As soon as all the kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan to the west, and all the kings of the Canaanites who were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of the Jordan for the people of Israel until they had crossed over, their hearts melted and there was no longer any spirit in them because of the people of Israel.
2 At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.” 3 So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the males of the people who came out of Egypt, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way after they had come out of Egypt. 5 Though all the people who came out had been circumcised, yet all the people who were born on the way in the wilderness after they had come out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6 For the people of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, the men of war who came out of Egypt, perished, because they did not obey the voice of the Lord; the Lord swore to them that he would not let them see the land that the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give to us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7 So it was their children, whom he raised up in their place, that Joshua circumcised. For they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.
8 When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. 9 And the Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” And so the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day.
Verse 1: Before a battle was even fought on this side of the Jordan River, God had already worked to deliver victory to the Israelites. Joshua did the wise thing by standing aside and letting God handle the method of crossing the Jordan rather than try to come up with a way to build a bridge or ford across the river. The supernatural actions of God sent ripples throughout the land ahead of the Israelites, something that God is still capable of accomplishing today for Christians. If God is prompting you to do something that looks impossible, perhaps He is preparing a mighty work to bring honor and glory to His name through you. Remember that faith is belief without seeing, and that faith is more than just a passive emotion or feeling or thought. Faith is active, and so God might be waiting for you to take those first steps on this revealed path, trusting that He will show up and bring about a way for things to be accomplished according to His will.
Verses 2-3: Verse two can appear as a head-scratcher at first glance, much like the passage in John where Jesus tells Nicodemus that a man must be born again to see the Kingdom of God (See John 3:1-15). It sounds as though God is telling Joshua that these men must be circumcised a second time but, as will be seen in verses 4-7, this assumption is incorrect. But it is important to note that God allows them to cross over the Jordan River, into the Promised Land, and then commands the circumcision. Religion can lead us to believe that a person must become clean, or be a good enough person, before they can enter into the presence and protection of God. Yet the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a God that brings His people in first and then works to clean them after they are His. Perfection is not required first by God. It is only when man gets involved that the weight of what we must do or be or say or think becomes a burden.
Verses 4-7: All of the people who left Egypt had been circumcised, yet almost every man, woman, and child here now was born during the 40 years spent in the wilderness. It does not mention why the practice of circumcision on the 8th day was not upheld during that time, but God makes the decision now to have His people get the circumcision in order to mark themselves physically as being under His covenant of the flesh. This act was one of many commands passed down throughout the Old Testament, this one being given initially to Abraham (see Genesis 17:10-14). Fans of religion, those who want to believe that what they do helps them to earn their promised salvation, may look to the old command of circumcision and believe it should still be upheld and practiced today because God had commanded it of the Israelites. Yet we see that the Holy Spirit descended upon the uncircumcised Gentiles (See Acts 10:44-48) and that Peter opposed the Jews in Antioch who proclaimed it was a necessary act to earn salvation (see Acts 15:1-11) and Paul and Barnabas also reached the conclusion that Gentiles should not be compelled to be circumcised (see Acts 15:13-21). What counts now, under the new Covenant brought about by Christ, is new creation (see Galatians 6:15) rather than a works-based approach to salvation (see Ephesians 2:8). So while the practice of circumcision is not a wrong one to have – there are certainly reasons to consider upholding the practice – choosing to circumcise in order to secure salvation is an attempt to bring about salvation through our own power and influence rather than by the Mercy and Grace of God.
Verse 9: The previous chapter mentioned that Joshua set up the monument of 12 stones at Gilgal (see Joshua 4:19-20), yet we see it being named here in the following chapter. The name Gilgal comes from a word that signifies to take away, which is representing a shift in the relationship between God and the Israelites. The past 40 years had been spent wandering in the wilderness as a result of the people’s decisions and inclination to turn toward man-made idols. With the act of circumcision here, the Israelites are moving into a right relationship once more with God, who will be leading the way as they campaign throughout the Promised Land.