And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.Joshua 5:1. Amorites — These and the Canaanites are mentioned for all the rest, as being the chief of them for number, and power, and courage. On the side of Jordan westward — This is added to distinguish them from the other Amorites, eastward from Jordan, whom Moses had subdued. Which were by the sea — The midland sea, all along the coast of it, which was the chief seat of that people, though divers colonies of them were come into and settled in other places. That the Lord had dried up Jordan — Which was their bulwark on the east side, where the Israelites were; for it is very probable they had taken away all bridges near those parts; and the Israelites having been so long in that neighbouring country, and yet not making any attempt upon them, they were grown secure; especially now, when Jordan swelled beyond its ordinary bounds; and therefore they did not endeavour to hinder their passage. Their heart melted — They lost all their courage, and durst attempt nothing upon the Israelites. This did not happen without God’s special providence, that the Israelites might quietly participate of the two great sacraments of their church, circumcision and the passover, and thereby be prepared for their high and hard work, and for the possession of the holy and promised land; which would have been defiled by an uncircumcised people.
At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.Joshua 5:2. At that time — Namely, the morning after the passage, on the eleventh day of the first month, as Archbishop Usher and others have very probably conjectured. On the thirteenth day they were sore of their wounds, on the fourteenth they recovered, and on the even of that day kept the passover. Make thee sharp knives — Or, knives of flints, as the original חרבות צרים, charboth tzurim, more properly signifies, and is translated by Maimonides. These stones might be found in abundance on the adjacent mountains; and it is likely, as Theodoret observes, that after a pilgrimage of forty years in the wilderness of Arabia, the Israelites might not be provided with knives of iron or steel, such as are now in use. But whatever kind of knives may be here meant, those who had them already were not hereby commanded to make others, but only to make them sharp. Again the second time — This does not mean that those very persons who had before been circumcised should be circumcised again, but that the rite or custom of circumcising, which had been disused in the wilderness for some years, should be again practised. That this is the sense, appears very evident from the following verses. If it be inquired, when the former time, here referred to, was? it may be answered, either in Egypt, when many of them, who, possibly through fear or favour of the Egyptians, had neglected this duty, were circumcised by the command of Moses; or at Sinai, when they received the passover, which no uncircumcised person might do.
And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.Joshua 5:3. Joshua — circumcised the children of Israel — That is, he caused them to be circumcised, namely, such of them as were uncircumcised. And because it was to be done speedily, the passover approaching, it was necessary to use many hands in the business. Nor was it difficult to find them, as it did not signify by what hand the operation was performed. Fathers, mothers, relations, friends, might any of them perform, as well as the priests or Levites. Although it be not mentioned, it is more than probable that the Israelites beyond Jordan were circumcised at the same time, that they also might keep the passover.
And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt.Joshua 5:4. All that came out of Egypt that were males died — This is to be restrained to such as were then above twenty years old, and such as were guilty of the rebellion mentioned Numbers 14., as it is expressed Joshua 5:6.
Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.Joshua 5:5. The people born in the wilderness — they had not circumcised — What occasioned this omission is not said, nor is it easy to determine whether it arose from negligence, or from God’s dispensing, for a time, with his ordinance, on account of the unsettledness of their state, and their frequent removes while they were in the wilderness, it being necessary for children, after they were circumcised, and thereby made sore, to rest some time. This latter reason has generally been acquiesced in by commentators. But some have not judged it satisfactory, because sometimes the Israelites continued a year in a place, (Numbers 9:22,) if not much longer; and in their removes, their little children, though sore, might have been kept so warm, and carried so easy, as to receive no damage; and might certainly have been much better accommodated than the mothers in travail, or in lying-in. They have therefore thought that God’s not expressly and particularly enjoining them (for it does not appear that he did so enjoin them) to circumcise their children while they were in the wilderness, was a continued token of his displeasure against them for their unbelief and murmuring, and a token that they should never have the benefit of that promise of Canaan, whereof circumcision was the seal, Genesis 17:8. But whatsoever the reason was, it seems this great ordinance was intermitted in Israel for almost forty years together; a plain indication that it was not of absolute necessity to men’s eternal salvation, nor to be of perpetual obligation, but should, in the fulness of time, be abolished, as now it was for a long time suspended.
For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.Joshua 5:6. Till all the people — were consumed — All the six hundred thousand fighting men that came out of Egypt, except Joshua and Caleb. The Hebrew word הגוי, hagoi, here rendered people, commonly signifies the Gentiles, and some have thought it is here used to signify that they were unworthy the name of Israelites. That he would not show them the land — That is, would not give them so much as the sight of it, which he granted to Moses, much less the possession.
