Joshua 5:15: Joshua’s Encounter with the Captain of the Lord’s Host, Part 3

Verse 15:[1] And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, (Ex. 3:5; Acts 7:33) Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

[Loose thy shoe] The singular number in the place of the plural, shoes (Vatablus). This is commanded for the sake of reverence (Bonfrerius, Menochius, Tirinus); so that his mind might be struck with awe, and might be more attentive to the things to be seen and said, and apply faith to them: otherwise it could have appeared to be a dream, that the walls were going to collapse of themselves, etc. By this example, the Jews priests took off their shoes while ministering in the Temple. And even now among a great many nations of the East it is sacrilege to tread upon the pavement of temples with a shod foot. A great many are wont to say that the depraved lusts of the body are signified by shoes, which are to be put off by those that want to contemplate and meditate upon Divine things (Masius).

Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, in token of reverence and subjection: see on Exodus 3:5.

[The place is holy] Consecrated by the presence of God (Masius, Lapide, Vatablus). Concerning these things, see the more lengthy treatment on Exodus 3:5. Hebrew: holiness[2] (Vatablus). The Hebrews often make use of substantives in the place of adjectives (Malvenda).

The place is holy, consecrated by my presence; which when it was withdrawn, it was no more holy than any other place, the reason of its holiness being removed.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּאמֶר֩ שַׂר־צְבָ֙א יְהוָ֜ה אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ שַׁל־נַֽעַלְךָ֙ מֵעַ֣ל רַגְלֶ֔ךָ כִּ֣י הַמָּק֗וֹם אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתָּ֛ה עֹמֵ֥ד עָלָ֖יו קֹ֣דֶשׁ ה֑וּא וַיַּ֥עַשׂ יְהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ כֵּֽן׃

[2] Hebrew: קֹדֶשׁ.

Joshua 5:14: Joshua’s Encounter with the Captain of the Lord’s Host, Part 2

Verse 14:[1] And he said, Nay; but as captain (or, prince;[2] see Ex. 23:20; Dan. 10:13, 21; 12:1; Rev. 12:1; 19:11, 14) of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua (Gen. 17:3) fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

[Who answered, Not at all, וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ לֹ֗א] And he said, Not (Montanus, Jonathan, Vatablus, Drusius), understanding, am I for your adversaries (Vatablus, Drusius). I am not even a man, etc. (Drusius). He said, Neither (Junius and Tremellius). Neither Hebrew, nor Canaanite (Masius, similarly Junius and Tremellius, Drusius). Others: And he said to him (Septuagint, Syriac). They read לוֹ/lo, to him, in the place of לֺא/lo/not (which the Masorah[3] notes to have been done fifteen times), certainly not altogether absurdly (Masius).

He said, Nay, I am neither Israelite nor Canaanite.

[Prince of the host of the Lord] He says these things so that He might acquire authority and confidence for the things to be said in the following chapter (Masius). Question 1: What is the host of the Lord here? Response: Either, 1. the Host of Israel (Lyra, Tostatus in Bonfrerius, Masius, Drusius). The Twelve Tribes are called the host of the Lord, Exodus 12:41 (Drusius). Thus they are called because they were sent by the Lord to do vengeance with respect to the Canaanites (Lyra). Thus the people of the Lord and the people of Israle are synonyms (Drusius). Or, 2. the Angels, the ministers of God: for these are called the host of heaven, 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Luke 2:13 (Bonfrerius). Or, 3. Prince of the host, in the place of, Prince of the hosts; the singular in place of the plural. The hosts of the Lord are all creatures, both heavenly and earthly (Drusius). Question 2: Who then is this Prince, etc.? Response: He is Michael, to whom the care of the Israelites was entrusted, Daniel 10:21; 12:1 (Hebrews in Masius, thus Vatablus, Drusius, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Grotius). Moreover, 1. Some maintain that this is an Angel (thus Lapide, Bonfrerius, Serarius, Montanus, Tirinus). That certain Angels in heaven are princes is consistent with Daniel 10:13 (Masius). And each nation has its own particular Angel, who watches over it (Drusius). The arguments for this opinion are: 1. God is wont to administrate the world through means, and indeed through Angels, who are ministering spirits, Hebrews 1:14 (Serarius). 2. Inasmuch as He calls Himself the Prince of the host of the Lord, He distinguishes Himself from the Lord (Bonfrerius). 3. Angels appeared everywhere in the Old Testament; Genesis 18 and 19. See Hebrews 13:2; Exodus 3, compared with Acts 7:30, 53; Galatians 3:19 (Serarius, Bonfrerius). 2. Others maintain that this is Christ (thus Masius, Junius, Drusius, many of the Fathers in Serarius); who is rightly called an Angel, since through Him God the Father communicated with mortals concerning all things ever since the creation and fall of Adam. The ancient Jews thought almost the same thing. Thus Rabbi Moses Gerundensis Nahmanides (Fagius). That Angel, says he, is the redeemer Angel, who is the Face of God, Exodus 33:14.[4] But the Face of God signifies God Himself, as all interpreters acknowledge. Concerning Him it is said, My Name is in Him.[5] Thus Gerundensis. But the name of God is the very essence of God: for this is signified by the name Jehovah,[6] which, as it is peculiarly His own, God revealed to Moses. But He is called an Angel because He governs the world. Again, Gerundensis. It is certain that the face of God went before the Israelites, Exodus 33:14, 17; and that this face was God Himself: and rightfully Christ is so called, who is the most express Image of the Father, Hebrews 1:3. Now, Christ accompanied them, 1 Corinthians 10:4. Additionally, that God, not an Angel, was dwelling in the bush, is evident from this, that Moses implored His favor for Joseph, Deuteronomy 33:16, while yet every perfect gift is from God, James 1:17. The same that is called an Angel was also God, Genesis 48:15, 16. For who does not know that all blessing is to be sought from God alone as the source (Masius)?

[And now I come[7]] Now, or just now, I have come (Montanus, Jonathan, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Masius). This expression indicates an immediately present and most remarkable help, and that He came upon a great matter; as in Daniel 9:22, 23; 10:11, 14 (Malvenda). By my singular, albeit invisible, power I am going to defend you (Lapide).

