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Israel Conquers Jericho

13 When Joshua was near[a] Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him holding a drawn sword.[b] Joshua approached him and asked him, “Are you on our side or allied with our enemies?”[c] 14 He answered,[d] “Truly I am the commander of the Lord’s army.[e] Now I have arrived!”[f] Joshua bowed down with his face to the ground[g] and asked, “What does my master want to say to his servant?” 15 The commander of the Lord’s army answered Joshua, “Remove your sandals from your feet, because the place where you stand is holy.” Joshua did so.

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  1. Joshua 5:13 tn Heb “in.”
  2. Joshua 5:13 tn Heb “he lifted up his eyes and looked. And look, a man was standing in front of him, and his sword was drawn in his hand.” The verb הִנֵּה (hinneh, “look”) invites the reader to view the scene through Joshua’s eyes. By calling the stranger “a man,” the author reflects Joshua’s perspective. The text shortly reveals his true identity (vv. 14-15).
  3. Joshua 5:13 tn Heb “Are you for us or for our enemies?”
  4. Joshua 5:14 tc Heb “He said, “Neither.” An alternative reading is לוֹ (lo, “[He said] to him”; cf. NEB). This reading is supported by many Hebrew mss, as well as the LXX and Syriac versions. The traditional reading of the MT (לֹא, loʾ, “no, neither”) is probably the product of aural confusion (the two variant readings sound the same in Hebrew). Although followed by a number of modern translations (cf. NIV, NRSV), this reading is problematic, for the commander of the Lord’s army would hardly have declared himself neutral.
  5. Joshua 5:14 sn The Lord’s heavenly army, like an earthly army, has a commander who leads the troops. For the phrase שַׂר־צְבָא (sar tsevaʾ, “army commander”) in the human sphere, see among many other references Gen 21:22, 32; 26:26; Judg 4:2, 7; 1 Sam 12:9.
  6. Joshua 5:14 sn The commander’s appearance seems to be for Joshua’s encouragement. Joshua could now lead Israel into battle knowing that the Lord’s invisible army would ensure victory.
  7. Joshua 5:14 tn Heb “Joshua fell on his face to the ground and bowed down.”