural in his aspect, and nothing in Joshua's question indicates that he was startled or alarmed by what he saw, or that the Being who appeared before him was other to his view than a veritable flesh-and-blood warrior who was come to take his place on one side or the other of the conflict that was at hand. And yet as he gazed more intently upon the warrior form he must have discovered something in it that told him it was no mere "man"—some majesty of mien or look, some grandeur of the Spirit shining through the countenance. The form was that of a man, the eyes were "as a flame of fire." And it was in the consciousness that he stood in the immediate, though veiled, presence of Jehovah Himself, the Prince and Leader of His own hosts, that Joshua "fell to his face on the earth and did worship." In each of these cases the form of the manifestation was adapted to the circumstances of the time and the speciality of the Divine purpose. Moses was taught that the light of the Lord's presence should be with him and his people—a guide, a glory, a defence—and that through whatever fiery ordeal they might pass they should not be consumed. Joshua, whose heart might well quail and tremble at the prospect before him, was made to know that the Captain of a mightier host than his was with him, the sword of whose strength was drawn and ready for the fight. With such forces on his side victory must everywhere attend his steps. This "Captain of the Lord's host" we believe to be none other than the Eternal Son of God, whose function it has ever been to be the channel of communication from the infinite Father Spirits—the "word" of His thought, the arm of His power—and whose appearances in the olden time in human and angelic forms were prophetic of His after manifestation in the flesh. This view makes the scene before us strikingly suggestive of the relation in which lie stands towards His redeemed Church in its grand conflict with the evil powers of the world. Observe—

I. CHRIST'S PRESENCE WITH HIS PEOPLE. These miraculous manifestations give a tone of great solemnity to the history of the olden times, and invest the leading men of those times with an aspect of something like superhuman grandeur. But we greatly err if we fail to link those times with our own and those men with ourselves—if we look on these ancient records as relating to a condition of things altogether exceptional and foreign to our own experience. The remote and occasional miracle bears witness to the abiding, ever present truth. God gave those signs and wonders that we might know Him to be always near in the fulness of His love and power. "The good will of him that dwelt in the bush" is the perpetual inheritance of the Church. The "Captain of the Lord's host" is ever going forth before His armies, and it is by the sharpness of His sword and the strength of His right arm they win all their victories. Distinguish between the miraculous form of the incident and the truth enshrined in R. The one belonged to that particular age, and was suited to its exigencies; the other belongs to every age, and meets the permanent necessities of all individual and social religious life. In the heightened spirituality and richer grace of our Christian times we have the substance which those mystic visions did but shadow forth. In place of startling signs and symbols we have Divine words of promise—appeals not to sense but to faith—awakening the intelligence, kindling the heart; words of assurance to the individual believer, "If any man love me," etc. (John 14:23); to the worshipping Church, "Where two or three are gathered together," etc. (Matthew 18:20); to all faithful heralds of gospel truth, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). No need of miraculous manifestations if our faith can grasp the full meaning of gracious words like these.

II. THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST OVER THE HEAVENLY POWERS. "Captain of the host of the Lord"—i.e; the angelic host. The profoundly interesting, and not altogether profitless, question of the relation of the angelic world to our humanity is opened up to us here. Angelic ministry in human affairs is a fact to which Old and New Testaments alike bear abundant witness. "Are they not all ministering spirits?" etc. (Hebrews 1:14). Every age has had its "heirs of salvation," whose history, if we knew all its secrets, would illustrate this truth. Here, too, the supernatural wonders of the past inspire faith in the enduring reality. Why not believe that between us and the Infinite there is a glorious gradation of pure, personal spirit life linked in kindly interest and helpful service with our own? The relation of Christ, however, to the angels is chiefly indicated. In what way these earlier manifestations of the Son of God, and His after assumption of our nature, may hare affected the interests of their being, we know not. But their personal subjection to Him is made evident. "When he bringeth in the first begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (Hebrews 1:6). The gospel and apostolic histories are full of proof of their subordination to his redeeming purpose. He leads the heavenly host—leads them in the great conflict with the foes of God and man. If our eyes were opened, as were the eyes of Elisha's servant, we should see that we are not so much alone as we sometimes suppose. The angels that "ascend and descend upon the Son of man" are powers that He sways by the impulse of His sovereign will and makes the instruments of His almighty love. Shall our hearts yield to fear when we know that such forces as these are fighting on our side? Shall we hesitate to follow the leading and obey the behests of the great "Captain of salvation," who has such armies as these at His command?

