Joshua 4-5

Sunday Evening Bible Study

March 14, 1999


The book of Joshua is a book about receiving God’s promises. The Israelites have taken 40 years getting through the wilderness, a journey that could have been done in two weeks. It was their lack of faith that made it last longer than it could have. But the point is that they are now ready to go in. Joshua is the man to lead them in.

Joshua 4

:1-9 Setting up the Memorial

:8 twelve stones ... according to the number of tribes

Showing that all tribes were together, working together. They would set up a monument made up of twelve stones from out of the Jordan River, a way of remembering what God had done when they crossed.

:9 twelve stones in the midst of Jordan

This is a very interesting verse.

There's lots of discussion between the scholars on whether this is a second set of stones or just the same set of stones.

Some say that this is just the same set of stones - NIV translates it this way. (incorrectly too)

It seems that the best way of taking this is just the way it says, that Joshua is setting up another set of twelve stones, but this set is going in the river.

It's possible that after the river returned to normal, that you would have seen the top of the stones sticking out of the river, adding more evidence to the other set of stones that such an event actually occurred.

:9 unto this day

Meaning: unto the day of the writing of Joshua, not necessarily March 14, 1999.

:10-13 Eastern Tribes come along

:12 the children of Reuben ...

These were the two and a half tribes that decided to settle on the eastern side of the Jordan.

They had made an agreement with Moses that if they could settle on the eastern side, which was a great place for their flocks, then they would still help the other tribes by sending all their men to fight and take the land.

:13 About forty thousand prepared for war

This is the number of men coming from Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, not the number of men in the entire nation.

The numbers of these tribes after the second census in the wilderness (Num.26), those 20 years and upward, able to go to war:

Reuben (Num.26:7) - 43,730

Gad (Num.26:18) - 40,500

Manasseh (Num.26:34) - 52,700 (but only 1/2 of Manasseh stayed in the east, so make it 26,350)

That makes a total of 110,580 soldiers

How come only 40,000 come across? Because they only sent representative armies. The rest of the men stayed on the eastern side of the Jordan to protect their homes and cities.


Balancing ministry with family

If we're not careful, we can sacrifice our families on the altar of ministry.

Our kids can grow up resenting church, because that's what took their Daddy or Mommy away from them so many times.

These eastern tribes kept 2/3 of the men at home, presumably to protect and take care of the women and children.

They are never rebuked for this "lack of commitment", but instead are commended later by Joshua for fulfilling their commitment.

(Josh 22:2 KJV) And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you:

Make sure you take care of your family first.

:14 Joshua's exaltation

:14 the Lord magnified Joshua

God had promised Joshua that this would be the thing to start the people respecting him and his leadership.

Joshua 3:7-AV And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, [so] I will be with thee.

Now God has kept His promise to Joshua.

:15-18 The river returns

:18 ... the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up unto the dry land ...

As soon as the priests get up onto the riverbank on the western side, the water comes back into the river.

This is no freak of nature, where the Jordan happens to dry up for a period of time, then sooner or later flows back. This was God's hand at work.

God can certainly work through natural means, and He often does. But God isn't limited to the natural. He's the God of the supernatural as well.

:18 the waters of Jordan returned unto their place

Alexander Maclaren wrote, "The one point made prominent is the instantaneous rush back to the impatient torrent as soon as the curb was taken off. Like some horse rejoicing to be free, the tawny flood pours down, and soon everything looks "as aforetime" except for the new rock, piled by human hands, round which the water chafed."

This was an incredible miracle, crossing the Jordan like this during the flood season. But now I kind of wonder if part of God's reasoning was so that when Israel got across, and the river came back to its flood stage, that Israel couldn't change it's mind and return!


No Turning Back.

Some have suggested that the history of Israel coming out of Egypt, wandering in the wilderness, and taking the Promised Land ends up being a kind of picture of the Christian life. I can certainly see some possibilities here. It’s not a perfect picture, but there are a lot of lessons we can learn from it.

The land of Egypt is a picture of the old, secular life, living in bondage to sin and to Satan. But we are set free from Egypt when we come under the blood of the Passover Lamb, just as we are set free when Jesus comes into our life.

Yet for many Christians, their life is very much like the wilderness. They feel like they’re constantly on the move, but never getting anywhere. They cover lots of territory, but have nothing to show for it. Their life is filled with the grumblings and murmurings like Israel in the wilderness.

And then there comes a time when we get serious about living the life of Promise, the life controlled with the Holy Spirit. That’s when we "cross over Jordan" and begin to enter into the promises.

As you’ll see, the life of the Spirit is no cake walk. There are still going to be plenty of enemies and problems. There will be lots of fear and discouragement. But with every battle, ground is taken. Every time the people move, it’s to take and gain new ground.

One of the subtle lessons is here at the Jordan. The river goes back to normal, and there’s no way back.

With the walk in the Spirit, there is also a sense in which there is no way back. Not that we couldn’t go back to the old life, but the question would be, "why?"


