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 unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?
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(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?
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. Joshua 5:13Appearance and Message of the Angel of the Lord. - Joshua 5:13-15. When Joshua was by Jericho, בּיריחו, lit., in Jericho (בּ expressing immediate proximity, the entrance as it were into some other object, vid., Ewald, 217), - that is to say, inside it in thought, meditating upon the conquest of it-he saw, on lifting up his eyes, a man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand; and on going up to him, and asking, "Dost thou belong to us or to our enemies?" he received this reply: "Nay (לא is not to be altered into לו, which is the reading adopted in the Sept., Syr., and a few MSS), but I am the prince of the army of Jehovah; now I am come." The person who had appeared neither belonged to the Israelites nor to their enemies, but was the prince of the army of Jehovah, i.e., of the angels. "The Lord's host" does not mean "the people of Israel, who were just at the commencement of their warlike enterprise," as v. Hofmann supposes; for although the host of Israel who came out of Egypt are called "the hosts of the Lord" in Exodus 12:41, the Israelites are never called the host or army of Jehovah (in the singular). "The host of Jehovah" is synonymous with "the host of heaven" (1 Kings 22:19), and signifies the angels, as in Psalm 148:2 and Psalm 103:21. With the words "now I am come," the prince of the angels is about to enter upon an explanation of the object of his coming; but he is interrupted in his address by Joshua, who falls down before him, and says, "What saith my lord to his servant?" so that now he first of all commands Joshua to take off his shoes, as the place on which he stands is holy. It by no means follows that because Joshua fell down upon the ground and ישׁתּחוּ (Eng. Ver. "did worship"), he must have recognised him at once as the angel of the Lord who was equal with God; for the word השׁתּחוה, which is connected with the falling down, does not always mean divine worship, but very frequently means nothing more than the deep Oriental reverence paid by a dependant to his superior or king (e.g., 2 Samuel 9:6; 2 Samuel 14:33), and Joshua did not address the person who appeared to him by the name of God, אדני, but simply as אדני, "My lord." In any case, however, Joshua regarded him at once as a superior being, i.e., an angel. And he must have recognised him as something more than a created angel of superior rank, that is to say, as the angel of Jehovah who is essentially equal with God, the visible revealer of the invisible God, as soon as he gave him the command to take off his shoes, etc. - a command which would remind him of the appearance of God to Moses in the burning bush, and which implied that the person who now appeared was the very person who had revealed himself to Moses as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (On the meaning of the command to take off the shoes, see the exposition of Exodus 3:5.) The object of the divine appearance was indicated by the drawn sword in the hand (cf. Numbers 22:31), by which he manifested himself as a heavenly warrior, or, as he describes himself to Joshua, as prince of the army of Jehovah. The drawn sword contained in itself this practical explanation: "I am now come with my heavenly army, to make war upon the Canaanites, and to assist thee and thy people" (Seb. Schmidt). It was not in a vision that this appearance took place, but it was an actual occurrence belonging to the external world; for Joshua saw the man with the drawn sword at a certain distance from himself, and went up to him to address him, - a fact which would be perfectly incompatible with an inward vision.
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