III. THE SANCTITY THAT BELONGS TO SCENES OF SPECIAL DIVINE MANIFESTATION. "Loose thy shoe," etc. The incarnation of Christ has consecrated all the earth and made every part of it hallowed ground. He has withdrawn again behind the veil, only to come more near to us, to fill all places with the energy of His viewless Spirit. But there are times when the veil seems to be uplifted; states of consciousness in which the Divine Presence is intensely real; manifestations that

"Dissolve the soul in ecstasies,

And bring all heaven before our eyes."

Shall we tread with thoughtless or irreverent feet the spots hallowed even by the memory of seasons such as these?—W.

HOMILIES BY S.R. ALDRIDGE

Joshua 5:13-15

A soldier's interview with his captain.

It adds much to the general power of the Bible as an ethical handbook, that great part of its instruction is conveyed in the pleasing form of history, political and individual.

I. JOSHUA'S ANXIETY. Gilgal, where the ceremonies related in preceding verses were celebrated, was not far from Jericho, the great stronghold which protected the eastern district of Palestine and which it was necessary for the Israelites to capture before they could advance into the country with safety. The opening words of the 18th verse imply that Joshua had gone out alone to view Jericho, to survey its defences, and to form plans of assault. He was deeply concerned for the success of the siege It was his first conflict in the promised land, and the Israelites were inexperienced in attacking fortified cities. We can well believe that this thoughtful leader was deep in meditation, pondering over the past promise of God, and praying that it might be fulfilled in his hour of need. Unworthy are those men of high places in God's Church who are not concerned for the welfare of the Divine purposes committed to their charge, who do not "watch as they that must give an account." In some sphere or other we are all masters or captains; let us endeavour to realise the responsibility resting upon us. We axe informed how Joshua's anxiety was relieved. "He lifted up his eyes and saw," etc. In the season of exigency Jehovah (Joshua 6:9) appeared. He could not violate His word and leave His servant alone. Here is comfort for the careworn and despairing. Said Jesus, "Lo, I am with you always." Whilst we forget not to use diligently our talents and resources, let our eyes be lifted from the earth that we may see Him who stands by us as He did by Paul in the cell at Jerusalem, saying, "Be of good cheer" (Acts 23:11). We go not to the warfare at our own cost. Let us learn to expect His presence. We will think of the future, but not take over anxious thought. Not work but worry saps the strength. Let our councils wait till Christ is present to preside.

II. HIS COURAGE. Not in vain had the admonition, "Be courageous," been bestowed upon him. Nowise affrighted, Joshua went up to the man with the sword and put the inquiry, "On whose side art thou come to fight?" Ignorant of the stranger's dignity, his warlike attitude did not daunt our hero. He would know the truth, even if unpleasant and at the hazard of his life. Truly many a trouble would have its gigantic dimensions lessened if we faced it stoutly and investigated its nature. That new theory which wears such hostile aspect may after all confirm the old position. Joshua knew but of two armies. And to our conflict with sin there are but two sides. "He that is not with us is against us." It is well to put the query to our acquaintance, "Art thou for us?" Notice also that God appears in the form best suited to His servant's need. He contended as an athlete with Jacob that by wrestling the patriarch's faith and knowledge might be increased. To Moses, needing to be reminded of the indestructibility of the Church of God, there was shown a burning bush unconsumed. And now, to inspirit Joshua for the campaign, God reveals Himself as a warrior armed and as the "Prince of the Lord's host," Captain of the visible and invisible armies, the Israelites and the angels. Analogous to these varied appearances are the titles of God, framed to assure His people that He can "supply all their need." To the afflicted He is the "God of all comfort," to the depressed the "God of hope." In our loneliness He is a Friend, in orphanhood the Father of the fatherless, in the storm our refuge, amid the waves our Rock, and in battle our Captain and Shield. Thankful may we be for the chequered experience of life, if it reveals to us the many sidedness of our God, and the satisfaction to be found in Him of every want.

