Joshua 5





1 “And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on

the side of Jordan westward,” - A large portion of the territory of the Amorites

had, as we have seen (ch.3:10), been already conquered. The remaining tribes on

the other side Jordan were apprehensive of the same fate. For “on the side,” the

original has “across.” Having hitherto written of Israel as on the eastern side of

Jordan, he continues the same expression after he has narrated the crossing. But

writing as he did on the west side of Jordan, and for readers the vast majority of

whom were on the west side of Jordan, he adds the expression“westward

(literally, seaward) to prevent any possibility of mistake - “and all the kings of

The Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried

up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we

were passed over,” -  The Masorites, in the Keri, have corrected the text

(Chethibh) into “until they were passed over.” Kennicott states that this

reading is confirmed by twenty-seven Hebrew MSS., which have probably

adopted the reading from the Masoretic correction. The Septuagint accepts the

Chethibh. The probability, however, is that this is one of the many

instances of a conjectural emendation of a difficult passage, it not having

been seen that the historian was either quoting a document contemporary

with the events described, or more probably using the word to identify

himself as an Israelite with the acts of his fathers in past times. This is the

opinion of Rabbi David Kimchi. Knobel refers to Psalm 66:6. See also

v. 6 of this chapter, and ch.24:5-7; Judges 11:17; 19.  We must not, then,

assume from this passage that the Book of Joshua was written by one who

himself had a share in the events recorded, in the face of many indications we

have of a later origin (ch. 4:9) -“that their heart melted, neither was there

spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.” -  Confirming

what Rahab had said (ch.2:11). Similar terror has often been struck into the hearts of

peoples, especially of peoples enervated by habits of licentious indulgence,

by the approach of enemies who have successfully and rapidly overcome obstacles

deemed insurmountable. Such an effect was produced in Persia by Alexander’s

victories at the Granicus and Issus. Such an effect, again, was produced in

Italy by the tidings of the approach of Alaric and Attila. If we may trust the

monk of St. Gall, a similar terror fell on the degenerate Lombards at the

approach of Charles the Great, after his daring passage of the Alps. In this

case the miraculous element was added, and the inhabitants of Canaan, and

of Jericho especially, remained for the time panic stricken, not daring to

combine to strike a blow against these daring invaders, who in addition to

their bravery seemed under the special protection of Heaven. When they

had recovered from the consternation into which the passage of the Jordan

had thrown them, the sense of an imminent danger forced them at last to

make an effort at resistance (see ch. 10.)



2 “At that time” -  V. 1 is introduced in order to explain why Joshua ventured

upon the circumcision of the children of Israel at so critical a period. Nothing

could more clearly evince the spirit of confidence in Jehovah which animated

not only Joshua, but all the children of Israel. We read of no murmurings,

although it was well known that the performance of the rite of circumcision would

unfit the Israelites for active service for some days. We may imagine, and even the

silence of the sacred historian may be deemed eloquent on the point, that the

marvelous passage of the Jordan had inspired the Israelites with an eager desire to

renew their covenant with the God who “had done so great things for them

already.” And although, for religious reasons, they remained inactive for

four or five days, a course of action from a military point of view highly

injudicious, yet such was the terror the passage of the Jordan had struck

into the hearts of the Phoenicians that no attack on them was attempted,

and the inhabitants of Jericho (ch. 6:1) remained under the protection of

their strong walls - “the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives,”

or knives of stone (צוּר; compare צֹר Exodus 4:25). The Septuagint, Vulgate,

Syriac, and Arabic versions, as well as the margins of our Bibles, render thus.

