Chapter 5

1 The Canaanites are afraid. 2 Joshua reneweth circumcision. 10 The passover is kept at Gilgal. 12 Manna ceaseth. 13 An Angel appeareth to Joshua.

The Land of Canaan Before the Israelite Conquest

1. Amorites. That portion of Amorite territory to the east of Jordan had already been conquered (Num. 21:21–24); now the Amorites in the mountains to the west of Jordan trembled. The Amorites had constituted the second great wave of Hamites that moved out of the Arabian peninsula into the Mesopotamian valley during the early years of the second millennium b.c. There they broke up into two groups. One of these groups intermingled with the cultured Sumerians, and out of that union developed the great early Babylonian culture. The second group moved westward, and then south into Palestine, whence some of them spread across the Jordan River to the east (see on Gen. 10:16). Others remained in Palestine and intermingled with the native non-Semitic population. From this fusion came the Phoenicians, named in the LXX of Joshua 5:1, 12. Here they are described as being “by the sea,” where, in later years, we find the Phoenicians.

Until we were passed over. The LXX reads, “when they passed over,” and the Syriac, “until they passed over.” The Masoretes in the margin corrected this passage to read, “until they passed over.” However, “we” seems to have been the original reading. If so, this would be evidence that the author of the book shared in the experience, despite the critical view of many modern scholars.

Their heart melted. The mighty works of God struck fear to the hearts of the Canaanites and dispirited them, as He had promised (Ex. 23:27). The Jordan had been their line of defense. Furthermore, the Israelites had camped east of Jordan for months without making any attempt to cross over, with the result that the Amorites felt secure, especially now that the river was in flood stage. For this reason they set no guard to hinder the crossing. Even though their hearts had “melted” before, as Rahab admitted (ch. 2:11), they had maintained a degree of courage. They trusted, no doubt, in their numbers and in their fortified cities to repel the invaders. But when they heard that Israel not only had crossed the Jordan, thus breaking through their supposed defense, but had been able to do so as the result of a divine miracle, their hearts utterly failed them. “Neither was there spirit in them any more.”

2. Sharp knives. Literally, “knives of stones,” or “flint knives” (RSV). It was probably considered unlawful to use metal of any kind in this religious rite, as perhaps may be implied from Ex. 4:25. Egyptians considered it unlawful or profane to use any kind of metal for making incisions in the human body when preparing it for embalming. In some parts of the world, it is reported, the rite of circumcision is still performed with stone knives.

Circumcise again. This is not to be understood as a command to repeat circumcision on those individuals who had already received it. The command implies only that they were to renew the observance of a rite that had been discontinued during their wilderness travels (PP 406). A “second time” implies that there had been a first time when God ordered the general administration of this rite. It seems that circumcision had not been practiced in Egypt (PP 363), and that possibly in connection with the ratification of the covenant at Sinai (Ex. 24:3–8) this rite, the sign of the covenant (Gen. 17:10, 11; Rom. 4:11), was reinstituted. It has also been suggested that the first time occurred before Israel left Egypt. The Passover was then first observed, and according to instruction given afterward, no uncircumcised male might eat of it (Ex. 12:43–49). Now, upon their entry into Canaan, the Israelites were renewing their covenant with God, and this called them to adopt once more the sign of that covenant. This outward rite was to represent true circumcision of heart (Deut. 30:6; Jer. 4:4; Rom. 2:29). The wilderness had been the scene of distrust, murmuring, and rebellion against God. Now, in obedience to His directions, they were to begin anew a life of faith and obedience.

3. Hill of the foreskins. A translation of the Heb. gibФath haФaraloth, transliterated “Gibeath-haaraloth” (RSV). This is a reference to the location where the rite was administered.

4. This is the cause. Suffering under the “breach of promise” of Jehovah (Num. 14:34) and as a reminder of the broken covenant, the people had been forbidden to practice circumcision in the wilderness (PP 406). Their entrance into Canaan was evidence of restoration to divine favor (see Num. 14:23; Ps. 95:7–11). For 38 years they had borne the reproach of apostasy at Kadesh.

6. All the people. That is, with the exception of Caleb and Joshua (Num. 14:30). It seems that the priests, possibly all the Levites, were exempted from the death sentence at Kadesh and that some of them survived. Eleazar, the son of Aaron, is specifically named as entering the Promised Land (see Ex. 6:25; 28:1; Joshua 24:33). There was no representative of the Levites among the 12 spies (Num. 13:3–16), nor among the “men of war.”

9. Reproach of Egypt. Because of rebellion at Kadesh, God had been unable to lead Israel into Canaan—the very purpose for which He had led them forth from Egypt. They had not been permitted to receive circumcision, the sign that marked them as God’s chosen people. The suspension of this rite was a constant witness to them that they had broken the covenant.

