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CIRCUMCISION IN GILGAL
The miraculous crossing of the Jordan awakened great fear in the hearts of the Canaanitish people, so that their hearts melted (v.1). This was God's work. It was He who was preparing the way for Israel's victorious conquest of the land of promise.
Military strategy would have dictated that Israel should immediately strike then while the advantage was on their side. But the Lord did not allow this. He knew that Israel needed preparation of a different sort than men would advise. For if we are going to judge others on God's behalf, we must first learn to judge ourselves. Israel had been a circumcised nation when coming out of Egypt, but the younger generation had not been circumcised (v.5). The spiritual meaning of circumcision is told us in Philippians 3:3: "We are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." The cutting off of the flesh is imperative if we are to engage in any warfare for God: we must learn to judge the sin of our own hearts or we cannot judge sin in others.
Joshua was required to make flint knives by which the men of Israel were to be circumcised (vs.3-4). This was totally contrary to military strategy, for it would leave them naturally greatly weakened in case the enemy attacked. But God was able to keep the enemy in check, and His word is most vital if any results for Him are to be obtained.
Verse 6 reminds us that Israel was kept for forty years in the wilderness because they disobeyed the Lord's instructions to enter Canaan (v.6), so that that generation of men had died and their sons now were circumcised. They remained in the camp till they were healed (v.8), which required three days. The Lord's words at this time are instructive, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you" (v.9). Gilgal means "rolling away" Egypt is typical of the world, which has kept believers in bondage, but the bondage was broken by the death of Christ, pictured in the Red Sea. Yet, to enter into the truth of this practically requires the application of the death sentence to ourselves personally. When this death sentence is made vital to the individual (as symbolized in circumcision), he realizes that he is, not only in principle, but in practice, dead to the world. The reproach of Egypt is thus rolled away, for it is final, definite separation from all that is of Egypt (the world).
Circumcision depicts the negative side of the truth, that is, saying "No" to the flesh, and in the New Testament baptism answers to circumcision, for baptism also speaks of virtually putting the flesh in the place of death, or of burial. We shall see as we go on in Joshua that the positive side is presented to us, where all blessing is centered in Christ.
THE PASSOVER KEPT
While we have seen that circumcision deals with what is negative, the judgment of sin in our own flesh, now the keeping of the Passover is intended to direct our eyes to the Lord Jesus, the Lamb of God, the positive Object set before our eyes. It was four days after crossing the Jordan that Israel kept the Passover. We read of their keeping the Passover only once in the wilderness, the second year after leaving Egypt (Numbers 9:1-5). Of course, those who were not circumcised were not permitted to keep the Passover (Exodus 12:48). But now that circumcision had taken place, the truth of the Passover is revived (v.10). Only when the flesh is put in its place of death will we give to the Lord Jesus and His sacrifice the place of honor that belongs to Him.
Neither the circumcising of the men of Israel nor keeping the Passover would appeal to the minds of common soldiers as being of help in warfare, but for believers it is imperative that they first take their own proper place and give Christ His proper place before they can hope for victory.
Besides this, the day following the Passover they ate of the produce of the land of Canaan, unleavened bread and parched grain (v.11). They had previously eaten manna all through the wilderness, but the day after eating of the land's produce the manna ceased. The manna was intended to humble Israel, for it is wilderness food, typical of Christ in the lowly humiliation of His Manhood, but the produce of the land speaks of Christ in His exaltation, raised and glorified, so that this is exalting food. The believer is privileged today to eat both of these, for as regards his circumstances he is in the wilderness, but as regards his spiritual position he is in the heavenlies.
THE SUPREME COMMANDER
There has been an orderly progression in the preparations made for warfare, now only one matter remains, and that of greatest importance. As Joshua was by Jericho, evidently contemplating an attack, he saw a Man standing before him holding a drawn sword. Joshua was no weakling: he went to the Man and asked Him on which side He was (v.13).
The answer was "No." He neither came to support Joshua nor to support the enemy, but for a far higher purpose. He came as Commander of the army of the Lord. This could be no other than the Lord Himself, and Joshua fully gives Him this place. He worshiped Him and asked what He had to tell Joshua (v.14). The only instruction he was given was to take the sandal off his foot because the place he stood was holy ground. Thus, Joshua would be reminded of Moses and the burning bush (Exodus 3:5).
Joshua surely would never forget this. God intended to impress on him that he was only a secondary leader and all Israel must realize their total dependence on the grace and power of the eternal God.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 5". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27