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 to him, and said to him, Are you for us, or for our adversaries?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
THE CONQUEST OF CANAAN.

(13) At this point commences the second great division of the book. The Passage of Jordan was the great event of the first portion; and for that Joshua received special directions from Jehovah. A vision now appears to him, to inaugurate his second great enterprise, which was to put the inhabitants of Canaan to the sword. The character of this vision should be carefully noted, as it is of the utmost importance to the interpretation of the book.

(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.”

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.5:13-15 We read not of any appearance of God's glory to Joshua till now. There appeared to him one as a man to be noticed. This Man was the Son of God, the eternal Word. Joshua gave him Divine honours: he received them, which a created angel would not have done, and he is called Jehovah, chap. 6:2. To Abraham he appeared as a traveller; to Joshua as a man of war. Christ will be to his people what their faith needs. Christ had his sword drawn, which encouraged Joshua to carry on the war with vigour. Christ's sword drawn in his hand, denotes how ready he is for the defence and salvation of his people. His sword turns every way. Joshua will know whether he is a friend or a foe. The cause between the Israelites and Canaanites, between Christ and Beelzebub, will not admit of any man's refusing to take one part or the other, as he may do in worldly contests. Joshua's inquiry shows an earnest desire to know the will of Christ, and a cheerful readiness and resolution to do it. All true Christians must fight under Christ's banner, and they will conquer by his presence and assistance.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. Jos 5:13-15. An Angel Appears to Joshua.

13. 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.

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. And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho,.... Or "in Jericho" (i); 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 Jews (k) 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.

(i) , Sept. in Jericho, Pagninus, Montanus. (k) Bereshit. Rabba, sect. 97. fol. 84. 2. Nachmanides in loc.

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?
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13–15; Joshua 6:1-5. Appearance of the Prince of the Host of Jehovah

13. when Joshua was by Jericho] having as yet received no special instructions as to the mode in which he was to attack Jericho, though the people, whom he led, were altogether untrained for such a work,

he lift up his eyes and looked] Compare the expression used in Genesis 18:2 of Abraham as “he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day” under the terebinth of Mamre, and “he lift up his eyes and looked and lo.”

a man] Some have supposed He was a created being, others, with far greater reason, that He was none other than HE, Who had already “manifested Himself” to Abraham (Genesis 12:7; Genesis 18:2), and to Moses in the “Burning Bush” (Exodus 3:2; Exodus 3:6), “the Word of God,” Who “alone hath ever declared” or revealed the Father (John 1:18).

with his sword drawn in his hand] Compare the appearance of the Cherub at the Gate of Paradise (Genesis 3:24), and of the Angel who meets Balaam in the way (Numbers 22:31).

and Joshua went unto him] This shews that the appearance was not a mere waking vision. Joshua goes up to the mysterious Warrior and addresses him.Verse 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 בְּחֶבְדון "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, 2; Genesis 19:1, 2, 10; Genesis 32:24; Judges 13:3, 6, 11; Daniel 10:16, 18; Daniel 12:6, 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. The reason for the circumcision of the whole nation was the following: all the fighting men who came out of Egypt had died in the wilderness by the way; for all the people that came out were circumcised; but all that were born in the wilderness during the journey had not been circumcised (ממּצרים בּצאתם, on their coming out of Egypt, which only came to an end on their arrival in Canaan). They walked forty years in the wilderness; till all the people - that is to say, all the fighting men - who came out of Egypt were consumed, because they had not hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and had been sentenced by the Lord to die in the wilderness (Joshua 5:6; cf. Numbers 14:26., Numbers 26:64-65, and Deuteronomy 2:14-16). But He (Jehovah) set up their sons in their place, i.e., He caused them to take their place; and these Joshua circumcised (i.e., had them circumcised), for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised by the way. This explains the necessity for a general circumcision of all the people, but does not state the reason why those who were born in the wilderness had not been circumcised. All that is affirmed in Joshua 5:5 and Joshua 5:7 is, that this had not taken place "by the way." The true reason may be gathered from Joshua 5:6, if we compare the statement made in this verse, "for the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the men that were capable of bearing arms were consumed ... unto whom the Lord sware that He would not show them the land promised to the fathers," with the sentence pronounced by God to which these words refer, viz., Numbers 14:29-34. The Lord is then said to have sworn that all the men of twenty years old and upwards, who had murmured against Him, should perish in the wilderness; and though their sons should enter the promised land, they too should pasture, i.e., lead a nomad life, for forty years in the wilderness, and bear the apostasy of their fathers, till their bodies had fallen in the desert. This clearly means, that not only was the generation that came out of Egypt sentenced to die in the wilderness because of its rebellion against the Lord, and therefore rejected by God, but the sons of this generation had to bear the whoredom, i.e., the apostasy of their fathers from the Lord, for the period of forty years, until the latter had been utterly consumed; that is to say, during all this time they were to endure the punishment of rejection along with their fathers: with this difference alone, that the sons were not to die in the wilderness, but were to be brought into the promised land after their fathers were dead. The sentence upon the fathers, that their bodies should fall in the desert, was unquestionably a rejection of them on the part of God, an abrogation of the covenant with them. This punishment was also to be borne by their sons; and hence the reason why those who were born in the desert by the way were not circumcised. As the covenant of the Lord with the fathers was abrogated, the sons of the rejected generation were not to receive the covenant sign of circumcision. Nevertheless this abrogation of the covenant with the generation that had been condemned, was not a complete dissolution of the covenant relation, so far as the nation as a whole was concerned, since the whole nation had not been rejected, but only the generation of men that were capable of bearing arms when they came out of Egypt, whilst the younger generation which had grown up in the desert was to be delivered from the ban, which rested upon it as well, and brought into the land of Canaan when the time of punishment had expired. For this reason the Lord did not withdraw from the nation every sign of His grace; but in order that the consciousness might still be sustained in the young and rising generation, that the covenant would be set up again with them when the time of punishment had expired, He left them not only the presence of the pillar of cloud and fire, but also the manna and other tokens of His grace, the continuance of which therefore cannot be adduced as an argument against our view of the time of punishment as a temporary suspension of the covenant.