Captain of the host of the Lord; either, 1. Of all creatures in heaven and earth, which are God’s hosts. Or, 2. Of the angels, who are called the host of heaven, 1 Kings 22:19; 2 Chronicles 18:18; Luke 2:13. Or, 3. Of the host or people of Israel, which are called the Lord’s host, Exodus 12:41. The sense is, I am the chief Captain of this people, and will conduct and assist thee and them in this great undertaking. Now this person is none other than Michael the Prince, Daniel 10:21; 12:1; not a created angel, but the Son of God, who went along with the Israelites in this expedition, 1 Corinthians 10:4; not surely as an underling, but as their Chief and Captain. And this appears, 1. By his acceptance of adoration here, which a created angel durst not admit of, Revelation 22:8, 9. 2. Because the place was made holy by his presence, Joshua 5:15, which was God’s prerogative, Exodus 3:5. 3. Because he is called the Lord, Hebrew, Jehovah, Joshua 6:2. What saith my lord unto his servant? I acknowledge thee for my Lord and Captain, and therefore wait for thy commands, which I am ready to obey.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר׀ לֹ֗א כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י שַׂר־צְבָֽא־יְהוָ֖ה עַתָּ֣ה בָ֑אתִי וַיִּפֹּל֩ יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ אֶל־פָּנָ֥יו אַ֙רְצָה֙ וַיִּשְׁתָּ֔חוּ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֔וֹ מָ֥ה אֲדֹנִ֖י מְדַבֵּ֥ר אֶל־עַבְדּֽוֹ׃

[2] Hebrew: שַׂר.

[3] The Masorah is the body of the scribal notes of the Massoretes, the mediæval Jewish scribes responsible for the preservation and propagation of the traditional text of the Hebrew Scriptures.

[4] Exodus 33:14:  “And he said, My presence (פָּנַי, my face) shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest.”

[5] Exodus 23:21.

[6] The name Jehovah, יְהוָה, is derived from the verb of being, הָיָה.  See Exodus 3:14:  “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה):  and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM (אֶהְיֶה) hath sent me unto you.”

[7] Hebrew: עַתָּ֣ה בָ֑אתִי.

Joshua 5:13: Joshua’s Encounter with the Captain of the Lord’s Host, Part 1

Verse 13:[1] And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood (Gen. 18:2; 32:24; Ex. 23:23; Zech. 1:8; Acts 1:10) a man over against him (Num. 22:23) with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?

[While he was in the field of Jericho, בִּירִיחוֹ] In Jericho (Montanus, Septuagint, Jonathan); in the country, or field (or plain [Syriac]) of Jericho (Vatablus, Masius, Drusius out of Kimchi). The territory is called by the name of the city. Thus Joshua 10:10, He struck in Gibeon; yet he speaks of those that were not in the city, but before it (Drusius out of Masius). Or, not actually, but in the contemplations of his soul, he was in Jericho; as Daniel was in Shushan, Daniel 8:2, while he appears to be yet in Babylon, if you attend to the end of his narration (Masius). Some Hebrews say that this happened to Joshua in a visision (certain interpreters). Near Jericho (Arabic); at Jericho (Junius and Tremellius); by Jericho; thus Luke 13:33 (Grotius). In in the place of by is a common Enallage[2] (Lapide). There either Joshua prayed to God (Lapide), or went to spy out an opportune place to attack the city, or was in meditation upon the management of the campaign (Masius). Thus, while we desive in soul great and holy things, God insinuates Himself into our counsels, and reveals the resources and means for accomplishing them (Lapide).

By Jericho; Hebrew: in Jericho, that is, in the country or territory adjoining to Jericho, whither he went to view those parts, and discern the fittest places for his attempt upon Jericho, as generals usually do.

[He lifted his eyes] These words signify nothing other than a sudden and unexpected vision/sight. Thus elsewhere, Genesis 18:2; Daniel 10:5 (Masius).

[He saw a man standing] It was the purpose of God that the soul of Joshua be confirmed at the very beginning of the campaign and in unwavering faith, and be restrained from arrogant presumption. For the minds of men, however much prepared with great faith, are too easily moved with fear of the present crises; just as again by a course of easy affairs they are lifted up in vain confidence, than which nothing is more detestable to God. Neither do you sin more grievously, if you refer favors, which proceeded from God, to an image, than if you refer them to yourself (Masius).

A man; one in the appearance of man.

[Over against him (thus the Septuagint, similarly the Syriac, Junius and Tremellius), לְנֶגְדּוֹ] Opposite him (Montanus); before him (Arabic).

[Holding an unsheathed sword] After the likeness of a warrior. God or the Angel is wont to assume an appearance agreeable to the person or matter. Thus Christ appears to Mary Magdalene in the garden as a gardener,[3] to the travelers as a traveler.[4] So here the drawn sword denotes the power and vengeance of God (Lapide).

With his sword drawn, in readiness to fight, not, as Joshua thought, against him, but for him and his people.

[And he went to him] Note here the undaunted courage of Joshua (Lapide); that he so boldly proceeds against a man armed, and undoubtedly eminent for his august appearance, and presses a decision of fight or friendship (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֗י בִּֽהְי֣וֹת יְהוֹשֻׁעַ֮ בִּירִיחוֹ֒ וַיִּשָּׂ֤א עֵינָיו֙ וַיַּ֔רְא וְהִנֵּה־אִישׁ֙ עֹמֵ֣ד לְנֶגְדּ֔וֹ וְחַרְבּ֥וֹ שְׁלוּפָ֖ה בְּיָד֑וֹ וַיֵּ֙לֶךְ יְהוֹשֻׁ֤עַ אֵלָיו֙ וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ל֔וֹ הֲלָ֥נוּ אַתָּ֖ה אִם־לְצָרֵֽינוּ׃

[2] That is, the use of one grammatical form in the place of another.

[3] John 20:15.

[4] Luke 24:13-15.

Joshua 5:12: The Manna Ceases, Part 2

Verse 12:[1] And (Ex. 16:35) the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.

[And it failed[2]] The Vulgate follows the Septuagint, as it is wont to do. It is rather to be translated, it ceased (Masius, Vatablus), that is, it ceased to fall like rain (Masius).

[After they ate, מִֽמָּחֳרָ֗ת בְּאָכְלָם֙] Verbatim: from tomorrow, in the eating of them (Vatablus); on the next day, after which they ate (Jonathan); on the following day while they were eating (Vatablus, Pagnine), or, after they had begun to eat (Munster, similarly Tigurinus); after this day, when they had eated (Syriac); on that day, because they had eaten (Arabic); on this day, after they consumed (Septuagint). Question: On what day? Response 1: Some understand it of the same day as the preceding verse, whether it was the fifteenth, or the sixteenth. Concerning this I have no doubt (Masius, thus Tostatus in Serarius). But the Jews maintain that it was the day following the day mentioned above: For the Manna did not cease on the day that the sheaf was offered: For the people had need of it at that time also, since they had not yet harvested any crops. But in an exceedingly fruitful region the old grain was not able to be wanting, and perhaps they carried some with them from the plains of Moab (Masius). Response 2: Others say that the Manna ceased on the seventeenth day (Serarius, Bonfrerius, Vatablus and the Rabbis in Serarius). 1. For the Manna did not cease before they began to eat of the produce of the land: This was not before the ears were offered to God: These were not offered before the customary hour of the daily sacrifice, that is, a little before the peak of the day: But the Manna was falling at night, and was gathered in the morning:[3] Therefore, the Manna had still come down on the sixteenth day. 2. It does not say, as previously, the day following the Passover; but, the day following, namely, following that day of which it is said, the day following upon their eating[4] (Serarius). God withdraws the Manna, 1. Because now there was an abundance of other food (Serarius, Bonfrerius, Menochius, Masius): lest the heavenly gift should be held in contempt by ungrateful men, because even in their very necessity they did not esteem it with a sufficiently grateful soul (Masius). Extraordinary things cease, when there is a place for the ordinary things, say the Jurisconsults (Grotius). 2. So that all might understand that Manna did not fall by the natural climate of the air, like hail, etc., but from the mere generosity of God (Masius).

