Joshua 5:14
And he said, No; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said to him, What said my Lord to his servant?
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua

THE CAPTAIN OF THE LORD’S HOST

Joshua 5:14
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The army of Israel was just beginning a hard conflict under an untried leader. Behind them the Jordan barred their retreat, in front of them Jericho forbade their advance. Most of them had never seen a fortified city, and had no experience nor engines for a siege. So we may well suppose that many doubts and fears shook the courage of the host, as it drew around the doomed city. Their chief had his own heavy burden. He seems to have gone apart to meditate on what his next step was to be. Absorbed in thought, he lifts up his eyes mechanically, as brooding men will, not expecting to see anything, and is startled by the silent figure of ‘a man with a sword drawn’ in his hand, close beside him. There is nothing supernatural in his appearance; and the immediate thought of the leader is, ‘Is this one of the enemy that has stolen upon my solitude?’ So, promptly and boldly, he strides up to him with the quick challenge: ‘Whose side are you on? Are you one of us, or from the enemy’s camp?’ And then the silent lips open. ‘Upon neither the one nor the other. I am not on your side, you are on mine, for as Captain of the Lord’s host, am I come up.’ And then Joshua falls on his face, recognises his Commander-in-Chief, owns himself a subordinate, and asks for orders. ‘What saith my Lord unto his servant?’

Now let us try to gather the meaning and the lessons of this striking incident.

I. I see in it a transient revelation of an eternal truth.

I believe, as the vast majority of careful students of the course of Old Testament revelation and its relation to the New Testament completion believe, that we have here not a record of the appearance of a created superhuman person, but that of a preliminary manifestation of the Eternal Word of God, who, in the fulness of time, ‘became flesh and dwelt among us.’

You will observe that there run throughout the whole of the Old Testament notices of the occasional manifestation of a mysterious person who is named ‘the Angel,’ ‘the Angel of the Lord.’ For instance, in the great scene in the wilderness, where the bush burned and was not consumed, he who appeared is named ‘the Angel of the Lord’; and his lips declare ‘I am that I am.’ In like manner, soon after, the divine voice speaks to Moses of ‘the Angel in whom is My name.’

When Balaam had his path blocked amongst the vineyards, it was a replica of the figure of my text that stayed his way, a man with a drawn sword in his hand, who spoke in autocratic and divine fashion. When the parents of Samson were apprised of the coming birth of the hero, it was ‘the Angel of the Lord’ that appeared to them, accepted their sacrifice, declared the divine will, and disappeared in a flame of fire from the altar. A psalm speaks of ‘the Angel of the Lord’ as encamping round about them that fear him, and delivering them. Isaiah tells us of the ‘Angel of his face,’ who was ‘afflicted in all Israel’s afflictions, and saved them.’ And the last prophetic utterance of the Old Testament is most distinct and remarkable in its strange identification and separation of Jehovah and the Angel, when it says, ‘the Lord shall suddenly come to His Temple, even the Angel of the Covenant.’ Now, if we put all these passages-and they are but select instances-if we put all these passages together, I think we cannot help seeing that there runs, as I said, throughout the whole of the Old Testament a singular strain of revelation in regard to a Person who, in a remarkable manner, is distinguished from the created hosts of angel beings, and also is distinguished from, and yet in name, attributes, and worship all but identified with, the Lord Himself.

If we turn to the narrative before us, we find there similar phenomena marked out. For this mysterious ‘man with the sword drawn’ in his hand, quotes the very words which were spoken at the bush, when he says, ‘Loose thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy.’ And by fair implication, He would have us to identify the persons in these two great theophanies. He ascribes to Himself, in the further conversation in the next chapter, directly divine attributes, and is named by the sacred name; ‘The Lord said unto Joshua, see, I have given into thy hand Jericho and its king.’

If we turn to the New Testament, we find that there under another image the same strain of thought is presented. The Word of God, who from everlasting ‘was with God, and was God,’ is represented as being the Agent of Creation, the Source of all human illumination, the Director of Providence, the Lord of the Universe. ‘By him were all things, and in him all things consists.’ So, surely, these two halves make a whole; and the Angel of the Lord, separate and yet so strangely identified with Jehovah, who at the crises of the nation’s history, and stages of the development of the process of Revelation, is manifested, and the Eternal Word of God, whom the New Testament reveals to us, are one and the same.

