Joshua 5-6: The First Steps to Fulfilling the Promises of the Sacraments

Joshua 5

Jos 5:1-15 As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel. (2) At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” (3) So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. (4) And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt. (5) Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. (6) For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the LORD; the LORD swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the LORD had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. (7) So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.

Joshua 5 opens with the comparison between the melting of the hearts of the enemy and the rebellion of the previous generation – a sad contrast, because the latter need not disobey if only they realized what work God was doing in their enemies’ hearts. How many times the LORD had stated to Israel that He shall give them the land, as if this did not include the defeat of her enemies (Exodus 23:22, 23:27)! However, Israel’s lack of faith means that she did not enter the race to begin with; those who rebelled were those who did not trust in the things which the LORD promised, but only in what they can see before themselves.

For this reason, the repeat of the circumcision is but another sacrament, mystery, sign of the gospel added to the list of indications of the Good News (the baptism of the parting of the river Jordan – c.f. 1 Peter 3:21) from chapters 1 to 4. The circumcision inherently looks toward the time when the Seed of the Father is cut on our behalf on the 8th day (c.f. Genesis 17), the third day after the Friday when Christ was crucified, to symbolize the finished work on the cross when he resurrects on the morning after the Sabbath day. The whole rites of passage in v.5-7 identifies the entire nation, the new breed, the new generation, under the banner of Christ – helping the Israelites identify themselves by the symbolic shedding of the foreskin of their hearts (Deuteronomy 10:16), their holiness shining into the darkness of their Godless enemies. This circumcision happens for all who enters into the land of Canaan, as it represents the type of person who enters into New Creation as having to go through Christ alone (John 14:6), and not to walk into the Promised Land without bearing the mark of the mediator’s suffering on our behalf.

(8) When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. (9) And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day. (10) While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. (11) And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. (12) And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. (13) When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” (14) And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” (15) And the commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

v.8-15 have three interesting details we ought to note:

  1. The first mentioning and eventual emphasis on “Gilgal” (v.8-9)
  2. The ceasing of manna (v.11-12)
  3. The commander of the LORD’s army (V.13-15)

The resting place at Gilgal is not without it’s symbolism. It’s literal Hebrew meaning is “a wheel, rolling” from “ גל gal which signifies to roll; and the doubling of the root, גלגל galgal or gilgal, which signifies rolling round and round, or rolling off or away, because, in circumcising the children that had been born in the wilderness, Joshua rolled away, rolled off completely, the reproach of the people. From this time Gilgal became a place of considerable eminence in the sacred history.” (Adam Clarke)

The Israelites themselves looked at Gilgal symbolically as well; Joshua insisted on returning to Gilgal consistently throughout his conquests in the next few chapters, and Samuel in 1 Samuel 11:14 sought to renew the kingdom of Israel by Saul’s kingship at Gilgal. Micah himself saw the contrast in the transportation of Israel from Shittim to Gilgal (Micah 6:5), where Israel whored with the daughters of Moab (Numbers 25:1) and were circumcised here at this spot to which they will continuously return to as a reminder of their gospel-driven circumcision.

Secondly, the ceasing of the manna is a sign of the shadows coming to an end; the shadows of both the Old and New Testament, from the night shadows of the Old to the dawn shadows of the New, to the bright noon of New Creation when the sun shall shine so bright that all shadows, types, sacraments will be eradicated. The ceasing of manna tells us how what we experience now is just a firstfruit, a taste of heaven (as manna – ‘what is this’ – is a mysterious food which bears the literal taste of heaven as a honey wafer) because manna is a temporary ration in the wilderness until the time when we eat directly from the pastures of New Creation. Similarly why should we, the post-resurrection, post-ascension bride of Christ continue by means of physical circumcision and the Passover when the last days have come to be infant baptized and to take communion? Finally, we should even rid ourselves of those two common sacraments when Christ returns, because it would be counted as foolish to eat and live in the temporary ways of the wilderness when the wilderness will inevitably cease!

Finally, we are taken back to the actual Christ in Joshua 5:15 – a reference to Exodus 3:5 for the ground Joshua stands is holy ground. This Commander, this Angel, is the visible of the invisible Him – the Son of God who now stands as a type of his incarnation, as well as continue in his mediatory role between man and Father. This appearance of the Commander is the perfect and most appropriate pretext before Joshua 6, because from the next chapter onwards it would be mistaken to assume it is Joshua’s leadership which led Israel to victory, but it is moreso the company of the Commander Angel, the true Yeshua, and His Father by the power of the Spirit who hardened their enemies hearts which delivered Israel the true success.

Joshua 6

1Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2And the LORD said to Joshua, “See,(S) I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. 3You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. 4Seven priests shall bear seven(T) trumpets of(U) rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and(V) the priests shall blow the trumpets. 5And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat,[c] and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” 6So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” 7And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let(W) the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD.”

