News traveled slower during this time, but Israel’s reputation has far preceded them. In chapter 2, Rahab tells of how the account of the Exodus and the battles east of the Jordan have already spread far and wide, and now the inhabitants of Canaan find that the LORD has miraculously opened the was for Israel to enter the land. Their existence now inspires one feeling – FEAR.
Before the conquest of Canaan can begin, there is an issue that needs to be resolved. The wilderness generation was never circumcised (a sign of the covenant that the LORD established with Abraham) – it is a bit of a mystery why the older generation did not circumcise their children. A few possibilities are:
1) the need for mobility (circumcision would slow them down – healing takes time), or
2) a sense of rebellion after being denied the Promised Land (following the events at Kadesh Barnea – Numbers 13 & 14), or
3) a despairing belief that their children, having to live with their parents’ punishment, would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land either (not trusting in GOD’s word in Numbers 14:31).
Whatever the reason, the new generation are now part of the covenant, and GOD will honor His promises to them.
Having arrived in the spring, Israel keeps the Passover celebration, for the first time in Canaan (and in celebration of the end of their long journey). Also for the first time, the people eat of Canaan’s rich produce (samples of which were brought by the twelve spies in Numbers 13) and the bread from Heaven ceases to fall.
For forty years, GOD provided the manna for Israel on the journey through the wilderness; now that they have entered Canaan, they no longer have any need for it.
As he scouts out the immediate area (and the first military target), Joshua comes across an armed Man; seeking to weigh things out, Joshua asks which side He is on. The Man replies that, as commander of the LORD’s armies, He is on God’s side. Joshua immediately bows in worship, and the Man does not rebuke Joshua for doing so; this means that the Man is no mere angel – not even an archangel like Michael – but rather the preincarnate Christ, GOD in person.
For Joshua, this experience serves a dual purpose:
1) this is Joshua’s “burning bush” experience; as GOD spoke to and called Moses at the bush, He now calls Joshua at the outskirts of Jericho. He even repeats the command to remove his sandals, because any meeting place with GOD is holy ground.
2) It is a reminder to Joshua that the proper question for his (and Israel’s) success in conquering Canaan is “are you on GOD’s side?” It will be His hand of power that determines whether or not Israel will receive and hold the land.