This truth was transiently manifested in our text. The vision passed, the ground that was hallowed by His foot is undistinguished now in the sweltering plain round the mound that once was Jericho. But the fact remains, the humanity, that was only in appearance, and for a few minutes, assumed then, has now been taken up into everlasting union with the divine nature, and a Man reigns on the Throne, and is Commander of all who battle for the truth and the right. The eternal order of the universe is before us here.

It only remains to say a word in reference to the sweep of the command which our vision assigns to the Angel of the Lord. ‘Captain of the Lord’s host’ means a great deal more than the true General of Israel’s little army. It does mean that, or the words and the vision would cease to have relevance and bearing on the moment’s circumstances and need. But it includes also, as the usage of Scripture would sufficiently show, if it were needful to adduce instances of it, all the ordered ranks of loftier intelligent beings, and all the powers and forces of the universe. These are conceived of as an embattled host, comparable to an army in the strictness of their discipline and their obedience to a single will. It is the modern thought that the universe is a Cosmos and not a Chaos, an ordered unit, with the addition of the truth beyond the reach and range of science, that its unity is the expression of a personal will. It is the same thought which the centurion had, to Christ’s wonder, when he compared his own power as an officer in a legion, where his will was implicitly obeyed, to the power of Christ over diseases and sorrows and miseries and death, and recognised that all these were His servants, to whom, if His autocratic lips chose to say ‘Go,’ they went, and if He said, ‘Do this,’ they did it.

So the Lord of the universe and its ordered ranks is Jesus Christ. That is the truth which was flashed from the unknown, like a vanishing meteor in the midnight, before the face of Joshua, and which stands like the noonday sun, unsetting and irradiating for us who live under the Gospel.

II. I see here the Leader of all the warfare against the world’s evil.

‘The Captain of the Lord’s host.’ He Himself takes part in the fight. He is not like a general who, on some safe knoll behind the army, sends his soldiers to death, and keeps his own skin whole. But He has fought, and He is fighting. Do you remember that wonderful picture in two halves, at the end of one of the Gospels, ‘the Lord went up into Heaven and sat at the right hand of God, . . . they went forth everywhere preaching the Word’? Strange contrast between the repose of the seated Christ and the toils of His peripatetic servants! Yes, strange contrast; but the next words harmonise the two halves of it; ‘the Lord also working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.’ The Leader does not so rest as that He does not fight; and the servants do not need so to fight, as that they cannot rest. Thus the old legends of many a land and tongue have a glorious truth in them to the eye of faith, and at the head of all the armies that are charging against any form of the world’s misery and sin, there moves the form of the Son of Man, whose aid we have to invoke, even from His crowned repose at the right hand of God. ‘Gird thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Most Mighty, and in Thy majesty ride forth prosperously, and Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things.’

If this, then, be for us, as truly as for Joshua and his host, a revelation of who is our true leader, surely all of us in our various degrees, and especially any of us who have any ‘Quixotic crusade’ for the world’s good on our consciences and on our hands, may take the lessons and the encouragements that are here. Own your Leader; that is one plain duty. And recognise this fact, that by no other power than by His, and with no other weapons than those which He puts into our hands, in His Cross and meekness, can a world’s evils be overcome, and the victory be won for the right and the truth. I have no faith in crusades which are not under the Captain of our salvation. And I would that the earnest men, and there are many of them, the laborious and the self-sacrificing men in many departments of philanthropy and benevolence and social reformation-who labour unaware of who is their Leader, and not dependent upon His help, nor trusting in His strength-would take to heart this vision of my text, and see beside them the ‘man with the drawn sword in his hand,’ the Christ with the ‘sharp two-edged sword going out of his mouth,’ by whom, and by whom alone, the world’s evil can be overcome and slain.

