Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 5:13

Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?"
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Jericho;   Sword;   Vision;   Scofield Reference Index - Sanctify;   Thompson Chain Reference - Sword of the Lord;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Jews, the;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Joshua the son of nun;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Angel of the Lord;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Angel;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Angels;   Bochim;   Joshua;   Joshua, the Book of;   Tombs;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Archangel;   Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jericho;   Joshua;   Lord of Hosts;   Trinity;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Captain;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Angels;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Sword;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Joshua;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Joshua (2);   Joshua, Book of;   War, Man of;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Angelology;   Names of God;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

When Joshua was by Jericho - The sixth chapter should have commenced here, as this is an entirely new relation; or these two chapters should have made but one, as the present division has most unnaturally divided the communication which Joshua had from the angel of the Lord, and which is continued to Joshua 6:5. It is very likely that Joshua had gone out privately to reconnoitre the city of Jericho when he had this vision; and while contemplating the strength of the place, and probably reflecting on the extreme difficulty of reducing it, God, to encourage him, granted him this vision, and instructed him in the means by which the city should be taken.

There stood a man over against him - It has been a very general opinion, both among the ancients and moderns, that the person mentioned here was no other than the Lord Jesus in that form which, in the fullness of time, he was actually to assume for the redemption of man. That the appearance was supernatural is agreed on all hands; and as the name Jehovah is given him, ( Joshua 6:2;), and he received from Joshua Divine adoration, we may presume that no created angel is intended.

And Joshua went unto him - This is a very natural relation, and carries with it all the appearances and characteristics of a simple relation of fact. The whole history of Joshua shows him to have been a man of the most undaunted mind and intrepid courage - a genuine Hero. An ordinary person, seeing this man armed, with a drawn sword in his hand, would have endeavored to have regained the camp, and sought safety in flight; but Joshua, undismayed though probably slightly armed, walks up to this terrible person and immediately questions him, Art thou for us or for our adversaries? probably at first supposing that he might be the Canaanitish general coming to reconnoitre the Israelitish camp, as himself was come out to examine the city of Jericho.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-5.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

A man - See Genesis 12:7, note; Genesis 18:2, note. The appearance was that of God manifested in the Person of His Word. Hence, the command of Joshua 5:15. That the appearance was not in a vision merely is clear from the fact that Joshua “went unto Him” and addressed Him.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-5.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho,.... Or "in Jericho"F9ביריחו εν ιεριχω, Sept. in Jericho, Pagninus, Montanus. ; not in the city itself, but in the border of it, as Kimchi and Ben Melech; or on the side of it, as Jarchi; on one side of which he was reconnoitring by himself, very probably seeking for a proper place where to make his first attack; or if he could find out some avenue to the city, whereby he could enter more easily; or it may be he was meditating a scheme how to subdue the city; and it is very likely praying to God that he would direct him, and succeed him. Ben Gersom interprets it, his thoughts were in Jericho; and both he, and Abarbinel, suppose, that what follows was in a vision of prophecy, that it seemed to him that he was in Jericho, and saw a person, as after described, and was only a dream or night vision; but, no doubt, whether this was in the day or in the night, which is not certain, it was a real sight that Joshua had, or one really appeared to him as a man, as after related:

that he lifted up his eyes, and looked; his eyes before looked downwards, as the eyes of a person in deep study and meditation usually do:

and, behold, there stood a man over against him; not a mere man, nor a created angel in an human form, but a divine Person in such a form, even the Son of God, who frequently appeared in this manner to the patriarchs; as is clear from the worship paid unto him by Joshua, by his calling him Lord, and owning himself to be his servant; and by the ground on which he stood, being holy through his presence, as well as by his title, the Captain of the Lord's host. Jarchi says, this is Michael, which, if understood of Michael the uncreated angel, the head of all principality and power, is right, who is always meant by Michael, whenever he is spoken of in Scripture; and so this is interpreted by the ancient JewsF11Bereshit. Rabba, sect. 97. fol. 84. 2. Nachmanides in loc. of the Angel the Redeemer:

