13 Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing 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?" 14 And he said, "No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD." And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?" 15 And the captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.NAS
Joshua 5:13-15 is a pivotal passage in the book since it marks the conclusion of the preparation section and it signals the beginning of the invasion section. Let’s take a few minutes to take stock of where we have come from so far.
Remember in our introduction we suggested the following outlines:
Chapters 1-5 – Preparing the nation for conquest or entering the land
Chapters 6-12 – Defeating the enemies or fighting for the land
Chapters 13-22 – Claiming the inheritance or dividing the land
Chapters 23-24 – Renewing the covenant or living in the land
Up to this point everything that has occurred has been about getting the people ready to go in and take the land.
Chapter 1 was the “pep talk” chapter with the theme of mutual encouragement.
God encouraged Joshua; Joshua encouraged the people; and the people encouraged Joshua by pledging to support and obey.
Chapter 2 was the “spy chapter” with the theme of God’s graciousness.
In this spy story valuable information is discovered about Canaan and the Canaanites. The people of Canaan are very afraid of Israel and her God and the land was ripe for the taking. All this is gleaned from the conversation that Rahab has with the two spies. This information too would serve to encourage Israel.
Chapters 3-4 were the “crossing the Jordan chapters” with the theme that God is with Israel.
If God could get Israel passed this first great obstacle, he could get them by anything. God used the crossing of the Jordan to teach Israel about His presence (he gave them a clear message), power (He gave them a confirming miracle), and His promises (he gave them a continuing memorial), and about their faith.
Chapter 5 is the “spiritual preparation” chapter with the theme of God reestablishing two very important Old Testament rituals.
The rite of circumcision would serve to remind Israel that they were His covenant people and heirs of the unconditional promise God made to Abraham. The Passover ceremony would serve to remind them of His love and grace in delivering them out of the bondage in Egypt.
Now as we come to the very last passage in this first section, the message that God gives is reserved for Joshua alone. It is meant to remind Joshua one last time before the invasion that God was in control. While Israel would be participating in the victory, it was ultimately God’s battle – God’s conquest – God’s invasion.
The events of this passage surround a supernatural encounter with the captain of the host of the LORD. Who is the captain of the host of the Lord? I believe that the captain of the host of the Lord is a synonym for the Angel of the Lord, a being that often appears in the pages of the Old Testament. Most conservative scholars believe that it is in fact a Theophany, a preincarnate appearance of the second person of the Trinity.
This is actually not a unique event since as we learned from our last post that the preincarnate Christ appeared many times in the Old Testament. Most often He did so as the “Angel of the Lord” (Genesis 16, 22, 31; Exodus 3, 14, 23; Judges 6, 13; Numbers 22; 1 Kings 19; 1 Chronicles 21 etc.).
Here in Joshua 5 He is not called the “Angel of the Lord,” but rather, the captain of the host of the Lord. To me, it seems clear that they are the same individual. As we look at this encounter between Joshua and the captain of the host of the Lord, I believe that the identity of this being will become very clear. The text gives us four clues as to the identity of the captain of the host of the Lord.
Clue #1 – His Appearance – v.13
13 Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing 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?"
As Israel now turned its focus to the first city-state that must fall (Jericho), Joshua is out personally surveying the area. Possibly, he was beginning to develop a strategy for taking the city. What was going through his mind? What was he thinking?
Irving L Jensen makes this suggestion,
As Joshua was looking in the direction of the fortress of Jericho, he thought of one thing, his responsibility in the battle. In mind’s eye he envisioned the two foes, Canaanites and Israelites, in mortal combat, and though he had already been given assurances of victory, he could not avoid wondering about the outcome as he compared the military strength of both. The closer the hour of actual combat, the more he felt that this was his war (Joshua: Rest-Land Won, pp. 51).Whether or not those were Joshua’s exact thoughts, it is clear that the Lord wanted to remind Joshua that it was not his war, but that it was HIS war.
Now it came about when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing opposite him with his sword drawn in his hand
Joshua was in deep thought and all of a sudden, someone was standing across from him with a sword drawn! The phrase “and looked” conveys an element of surprise, like when we round a corner or are in deep thought and suddenly someone is there. Joshua was not expecting to see anyone where he was, especially someone in such an aggressive stance. The fact that this being’s sword was drawn indicated that he was a warrior of some kind.
and Joshua went to him and said to him, "Are you for us or for our adversaries?"
This would be a natural question to ask when met by someone as Joshua was. Basically he asks, “Whose side are you on?”
Before we move on to the answer of that question, let’s stop and ask another question. Is there anything about this being’s appearance in verse 13 that might give us insight into who he might be? To put it another way, is there anything here that would make us think that this is a preincarnate appearance of Christ?
