Bible Readings for July 3rd
Before Yahweh takes Israel into the land of Canaan to receive the inheritance he had promised to them for generations through their forefather Abraham, he requires that all the men be circumcised. This is the first time we learn that the generation born in the wilderness had not been circumcised, and the story raises several red flags.
At a strategic level, circumcising all the men at the same time was a tactical nightmare. In Genesis 34, we read the story about how the sons of Jacob tricked the Hivites into circumcising all their men on the pretense of allowing one of their men, Shechem, to marry their sister Dinah, whom Shechem had raped and humiliated. Then, while the men were still sore, Simeon and Levi slaughtered every man in the city.
Here in Joshua 5, Israel is in an absolutely vulnerable position, without any city walls to protect them and where all the kings of Canaan were desperate to find an advantage to take against them (Josh. 5:1). We should also remember that the land of Canaan is the home of the Hivites (Josh. 3:10), who after all those years would have loved to take revenge for the massacre perpetrated by Simeon and Levi.
But more significantly, what are we to make of the fact that Israelites have not been circumcised for the last forty years? The only explanation we get is in Joshua 5:6, where we read that this suspension of circumcision came because the Israelites “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.” Clearly, this is a reference to Numbers 14, when ten of the twelve spies returned from the Promised Land to give a bad report of the nation, not trusting that Yahweh would protect and defend them as they entered the land.
Circumcision was a critical sign of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel, stretching all the way back to Genesis 17, since circumcision pointed beyond itself to the covenantal relationship that Yahweh had formed with Israel. Somehow, this “everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:7) had been suspended for forty years. The Israelites who came out of Egypt but disbelieved Yahweh were not allowed to enter into the Promised Land and died in the wilderness.
Despite the fact that Israel had shattered their covenant with Yahweh for forty years, Yahweh nevertheless rolls back their reproach (Josh. 5:9) to consecrate them for taking possession of their inheritance.
And hundreds of years after this story, another Israelite would make himself vulnerable, exposing himself to great danger and torment in order to roll away the reproach from God’s people forever, and giving them a triumphant spiritual circumcision made without hands (Col. 2:11). Brothers and sisters, arise and claim your inheritance.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.