Joshua 5:4-6: The Mysterious Case of Israel’s Circumcision at Gilgal, Part 3

Verse 4:[1] And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: (Num. 14:29; 26:64, 65; Deut. 2:16) All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt.

[Now, this is the cause, etc., וְזֶ֥ה הַדָּבָ֖ר אֲשֶׁר־מָ֣ל] And this is the word for which reason he circumcised (Montanus). Now, in this manner he thoroughly purged (Septuagint). Now, these are they that he circumcised (Syriac). This is the cause because of which, etc. (Arabic, Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, similarly Junius and Tremellius); thus in Genesis 12, עַל־דְּבַר, on account of the cause of Abraham, that is, because of Abraham.[2] It is closely related that דָּבָר is put in the place of case, matter of dispute, lawsuit, Exodus 18:16.[3] This is the word, that is, the thing; Metonomy of adjunct (Piscator). Thus, not any thing, πᾶν ῥῆμα, any word, is impossible with God, Luke 1:37 (Drusius).

[All the people] Take it of those alone that had kept themselves from that sin, concerning which Numbers 14 (Masius).

All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness: This is to be restrained to such as were then above twenty years old, and such as were guilty of that rebellion, Numbers 14, as it is expressed below, Joshua 5:6.


Verse 5:[4] Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised.

They; either their parents, or the rulers of Israel, whose omission hereof was not through neglect; for then God, who had ordered the neglecter of circumcision to be cut off, Genesis 17:14, would not have left so gross a fault unpunished; but by Divine permission and indulgence; partly because they were now in a journey, in which case the passover also might be neglected, Numbers 9:10, 13, and in that journey the passover was but once observed; and partly because there was not so great a necessity of this note of circumcision to distinguish them from other nations, whilst they dwelt alone and unmixed in the wilderness, as there was afterwards.


Verse 6:[5] For the children of Israel walked (Num. 14:33; Deut. 1:3; 2:7, 14; Ps. 95:10) forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that (Num. 14:23; Ps. 95:11; Heb. 3:11) he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, (Exod. 3:8) a land that floweth with milk and honey.

[For forty years] But the Septuagint has forty-two. Evidently they supposed that those forty years in Numbers 14:33, fixed and determined from that fateful day, are to be numbered. For at that time they had already spent two years from their departure from Egypt, and additionally some few months, in the wilderness. But Moses himself reckons forty years, and no more, unto the plains of Moab. But concerning these things, see further discussion on Joshua 11:18 (Masius).

All the people; the Hebrew word commonly signifies the Gentiles;[6] so he calls them, to note that they were unworthy of the name and privileges of Israelites.

[Until they were consumed, who had not hearkened to the voice of the Lord, and to whom He had previously sworn that He would not show the land to them,אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־שָׁמְע֖וּ בְּק֣וֹל יְהוָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֙ר נִשְׁבַּ֤ע יְהוָה֙ לָהֶ֔ם וגו״[7]] Who had not hearkened to the voice of Jehovah: namely, to whom He had sworn, etc. (Pagnine, Dutch). Who had not acquiesced to the speech of God in which He had sworn (Arabic, Jonathan). Who had not listened to the voice of Jehovah: to such an extent that He swore, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). Because they did not hearken to the voice of the Lord, and because the Lord swore to them (Tigurinus) (or, whence also the Lord swore to them [Munster]). Because they had not hearkened to the voice of Jehovah, and the Lord had sworn to them (Syriac). The connection of the words is quite intricate, but has this sense: Who, I say, perished along the way in the desert, etc., because they had not obeyed the voice of the Lord; they are they to whom the Lord swore that He was not going to give the land, etc. (Masius). It is to be observed here that those sinners are called, not His people, but גּוֹי/nation,[8] in this verse (and also in verse 8[9]), that is, by an odious term, and which generally signified profane men and strangers to the covenant, from which they had made themselves strangers through that scandal. Moreover, the change of person in this verse, whereby it is said that He was going to give to us, in the place of He was going to give to their seed, indicates the antithesis between those descendants that degenerate from them through vice, and those that tread in their footsteps (Masius).

He would not show them, that is, not give them so much as a sight of it, which he granted to Moses, much less the possession and enjoyment of it. Or showing is put for giving, as it is Psalm 4:6; 60:3; Ecclesiastes 2:24.[10]

[1] Hebrew: וְזֶ֥ה הַדָּבָ֖ר אֲשֶׁר־מָ֣ל יְהוֹשֻׁ֑עַ כָּל־הָעָ֣ם הַיֹּצֵא֩ מִמִּצְרַ֙יִם הַזְּכָרִ֜ים כֹּ֣ל׀ אַנְשֵׁ֣י הַמִּלְחָמָ֗ה מֵ֤תוּ בַמִּדְבָּר֙ בַּדֶּ֔רֶךְ בְּצֵאתָ֖ם מִמִּצְרָֽיִם׃

[2] Genesis 12:17:  “And the Lord plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram’s wife (עַל־דְּבַ֥ר שָׂרַ֖י אֵ֥שֶׁת אַבְרָֽם׃).”

[3] Exodus 18:16:  “When they have a matter (כִּֽי־יִהְיֶ֙ה לָהֶ֤ם דָּבָר֙), they come unto me; and I judge between one and another, and I do make them know the statutes of God, and his laws.”

[4] Hebrew: כִּֽי־מֻלִ֣ים הָי֔וּ כָּל־הָעָ֖ם הַיֹּֽצְאִ֑ים וְכָל־הָ֠עָם הַיִּלֹּדִ֙ים בַּמִּדְבָּ֥ר בַּדֶּ֛רֶךְ בְּצֵאתָ֥ם מִמִּצְרַ֖יִם לֹא־מָֽלוּ׃

[5] Hebrew: כִּ֣י׀ אַרְבָּעִ֣ים שָׁנָ֗ה הָלְכ֣וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵל֮ בַּמִּדְבָּר֒ עַד־תֹּ֙ם כָּל־הַגּ֜וֹי אַנְשֵׁ֤י הַמִּלְחָמָה֙ הַיֹּצְאִ֣ים מִמִּצְרַ֔יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־שָׁמְע֖וּ בְּק֣וֹל יְהוָ֑ה אֲשֶׁ֙ר נִשְׁבַּ֤ע יְהוָה֙ לָהֶ֔ם לְבִלְתִּ֞י הַרְאוֹתָ֣ם אֶת־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁר֩ נִשְׁבַּ֙ע יְהוָ֤ה לַֽאֲבוֹתָם֙ לָ֣תֶת לָ֔נוּ אֶ֛רֶץ זָבַ֥ת חָלָ֖ב וּדְבָֽשׁ׃

[6] Hebrew: כָּל־הַגּוֹי.

[7] אֲשֶׁר can serve as a relative, or a causal, particle.

[8] גּוֹי is a normal way to refer to a Gentile nation.

[9] Joshua 5:8:  “And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people (כָל־הַגּוֹי), that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole.”

[10] Ecclesiastes 2:24:  “There is nothing better for a man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should show (וְהֶרְאָה) his soul good in his labour.  This also I saw, that it was from the hand of God.”

Leave a Comment