And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way.Joshua 5:7. Their children — them Joshua circumcised — This God now required to be done, 1st, As a testimony of his reconciliation to the people, and that he would not further impute their parents’ rebellion to them, but now permit them to enter into his rest. See Numbers 14:29 to Numbers 35:2 d, Because one great impediment of circumcision was now removed, their continued travels, and frequent and uncertain removes. 3d, To prepare them for the approaching passover. 4th, To distinguish them from the Canaanites, into whose land they were now come. 5th, To try their faith, by their submission to a command, the performance of which exposed them to be treated by their enemies as the Shechemites had been formerly by Simeon and Levi in a similar circumstance. 6th, To ratify the covenant between God and them, whereof circumcision was a sign and seal, to assure them that he would now make good his covenant, in giving them this land; and to oblige them to perform all the duties to which that covenant bound them, as soon as they came into Canaan, Exodus 12:25; Leviticus 23:10; Numbers 15:2.
And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole.Joshua 5:8. Till they were whole — Free from that pain and soreness which circumcision caused. It was certainly an act of great faith to expose themselves to so much pain, and danger too, in this place, where they were hemmed in by Jordan and their enemies.
And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.Joshua 5:9. The reproach of Egypt — That is, uncircumcision, which was both in truth, and in the opinion of the Jews, a matter of great reproach. And although this was a reproach common to most nations of the world, yet it is particularly called the reproach of Egypt, either, 1st, Because the other neighbouring nations, being the children of Abraham by the concubines, are supposed to have been circumcised, which the Egyptians at this time were not, as may be gathered from Exodus 2:6, where they knew the child to be a Hebrew by this mark. Or, 2d, Because they came out of Egypt, and were esteemed to be a sort of Egyptians, (Numbers 22:5,) which they justly thought a great reproach; but by their circumcision they were now distinguished from them, and manifested to be another people. Or, 3d, Because many of them lay under this reproach in Egypt, having wickedly neglected this duty there for worldly reasons; and others of them continued in the same shameful condition for many years in the wilderness. The name of the place is called Gilgal — That is, rolling.
And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho.Joshua 5:10. The children of Israel kept the passover — Which was their third passover: the first was in Egypt, Exodus 12.; the second at mount Sinai, Numbers 9.; the third here; for in their wilderness travels, these and several other sacrifices were neglected, Amos 5:25. While they were in the wilderness, they were denied the comfort of this ordinance, as a further token of God’s displeasure. But now God comforted them again, after the time that he had afflicted them.
And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day.Joshua 5:11. They eat of the old corn — The corn of the last year, which the inhabitants of those parts had left in their barns, being fled into their strong cities, or other remoter parts. On the morrow — That is, on the sixteenth day; for the passover was killed between the two evenings of the fourteenth day, and was eaten in that evening or night, which, according to the Jewish computation, whereby they begin their days at the evening, was a part of the fifteenth day, all which was the feast of the passover; and so the sixteenth day was the morrow of the passover, when they were obliged to offer unto God the first sheaf, and then were allowed to eat of the rest. Parched corn — Of that year’s corn, which was most proper for that use. Self-same day — Having an eager desire to enjoy the fruits of the land.
And this corn came very seasonably; for after the passover they were to keep the feast of unleavened bread, which they could not do when they had nothing but manna to live upon.
And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.Joshua 5:12. The manna ceased — Which God now withheld, to show that manna was not an ordinary production of nature, but an extraordinary and special gift of God to supply their necessity: and because God would not be prodigal of his favours, by working miracles where ordinary means were sufficient. The morrow — That is, on the seventeenth day. It cannot be too much taken notice of, as it is a great mark of the authenticity of the Holy Scriptures, that the miracles related therein are not a heap of wonderful stories, which have nothing to recommend them but the strangeness of them, like most of those contained in the Koran, but that they are acts of consummate wisdom, as well as of wonder. Here we see, that as soon as the Israelites came into a country where they could obtain a sufficient supply of food in the ordinary way, that miraculous provision which had been made for them in the desert wilderness, where it was absolutely necessary for their subsistence, ceased. So that it is evident the falling of the manna from heaven was not merely or chiefly a strange thing to be wondered at, but an act of great wisdom and goodness, which the circumstances of things absolutely required.
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?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.
And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?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.
And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.Joshua 5:15. From off thy foot — In token of reverence and subjection. Holy — Consecrated by my presence. The very same order which God gave to Moses at the bush, when he was sending him to bring Israel out of Egypt, he here gives to Joshua for the confirming his faith, that as he had been with Moses, so he would be with him.