On the other hand, several of the Rabbis give the same translation as the text

of our version. The Septuagint  translator, following no doubt an ancient tradition,

adds after ch.24:30, that these knives were buried with Joshua (see note

there). The idea which has found great favor lately of a “stone age,” as

anterior to an “iron age,” of the world, will hardly derive support from this

passage. That the use of stone preceded the use of iron scarcely admits of a

doubt. But from Genesis 4:22 we learn that the use of iron had been

known hundreds of years before Joshua, and yet we find him using stone

knives. And we may go further. In spite of the advance of civilization in

our own day, there are still millions of human beings who have not

advanced beyond the “stone age.” (Even in the twentieth century stone

rendered a more precise cut than steel knives – CY – 2012)  The idea, then, of

an age in which the universal use of iron has supplanted the universal use of stone

is an idea which facts compel us to reject, while admitting that the use of stone must

have preceded the use of iron in the infancy of the human race. In these

knives of flint,” Origen, Theodoret, and others see an allusion to Christ,

the rock - “and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.”

The second time. For “circumcise again the children of Israel the

second time,” the literal translation is, “return שׁוּב) to circumcise,” or,

“return, circumcise” them the second time. This has perplexed the

commentators and translators. It has been assumed that the text involves

the idea of a former general circumcision of the people, and various are the

expedients which have been resorted to in order to avoid the difficulty.

Some copies of the Septuagint would read שֵׁב for שׁוּב (or יְשֵׁב for וְשׁוּב

Rosenmuller), and translate “sit down” i.e., halt), “and circumcise” The

Vulgate leaves out the word altogether. The Syriac translates literally. The

Arabic reads “tomorrow” for “again.” The Rabbi Solomon Jarchi falls back

on the expedient of a general circumcision ordered by Moses on the

departure of the children of Israel from Egypt, on account of their neglect

of that rite while they sojourned there, but this is rendered highly improbable

by the fact that circumcision was an Egyptian as well as a Hebrew custom,

and still more so by the improbability that such an important circumstance

 should have been passed over in silence.  Knobel regards Abraham’s

circumcision with that of his household as the first time (Genesis 17:23). Perhaps

the best explanation is that the word שׁוּב, though it is rightly translated “again”

here, and in several other places in Scripture, carries with it the idea of a return

 into a former condition.  So Ibid. 26:18, 30:31, Hosea 2:11 (9, inour version).

In II Kings 1:11, 13 we have the king’s return to his former purpose in the

second and third mission to Elijah. Thus here the word is used of the bringing back

 the children of Israel to their former state, that of a people who were in the

enjoyment of a visible sign and seal (Romans 4:11) of their being God’s covenant

people. The meaning therefore would seem to be, “Restore the children of Israel

a second time to the position they formerly held, as visibly bound to me, and placed

under my protection, by the rite of circumcision.’’ The person must be in favor

ere the work can hope to prosper; his predecessor Moses had like to have

been slain for neglect of this sacrament (Exodus 4:24-26), when he went to

call the people out of Egypt; he justly fears his own safety, if now he omit it, when

they are brought into Canaan.


3 “And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children

of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.”  The name given to the hill where the

circumcision took place.


4  And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came

out of Egypt,” -  Rather “on their journey from Egypt.” See next verse, where

the same words are translated “as they came out” -  “that were males, even

all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out

of Egypt.”


5 “Now all the people that came out were circumcised:” – The Hebrew of

this passage (which runs literally thus — “Now circumcised had they been, all the

people who were going forth”) is sufficient to refute the idea that there was a great

circumcision of the people under Moses, on account of the neglect of the rite in Egypt.

For, before the exodus, Moses was not in a position to perform any general act of

this kind, as the history plainly shows, while after it such a rite could not have taken

place, since the Hebrew הָיוּ denotes a state of things which was completed at the

time spoken of, and therefore must here be rendered (as above) by the pluperfect –

but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came

forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.”  Here again the Hebrew is

used of the perfected action, and is therefore rightly rendered by our

version, giving the idea that the Israelites who were born in the wilderness

had not been circumcised up to the point which our history has now

reached. See also v. 7, where the same construction is found.


