BIBLE STUDY SERIES #560, 561 and 562

18 August, 2002

JOSHUA 5:1-12 - TWENTY-FOUR STONES - PART III

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. We have continued into the Book of Joshua, and therein we had reached the end of Joshua 4. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapter 5 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that we had learned in our previous Bible Studies that Joshua had led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, and we had looked at five aspects of what followed, and today, we are about to examine Joshua, 5, wherein we will be reviewing a sixth aspect of the crossing of the Jordan River by the people of Israel.

We have already considered the preparations by Israel on the east bank of the Jordan River. Two spies had gone ahead, and lodged in the house of Rahab, in Jericho, but they had to evade pursuers before getting back to Joshua. We had considered also the fact that the whole of The Promised Land, like the whole earth, is the rightful possession of The Almighty God, its Creator, and we noted that as it truly belongs to God, it is only by His permission and agreement that people have the right to dwell therein. The LORD had told Israel this in Exodus 19:5, stating "for all the earth is mine."

We had then seen that by God's provision, a miracle of timing, by which The LORD had caused the Jordan River, which was in flood at the time, to be stopped in its flow, had permitted God's people to cross over the river-bed.

As a standing witness for present and future generations, twelve stones had been gathered, by twelve men, representatives of each of the twelve tribes, and set in the bed of the Jordan River where the feet of the priests who held the Ark of the Covenant had stood. Moreover, another twelve stones had been taken up from the bed of that river, to be placed on the western bank, at a place called Gilgal, likewise as a future witness and testimony to this event.

We witnessed, in our minds, the surge of Israelites as they pass over the river-bed past the priests who stood in the middle of the watercourse, on dry rocks, waiting for probably a number of hours until all had passed, including perhaps the flocks and herds which would likewise be taken with them.

We followed this with a review of the symbolic meaning of Stone as a characteristic of the nation of Israel in Scripture. Indeed, Jesus Himself is spoken of as "The Stone which the builders rejected, and which is become the head of the corner", while Peter received his name from the same meaning as a stone.

We had noted that on at least three occasions mentioned in Scripture, twelve men, representative of the twelve tribes had been assigned a task as witnesses to the nation. These were the first group who brought back the fearful report to the tribes some thirty-eight years before, and now the second group, who arranged the twenty-four stones as directed by Joshua at God's command. The third group is that comprising the Apostles of Our Lord.

Now we have arrived at Joshua 5:1-15. Verse 1 states:

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.

We can imagine that the miracle of the stoppage in the flood of the Jordan River must have been a shock to the dwellers in Jericho. Joshua 3:16 describes this in the words "the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam", (or as we might say "were backed up behind a temporary landslide which blocked the river course leaving the river-bed dry all the way from the city Adam, about sixteen miles up-river"). It had been a devastating blow to those Canaanites who counted on that water as part of their defence against the Israelites.

We continue our reading from 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.
3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

God's order to circumcise the Israelites a second time should be explained. As The Companion Bible notes, it does not mean a second "act on the person, but on the nation on a second occasion." We might reflect that when Moses was on his way to Egypt, at God's command, to confront Pharaoh, he had neglected that symbolic act, the token of God's Covenant with Abraham and his progeny, in respect of his own son. This had to be corrected on the road, before he would be properly prepared to undertake his work for The LORD. His wife did the deed.

Here the old circumcised generation had died out, and now the new had not been circumcised in the wilderness. They had thus to renew that mark of connection with their God which had been enjoined to Abraham, prior to their military activities on entering Canaan.

The New Bible Commentary contains notes which apply to our scripture passage under the heading "e. Encampment at Gilgal (iv. 19- v. 12)" which states matters thus: "The first encampment of the people of Israel in the Promised Land was at Gilgal, where the stones taken out of Jordan were set up as a memorial, and where the camp of Israel was based for the campaign. The name Gilgal means 'circle' or 'rolling', and it seems that, rather than giving it a new name, a new significance was given to the old name. See v. 9

Amorites ... Canaanites (v. 1). See Dt. i. 7n. (A passage wherein Moses makes reference to God's commands regarding Israel taking The Promised Land.). This note of the effect of the miracle on the surrounding nations presupposes the passage of a length of time during which the news reached them. It is inserted here as an immediate fulfilment of the purpose of the miracle as given in iv. 24.

Circumcise again the children of Israel (2). For nearly forty years the rite of circumcision had been neglected, not because there had been lack of opportunity, but because the nation was under judgment. If the people had been circumcised during the years of wandering it would have seemed that all was well, and that the covenant had never been suspended. But now they are back to the old relationship again, and they can once more bear in their bodies the seal of the covenant. The second time (2) means not that they had been circumcised already, but that they were returning to their former condition as a circumcised nation in covenant with God. The reproach of Egypt (9) suggests that the years of wandering had given the Egyptians reason for taunting the Israelites with being forsaken by their God; the renewal of the miracle of the Red Sea at the Jordan (see iv. 23) made it clear that they were Jehovah's people once again.

We shall reserve a few further points on this Scripture for review in our next Study, and we shall continue with this Study next week.

