Wednesday, February 9, 2011

JOSHUA: Chapter 5

Chapter 5
Summary:When the kings of the Amorites, who lived west of the Jordan River, and the kings of the Canaanites, who lived by the sea, heard that God had dried up the waters of the Jordan River to allow the people of Israel to pass through, their courage melted and their spirits were flushed.

At that time God instructed Joshua to make sharp knives and to circumcise the men of Israel for a second time, to which Joshua did at the "hill of the foreskins". God had instructed Joshua to circumcise the Israelites again because all of the Israelites who had been circumcised prior had died out during the forty year journey through the wilderness, and that the men who had been born out in the wilderness had yet to be circumcised.

The Israelites had been made to walk for forty years out in the wilderness, until all of the men who had came from Egypt and had been old enough to serve as soldiers had died out, punished so because they didn't obey the word of God; and to whom God had sworn that they would not see the "promised land" which he had sworn to their forefathers - a land that "flowed with milk and honey". The next generation of men who had been raised to replace them were those who Joshua circumcised, for they hadn't yet been circumcised. After all of the men were circumcised they stayed in their camps until they had healed.

God then spoke to Joshua saying, "Today I have rolled away the shame of Egypt from off you. Therefore the name of this place shall be called Gilgal*."

The Israelites camped at Gilgal and celebrated "passover" on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. The following day they began to eat the crops of the land along with unleavened bread, and the day afterward no manna had appeared that morning and was never eaten again by the Israelites as they began to eat the crops of Canaan.

As Joshua was in Jericho, he lifted his eyes and saw that a man stood over and against him with a drawn sword. Joshua approached him and asked, "Are you for us, or for our adversaries?"

The man replied, "No, I have come as the captain of the Lord's army." Joshua "fell on his face" and worshiped. Joshua then asked "What does the Lord command?"

The captain of God's army said to Joshua, "Take off your shoes, for the place that you are standing on is holy ground." Joshua did as he was commanded.
Notes:1.) Meaning "to roll away" in Hebrew.
Thoughts:The chapter begins by stating that the kings of the Amorites and the kings of the Canaanites lost their courage after hearing about God parting the Jordan River for the soon to be invading Israelites to cross. Interesting to me is how it the emphasis is placed up God drying up the river above the more pressing issue that an invading army was approaching their land.

Next God commands Joshua to circumcise the Israelites (a "second time") as apparently the practice had been discontinued since leaving Egypt forty years prior, and that no one born out in the wilderness had yet been circumcised.
In implying that the practice of circumcision had apparently been followed during the 400 years that the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, keeping in mind that the first "passover" occurred there and God places strict rules concerning the feast that include no man - including slaves and foreigners - being permitted to eat of the passover lamb unless he is circumcised, in addition to the story in which Moses had failed to circumcise his own son and was almost killed by God for having failed to do so, it sheds an interesting light upon the character of Moses. While we can posit that perhaps Moses's failure to circumcise his own son may have been due to Moses not being raised amongst the Hebrew culture, why would a traditional practice dating back well over 400 years suddenly stop being followed? The simplest reason would be that they were told not to.

While Moses has been presented as righteous enough to lead the Israelites and became the mouthpiece of God, in addition to being described as the "meekest man on the earth", my personal opinion is that it appears to be necessary to diminish his character slightly in order to justify the death sentence that God placed upon him. By having Moses appear "rebellious" against God's law of circumcision - not only with his own son, but toward an entire generation of Israelites - there appears to be a stronger justification for God's execution of Moses upon Mount Nebo, and for forbidding him from entering the "promised land" in contrast for merely not listening carefully enough to God's instructions about how to get water out of rock.

After Joshua gathed the Israeli men and circumcised them, the men remained in their camps to heal. It's interesting to note that during this healing period they were probably vulnerable "sitting ducks" - just as King Hamor and his kingdom were after Simeon and Levi tricked the kingdom into circumcision, ruthlessly slaughtered the males of the city, enslaved the women and children, and plundered the city.

God then tells Joshua that the mass circumcision has "rolled away the shame of Egypt", and subsequently insists that their campsite be named "Gilgal" (meaning "to roll away" in Hebrew) to reflect that.

After celebrating "passover" in Gilgal, the mysterious "manna" stopped appearing and was never eaten again, as the Israelites began eating the native crops of Canaan.

The chapter closes out with a figure identifying himself as the "captain of the Lord's army" with a drawn sword standing over Joshua. When Joshua asks the "captain" what is God's command, the "captain" merely tells Joshua to remove his shoes as Joshua is standing on "holy ground", to which Joshua complied.

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