6 “For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till

all the people” -  The Hebrew here is גוֹּי - not the usual word for people, but

that usually applied to the Gentiles (equivalent to ἔθνος – ethnos – heathen) by

which word it is usually rendered in the Septuagint). It is applied to the

Israelites in ch. 3:17; 4:1; Isaiah 1:4; 9:2; 26:2. See also Exodus 33:13. In the

singular it means a people in the more general sense, a nation, as distinguished

from a people in whom one has an interest. In the plural it always means the

Gentiles עַס. (Septuagint, λαόςlaos - people), the word usually applied to

the people of God, is not used here, because the people who “provoked God in

the wilderness” had made themselves in a sense a rejected people. Delitzsch

regards this (after Calvin) as a sign that, for the time at least, the covenant

between God and Israel was annulled, permanently in the case of those who were

condemned to die in the wilderness, temporarily only in their descendants, who

were formally reconciled to God, and restored to their former covenant

position by this solemn performance of the covenant rite of circumcision

(see note on v.2).  The difficulty about the Passover may be met by supposing

that those only who were circumcised — a constantly decreasing number, of

course — were allowed to celebrate that feast. In the “unquiet, unsettled,

uncomfortable life” the Israelites led in the wilderness, they could keep very

few of the ordained feasts.  We read of no Passover being kept after the one

recorded in Numbers 9:5.  Considering the loose way in which the word כֹל is

used in Scripture (see, for instance, Genesis 4:14), we need not press the word to

include all who were born after the departure from Egypt, but only those who were

born after the rejection of the people recorded in Numbers 14:26.  This rejection,

be it remembered, did not include all the Israelites who were born in Egypt, but only

those who were over twenty years of age (Ibid. v.29). The view of Kurz (3:323,

Clark’s translation), that circumcision was suspended on account of the continual

movements of the Israelites, is refuted by Delitzsch’s remark that the Israelites

were not continually on the march, but that they often encamped in one place for a

long period, a period far longer, in fact, than the time in which they abode

in Gilgal. Delitzsch asks why this circumcision did not take place before,

why it was not performed as soon as they crossed the brook Zered. The

answer is that, until the Jordan was crossed, they had not taken formal

possession of their own land. As soon as, under the Divine protection, they

had crossed the Jordan, the long-delayed promise was fulfilled. God’s

covenant with Abraham was accomplished, and now they, in their turn, had

to place themselves once more in the position of God’s covenant people,

bound to serve Him with their whole heart.  We may observe that GOD


then it is man’s duty to fulfill his. God, under the Christian dispensation,

first places us in the state of salvation. Then it becomes our duty to make

that salvation sure by overcoming God’s enemies, by the help which He

never fails to afford - “that were men of war, which came out of Egypt,

were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD:

unto whom the LORD swear that He would not shew them the

land, which the LORD swear unto their fathers that He would give

us,” -  “give us.” - This introduction of the first person into the middle of the

sentence is unexpected - (see note on v. 1, and Psalm 66:6, where there is a

similar change of person).  a land that floweth with milk and honey.”

This is a standing expression in the Pentateuch to express the great

fertility of the land of Canaan. Milk and honey are produced by a land rich

in grass and flowers, which were both of them plentiful in Canaan (see

Isaiah 7:15, 22). Milk, not only of cows, but of sheep and goats also

(Deuteronomy 32:14), and eaten sometimes sweet, at other times thick

or curdled (חמאה), was a leading article of food amongst the ancient

Hebrews, as it is in the present day in most Eastern countries, and Palestine

was peculiarly fitted for the rearing of cattle. Honey also, especially that of

wild bees, was found in large quantities (Judges 14:8; I Samuel 14:26;

Matthew 3:4), and is still found, notwithstanding its present desolate condition.

Some have thought חמאה to mean the newly expressed juice of grapes, which,

under the Arabic name of dibs, is largely used at present in Palestine, and is even

exported to other countries. But in Deuteronomy 32:13, Psalm 81:16, wild honey

is clearly meant, which is to this day deposited by bees, in the clefts of the rock,

whence it often overflows and is received into vessels placed beneath (see

Proverbs 5:3; Song of Solomon 4:11)


7 “And their children, whom He raised up in their stead, them Joshua

circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not

circumcised them by the way.  8  And it came to pass, when they had done

circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp,

till they were whole.” Literally, till they revived, as in Genesis 20:7; II Kings 1:2;

8:8. Objections have been raised (see to the possibility of this circumcision taking

place in one day. But it has been shown by calculation that between one-third

and one-fourth of the people who remained had been circumcised

already, and that therefore such an operation as this could be performed

with the utmost ease in a very short time. The word גוִו is used here again,

since the people were still Gentiles until the rite of circumcision was performed.