25 August, 2002

JOSHUA 5:1-15 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART I

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for just over ten years now; starting with a Bible Study that began back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. The sequence, with occasional digressions, took up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. We have continued into the Book of Joshua, and therein we had reached the beginning of Joshua 5. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapter 5 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that we had learned in our previous Bible Studies that Joshua had led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, and we had looked at six aspects of what followed. Today, we are about to examine some further aspects of Joshua, 5, and we will begin by adding a few notes to what we learned on the last Study, regarding verses 1-12. All these matters are related in that we are viewing aspects of the crossing of the Jordan River by the people of Israel.

The main points covered in Joshua 5 to this point have been the dismay of the Amorites at the ease with which Israel had crossed the river barrier into their area, and the requirement God made of Israel that they should now halt, having entered their Promised Land, to circumcise all the children of Israel "the second time." This "second time" does not refer to individual persons, but to the nation. As entry had brought the people back into that covenant relationship which the former generation had failed to keep, they now were required to re-establish the national acceptance of the covenant of which circumcision was the visible token.

Since the people were now back on covenant ground, the next step was to keep the Passover, after which the people took the first step of entering on their inheritance by eating the produce of the land which was theirs by covenant. That it was indeed theirs by covenant, we know from the record found in Genesis 15:7-21, which provides one of the strongest records of Covenant which The Almighty could make as He made it with Abram. The writer records the stopping of the divine provision of manna (see Ex. xvi. 15n.) now that it was no longer needed."

That Exodus reference contains the record of the first introduction of the Israelites, just recently having made their Exodus out of Egypt, to the manna, which was then to be their new food supply for the wilderness encampments. Now the days of that sojourn were ending as Israel at last begins the occupation which the preceding generation had failed to grasp.

Regarding the days set aside for healing, after circumcision, in verse 8, when Israel abode in their camp, The Companion Bible notes this to have been 11th to 13th Abib (the Hebrew month).

Regarding verse 9, wherein God said "This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you.", we note that " rolled" was the name of the place, Gilgal meaning something round or circular, like a wheel or a stone rolled away. The English words "Gall", and "Ball" may be related in origin.

We might note again that the Passover was eaten on the fourteenth day of the month at even, in the plains of Jericho. Israel ate of the old corn (wheat) of the land the next day, and the manna ceased after that passover. Thus, the manna ceased when the inheritance became effective. Let us now read verses 13 to 15 in this chapter.

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?
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?
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.

Under the heading "III. The Conquest Of Canaan - v. 13 - xii. 24" The New Bible Commentary carries the sub-heading "a. The Divine commander (v. 13-15)", and the notes are useful. It says "As a prologue to the advance we have this most significant account of Joshua's encounter with the angel of Jehovah. This must have been a time of special anxiety and suspense for Joshua. The Jordan was crossed; there could be no going back now. The burden of leadership lay heavily upon his shoulders. But at the very moment when he was by Jericho (13), anxiously reconnoitring the strong city which lay in Israel's path, there appeared to him the representative of Jehovah, who called Himself the captain of the host of the Lord (14). We believe that this was the Son of God Himself.

Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? (13). Joshua had been thinking of the conflict as being between two sets of opposing forces, Israelite and Canaanite, and he was anxious to know if this armed warrior was to be his ally in the struggle. The answer was to the effect that He was not an ally, but a leader to whose leadership and control Joshua himself must submit. Thus he is reminded again that this is a holy war in which his position is that of a servant (14). The ultimate responsibility is borne not on the shoulders of a human leader but by God Himself.

The story of the conquest which follows shows this divine guidance at work influencing and controlling human strategy. It may help to make the history more intelligible if we glance at the broad outline of that strategy. There were three stages in the conquest. The first consisted in the capture of Jericho and Ai, which opened up the passes into the interior of the country. A wedge was then driven between the northern and the southern sections of the country and the second and third stages in the campaign were the defeat of the southern confederacy and the northern confederacy in turn."

The Companion Bible notes at 14 that the word translated "captain" is in Hebrew the word "sar" which can mean "Prince", and in the same verse, "host = Israel as Jehovah's host. Cp. Ex. 12.41". On looking up that reference we see the words "And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years, even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the LORD went out from the land of Egypt." Keil and Delitzsch indicate that this crossing was on the tenth day of the first month, which was the same day as the one forty years before that the Israelites had begun to prepare for going out of Egypt by setting apart the paschal lamb (Exodus xii. 3). Thus, we find the miracles of timing at both ends of the forty-years of wandering in the Sinai wilderness, tied to the promise given to Abram concerning his seed. We also note that in the same verse, mention of "worship" indicates Divinity is standing before Joshua. Keil and Delitzsch, however, disagree with the Companion Bible, stating that the host of which the divine captain is commander is not Israel, but the angelic host. Where specialists differ, one may allow for divergent opinions on that point.

In verse 15, The Companion Bible notes "Loose thy shoe. Cp. Ex. 3. 5. The origin of a solemn Eastern custom of reverence observed to this day. That Exodus reference is, of course, to the occasion when Moses was approaching to the Burning Bush, and likewise he was told to put off his shoes "for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." Keil and Delitzsch point out that the Captain was not simply a vision in his mind, but appeared in the real external world, because Joshua went towards him to challenge his identity.