with his sword drawn in his hand; who sometimes is said to have a twoedged one come out of his mouth, and sometimes one girt on his thigh, and here with one drawn out of the scabbard, to justify the war with the Canaanites, and to encourage Joshua to proceed in it. His sword has been drawn against his enemies, and those of his people from the beginning, ever since the fall of man, when enmity commenced between him and the seed of the serpent; it appeared drawn when here on earth combating with all our spiritual enemies, and will never be put up until all enemies are put under his feet:

and Joshua went unto him; which showed great courage, presence of mind, and magnanimity:

and said unto him, art thou for us, or for our adversaries? by his appearing in this warlike posture, he concluded it was to take on one side or the other, either on the side of Israel, or of the Canaanites; and he seemed to suspect that it was on the side of the latter, and that he was one that was come to defy the armies of Israel, as Goliath afterwards did, 1 Samuel 17:8; and to engage in a single combat with Joshua their general, and so decide the war; in which, had this been the case, Joshua was ready to fight with him.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-5.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

Joshua 5:13-15. An angel appears to Joshua.

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.

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.

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This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/joshua-5.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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?

By Jericho — Heb. In Jericho, that is, in the territory adjoining to it; whither he went to view those parts, and discern the fittest places for his attempt upon Jericho.

A man — One in the appearance of a man.

Drawn — In readiness to fight, not, as Joshua thought, against him, but for him and his people.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-5.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

FOR OR AGAINST?

‘Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?’

Joshua 5:13

I. The faithful fighter.

(a) Called, or ordained (Numbers 27:18), as we are by Baptism, or Confirmation.

(b) Instructed and trained under his captain, undaunted, found faithful in lesser things, willing to obey (Joshua 1:7-8). The Christian to be under orders, disciplined.

(c) Whole-hearted. No neutrality, strong against disloyalty.

II. “For or against?”

(a) The Church asks it. Whole-hearted Christians needed for Church’s work.

(b) The Spirit asks it. Joshua-like loyalty to holiness needed.

(c) The Saviour asks it. “I did all this for thee, what art thou giving to Me?”

III. On whose side are we fighting?

—Rev. F. S. Legg.

Illustrations

(1) ‘Ponder Jesus’ solemn word, “He that is not with Me, is against Me.” There is no neutrality in this warfare. Either we are for Him or we are for His adversary. “Under which King? speak or die!” As sensible men, not indifferent to your highest and lasting well-being, ask yourselves, “Can I, with my ten thousand, meet Him with His twenty thousand?” Put yourselves under His orders, and He will be on your side. “He will teach your hands to war, and your fingers to fight; will cover your heads in the day of battle,” and bring you at last, palm-bearing and laurel-crowned, to that blissful state where there will still be service.’

(2) ‘Joshua saw the man with a sword in his hand. O that Christ might come in our time with the sword of the Divine Spirit in His hand; come to effect deeds of love but yet deeds of power; come with His two-edged sword to smite our sins, to cut to the heart His adversaries, to slay their unbelief, to lay their iniquities dead before Him. The sword is drawn, not scabbarded, as, alas! it has been so long in many churches, but made bare for present active use. It is in His hand, not in the minister’s hand, not even in an angel’s hand, but the sword drawn is in His hand. Oh, what power there is in the Gospel when Jesus holds the hilt, and what gashes it makes into hearts that were hard as adamant, when Jesus cuts right and left at the hearts and consciences of men! Brethren, seek this presence, and seeking it, believe it; and when you hear the Gospel preached, or when you meet together for prayer, think you see in the centre of the assembly the Champion of Israel, with uplifted sword, prepared to do great exploits as in days of old.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/joshua-5.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 5:13 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?

Ver. 13. He lifted up his eyes.] His vigilancy did equal his valour, as it is said of Caesar.