God now withheld the manna, 1. To show that it was not an ordinary production of nature, as by the long and constant enjoyment of it they might be prone to think; but an extraordinary and special gift of God to supply their necessity. 2. Because God would not be prodigal of his favours, nor expose them to contempt by giving them superfluously, or by working miracles where ordinary means were sufficient. On the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn, that is, on the seventeenth day.

[Of Canaan] Here it is named, because in verses 10 and 11 he speaks of the fruits carried from Gilead. Thus many interpreters (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁבֹּ֙ת הַמָּ֜ן מִֽמָּחֳרָ֗ת בְּאָכְלָם֙ מֵעֲב֣וּר הָאָ֔רֶץ וְלֹא־הָ֥יָה ע֛וֹד לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מָ֑ן וַיֹּאכְל֗וּ מִתְּבוּאַת֙ אֶ֣רֶץ כְּנַ֔עַן בַּשָּׁנָ֖ה הַהִֽיא׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁבֹּת. שָׁבַת signifies to cease.

[3] See Exodus 16.

[4] Joshua 5:12a:  “And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eatenמִֽמָּחֳרָ֗ת) בְּאָכְלָם֙) of the old corn of the land…”

Joshua 5:11: The Manna Ceases, Part 1

Verse 11:[1] And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day.

[They ate of the fruit of the land, מֵעֲב֥וּר הָאָ֛רֶץ] [They render it variously.] Of the grain of the past year, etc. (Munster, Vatablus, Drusius, Tigurinus, Dutch, Kimchi in Masius, Bonfrerius). עָבוּר properly signifies this, as תְּבוּאָה the produce of the coming year[2] (Drusius), while עָבַר signifies to pass over, or to pass by (Kimchi in Serarius). They were eating old crops, either, which the traders had sold to them (Drusius); or, which they had found in conquered regions (Bonfrerius). For it was not lawful for them to eat new fruits until they had offered the first-fruits to the Lord (Munster, Vatablus, Drusius). Now, others translate it, of the grain, produce, crops, or fruit, of the land. Thus the Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Pagnine. Thus Jonathan and the Targum on Isaiah 36 and 2 Kings 18[3] (where עבור is put in the place of דָּגָן/grain), and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 5:1, and other Rabbis, who heap this up against Radak [that is, Rabbi David Kimchi] (Serarius). I do not know whether the argument [of Kimchi] from etymology is firm enough (Drusius). Moreover, עָבַר sometimes signifies to impregnate, or to make pregnant: now, Cicero said that the land is impregnated with seed: and thence grain is able to be called עָבוּר (Serarius). Which signifies whatever crops, as much of the present year as of the past year (Lapide). From the verb it signifies the passage of the land, that is, present fruits for the circumstances (Malvenda).

The old corn; the corn of the last year, which the inhabitants of those parts had left in their barns, being doubtless fled for fear of the Israelites into their strong cities, or other remoter and safer parts.

[On the second day] Hebrew: from tomorrow, or on the following day, of the Passover[4] (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius). Question: What then was this? Response 1: The fifteenth day (Tostatus and Montanus and the Rabbis in Serarius, Kimchi in Masius). But, since it was a sin to eat the new ears before the day of the consecrated sheaf, Leviticus 23:14, those that hold this opinion are obliged either to take the Sabbath of the preceding law of that night on which the lamb was eaten, and which was preceding the light of the fifteenth day, and to ascribe it to the preceding day; or to take עָבוּר for the grain of the preceding year only; and so, although the sheaf has not yet been offered on this fifteenth day, it was lawful to eat of the old fruit with the parched (Masius). Response 2: to others this is the sixteenth day (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Munster, Vatablus, Lyra and Calvin and the Rabbis in Serarius): for it is the night of the following day (Vatablus). They offer as proof: 1. The fifteenth day was the very day of the feast of Passover, as it is evident from Leviticus 23:6. For, although the evening of the fourteenth day according to the civil computation of days belongs to the fourteenth day, yet according to the sacred reckoning of feast days (which were celebrated from evening to evening) this evening had regard unto the fifteenth day. 2. Before the first-fruits were to be offered on the sixteenth day, according to Leviticus 23:14, it is not likely that they ate of these new fruits: for otherwise what would have been the reason why they had not eaten previously? 3. Because in Leviticus 23:11, 15, where the offering of the sheaf is treated, he calls the sixteenth day, as in this place, the day following the Sabbath (Bonfrerius). It is taken as the sixteenth day by the Babylonian Talmud, Ralbag,[5] and the Septuagint, as it appears, which translates the following parched corn as τὰ νέα, the new fruits (Masius). Which opinion might be closer to the truth, I confess that it is uncertain to me (Masius).

On the morrow after the passover, that is, on the sixteenth day; for the passover was killed between the two evenings of the fourteenth day, and was eaten in that evening or night, which, according to the Jewish computation, whereby they begin their days at the evening, was a part of the fifteenth day, all which was the feast of the passover; and so the morrow of the sixteenth day was the morrow after the passover, when they were obliged to offer unto God the first sheaf, and then were allowed to eat of the rest.

[And parched grain (thus Pagnine, Jonathan), וְקָלוּי] And roasted (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius) with fire (Junius and Tremellius); and roasted ears (Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Vatablus); and the new (Septuagint); and new roasted ears (Tigurinus); toasted, scorched, or roasted grain (Masius). But these are not wont to be prepared except the produce of this year (Rabbi Salomon in Masius). But I do not think that this is able to be demonstrated out of Sacred Scripture (Masius).

Parched corn; of that year’s corn, which was most proper and customary for that use.

[Of the same year] Hebrew: on that very day.[6] He signifies that his people were most hungrily disposed, and satisfied their desire just as soon as it was lawful. For it was taboo to enjoy the fruit of the land before they had observed the Paschal rites: But, if it treats of this year’s fruits, the law prohibited the eating of those before the offering of the sheaf (Masius).

