Joshua 5 Commentary

Joshua 5 Commentary: Commander of the army of the Lord

The battle of the two city-states Jericho and Ai are detailed and communicates key thoughts on the conquest of the Promised Land by Israel. That is the subject for the next 4 chapters. But first we look at chapter 5 which begins by talking about the reaction of the Amorite peoples as Israel advances. The circumcision at Gilgal and the first ever Passover event in the Promised Land are also detailed. Manna stops and importantly, chapter 5 glances at the appearance of a mystical figure who identifies himself as the Commander of the armies of the LORD.

Miracles are an important armory in our battles. See how the crossing of the Jordan River on dry ground creates fear in the enemy camp! It does make sense to pray for things like this.

Circumcision was a contractual condition in the Abrahamic covenant with the LORD. The nation in transit didn’t have chance to attend to this very important ritual. And the LORD understood. But now that the community was beginning to settle, the LORD demanded that Israel observed this ritual. By this ritual the LORD rolled away the reproach of Egypt from Israel. Does this statement from the LORD give us a better understanding of this ritual?

The supply of manna stopped with the first harvest of the land. The weaning process was cut-throat. The LORD doesn’t have such fancy management terms like ‘phased implementation’. Israel needed to fend for herself henceforth. Full stop.

And who is this man with a drawn sword who attracts the attention of Israel’s Commander-in-Chief? An Angel? The LORD Jesus Christ pre-incarnate? For one thing, we know angels never accepted worship. The instruction to Joshua to take off his sandals draws comparisons with the burning bush experience. The LORD has shown up as the man of war! Let the conquest begin! He and not Joshua is the real Commander-in-Chief.

“Are you for us or for our enemies?” Neither. The answer is very interesting. Don’t ask your boss stupid questions! This seems to be a military response to Joshua’s question. You simply answer, ‘sir, yes sir’. Obedience. Simply obey. In the next chapter we shall see very ‘silly’ instructions to overthrow Jericho. Joshua should simply obey. What a word for the saint today! More resources visit

Published by Joseph Malekani

Joseph Malekani is a born-again Christian with a strong PAOG/Baptist background. He is heavily involved in student ministry with ZAFES – an IFES movement with focus on student ministry in Zambia. He is married to Audrey and they have two lovely children.

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