Theme: The Circumcision of the Next Generation
This week’s lessons teach the importance of Israel’s consecration before they began their conquest of the Promised Land.
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.
At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 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. 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. 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. 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.
When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. 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.
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. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 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.
I suppose we ought to spend just a little bit of time thinking how terrifying this crossing of the Jordan must have been for the Amorite and Canaanite kings. They had been afraid beforehand, of course, because here was this vast host out there across the Jordan. But as these kings looked at the nation of Israel, perhaps Israel seemed somewhat removed from them. After all, the Israelites were on the other side of the Jordan, and the river was at flood stage. No doubt Israel intended to invade, but they would have to wait until the waters had receded. But until that happened, there was time for these kings to prepare. Yet suddenly, through this great miracle, that whole vast horde of people were crossing the Jordan. If you were one of the kings of the Amorites or the Canaanites, that was a horror story indeed.
It was bad enough to know that these thousands of Jewish invaders were there in the desert on the far side of the Jordan; but then suddenly, the waters were stopped and the masses passed over. At that point these kings knew it would only be a short time before the city of Jericho and all the other cities of the land would be attacked.
Yet in a situation like that, when worldly wisdom would call for an immediate attack upon Jericho, the people were instructed by God to pause, to review their relationship to Him, and to be circumcised and to observe the Passover. The other strange thing about this circumcision is that it weakened the army. We know how that operates because back in Genesis 34, there was a parallel story when Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, was violated by the son of the King of Shechem. Dinah’s brothers were irate at this treatment of their sister, but they pretended to cooperate with the people in that city, saying that they would allow their sister to marry the son of the king. They also said they would marry among the people of the land if only the Shechemites would submit to circumcision, because the sons of Jacob said, “It’s part of our religion. It’s not permissible for us to marry among uncircumcised people.”
So the men agreed to this, and then we’re told that while they were in pain from the operation, three days later, Simeon and Levi particularly, with their swords in hand, fell upon the men of the city and slaughtered them all. They were weakened and unable to fight back properly.
But now we come back to Joshua, and we see him circumcising his army, incapacitating them for a period of days. From a human point of view, we would say that this was an utterly foolish thing to do. If the soldiers of these kings and also the city of Jericho had only known what was happening they would have left their cities and come upon the Jewish troops and annihilated them. Yet Joshua did it because this was what God had told him to do, and he was determined not to depart from the law of the Lord either to the right hand or to the left.
Yesterday we saw that God’s command to circumcise the new generation of Israelites delayed their conquest. What else did the circumcision affect, which from a human perspective would be considered unhelpful to their mission?
Why did Joshua carry out the circumcision? What does it reveal about him?
Can you recall a time when you were obedient to God, even though you did not fully understand why he was leading as he was? What were the results of obedience?