Own your General; submit to His authority; pick the weapons that He can bless; trust absolutely in His help. We may have, we shall have, in all enterprises for God and man that are worth doing, ‘need of patience,’ just as the army of Israel had to parade for six weary days round Jericho blowing their useless trumpets, whilst the impregnable walls stood firm, and the defenders flouted and jeered their aimless procession. But the seventh day will come, and at the trumpet blast down will go the loftiest ramparts of the cities that are ‘walled up to heaven’ with a rush and a crash, and through the dust and over the ruined rubbish Christ’s soldiers will march and take possession. So trust in your Leader, and be sure of the victory, and have patience and keep on at your work.

Do not make Joshua’s mistake. ‘Art Thou for us?’-’Nay! Thou art for me.’ That is a very different thing. We have the right to be sure that God is on our side, when we have made sure that we are on God’s. So take care of self-will and self-regard, and human passions, and all the other parasitical insects that creep round philanthropic religious work, lest they spoil your service. There is a great deal that calls itself after Jehu’s fashion, ‘My zeal for the Lord,’ which is nothing better than zeal for my own notions and their preponderance. Therefore we must strip ourselves of all that, and not fancy that the cause is ours, and then graciously admit Christ to help us, but recognise that it is His, and lowly submit ourselves to His direction, and what we do, do, and when we fight, fight, in His name and for His sake.

III. Here is the Ally in all our warfare with ourselves.

That is the worst fight. Far worse than all these Hittites and Hivites, and the other tribes with their barbarous names, far worse than all external foes, are the foes that each man carries about in his own heart. In that slow hand-to-hand and foot-to-foot struggle I do not believe that there is any conquering power available for a man that can for a moment be compared with the power that comes through submission to Christ’s command and acceptance of Christ’s help. He has fought every foot of the ground before us. We have to ‘run the race’-to take another metaphor-’that is set before us, looking unto Jesus,’ the great Leader, and in His own self the Perfecter of the faith which conquers. In Him, His example, the actual communication of His divine Spirit, and in the motives for brave and persistent conflict which flow from His Cross and Passion, we shall find that which alone will make us the victors in this internecine warfare. There can be no better directory given to any man than to tread in Christ’s footsteps, and learn how to fight, from Him who in the wilderness repelled the triple assault with the single ‘It is written’; thus recognising the word and will of God as the only directory and defence.

Thus, brethren, if we humbly take service in His ranks, and ask Him to show us where our foes within are, and to give us the grace to grapple with them, and cast them out, anything is possible rather than ultimate defeat, and however long and sore the struggle may be, its length and its severity are precious parts of the discipline that makes us strong, and we shall at last be more than conquerors through Him that loveth us.

IV. Lastly, I see here the Power which it is madness to resist.

Think of this vision. Think of the deep truths, partially shadowed and symbolised by it. Think of Christ, what He is, and what resources He has at His back, of what are His claims for our service, and our loyal, militant obedience. Think of the certain victory of all who follow Him amongst ‘the armies of Heaven, clad in fine linen, clean and white.’ Think of the crown and the throne for him that ‘overcomes.’

Remember the destructive powers that sleep in Him: the ‘drawn sword in His hand,’ the ‘two-edged sword out of His mouth’ the ‘wrath of the Lamb.’ Think of the ultimate certain defeat of all antagonisms; of that last campaign when He goes forth with the ‘name written on His vesture and on His thigh “King of kings and Lord of lords.”‘ Think of how He ‘strikes through kings in the day of His wrath, and fills the place with the bodies of the dead’; and how His ‘enemies become His footstool.’

