Written from the perspective of a Charismatic Christian writer and theologian, this commentary will dissect and explain complex theological concepts found within this profound chapter, using the New King James Version (NKJV) to uphold the accuracy and authenticity of our exploration. As we delve into the deeply symbolic act of circumcision, the revelations of the “Commander of the army of the LORD”, and the mandate of the Israelites commanded to partake in the Passover, we will strive to bring clarity to the mystery and wisdom embedded in this text.
Prepare yourself to dive deep into the spiritual undercurrents found within the Book of Joshua Chapter 5, and absorb unseen nuggets of wisdom that inform our Christian journey.
- Understanding Significance of Rituals in Joshua Chapter 5: The Circumcision at Gilgal
- The Celebration of the Passover: Unleavened Bread and Produce of the Land
- Analyzing Joshua's Encounter with The Commander of the Lord's Army (Joshua 5:13-15)
- The Theological Importance of Obedience and Worship in Joshua Chapter 5
- Christological Reflections and Interpretations on Joshua 5: The Appearance of Christ in the Old Testament
Understanding Significance of Rituals in Joshua Chapter 5: The Circumcision at Gilgal
Viral Believer is reader-supported. We may earn a small fee from products we recommend at no charge to you. Read Our Affiliate Disclosuree
The chapter primarily concerns the Israelites’ return to their religious foundations, specifically the act of circumcision, an important Abrahamic ritual that had not been observed during their 40-year journey in the wilderness. After crossing the Jordan River, Joshua is commanded by God to circumcise the Israelite men at Gilgal.
This circumcision was symbolic of the Israelites’ renewed commitment to their pact with God, marking a significant spiritual rejuvenation in the Nation of Israel. As per Joshua 5:7 (NKJV), “Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.”
The act of circumcision did not just serve a physical but also a metaphorical purpose. It was a symbolic representation of Israel’s need to divest itself of its spiritual impurities, to break free from their old ways, and embrace a renewed moral consciousness. Addressing this crucial act in Joshua 5: 9 (NKJV), God says, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” Thus, this analogy emphasizes that the act of circumcision was, indeed, a crucial step in the Israelites’ re-entry into the Promised Land.
The chapter further denotes the importance of obeying God’s commands and carrying out God-given rituals, which forge a deep and meaningful relationship with God. Another significant ritual performed after the circumcision was the observance of the Passover, marking their first religious celebration in the Promised Land.
The performance of these religious rituals highlighted the key aspects of their faith and the values intrinsic to their lives as God’s people. They served to reaffirm the covenantal relationship of the Israelites with their God, setting them apart as His chosen ones, as expressed in Joshua 5:10 (NKJV), “Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho.”
The Celebration of the Passover: Unleavened Bread and Produce of the Land
In keeping with the biblical commands found in Exodus 12:15-20, the Israelites would observe the feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days following Pesach or Passover. This period, referred to as Chag HaMatzot, is a source of much symbolism and is deeply rich in spiritual meaning. During this week, not only was leaven expunged from homes and diets, but the Israelites had to diligently consume unleavened bread – matzah, as a vivid reminder of the rapid exodus from Egypt, when there was not enough time for their dough to rise.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread holds strong spiritual significance for followers of Christ. Leaven, in scripture, often symbolises sin and corruption, as in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”
In observing this feast, we are encouraged to rid ourselves of the ‘leaven’ of sin and live in holiness, empowered by Christ’s redemptive sacrifice.
From Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread stems another tradition – the offering of the First Fruits (Bikkurim). As in Leviticus 23:10-14, Israelites were commanded to bring sheaf of the first fruits of their harvest to the priest who waves it before the Lord, alongside burnt offerings and a grain offering.
Later, this tradition took on significant connotations in Christian theology. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, Paul calls Christ the ‘firstfruits’ of those who have fallen asleep, highlighting the triumph of Jesus’ resurrection and the promise of our own. Observing the Feast of First Fruits reminds us of the miraculous resurrection of Jesus – the first fruits of those who are to be raised – and our hopeful expectation of resurrection life in Him.
Analyzing Joshua’s Encounter with The Commander of the Lord’s Army (Joshua 5:13-15)
In this highly symbolic passage found in The Book of Joshua, our protagonist Joshua encounters a mysterious figure referred to as the Commander of the Lord’s Army. This interaction poses a number of intriguing questions related to the identity and message of this heavenly commander. The most compelling theory, supported by myriad biblical scholars, proposes that this commander is a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, often referred to as a Christophany.
The Identity of The Commander
As Joshua was near Jericho, he “lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand” (Joshua 5:13, NKJV). The figure introduces himself as “the Commander of the army of the LORD” (Joshua 5:14, NKJV). The reaction of Joshua – falling on his face in worship – and the subsequent response of the commander – not rebuking his act of worship, suggests a divine encounter.