9  And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the

reproach of Egypt” -  Either:


  • the reproach which comes from the Egyptians  we must refer the

phrase to the reproach cast upon the Israelites by the Egyptians, that all

their vain glorious boasts were worthless, and that they were never

destined to occupy the land which they declared God had given to them.


  • rejected of God – If this, it must be regarded as equivalent to the reproach

that they were a nation of slaves, a reproach that was rolled away by the

fact of their standing as freemen on the soil which had been promised to

their fathers.


  • the reproach of having sojourned in Egypt - that it was their down-

trodden miserable condition in Egypt, a condition which was only partially

ameliorated during their wanderings in the wilderness, in the course of which,

accustomed to a settled existence, they must have had much to endure.

With the arrival in Canaan, all this came to an end. All those who had

deserved punishment were dead, all the uncircumcised were circumcised,

reproach and misery were put aside, and Israel, as the worthy community

of God, entered on a new life.” This interpretation, more precise and clear

than the others  best satisfies all the requirements of the passage.


Theodoret remarks how the Israelites who had been circumcised perished in the

wilderness, while their uncircumcised children were miraculously preserved and

brought over Jordan. A remarkable commentary this on the words, “Now

circumcision verily profiteth if thou keep the law; but if thou be a breaker

of the law thy circumcision is made uncircumcision(Romans 2:25. Compare

I Corinthians 7:19).  We may here learn how we, who have received spiritual

circumcision, thereby laid aside the reproach of sin.  Trusting by nature in

the spiritual Egypt, the house of bondage, we are slaves to sin and

corruption. When we enter into fellowship with Christ, THE REPROACH


OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD!   (see Romans 6:18-22; Galatians 5:1; also

John 8:32-36) - “from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal

unto this day.”  Gilgal. It is quite possible, since the word to roll is in Hebrew, as

indeed in English, spoken of a circular motion and since גוִו is a wheel in Hebrew,

that the place, like Geliloth, i.e., circles (ch.18:17), originally meant a circle, and that

the new signification was attached to the name from this moment. If

Deuteronomy 11:30 be not a later insertion, the place was known by the name before

this time. The root is found in the Aryan as well as in the Semitic languages (as in the

Greek κυλίω εἵλωkulio eilo - and the Latin volvo, globus).





10 “And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on

the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho.”  In reference

to the question whether the Passover was kept after the rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea,

it is a remarkable fact, that not only no mention of a Passover as having been kept is

found in the Pentateuch, after Numbers 9:1-14, but there is not even any instance

given of the law of sacrifice having been observed in the plains of Jericho.   “When

soldiers take the field, they are apt to think themselves excused from religious

exercises (they have not time nor thought to attend to them); yet Joshua opens the

campaign with one act of devotion after another” (Matthew Henry).


11 “And they did eat of the old corn of the land” -  The produce of the land;

literally, that which passes from off it, from עָבַר - to pass over. Whether new or

old we have no means of telling. The barley would be ripe (see note on ch.2:6), but

the wheat harvest had not yet taken place - “on the morrow after the Passover,”

The 15th Nisan (see Numbers 33:3). The law of the wave sheaf (Leviticus 23:10-11)

was intended to apply to corn raised by the Israelites on their own land, after Canaan

had been divided to them for an inheritance (see Exodus 23:16) - “unleavened

cakes, and parched corn” -  i.e., ears roasted at the fire, and the grain afterwards

rubbed out, a custom still in use among the Arabs (see Leviticus 2:14; I Samuel 17:17;

II Samuel 17:28. See also for the precept here followed, Leviticus 23:14). This verse

therefore adds some confirmation to the view that until their arrival in Palestine a full

observance of the precepts of the law was impossible (see above, v. 6) - “in the

selfsame day.”