But if this was the reason for the omission of circumcision,

(Note: This reason was admitted even by Calvin, and has been well supported by Hengstenberg (Diss. ii. pp. 13ff.). The arguments adduced by Kurtz in opposition to this view are altogether unfounded. We have already observed that the reason for the suspension is not given in Joshua 5:7; and the further remark, that in Joshua 5:5 ("all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised") the book of Joshua dates the suspension not from the sentence of rejection, but expressly and undoubtedly (?) from the departure from Egypt, has no force whatever, unless we so press the word all ("all the people that were born in the desert") as not to allow of the slightest exception. But this is decidedly precluded by the fact, that we cannot imagine it possible for God to have established His covenant with the people at a time when they had neglected the fundamental law of the covenant, the transgression of which was threatened with destruction (Genesis 17:14), by neglecting to circumcise all the children who had been born between the departure from Egypt and the conclusion of the covenant at Sinai. We are also prevented from pressing the little word "all" in this manner by the evident meaning of the words before us. In Joshua 5:4 and Joshua 5:5 the Israelites are divided into two classes: (1) All the people that came out of Egypt and were circumcised; and (2) All the people that were born in the desert and were uncircumcised. The first of these died in the wilderness, the second came to Canaan and were circumcised by Joshua at Gilgal. But if we should press the word "all" in these clauses, it would follow that all the male children who were under twenty years of age at the time of the exodus, either died in the desert or were circumcised a second time at Gilgal. Lastly, it does not follow from Joshua 5:6 that the circumcision was suspended for exactly forty years; for the forty years during which Israel journeyed in the desert until the murmuring generation was consumed, are to be interpreted by Numbers 14:33-34, and amounted, chronologically considered, to no more than thirty-eight years and a few months. On the other hand, the other very general view which Kurtz adopts - namely, that the circumcision was omitted during the journey through the desert on account of the hardships connected with travelling, and because it was impossible to have regard to particular families who might wish for longer rest on account of their children who had just been circumcised, and were suffering from the wound, just at the time when they had to decamp and journey onward, and they could not well be left behind - throws but little light upon the subject, as the assumption that the people were constantly wandering about for forty years is altogether an unfounded one. The Israelites were not always wandering about: not only did they stay at Sinai for eleven whole months, but even after that they halted for weeks and months at the different places of encampment, when they might have circumcised their children without the slightest danger of their suffering from the wound.)

it did not commence till the second year of their journey, viz., at the time when the murmuring nation was rejected at Kadesh (Numbers 14); so that by "all the people that were born in the wilderness" we are to understand those who were born after that time, and during the last thirty-eight years of their wanderings, just as "all the people that came out of Egypt" are to be understood as signifying only those men who were twenty years old and upwards when they came out. Consequently circumcision was suspended as long as the nation was under the ban of the divine sentence pronounced upon it at Kadesh. This sentence was exhausted when they crossed the brook Zared and entered the country of the Amorites (compare Deuteronomy 2:14 with Numbers 21:12-13). Why, then, was not the circumcision performed during the encampment in the steppes of Moab either before or after the numbering, since all those who had been sentenced to die in the wilderness were already dead (Numbers 26:65)? The different answers which have been given to this question are some of them wrong, and others incomplete. For example, the opinion held by some, that the actual reason was that the forty years had not yet expired, is incorrect (see Deuteronomy 2:14). And the uncertainty how long they would remain in the steppes of Moab cannot be adduced as an explanation, as there were no circumstances existing that were likely to occasion a sudden and unexpected departure from Shittim. The reason why Moses did not renew the circumcision before the end of his own life, is to be sought for in the simple fact that he would not undertake an act of such importance without an express command from the Lord, especially as he was himself under sentence to die without entering the promised land. But the Lord did not enjoin the renewal of the covenant sign before Israel had been conducted into the promised land, because He saw fit first of all to incline the hearts of the people to carry out His commandment through this magnificent proof of His grace. It is the rule of divine grace first to give and then to ask. As the Lord did not enjoin circumcision as a covenant duty upon Abraham himself till He had given him a practical proof of His grace by leading him to Canaan, and by repeated promises of a numerous posterity, and of the eventual possession of the land; and just as He did not give the law to the children of Israel at Sinai till He had redeemed them with a mighty arm from the bondage of Egypt, and borne them on eagles' wings, and brought them to Himself, and had thereby made them willing to promise gladly to fulfil all that He should say to them as His covenant nation; so now He did not require the renewal of circumcision, which involved as the covenant sign the observance of the whole law, till He had given His people practical proofs, through the help afforded in the defeat of Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites, and in the miraculous division of the waters of Jordan, that He was able to remove all the obstacles that might lie in the way of the fulfilment of His promises, and give them the promised land for their inheritance, as He had sworn to their fathers.

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