James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.Joshua 3:1-5:15
PREPARATION OF THE PEOPLE (3:1-13)
The events in this section are the removal to Shittim and the encampment there (Joshua 3:1); directions about the leadership of the priests (Joshua 3:2-4); sanctification of the people (Joshua 3:5); encouragement of Joshua (Joshua 3:7-8); encouragement of the people (Joshua 3:9-13).
There is little requiring explanation, but notice in Joshua 3:4 the care God took for the people’s guidance and the occasion for it. And do not forget the obedience required if the guidance were to prove effectual. All these things have their spiritual lessons and were “written for our ensamples.”
Notice in Joshua 3:5 the forerunner of divine wonders. When we sanctify ourselves by putting away all known sin, God does wonders among us. Notice the demand for faith, “tomorrow” He will do it.
Notice in Joshua 3:7 how God removes all apprehension from Joshua so far as the allegiance of the people is concerned. They will follow him because God will put His honor upon him as upon his predecessor. When God calls a man into His service He equips him for it, and makes it so plain that His people recognize it and submit themselves to his leadership (Joshua 4:14).
Notice in Joshua 3:9-13 that presumably the people had no knowledge how they were to cross the river till just before the event. These words of Joshua, therefore, with the miraculous result, must have greatly confirmed their faith in Jehovah as unlike the idols of the nations round about.
THE DIVISION OF THE WATERS (Joshua 3:14-17)
What play for the imagination here: “As the feet of the priests were dipped in the brim [brink] of the water”! Not a minute before, but just then “the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap.” Read the comment in Psalms 114.
All the more marvelous because it was the time that Jordan overflowed its banks (Joshua 3:15), i.e., about our April or May, the period of the early harvest in that land. The river about Jericho is ordinarily only about 150 to 180 feet across, but at this time it was twice as broad, as well as deep and rapid.
The city of Adam beside Zaretan (Joshua 3:16) is about thirty miles north. There the river suddenly stayed and the waters gathered into a heap. From that point downward being no longer supplied from above, they began to fail, and hurrying towards the Dead Sea were swallowed up. The riverbed for miles was dry, it has a pebbly bottom there and the people “passed over right against Jericho.”
THE MEMORIAL STONES (Joshua 4:1-9)
Observe that Joshua 4:2 is a repetition of Joshua 3:12, indicating that these twelve men had been chosen previously for this service, though only now had they been made acquainted with its nature. That nature is described in the verses following. Verses 19-20 show where the stones were placed.
Observe their purpose (Joshua 4:6-7). A common mode in earlier times of remembering remarkable events. No inscription need have been placed upon them, as tradition would hand down the story from age to age.
Observe that another set of stones was set up elsewhere (Joshua 4:9). “Unto this day” means when the record was made in the book, which may have been in Joshua’s own time and by him, or at a later time by some other hand.
THE CIRCUMCISION AND THE PASSOVER (Joshua 5:2-12)
The reason for this circumcision is in Joshua 5:2-7, but the moral effect of it is stated in Joshua 5:9.
The observance of the Passover at the time fixed by the law (Joshua 5:10, see marginal references) was another evidence that the national existence was recommenced, and it was appropriate that the manna should cease at this time and the new chapter of their history begin with a new dietetic regimen.
“The old corn of the land” seems to mean that found in the storehouses of Gilgal and its neighborhood on which they levied. The fact that the manna ceased at this time when they no longer needed it is a further proof of its miraculous provision in the wilderness.
THE LORD OF HOSTS (Joshua 5:13-15)
This occurrence is another of the theophanies, a subject on which we have commented. “Theophany” means a manifestation of God to men by actual appearance. It might be called a “Christophany” or manifestation of Christ, for all such appearances in the Old Testament were those of the Second Person of the Trinity.
We are impressed with the intrepidity of Joshua, suggesting a supernatural enduement of courage (Joshua 5:13). We are impressed, too, with the warlike appearance and the warlike declaration of his divine visitor. As before stated, men ask in ignorance whether war is ever justifiable? Let them remember that the Lord is a God of war, and that until His enemies are subdued war will never end. In the present instance everything betokens heaven’s approval of this war of invasion. Only a weak apprehension of sin, and of the divine character, can argue otherwise.
Observe the evidences of the deity of this Person His name, His acceptance of worship, His command and the reason for it. He appeared at Gilgal, part of accursed Canaan; yet His presence made it holy (Joshua 5:15).
1. Name the events in the first section of this lesson.
2. At what period of the year was the Jordan crossed?
3. How far north of the crossing did the flow of the river cease?
4. How many sets of memorial stones were there?
5. What further evidence of the miraculous nature of the manna does this lesson afford?
6. What is the meaning of the word theophany?
7. How is the deity of this Captain proven?