“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood 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?’ So He said, ‘No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant?’ Then the Commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, ‘Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.’ And Joshua did so” (Josh. 5:13-15).
This section of the text has fascinated Bible students for millennia. It is brief, yet full of intriguing information. The time is near for the battling in Canaan to begin. The people of the land would not yield their homes and cities to Israel without a fight. Joshua, perhaps while contemplating Jericho’s approaching demise, noticed a Man nearby who had His sword drawn and ready. I believe a strong case can be made that this is not a man at all, and neither is He a created angel; He is God Himself in a humanoid form! This is a reasonable conclusion since He accepts worship from Joshua, a thing no man or created angel can rightly do (e.g., Acts 10:25,26; Rev. 22:8,9)! This very well could be an appearance of “the Angel of the LORD,” a theme we have written about before (cf. the archived lessons from http://www.audioevangelism.com/dlybrd/transcripts/DB_2007_01_17_text.htm, http://www.audioevangelism.com/dlybrd/transcripts/DB_2007_01_18_text.htm, & http://www.audioevangelism.com/dlybrd/transcripts/DB_2007_01_19_text.htm).
Joshua valiantly approaches Him and inquires as to whose side He is on. It was necessary that Joshua know the difference between friends and foes (and so it is with us today). Would this Man be supporting the Canaanites or Israel? His reply is that He is not an ally to either side; rather, He is the commander of the Lord’s army! He is there to lead God’s cause. His authority greatly exceeds Joshua’s, and Joshua realizes this and prostrates himself. God’s leadership for His people had not ceased merely because they had now reached the Promised Land.
There are so many questions we might like to ask about this scene, but our curiosities are not important. God has given us the information we need; many secrets belong to Him and Him alone (cf. Deut. 29:29). Although we have come to a chapter break in our Bibles, keep in mind that the original text did not have such divisions. There is good reason to believe that the beginning of Joshua 6 is a continuation of the dialogue between Joshua and the Commander (i.e., “the LORD” – 6:2). As God spoke to Moses from the burning bush (preparing him for his mission in Egypt), He had him remove his sandals (cf. Exo. 3). Likewise, as He speaks to Joshua on this occasion (preparing him to destroy Jericho), He has him remove his sandals. Why? Because God is holy and must be revered! Both Moses and Joshua humbly showed proper respect and reverence for Almighty God. Do we show a proper spirit toward our Creator and Savior by the way we speak, think, and act? May we strive to be holy as He is holy (cf. I Pet. 1:16).