Joshua 5:9: The Mysterious Case of Israel’s Circumcision at Gilgal, Part 6

Verse 9:[1] And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.

[I have taken away the reproach of Egypt, גַּלּוֹתִי] I rolled away (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Drusius out of the Hebrews, Masius). To roll away reproach from someone is to free him from disgrace and shame, and to render to him his dignity, Psalm 119:22[2] (Masius). Question: What is the reproach of Egypt here? Responses: 1. The shame that the Egyptians were casting upon the Israelites, namely, that the Lord led them out so that He might destroy them.[3] This now ceased, when God had introduced them into the land of Canaan (Vatablus, Menochius). Thus Ralbag [that is, Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon]. And perhaps the Egyptians that were with the Israelites in the desert either privately or publicly reproached the Israelites (Menochius). From these jeers God now freed them, while He by means of circumcision assures them of the possession of the land of Canaan (Rabbi Levi in Masius). 2. This is said, because both in customs and manner of life they are yet more able to be called Egyptians than Hebrews, and they, not yet having been circumcised, are able in nothing to be distinguished from them. To this these words have regard, that they might thoroughly blot out the desire of Egypt from their souls, and, with the vice-filled manners of that people left behind, might direct their life by the standard prescribed to them by Moses (Masius). That is to say, You, bound to me by a new covenant of circumcision, and already brought into possession of the Promised Land, I will to strip of depraved rites and manners (which you have imbibed from the Egyptians), and especially the desire of the land of Egypt, which was your greates disgrace and shame (Malvenda). 3. This shame is Egyptian servitude: They are said to be freed from the reproach of Egypt, because, having been sent through circumcision unto possession of the land of Canaan, they are now lords of the Promised Land, who were just recently the slaves of the Egyptians (Theodotion in Masius). 4. To others this shame is the foreskin, which, just as it had always adhered to the Egyptians, so also to the Israelites for forty years now (Serarius, thus Bonfrerius, Estius, Menochius, Lapide, Piscator, Munster). Which was shameful, because it was a sign that they were strangers to the covenant of God (Piscator), and it was accounted as shameful by the Israelites. See Genesis 34:14; 1 Samuel 14:6; 17:26. But why is this called the reproach of Egypt, when all other nations were uncircumcised, and the Egyptians were wont to circumcise themselves, Jeremiah 9:25, 26; Herodotus’[4] The Histories 2 (Serarius)? Diodorus Siculus in his Historical Library[5] 1, and Strabo in his Geography 17, and Philo in Concerning Circumcision, testify to the same thing. Responses: 1. In later times they received circumcision, but not at this time, as Exodus 2:6 teaches, in which the infant Moses was recognized to be a Hebrew from his circumcision. 2. Because the uncircumcision of the Egyptians was more familiar to them than of others (Bonfrerius, Serarius). 3. Because the Idumæans and neighbors of the posterity of Abraham are thought with some likelihood to have been circumcised (Estius). 4. The Egyptians were turning it to their disgrace, that circumcision, which they so much commended, they themselves neglected for so long a time (Serarius). 5. They were liable to this ignominy for the reason that they had dwelt in Egypt for so long (Vatablus). 6. It is called the reproach of Egypt, that is, drawn from Egypt, because that omission happened on account of this cause, that they longed to return into Egypt, and, although they were not able actually to return, in heart they always hoped for it, and therefore by the office of circumcision they desisted (Junius in Serarius). But this was refuted above (Serarius). 5. To others this ignominy was the belief that some had that they had worshipped the Egyptian gods (Hebrews in Vatablus).

The reproach of Egypt, that is, uncircumcision, which was both in truth, and in the opinion of the Jews, a matter of great reproach, Genesis 34:14; 1 Samuel 14:6; 17:26. And although this was a reproach common to most nations of the world, yet it is particularly called the reproach of Egypt; either, 1. Because the other neighbouring nations, being the children of Abraham by the concubines, are supposed to have been circumcised, which the Egyptians at this time were not, as may be gathered from Exodus 2:6, where they knew the child to be an Hebrew by this mark. Or, 2. Because they came out of Egypt, and were esteemed to be a sort of Egyptians, Numbers 22:5, which they justly thought a great reproach; but by their circumcision they were now distinguished from them, and manifested to be another kind of people. Or, 3. Because many of them lay under this reproach in Egypt, having wickedly neglected this duty there for worldly reasons; and others of them continued in the same shameful condition for many years in the wilderness.

[And it was called] Hebrew: and he called,[6] namely, Joshua, or God, or he that imposed the name on that place (Malvenda, Masius). Or passively, after the manner of the Hebrews, it was called (Malvenda).

[Gilgal] Namely, because of the shame rolled away from them (Malvenda).

[Unto the present day] Therefore, this book was written long after the times of Joshua (Piscator). [But others deny that this is rightly concluded, as previously noted.]

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ הַיּ֗וֹם גַּלּ֛וֹתִי אֶת־חֶרְפַּ֥ת מִצְרַ֖יִם מֵעֲלֵיכֶ֑ם וַיִּקְרָ֞א שֵׁ֣ם הַמָּק֤וֹם הַהוּא֙ גִּלְגָּ֔ל עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃

[2] Psalm 119:22:  “Remove (גַּל) from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies.”

[3] Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13-16; Deuteronomy 9:28.

[4] Herodotus (c. 484-c. 425) was a Greek historian, sometimes called “The Father of History”.

[5] Diodorus Siculus (c. 90-c. 30 BC), a Greek historian, wrote the massive Bibliotheca Historica in forty books.  Unhappily, only fifteen books have survived.

[6] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרָא.

1 thought on “Joshua 5:9: The Mysterious Case of Israel’s Circumcision at Gilgal, Part 6

  1. Matthew Henry: “The names given to the place where this was done, to perpetuate the memory of it…. 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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