Moreover, the commander’s refusal to side with Israel or their enemies points to a higher allegiance, hinting at divine impartiality. Additionally, the figure’s command to Joshua to remove his sandals due to the sanctity of the place mirrors God’s instruction to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:5), further strengthening the case for the divine identity of the commander.
The Message of The Commander
Though the commander does not provide explicit tactical strategies for the upcoming battles, his appearance and message carry significant spiritual implications. His presence reaffirms divine support and assistance for the Israelites’ cause, as he confirms he is indeed “now come” (Joshua 5:14, NKJV).
The requirement for Joshua to remove his sandals indicates a holy encounter, conveying a message of reverence and submission to divine authority. This encounter also freshly reminds Joshua, and us today, of the higher divine purpose inherent in our earthly struggles, reinforcing the notion of the Lord’s supreme command over every situation.
The Theological Importance of Obedience and Worship in Joshua Chapter 5
Obedience and worship act as central themes not only in Joshua Chapter 5 but in the wider context of the entire scriptures. Joshua Chapter 5 provides a unique insight into the notion of spiritual obedience and the significance of worship in our relationship with God.
During this chapter, the Israelites are observed practicing circumcision and observance of Passover, following God’s direct instructions. Circumcision was a physical manifestation of Israel’s obedience to God’s commands, as seen in Joshua 5:2-3 (NKJV), “…the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time…So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel…”. This act demonstrated a commitment to serve God irrespective of personal discomfort or societal norms.
The theological significance of these practices cannot be overstated. The Israelites’ circumcision, instructed by God, was a dynamic representation of their obedience to Him. It was symbolic of the ‘cutting away’ of their old, sinful ways, reinforcing their spiritual commitment to be God’s chosen people.
Similarly, the observance of Passover, as seen in Joshua 5:10 (NKJV), “Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho,” was a crucial act of worship. It was an expression of gratitude for God’s deliverance and a vivid remembrance of how God had led them out of the bondage of Egypt.
Moreover, worship and obedience are intertwined and central to understanding spiritual growth. The Israelites’ demonstration of obedience in agreeing to be circumcised showed their faith in God, reinforcing their bond.
Likewise, their observance of the Passover was a direct act of worship recognizing God’s grace. These actions culminate in the miraculous fall of the city of Jericho in the subsequent chapter. Hence, Joshua Chapter 5 serves as a clear example of how obedience to God’s decrees and worship can guide believers to overcome overbearing odds in life per Joshua 6:2 (NKJV). Therefore, from a theological perspective, obedience to God, evidenced through acts of worship, is the key to receiving His promises and victories in our lives.
Christological Reflections and Interpretations on Joshua 5: The Appearance of Christ in the Old Testament
In the fifth chapter of the book of Joshua, we encounter an unprecedented interaction that carries significant Christological implications. Joshua encounters a man who identifies himself as the commander of the army of the Lord. Biblical scholars widely interpret this figure as a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ, also known as a Christophany.
This interpretation is rooted in the profound respect Joshua shows towards this figure, and the fact that the figure accepts worship from Joshua, something only God is entitled to. This divine encounter is recorded in Joshua 5:13-15 NKJV: “And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the Lord I have now come.”
This Christophanic interpretation provides valuable context in understanding Christ’s role in the Old Testament. Each Christophany in the Old Testament has these underlying principles:
- Revelation: Each Christophany reveals the divine nature and mission of Christ.
- Demonstration: They demonstrate that God is closely involved with his creation and has always planned for salvation through Christ.
- Prefiguration: They serve as a type of Christ, prefiguring His incarnation in the New Testament.
In the light of the above principles, the encounter in Joshua 5 portrays Christ as a divine warrior leading God’s people into battle. This is a powerful prefiguration of Christ’s role in the spiritual warfare believers are called to in the New Testament. Ephesians 6:12 NKJV states, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
The revelation of Christ as Commander builds a robust theology of spiritual warfare and further affirms the incarnation continuity in both Old and New Testaments.
In conclusion, Joshua Chapter 5 sets a critical stage in the Israelites’ journey of faith, instilling a fresh commitment to God’s covenant, the institution of circumcision, and the Passover celebration. We see a people coming back to their spiritual roots, despite the toils and trepidation of their journey from slavery to promise.
Here, the young nation of Israel exhibits almost a rebirth of faith, as communicated in the NKJV, “So it was, when all the kings of the Amorites who were on the west side of the Jordan, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan from before the children of Israel until we had crossed over, that their heart melted; and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.” ( Joshua 5:1)
Joshua’s encounter with the Commander of the Lord’s army provides a powerful reminder of our own encounters with God, with him instructing Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” (Joshua 5:15) This chapter invites us to reflect on our own preparedness to encounter God, and the necessity of sanctity in our own spiritual journey.
Let us take learning from this chapter to heart, may we be humbled in the spirit of service to our Lord, always ready for his call and guided by his word. As we continue to reflect on the Book of Joshua, let’s seek to understand the deeper teachings and mysteries embedded within, praying for discernment and revelation. May the Lord guide us through the understanding of His timeless word. Amen.