In the introduction to Joshua in the Keil and Delitzsch Commentary, we find an interesting observation which concerns the fact that in the record of Joshua, he is acting quite independently, and never asks the high priest to give him an answer through Urim and Thummim. Indeed, the high priest, Eleazar, is not mentioned at all in the historical portions. They comment, in connection with the conquest and division of Canaan, that "If the Lord made known to him what he was to do in this respect, partly by the direct communication of His will, and partly by His angel (chap. v. 13 sqq.), there was no occasion at all for Eleazar to be mentioned in the historical portion of the book, since the direction of the army to fight battles and conquer towns did not form part of the official functions of the high priest, even if he did accompany Joshua in his campaigns."

Keil and Delitzsch point out that the chapter division which parts verse 15 of this chapter from the first verse of chapter 6 is not well selected because the conversation of The LORD with Joshua is actually one which continues from the end of chapter 5 into the 6th chapter.

We shall pick up our continuing studies in the next Bible Study.

1 September, 2002

JOSHUA 6:1- 27 - CAPTAIN OF THE HOST - PART II

By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

We have been conducting the present series of Bible Studies for over ten years now; starting with a Study that began the sequence back in Genesis 12, with God's Call to Abram. With occasional digressions, we have taken up the Scriptures contained within the first five Books of The Bible consecutively from that point to the end of Deuteronomy. We have continued into the Book of Joshua, and therein we had reached the beginning of Joshua 6. You may wish to have your Bibles open to chapter 6 of that reference as we consider what God's Holy Word would show us from today's reading.

In order to set the stage for new listeners, I will explain that we had learned in our previous Bible Studies that Joshua has led the Tribes of Israel to the Jordan River, which, through the miraculously-timed intervention of The Almighty God they had easily crossed, to the consternation of the Canaanites of Jericho. The main points covered in the previous chapter, Joshua 5, were the dismay of the Amorites at the ease with which Israel had crossed the river barrier into their area, and the requirement God made of Israel that they should now halt, having entered their Promised Land, to circumcise all the children of Israel "the second time." This "second time" does not refer to individual persons, but to the nation. As entry had brought the people back into that covenant relationship which the former generation had failed to keep, they now were required to re-establish the national acceptance of the covenant of which circumcision was the visible token.

We had looked at six aspects of the crossing, and then seen that Joshua, while considering how Jericho should be assaulted, was confronted by a manifestation of Deity, Who is Captain of the Host of The LORD. Today, we are about to examine some further aspects following this meeting, during which Joshua gave worship to this divine presence and now received divine guidance on the manner by which the assault should be conducted.

Let us read today's passage starting at Joshua 6:1. We shall be inserting various comments along the way, as we read.

1 Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.
2 And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.

The Companion Bible explains of the words "straitly shut up" that the Hebrew uses the words "was shutting up and was shut up" for emphasis. The next words form the continuation of the words of the Captain from the previous chapter. This Captain is called Jehovah (Yahweh), and as He announces that He is giving the city, the note continues, explaining that the city is His to give. In the next verses, we find the use of "rams' horns", or "trumpets of jubilee, of long sound."

3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days.
4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams' horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets.
5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram's horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.
6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD.
7 And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD.
8 And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams' horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them.
9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.
10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout.
11 So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.
12 And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD.
13 And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams' horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets.
14 And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days.

Here, we ought, perhaps, to note that on each of the six days through which the procession encircled the city a single time, the Israelites then, at evening, withdrew into their camp. The situation might remind us of the event many centuries later when Jerusalem was encompassed by the army of Rome. There was one week when the Roman army withdrew, thus allowing those who took the warning given by Christ's prophecy to flee the city quickly, before the final assaults began. As with the latter occasion, there were thus, it appears, six successive nights which provided opportunities, on successive days, when the inhabitants of the doomed city could escape, if they chose to do so, while the opposing army had been withdrawn. This is not to say that any of the inhabitants took advantage of the opportunities, but from the record it would appear that they might have done so, had they been so minded.

15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times.
16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city.
17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent.
18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it.

Here, The Companion Bible points us to Hebrews 11:30, which says "By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days." Also we note here, that "accursed thing" means "devoted", and the Companion Bible reference adds the suggestion "probably because this was the 'firstfruit' of conquest," and points to Numbers 31:54, (an account of a war against Midian) which ends with the words "And Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold of the captains of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it into the tabernacle of the congregation, for a memorial for the children of Israel before the LORD."

19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.

The Companion Bible notes of the word "vessels = utensils or weapons." Here, we should take care to note the strict orders concerning the ban upon the city, and the fact that all its treasures must be placed into the treasury of the LORD.

20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city.
21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.
22 But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot's house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her.
23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel.
24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD.
25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.
26 And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.
27 So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.

The New Bible commentary has some useful notes on this chapter, but perhaps we ought to reserve these for the next Bible Study as our time has expired for today's lesson. We shall continue next week.

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