Scripture: When the circumcising of the whole nation was finished, they remained in their places in the camp until they were healed. 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.” Joshua 5:8-9 ESV
Observation: Having led the people of God across the dry riverbed to safety in the Promised Land, Joshua erects a stone memorial at Gilgal to remind Israel of Yahweh’s great and mighty acts of salvation and to fear the Lord their God forever (chapter 4). In this chapter, the author tells us the Lord commanded Joshua to circumcise the generation of Israel born in the wilderness wandering, for they had not received circumcision (likely due to the challenge of resting the body until fully healed versus the need to keep moving, vv.2-7). So, at Gibeath-haaraloth, Joshua followed orders, and the men remained in camp convalescing until healed (verse 8 above). The Lord then renewed the covenant with Abraham, stating to Joshua that, on this day, he rolled away the “reproach of Egypt” from Israel. Hence, the place is called Gilgal (above verse 9).
Of note, Gibeath-haaraloth means in Hebrew “the hill of the foreskins.” And its renaming to Gilgal is based on its meaning “to roll.” Hence, the author cites both names to remind his readers of the events that took place:
- Israel ratifies the Abrahamic Covenant by circumcising their hundreds of thousand men, producing a mound of foreskins.
- God confirms the Abrahamic Covenant by announcing that he has rolled away the reproach of Egypt from Israel.
As theologian Donald Madvig proposes, the reproach means “the Israelites, now reestablished as the covenant people in the Land of Promise, had been delivered from their national disgrace of enslavement and homelessness” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Joshua). Verses 4-6, which harken to the harried exodus from Egypt, would support this view.
Takeaway: As mentioned in previous Daily Focus devotionals, baptism is the New Covenant version of circumcision. Indeed, both are outward signs of an inward reality of faith in God. Even the Israelites understood faith as the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant: God credited Abraham’s faith as righteousness (having a right relationship with him, Genesis 15:6). And Paul, in Romans 4, makes the same argument as pertains to our Gospel: we enter into the Covenant of Grace with our creator by grace through faith.
Also, similar to Israel’s covenant renewal, Christ, our Savior, offered his flesh on a hill to roll away our reproach of enslavement to sin and spiritual homelessness. So while we have no outward physical sign of our covenant, how we conduct our lives by faith reveals our right relationship with our Lord and Savior. Thus, when we seek to love our Triune God and our neighbors in the fullness of grace, others will take notice and either run away in fear or draw near in hope. But like Israel, if we aspire to triumph over our enemies, we must equip ourselves to battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. For our only means to victory is to regularly remember our Lord’s great act of salvation and honor him by living out our covenantal baptism embracing the inward reality of Christ and his Holy Spirit in us.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son, who at Calvary offered his body as a living sacrifice to roll away our sins and put us in a right relationship with you. Would you please help us equip ourselves to battle against the world, the flesh, and the devil by remembering the Cross and embracing the reality of your Son and Holy Spirit in us, who strengthen us to love you and our neighbors as ourselves? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling