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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Joshua 5

Now that the people have come into the promised land, the first task Joshua is given for them is to circumcise them. Circumcision speaks of the judgment of the flesh (Col 2:11). For us this means that we must apply death to our own flesh, that is to say that we must consider ourselves dead to it (Rom 6:11). In this way the reproach of Egypt – a picture of the world where the flesh finds its food – is rolled away.

The power to overcome is found in the food of the land. After they have celebrated the Passover, they eat of it. This food represents the Lord Jesus. By seeing Him in glory we are changed in His image: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2Cor 3:18). This gives us strength for struggle.

The Lord Jesus is not only the food, but He is also the Captain in the battle. The respect that Joshua pays to Him fits us (Jos 5:14-15).

In this chapter we see four important events in preparation for the conquest of the country:
1. The circumcision as a picture of the judgment over the flesh (Jos 5:2-9).
2. The celebration of the Passover as a picture of salvation by the Lamb of God (Jos 5:10).
3. The feeding on the roasted grain as a picture of feeding on a heavenly Christ (Jos 5:11-12).
4. join the “captain of the LORD’s host” as a picture of placing oneself under the authority of Christ (Jos 5:13-15).

Verse 1

The Fear of the Kings


The peoples of the land are impressed by what has been happening at and with the Jordan. With the people of God, and with people like Rahab, God’s power works reverent fear. Among the Gentiles, the power of God is also the cause of fear. This is not a respectful fear, however, but a hateful shudder. It does not process inner reversal and surrender, but resistance. What God has done deprives the peoples of the courage to attack God’s people. They withdraw to their fortified cities to resist.

Verses 2-9

The Circumcision at Gilgal


After the announcement that there is no more courage among the enemies (Jos 5:1), this is the ideal opportunity to attack. God determines, however, that this is the opportunity to circumcise the people (Jos 5:2). The task of circumcising the people means that the people become totally incapable of fighting. The people will be so powerless for a few days as a result of the circumcision that they will not be able to defend themselves against a possible attack (cf. Gen 34:24-26). But God never rushes. He knows what He does and arranges everything for the benefit of His people.

The conquest of the land begins with the lesson of Gilgal. In the circumcision they learn that there is no power in themselves. Spiritually applied this means that each of us must learn personally “that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh” (Rom 7:18a). The people must return to Gilgal after every struggle to learn that lesson again and again as a starting point for the next struggle. The place of action is called “Gibeath-haaraloth”, that means “the Hill of the foreskins”. By this name, this hill will forever be linked to Gilgal as the place where the circumcision took place.

The circumcision must be carried out with “flint knives”. Flint is a material that is not manufactured by human hands. God makes it available. A knife is an instrument with which something is cut away in this case. The flint knife indicates God’s judgment on the sinful nature of man. God used “the knife” when He made Christ to be sin and thus judged sin in the flesh: “For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God [did]: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and [as an offering] for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3; cf. Zec 13:7).

We use the knife when we judge every expression of the flesh in us, that is to say, we do not give in to it and ignore it: “Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to [literally: put to death the members which are upon the earth:] immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry” (Col 3:5). This means that we immediately judge every impulse of the flesh that wants to incite us to sin and think of what happened to us in the death of Christ, that we died with Him.

Gilgal has five characteristics:
1. There stands the memorial of the twelve stones from the Jordan: the memorial means that there is a constant memory of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
2. It is the place of circumcision: death must be applied to our flesh and its works.
3. The Pascha is being celebrated there in a totally new way. It is the first Passover in the land: when we remember the death of the Lord Jesus, we may think of all the blessings He has given us on the basis of His work.
4. In Gilgal God gives a completely new food after the circumcision, the fruit of the land: we may enjoy what has been given us in blessings.
5. In Gilgal we meet “the captain of the LORD’s hosts”: in the struggle we must fight to enjoy the blessings, He goes ahead of us. That’s why victory is certain.

Joshua is ordered to circumcise the people for the second time. The meaning of circumcision is found in the New Testament. The Old Testament does not give the doctrine, but the examples of how we can live our lives of faith and enjoy what we have received in Christ. The teaching of Paul’s letters makes clear what the significance of circumcision is for us. We mainly read about this in the letter to the Romans and in the letter to the Colossians. The letter to the Colossians brings the believer in the spiritual sense from Egypt into Canaan. In that letter we spiritually come to Gilgal.

The key verses can be found in Colossians 2. There we read that in Christ there is all fullness and that the believer has come to fullness in Him: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority” (Col 2:9-10). This is the position of every believer from the moment he has come to conversion and faith. At that moment he was ‘circumcised’, that is to say, at the moment of his conversion and faith, the judgment that God carried out over Christ in his place and for his sins, that judgment has been attributed to him.

But after forty years, a new circumcision comes. Joshua is ordered to circumcise the Israelites “the second time”. That teaches us the following. You may know you are in a certain position, but that’s not the same as putting it into practice. Paul says to the Philippians: “We are the circumcision” (Phil 3:3). This shows that for us it is not an external circumcision, but an internal circumcision, a circumcision of the heart.

He says it in the letter to the Romans as follows: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Rom 2:28-29). This must be fulfilled by judging every working of the flesh that arises in us (Col 3:5).

The circumcision is carried out to a new people. The whole old generation is perished (Jos 5:6). A whole new generation, that of sons, has entered the land. God calls Israel “My son” (Exo 4:22). It is a new generation of sons with new exercises. They are being circumcised. There is also an application to the future of the people when the whole people receive a new heart within them (Deu 30:6; Eze 36:26-27).

When the people have been circumcised, the reproach of Egypt has been rolled away. The reproach of Egypt has been on them for the whole wilderness journey. Egypt is marked by wisdom. But worldly, human wisdom cannot help us to know how to live. This is the danger to which Colossians are exposed. They are sensitive to the wisdom that opposes Christ. That is a wisdom by which Christ is removed from the hearts. They are warned not to be prey to that false wisdom (Col 2:8a).

Everything that is of the world must be turned away from us. There is talk of ‘rolling away’, as if it were a heavy weight that lies on us and that keeps us subject to the world. Taking away the things from the world can hurt if we cut them away, because they have become a part of us. It will take some time before we are recovered. The sooner we radically deal with sin, the shorter the recovery time will have to take.

Verses 10-11

The Passover


What will certainly soothe the pain is the thought of the Passover lamb, which was the cause of their liberation from Egypt. It speaks of the Lord Jesus and the judgment that came on Him to free us from the power of sin and from the judgment of God. Therefore, after circumcision, the Passover can be celebrated, for how could an uncircumcised people celebrate the Passover? That is impossible. So it is impossible to celebrate the Lord’s Supper without self-judgment (1Cor 11:28).

The Passover is celebrated here for the first time in the land, after the people celebrated it in Egypt (Exo 12:1-14) and in the wilderness (Num 9:1-5). They do it just before the walls of Jericho. The LORD “prepares a table” for His people “in the presence” of their “enemies” (Psa 23:5a).

Blood is applied only once, in Egypt (Exo 12:7), but the memory of the liberation from the judgment of God is celebrated each year. We can celebrate the Passover every first day of the week in celebrating the Lord’s Supper. The more we do it, the more precious the blood will become for us. Without the blood there is no salvation, no wilderness journey, and no entry into the land. Both the letter to the Ephesians and the letter to the Colossians, who present the highest Christian blessings to us, speak of blood and the forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7; Col 1:14). We must never forget the blood of the Lamb. We owe all the blessings to the blood.

After the Passover, the Feast of unleavened bread begins, which lasts seven days (Exo 12:15-20). This speaks of a whole life – the number ‘seven’ speaks of a completeness, in this case of a complete period – without malice and wickedness: “Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are [in fact] unleavened. For Christ, our Passover, also has been sacrificed. Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1Cor 5:7-8). When we have celebrated the Lord’s Supper, it will have an effect in the following week. At the same time, that week is a preparation for the next Lord’s Supper.

On the day after the Passover, the people eat from the proceeds of the land. It is also the day on which the first sheaf from the barley harvest is brought. That speaks of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. He is the Firstborn of the dead. In connection therewith the people may eat from the proceeds of the land. Through His resurrection we can enjoy all spiritual blessings. But we will never forget that we owe everything to the judgment that He wanted to undergo for it. We see this in the roasting (Darby translation) of the fruit of the land, i.e. the fruit is exposed to the fire.

