TODAY’S READING: JOSHUA 8-10
There is a very interesting but subtle theme running throughout the first 10 chapters of Joshua. It has to do with Gilgal. Joshua 5:9 says, “And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.”
What is the reproach of Egpyt?
What happened at Gilgal?
Why is Gilgal important?
What does Gilgal have to do with everything else happening in Joshua?
TWELVE STONES SET UP AT GILGAL
When Israel crossed the Jordan to enter the promised land, the Lord told Joshua to have 12 men, one from each tribe, take 12 stones from the midst of the Jordan. These stones were to be carried to the place that Israel would camp the night they crossed the Jordan. The stones were to be a sign for Israel.
What were the stones to be a sign of? Joshua 4:7 says, “Then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” So, the 12 stones were to be set up as a memorial forever of Israel crossing the Jordan river with the ark of the covenant into the promised land.
The stones were to be set up as a memorial the night of the crossing at the place Israel camped. Where did they camp that night? Joshua 4:19-20 says, “The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they encamped at Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.”
Gilgal was the first place that Israel camped when it crossed the Jordan, and this is the place the 12 stones were set up as memorial forever. But, the memorial was not just for Israel. Joshua 4:24 says that the stones were to be set up “so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty.”
What is happening here? What is this a picture of?
Israel crossing the Jordan is a picture of baptism. The ark of the covenant, which is a shadow of Jesus, crossed through the Jordan with Israel. Paul says in Romans 6 that “we were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,” “we have been united with him in a death like his,” and “we have died with Christ.”
Notice how the ark was in the Jordan with Israel. This is a picture of exactly what Paul is saying in Romans 6. We have been united with Christ in his death. We were buried with Jesus. We have died with him.
It was on the 10th day of the first month that Israel came out of the Jordan. The 10th day of the first month is the day that the lamb was selected as the passover lamb. Jesus was selected as the passover lamb on the 10th day of the first month and was led to his slaughter seven days later. I wrote about this in Jesus: The Passover Lamb.
Just as Jesus was selected or chosen on the 10th day of the month for slaughter, so too have we been selected, chosen, elected. We think of being the elect as something akin to earthly honor that separates us above everyone else. But, here we see that to be the elect means we are to become the passover lamb like Jesus. This is why Jesus tells us to pick up our own cross. And, this is what Paul is writing about in Romans 8:33, 36, which says, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.'”
Gilgal was on the east border of Jericho. Israel made its first camp in the east. East is the direction that is away from God. So, Gilgal is symbolic of the start of journey into a relationship with God since the journey starts at the farthest point. And, since the journey starts in the east, the journey moves west toward the presence of God. Remember, the opening in the tabernacle was on the east side while the most holy place with the ark of the covenant was on the west side.
So, Joshua, as a type of Jesus, set up these 12 stones as a memorial forever at Gilgal. The stones were set up at the place of the beginning of our relationship with God. And, as a memorial at the beginning place, these stones would serve as a foundation that we could build our relationship with God upon. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:11, “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” And, in the New Jerusalem, the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with 12 stones (Revelation 21:19-20).
Therefore, Gilgal is the place of the start of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
A CIRCUMCISION AT GILGAL
The kings of the Amorites and the kings of the Canaanites heard what the Lord did for Israel as they crossed the Jordan. It was at this time that the Lord spoke to Joshua and told him to circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.
Why did Joshua circumcise the sons of Israel a second time?
The men that came out of Egypt had been circumcised. All the men that came out of Egypt were “men of war.” But, all these men, all the men of war, died in the wilderness. However, all the children born in the wilderness, the second generation that would enter the promised land, had not been circumcised. Joshua 5:6-7 says, “For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished because they did not obey the voice of the Lord; the Lord swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.”
The men of war died in the wilderness. But, this second generation was to be circumcised before they entered the promised land. They were circumcised at Gibeath-haaraloth, which means the hill of the foreskins. But, given the context, the phrase Gibeath-haaraloth has the meaning of elevated from insensitivity. This second generation was to be sensitive to the Lord upon entering the Lord. They were not be like the men of war. Indeed, they were not to be men of war at all. Instead, they were to listen to the voice of the Lord and follow his ways.
Joshua 5:8-9 says, “When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.’ And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.”
So, Israel was circumcised a second time just before going to battle with the Lord in the promised land. That’s a terrible time to be circumcised. It would make it very difficult to fight. But, the Lord told Joshua that by this he rolled away the reproach of Egypt from Israel.
What was the reproach of Egypt that was rolled away?
Shechem was the son of Hamor, a Hivite. The Hivites were one of the nations in the land that Israel was to dispossess. Shechem saw Dinah, the daughter of Leah, seized her, and raped her.
The sons of Jacob were angry and furious at what Shechem did. But, Hamor spoke to them and said that Shechem longed for Dinah. Shechem wanted to marry Dinah. Shechem he would pay whatever price was required to have Dinah as his wife.
The sons of Jacob said they couldn’t give their sister to someone who was uncircumcised. So, they told Hamor and Shechem that if every male among them was circumcised then the daughters of Jacob would be given to them for marriage.
This sounded good to Hamor and Shechem. They believed the sons of Jacob were at peace with them. So, they didn’t hesitate to circumcise all the males among them. But, on the third day, when they were still sore, Simeon and Levi killed all the males among Hamor and Shechem.
The sons of Jacob had used the sign of the covenant between Abram and God, Israel and God, as a trick so that they could kill their enemies. Exodus 34:30 says, “Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.”
Notice how in this account of the sons of Jacob’s deceitful use of circumcision to kill their enemies that we see the Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites. That’s three of the seven nations in the promised land that Israel was to dispossess.