12  And the manna ceased” -  It ceased when the Israelites entered a cultivated

region. The eastern portion of their inheritance, though well suited for pastoral

purposes, was not a land of agricultural produce. Therefore the manna  did not

cease until the Israelites had crossed the Jordan -“on the morrow after they had

eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna

any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.”


13 “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho,” - The preposition B],

The principal meaning of which is “in” signifies here “in the immediate neighborhood

of,” as in I Samuel 29:1 (where, however, the Septuagint reads“in Endor),

Ezekiel 10:15. Perhaps Joshua had ascended some hill in the close vicinity of the

city to reconnoiter it alone, and here he received the directions which resulted

in the  miraculous capture of the city of Jericho (see also Genesis 13:18,

where בְּאֵלנֵי cannot mean in the oaks,” nor בְּחֶבְדון “in Hebron”). The

Septuagint translates the first by, παρὰ τὴν δρῦνpara taen drunby the

Oaks - “that he lifted up his eyes” -  Usually, though not always, used of an

unexpected or marvelous sight (compare Genesis 13:10;18:2; 22:13; Numbers 24:2;

I Samuel 6:13; I Chronicles 21:16) - “and looked, and, behold, there stood a

man” -  This Divine or angelic vision came, as was often the case, in human shape

(compare Genesis 18:1-2; 19:1-2, 10; 32:24; Judges 13:3, 6, 11; Daniel 10:16,18;

12:6-7. See note on next verse). over against him with his sword drawn in his

hand:” -  As in Numbers 22:31; I Chronicles 21:16 (compareGenesis 3:24) - “and

Joshua went  unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our

adversaries?” It appears from 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 recognized nothing supernatural in it.


14 “And he said, Nay;” -  Many manuscripts which are followed by the

Septuagint and Syriac versions, have לו for לאֹ here. The Chaldee and Vulgate

read לאֹ, and the Masorites do not reckon this among the 15 passages in

which לו is read for לאֹ. The various reading has no doubt arisen from the

ambiguity of the passage, for it appears grammatically doubtful to which part of

Joshua’s question the particle of negation applies. Yet it is obvious enough

practically that it is in answer to the last portion of it -“but as captain of the

host of the LORD am I now come.” - Literally, “for (or but) I, the captain of

the Lord’s host, have now come.” As though he would say, “the struggle is

now imminent; the conflict is all but begun; and now, at the critical moment

when my help is needed, I, the captain of the hosts of the Lord, the leader

of all that vast army of unseen confederates, who are destined to marshal

the forces of nature, the elements of supernatural terror and dismay, on the

side of the Israelites, am come to help you.” That the Lord’s host must

mean the angels is clear from such passages as Genesis 32:2; I Kings 22:19;

