Joshua 5

Introduction: Now that we are on the other side of Palm Sunday, I continue with my work from Joshua.Let me set up where we’ve been.

The Pentateuch (the first five and most important books in the Jewish tradition) comes to a closure by establishing the changing of the guard from Moses to Joshua.

God is about to bring this new generation into the promised land and setting up His people for something new and different.

Application: I am likening it to what may be going on today.

Joshua 1 – God commissions Joshua.

‘Arise and go over…no man shall be able to stand against you…be strong and of good courage.’

Joshua 2 – Rahab hiding the Spies – Joshua and Caleb. Rahab somehow understood and believed that somehow God was about to do something new and necessary and herself showed courage by hiding them.

Joshua 3 – Israel marches to border of Jordan and told to prepare. They were told to Follow the Ark.

Application: Of importance for today’s message is found in verse 5, where Joshua tells the people to ‘sanctify themselves.’

Joshua 4 – Crossing over Jordan miraculously and then setting up ‘Stones of Remembrance’.

Next week we’ll consider what happened at Jericho when the walls came down…but that’s next week.

Question: What happens in Chapter 5 prior to the walls miraculously coming down?

5:1-2 – Read – Make Slide

‘Circumcise them again, the second time.’

Those who had been born in the wilderness and who had not been circumcised are commanded to do so.

I. Meaning and Purpose of Jewish Circumcision

  • Circumcision is called a Brit (or Bris) Milah. – ‘Covenant of Circumcision’. On 8th Prayer, blessings, official name and parents reading a letter to child.

Circumcision carries a dual significance, both ethnic and religious. It is the Jewish male’s quintessential sign of ethnic belonging and biological lineage. Though only a small percentage of Jews today consider themselves believers in any traditional sense, nearly every Jewish male undergoes circumcision. Indeed, circumcision is the most popular custom observed among our people. As the hallmark of national identity, it was the most visible difference between Jews and their Greek counterparts in the second century B.C.E., when Hellenists ruled over the Jewish commonwealth, and two millennia later it was, tragically, the tell-tale sign of Jews when Nazis hunted them down during the Shoah.

Transition: Two things stand out about the significance of Joshua 5 and circumcision. Identity and Preparation through Consecration.

Transition: Let me begin by examining this thought about identity.

After they have healed from the circumcision, there identity is somewhat altered.

II. Return of Identity

Verse 9, ‘This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you. Therefore, this place is called Gilgal to this day.

  • Gilgal = a wheel or circle, something that rolls.
  • The reproach of Egypt has been rolled away.

Question: What was the reproach of Egypt?

The phrase חֶרְפֵת מִצְרַיִם refers generally to the fact that some Jews up until that point had retained some Egyptian customs (see Ralbag to Joshua 5:9), but more specifically, it refers to the shame of the Israelites for having gone 40 years in the desert without having performed circumcision on the males, young and old. The mass circumcision that took place at Gilgal, therefore, was intended to disconnect the Jewish people from Egyptian idolatry and purify them to enter into the Land.

The same and burden of slavery, the idolatry, the bondage, everything connected to their Egyptian experience.

Application: As Christians, our identity is critical. Who are we attached to? To whom we belong! With whom we have a covenant and personal relationship?
It has to be personal. We need to break away from Egypt’s past hold on our lives. It’s time to move on!


III. Consecration for Purpose

Application: Consecration = devotion / focus / preparedness is essential when God is wanting and preparing to do something grand.

Application: May I say carefully, that I believe we are obviously in a time of transition….transition for what? Well, hopefully good, new, fresh beginnings.

We need to pay attention and consider a renewed consecration for God’s purposes moving out of this pandemic!

Question: So how can I do that?

The 3 most common ways:

  • Bible reading / prayer
  • Prayer
  • Repentance


Transition: From, or out of this call to consecration we see the movement of God from one movement to another.

IV. Restoration for Continuation – verse 12 (Manna)

Manna was the supernatural food God gave to the Israelites during their 40-year wandering in the desert. The word manna means “What is it?” in Hebrew. Manna is also known in the Bible as the “bread of heaven.’

Manna had a shelf life of 24 hrs. Manna appeared for six days in a row. On Fridays, the Hebrews were to gather a double portion, because it did not appear on the next day, the Sabbath. And yet, the portion they saved for the Sabbath did not spoil.

Application: After approximately 40 years of manna, it’s time for God’s people to enjoy the fruit of promise…the milk and honey and everything else.

Transition: There is still one final piece of this narrative. From verses 13-15

V. Presence of Power Assured – vv. 13-15 – Commander of the Army of the Lord

‘And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?” 14 So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” 15 Then the Commander of the LORD’S army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so’. (Jos 5:13 NKJ)

Commander of the Army of the Lord

The person who appeared to Joshua was clearly a powerful being. We are told Joshua fell on his face and gave him reverence.

Then, Joshua addresses the man using a Hebrew word that means “master” or “lord.” Joshua clearly had much respect for this being. Finally, the man tells Joshua to remove his sandals, “for the place where you are standing is holy.”

Based on this information, there are only two possible identities for this person. First, this commander could be an example of a theophany, a visible appearance of God Himself. Supporting this view is the fact that Joshua was to take off his sandals similar to how Moses did at the burning bush when he met God (Exodus 3:5).

The other possible identity of this commander is that he was an angel. This theory notes that the being identifies himself as the “commander” of the Lord’s army, not as the Lord Himself. In this view, Joshua’s bowing is seen as an act of reverence rather than worship. Joshua’s address of the commander as “lord” could be a general term of respect.

Those who favor the view that Joshua met an angel appeal to the fact that no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). Those who favor the view that Joshua met God suggest that this was God the Son, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.

Whether the commander of the Lord’s army was angelic or divine, it was God who communicated an important message to Joshua to prepare him for the upcoming battle.

Conclusion: So, let’s do the math of Joshua chapter 5.

Newly Circumcised
Renewed Identity
Call to Consecration
Restoration of Promise
Presence of Greatness

Next Week – The Destruction of Jericho