With his sword drawn.] This sword the Lord Christ never laid down, since those words, "I will put enmity also," &c., [Genesis 3:16] for there beginneth the book of the wars of the Lord, for defence of his Church.

And Joshua went unto him.] Though armed and of a majestic presence, and though there might have been snares laid for him.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-5.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 13. And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho The solemnities of the passover being ended, and Joshua being come nigh to Jericho to reconnoitre the city, and judge of the dispositions to be made in order to lay siege to it with success, was greatly surprised, after having been but for a moment alone, to see before him all on a sudden something which he took for a man, with a sword in his hand, and all the appearance of a warrior. The general of Israel approached this unknown, and, suspecting he came from the enemy, boldly demanded of him who he was.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/joshua-5.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

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

A man; one in the appearance of man.

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

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-5.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

And so it was that when Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man opposite him, with his sword drawn in his hand, and Joshua went to him, and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” ’

Joshua was probably on a surveying expedition to look at the possibilities for attacking and capturing Jericho when he came across an armed man with sword drawn. So he challenged him whether he was a man of Israel or a Canaanite. Possibly he saw him as one who may have come out to challenge an Israelite champion to single combat as Goliath would later (1 Samuel 17:4).

“With his sword drawn in his hand.” This is central to the thought. Compare Numbers 22:23; Numbers 22:31 where it was the Angel of YHWH Himself Who stood with a drawn sword in His hand. Once he learned a little more about the man, this vision would probably spring to Joshua’s mind. In Scripture the drawn sword is an instrument of impending judgment (1 Chronicles 21:16; Ezekiel 21:2-5; also Ezekiel 5:2; Ezekiel 5:12; Ezekiel 12:14; Isaiah 21:15; . This figure was therefore indicating that YHWH was about to bring His awful judgment on the Canaanites, as represented here by Jericho. YHWH Himself would fight against Jericho, but against Jericho as the first of every city in Canaan (compare 2 Samuel 24:16-17; 1 Chronicles 21:16). In the words of Ezekiel 21:9, ‘a sword, a sword, it is sharpened and also furbished. It is sharpened that it may make a slaughter, it is furbished that it may be as lightning.’

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-5.html. 2013.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Joshua 5:13. When Joshua was by Jericho — Hebrew, in Jericho; that is, in the territory adjoining to it; whither he went to view those parts, and discern the fittest places for his attempt upon Jericho. A man — One in the appearance of a man. With his sword drawn — In readiness to fight, not, as Joshua thought, against him, but for him and his people.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-5.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Adversaries? Dost thou bear arms for or against us? (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-5.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

when. Between 16th and 21st Abib.

a Man. Hebrew. "ish. App-14.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-5.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-5.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(13) There stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand.—This should be compared with the vision which Moses saw at Horeb (Exodus 3), when the angel of Jehovah appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. The equality of the two visions is proved by the use of the same command on both occasions, “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground” (Exodus 3:5; Joshua 5:15). But the actual appearances must be contrasted. “The bush burning with fire, but not consumed,” presents to us the figure of suffering Israel in the furnace; and “in all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them.” The man with the drawn sword is the sign of victory. Jehovah no longer suffers with and in His people, but He stands forth to lead them with the drawn sword. In regard of this and earlier theophanies, see Excursus on Genesis 16.

Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? (14) And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the Lord am I now come—i.e., Jehovah will take part in this conflict, not as an ally or an adversary, but as commander-in-chief. It is not Israel’s quarrel, in which they are to ask the Divine assistance. It is the Lord’s own quarrel, and Israel and Joshua are but a division in His host. The wars of Israel in Canaan are always presented by the Old Testament as “the wars of the Lord.” It would be well to remember this aspect of the story. The conquest of Canaan is too often treated as an enterprise of the Israelites, carried out with great cruelties, for which they claimed the Divine sanction. The Old Testament presents the matter in an entirely different light. The war is a Divine enterprise, in which human instruments are employed, but so as to be entirely subordinate to the Divine will. Jehovah is not for Israel, nor for Israel’s foes. He fights for His own right hand, and Israel is but a fragment of His army. “The sun stood still.” “the stars in their courses fought against” His foes. “The treasures of the hail” were opened, which He had “reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war.”

