Intertextual Ricochet

Joshua 5:13-6:27 is full of intertextual echoes. In chapter 5, Joshua meets a man after he crosses over the Jordan, a man with a sword drawn. The placement of this sword-bearing man (at the east entrance to the paradisal land of Canaan) matches the angel with a flaming sword standing at the east entrance to the garden of Eden. The man identifies himself as the commander of the army of the Lord and tells Joshua to take his sandals off his feet, an exchange very similar to that between Moses and the Lord in Exodus 3.

This tells us two things: first, Joshua is meeting with the Lord, and second, Israel is about to enter a new Eden.

Unfortunately, chapter 6 divides this exchange, making it seem as though when the Lord begins to speak to Joshua, his encounter with the commander of the Lord’s army is finished. It isn’t. Chapter six contains the commander’s words. And what does the commander command? A six-day march, culminating in the destruction of Jericho on the seventh day. Israel’s conquest of Canaan isn’t just their entering into a new Eden, but the act of a new creation, one where the people of God join God in his work of creating. In creation, the Spirit hovers and God speaks; in conquest, Israel marches and shouts. On the Sabbath day of this new creation, Israel conquers Jericho decisively. Of course, in the narrative of Joshua, this new creation is followed by a new fall in Achan’s sin, but the narrative itself instructs us.

When God’s people conquer sin by the Spirit, they enact God’s new work of creation. This happens every day, but particularly and decisively when God’s people gather together on the Lord’s day. Our new Sabbath is a day for shouting, blowing trumpets, and conquering sin, so we may possess the land. It only happens because the commander of the Lord’s army has given the land into our hands (6:2) and because we are in renewed covenant with God through the putting off of the flesh (5:2-9).

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