Bible Study
Survey of the Former Prophets - Program 02

John H. Ogwyn (1949-2005)

This Bible Study is part of the "Survey of the Former Prophets" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series

We had come to Joshua 4, where Israel is now preparing to cross the Jordan River. God has miraculously opened up the Jordan River, the priests are standing with the ark in the middle of the River, and now they begin to come across. Joshua 4 tells of that.


This is John Ogwyn for the Living Church of God. Today we are continuing our survey of the Former Prophets, going through the book of Joshua.

We had come to Joshua 4, where Israel is now preparing to cross the Jordan River. God has miraculously opened up the Jordan River, the priests are standing with the ark in the middle of the River, and now they begin to come across. Joshua 4 tells of that. There were twelve men chosen from the twelve tribes, and we read of that in Joshua 4:4. These men were told to take twelve stones from the bottom of the Jordan River, which was of course now empty because God had miraculously parted the water. They were then to come up after the people, each of them to emerge carrying one of these stones. Once they had emerged from the bed of the Jordan River, then the priests bearing the ark came up from the bed of the Jordan. Then it was as though a great giant invisible hand was removed, because now the Jordan flowed back down and became a river at flood stage, which it normally was at this time of year. The purpose of carrying these stones up out of the River was that there on the river bank these stones were piled up and they made a heap or an altar. It was a memorial, it was to remind the children of Israel that God, the Great God of the universe, had miraculously opened up the way of the Jordan and had made it possible for them to enter into the Promised Land. Their ability to inherit, to receive, the promises which God had made was a result of God's intervention, God's blessing. And so it is with us. You and I on our own cannot achieve what God has called us to do. On our own strength, we are unable to grasp and to take the promises, to receive the promises, simply on the basis of our own strength and energy. But God's power enables us to fulfill what He has called us to do.

Joshua 4:19

Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho.

Here they are on the west bank of the Jordan River, still east of Jericho.

Joshua 5 tells the story that as the surrounding peoples heard what had happened-the Canaanites, the Amorites and the various nations-that their heart melted.

Joshua 5:1

Their heart melted and there was no spirit in them any longer because of the children of Israel.

This great miracle-of God actually opening up the river and bringing His people across-of course spread as great news. Now at this time God instructed Joshua that sharp knives were to be made, to circumcise the children of Israel. Circumcision was the sign of the covenant that God had made with Abraham and his descendents. During the course of the forty years in the wilderness, the Israelite boy babies had not been circumcised. But now, as they prepared to inherit the Promised Land-to actually enter into the Promised Land-it was necessary that they take upon themselves the sign of the covenant that God had made with their forbearer, Abraham. Joshua oversaw the circumcision of the children of Israel. That is actually where the name Gilgal comes from. It is derived from a term in the Hebrew that refers to "the cutting"-or the circumcision.

Joshua 5:6

For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness.

When they had the opportunity to enter the Promised Land, almost thirty-nine years earlier, they had not. If you remember the story recorded back in the book of Numbers. Moses had sent twelve spies into the land. Two of the spies, Joshua along with Caleb, brought back a good report. The other ten spies discouraged the people by saying, to paraphrase, "Yes the land which God has promised is a land flowing with milk and honey. It is a wonderful place, but there are giants in the land. We will never be able to achieve what God has called us to do! We will never successfully enter the Promised Land because there are giants that are there. We find the result is that the people allowed fear to take over." They were scared. And God said, in effect, "All right, because you did not believe me, you will wonder forty years in the wilderness. The generation I brought out of Egypt will die in the wilderness and it will only be the next generation that will enter into the Promised Land." So after the circumcision the Lord said:

Joshua 5:9-10

Then the LORD said to Joshua, "This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day.

Now the children of Israel camped in Gilgal, and kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight on the plains of Jericho.

They had crossed (as we saw earlier in Joshua 4:19) on the tenth day of the first month. They crossed the Jordan River, were circumcised immediately afterward and now on the fourteenth day as the evening began that day. Remember that from a Biblical standpoint, days always begin in the evening. From the time right after sunset that began the fourteenth day, the children of Israel then kept that Passover.

Now we find something interesting:

Joshua 5:11

And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day.