The fruit of the land, barley and wheat, symbolically represents the Lord Jesus. He is the bread of life (Jn 6:33). The Passover speaks of His death, but He was raised on the first day of the week, on the day of bringing the first fruits of barley. That is why John 6 also begins with barley loaves (Jn 6:9). To this the Lord Jesus connects His teaching about Himself as the bread of life. Whoever eats Him (Jn 6:48-58) has eternal life, that is to say, gets Him as his life, for “He is the true God and eternal life” (1Jn 5:20b). Eating Him means appropriating Him in faith in the recognition that life is only given by Him.

The Lord Jesus speaks of Himself as the grain of wheat and the fruit thereof when the grain of wheat dies (Jn 12:24). The wheat comes later than the barley (Exo 9:31-32). The barley speaks of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. The wheat speaks of his death, his resurrection, and the fruit of his death. We are, as it were, seven weeks further. We see a glorified Lord, while we see ourselves in the many fruits, as is also represented in the two wave breads (Lev 23:15-17).

Verse 12

The Manna Ceases


Eating the fruit of the land is not the same as eating the manna, the food in the wilderness. The manna represents the Lord Jesus, but in His life on earth. Every day we need the manna for our earthly journey. We eat that manna when we read the Gospels, for example. There we see the life of the Lord Jesus in humiliation on earth. By feeding ourselves with Him in this way we get His features. But for knowing the heavenly blessings we must concern ourselves with Him as Man in heaven. That is proposed in eating the yield of the land. We do this when we read about Him in the letters, especially Paul’s, in connection with the place He now occupies in heaven.

God gives in His providence the manna for as long as it is necessary. He has even given it when the people once show their aversion to it (Num 11:6). The fact that the people have been able to pick up the bread from heaven every morning and feed themselves with it has been a daily recurring miracle. God works miracles as long as it is needed. This also indicates that miracles are temporary. If there are ‘normal’ facilities, the miracles stop. There is no claim to be made on the progress of God’s extraordinary actions.

Verses 13-15

The Captain


It seems that Joshua went to Jericho to measure the resistance. He has not yet been commanded to attack the city. He may have discussed how this extremely strong city should be captured. He is a military man, but he has never moved up against a fortified city. Absorbed in thoughts he lifts up his eyes and to his surprise discovers the Man with the drawn sword. He does not recognize Him, as is later the case with Gideon (Jdg 6:11-22) and Manoah (Jdg 13:11-21), but not with Abraham who does recognize Him (Gen 18:1-3).

Once we have taken in the previous events, we can, after using the flint knife (Jos 5:2), meet the Man with the sword. So we see Him with Balaam. There He is ready to kill him if he should drive on (Num 22:23). Also at Jerusalem He is ready with the sword to destroy it (1Chr 21:16). Here He goes out ahead of the army. He has come “now” and not a moment before. His coming is announced (Exo 23:23) and now He has come and takes over the guidance.

His presence makes every place where He stands a holy place (cf. Gen 28:16-17). Thus He says to Moses that when it comes to a people in misery that is about to be freed (Exo 3:5). Here it is about a liberated people that is about to conquer the land.

The presence of the LORD as “the captain of the LORD’s hosts” requires as much holiness and reverence as in His coming down to redeem His people. As He is when He comes down to participate in the oppression of His people – He appears in the burning bush which is a picture of it – so He is also when He stands among His people to bless them and lead them in struggle. The hosts of the LORD are his earthly people, but it is also the angelic power which he commands (Gen 32:1-2; 2Kgs 6:17; Mt 26:53; Heb 1:7; 14).

We too need spiritual preparation to be able to fight the spiritual struggle. The spiritual preparation we have in Ephesians 1-5. This also includes that the relationships between man and wife, parents and children, employer and employee mentioned in Ephesians 5, are in order. Then the struggle according to the directions of Ephesians 6 can be fought effectively. The struggle fought in the heavenly battle is a holy struggle.

Joshua’s mind is that of submission and obedience. He asks respectfully what the LORD has to say to him. When the LORD does so, Joshua obeys immediately. This is the right attitude to receive further communications about the struggle to be fought.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 5". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/joshua-5.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.