In the selfsame day; having an eager desire to enjoy the fruits of the land.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אכְל֜וּ מֵעֲב֥וּר הָאָ֛רֶץ מִמָּֽחֳרַ֥ת הַפֶּ֖סַח מַצּ֣וֹת וְקָל֑וּי בְּעֶ֖צֶם הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃

[2] תְּבוּאָה is here being derived from the verbal root בּוֹא, to come.

[3] 2 Kings 18:32a:  “Until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a land of corn (דָּגָן; עבור, in the Chaldean) and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey…”  Isaiah 36:17 is the same.

[4] Hebrew: מִמָּֽחֳרַ֥ת הַפֶּ֖סַח.

[5] That is, Rabbi Levi ben Gershon.

[6] Hebrew: בְּעֶ֖צֶם הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃.

Joshua 5:10: The Renewal of Passover at Gilgal

Verse 10:[1] And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover (Ex. 12:6; Num. 9:5) on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho.

[And they did the Passover] I expound they did as they sacrificed. For they ate the lamb at the beginning of the following day. It is a Synecdoche of genus (Piscator).

[At evening, בָּעֶרֶב] It is the same time that is elsewhere בֵּין הָעַרְבָּיִם, between the evenings,[2] as it is evident from Exodus 16[3] and Deuteronomy 16[4] [concerning which see what things were said at length on Exodus 12, where a great part of what was annotated here by Masius is found]: namely, the last part of the fourteenth day, when the Sun is nearly set. On the Fourteenth Day the lamb was to be slain, but on the night following, that is, which precedes the light of the fifteenth day, it was to be eaten (Masius). Question: What number was this Passover to be reckoned? Response: Some maintain that it is the forty-first, and that the Passover was repeated throughout the entire forty years. For it is not probable that what God commanded to be perpetual was suddenly cast aside (Calvin). Response: The Law of Circumcision was no less perpetual than of Passover, Genesis 17 (Serarius). This does not satisfy others. In the desert Passover was intermitted for thirty-nine years (Serarius, Masius). They present proof: 1. It was not lawful to observe Passover unless circumcised, Exodus 12:48. 2. The Law concerning Passover appears to have regard unto the Promised Land alone; Exodus 12:25, when ye will have come into the land, etc. For what they did at mount Sinai, Numbers 9:2, they did not by Law, but by a new commandment (which would not at all have been necessary, if they were obliged by the Law) and privilege, that they might honor the sanctuary of God (Masius). 3. In the desert there were no sacrifices, Amos 5:25. But the Passover was a sacrifice (Serarius). This was, therefore, the third Passover celebrated by the Israelites: 1. there was one in Egypt; 2. one at mount Sinai; 3. one at this place (Serarius, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Menochius). As the rite of Circumcision was renewed a little previously, so now the ceremony of Passover; so that we might understand that the Israelites holily and religiously entered upon the possession of the Land (Masius). Question: Did the Trans-Jordanian Tribes celebrate this Passover? Response: By no means; for the Passover was able to be celebrated only where the Temple was, Deuteronomy 16:2, 6, 7. Objection: All males were obliged to come three times in a year to their feasts, Deuteronomy 16:16. Response: They were not now bound by that law; either, because they did not yet possess the land of Canaan in peace; or, because they did not know that that ceremony was to be restored so quickly (Bonfrerius).

Passover: This was their third passover: the first was in Egypt, Exodus 12; the second at Mount Sinai, Numbers 9; the third here; for in their wilderness travels these and all other sacrifices were neglected, Amos 5:25.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּחֲנ֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בַּגִּלְגָּ֑ל וַיַּעֲשׂ֣וּ אֶת־הַפֶּ֡סַח בְּאַרְבָּעָה֩ עָשָׂ֙ר י֥וֹם לַחֹ֛דֶשׁ בָּעֶ֖רֶב בְּעַֽרְב֥וֹת יְרִיחֽוֹ׃

[2] See Exodus 12:6:  “And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month:  and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening (בֵּ֥ין הָעַרְבָּֽיִם׃).”

[3] Exodus 16:12:  “I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel:  speak unto them, saying, At even (בֵּ֤ין הָֽעַרְבַּ֙יִם֙) ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God.”

[4] Deuteronomy 16:4, 6:  “And there shall be no leavened bread seen with thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh, which thou sacrificedst the first day at even (בָּעֶרֶב), remain all night until the morning….  But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even (בָּעָרֶב), at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.”

Joshua 5:8: The Mysterious Case of Israel’s Circumcision at Gilgal, Part 5

Verse 8:[1] And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people (Heb. when the people had made an end to be circumcised[2]), that they abode in their places in the camp, (see Gen. 34:25) till they were whole.

[After all were circumcised, כַּאֲשֶׁר־תַּ֥מּוּ כָל־הַגּ֖וֹי לְהִמּ֑וֹל] Verbatim: When all the people were finished to be circumcised (Montanus). When all the people was complete, or finished (or, had brought to completion [Junius]) to be circumcised (Vatablus, similarly the Syriac, Arabic). He agains calls them גּוֹי, a nation, that is, because they were yet uncircumcised after the manner of the barbarians[3] (Masius).

[They remained in the same place, וַיֵּשְׁב֥וּ תַחְתָּ֛ם] And they sat (that is, they remained [Drusius]) in their places (Jonathan, similarly the Syriac, Arabic, Junius and Tremellius). Thus Joshua 6:5.[4] Thus Exodus 16:29, abide ye every man תַּחְתָּיו, in his place; it follows, let no man go out מִמְּקֹמוֹ, from his place. Thus Exodus 10:23[5] (Glassius’ “Grammar” 554). But the Septuagint has, they had quiet there. The Kings of the Canaanites did not approach them, although they were wounded, because, being stricken with a Divine fear, they were stupefied. From this let us learn not to be led away by the fear of any, or even the greatest, danger to omit those things that have been commanded us by God (Masius).

[Until they were healed, עַ֥ד חֲיוֹתָֽם׃] While they were living (Drusius, similarly Montanus, Piscator); until they were revived, as in Numbers 21[6] (Junius); until they were healed (Septuagint, similarly Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic). Thus Isaiah 38:21, וְיֶחִי, and he shall be healed. Life is not to live, but to be strong[7] (Drusius). Until they began to recover (Vatablus). Thus to live is taken in 2 Kings 20:7 (Malvenda).

