Joshua and all of Israel are on the western shore of the Jordan. They have stepped foot into the Promised Land. But they need to renew their commitment to God. This is an outward sign of an inward connection.
Here we are going to witness another case of “God’s fingerprints” on the events that unfold. We KNOW that He has already promised to fight for Israel as they take the land. He has already fed them for forty years and kept their clothes from wearing out. He has also performed amazing miracles for them. The latest was the rolling back of the Jordan so the people could cross.
Before I point out the “fingerprints” I want to back up a moment and look at the people who lived in the land Israel was going to take over. Over the years they had heard of Israel’s fame. They had listened as travelers came with stories as far away as Egypt. Their stories told of Egypt’s troubles with the people. Stories of the parting of the Red Sea had made it to their ears. They had also heard of Israel’s battles along the way. Their most recent one was with Moab. There was only one story that showed Israel in anything but the victor role and that was 40 years ago.
I seriously doubt the people living in Canaan had been told that the Lord was going to roust them out. They could see the people on the move and make a few assumptions as to where they were going. Most of them had a sinking feeling in their hearts that Israel was coming their way. But if I were in their shoes I would be hoping for a peaceful coexistence with this group.
God had been instilling the fear of Israel and the fear of Him into these nations for a LONG time. Every story told built that fear a little more. But they could have just been stories. No one had seen God personally do any miracles for this group, until the day before. THAT miracle, the rolling back of the Jordan river, happened right in front of them. They heard the absence of the sound of the mighty river running just outside their towns. The saw the people walk through the riverbed that had just been the site of harvest flood waters. If you think Israel was impressed and awed by this act of God, imagine how those NOT on His side viewed this event! It scared them SO bad that they didn’t even dare THINK about attacking Israel! “If their God can do that with the river what would He do to someone who openly challenged Him?”
Just a few days before we see the king of Jericho and his soldiers going out full tilt after the spies who came into his town. They were afraid of Israel at the time but they were still ready to fight. They were ready to protect what was theirs. But not now. Now they were shaking in their shoes and hiding under their beds.
God NEEDED this fear at this time. He designed it for this moment. He had a task for Joshua to undertake that made the whole camp vulnerable. God wanted Joshua to renew the physical sign of His covenant among the people of Israel. He told him to circumcise EVERY male. And this action would leave Israel without anyone capable of fighting off an attack.
Joshua and Caleb were the only two men who were circumcised. They were from the original group who left Egypt. The rest of the men had been born while Israel was in the wilderness. Joshua had 624,730 circumcisions to perform. This included every male numbered in the last census, including the tribe of Levi. I have a feeling he had help! I wouldn’t be surprised if he circumcised the Levites first then had them assist him with the rest of the men.
We are told of another group of men who were circumcised and their condition led to the death of their whole community. This is the story of Dinah, Jacob’s daughter, who was raped by Shechem. Levi and Simeon tricked the men into circumcising every man in their city and then going in three days later and slaughtering them. The men were in such pain that there was NO WAY they could protect themselves.
If God hadn’t scared the people in the Promised Land so severely they might have come up with that same plan. God knew in advance just how to keep the “natives” at bay. He gave His people protection while they healed. I googled the healing time and it says that it takes about ten days for the penis to heal and that for at least seven days one should expect to be off work. So for at LEAST a week God kept the people in Canaan too scared to even THINK about attacking. AND the people of Israel trusted Him enough to become this vulnerable!
The people were in “enemy territory”, yet they had the faith necessary to follow God’s command and submit themselves to Joshua’s direction. I wonder if they thought about their vulnerability. Did they ask Joshua if he had any plans to deal with possible attacks? Did they stagger the circumcisions so that not everyone was down at the same time? I imagine it took some time for it all to be accomplished. I wonder how long the whole healing process took because the size of the undertaking. They trusted God in this because He had proven Himself trustworthy.
Father God, I LOVE seeing Your fingerprints! I hadn’t seen them the last time I read this story. Thank You Holy Spirit for opening my eyes to them today. Thank You for also showing me how much Israel’s faith had grown over the years. I can’t even imagine what that first generation would have said if this kind of act was asked of them. I have a feeling there would have been another rebellion with them.
You left NO DOUBT in the people’s minds, both in the camp and those watching from the other nations, that YOU were on Israel’s side. You left NO DOUBT about Your ability to protect them either. You are in control of my life too. I don’t get miracles quite as grand as the ones You did for the people in Joshua and Moses’ days but they are amazing to me just the same. I LOVE thinking about what You will do next in my life. I also LOVE looking back and seeing Your fingerprints all over the paths behind me. I trust You to keep making those same kinds of marks in my life. Thank You for ALL You have done and will continue to do.