22 But God was angry because he was going, and the angel of the LORD took his stand in the way as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand, the donkey turned off from the way and went into the field; but Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back into the way. 24 Then the angel of the LORD stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a wall on this side and a wall on that side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she pressed herself to the wall and pressed Balaam's foot against the wall, so he struck her again. 26 And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right hand or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the LORD, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his stick. 28 And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?" 29 Then Balaam said to the donkey, "Because you have made a mockery of me! If there had been a sword in my hand, I would have killed you by now." 30 And the donkey said to Balaam, "Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been accustomed to do so to you?" And he said, "No."
31 Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way with his drawn sword in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. NAS
See also 1 Chronicles 21:8-15; 2 Kings 19:35.
Compare those Old Testament passages with Revelation 19:11-14.
11 And I saw heaven opened; and behold, a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True; and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 And His eyes are a flame of fire, and upon His head are many diadems; and He has a name written upon Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. NAS
The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament was often God’s messenger and executer of judgment. In the New Testament we are told that all authority for judgment is given to the Son (John 5:19-23, 27; see also the post-resurrection view of Jesus in the New Testament in Revelation 5, 14, 19).
Exodus 23:20-23 is a passage that helps us understand what’s going on here.
20 "Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way, and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. 21 Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him. 22 But if you will truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. 23 For My angel will go before you and bring you in to the land of the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will completely destroy them. NAS
Although we haven’t discussed it much yet, one of the concepts that comes out in Joshua is that the conquest will serve as an act of judgment against the inhabitants of the land of Canaan.
16 Then in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." NAS
This is the time, that God told Abraham would come. He has been very patient with the inhabitant of Canaan, but now it is a time for judgment and Israel’s conquest of the land would serve as the means of that judgment. The appearance of this being with sword drawn, I believe is a sign that judgment is beginning.
Clue #2 – His Title – v.14a
14 And he said, "No, rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD."
Notice that this stranger did not answer Joshua’s question directly. The "no" in His response has to do with the focus. Joshua’s focus was not to be on whose side this stranger was on, but rather on who He is. He was the captain of the host of the LORD.
As “captain” he is an authority figure, a leader of some kind. The Hebrew word is translated elsewhere as “prince” or “commander.” In Daniel 8:11 it is translated “commander of the host” (although many versions translate it as “prince of the host”) and in Isaiah 9:6 it is translated as “prince of peace.”
The phrase “the host of the Lord” is a reference to the heavenly hosts or the hosts of heaven. This phrase is generally used to refer to the vast army of angels in heaven (1 Kings 22:19; Psalm 103:21; 148:2).
The one whom Joshua had encountered was the commander of the heavenly hosts of the Lord, who would be fighting for Israel. The captain of the host of the Lord was a divine being, with a divine mission.
Clue #3 – Joshua’s Response – v.14b
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?"
Joshua’s response is threefold.
· It was a humble response – And Joshua fell on his face to the earth
· It was a reverent response – and bowed down (i.e. he worshipped him
· It was obedient – and said to him, "What has my lord to say to his servant?"
There is some debate whether Joshua at this point recognized he was in the presence of deity or whether he was just showing respect to the being. This is because Joshua addresses the captain of the host of the Lord as my lord (adoni and not Yahweh). Adoni is used to address both men and God in the scriptures. The thing that makes the determination for me is the way that the angel of the Lord responds to Joshua.
When ever an angel of the Lord appears to men, they are told to, get up, stand up, do not fear, and so on. They never receive the worship of the human they are appearing to (Daniel 8:15-19; Luke 1:26-30; Revelation 22:8-9). Here the angel of the Lord receives the worship of Joshua. There is no hint of rebuke anywhere in the captain of the host of the Lord’s response to Joshua, in fact, he builds on it.
Clue #4 – His Instructions – v.15
15 And the captain of the Lord's host said to Joshua, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy." And Joshua did so.
Any place where God reveals Himself is hallowed ground because of the revelation (Genesis 28:10-22; Exodus 3:1-6). Since the place where Joshua encounters the captain of the host of the Lord is holy, this must be a revelation of God.
This is the primary idea of verse 15 that Joshua was in the presence of the Lord! Some have seen a secondary implication here as well and that is that Canaan land was holy ground. At the moment, this holy ground was being defiled by idolatrous, immoral and indecent people, but that was about to change – since the iniquity of the Canaanites was now complete (Genesis 15:16; also see Leviticus 18:24-25; Deuteronomy 9:1-5; 18:9-14). The battles that Israel would soon face were holy battles, fought by God’s holy ways in fulfillment of His holy word.
