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When the kings of the Amorites, who lived in the hills west of the Jordan, and the kings of the Canaanite cities on the plain by the sea heard how the Eternal had dried up the waters of the Jordan so the Israelites could cross, they were alarmed, and their courage failed at the thought of the advancing Israelites.

At that time, the Eternal One commanded Joshua to make flint knives and reinstate the rite of circumcision for male Israelites. So Joshua made flint knives as he was told to do, and the Israelite males were circumcised at Gibeath-haaraloth.[a] 4-5 This is because all of the male Israelites who had fled from Egypt and all their soldiers who had fought so bravely had been circumcised, but they had died on the long journey. And those who had been born during the journey had not yet been circumcised.

Circumcision—the ritual removal of a male’s foreskin, usually in infancy—is one of the ways God tells His people to distinguish themselves from those around them. This rite is carried out at this point in the story to reconfirm the Israelites’ identity as God’s people and to prepare them for the greatest celebration that marks them as God’s people—the Passover—which commemorates God bringing them safely out of slavery in Egypt.

The Israelites had wandered in the wilderness for 40 years, and because they would not listen to the voice of the Eternal, God promised that none of the original community would live to enter the land He promised to their ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey. It was their children and grandchildren whom He raised up to receive that land instead. Joshua circumcised those sons and grandsons now because it had not been done previously. When they all had been circumcised, they remained in their camp until their wounds were healed.

It was here, where they had piled up the stones, that the Eternal spoke to Joshua.

Eternal One: On this day I have rolled away from you the shame of Egypt.

And the place is called Gilgal, which means “circle of stones,” even today.

10 While the Israelites were encamped at Gilgal on the desert plain east of Jericho, they celebrated their first Passover on the evening of the 14th of the month in the land the Lord had promised them; 11 and the next day they ate some produce of the land, roasted grain, and flatbread. 12 Beginning after that Passover, the Israelites were no longer fed with manna, as they were in the desert. From the day they ate from the new land, the manna ceased. From then on they ate only the crops of the land of Canaan.

13 Now when Joshua was traveling near the city of Jericho, he saw a man standing in front of him with a sword drawn and ready.

Joshua (stepping toward him): Are you one of us, or are you one of our enemies?

The Man: 14 Neither; I am here now as commander of the Eternal’s army.

Joshua (falling to the ground): What is your command for your servant, my lord?

The Man: 15 Take off your sandals, for you are on holy ground.

So Joshua did.


  1. 5:3 Literally, hill of foreskins

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