Chapter 6 starts with the men of Jericho being fearful (v.1) – the city is shut up inside out. Instead of stepping in synchornisation with Israel, this light of nations, instead they retreated to the darkness in their hearts. Whether they retreat or whether they submit, the fact of the matter is that the LORD is faithful in fulfilling His promise that this nation will be displaced by Israel one way or another.

v.3 lays out the plan of the six days surrounding the city once per day, and seven times on the seventh day. When the world was created in six days and the glory of the Sabbath instituted on the seventh, we see this pattern in the first chapter of Genesis:

  • Day 1-3: Formation of God’s creation
  • Day 4-6: Filling of God’s creation
  • Day 7: Sabbath

One can see that there is a type of progression, proceeding from day one to day seven. Just as the world is coming to its fruition as it nears Day 7, so also the conquering of Jericho will come to fruition on day 7. The initial six days embody their systematic and symbolic march surrounding Jericho, the nation of God’s enemy – but the seventh day is inevitable, and in Day 4-6 of creation where we see the formation of God’s creation being filled with living creatures, we equally see how God’s New Creation is coming nearer in the last days since Christ’s first coming (the last days as described by Acts 2:17). The people of Israel know that the last few marches around Jericho would eventually and inevitably lead to the seventh day where they will definitely inherit Jericho amongst other cities in the land of Canaan, and yet they will continue to march and stay steadfast in their marching until the last of all days, just as we look forward to the final seventh day of Christ’s second return.

From v.4 onwards, we see the type of detail that occurs on the seventh day. The Israelites shall march around Jericho seven times, along with seven priests bearing seven trumpets, symbolising the ultimate victory announced by the trumpet blasts (Exodus 20:18; Leviticus 25:9).

We should not overlook the choice of the ram’s horn either. The horn is a musical instrument commonly used in a victory parade of sorts (1 Chronicles 15:28), but also symbolic of ‘salvation’ (2 Samuel 22:3, Psalm 18:2) as a horn can also mean the horn of the altar of the LORD (in Christ’s weakness on the cross as he bore the sins of the world is He the strongest in his obedience to His Father’s will), figuratively also meaning the strength of God (just as the horn is the strength of an animal). Thus, the choice of the ram’s horn takes us back to Genesis 22 when a ram was sacrificed instead of the lamb who has yet to be sacrificed in Moriah.

This victory is achieved by the LORD alone; the very fact of Israel’s inability to conquer Jericho is emphasised by the victory cry on the seventh day, all fulfilled by the will of Yahweh. Not a single arrow, let alone sword, has even touched the great walls of this enemy nation and the walls simply collapse. This event should humble every Israelite to praise Him who pulls down walls when one stands in Christ in faith (Matthew 17:20).

Furthermore, the destruction of the walls in verse 5 tells us of the vulnerability of the non-Christians; in the book of Revelation we see how many will hide in caves and in their own shelters (Revelation 6:15) when the irony is that these walls are nothing compared to the beautiful and sturdy walls of New Jerusalem built by His hands. This theme has already been explored when the Tower of Bablyon was built in Genesis 11 and summarily destroyed in the same chapter, foiling the pride and arrogance of man in creating their own reputation and shelter.

8And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the LORD went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the LORD following them. 9The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the(X) rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11So he caused the ark of the LORD to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.

It is interesting to look at v.10 and reason why Joshua should command them not to shout unless told otherwise. By following the typology of Yeshua in these passages, Joshua’s mandate to the Israelites is akin to the unspoken mandate throughout Scripture which we expressly see carried out on the Day of Resurrection: the time when the angels stand before the ark (symbolic of the Unseen Father revealing Himself) and begin the rooting out of the chaff against the wheat, giving true shelter to the Christian and throwing the non-Christian, along with the Satan, into the lake of fire. This specific time, as symbolised by Joshua’s statement in v.10, tells us of God’s impending coming being neither delayed, nor made early – but it happens exactly as He wills and intends (2 Peter 3:9).

With that in mind, one should begin to realise that chapter 6 is more explicitly a blueprint of the last days to the Day of Resurrection – the theme explored again in the book of Acts after the narrative in the gospels (and equally here, after the narrative of the Pentateuch). V.11 shows the impending threat and reality of His holiness surrounding the non-Christians, of Him reaching out to us but non-Christians ironically hiding from His presence and pronouncing His non-existence, not acknowledging that there is impending judgment because they are hiding in the walls of their stony heart, refusing to realise His intimacy with His creation being outside these walls built upon the Rock and vine of Sodom and Gomorrah (c.f. Deuteronomy 32:32; Hebrews 13:13).

12Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and(Y) the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the LORD, while the trumpets blew continually. 14And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.