Though the “Angel” of the covenant continued to lead Israel throughout their wilderness wanderings, they were, nevertheless, not completely restored to covenant relationship during that long period. So long as they remained, in a measure at least, outside of the covenant, they stood in the same relationship to God as if they had never left Egypt. The “reproach of Egypt” was still upon them. Now, by the restoration of the Passover—the memorial of deliverance from Egypt—and the reinstitution of circumcision the “reproach” was effectively removed, or “rolled” away. Already their feet were planted on the soil of the Promised Land. The removal of the curse was memorialized by naming the site of their first encampment in Canaan, Gilgal, which means “rolling.”

There is a measure of reproach resting upon God’s people today. They too should have been in the kingdom long ago, but like Israel they have been wandering about in the wilderness (GC 458). “There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God” in our day (Heb. 4:9). “Let us labour” diligently “to enter into that rest”(v. 11).

Gilgal. The name thus transliterated is from the root galal, “to roll.” From this time onward Gilgal occupies a place of importance in sacred history. Here the Israelites pitched camp the first night after entering the Promised Land. Here the reinstitution of the rite of circumcision signified the renewal of the covenant (vs. 2–8). Here Israel celebrated their first Passover in the Promised Land (v. 10). Here the manna ceased to fall (v. 12). Gilgal served as the base for military operations during the early part of the conquest of Canaan. It appears also to have been the place where the women, children, and cattle remained during this time. In later history it was here that Saul was confirmed as first king of Israel (1 Sam. 11:15). Here the ark remained till, after the conquest of the country, it was removed to Shiloh (Joshua 18:1; PP 514).

Gilgal cannot now be definitely located. According to Josephus, it was about 5 mi. (8 km.) from the Jordan and about 1 mi. (1.6 km.) from New Testament Jericho. But see p. 501.

12. The manna ceased. God had provided the manna for nearly 40 years to satisfy the needs of the people under circumstances that made it impossible for them to secure an adequate supply of food for themselves. Now that they “did eat of the old corn of the land” (v. 11), there was no longer need for the manna. God does not do for men what they are able to do for themselves.

13. By Jericho. Or, near Jericho. The Syriac reads, “in the plains of Jericho.” Joshua directed his attention to his next great task, the taking of Jericho, and he left the camp to meditate and to pray for divine guidance in the accomplishment of this task.

His sword drawn. The Lord had appeared to Moses at Horeb (Ex. 3:2) as he was about to take up the task of delivering Israel from the house of bondage. Now, as Joshua began the conquest of Canaan, the Lord appeared to the new leader of His people, to assure him of victory and success. “The iniquity of the Amorites” was now “full,” and as the Lord had solemnly promised Abraham four centuries earlier, his “seed” had now “come hither again” (Gen. 15:13–16). Israel entered upon the conquest of the nations of Canaan with divine approval. The witness of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and news of the manner in which God had, upon repeated occasions, interposed in behalf of His people—all this was known in Canaan. But these heathen nations followed ways of their own choosing rather than submit to God.

14. The host. Not primarily the Israelite armies, but the armies of heaven (PP 493). Elsewhere the word translated “host” refers specifically to armies (Judges 4:2, 7; etc.), often to the army of Israel (2 Sam. 2:8), sometimes to angels, as here (1 Kings 22:19), and frequently to the stars of heaven (Isa. 34:4). Angels stand ready at all times to minister to the needs of the church and to carry out the commands of their Captain. Those who are confronted with formidable “Jerichos” in their experience may call upon the help of these invisible forces and receive the assurance, as did Joshua, that the resources of heaven are available to every trusting soul. Joshua received the assurance that he would not stand alone at the head of the Hebrew army. As Captain, the Lord Himself would be there, superintending and disposing, ordering and commanding.

Did worship. By accepting the worship offered by Joshua the heavenly Visitor proved Himself to be more than an angel (see Rev. 19:10).

15. Loose thy shoe. Here is further evidence that “the captain of the host” was more than an angel; He was, in fact, none other than Christ Himself in human form (see PP 488). In Joshua 6:2 He is designated by the divine name (see on Ex. 6:3; 15:2). It should be noted that Joshua 6 is a continuation of the narrative of ch. 5:13–15, ch. 6:1 being a parenthetical statement inserted by way of explaining what follows in vs. 2–5.

Ellen G. White comments

1–15PP 485–488, 613; SR 177, 178

1     SR 177

1–34T 158

3–5PP 485

9     SR 177; 4T 158

9–12PP 486

10   PP 485; 4T 158

12   SR 178; 4T 159

13   PP 487

13–15SR 178; 1T 410; 4T 159; 6T 140; 8T 284

14   SL 12

14, 15  PP 488

15   4T 160