Joshua 5:6
For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: to whom the LORD swore that he would not show them the land, which the LORD swore to their fathers that he would give us, a land that flows with milk and honey.
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(6) Us.—The first person is used here as in Joshua 4:23; Joshua 5:7. The whole passage from Joshua 4:22 to Joshua 5:6 seems intended to be the reply of the fathers to the children.

Joshua 5:6. Till all the people — were consumed — All the six hundred thousand fighting men that came out of Egypt, except Joshua and Caleb. The Hebrew word הגוי, hagoi, here rendered people, commonly signifies the Gentiles, and some have thought it is here used to signify that they were unworthy the name of Israelites. That he would not show them the land — That is, would not give them so much as the sight of it, which he granted to Moses, much less the possession.5:1-9 How dreadful is their case, who see the wrath of God advancing towards them, without being able to turn it aside, or escape it! Such will be the horrible situation of the wicked; nor can words express the anguish of their feelings, or the greatness of their terror. Oh that they would now take warning, and before it be too late, flee for refuge to lay hold upon that hope set before them in the gospel! God impressed these fears on the Canaanites, and dispirited them. This gave a short rest to the Israelites, and circumcision rolled away the reproach of Egypt. They were hereby owned to be the free-born children of God, having the seal of the covenant. When God glorifies himself in perfecting the salvation of his people, he not only silences all enemies, but rolls back their reproaches upon themselves.Of the whole nation those only were already circumcised at the time of the passage of the Jordan who had been under twenty years of age at the time of the complaining and consequent rejection at Kadesh (compare the marginal reference). These would have been circumcised before they left Egypt, and there would still survive of them more than a quarter of a million of thirty-eight years old and upward.

The statements of these verses are of a general kind. The "forty years" of Joshua 5:6 is a round number, and the statement in the latter part of Joshua 5:5 cannot be strictly accurate. For there must have been male children born in the wilderness during the first year after the Exodus, and these must have been circumcised before the celebration of the Passover at Sinai in the first month of the second year (compare Numbers 9:1-5, and Exodus 12:48). The statements of the verses are, however, sufficiently close to the facts for the purpose in hand; namely, to render a reason for the general circumcising which is here recorded.

The reason why circumcision was omitted in the wilderness, was that the sentence of Numbers 14:28 ff placed the whole nation for the time under a ban; and that the discontinuance of circumcision, and the consequent omission of the Passover, was a consequence and a token of that ban. The rejection was not, indeed, total, for the children of the complainers were to enter into the rest; nor final, for when the children had borne the punishment of the fathers' sins for the appointed years, and the complainers were dead, then it was to be removed, as now by Joshua. But for the time the covenant was abrogated, though God's purpose to restore it was from the first made known, and confirmed by the visible marks of His favor which He still vouchsafed to bestow during the wandering. The years of rejection were indeed exhausted before the death of Moses (compare Deuteronomy 2:14): but God would not call upon the people to renew their engagement to Him until He had first given them glorious proof of His will and power to fulfill His engagements to them. So He gave them the first fruits of the promised inheritance - the kingdoms of Sihon and Og; and through a miracle planted their feet on the very soil that still remained to be conquered; and then recalled them to His covenant. It is to be noted, too, that they were just about to go to war against foes mightier than themselves. Their only hope of success lay in the help of God. At such a crisis the need of full communion with God would be felt indeed; and the blessing and strength of it are accordingly granted.

The revival of the two great ordinances - circumcision and the Passover - after so long an intermission could not but awaken the zeal and invigorate the faith and fortitude of the people. Both as seals and as means of grace and God's good purpose toward them then, the general circumcision of the people, followed up by the solemn celebration of the Passover - the one formally restoring the covenant and reconciling them nationally to God, the other ratifying and confirming all that circumcision intended - were at this juncture most opportune.

4-7. this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise—The omission to circumcise the children born in the wilderness might have been owing to the incessant movements of the people; but it is most generally thought that the true cause was a temporary suspension of the covenant with the unbelieving race who, being rejected of the Lord, were doomed to perish in the wilderness, and whose children had to bear the iniquity of their fathers (Nu 14:33), though, as the latter were to be brought into the promised land, the covenant would be renewed with them. All the people; the Hebrew word commonly signifies the Gentiles; so he calls them, to note that they were unworthy of the name and privileges of Israelites.

He would not show them, i.e. not give them so much as a sight of it, which he granted to Moses, much less the possession and enjoyment of it. Or showing is put for giving, as it is Psalm 4:6 60:3 Ecclesiastes 2:24. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness,.... Wanting a few days, the round number is given: not forty two, as the Septuagint version:

till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt,

were consumed; all that were above twenty years of age, excepting Joshua and Caleb:

because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord; but murmured against him, and against his servants, and particularly against Aaron, being the high priest; and chiefly because of the report of the spies, and their murmurs then, which so incensed the Lord against them, that he threatened them with an entire consumption of their carcasses, and which accordingly was fulfilled, to which the following clause refers:

unto whom the Lord sware, that he would not show them the land which the Lord sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey; see Numbers 14:23.