Similar to the command concerning the tribes of Israel surrounding the mobile tabernacle and ark (laid out in Numbers chapter 1 to 4), so this is also repeated in v.13 as the armed men and rear guard walk respectively before and after the ark of the LORD during the continual blowing of the trumpets (each day, and seven times on the seventh day). The holiness of the ark, as displayed within the tabernacle shielded by the veil of cherubim and flames is also represented by the men surrounding the ark during this victory march. The ark in the middle symbolises the centrality of God the Father, who created the world through the son (Colossians 1:16-20), just as the Ark of Covenant and Yeshua, son of Nun, are working together by the anointing and power of the Spirit to begin a list of victories over these ungodly nations. The true focus has always been on the ark, which people are careful to protect and be protected by; and just as Jesus chose to become the submissive tool of the Father’s will in having His Son die on the cross, so we also see how Joshua’s leadership is but a choice to submit to the true holiness embodied by the Ark of the Covenant – however, it is through Joshua’s leadership and commands that the Israelites come to cherish and know the power and symbolism of this ark of the LORD.

15On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the LORD has given you the city. 17And the city and all that is within it shall be(Z) devoted to the LORD for destruction.[d] Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she(AA) hid the messengers whom we sent. 18But you, keep yourselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest when you have devoted them you take any of the devoted things and make the camp of Israel(AB) a thing for destruction and(AC) bring trouble upon it. 19But all silver and gold, and every vessel of bronze and iron, are holy to the LORD; they shall go into the treasury of the LORD.” 20So the people shouted, and the trumpets were blown. As soon as the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and(AD) the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city. 21Then they(AE) devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword.

So v.15 begins with the early dawn of the day, the allegorical time when Christ returns also in His full power and light at the high noon – and so this dawn is but the beginning of the last days and latter times when the sun begins to rise but not yet reaching its highest spot in the heavens. It is in the dawn of the latter days that Joshua and Israel’s actions here are symbolically fulfilled, as the conquering of nations does not begin with terrifying destruction and fire, but with the humble conversion of Rahab for pronouncing and uttering systematically the doctrine and wonders of this God of Israel. The significance of this event is multiplied by the factors that Rahab is a Canaanite; she is a prostitute; and no doubt, simply because she is a she. However, she has access to the true gospel behind the law of Moses; she has followed in the steps of Abraham to become his spiritual descendant – and for a brief moment we understand how all the Canaanites could have escaped their predicament if only they were as humble and meek as Rahab the Canaanite, the prostitute, the woman – the lowest rung of the non-Christian nation, but the highest princess of New Jerusalem.

v.17-21 therefore describes the complete destruction and capture, the complete and graphic displacement of Jericho. The entering of the ark into Jericho is akin to the revelation of the Father and the Son’s true glory to the whole world when the Son returns as Judge and King – all symbolised by the entering of both the ark and Joshua into this soon-to-be Israelite land.

22But to the two men who had spied out the land, Joshua said, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her,(AF) as you swore to her.” 23So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and(AG) her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. 24And they burned the city with fire, and everything in it.(AH) Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive. And(AI) she has lived in Israel to this day, because she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.

The fire of v.24 is therefore in accordance with the repetitive and important imagery of the fire of the Resurrection Day, when all the works of man are tested and presented before Him (1 Corinthians 3:13). This verse also speaks of the firstfruits given to the LORD, a theme explored consistently in the Pentateuch – and these firstfuirts are the best portion of what they have looted from Jericho, as seen by all the silver, gold, bronze and iron; but these rewards given back to the LORD is but a foretaste of the true joy, such foretaste which pales in comparison to Rahab, who is a type of Gentile to be saved en masse (just as her family was) after the Pentecost, one of many rewards of the salvation of all people in the world. No longer will Rahab be simply called a Canaanite, but her citizenship is now with Israel, her blessings coming from God and not from her hard-earned self-reliance which began by her act of faith to hide the messengers at the real threat of her life.

26Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying,(AJ) “Cursed before the LORD be the man who rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho.

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
shall he set up its gates.”

27(AK) So the LORD was with Joshua, and(AL) his fame was in all the land.

Joshua’s poetic curse chronicled in v.26-27 expresses how there is no descendant in the land, nor any name nor tribe proclaimed. The end of Canaanites literally extends to their descendants, because the rebuilding of Jericho is no different from rebuilding the foundations of adultery and idolatry. V.24 speaks of this as an oath – this coupled with v.27 describes how Joshua’s fame is but a type of the true fame of Christ, in Whom everything is yes (2 Corinthians 1:19-20) in Whom every oath and promises are fulfilled, in Whom God-glorifying fame is proclaimed in all the land and in all the world.

Joshua 5-6: The First Steps to Fulfilling the Promises of the Sacraments

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