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.

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

  1. Full of marrow and spiritual sap, Matthew Henry: “We have hitherto found God often speaking to Joshua, but we read not till now of any appearance of God’s glory to him; now that his difficulties increased his encouragements were increased in proportion. Observe,

    I. The time when he was favoured with this vision. It was immediately after he had performed the great solemnities of circumcision and the passover; then God made himself known to him. Note, We may then expect the discoveries of the divine grace when we are found in the way of our duty and are diligent and sincere in our attendance on holy ordinances.

    II. The place where he had this vision. It was by Jericho; in Jericho, so the word is; in it by faith and hope, though as yet he had not begun to lay siege to it; in it in thought and expectation; or in the fields of Jericho, hard by the city. There, it should seem, he was all alone, fearless of danger, because sure of the divine protection. There he was (some think) meditating and praying; and to those who are so employed God often graciously manifests himself. Or perhaps there he was to take a view of the city, to observe its fortifications, and contrive how to attack it; and perhaps he was at a loss within himself how to make his approaches, when God came and directed him. Note, God will help those that help themselves. Vigilantibus non dormientibus succurrit lex—The law succours those who watch, not those who sleep. Joshua was in his post as a general, when God came and made himself known as Generalissimo.

    III. The appearance itself. Joshua, as is usual with those that are full of thought and care, was looking downwards, his eyes fixed on the ground, when of a sudden he was surprised with the appearance of a man who stood before him at some little distance, which obliged him to lift up his eyes, and gave a diversion to his musings, Joshua 5:13. He appeared to him as a man, but a considerable man, and one fit to be taken notice of. Now, 1. We have reason to think that this man was the Son of God, the eternal Word, who, before he assumed the human nature for a perpetuity, frequently appeared in a human shape. So bishop Patrick thinks, consonant to the judgment of the fathers. Joshua gave him divine honours, and he received them, which a created angel would not have done, and he is called Jehovah, Joshua 6:2. 2. He here appeared as a soldier, with his sword drawn in his hand. To Abraham in his tent he appeared as a traveller; to Joshua in the field as a man of war. Christ will be to his people what their faith expects and desires. Christ had his sword drawn, which served, (1.) To justify the war Joshua was engaging in, and to show him that it was of God, who gave him commission to kill and slay. If the sovereign draw the sword, this proclaims war, and authorizes the subject to do so too. The sword is then well drawn when Christ draws it, and gives the banner to those that fear him, to be displayed because of the truth, Psalm 60:4. (2.) To encourage him to carry it on with vigour; for Christ’s sword drawn in his hand denotes how ready he is for the defence and salvation of his people, who through him shall do valiantly. His sword turns every way.

    IV. The bold question with which Joshua accosted him; he did not send a servant, but stepped up to him himself, and asked, Art thou for us or for our adversaries? which intimates his readiness to entertain him if he were for them, and to fight him if he were against them. This shows, 1. His great courage and resolution. He was not ruffled by the suddenness of the appearance, nor daunted with the majesty and bravery which no doubt appeared in the countenance of the person he saw; but, with a presence of mind that became so great a general, put this fair question to him. God had bidden Joshua be courageous, and by this it appears that he was so; for what God by his word requires of his people he does by his grace work in them. 2. His great concern for the people and their cause; so heartily has he embarked in the interests of Israel that none shall stand by him with the face of a man but he will know whether he be a friend or a foe. It should seem, he suspected him for an enemy, a Goliath that had come to defy the armies of the living God, and to give him a challenge. Thus apt are we to look upon that as against us which is most for us. The question plainly implies that the cause between the Israelites and the Canaanites, between Christ and Beelzebub, will not admit of a neutrality. He that is not with us is against us.

    V. The account he gave of himself, Joshua 5:14. ‘Nay, not for your adversaries, you may be sure, but as captain of the host of the Lord have I now come, not only for you as a friend, but over you as commander in chief.’ Here were now, as of old (Genesis 32:2), Mahanaim, two hosts, a host of Israelites ready to engage the Canaanites and a host of angels to protect them therein, and he, as captain of both, conducts the host of Israel and commands the host of angels to their assistance. Perhaps in allusion to this Christ is called the captain of our salvation (Hebrews 2:10), and a leader and commander to the people, Isaiah 55:4. Those cannot but be victorious that have such a captain. He now came as captain to review the troops, to animate them, and to give the necessary orders for the besieging of Jericho.

    VI. The great respect Joshua paid him when he understood who he was; it is probable that he perceived, not only by what he said but by some other sensible indications, that he was a divine person, and not a man. 1. Joshua paid homage to him: He fell on his face to the earth and did worship. Joshua was himself general of the forces of Israel, and yet he was far from looking with jealousy upon this stranger, who produced a commission as captain of the Lord’s host above him; he did not offer to dispute his claims, but cheerfully submitted to him as his commander. It will become the greatest of men to be humble and reverent in their addresses to God. 2. He begged to receive commands and directions from him: What saith my Lord unto his servant? His former question was not more bold and soldier-like than this was pious and saint-like; nor was it any disparagement to the greatness of Joshua’s spirit thus to humble himself when he had to do with God: even crowned heads cannot bow to low before the throne of the Lord Jesus, who is King of kings, Psalm 2:10, 11; 72:10, 11; Revelation 19:16. Observe, (1.) The relation he owns between himself and Christ, that Christ was his Lord and himself his servant and under his command, Christ his Captain and himself a soldier under him, to do as he is bidden, Matthew 8:9. Note, The foundation of all acceptable obedience is laid in a sincere dedication of ourselves, as servants to Jesus Christ as our Lord, Psalm 16:2. (2.) The enquiry he makes pursuant to this relation: What saith my Lord? which implies an earnest desire to know the will of Christ, and a cheerful readiness and resolution to do it. Joshua owns himself an inferior officer, and stands to receive orders. This temper of mind shows him fit for the post he was in; for those know best how to command that know how to obey.”

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