For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not show them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.
6. forty years] See Numbers 14:33; Deuteronomy 1:3; Deuteronomy 2:7; Deuteronomy 2:14.

a land that floweth with milk and honey] For this expression compare Exodus 3:8; Exodus 3:17; Exodus 13:5; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; Numbers 16:14; Deuteronomy 6:3. “Milk and honey are productions of a land rich in grass and flowers. Both articles were abundantly produced in Canaan, even in a state of devastation. Milk, eaten partly sweet and partly curdled, that of cows as well as of goats and sheep (Deuteronomy 32:14), was prominent in the diet of the ancient Hebrews, as in that of the Orientals of the present day. The land yielded great quantities of honey also, especially that from wild bees (Jdg 14:8; 1 Samuel 14:26; Matthew 3:4), and still yields it in its wasted condition.” Keil.Verse 6. - Till all the people. The Hebrew here is גוֹּי, not the usual word for people, but that usually applied to the Gentiles (equivalent to ἔθνος, by which word it is usually rendered in the LXX.). It is applied to the Israelites in Joshua 3:17; Joshua 4:1; Isaiah 1:4; Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 26:2. See also Exodus 33:13. In the singular it means a people in the more general sense, a nation, as distinguished from a people in whom one has an interest. In the plural it always means the Gentiles. עַס. (LXX., λαός), the word usually applied to the people of God, is not used here, because the people who "provoked God in the wilderness" had made themselves in a sense a rejected people. Delitzsch regards this (after Calvin) as a sign that, for the time at least, the covenant between God and Israel was annulled, permanently in the case of those who were condemned to die in the wilderness, temporarily only in their descendants, who were formally reconciled to God, and restored to their former covenant position by this solemn performance of the covenant rite of circumcision (see note on verse 2). So also Hengstenberg, 'Geschichte des Reiches Gottes,' p. 205. The difficulty about the passover may be met by supposing that those only who were circumcised - a constantly decreasing number, of course - were allowed to celebrate that feast. Knobel would understand that in consequence of the "unquiet, unsettled, uncomfortable life" the Israelites led in the wilderness, they could keep very few of the ordained feasts. He continues: "the Elohist knows nothing of any cessation." Nevertheless we read of no passover being kept after the one recorded in Numbers 9:5, so that if "the Elohist knows of no cessation," he knows as little of any continued observance of the feast. But there is no certainty on the point. Considering the loose way in which the word כֹל is used in Scripture (see, for instance, Genesis 4:14), we need not press the word to include all who were born after the departure from Egypt, but only those who were born after the rejection of the people recorded in Numbers 14:26, sqq. This rejection, be it remembered, did not include all the Israelites who were born in Egypt, but only those who were over twenty years of age (Numbers 14:29). The view of Kurz (3:323, Clark's translation), that circumcision was suspended on account of the continual movements of the Israelites, is refuted by Delitzsch's remark that the Israelites were not continually on the march, but that they often encamped in one place for a long period, a period far longer, in fact, than the time in which they abode in Gilgal. Delitzsch asks why this circumcision did not take place before, why it was not performed as soon as they crossed the brook Zered. The answer is that, until the Jordan was crossed, they had not taken formal possession of their own land. As soon as, under the Divine protection, they had crossed the Jordan, the long-delayed promise was fulfilled. God's covenant with Abraham was accomplished, and now they, in their turn, had to place themselves once more in the position of God's covenant people, bound to serve Him with their whole heart. For a fuller discussion of this question see Keil's Commentary, and Hengstenberg in the passage cited above. We may observe that God fulfils His part of the covenant first, and then it is man's duty to fulfil his. God, under the Christian dispensation, first places us in the state of salvation. Then it becomes our duty to make that salvation sure by overcoming God's enemies, by the help which He never fails to afford. Give us. This introduction of the first person into the middle of the sentence is unexpected. Some MSS. and editors read "to them" (see note on ver. 1, and Psalm 66:6, where there is a similar change of person). A land that floweth with milk and honey. This, says Keil, "is a standing expression in the Pentateuch to express the great fertility of the land of Canaan. Milk and honey are produced by a land rich in grass and flowers, which were both of them plentiful in Canaan (see Isaiah 7:15, 22). Milk, not only of cows, but of sheep and goats also (Deuteronomy 32:14), and eaten sometimes sweet, at other times thick or curdled (חמאה), was a leading article of food amongst the ancient Hebrews, as it is in the present day in most Eastern countries, and Palestine was peculiarly fitted for the rearing of cattle. Honey also, especially that of wild bees, was found in large quantities (Judges 14:8, sqq.; 1 Samuel 14:26; Matthew 3:4), and is still found, notwithstanding its present desolate condition." Some have thought דבַשׁ to mean the newly expressed juice of grapes, which, under the Arabic name of dibs, is largely used at present in Palestine, and is even exported to other countries. But in Deuteronomy 32:13, Psalm 81:16, wild honey is clearly meant, which is to this day deposited by bees, in the clefts of the rock, whence it often overflows and is received into vessels placed beneath (see Proverbs 5:3; Song of Solomon 4:11; Jahn, 'Biblical Archaeology;' and Smith's Dictionary of the Bible.) There Joshua set up the twelve stones, which they had taken over with them out of the Jordan, and explained to the people at the same time the importance of this memorial to their descendants (Joshua 4:21, Joshua 4:22), and the design of the miracle which had been wrought by God (Joshua 4:24). On Joshua 4:21, Joshua 4:22, see Joshua 4:6, Joshua 4:7. אשׁר (Joshua 4:23), quod, as (see Deuteronomy 2:22). The miracle itself, like the similar one at the Dead Sea, had a double intention, viz., to reveal to the Canaanites the omnipotence of the God of Israel, the strong hand of the Lord (compare Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:18, with Joshua 6:6; and for the expression "the hand of the Lord is mighty," see Exodus 3:19; Exodus 6:1, etc.), and to serve as an impulse to the Israelites to fear the Lord their God always (see at Exodus 14:31).
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