The theophany with Joshua (Josh 5:13-5:15)

“Once when Joshua was by Jericho, he looked up and saw a young man standing before him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went to him and said to him. ‘Are you one of us, or one of our adversaries?’ He replied. ‘Neither. But as commander of the army of Yahweh I have now come.’ Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped. He said to him.  What do you command your servant, my lord?’ The commander of the army of Yahweh said to Joshua. ‘Remove the sandals from your feet. For the place where you stand is holy. Joshua did so.”

This is much like the mission of Moses at the burning bush in Exodus, chapter 3. Joshua meets a man standing with a sword. Joshua inquires who he is. The response is that he is the commander of the army of Yahweh. Now Yahweh has his own army. Joshua worships him. Joshua took off his sandals because he was standing on holy ground. Joshua does not meet Yahweh, only the commander of his army.

The celebration of Passover at Gilgal (Josh 5:10-5:12)

“While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the Passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. The manna ceased on the day that they ate of the produce of the land. The Israelites no longer had manna. They ate of the crops of the land of Canaan that year.”

They celebrated the Passover. They ate local crops with the unleavened bread as the manna no longer came in the Promise Land. It is strange that they did not eat of the produce on the east side of the Jordan since they had captured everything. The first great act in the new land is the celebration of Passover, truly fitting. Once again, this is a reminder of the relationship between Moses and Joshua.

The circumcision of the Hebrews (Josh 5:2-5:9)

“At that time Yahweh said to Joshua. ‘Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites a second time.’ So Joshua made flint knives. He circumcised the Israelites at Gibeath-haaraloth. This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them. All the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the warriors, had died during the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt. Although all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people born on the journey through the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. For the Israelites traveled forty years in the wilderness, until all of the nation, the warriors who came out of Egypt, perished, not having listened to the voice of Yahweh. To them Yahweh swore that he would not let them see the land that he had sworn to their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place that Joshua circumcised. They were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way. When the circumcising of all in the nation was done, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. Yahweh said to Joshua. ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’ So that place is called Gilgal to this day.”

Yahweh speaks directly to Joshua like he had to Moses. The name of the place Gibeath-haaraloth is uncertain since it is never mentioned again in the Bible, but the literal meaning is the hill of foreskins. However, it was probably at the camp in Gilgal. There is a new circumcision since all the original circumcised people had died in the desert. There is no mention of why the Israelites did not circumcise their male children when they were born in the wilderness. In fact, circumcision had been a common near eastern practice. However, this was a renewal of the covenant in the new land.

The fear among the western Jordan population (Josh 5:1-5:1)

“When all the kings of the Amorites beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites by the sea, heard that Yahweh had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the Israelites until they had crossed over, their hearts melted. There was no longer any spirit in them, because of the Israelites.”

Fear struck the Amorites and the Canaanites because the Israelites had dried up the Jordan River to pass over it.

The arrival at Gilgal (Josh 4:19-4:24)

“The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month. They camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. He said to the Israelites. ‘When your children ask their parents in time to come, ‘what do these stones mean?’ Then you shall let your children know. ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’ Yahweh your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over. Just as Yahweh your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over. Now all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of Yahweh is mighty. So you may fear Yahweh your God forever.’”

Gilgal means circle of stones, which would indicate why the 12 stones were erected there. Gilgal is east of Jericho, about 3 miles from the Jordan River, the first camp in Canaan, the Promise Land. The Ark of the Covenant rested here in Gilgal as it became a center of religious and political power. Once again there is the direct explicit parallelism between the parting of the waters at the Red Sea and the Jordan River.

The end of the Jordan River crossing (Josh 4:10-4:18)

“The priests who bore the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan, until everything was finished that Yahweh commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. The people crossed over in haste. As soon as all the people had finished crossing over, the ark of Yahweh, and the priests, crossed over in front of the people. The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the Israelites, as Moses had ordered them. About forty thousand armed for war crossed over before Yahweh to the plains of Jericho.”

There were about 40,000 armed men crossing the Jordan, considerably less than at the Red Sea, where 600,000 men had crossed the Sea. Nevertheless, this was a strong fighting force with the Ark of the Covenant leading them. The east Jordan contingent led the way for the Israelites.

“On that day Yahweh exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel. They stood in awe of him, as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life. Yahweh said to Joshua. ‘Command the priests who bear the Ark of the Covenant to come up out of the Jordan.’ Joshua therefore commanded the priests. ‘Come up out of the Jordan.’ When the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh came up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet touched dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.”  

Joshua as the new Moses is recognized as such. The Jordan River is the new Red Sea. The only new additions are Levitical priests with the Ark of the Covenant. There is no destruction of an army following them. This time the Israelites are the aggressors. Once the Levitical priests and the ark had reached dry land, the Jordan River waters began to flow normally again.

The twelve commemorative stones (Josh 4:1-4:9)

“When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, Yahweh said to Joshua. ‘Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe.’ Command them. ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood. Carry them over with you. Lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’ Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. Joshua said to them. ‘Pass on before the ark of Yahweh your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘what do those stones mean to you?’ Then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.’”

Yahweh told Joshua to take 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan and pile them up in his camp. Each one of the tribes sends one person to do this. This stone pile will be a remembrance of how the Ark of the Covenant led the crossing of the Jordan for generations to come.

“The Israelites did as Joshua commanded. They took up twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as Yahweh told Joshua. They carried them over with them to the place where they camped. They laid them down there. Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant had stood. They are there to this day.”

If this sounds confusing, it should be. There appears to be 2 stories combined here. The 1st is clear. The 2nd story is to pile 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan. One pile you can see, the one on land. However, the other is in the Jordan River so that you cannot see, but is still there today. Maybe they did both.