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.

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

  1. We know that all of the Scripture is about our Jesus, but what a delight when He comes into the immediate foreground, demanding our attention, commanding our awe, drawing our hearts!

    –Dr. Dilday

  2. Robert Hawker, “Poor Man’s Portion”: “‘And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lift up his eyes, and looked, and behold, there stood a man over against him, with his sword drawn in his hand. And Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, art thou for us, or for our adversaries? And he said, nay, but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship.’—Josh 5:13-14

    Behold, my soul, what a most blessed portion here is, for thee to feast upon, in almost endless thought. Who could this be, that appeared to Joshua, but the Lord Jesus Christ? Who ever called himself the Captain of the Lord’s host; but he whom the Holy Ghost hath called, ‘the Captain of our salvation?’ Hebrews 2:10. Is he not the same who appeared to Adam in the garden, to Abraham in his tent, to Jacob at Bethel, to Moses at the bush? And though he diversified his form, upon these and several other occasions; yet all were only intended to familiarize his people to the knowledge of him. And wherefore, dearest Jesus, was it, that thou didst thus graciously condescend to visit thy chosen, so long before the time appointed for the open display of thyself, when tabernacling in flesh, but to tell thy church, that thy whole heart was towards them in love, and that the thoughts thou hadst towards them, were thoughts of good and not of evil? And although, in this thy appearance to thy servant Joshua, thou didst assume the human form; yet as Captain of the Lord’s host, he instantly knew thy glorious character of Mediator, and fell to the earth in adoration. Hail then, thou almighty Lord, thou Captain of the Lord’s host, and of my salvation! thou hast indeed, indeed entered the lists of the holy war, and in thine own person, led captivity captive, and fully conquered Satan and sin, and death, and hell, for thy people: and thou wilt assuredly conquer all those tremendous foes of ours, in thy people, and bruise Satan under our feet shortly. Indeed, indeed, dear Lord, thou hast already brought them under; for by thy sovereign grace in the hearts of thy redeemed, thou hast made thy people ‘willing in the day of thy power.’ By the sword of thy Spirit, thou hast convinced my soul of sin, and by the arrows of thy quiver, thou hast wounded my heart with deep contrition for sin. Lord, I fall before thee, as thy servant Joshua did, and worship thee; and with all the church of the redeemed, both in heaven and earth, cheerfully confess, ‘that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.’ Amen.”

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