My sons started out with a single black and white Gameboy. They took turns. They played it whenever they could. Until there was "Color Gameboy". Now they each have their own "Color Gameboy". And the little black and white Gameboy just sits there. Unused. Lonely. Why? Because why would anyone want to play in black and white when they’ve played in color. Why would anyone want to go back to the old life in the world once they’ve tasted the fulness that the Spirit has to offer. There’s no way back. No turning back.

:19-24 Reasons for the Memorial

:19 tenth day of the first month

This was also the day when the preparations for Passover were to start. On the tenth day of the first month, each family was to select their lamb to slaughter for Passover. (Ex.12:3-5)

Passover would occur on the fourteenth of the first month. We'll see in the next chapter that they keep the Passover (Jos. 5:10)

:19 in Gilgal

About 5 miles from the river banks (Josephus: 50 stadia), about two miles from Jericho.

:21 What mean these stones?

Two notes about this memorial:

1. The memorial was solid

It was made of stone, something real and solid.

The faith of the Israelites was to be based upon solid facts.

Not only was the crossing of the Jordan an historical fact, but the solidity of the rocks was a permanent testimony.

Our faith is also to be built upon a solid foundation. There are real, solid, historical facts behind what we believe. The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is the very cornerstone of our faith. And the historical evidence of the resurrection is mind blowing. Once you’ve looked into the facts, there is no denying that Jesus rose from the dead.

Be careful not to base your faith solely upon feelings - they're shaky and unstable.

2. The memorial was visible.

The kids saw something that made them ask questions. (vs.21)

Do our kids see anything in our lives that make them want to know more about the Lord?

Or are we so busy complaining about the things of God, especially the church, that all they see is the junk?

Jesus said,

(Mat 5:14-16 KJV) Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. {15} Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. {16} Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Do your kids ever see you reading your Bible? Do they ever see you praying? Do they ever see you living out your faith in good works?

Joshua 5

:1 their hearts melted

In a way, this would have been a great time to attack immediately, while the enemy was discouraged. Yet God had other plans for Israel. Rather than attack immediately, God wanted to make sure the people were in the right place spiritually. In fact, because of what was going to happen, it was a good thing the enemy was too scared to attack Israel.

:3 the hill of the foreskins

Hebrew name: Gibeath-haaraloth, as in some of the translations.

:3 circumcised

What was circumcision?

The first time we see circumcision in the Bible is in Gen.17, with Abraham.

He was told to cut off the foreskin, a part of his flesh, as a reminder of his agreement with God. It was a very private, but painful thing.

It would put him in direct contradiction to the practices of the day involving adultery, fornication, and homosexuality.

From that time on, every male descendant of Abraham was to be circumcised, not just showing that he belonged to the descendants of Abraham, but he belonged to God.

But circumcision carried a deeper significance than just identification with Abraham.

God wants the lessons of circumcision to be something that touches the heart.

(Rom 2:28-29 KJV) For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: {29} But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.

It symbolized a cutting off of the flesh, a separation from the fleshly, sin nature.

(Col 2:11 KJV) In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

:8 till they were whole

This is going to be a very vulnerable time for Israel. When an adult man gets circumcised it takes about a week to recover to the point where you can move about. When Jacob’s sons (Gen. 34) wanted revenge on the city of Shechem because Shechem’s prince had raped their sister, they tricked the men of the city into becoming circumcised, and after the three days, when the men of the city were at their worst, the sons of Jacob came and slaughtered the entire city.

What Israel is doing, here on the western side of the Jordan, is VERY dangerous.


Sometimes following God isn't the safest thing to do.

Most of us are always looking for the safest way to do things. And sometimes, the things that God desires of us don’t look so "safe".

Declaring all your income to the IRS, even the under the table cash payments.

Lying on the phone to make a sale, like the other salesmen.

Sometimes the safest place to be is with the "risk-takers"


Risk takers

During World War II, psychologist E. Paul Torrance made a study of United States aces flying in the Pacific theater of operations. He reported that the most salient characteristic of the ace was his risk- taking ability. Throughout his life, he had kept testing the limits of his abilities. And the life histories of these men showed that they were highly resistant to accidents, and in combat they suffered fewer casualties than pilots who were inclined to play it safe. Dr. Torrance said, "Living itself is a risky business. If we spent half as much time learning how to take risks as we spend avoiding them, we wouldn't have nearly so much to fear in life."

:9 Gilgal

the name means "rolling" (Gilgal Ebenim = rolling stones)

:9 rolled away the reproach of Egypt

What is the "reproach of Egypt"?

There have been a number of suggestions as to what this means, but probably the best is that it had something to do with being uncircumcised. Apparently, while in Egypt, the people had not practiced circumcision. In Egypt, only the priests and upper-class citizens practiced circumcision.

We were also just told that Joshua was to circumcise Israel "the second time" (vs.2), and some have theorized that the "first time" was when they first got out of Egypt.

Somehow, for some reason, the people stopped circumcising during the wilderness wanderings, so that the entire current generation was uncircumcised.