Ponder His own 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, and He still be the ‘Captain of the Lord’s host,’ but where ‘swords will be beaten into ploughshares’ and the victors shall need to ‘learn war no more.’Joshua 5:14. As captain of the Lord’s host — Captain of this people, and I will conduct and assist thee and them in this great undertaking. Now this person was evidently not a created angel, but the Son of God, who went along with the Israelites in this expedition, as their chief and captain. And this appears, 1st, By his acceptance of adoration here, which a created angel would not have dared to admit of, Revelation 22:8; Revelation 9:2 d, Because the place was made holy by his presence, (Joshua 5:15,) which to do was God’s prerogative, Exodus 3:5. 3d, Because he is called the Lord. Hebrew, Jehovah; chap. Joshua 6:2. My Lord — I acknowledge thee for my Lord and captain, and therefore wait for thy commands, which I am ready to obey.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.Captain of the host of the Lord - i. e. of the angelic host, the host of heaven (compare 1 Kings 22:19; 1 Samuel 1:3, etc.). The armed people of Israel are never called "the host of the Lord," though once spoken of in Exodus 12:41 as "all the hosts of the Lord." The Divine Person intimates that He, the Prince (see the marginal references) of the Angels had come to lead Israel in the coming strife, and to overthrow by heavenly might the armies and the strongholds of God's and Israel's enemies. Accordingly, the capture of Jericho and the destruction of the Canaanites generally form a fit type of a grander and more complete conquest and excision of the powers of evil which yet waits accomplishment. (Compare with this verse Matthew 25:31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8.) 14. the host of the Lord—either the Israelitish people (Ex 7:4; 12:41; Isa 55:4), or the angels (Ps 148:2), or both included, and the Captain of it was the angel of the covenant, whose visible manifestations were varied according to the occasion. His attitude of equipment betokened his approval of, and interest in, the war of invasion.

Joshua fell on his face …, and did worship—The adoption by Joshua of this absolute form of prostration demonstrates the sentiments of profound reverence with which the language and majestic bearing of the stranger inspired him. The real character of this personage was disclosed by His accepting the homage of worship (compare Ac 10:25, 26; Re 19:10), and still further in the command, "Loose thy shoe from off thy foot" (Ex 3:5).

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

Captain of the host of the Lord; either,

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Because he is called the Lord, Heb. Jehovah, Joshua 6:2. What saith my lord unto his servant? I acknowledge thee for my Lord and Captain, and therefore wait for thy commands, which I am ready to obey. And he said, nay,.... Not for or on the side of their adversaries was he come, as Joshua suspected at the first sight of him; the Septuagint version is, "he said unto him", taking for as it sometimes is:

but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come; of the host of the Lord both in heaven and in earth, angels and men, and particularly of the people of Israel, called the armies and host of the Lord, Exodus 7:4; so that though Joshua was general, Christ was Generalissimo; and so Joshua understood him, and therefore showed a readiness to do whatsoever he should command him; the spiritual Israel of God, the church, is in a militant state, and has many enemies to combat with, sin, Satan, the world, and false teachers; Christ is their Leader and Commander, the Captain of their salvation, and has all necessary qualifications or wisdom, courage, and might, for such an office; see Isaiah 55:4,

and Joshua fell on his face to the earth; in reverence of this divine and illustrious Person, whom he perceived to be what he was:

and did worship; gave him religious worship and adoration, which had he been a created angel he would not have given to him, nor would such an one have received it, Revelation 19:10,

and said unto him, what saith my Lord unto his servant? that is, what commands had he to lay upon him, and he was ready to execute them? he was heartily willing to be subject to him as the chief general of the Israelitish forces, and to consider himself, and behave, as an officer under him, and to obey all orders that should be given.

And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and {g} did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

(g) In that Joshua worships him, he acknowledges him to be God: and in that he calls himself the Lord's captain he declares himself to be Christ.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
14. as captain] or rather, Prince of the host of Jehovah, i.e. of the Angelic Host, the Host of heaven. “I am prince of þe oost of þe Lord,” Wyclif. Compare the expressions “Jehovah of hosts,” or more fully “Jehovah, Lord of hosts” (Jeremiah 5:14; Jeremiah 15:16; Isaiah 6:3; Psalm 24:10; Psalm 80:7; Psalm 80:19). “Not as mingling with these earthly hosts, but as they follow in a higher order; as the mighty one in heavenly places of whom thou art here and now on earth the type and shadow; as He whom all the Angels worship, as the Uncreated Angel of the Covenant, as the Captain of the heavenly host of God, have I come to thee.” Bp Wilberforce’s Heroes of Hebrew History, p. 148. Comp. 1 Samuel 1:3; 1 Kings 22:19. The Prince of the Angels of heaven had come to lead Israel in the impending strife.