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-5.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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?
he lifted
Genesis 33:1,5; Daniel 8:3; 10:5
a man
6:2; Genesis 18:2; 32:24-30; Exodus 23:23; Judges 13:8,9,11,22; Daniel 10:5; Hosea 12:3-5; Zechariah 1:8; Acts 1:10; Revelation 1:13
his sword
Numbers 22:23; 1 Chronicles 21:16,17,27,30
Art thou for us
1 Chronicles 12:17,18
Reciprocal: Genesis 3:24 - a flaming;  Exodus 23:20 - Angel;  Exodus 32:26 - Who is on;  Judges 2:1 - And an angel;  2 Chronicles 13:12 - for our captain;  Ezekiel 1:26 - the appearance of a man;  Ezekiel 10:1 - as the;  Ezekiel 34:24 - a prince;  Zechariah 1:18 - lifted;  Zechariah 12:8 - as the;  Matthew 12:30 - that is;  John 1:18 - he hath;  Philippians 2:6 - thought

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-5.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

13.And it came to pass when Joshua, etc Here we have the narrative of a remarkable vision, by which Joshua was greatly encouraged and emboldened. For though he was strenuously discharging his office, the application of an additional stimulus was not without its use. The angel, however, did not appear solely on his private account, but for the confirmation of the whole people: nay, the Lord looked further forward, that he might furnish posterity with stronger proofs of a kindness which was never duly considered. For although they boasted in lofty terms of having been planted by the hand of God in a holy land, they were scarcely induced by all the miracles to acknowledge in good earnest that they were placed there as God’s vassals. This vision, therefore, must have been beneficial to all ages, by leaving no doubt as to the divine kindness bestowed. Its being said that he lifted his eyes, tends to confirm the certainty of the vision, lest any one might suppose that his eyesight had merely been dazzled by some evanescent phantom.

The spectacle, when first presented, must have inspired fear; for it is probable that Joshua was then alone, whether he had withdrawn from public view to engage in prayer, or for the purpose of reconnoitering the city. I am rather inclined to think it was the latter, and that he had gone aside to examine where the city ought to be attacked, lest the difficulty might deter others. It appears certain that he was without attendants, as he alone perceives the vision; and there can be no doubt that he was prepared to fight had he fallen in with an enemy. But he puts his question as if addressing a man, because it is only from the answer he learns that it is an angel. This doubt gives more credibility to the vision, while he is gradually led from the view of the man whom he addresses to the recognition of an angel. The words, at the same time, imply that it was not an ordinary angel, but one of special excellence. For he calls himself captain of the Lord’s host, a term which may be understood to comprehend not merely his chosen people, but angels also.

The former view, however, is the more correct, as God does not produce anything of an unwonted nature, but constitutes that which we previously read that he performed to Moses. And we know that Moses himself preferred this favor to all others; and justly, for God there manifested his own glory in an open and familiar manner. Accordingly, he is indiscriminately called an angel, and distinguished by the title of the eternal God. Of this fact Paul is a competent witness, who distinctly declares that it was Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:4.) And Moses himself embraced God as present in the person of the Mediator. For when God declares, after the making of the calf, (Exodus 33:2 (56)) that he would no longer be the Leader of the people, he at the same time promises that he will give one of his angels, but only one, as it were taken out of the general body of the angelic host. (57) This Moses earnestly deprecates, obviously because he could have no hope that God would be propitious if the Mediator were removed. It was thus a special pledge of the divine favor that the Captain and Head of the Church, to whom Moses had been accustomed, was now present to assist. And indeed the divine adoption could not be ratified in any other way than in the hand of the Mediator.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 5:13". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/joshua-5.html. 1840-57.