Joshua 5 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Joshua 5)

Verse 1

[1] And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, 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, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.

Amorites — These and the Canaanites are mentioned for all the rest, as being the chief of them for number, and power, and courage.

Westward — This is added to distinguish them from the other Amorites, eastward from Jordan, whom Moses had subdued.

Canaanites — So the proper place of this nation was on both sides of Jordan.

The sea — The midland sea, all along the coast of it, which was the chief seat of that people, though divers colonies of them were come into, and settled in other places.

Jordan — Which was their bulwark on the east-side, where the Israelites were; for it is very probable they had taken away all bridges near those parts; and the Israelites having been so long in that neighbouring country, and yet not making any attempt upon them, they were grown secure; especially now, when Jordan swelled beyond its ordinary bounds; and therefore they did not endeavour to hinder their passage.

Melted — They lost all their courage, and durst attempt nothing upon the Israelites; not without God's special providence, that the Israelites might quietly participate of the two great sacraments of their church, circumcision and the passover, and thereby be prepared for their high and hard work, and for the possession of the holy and promised land; which would have been defiled by an uncircumcised people.

Verse 2

[2] At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.

At that time — As soon as ever they were come to Gilgal, which was on the tenth day; and so this might be executed the eleventh day, and that in the morning: on the thirteenth day they were sore of their wounds, and on the fourteenth day they recovered, and at the even of that day kept the passover.

Make — Or, prepare, or make ready, as this word sometimes used. As it was not necessary for those who had such knives already to make others for that use; so it is not probable that such were commanded to do so, but only to make them sharp and fit for that work.

The second time — He calleth this a second circumcision, not as if these same persons had been circumcised before, but with respect to the body of the people, where of one part had been circumcised before, and the other at this time, which is called a second time, in relation to some former time wherein they were circumcised, either, in Egypt, when many of the people, who possibly for fear or favour of the Egyptians, had neglected this duty, were by the command of Moses circumcised. Or at Sinai, when they received the passover, Numbers 9:5, which no uncircumcised person might do.

Verse 3

[3] And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.

And circumcised — That is, he caused this to be done; and, because it was to be done speedily, the passover approaching, it was necessary to use many hands in it.

Children of Israel — That is, such of them as were uncircumcised. And, though it be not mentioned, it is more than probable, that the Israelites beyond Jordan were circumcised at the same time.

Verse 4

[4] And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt.

Out of Egypt — This is to be restrained to such as were then above twenty years old, and such as were guilty of that rebellion, Numbers 14:1-25, as it is expressed below, Joshua 5:6.

Verse 5

[5] Now all the people that came out were circumcised: 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.

Them — Either their parents, or the rulers of Israel, by Divine permission and indulgence; because they were now on a journey, in which case the passover also might be neglected, Numbers 9:10,13. Rather, it was a continued token of God's displeasure against them, for their unbelief and murmuring: a token that they should never have the benefit of that promise, whereof circumcision was the seal.

Verse 6

[6] For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people 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 sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.

The people — The Hebrew word commonly signifies the Gentiles; so he calls them, to note that they were unworthy the name of Israelites.

Shew them — That is, not give them so much as a sight of it, which he granted to Moses, much less the possession. V. 7.

Circumcised — Which God would have done, 1. As a testimony of God's reconciliation to the people, and that he would not farther impute their parents rebellion to them. 2. Because the great impediment of circumcision was now removed, their continued travels, and frequent and uncertain removal. 3. To prepare them for the approaching passover. 4. To distinguish them from the Canaanites, into whose land they were now come. 5. To ratify the covenant between God and them, whereof circumcision was a sign and seal, to assure them that God would now make good his covenant, in giving them this land; and to oblige them to perform all the duties to which that covenant bound them, as soon as they came into Canaan, Exodus 12:25; Leviticus 23:10; Numbers 15:2.

Verse 8

[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.

Whole — Free from that pain and soreness which circumcision caused, it was indeed an act of great faith, to expose themselves to so much pain and danger too, in this place where they were hemmed in by Jordan and their enemies.

Verse 9

[9] And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.

The reproach of Egypt — That is, uncircumcision, was both in truth, and in the opinion of the Jews, a matter of great reproach, and although this was a reproach common to most nations of the world, yet it is particularly called the reproach of Egypt, either, 1. because the other neighbouring nations, being the children of Abraham by the concubines, are supposed to have been circumcised, which the Egyptians at this time were not, as may be gathered from Exodus 2:6, where they knew the child to be an Hebrew by this mark. Or 2. because they came out of Egypt, and were esteemed to be a sort of Egyptians, Numbers 22:5, which they justly thought a great reproach; but by their circumcision they were now distinguished from them, and manifested to be another people. Or 3. because many of them lay under this reproach in Egypt, having wickedly neglected this duty there for worldly reasons; and others of them continued in the same shameful condition for many years in the wilderness.

Gilgal — That is, rolling.

Verse 10

[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.

The passover — Which was their third passover: the first was in Egypt, Exodus 12:11-24, the second at mount Sinai, Numbers 9:1-5, the third here; for in their wilderness travels, these and all other sacrifices were neglected, Amos 5:25. While they were in the wilderness, they were denied the comfort of this ordinance, as a farther token of God's displeasure. But now God comforted them again, after the time that he had afflicted them.

Verse 11

[11] And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day.

Old corn — The corn of the last year, which the inhabitants of those parts had left in their barns, being fled into their strong cities, or other remoter parts.

The morrow — That is, on the sixteenth day; for the passover was killed between the two evenings of the fourteenth day, and was eaten in that evening or night, which, according to the Jewish computation, whereby they begin their days at the evening, was a part of the fifteenth day, all which was the feast of the passover; and so the morrow of the sixteenth day, was the morrow after the passover, when they were obliged to offer unto God the first sheaf, and then were allowed to eat of the rest.

Parched corn — Of that year's corn. which was most proper for that use.

Self-same day — Having an eager desire to enjoy the fruits of the land. And this corn came very seasonably; for after the passover, they were to keep the feast of unleavened bread, which they could not do, when they had nothing but manna to live upon.

Verse 12

[12] And the manna ceased 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.

The manna ceased — Which God now withheld, to shew that Manna was not an ordinary production of nature, but an extraordinary and special gift of God to supply their necessity. And because God would not be prodigal of his favours, by working miracles where ordinary means were sufficient.

The morrow — That is, on the seventeenth day.

Verse 13

[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?

By Jericho — Heb. 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.

Drawn — In readiness to fight, not, as Joshua thought, against him, but for him and his people.

Verse 14

[14] And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

As captain — I am the chief captain of this people, and will conduct and assist thee and them in this great undertaking. Now this person is not a created angel, but the son of God, who went along with the Israelites in this expedition, as their chief and captain. And this appears, 1. By his acceptance of adoration here, which a created angel durst not admit of, Revelation 22:8,9. 2. Because the place was made holy by his presence, Joshua 5:15, which was God's prerogative, Exodus 3:5. 3. Because he is called the Lord, Heb. Jehovah, Joshua 6:2.

My Lord — I acknowledge thee for my Lord and captain, and therefore wait for thy commands, which I am ready to obey.

Verse 15

[15] And the captain of the LORD's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

From thy foot — In token of reverence and subjection.

Holy — Consecrated by my presence. The very same orders which God gave to Moses at the bush, when he was sending him to bring Israel out of Egypt, he here gives to Joshua, for the confirming his faith, that as he had been with Moses, so he would be with him.