Psalm 103:20-21; 148:2; Luke 2:13 (compare II  Kings 6:17; Matthew

26:53. Two opinions have been held by the early Church concerning this

manifestation. The first regards it as the appearance of the Son of God in a

visible form; the second supposes it to have been a created being — an

angel — through whom Jehovah was pleased to manifest Himself. The

former opinion was general in the earliest ages of the Church. The

appearance of the Arian heresy, however, brought this interpretation into

discredit. It was felt to be dangerous to admit it, lest it should lead to the

notion that the Loges, however great and glorious a being he might be,

however superior to all other created beings, was nevertheless removed by

an infinite interval from the Supreme God Himself. The Jewish interpreters

differ on the point. Maimonides and others (see next note) do not regard

the appearance as a real one. The majority seem to have supposed it to

have been the Archangel Michael. We will proceed to examine the

scriptural and patristic evidence on the subject. That appearances, believed

to be manifestations of God Himself in a visible form, are recorded in

Scripture, is a fact which cannot be denied. Thus we have the voice of God

(קול יְהֹוָה) walking in the garden (Genesis 3:8). Again, in ch. 15.,

though first God appears to Abraham in a vision, the nature of the

manifestation would seem to have changed in some respects afterwards,

for we read “He brought him forth abroad” (v. 5). Again, in ch. 18., we

find that Jehovah “appeared” to Abraham as he dwelt by the oaks of

Mamre  (v. 1), and the narrative would suggest that Jehovah Himself

appeared, and two attendant angels. This is further corroborated by the

fact that Abraham remains in conference with Jehovah, while the two

angels who arrived in the evening at Sodom do not appear to have been

spoken of as Jehovah, or to have received Divine honors from Lot. The

man who (Genesis 32:24) wrestled with Jacob is described

afterwards (v. 30) as “God.” The “angel of the Lord” who (Exodus

3:2) “appeared” unto Moses “in a flame of fire, out of the midst of a bush,”

is immediately afterwards described as Jehovah and Elohim (v. 4), and,

as in the present passage, Moses is instructed to remove his shoe from his

foot in consequence of the holiness of the place in which so great a Being

appeared. And here we are led to investigate the nature of that mysterious

being who is described as “the angel of the Lord,” the “angel,” or, as the

word is sometimes translated, “messenger of the covenant.” He appears to

Hagar (Genesis 16:7), and she immediately proceeds (v. 13) to express her

belief that it is God whom she has seen. The angel who appears to Abraham at

the sacrifice of Isaac (Ibid. 22:11-12, 18) speaks of Himself as God. The voice

of the angel, again, is regarded by Leah and Rachel as the voice of God (Ibid.

31:11,16), and He calls Himself so (v. 13). Jacob speaks of the angel as having

redeemed him from all evil” (Genesis 48:16), but here the term Goel, though

it means a ransomer, is not necessarily connected with moral evil. After His

appearance to Moses in the bush He becomes the special guide of the

children of Israel. His divinity is again asserted in Exodus 13:21, for the

Being there spoken of as Jehovah is described in Exodus 14:19 as His

angel. The solemn terms in which the God of Israel refers to him in

Exodus 23:20-21 must not be passed over. He is the “Angel of Jehovah.”

He is sent to “keep” Israel “in the way.” They were to take heed

and not rebel against Him (so the Septuagint); for, adds Jehovah, “My name

is in His inward parts” (not בּו but בְּקִרְבּו denoting close and intimate union).

Compare v. 23 and Exodus 32:34; 33:2. This angel is called the Face, or

Faces, of the Lord (Exodus 33:14; compare Isaiah 63:9), and is thus

specially identified with the revelation of Him, like the term εἰκών eikon

image - in the New Testament. The angel that withstood Balaam assumes a tone of

authority in harmony with this view (Numbers 22:22-35). Whether the angel at

Bochim (Judges 2:1) were a Divine or human messenger does not appear from the

narrative, and the word is occasionally, as in Haggai 1:13, used of a prophet. But

the appearance to Gideon and Manoah has a Divine character (Judges 6:11-22;

13:8-22). And the special reference to Jehovah, the angel of the covenant, in

Malachi 3:1 seems to point in a special manner to the Second Person in the Blessed

Trinity. This view, as has been stated, is the view of the earlier Fathers, nor does

there seem any reasonable ground for its rejection by those of later date. The idea

that the Logos, always the medium of the Father’s revelation and impartation

 of Himself, in creation as in redemption, frequently took a visible form under

the old  dispensation in order to communicate the Divine will to mankind,

does not in the least militate against the doctrine of His consubstantiality with the

Father. On the contrary, it rather emphasizes the fact which the New Testament

teaches us throughout, that the Logos was ever the manifestation, the ἐξήγησις

exaegaesisdeclare; tell  (John 1:18) of the Father, the eternal medium whereby

He communicates Himself beyond Himself. This was in the main the view of the

earliest Fathers. They might use an incautious expression now and then, but they

ever intended to be true to the doctrine of the Consubstantial Son of the

Father, who took a visible shape to convey the Father’s mind to ma

Thus Justin Martyr (‘Dial. cum Tryphone,’ 56) cites Genesis 18:1-2 to prove

that, as he says, “there is another God under (ὑπὸ - hupounder) the the

Creator of all things, who is called an angel because he announces (ἀγγέλειν

angelein - announce)  whatever the Creator of all things desires Him to announce.”

