Th beginning of this chapter is intriguing in a few ways. First of all, there is a mass circumcision of all the males that were born in the wilderness since they left Egypt. Everyone that was born in Egypt was circumcised early on into the exodus from Egypt, if they hadn’t already been. Now the males that were born in the desert must be circumcised after entering the promised land.
This has been a condition of the covenant between God and Abraham, applicable to all descendants of Isaac. The males of Israel were to be circumcised on the 8th day after birth, that day signifying a new creation, or being born anew into the covenant family of God. The fact that these people have been wandering the desert for 40 years because of disobedience, and yet didn’t keep this most basic of commands, is really amazing. The entire book of Deuteronomy was “remember the law” and they seemed to have forgotten the very beginning of the law.
Joshua also doesn’t seem to even take them to task over this. Maybe it’s like an unspoken amnesty, where he will just do the circumcisions and they will be enough of a reminder that they haven’t kept their commitments without a speech. While they’re healing over the next week, the pain itself will be enough of a reminder that they haven’t kept this foundational rule.
Joshua is standing looking out at Jericho. It’s a great walled city and without any kind of siege weapons, he’s probably thinking it’s going to be difficult to capture, but because he’s trusting in God he doesn’t doubt that it will happen. When all of a sudden a man appears, actually Joshua just perceives him as a man, but he introduces himself as “commander of the army of the Lord” so this was mostly likely Saint Michael the Archangel.
Joshua asks this person if he is on Israel’s side or on the side of the enemy. The answer says way more than the few words used, because he doesn’t tell him either one. He says “no.”
We often wonder if God is on our side in certain situations, but the question should really be “am I on God’s side” in whatever circumstance we find ourselves in. If we are in his camp, then everything will work out.
Towards the end of this chapter Jesus is invited to eat at the table of a Pharisee, who then remarks that he does not observe the tradition of ceremonial washing. This leads Jesus to launch into a monologue about the Pharisees and scribes. These two groups were not inherently evil, and did not teach or believe outright heretical things, like the Sadducees did, but many or most of them were hypocrites of the highest order, and that was something Jesus regularly attacked.
He calls them out on their meticulous observation of even the smallest precepts of the law, like tithing 10% of even their herbs they’ve grown in their gardens, but failing to observe the overarching principles of the entire Old Testament like justice, mercy, love of God and love of neighbor. They’re more concerned with exterior things than the interior disposition of their hearts, because exterior observances made them appear pious but their interior was invisible to their fellow man. They wanted to impress, not assist, not shepherd and not teach the people, they wanted to look good.
It’s possible to be a Pharisee in that way even today. Some people are more concerned with looking Holy than actually being holy, and if Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees is any indication to us, that is a dangerous thing to do.