Monday, January 21, 2008

Joshua 5:1–12

Joshua 5:1–12: Circumcision and Passover


The Israelites have now crossed over into the Promised Land. (When the kings in the surrounding area heard about how the LORD had stopped the flow of the Jordan River, so that the Israelites could pass through, their hearts melted in fear.) However, before they can take it over, there is something they need to take care of: The men have to be circumcized. Why? Well, all of the men who were of fighting age, when the Israelites left Egypt, were circumcized, but they all died in the desert, because they had disobeyed the LORD—but the next generation of Israelites, who grew up during that forty years, were not circumcized.

So the Israelites circumcise themselves at a place called Gibeath Haaraloth, which, according to the footnote for verse 3, means “hill of foreskins.” But after they’ve performed the circumcision, the LORD tells Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you” (verse 9), so they rename Gibeath Haaraloth to Gilgal, which, according to the footnote for verse 9, sounds like the Hebrew for “roll.” They stay there for a while, until the men are healed.

While they’re at Gilgal, the time comes to celebrate Passover, so they do. The day after Passover, the Israelites are able to eat some of the fruit of the land for the first time. But that day (or the day after; the Hebrew isn’t 100% clear), the manna from heaven stops appearing, and the Israelites are no longer being fed directly by God.


I don’t know who is supposed to have written the book of Joshua—Joshua himself?—but this chapter is actually written in the first person. The author mentions that the LORD had dried up the Jordan “until we had crossed over,” and talks about the Promised Land as being the land that the LORD had promised “us.”

I’m not sure why the Israelites weren’t circumcising their children during the forty years they spent in the desert. But, since the LORD is telling Joshua that He has now rolled away the Israelites’ reproach, I’m guessing that it is somehow related to their sin in the desert. Except that He calls it “the reproach of Egypt,” and the sin which caused them to remain in the desert for forty years happened after they’d left Egypt—so that doesn’t make sense. So I don’t know why the Israelite children weren’t circumcized during that time.

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