This being, he adds, “was also God before the creation of the world.” He was

another God than the Creator of the world in number (ἀριθμῷ - arithmo), not in

mind (γνώμῃ - gnomaemind; purpose; will). And from the expression

the Lord rained down fire and brimstone from the Lord out of

heaven (Genesis 19:24), he deduces the belief that this Being was

“Lord from beside (παρά - para - beside) the Lord who is in heaven.” He proceeds

to cite the passages from the Old Testament which have just been mentioned, and

to draw from them the conclusion which has just been drawn, that this

Being was one who ministered (ὑπηρέτοῦνταhupaeretountaminister;

serve) to God who is above; the word, the ἀρχή - archaebeginning; first  -

whom He begat before all creation. Similarly Theophilus (‘Ad Autolycum, 2:22)

says that the Word of God held a colloquy with Adam in the person (or

representation, προσώπῳ - prosopo - person) of God. Irenaeus (‘Adv. Haer.,’

4:7, 4) speaks of the Being who spake to Abraham at Mamre and Moses in the

bush as superior to all created angels, and as, in fact, the Word of God;

though  afterwards (Genesis 20:11) he modifies this statement into a manifestation.

Similar passages may be found in Clement, ‘Alex. Paed.,’ 1:7; and Tertullian, ‘

Adv. Prax.,’ 14. The latter says that God was “invisible as the Father, but

visible  as the Son,” the latter being the means whereby the former was revealed.

The passage from Clement is embodied and improved upon in a passage in the

‘Apostolic Constitutions,’ which presents the primitive doctrine on this point in

clearer language than any other. “To Him (Christ) did Moses bear witness, and

said, ‘The Lord received fire from the Lord, and rained it down.’ Him did Jacob

see as a man, and said, ‘I have seen God face to face, and my soul is preserved.’

Him did Abraham entertain, and acknowledge to be the Judge and his

Lord. Him did Moses see in the bush. Him did Joshua the son of Nun see,

as captain of the Lord’s host, for assistance against Jericho” (‘Apost.

Const.,’ 5:20). One passage more will be cited on this point. “Who else,”

says Origen, in his Homily on this passage, “is the prince of the host of the

virtues of the Lord, save our Lord Jesus Christ? .... Joshua would not have

adored,” he adds, “unless he had recognised God.” The fact that the later

Fathers (St. Augustine, for instance, and Theodoret, who holds that it was

Michael the Archangel who appeared to Joshua) rejected this interpretation

would not be sufficient to outweigh primitive testimony at once so explicit

and so general, unless it were supported by the strongest arguments. The

fact that it was rejected rather from prudential motives, and that such

prudence was, in point of fact, entirely unnecessary, robs the later

interpretation of much of its weight. Thus much at least is certain, that we

may adopt the earlier one without fear of prejudicing thereby the doctrine

of the divinity of Christ. Further information on this point will be found in

Hengstenberg’s ‘Christology,’ in Liddon’sBampton Lectures’ (Lect. it.),

in Bull (‘Defens. Fid. Nicen.,’ 1:1), and in Keil’s Commentaries upon the

various passages of the Old Testament, cited above. “He here appeared as

a soldier, with His sword drawn in His hand. To Abraham in his tent He

appeared as a traveller; to Joshua in the field, as a man of war. Christ will

be to His people what their faith expects and desires” (Matthew Henry).