Till they were whole: Free from that pain and sore which circumcision caused, Genesis 34:25. It was indeed an act of great faith to expose themselves to so much pain and danger too in this place, where they were hemmed in by Jordan and their enemies; but they had many considerations to support their faith, and suppress their fears: the fresh experience of God’s power and readiness to work miracles for their preservation; the great consternation of all their enemies, which they might observe and rationally presume; the considerable number of the people who were above forty years old, and therefore circumcised before this time, their great general being one of this number; the time it would require for their enemies to bring together a force sufficient to oppose them.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֛י כַּאֲשֶׁר־תַּ֥מּוּ כָל־הַגּ֖וֹי לְהִמּ֑וֹל וַיֵּשְׁב֥וּ תַחְתָּ֛ם בַּֽמַּחֲנֶ֖ה עַ֥ד חֲיוֹתָֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: כַּאֲשֶׁר־תַּ֥מּוּ כָל־הַגּ֖וֹי לְהִמּ֑וֹל.

[3] גּוֹיִם is usually used of Gentile nations.

[4] Joshua 6:5:  “And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat (תַּחְתֶּיהָ, in its place), and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.”

[5] Exodus 10:23:  “They saw not one another, neither rose any from his place (מִתַּחְתָּיו) for three days:  but all the children of Israel had light in their dwellings.”

[6] Numbers 21:8, 9:  “And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole:  and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live (וָחָי).  And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived (וָחָי).”

[7] Martial’s Epigrams 6:70:15.

Joshua 5:7: The Mysterious Case of Israel’s Circumcision at Gilgal, Part 4

Verse 7:[1] And (Num. 14:31; Deut. 1:39) their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way.

[The sons of these succeeded into the place of their fathers, and were circumcised, וְאֶת־בְּנֵיהֶם֙ הֵקִ֣ים תַּחְתָּ֔ם אֹתָ֖ם מָ֣ל] And their sons he made to stand (he substituted [Septuagint]) in their place: them he circumcised (Montanus). Therefore, setting their sons in their place (suppose, in the holy covenant [Junius]), these he circumcised (Junius and Tremellius). Therefore, the sons of those that had succeeded them (that had arisen after them [Jonathan]), these he circumcised (Syriac). But He (namely, God) substituted…into the place of them, whom he circumcised (Dutch). Therefore, the sons of those, whom he made to rise in their place, he circumcised (Munster, Tirinus, similarly Pagnine), whom he caused to stand in their place (Vatablus), whom He, namely, God, had set. Here the relative particle אֲשֶׁר/ whom is wanting (Drusius). The sons succeeded into the place of their fathers, that is, they obtained those promises which the fathers lost (Grotius).

[Neither those…had he circumcised] Question: 1. What then was the reason for the neglect of circumcision for so long a time? Responses: 1. The neglect or contempt of the parents. Thus the Scholastic History[2] (Bonfrerius, Serarius, Junius on verse 8). This does not satisfy: 1. For how was it that that sin was never touched upon by punishment or by any reprehension? How was it that Moses ignored this? Lighter faults were certainly punished, Exodus 15-17; Numbers 15 (Serarius, Bonfrerius). 2. This omission is attributed to the whole people, but certainly not all were holding the law of God in contempt (Bonfrerius). Others maintain that the children were left uncircumcised for the punishment of the parents. Thus Vasquez[3] and Pererius[4] (Bonfrerius, thus Masius). This does not satisfy. Then this punishment would have been inflicted upon the rebellious parents only, which is false; for circumcision was put off for the forty years, and so both before that rebellion in Numbers 14, and after all those rebels had died, and the arrival at the brook Zered, Deuteronomy 2:14, from which station unto this time of circumcision five or six months intervened. Only those that came out from Egypt are said to be circumcised: All the rest were uncircumcised, even the Levites, whom (or most of those) they free from fault, and so from punishment (Bonfrerius). 3. Others thus: Circumcision was a mark that would distinguish the Hebrews from the other nations; and so in the wilderness it was not necessary, because the wilderness itself was sufficiently separating them from others. Thus Theodoret[5] and John of Damascus[6] (Masius). This does not satisfy: This was not the sole reason for the law. See on Genesis 17 (Serarius). This rite was instituted, not only to set the people apart, but especially so that it might stand for the mystery of the corrupt nature of men and its expiation, and might remind that regeneration is necessary: then, so that it might be a sign of Divine grace, and of a holy profession and sincere religion (Masius). Otherwise it would hardly be an apt mark of distinction, since it was place on a part of the body not conspicuous, and was made use of by other nations (Serarius). Therefore, the true reason was the constant travel; for in the desert they were always uncertain concerning the undertaking of the journey, and were ready to take up the camp at the motion of the cloud.[7] But it was dangerous for them to present themselves for the journey with that part raw (Bonfrerius, Lapide, Masius, Serarius, Lyra, Tostatus in Bonfrerius, Piscator). He was not so urging the precept of circumcision that it could be put off without cause (Bonfrerius). The very Passover, mandated by a law no less severe than that of circumcision, it was lawful to delay for the sake of a journey, Numbers 9:13 (Masius). Objection: Moses was chastened because he did not circumcise his son in the way.[8] Responses: His son does not appear to have been born at that time, and so it was proper that he be circumcised some time before. 2. God was not pressing Moses with any haste, that he might not be able to circumcise the infant, while it was altogether absurd that the future Lawgiver was not maintaining the laws of Divine religion in his own little family. But what does that have to do with the multitude? The sacred words themselves, since almost as often as they make mention of the omission of circumcision, just so often also of the journey, with sufficient plainness attribute the cause to continual departures (Masius). If anyone understand that God here dispensed, I am not opposite (Serarius). But why were they not circumcised in the fields of Moab, where they found leisure and security? Responses: 1. Because they were still in their expedition and journey, and may have been uncertain how long a delay they were going to have in a particular place, etc. 2. God had foreordained forty years in which the sons would bear the punishment of the defection of their parents, Numbers 14:33, 34. For so long, therefore, while the guilt of that defection was not yet expiated, circumcision was not obliged to be celebrated, which was a certain reconciliation of Divine grace (Masius). Question 2: But why are they now circumcised? Responses: 1. Because the reason for putting off circumcision ceased. 2. The Passover was to be celebrated, which no uncircumcised person ought to eat, Exodus 12:44, 48. 3. In this land and the promised quiet now given, the foundation, namely, circumcision, is rightly laid for stirring up Divine worship there. 4. This was aptly done to procure Divine grace and help, and for confirmation of their faith (Serarius). 5. God willed to distinguish them from the uncircumcised Canaanites, among whom they were now remaining (Bonfrerius). 6. So that with this pious rite they might enter upon the possession of that land. 7. So that the reproach of Egypt might be removed, concerning which verse 9 (Tirinus).

