Inductive Bible Study on Joshua 5 – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary

Discussion Questions

  • How did the people of the land react to the news of the miracle at the Jordan river?
  • What did God command Joshua and the people to do?
  • Why would the people need to be circumcised? Hadn’t they already started circumcising the baby boys on the 8th day? What does this show us about the previous generation’s obedience (or lack of it)?
  • What can we learn from verses 6-7 about the spiritual condition of the people in the wilderness?
  • Why might they have refused to circumcise their sons?
  • What can we learn from the phrase in verse 7 “their children whom He raised up in their place?”
  • Would it be considered sound military strategy to circumcise themselves before or after crossing the Jordan? Why? What was the result militarily speaking of circumcising everybody at the same time?
  • So what other lessons might God have been teaching them?
  • What is the purpose of circumcision? Should we do this for our sons today? Why or why not?
  • What spiritual principles are associated with circumcision? Are there any similar rituals for us today?
  • What do they do next (see verse 10)?
  • What does this show us about the spiritual condition of this younger generation?
  • What do we learn from verse 12 about God’s provision?
  • Who is this character Joshua is talking to? What clues in the text can help us discover his identity?
  • What can we learn about Joshua from his response?


Genesis 34 – Simeon and Levi kill the men of Schechem after tricking them into being circumcised.

Genesis 17:10-14 – God first commands Abraham and his descendants to practice circumcision.

Leviticus 12:3 – On the eighth day the boy is to be circumcised.

Jeremiah 4:4 – Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, circumcise your hearts, you people of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, or my wrath will flare up and burn like fire because of the evil you have done—burn with no one to quench it.

1 Corinthians 7:19 – Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts.

Romans 4:11 – And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them.

Romans 2:28 – A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical.

Acts 15:11 – No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.”

Verse by Verse Commentary

1. The people of the land are filled with fear – Here we see another effect of God’s miracle in parting the Jordan river. It helped the people respect Joshua more. It increased their faith. It reminded them that they could be successful in conquering the land only by following God’s instructions and not relying on their own strength. And here we see that the people of the land were afraid. Their gods could not perform miracles like this. While this miracle should have caused them to repent and turn to the Lord (like Rahab had done), they instead hardened their hearts. Seeing miracles does not guarantee people will believe in God. People’s hearts are hard and sinful. People who won’t believe in God without a miracle, often won’t believe in God with a miracle either.

2. Circumcise again the sons of Israel – In Leviticus 12:3, God had commanded the Israelites to circumcise their sons on the eight day. However, we see that the previous generation had not done so. Why? We don’t know the reason. Certainly the people were rebellious and did not follow God obediently much of the time. Moses himself had failed to circumcise his own children. Moses was a great leader. He was very faithful to obey God’s commands. He gave forty years of his life to serving the people. But he was not perfect. The families who did not circumcise their sons bear part of the blame for this. Moses also does. As the leader of the people he should have emphasized obedience to God in every area. This was certainly an area that it would have been easier to just ignore God’s instruction in. At that time, circumcision was not common. Basically no one did it. Simply put, it was easier for them to not do it.

Application: Are we conveniently ignoring some of God’s commands that are uncomfortable or inconvenient? Are we choosing the easy way or the Bible way? Are we following the people around us, afraid to stand out?

We need to be committed to obeying God even if no one else is. The leaders were not obeying God in this area or reminding the people to do it. The people were not taking initiative to do it. The priests were not telling the people to do it. As a nation, they took the easy way. When you face similar choices what will you do? (See Nehemiah 8:13-18.) If we find out we are not doing something that God has commanded, we should immediately repent and obey just as Joshua and the people did here in this passage.

3. The men were circumcised after crossing the Jordan – It seems that once again God was testing His people. Circumcision is a very painful procedure for grown men and basically incapacitates them for several days (see Genesis 34). Sound military strategy would have concluded that the men should be circumcised before crossing the Jordan since on the opposite side of the Jordan from their enemies they would have been safer.

However, God’s wisdom far surpasses man’s wisdom. His ways are higher than our ways. We have seen that God wanted the people to be humble. He wanted the people to trust in Him. He wanted the people to rely on Him and not on themselves. Taken together with the last couple of chapters, we can conclude that God was teaching them the principle we can find in Proverbs 3:5-6, which is not to rely on your own understanding, as an object lesson. He had so thoroughly terrified the people of the land that they didn’t dare to directly assault Joshua’s camp. God was protecting His people in invisible ways when they couldn’t protect themselves. (See Psalm 118:6.)

Application: This is the lesson we should learn from this passage. We should obey God without fearing the consequences. He will not allow anything to happen in our lives that is outside of His own perfect will for us. No one will be allowed to raise a hand against us unless God allows it. Joshua and the people needed to obey God in faith. In the same manner, we are also called to obey God in faith. We don’t know the future, but we know that God controls the future.