Now, before coming into the promises God has for them, the people once more take up the ritual of circumcision, setting them apart as different from the peoples of the land.


Circumcision precedes possession

Before we are to enjoy the life of the Spirit, we’re going to have to take steps to cut off the life of the flesh.

Sometimes people have the idea that as long as they get prayed for to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, that their lives are going to instantly, completely change.

But then they go on doing the kinds of things that continually feed their flesh. It may be the kinds of magazines you read, the kind of radio that you listen to, the kinds of TV shows you watch, the places you go on the Internet, the kinds of books you like to read, the kinds of things you talk with your friends about. But there comes a point in the life of the Christian that if you are going to be serious about growing in the Lord, that you are going to have to "circumcise" your heart. The fleshly things are going to have to be cut off.


Every year, our kids’ school has an "Unplugged Week". The kids are all expected to go the entire week without watching any TV or playing any video games. The problem is that this really affects the parents as well! The first time we did this as a family, it caught us off guard how much we had become dependant on TV for our family entertainment. This next week is "Unplugged Week". Try it.

:10 Kept the passover

The Passover was a special time meant for remembering and teaching. (Ex. 12:14)

Communion is very similar for us.

It is a time for remembering and teaching.

(1 Cor 11:23-26 KJV) For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: {24} And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. {25} After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. {26} For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord's death till he come.

It's no coincidence that Jesus gave us the practice of communion during the Passover.

We remember that we too were once under the bondage of sin.

We too faced the judgment of God, death for our sins. But all who take refuge under the blood of the Lamb of God will be "passed over".

:12 the manna ceased

What I see here is a picture of growth.

When they were a newly delivered nation, they were spoon-fed manna in the wilderness. It came easy, they only had to walk outside the camp and scoop it up.

Now that they have matured and are ready to take their Promised Land, they arrive at a new way of finding nourishment.

They're going to have to go out and work hard for it. Before it was easy, now it's going to take some work.

It's kind of like what feeds a Christian.

(Heb 5:12-14 KJV) For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. {13} For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. {14} But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

We see here a process of growth in a Christian's life. Not growth based on time, but on a different kind of maturity. These people had been Christians long enough to have matured in their faith, yet they were still to be considered "babes".

Signs of immaturity:

Ought to be a teacher of the Word, but aren't.

Keep needing to be reminded of the kindergarten principles of being a Christian. (Things like: Repent from your sin, confess your sin, receive God's cleansing.)

Unskillful in the Word of God - they don't know it like they ought.

Signs of maturity:

Knowing enough of God's Word to teach it.

Those who "use" God's Word ("who by reason of use"), putting it to work in their life.

Discernment between good and evil.


As you mature in your walk with the Lord, you will find that it's not going to be enough to just come to Bible Studies and sit and listen.

When you're a new Christian, that's exactly what you need, to come and be spoon fed the Word of God.

As you mature in the Lord, you will find that there is a great element of your "feeding" that will come from working out in the fields.

It's going to take some harder work in your Quiet Times, to dig a little deeper and seek the Lord a little longer.

Finding and serving in the right ministry for you will feed you too. If you're in the ministry that God wants you to be in, you'll find much more "meat" in the Lord as you "exercise" and put to practice the lessons God gives you in His Word.

Maturity in Hebrews 5:14 comes from exercising, putting to practice the things you learn in God's Word.

Maturity requires not only taking in God's Word, but living it out of you as well.

:14 as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come

It's Jesus! Why?

1. Joshua worships him.

If this was simply an angel, Joshua might have been rebuked. (Rev. 22:8-9)

But when Joshua worships Him, he is only told that he should take off his shoes because he's on holy ground.

2. He is called LORD (or, Yahweh) in Jos.6:2

This is what we call a "pre-incarnate theophany" in the Old Testament. Where Jesus shows Himself in some sort of physical form, before coming to earth as a baby in a manger.

:13 Art thou for us, or for our adversaries?

Here, Joshua sees this awesome person, and he wants to know, "Whose side are you on?"

:15 Loose thy shoe from off thy foot ...

about removing shoes ...

The practice of putting them off before entering a temple, a palace, or even the private apartments of a house, was, and is universal in the East. The rationale of it being that the shoes or sandals have dust or dirt attaching to them.

Why was the place holy?

Was Joshua standing at some secret ancient shrine built by secret ancient shriners? or an ancient Indian burial ground? No!

The place was holy because God was there!

Hey Joshua, you're not just standing on some rock looking at Jericho, you're in God's presence!

Have you been any place that's holy lately?

1. We, as a church, are a holy place.

(1 Cor 3:16 KJV) Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?

I believe that the context of this verse indicates that Paul is talking to the church as a group. He's saying "know ye (it's plural, better, "ye all") not..."

Better check your shoes at the door.

2. Each of you is a holy place.

(1 Cor 6:19 KJV) What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

You can't get away from it. You're on holy ground. Maybe we should just go barefoot.