But, before Israel goes in to dispossess them, God has the men of Israel circumcised. God turns the tables. God is removing the reproach that the sons of Jacob had brought to God and circumcision. Now, the men of Israel would be circumcised, elevated from insensitivity, so that they would not be men of war that kill their enemies but men who served the Lord and devoted to destruction the cities and people in the land.
But, as I wrote the other day in What Does Devoted to Destruction Mean?, it doesn’t mean that Joshua was laying waste and killing everything in his way. It means the cities and people were being offered to God to have their false notions of God purged. And, if God is a God of love who loves his enemies and doesn’t war with them, then Israel could not go into the land as men of war.
Therefore, it was at Gilgal that the reproach of the false meaning of circumcision that had been conveyed by the sons of Jacob to the nations of the promised land was rolled away. And, ever since Gilgal has been called “rolled away.”
And, it’s at Gilgal, the place we first meet the Lord, the place we camp after we are baptized and die with Jesus, that we are circumcised. Romans 6:6-7 says, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin.”
Isaiah 53 says that the Lord’s servant, the Messiah, Jesus, did no violence. One aspect of the sin we must repent from is our violent ways. Just as Israel was circumcised a second time to roll away the reproach of their violence against the nations of the promised land, we are crucified with Jesus as a sign of our rejection of all our violent ways. By being crucified with him, we are identifying with the fact that the God’s anointed servant, the Lord Jesus Christ, does no violence.
KINGS HUNG ON A TREE, TAKEN DOWN IN THE EVENING, AND BURIED UNDER STONES
It’s from Gilgal, the place of Israel’s baptism and circumcision, that Joshua and Israel are camped. It’s from Gilgal that they launch every one of their attacks on the cities of the promised land. This is very important to note but can easily be missed.
In today’s reading, Joshua 8:28-29 says, “So Joshua burned Ai and made it forever a heap of ruins, as it is to this day. And he hanged the king of Ai on a tree until evening. And at sunset Joshua commanded, and they took his body down from the tree and threw it at the entrance of the gate of the city and raised over it a great heap of stones, which stands there to this day.”
While we are never told exactly what Joshua did the king of Jericho, Joshua 8:2 says, “And you shall do to Air and its king as you did to Jericho ad its king.”
After the battle at Ai, five kings came together to attack Israel. But, Joshua and Israel defeated them. The five kings fled and hid in a cave. In Joshua 10:18, Joshua says, “Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave and set men by it to guard them.”
After Israel finished attacking the cities of the five kings, Joshua said in verse 22, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.” When the kings were brought out of the cave, Joshua told all the men of Israel to put their feet on the kings’ necks.
Joshua 10:26-27 says, “And afterward Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees. And they hung on trees until evening. But at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees and threw into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set large stones against the mouth of the, which remain there to this very day.”
Next, Joshua fought against the king of Libnah. Joshua 10:30 says, “And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.” Remember that Joshua did to the king of Jericho what he did to the king of Ai. That is, he hung him on a tree, took him down at evening, and buried him under stones that are there to this day.
Then, Joshua and Israel attacked more kings. Joshua 10:39 says, “Just as he had done to Hebron and to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and to its king.”
So, every king that Joshua defeated he hung on a tree, took him down at evening, and the buried him under stones that are there to this day.
Does this remind you of anyone?
JESUS: THE KING HUNG ON A TREE, TAKEN DOWN AT EVENING, BURIED IN A CAVE, BUT THE STONE WAS ROLLED AWAY
Jesus was born king- not just the king of Jews, but king of kings.
As king, Jesus was crucified. Paul says that in his crucifixion Christ became “a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.'” (Galatians 3:13)
Like all the kings in Joshua, Jesus was hung on a tree.
Matthew 27:57-58 says, “When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it be given to him.”
Like all the kings in Joshua, Jesus was taken down from the tree at evening.
Mark 15:45 says, “And Joseph brought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb.”
Like all the kings in Joshua, Jesus buried under stones.
But, while the kings in Joshua are buried under the stones to this day, the same is not true of Jesus.
Luke 24:1-3 says, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.”
The stone over Jesus had been rolled away.
Unlike every other king, Jesus triumphed over his enemies that had hung him on a tree, taken him down at evening, and buried him under stones. Now, all of his enemies have been placed under his feet.
IT’S AT GILGAL WE MEET THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
It was after the stone had been rolled away that the disciples truly met their Lord for the first time.
It was at Gilgal that Israel was baptized and circumcised. It was at Gilgal that the reproach of the wicked and violent ways of the sons of Jacob in Egypt had been rolled away.
It’s when we see the stone rolled away, that we truly know Jesus.
Take in the totality of what Paul says in Romans 6:4-11.
“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
We are dead to sin. We are dead to our murderous and violent ways. We are alive to God. We walk in the newness of life.
Now we know that devoting to destruction is not murdering and killing flesh and blood. Rather, it is destroying the strongholds in our minds by the divine power of God that raised Christ from the dead. Now, we devote to destruction all arguments and lofty opinions that are against God.
This is what Joshua was doing as he served the commanded of the army of the Lord in the promised land. Every king that Joshua fought was a picture of the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers over this present darkness, and the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places that we wage war against. All of these have been hung on a tree, taken down at evening, and buried under stone to this day.
Jesus has authority over all these. And, he has given us this authority. This is why Joshua had all the men of Israel stand on the necks of the kings he defeated.
Let us truly know that the stone has been rolled away. Jesus has defeated death through. He has reconciled us to God through his death and resurrection.
Meeting Jesus at Gilgal, seeing the stone rolled way, we are participants in the ministry of reconciliation. We no longer do violence. We no longer war. We no longer fight. Now, we reconcile the world to God just as Jesus did – not by taking life, but by laying ours down.
This is another aspect what it means that Joshua “devoted to destruction” all the cities, men, women, and children.