Joshua Circumcised the People

Text: Joshua 5:2-9

Just after crossing the Jordan River into the promised land, Joshua was told to circumcise the people. Why was this to be done? And what lessons can we learn from it that would apply today?

The Circumcision of the Israelites

  • Done after crossing the Jordan (Joshua 3), but before the conquest of Jericho (Joshua 6) – it was for all the males who had been born in the wilderness (Joshua 5:5)
  • Act of obedience (Joshua 5:2) – God commanded it, therefore it was to be done; God has always expected His people to obey (Ecclesiastes 12:13); because He is God, He has the right to expect this (Exodus 20:2ff)
  • Sign of the covenant (Genesis 17:9-10, 14) – those who came out of Egypt had been circumcised (Joshua 5:5); those born in the wilderness needed to be as well because they were also under the covenant
  • Necessary for each generation (Joshua 5:4-5) – each one is accountable to God; faithfulness of parents will not save the children (Ezekiel 18:10-13); one who would not be circumcised would be cut off (Genesis 17:14)
  • Painful procedure (Joshua 5:8) – the law said to do this when a baby was 8 days old (Genesis 17:12; Leviticus 12:3); some of these men were 40-60 years old (Joshua 5:5-7; Numbers 32:11); this put them in a vulnerable position (cf. Genesis 34:24-25), making this an act of faith
  • To remove the reproach of Egypt (Joshua 5:9) – the shame of being in bondage in Egypt; they were now in the promised land (Exodus 3:8)

Our Circumcision Today

  • Not necessary today (Galatians 5:6), but a different kind of circumcision that is necessary – baptism (Colossians 2:11-12)
  • Act of obedience – circumcision is irrelevant, instead we must obey the commands that apply to us (1 Corinthians 7:19); baptism is commanded (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 10:48; 1 Peter 1:22-23)
  • Sign of the covenant (Colossians 2:11-12) – all of those in the kingdom of Christ have been baptized into Christ (Acts 2:41, 47)
  • Necessary for each generation (Acts 2:38-39) – one generation can help the next (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15), but each one must obey on his own
  • Painful procedure – put to death the old man of sin (Romans 6:6); sometimes causes conflict with others (1 Peter 4:4; Matthew 10:34-36)
  • To remove the reproach of our bondage in sin – in baptism we are freed from sin (Romans 6:7, 17-18); to remain free, we must continue in His word (John 8:31-32)

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