God gave instructions in Leviticus 23, when He brought Israel out of the land of Egypt and they were in the wilderness. God began to instruct them about His Festivals. His Festivals outlined the very plan and purpose that God has for mankind. He instructed them, in the early part of Leviticus 23, that they were to celebrate the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. Then the following day-the fifteenth day of the first month-was to be the Feast of Unleavened Bread. For seven days they were to eat unleavened bread. Then at that point the following statement was added in:

Leviticus 23:9-10,14

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you come into the land which I give to you, and reap its harvest, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest.He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD, to be accepted on your behalf; on the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it… 'You shall eat neither bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain until the same day that you have brought an offering to your God.'"

For forty years, God had been miraculously feeding the Israelites through manna. Every day the manna came and the Israelites gathered it every day, except the weekly Sabbath. On the day before the weekly Sabbath-Friday, as we would call it the preparation day-a double portion of manna fell, and the people were able to gather enough for two days. For forty years they had been miraculously fed. They had crossed the Jordan River, been circumcised on the fourteenth day and they observed the Passover. Then, we are told, on the next day (which would of course be the first Day of Unleavened Bread) they ate unleavened cakes and they ate parched grain. They ate of the grain that was growing in the land. But what did they have to do before they ate of it? God had mentioned in Leviticus 23 a ceremony that could not be carried out during the forty years in the wilderness.

Very clearly, that year, the morrow after the Passover was not only the first Day of Unleavened Bread-it was also the day on which the wave sheaf was offered, the morrow after the Sabbath, or Sunday as we would call the first day of the week. In this particular year, the calendar was such that the Passover was observed on the weekly Sabbath. The first Day of Unleavened Bread, this particular year, came on a Sunday-which was also the day of this ceremony, the wave sheaf. This example makes it very clear, because the Israelites had been told, "When you come into the land, this is what you do." They had just come into the land, so this is what they did! They then began to eat of the harvest, and we are told verse 12 "the manna ceased."

Then a remarkable event occurred that is recorded right here in the last three verses of this chapter.

Joshua 5:13

When Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, "Are You for us or for our adversaries?"

Joshua was a bold fellow. God had told him to be strong and courageous. Joshua saw this individual with a drawn sword and he asked, "Are you for us or against us?"

Joshua 5:14

So He said, "No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, "What does my Lord say to His servant?" Then the Commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, "Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy."

Forty years earlier, when God began to reveal Himself to Moses through the burning bush, He told Moses, "Take your shoes off-the ground you're standing on is holy ground." That is what we read right here. The very same One who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush, now reveals Himself to Joshua as the Captain of the Host of the Lord. Joshua was not the real captain: God was. The city of Jericho was very quickly shut up.

Joshua and the children of Israel were told to encompass the city. This was not a regular routine attack; rather, they were told that the priests were to take the Ark of the Covenant. The priests were to go forth bearing trumpets and rams' horns. The people were to follow them and to go out and encompass the city one time. They were to do this each day for seven days. These days were also the seven days of Unleavened Bread that had just started. On the seventh day, they were to do something different. Earlier, they were to go out and circle the city, and the priests were to blow the trumpet, while the people were to be silent. But on the seventh day they were to go around the city once, and then again and then again. They were to go around the city seven times. At the end of those seven times, the priests blew the trumpets, the people shouted and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down! A remarkable event. We have it described in great detail:

Joshua 6:16

And the seventh time it happened, when the priests blew the trumpets, that Joshua said to the people: "Shout, for the LORD has given you the city!"

Then he instructed them that the city was to be recognized as placed under a curse. Everything was to be destroyed. Certain items were to be dedicated to God, but they were not to enrich themselves in any way from this city. This was the beginning of their entrance into the Promised Land, and it was Holy-dedicated unto God. God performed a great miracle. The city was completely destroyed, the walls collapsed and every man went straight forward from where he was. The only part of the wall that did not collapse was the part where Rahab lived. She and her family were protected. The area where she and her family were did not fall down. Then Israel came in and destroyed the city and everything there.

Joshua 6:24-25

They burned the city and all that was in it with fire. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. And Joshua spared Rahab the harlot, her father's household, and all that she had.

We have set the stage for what comes next: the inheritance of the Promised Land. We will go into that next time.

So, until next time, this John Ogwyn for the Living Church of God.