From Joshua 5-8
After winning several battles on the way, the people of Israel have arrived at the promised land and crossed the river Jordan. The people on the west side of the Jordan have heard of their exploits. They know of the LORD’s power. However there is something the people of Israel have not done yet. Something outstanding.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
5 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. (Josh 5.1)
However there is something the people of Israel have not done yet. Something outstanding.
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. (Josh 5.2-7)
The LORD commands Joshua to have all the sons of Israel circumcised a ‘second time’. He explains what he means. He does not mean a man can be circumcised again. Ouch!
Israel from Abraham onwards mostly remained circumcised. But this new generation of men born in the wilderness was not.
They did not care for the LORD or his commands (his ‘voice’). They did not circumcise their sons. As we will see below, the LORD expressly commanded Abraham to circumcise all their sons. The uncircumcised were cut off from the covenant people of God.
This reveals something about the spiritual state of the generation that died in the wilderness.
Now that the earlier generation is dead. Most of the men (excepting Joshua and Caleb and perhaps their households) were uncircumcised. The men are different, but all the sons of Israel are to be circumcised for the second time.
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. (Josh 5.8)
It’s a sensitive operation for men. They cannot fight while they are still healing (cf. Gen 34.25).
The LORD saw the people before this event as still belonging to Egypt. A people enslaved. From the narrator’s depiction, enslaved to sin and unbelief. Circumcision rolled away the LORD’s disapproval. He now views this generation in a new light. His covenant people.
In Genesis 17 the LORD’s commands Abraham to circumcise all the males in his household.
9 And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. 10 This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskins, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and you. 12 He who is eight days old among you shall be circumcised. Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring, 13 both he who is born in your house and he who is bought with your money, shall surely be circumcised. So shall my covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. 14 Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken my covenant.” (Gen 17.9-14)
Circumcision is the covenant sign that identifies the people of God. Its very very important. The terminology early on incorporated spiritual connotations as well as physical. In both cases
After Jesus lived, died and rose again, the concept of circumcision still communicated membership in the people of God with its moral connotations. But it was wrapped around Jesus. No longer are Christians required to physically circumcise their sons.
11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Col 2.11-15)
In light of the wilderness generations neglect to circumcise their sons. How should Christian families raise their children so they will grow up knowing Christ as their Lord and saviour.
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