Them Joshua circumcised; which God would have now done, 1. As a testimony of God’s reconciliation to the people, of which circumcision was a sign, and that God would not further impute their parents’ rebellions to them. 2. Because the great impediment of circumcision was now removed, to wit, their continued travels, and frequent and uncertain removal. 3. To prepare them for the approaching passover. 4. To distinguish them from the Canaanites, into whose land they were now come. 5. To ratify the covenant between God and them, whereof circumcision was a sign and seal, to assure them that God would now make good his covenant, in giving them this land; and to oblige them to perform all the duties and services to which that covenant bound them, of which circumcision was the beginning and foundation, all which they were expressly joined to do, as soon as ever they came into Canaan, Exodus 12:25; Leviticus 23:10; Numbers 15:2.

[1] Hebrew: וְאֶת־בְּנֵיהֶם֙ הֵקִ֣ים תַּחְתָּ֔ם אֹתָ֖ם מָ֣ל יְהוֹשֻׁ֑עַ כִּי־עֲרֵלִ֣ים הָי֔וּ כִּ֛י לֹא־מָ֥לוּ אוֹתָ֖ם בַּדָּֽרֶךְ׃

[2] The Historia Scholastica (completed circa 1173) was a Biblical paraphrase, presenting a universal history in a popular manner.  It was written by Petrus Comestor (died 1178), a prolific theological writer (although much of his work had gone unpublished), and chancellor of the theological school at Notre-Dame.  The Historia Scholastica was part of the core curriculum of many universities, even into the fifteenth century.

[3] Gabriel Vazquez (c. 1550-1604) was a Spanish Jesuit theologian.  He wrote extensively on Thomas Aquinas’ Summa and on ethics.

[4] Benedict Pereira (1536-1610) was a Spanish Jesuit theologian and exegete.  Pereira treated a great many difficult and controversial passages, but he wrote extensively on Genesis, Exodus, Daniel, John, Romans, and Revelation.

[5] Questions on Genesis 69.  Theodoret (393-457) was bishop of Cyrus, and a significant participant in the Christological controversies of his age.  He was an advocate of Antiochian dyophysitism, or moderate Nestorianism, although he condemned the Nestorian affirmation of two Sons in Christ, and the Nestorian denial that Mary was Theotokos, that is, the Mother of God.  His orthodoxy was cleared at the Council of Chalcedon (451).

[6] Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 4:25.  John Damascenus (c. 676-c. 760) was a monk of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem.  He is remembered for his piety of life, writings, and compilation of chants in the eastern style; and, due to his defense of icons and his summary of the faith of the Fathers (Fountain of Knowledge), he is regarded by many as the last of the Eastern Fathers.

[7] See Numbers 10:35, 36.

[8] Exodus 4:24-26.

Joshua 5:3: The Mysterious Case of Israel’s Circumcision at Gilgal, Part 2

Verse 3:[1] And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins (or, Gibeah-haaraloth[2]).

[And he circumcised the children of Israel] That is, he took care that they be circumcised (Vatablus). And it is likely that on the same day (with Joshua seeing to this, and with the Levites left among them) the Jews on the other side of Jordan were circumcised (Bonfrerius). It belongs to a good Prince to revive intermitted rites. See 2 Kings 23 (Grotius).

Joshua…circumcised, etc.: that is, He caused this to be done; and because it was to be done speedily, the passover approaching, it was necessary to use many hands in it, either priests and Levites, or other circumcised persons, who, at least in those circumstances, were permitted to do it. The children of Israel, that is, such of them as were uncircumcised. And though it be not mentioned, it is more than probable, that the Israelites beyond Jordan were circumcised at the same time.

[On the hill of foreskins (thus the Syriac, Drusius), אֶל/to in the place of ב/on (Drusius), אֶל־גִּבְעַ֖ת הָעֲרָלֽוֹת׃] At (or near [Arabic]) the hill of foreskins (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius), or, of the uncircumcised (Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic). The place was so called by anticipation (Masius), because there their foreskins were left or cast aside (Masius, Junius, Drusius, Vatablus): or, because the foreskins of the Jews piled together into a heap made a hill (Drusius, Hebrews in Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּעַשׂ־ל֥וֹ יְהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ חַֽרְב֣וֹת צֻרִ֑ים וַיָּ֙מָל֙ אֶת־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶל־גִּבְעַ֖ת הָעֲרָלֽוֹת׃

[2] Hebrew: גִּבְעַ֖ת הָעֲרָלֽוֹת׃.

Joshua 5:2: The Mysterious Case of Israel’s Circumcision at Gilgal, Part 1

Verse 2:[1] At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee (Ex. 4:25) sharp knives (or, knives of flints[2]), and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time.

[At that time] After they entered the Holy Land (Vatablus); when they first arrived at Gilgal (Masius, Drusius). There were only four days remaining until the time of Passover, which was to be observed on the fourteenth day (Masius); but they were not able to keep the Passover unless circumcised (Serarius); and in the meantime the wound of circumcision ought to be healed (Masius); but the pain of Circumcision is greatest on the third day, Genesis 34:25. Therefore, this was done on the eleventh day: thus they had nearly the whole fourteenth day to revive themselves, and to recover their strength after that pain (Serarius). Nevertheless, such a multitude (of those to be circumcised) occasions some difficulty: For they were around six hundred thousand men. Response: Most of those were circumcised: But all the circumcised, even those circumcised on the same day, likewise also mothers, or other women, were able to circumcise: Therefore, that number would be exhausted in a short time, if two or three be assigned to each of the circumcised (Bonfrerius, Serarius).

At that time; as soon as ever they were come to Gilgal, which was on the tenth day; and so this might be executed the next, or the eleventh day, and that in the morning: on the thirteenth day they were sore of their wounds, and on the fourteenth day they recovered, and at the even of that day kept the passover.