And Joshua fell on his face] Compare the attitude (a) of Abraham before God (Genesis 17:3); (b) of his brethren before Joseph (Genesis 42:6); (c) of Moses at the Burning Bush (Exodus 3:6). It does not necessarily and of itself imply worship, though such is intended here.

What saith my lord …?] The revelation, with which Joshua was now favoured, forcibly recalls the incident of the “Burning Bush” at Horeb. Not however in fiery flame, but in the person of a seemingly human warrior, was the Divine Presence manifested to the leader of the armies of Israel. Thus the first and the second Joshua met, and the Type fell prostrate before the Antitype.Verse 14. - And he said, Nay. Many MSS. which are followed by the LXX. and Syriac versions, have לו for לאֹ here. The Chaldee and Vulgate read לאֹ, and the Masorites do not reckon this among the 15 passages in which לו 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; Psalm 103:20, 21; Psalm 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 Logos, 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 ch. 15, 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" (ver. 5). Again, in ch. 18, we find that Jehovah "appeared" to Abraham as he dwelt by the oaks of Mature (ver. 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 (ver. 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 (ver. 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 (ver. 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, 12, 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, 16), and He calls Himself so (ver. 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 14:19 as His angel. The solemn terms in which the God of Israel refers to him in Exodus 23:20, 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 בּו but בְּקִרְבּו denoting close and intimate union). Cf. ver. 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 (Judges 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 (Judges 6:11-22; Judges 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.) 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, 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 20:11) 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 (St. Augustine, for instance, and Theodoret, who holds that it was Michael the Archangel who appeared to Joshua) 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.,' 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 (as, for instance, Hengstenberg, 'Geschichte des Reiches Gottes,' p. 209) 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, and most probably in Exodus 3, 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 (ver. 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). When the rite of circumcision had been performed upon them all, the people remained quietly in the camp till those who were circumcised had recovered. "They abode in their places," i.e., sat still as they were, without attempting anything. חיה, to revive (Genesis 45:27; Job 14:14), or recover (2 Kings 1:2; 2 Kings 8:8, etc.). The circumcision of the people could not be performed earlier than the day after the crossing of the Jordan, i.e., according to Joshua 4:19, not earlier than the 11th day of the first month. Now, as the passover was to be kept, and actually was kept, on the 14th (Joshua 5:10), the two accounts are said to be irreconcilable, and the account of the circumcision has been set down as a later and unhistorical legend. But the objections made to the historical credibility of this account - viz., that the suffering consequent upon circumcision made a person ill for several days, and according to Genesis 34:25 was worst on the third day, so that the people could not have kept the passover on that day, and also that the people could not possibly have been all circumcised on one day - are founded upon false assumptions. In the latter, for example, the number of persons to be circumcised is estimated, most absurdly, at a million; whereas, according to the general laws of population, the whole of the male population of Israel, which contained only 601,730 of twenty years of age and upwards, besides 23,000 Levites of a month old and upwards, when the census was taken a short time before in the steppes of Moab, could not amount to more than a million in all, and of these between 280,000 and 330,000 were thirty-eight years old, and therefore, having been born before the sentence was pronounced upon the nation at Kadesh, and for the most part before the exodus from Egypt, had been already circumcised, so that there were only 670,000, or at the most 720,000, to be circumcised now. Consequently the proportion between the circumcised and uncircumcised was one to three or three and a half; and the operation could therefore be completed without any difficulty in the course of a single day. As regards the consequences of this operation, Genesis 34:25 by no means proves that the pain was most acute on the third day; and even it this really were the case, it would not prevent the keeping of the passover, as the lambs could have been killed and prepared by the 280,000 or 330,000 circumcised men; and even those who were still unwell could join in the meal, since it was only Levitical uncleanness, and not disease or pain, which formed a legal impediment to this (Numbers 9:10.).

(Note: For the basis upon which this computation rests, see Keil's Commentary on Joshua, p. 139 (Eng. trans. 1857).)

But if there were about 300,000 men of the age of forty and upwards who could not only perform the rite of circumcision upon their sons or younger brother, but, if necessary, were able at any moment to draw the sword, there was no reason whatever for their being afraid of an attack on the part of the Canaanites, even if the latter had not been paralyzed by the miraculous crossing of the Jordan.

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