Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. Joshua 5:1-9. Renewal of the Rite of Circumcision
1. when all the kings of the Amorites] This verse stands in close connection with the last verse of the preceding Chapter. All the peoples of the earth were “to know the Name of the Lord” and to fear Him. A first example of this is seen in the case of the Canaanite nations.
which were by the sea] See note above on Joshua 3:10.
their heart melted] The terror which, as Rahab had told the spies, had already seized them was greatly increased by the news of the marvellous passage of the Jordan. Wyclif renders it, “the herte of hem is discomfortid, and abood not in hem spiryte of hem.”
At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.2. Make thee sharp knives] Or, as in margin, knives of flint. “Stonen knyues,” Wyclif. In Exodus 4:25 we read that Zipporah, the wife of Moses, took a “sharp stone,” or “knife of flint,” and circumcised her son. Joshua followed the custom of antiquity on this occasion, for they had no other knives with them. Herodotus, 11. 86, mentions “stone knives” as used by the Egyptian embalmers, and with such the priests of Cybele mutilated themselves. A representation of the Egyptian flint knife from the Museum at Berlin is given in Smith’s Biblical Dictionary.
and circumcise] For forty years in the wilderness the nation had been under judgment, and those born there had not received the covenant mark of circumcision. To renew that rite in their case was the first necessity, that Israel might be restored to its full position as the Covenant-people of God.
the second time] All, it is to be remembered, who, having come out from Egypt, were at the time of the sentence at Kadesh under twenty years old (Numbers 14:29), i.e. all at Gilgal, who were 38 years old and upwards, had been circumcised. The rite, therefore, now applies only to the residue.
And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.3. the hill of the foreskins] or “Gibeah-haaraloth,” probably so named from this transaction. Comp. Colossians 2:11-13; Colossians 3:1-6.
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.
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.
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.6. forty years] See Numbers 14:33; Deuteronomy 1:3; Deuteronomy 2:7; Deuteronomy 2:14.
a land that floweth with milk and honey] For this expression compare Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; Numbers 16:14; Deuteronomy 6:3. “Milk and honey are productions of a land rich in grass and flowers. Both articles were abundantly produced in Canaan, even in a state of devastation. Milk, eaten partly sweet and partly curdled, that of cows as well as of goats and sheep (Deuteronomy 32:14), was prominent in the diet of the ancient Hebrews, as in that of the Orientals of the present day. The land yielded great quantities of honey also, especially that from wild bees (Jdg 14:8; 1 Samuel 14:26; Matthew 3:4), and still yields it in its wasted condition.” Keil.
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.
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.8. they abode in their places] Keil observes that those for whom the rite was not now needed, would be sufficient to defend the camp at Gilgal, although the terror consequent upon the passage of the Jordan would have been sufficient to ensure their safety against all hostile attacks.
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.9. the reproach of Egypt] This may be explained as (i) the reproach, which had attached to the people all the way from Egypt, where the nation had been a people of slaves; comp. Genesis 34:14; 1 Samuel 17:26; as (ii) referring to the taunts and reproaches actually levelled by the Egyptians against the Israelites, because of their long wanderings in the desert, and the disappointment of their hopes to obtain a “rest” in Canaan. (Comp. Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13-16; Deuteronomy 9:28.)
Gilgal] i.e. the Rolling. “And þe name of þat place is clepid Galgala,” Wyclif. It would seem that this was the name of the place before the Exodus, for the Canaanites are described as living “over against Gilgal” in Deuteronomy 11:30. Its site is fixed by Josephus 50 furlongs from the Jordan and 10 from Jericho (Antiq. 5:i. 4), which would be at or near the modern village of er-Riha. It does not seem that a new name was given to the place now; but rather that a new meaning and significancy were attached to the old name, the word Gilgal denoting a “circle,” and also a “rolling away.”
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.10–12. Celebration of the Passover Cessation of the Manna
10. And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal] The camp became permanent, and probably in grateful memorial of the many associations connected with the place, the people made it for centuries the great gathering-place of the tribes (Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6; Joshua 10:43). The following notices of its subsequent history are deserving of attention. (a) It was the site of the Tabernacle during the continuance of the wars and until its removal to Shiloh; (b) It was one of the three assize towns, where Samuel administered justice (1 Samuel 7:16); (c) It was here that Samuel and Saul held solemn assemblies, as also David on his return from exile (comp. 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 11:14; 1 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 19:15); (d) after the building of the Temple, it became more and more neglected, but was the site of a school of the prophets, who remained there till a late period (2 Kings 2:5).
and kept the passover] Their “reproach” having been “rolled away,” the people of God would renew the festive remembrance of their deliverance from Egypt.
on the fourteenth day] Comp. Exodus 12:6; Exodus 12:18; Deuteronomy 16:6. As the night of the first Passover was one of terror and judgment to Egypt, so now, while within view of the camp at Gilgal, Israel was keeping the first Passover on the soil of Palestine, “Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel, none went out, and none came in.” (Joshua 6:1.)
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.11. of the old corn] Rather, of the produce of the land. “And thei eten of the fruytis of the lond in the tothir day, therf looues, and potage of the same зeer, etin cornys seengid and frotid in the hond.” Wyclif. It could not have been other than the new corn just ripening at the season of the Passover (Leviticus 23:11), not “the old corn,” of which no sufficient supply could have been procurable.
on the morrow after the passover] In Numbers 33:3 these words denote the 15th of Nisan. Here, however, they must apparently mean the 16th. For the people could not lawfully eat of the new corn, till the firstfruits had been “waved before the Lord,” which was done “on the morrow after the Sabbath,” i.e. the morrow after the first day of unleavened bread; this, though not necessarily the seventh day of the week, was to be observed as a Sabbath, and therefore is so called. (Comp. Leviticus 23:7; Leviticus 23:11; Leviticus 23:14.)
unleavened cakes] according to the requirements of the Law, Exodus 12:8; Exodus 12:15.
parched corn] i.e. roasted harvest ears.
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.12. the manna ceased] For the first time since leaving Sinai the Passover cakes were not made of manna, for the people had now arrived in Canaan, and no longer needed this “Bread of the Wilderness.” Day after day, for forty years, there had appeared “on the face of the wilderness a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost, white, like coriander seed,” the taste of which “was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:14-36). Day by day, except on the Sabbath, it had been gathered, and had been found sufficient for their daily wants. Now it suddenly ceased. The people no longer needed this “angels’ food” (Psalm 78:25), but “they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan.” Comp. John 6:31; John 6:49; John 6:58; Revelation 2:17.
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?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.
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?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.
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.15. Loose thy shoe] “Vnlace thi schoo fro thi feet,” Wyclif. Comp. Exodus 3:5. It was a mark of reverence to cast off the sandals in approaching a place or person of eminent sanctity.