[Make for thyself knives of stone, חַֽרְב֣וֹת צֻרִ֑ים] [They vary.] Knives of rocks, or rocky, or stony (Montanus, Septuagint, Arabic, similarly Masius, Lapide, Bonfrerius). Thus the ancients in Genesis Rabbah.[3] Thus צוּר in Exodus 4:25[4] they translate flint, or rock, etc. (Onkelos in Masius, Pagnine and Forster and Tigurinus in Bonfrerius). Question: Why with rocky knives? Responses: 1. Because in that place, around Arabia, there was an abundance of rocks, but a lack of iron and steel (Lapide). 2. Because perhaps few of them, after the travelling of so many years, had iron knives (Theodotion in Bonfrerius). This was fulfilled with hard flints, says Maimonides[5] in Guide for the Perplexed[6] 1:16 (Masius). These were formerly used for castration. Catullus[7] in his poem “Concerning Berecynthia[8] and Attis[9]”, he rolled away his stones with a sharp flint.[10] Plutarch[11] likewise relates in “Nicias”[12] that a man cut off his own genitals with a flint. And Juvenal, Satires 6, he cut off his tender genitals with a broken shard. Likewise Pliny’s Natural History 35:12, with a Samian[13] shard the priests of the Mother of the gods amputate their manliness, the only means of avoiding disaster. That stones were also used to sharpen reeds, Julianus testifies, Epigrams 6. Finally, they relate that among the Americans they meet with flints in the place of knives (Bonfrerius). [Nevertheless, others render it otherwise.] Knives, or short sword, sharp (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Junius and Tremellius, Piscator); knives of sharp edges, that is, provided with an extremely sharp edge (Vatablus); sharpened razors (the Chaldean in Vatablus, Hebrews in Munster); daggers of stones, that is, sharp after the likeness of stone (Piscator). צוּר signifies rock; and, since knives are sharpened with stones, it appears to be the case that the efficient is taken in the place of the effect (Munster).

Make thee sharp knives; or, prepare, or make ready, as this word is sometimes used. As it was not necessary for those who had such knives already to make others for that use; so it is not probable that such were commanded to do so, but only to make them sharp and fit for that work. They are called in Hebrew knives of flints, not as if they were all necessarily to be made of flints, but because such were commonly used, especially in those parts, where there was but little iron; and because such knives were oft used in this work, as the Jewish doctors note, and in such like works, as the heathen writers relate. Thus we call that an inkhorn which is made of silver, because those utensils are commonly made of horn.

[And circumcise a second time, וְשׁ֛וּב מֹ֥ל—שֵׁנִֽית׃] And return, circumcise…a second time (Montanus); having returned, circumcise a second time (Munster). And, settling, circumcise (Septuagint). In the place of שׁוּב/return, they read שֵׁב/sit (Masius). And go back (having gone back [Syriac]), circumcise (Jonathan). And tomorrow circumcise for a second time (Arabic); repeating a second time, circumcise (Junius and Tremellius). Verbatim: return, circumcise; that is, circumcise again. שׁוּב/return is wont, when it is constructed with another verb following, to adverbialize (Malvenda). By a repetition, circumcise (certain interpreters in Malvenda); bring it to pass again that they might be circumcised a second time (Pagnine). Question: In what way a second time, when neither the nature of the thing, nor the Divine religion, permits that the same man be circumcised again (Masius)? Response 1: Some maintain that those once circumcised, with the foreskin growing again or having drawn together, were circumcised again (certain interpreters in Serarius). The Talmudists say that there were many at that time that, having been oppressed in Egyptian servitude, by a certain medical art, with the skin drawn and stretched, had devised for themselves a new foreskin, and had covered their glans with it again.[14] Symmachus, the translator of the Sacred Scripture, and others going over from the Jews to the Samaritans, and a great many Hebrews harassed by the abuses of the Romans, who were circumcised again afterwards at the command of Bar Kochba,[15] did similarly. Concerning this Paul also speaks, 1 Corinthians 7:18 (Masius). The Jews did three things in circumcision: 1. They cut off the foreskin. 2. They stretch and pull back the remaining skin, so the corona of the penis (for so they call it) might appear; from which greater pain is occasioned than from the circumcision. This they call פְּרִיעָה/Periah (the stretching of the skin). 3. They suck the blood from the wounded member. Therefore, the Hebrews say that the sons of Israel were indeed circumcised in the desert, but they did not receive the stretching of the skin, which is here prescribed; and in this sense they are commanded to be circumcised again (Munster). This interpretation is not satisfying. 1. The text overthrows this interpretation, which says that they were diverse that were now circumcised, and that were previously. 2. That drawing together of the skin would have involved the Israelites in the greatest wickedness, which the Lord would not have borne for so long unpunished, neither would Moses and Joshua have dissembled. 3. If the skin was only to be separated and folded back, there would not have been need of such sharp knives; for even today circumcisers do this with their nails (Serarius). Response 2: Some translate שֵׁנִית not a second time, but repeatedly, that is, more frequently or with many returns; that is to say, Repeat circumcision until all have been circumcised (Drusius, similarly Kimchi in Masius). שָׁנָה signifies to repeat, Proverbs 24:21;[16] 26:11[17] (Kimchi in Glassius’ “Grammar” 463). That is to say, Again and again, passing back and forth through the camp, take care lest any be left uncircumcised (Kimchi in Masius). But this is to twist the Scripture (Masius). Response 3: This was a second circumcision, namely, a solemn circumcision of the people (Lyra, Estius). This is called a second, either, 1. with respect to the circumcision of the family of Abraham, Genesis 17:23, in which both the entirety of the Church of God, and so the people of God in their entirety, were circumcised by Abraham, and this sign was instituted by God, as a pledge of the promise of Canaan. But now the people of God in their entirety are circumcised by Joshua, since that promise is brought to fruition by God. Let me speak more plainly. God had of old constituted by the sign of Circumcision a particular assembly, or Church: Since that assembly was propagated until the time of Moses by continual succession and observation of the sacred rites, now at length, with all of whom there was a reckoning in the solemn musterings once killed, but with the rest uncircumcised, that manner of association appears to have been interrupted in a certain way: Therefore, God commands it to be restored. It is indeed plausible that there were a great many living at that time that had been born and circumcised in Egypt; and the Jews free all the Levites from the guilt of rebellion at Kadesh-Barnea.[18] But the people is reckoned according to the condition of those that were its greatest part by far (Masius). This exposition does not satisfy (Lapide, Serarius); thus this circumcision would not be a second, but more than a tenth. For after Abraham, through the course of four hundred years unto Moses, all the posterity were circumcised (Lapide). Neither would this be a second solemn circumcision. For was not that circumcision in Genesis 34 solemn (Serarius)? 2. Therefore, to others it is called a second with respect to circumcision in Egypt. Some maintain that circumcision was neglected in Egypt (which Tertullian[19] also affirms), and restored by Moses, who, when he, returning into Egypt, by his own peril had learned just how little God would bear the neglect of it,[20] circumcised immediately all that had not undertaken to do that because of that most rigorous servitude (Rabbi Levi and other Hebrews in Masius). A general circumcision of the people, being just about to depart from Egypt: And, just as God had at that time had shut up the Egyptians in three days of darkness, so that they were not able to move;[21] so now He struck the Canaanites with terror, so that they dare not move themselves to strike the people while suffering from their recent wound. Moreover, circumcision was the seal of the gift of the land of Canaan, and, becaused they had advanced as far as possible, they are commanded to be circumcised (Lightfoot). Or, 3. with respect to the circumcision performed at mount Sinai, where Moses circumcised however many were born, either during those forty-seven days in which they came up out of Egypt,[22] or in the meantime while they were remaining there (Masius, similarly Vatablus). Masius confirms this. 1. Since there was to be a long delay at mount Sinai, there was no reason why they might omit that rite. 2. He was unwilling that another rite, namely, Passover, be omitted, so how would He disregard circumcision? And it is accurately said in verse 5 that no one was circumcised in the journey, in their going forth. But what was done in their station at mount Sinai ought not to be reckoned as done in the journey (Serarius out of Masius). Indeed, these things are said with great probability: but some things oppose, namely, 1. that in verses 6 and 7 it is said that no one was circumcised for forty years. 2. That in verses 5 and 7 the two boundaries, as it were, of the circumcision performed, are stated, one in Egypt, the other in Canaan. Concerning Passover prescription is given, because that rite was the most recent, only once met. Otherwise concerning circumcision (Serarius). 3. Concerning this circumcision neither the Scripture, nor Philo, nor Josephus, nor anyone else, makes mention (Lapide). Response 4: Others thus: it is called a second circumcision, that is to say, redone, repeated, and recalled and renewed after a long interval (Serarius). The sense: Revive the custom of circumcision, intermitted for a long time in the desert (Menochius, Tirinus, similarly Junius, Piscator, Bonfrerius, Cunæus’ Concerning the Republic of the Jews[23] 3:5. The same man is not commanded to be circumcised, but the same people/nation, who had first been circumcised in their parents in Egypt, and here is commanded to be circumcised in their sons (Lapide).