As we conclude, I want to summarize three things that Joshua was reminded about through this encounter.
Lesson #1 – Through this encounter Joshua was reminded that God was with him.
Earlier (Josh. 1:5) God had promised Joshua, Just as I have been with Moses, I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Now the Lord was reassuring Joshua that His promise was still true. What better way to assure him of His presence than by sending the preincarnate Christ? Our Lord always comes to us when we need Him and in the way we need Him.
To Abraham the pilgrim, the Lord came as a traveler to share in a friendly meal (Gen. 18:1-8). To Jacob the schemer, He came as a wrestler to bring him to the place of submission (32:24-32). The three Hebrew men met Him as their companion in the furnace of fire (Dan. 3:25) (Warren Wiersbe, Be Strong, pp. 65).To Joshua He came as the “Captain of the host of the Lord” just prior to the conquest of the land!
Psalms 46:1, 7, 10-11
1 God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
7 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
8 Come, behold the works of the LORD,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
9 He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
10 "Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
11 The LORD of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.
Donald Madvig writes,
The purpose of this encounter was not to impart commands but to inspire JoshuaIt must have been a great encouragement for Joshua to be reassured that he was not alone. There is a great loneliness to leadership that most cannot understand. Former Pastor Warren Wiersbe writes,
with humility and reverence and to instill in him the confidence that God was with him and was in control (Expositors Bible Commentary Vol. 3, Joshua, pp. 276).
There is a loneliness to leadership that can be disturbing and even depressing as you realize how much your decisions affect the lives of others (Be Strong, pp. 65).Surely Joshua felt the loneliness, but through his encounter he was reassured by God’s presence.
Lesson #2 – Through this encounter Joshua was reminded of his place and God’s place in the ministry he was called.
In Christian ministry great public victories are won in private as leaders submit to the Lord and receive their directions from Him. It’s doubtful that anybody in the camp of Israel knew about their leader’s meeting with the Lord, but that meeting made the difference between success and failure on the battlefield. The Chinese Bible teacher Watchman Nee wrote, “Not until we take the place of a servant can He take His place as Lord” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Strong, pp. 66).Every parent, pastor or person in Christian leadership needs to realize that they are second in command to the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be reminded of Jesus’ words to His disciples, “without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Anything we do in our own strength will eventually be worthless. The Lord came to Joshua that day, not just to help, but also to lead, all Joshua had to do was listen to God’s word and obey His orders. God would do the rest. Warren Wiersbe tells us,
In a meeting with a small group of missionaries in China, James Hudson Taylor,Lesson #3 – Through this encounter, Joshua was reminded of God’s purpose for the land and for Israel.
founder of the China Inland Mission (now Overseas Missionary Fellowship) reminded them that there were three ways to do God’s work: “One is to make the best plans we can, and carry them out to the best of our ability…or, having carefully laid our plans and determined to carry them through, we may ask God to help us, and to prosper us in connection with them. Yet another way of working is to begin with God; to ask His plans, and to offer ourselves to Him to carry out His purposes.” Joshua followed the third plan, and that’s why the Lord blessed him (Be Strong, pp. 67).
This land was the “holy land,” it was the land that God had promised to His people. Now, it was contaminated by its current inhabitants, but that was about to change. The Lord was going to lead His people into the land to take it and claim it as their inheritance. They were going to be His instruments of righteousness so as to be a testimony to the rest of the world (Deuteronomy 4).
This is why He gave Israel such detailed instructions about how they were to live in the land, so that they themselves would not defile it but keep it consecrated (Deuteronomy 4:1; 6:1; 7:1; 8:1; 12:10, 29ff).
If we are going to the Lord’s work the Lord’s way then we must be spiritually prepared, that is what Joshua chapter five is all about. God had consecrated and prepared the people in v.1-12, now He has prepared the one who was going to lead them (v.13-15). Scottish Preacher Robert Murray McCheyene once wrote:
“Remember you are God’s sword – His instrument – I trust a chosen vessel unto Him to bear His name. In great measure, according to the purity and perfections of the instrument, will be the success. It is not great talents God blesses so much as great likeness to Jesus. A holy minister is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” Quoted by Wiersbe in Be Strong, pp. 67-68.As we face great spiritual battles in our own lives we can learn some lessons from Joshua’s encounter with the captain of the host of the Lord.
(1) We must be spiritually prepared, made ready through worship and the word of God.
(2) We must allow ourselves to be reassured by God’s presence, preeminence, and purposes for us.
2 Timothy 2:20-21
20 Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. 21 Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. NAS
Thanks for your perspective. I have just done a self study on Angel of the Lord and came to the same conclusion
Awesome thanks for sharing !!!
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