4. Circumcision – (See Genesis 17:10-14.) God commanded the Israelites to circumcise their children. This never has and never will save anyone. Instead it was an outward symbol of their identification with God as His chosen people, His special nation. It was something different which they did from the other nations to show that they were not like other nations. They belonged to God.

Beyond this there are a number of scientists who have given evidence that circumcision is healthy. Some kinds of diseases are less common or almost non-existent in males who have been circumcised. Also there is some evidence that the liklihood of cervix cancer for women is increased if their partner is uncircumcised.

What is more, scientists have discovered that a baby has more prothrombin (a protein derived from Vitamin K) available on the 8th day than any other day in his life. This protein is essential for curbing serious bleeding. We don’t know all of the reasons God commanded His people to be circumcised, just like we don’t know all of the reasons for many of the dietary laws. It is likely that those laws were given partially as a barrier between the Israelites and other countries (to make them be separate and different) and partially for health reasons. New Testament Christians are not under the law and are not commanded to be circumcised. As we have learned in Galatians, Paul refused to have Titus circumcised to show people that circumcision is not necessary for salvation. In the end, the decision is up to parents.

5. Obedience – Here is the main point in this chapter. The people had not been obedient. As a nation they had systematically disobeyed God’s command to circumcise their children. How could they be successful fulfilling God’s plan for them if they lived with deliberate sin in their lives? How could they truly consecrate themselves to God while living in disobedience in this area? Sin in one area affects every area. Sin in one member affect every member. Sin separates people from God. How could they hope to conquer the land if they weren’t close to God? What can we learn from this?

  • We need to evaluate our own lives to see if there is any area where we have not been obeying God.
  • We need to commit ourselves to obeying God even if others around us are not.
  • When we step out to complete the mission God has for us, we should first make sure that there is nothing keeping us from a close relationship with God.
  • We need to be willing to sacrifice our personal comfort for the sake of obeying God.
  • We should obey God even when it is not convenient and when worldly wisdom would tell us to “do it another time!”

6. God rolled away the reproach from them (verse 9) – The people had finally committed themselves to obeying God completely. When they did, He forgave the. He didn’t continue blaming them for the wrong they had done before. They were fully restored to Him.

Application: If you are facing guilt, reproach, or shame, don’t wait to repent. Every day of waiting is one day of not experiencing the joy of the Lord. Repent and be fully restored to the Lord and do it today!

7. The people celebrated the Passover (verses 11-12) – Although they were moving forward they did not forget the past. The lessons they learned in the past could guide them as they moved forward. It was these lessons and experiences which they could build their lives upon. By celebrating the Passover, how could they receive encouragement or motivation for their upcoming mission? As we learned last week, we must not forget what God has done for us. Think of creative ways to remember those things. Set memorials so that you will never forget God’s goodness in your lives.

8. Verse 12 – God’s provision for His children will never end. He provides in different ways at different times, but He always provides. We see that He provided supernaturally while they wandered in the wilderness. Here he provides through their situation and circumstances. Both are evidence of God’s provision.

Application: Think back on your lives. How has God provided for you? Has He provided for you in any unexpected ways? He may have provided differently at different times. Perhaps He provided through family, through friends, through a job, or through an unexpected gift. His arm is long. (See Isaiah 59:1.

9. Verses 13-15 – Joshua was near Jericho. Perhaps he was surveying the land and thinking of how they would conquer this city. The walls were tall and thick and strong. Joshua needed divine guidance. And when he needed help, God sent it. To paraphrase Joshua’s question, “whose side are you on?” The answer was more or less, “I am on God’s side.”

Application: Here there is a subtle lesson for us. God doesn’t really join our side. And we shouldn’t ask God to join our side. There are two sides, God’s side and Satan’s side. The question is, “Are you on God’s side?” It is our job to join God’s side and not the other way around. Instead of asking God to bless our plan, we should ask God what His plan is and then join it. Instead of asking God to bless our work, we should ask God what His work is and then do it.

10. The identity of this character – Joshua worships him by falling on his face and he doesn’t tell Joshua to get up. Instead he tells Joshua to remove his sandals. This would seem to indicate that this was the pre-incarnate Jesus since an angel would not have accepted worship. In many other Bible passages angels tell the prostrate men to get up.

11. Approach God with respect – He tells Joshua to take off his sandals and Joshua obeys. The concept is not hard for Easterners to understand. In most Asian countries it is considered highly rude to wear shoes inside other people’s homes. A visitor should politely remove his shoes first. These are the dirtiest parts of a person’s attire. And if we are to remove the dirtiest things before visiting people, how much more so before we visit God. God is holy. He hates sin. It is a complete perversion and revulsion in His sight. Can we bring our sin into His presence? Should not the first thing we do in prayer is confess our sins to Him so that we can enter with clean hands a clean heart? Do you approach God casually? He is the holy Creator of the universe and we must respect Him above all else.

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