Circumcise again; he calleth this a second circumcision, not as if these same persons had been circumcised once before, either by Joshua, or by any other, for the contrary is affirmed below, verse 7; but with respect unto the body of the people, whereof one part had been circumcised before, and the other at this time, which is called a second time, in relation to some former time wherein they were circumcised; either, 1. In Egypt, when many of the people, who possibly for fear or favour of the Egyptians had neglected this duty, were by the command of Moses (who had been awakened by the remembrance of his own neglect and danger thereupon) circumcised; which during the ten plagues, and the grievous confusion and consternation of the Egyptians, they might easily find opportunity to do. Or, 2. At Sinai, when they received the passover, Numbers 9:5, which no uncircumcised person might do, Exodus 12:48; and therefore it may not seem improbable, that all the children born in that first year after their coming out of Egypt, and all they who peradventure might come out of Egypt in their uncircumcision, were now circumcised. Objection 1. All that came out of Egypt were circumcised, verse 5. Answer 1. This may be true, but he doth not say when and where they were circumcised; nor doth he deny that this was done to some of them, either in time of the plagues in Egypt, or at Sinai. 2. All is very oft used of the greatest part, as is confessed. Objection 2. All the people that were born in the wilderness were not circumcised, verse 5. Answer 1. Understand this also of the greatest part. 2. This is limited to them that were born by the way, as it is said there, and emphatically repeated, verse 7, that is, in their journeys and travellings; which insinuates the reason why they were not circumcised, because they were always uncertain of their stay in any place, and were constantly to be in a readiness for a removal when God took up the cloud: but this reason ceased at Sinai, where they knew they were to abide for a considerable time; and seeing they took that opportunity for the celebration of the passover, it is likely they would improve it also to the circumcision of their children or others, which they ought to prize highly, and to embrace all occasions offered for it; which though the people might, it is not likely that Moses would neglect. Objection 3. They are said to have remained uncircumcised forty whole years in the wilderness, verse 6. Answer. That is, For almost forty years; as the same phrase is used Numbers 14:33,34; 32:13, when there was above one year of that number past and gone. Or, 3. In Abraham; and so the sense may be, The first circumcision conferred upon Abraham, and continued in his posterity, hath been for many years neglected or omitted; and so that great and solemn pledge of my covenant with you is in a manner wholly lost, and therefore it is but fit and necessary to have this long-interrupted practice of circumcision revived, and to have Abraham’s posterity circumcised a second time for the renewing of the covenant between them and me again.

[1] Hebrew: בָּעֵ֣ת הַהִ֗יא אָמַ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ עֲשֵׂ֥ה לְךָ֖ חַֽרְב֣וֹת צֻרִ֑ים וְשׁ֛וּב מֹ֥ל אֶת־בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל שֵׁנִֽית׃

[2] Hebrew: חַֽרְב֣וֹת צֻרִ֑ים.

[3] Bereshith Rabba, or Genesis Rabbah, is a sixth century midrash on Genesis.  It provides explanations and interpretations of words and phrases, which explanations are often only loosely connected with the text.  It draws upon the Mishna, Tosefta, and Targums.

[4] Exodus 4:25a:  “Then Zipporah took a flint (צֹר), and cut off the foreskin of her son…”

[5] Moses Maimonides, or Rambam (1135-1204), is reckoned by many to be the greatest Jewish scholar of his age.  In the Hebrew Scriptures, Rabbinic tradition, natural science, and Aristotelian philosophy, Maimonides demonstrates great command and almost equal facility.

[6] Moreh Nevochim.

[7] Gaius Valerius Catullus (c. 84 BC-c. 54 BC) was a Roman poet.

[8] Berecynthia is a mountain in Phrygia, associated with the worship of Cybele.

[9] Attis was a Phyrigian shepherd, and the object of Cybele’s affection.

[10] The Galli were priests of Cybele; it is said of them that they castrated themselves in the midst of ecstatic worship rituals.

[11] Mestrius Plutarchus (c. 46-127) was a Greek historian.

[12] Parallel Lives “Nicias” 13:2.

[13] Pottery made in Gaul is sometimes referred to as “Samian”.

[14] Babylonian Talmud Yebamot 72a.

[15] Simon bar Kokhba was the Jewish leader of a revolt against the Roman Empire in 132 AD.  In response, Hadrian sent the Roman army.  There were massive casualties on both sides, but the revolt was effectually suppressed.

[16] Proverbs 24:21:  “My son, fear thou the Lord and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change (שׁוֹנִים)…”

[17] Proverbs 26:11:  “As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth (שׁוֹנֶה) to his folly.”

[18] See Numbers 13; 14; Deuteronomy 9:23.

[19] See Answer to the Jews 3.

[20] Exodus 4:24-26.

[21] Exodus 10:21-23.

[22] Exodus 12:2, 6; 19:1.

[23] Peter Cunæus (1586-1638) studied under Scaliger and Drusius, and in 1611 he became Professor of Law at Leiden.  His De Republica Judæorum was based upon Bonaventure Cornelius Bertram’s work of the same title, but enlarged with his own research.  The republic of the ancient Israelites is set forth as a pattern for the republic of the Dutch.  His book was well-received by Hebraists and Calvinists in the Netherlands.