 “And Joshua fell on his face” - The apparition had no doubt taken Joshua by

surprise. He believed himself to be alone, when suddenly he found himself

confronted by a warrior, with his sword drawn. Uncertain, in those days

when Divine interposition was more common than it is now, whether what

he saw was a proof that he was watched by enemies, who had resolved to

cut him off by surprise, or whether God had vouchsafed to appear to him,

but evidently quite prepared to expect the latter, he addresses a question to

the apparition, which of itself implies at least a half belief that what he saw

was something above nature. He needs but the simple reply just recorded

to lead him to prostrate himself in simple faith before the Mighty One

who now stood before him to be the defence and shield of His people

 from all their adversaries. Maimonides, in his ‘Moreh Nevochim,’ and others (as,

for instance, Hengstenberg, ‘Geschichte des Reiches Gottes,’ p. 209) have

regarded this as a vision seen by Joshua when he was alone, plunged in

deep meditation on the difficult task before him. But without denying that

many of the Divine interpositions recorded in Scripture (as, for instance,

that in Genesis 22:1) took place through the inner workings of the mind

as the medium of their action, yet here, as in Genesis 32., and most

probably in Exodus 3., we have visible appearances of God to men in deep

anxiety of heart, pondering “great matters” which were “too high for

them.” Whether we choose to accept or reject the historical narrative as a

whole, there can be no rational ground for doubting that the Hebrew

historians wrote under the full persuasion that they and their forefathers

lived under a dispensation of continual Divine interpositions, sometimes

taking place by secret inward intimations, sometimes through the Urim and

Thummim; sometimes, at a crisis in the history of the nation or of an

individual, by actual external appearances of God in a visible form, and that

we have here an account of one of these. The purport of the appearance is,

however, obscured by our present division of chapters. The narrative

proceeds without a break as far as ch.6:5. Ch.6:1 is simply

parenthetical and explanatory. Thus we gather that Joshua was meditating

the plan of his future campaign, and deliberating on the best mode of

capturing the strong walled city close by which (v. 13) he stood, when

God appeared to him in the form of a warrior, and solved all his doubts by

commanding him to prepare for a miraculous intervention of His

Providence, and in the place of warlike expedients to resort to a religious

ceremony, which should be the external token to all the surrounding

nations that the invading host was under the protection of the Lord of

heaven and earth; a fact of which they were more than half convinced by

the supernatural passage of the Red Sea and the Jordan (see ch.2:10; 6:1) -

 to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my Lord

unto his servant?”


15 “And the captain of the LORD’s host said unto Joshua, Loose thy

shoe from off thy foot;” – Compare Exodus 3:6. We have here a clear proof

(see also ch.6:2) that He who now spoke to Joshua was a Divine Person. The

loosing the shoe from the feet is regarded by Origen and other patristic

commentators as emblematic of the removal of worldly engagements and

pollutions from the soul - “for the place whereon thou standest is holy.

And Joshua did so.”




probable conclusion from the foregoing notes, as also from the fact that

Divine worship was paid to Him by His own command (compare Revelation

19:10; 22:8-9). The Son of God was ever the link of communication

between God and the external world. By Him God created it; through

Him He has been forever pleased to deal with it; He revealed the final

dispensation of God’s will to it; He shall come again to judge it. Under

 the patriarchs and the law He temporarily assumes a visible shape to

communicate God’s purposes to man; under the gospel He eternally

 retains the visible form of man to save the world. He was the Angel of

the Old Covenant; He is no less the Angel or Messenger of the New. And

by His Spirit He still reveals God’s will to man, though no longer by means of a

visible form. And thus the continuity of God’s dealings with man is

preserved. It is “one God who shall justify the circumcision by faith, and

the uncircumcision through faith” (Romans 3:30); one God who has adopted

the same means throughout, yet with ever-increasing efficiency, to bring man back

to his obedience.


This Divine personage is the same with whom Jacob wrestled all the night at the

Ford Jabbok (Genesis 32).  This Captain is the very same whom John saw in

vision with a flaming sword in His mouth. He is the Word made flesh, the

Redeemer (Revelation 5.). He Himself was wounded before He triumphed. The

conquering Head of the Church is “Jesus, who was crucified.”  It was He

whom Martin Luther saw in the dawn of the Reformation when he sang:

“The Son of God goes forth to war.”


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