III. HIS HUMILITY. The words and bearing of the speaker, even if they did not at once render Joshua conscious of His exalted character, were quite enough to indicate the need of reverence. Accordingly he bowed.and worshipped, and, great general though he was, exhibited his readiness to receive commands or advice respecting the management of the siege. This is the spirit in which the approach of Christ to the heart should be met. We must say with Saul, "What writ thou have me to do?" Men who cavil at every utterance of the Saviour are not likely to be favoured with a full disclosure of His glorious person. If the heart has been stirred by some appeal of Scripture or some religious argument, it is only right that we should display a willingness to listen further and to follow the light whither it may lead us. A lowly attitude befits the proudest intellect in the presence of messengers and messages from heaven. Let us, like Joshua, inquire, "What saith my Lord unto his servant?" Humility prepared the way for the reception of a command that clearly revealed a present Jehovah. Not to the disrespectful will such a revelation be granted. Therefore to the doubting we say, Bow at the feet of Christ, and there shall come a mandate which by its own inherent authority shall manifest His dignity and dismiss uncertainty. Often have the very absoluteness of the commands of Christ, and the very thoroughness of the claim He makes to men's homage, assured them of His being the Son of God. Imposture and falsehood stand not forth in such clear light, they would be instantly detected.

IV. HIS OBEDIENCE. Promptly did Joshua loose the shoes from off his feet, recalling, doubtless, the similar order issued to Moses in the desert. The presence of God is true consecration. He is everywhere; but where He manifests Himself, there the place is holy. As the shoe partook of the defilement of the earth, it was not fit to remain on holy ground. The New Testament does not diminish the awe inspired by the majesty of the Most High, though it brings pre-eminently into view His character of love. Not outward prostration, however, do we want so much as the bowing of the heart and bending of the will. "Rend your hearts and not your garments." Obedience was rewarded with directions and a promise. By instant compliance with the behest, Joshua displayed a hearty acceptance of his Prince's will, and a fitness to receive further proofs of Divine favour. For the gifts of God are conditioned by the preparedness of the recipient. And if in answer to our repeated prayers there has come a seemingly strange command, let us immediately obey. No further revelation will he ours till we have thus shown our fitness to participate in heavenly blessings. We shall find that in keeping the commandments we acquire a true knowledge of God, and that therein is eternal life. "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine."—A.

HOMILIES BY E. DE PRESSENSE

Joshua 5:13-15

The Captain of the Church.

At the very time when the battle of Israel against the idolators of the land of Canaan was about to commence, Joshua saw a mysterious warrior stand before him sword in hand. "Art thou for us or for our enemies?" he cried. "I am come," is the answer, as Captain of the Lord's host.

I. THIS DIVINE CAPTAIN HAS NEVER LEFT THE ARMY OF THE HOLY, though He may NOT AT ALL TIMES have made Himself VISIBLE. He was with the Church when it entered upon the conflict with the old world. Weak, insignificant, without power, and without prestige as it was, His sword of fire sufficed to ensure it the victory. It was He whom Luther saw in the dawn of the Reformation morning, when he sang: "The Son of God goes forth to war."

II. This Divine personage is the same with whom Jacob wrestled all the night at the Ford Jahbok. He begins by turning His sword against His own soldiers, and plunges it deep into their hearts to destroy their pride and sin. Blessed wounding, which makes them in the end more than conquerors, and Israelites indeed. We must not, then, marvel if, often in the early stages of its warfare, the Church is humbled, foiled, for a time it might seem almost crushed. Neither should we be surprised if the Christian soul is made victorious only through suffering. Soon the Divine Captain will take command of the host which He has disciplined, and will lead them on to victory. This Captain is the very same whom St. John saw in vision with a flaming sword in His mouth. He is the Word made flesh, the Redeemer (Revelation 5:1-14). He Himself was wounded before He triumphed. The conquering Head of the Church is "Jesus, who was crucified."—E. DE P.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 5:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/joshua-5.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 21st, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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