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׃.

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

  1. Matthew Henry: “The people’s obedience to these orders: Joshua circumcised the children of Israel (Joshua 5:3), not himself with his own hands, but he commanded that it should be done, and took care that it was done: it might soon be despatched, for it was not necessary that it should be done by a priest or Levite, but any one might be employed to do it. All those that were under twenty years old when the people were numbered at Mount Sinai, and not being numbered with them fell not by the fatal sentence, were circumcised, and by them all the rest might be circumcised in a little time. The people had promised to hearken to Joshua as they had hearkened to Moses (Joshua 1:17), and here they gave an instance of their dutifulness by submitting to this painful institution, and not calling him for the sake of it a bloody governor, as Zipporah because of the circumcision called Moses a bloody husband.

    The names given to the place where this was done, to perpetuate the memory of it. (1.) It was called the hill of the foreskins, Joshua 5:3. Probably the foreskins that were cut off were laid on a heap, and covered with earth, so that they made a little hillock. (2.) It was called Gilgal, from a word which signifies to take away, from that which God said to Joshua (Joshua 5:9), This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt. God is jealous for the honour of his people, his own honour being so much interested in it; and, whatever reproach they may lie under for a time, first or last it will certainly be rolled away, and every tongue that riseth up against them he will condemn. [1.] Their circumcision rolled away the reproach of Egypt. They were hereby owned to be the freeborn children of God, having the seal of the covenant in their flesh, and so the reproach of their bondage in Egypt was removed. They were tainted with the idolatry of Egypt, and that was their reproach; but now that they were circumcised it was to be hoped they would be so entirely devoted to God that the reproach of their affection to Egypt would be rolled away. [2.] Their coming safely to Canaan rolled away the reproach of Egypt, for it silenced that spiteful suggestion of the Egyptians, that for mischief they were brought out, the wilderness had shut them in, Exodus 14:3. Their wandering so long in the wilderness confirmed the reproach, but now that they had entered Canaan in triumph that reproach was done away. When God glorifies himself in perfecting the salvation of his people he not only silences the reproach of their enemies, but rolls it upon themselves.”

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