Joshua 5 - The Divine Warrior and Fear of God

Last week, Lee went verse by verse through Joshua 5.
  • In doing so, we also briefly discussed circumcision.
  • With the enemy not far off, but in obedience to God, Jewish soldiers submitted to circumcision.
  • This rendered them unable to fight and exposed them to attack while they rested.
  • Clearly, obedience is not necessarily convenient and can be risky from a worldly perspective.

BTW – The circumcision of the heart is as painful as the circumcision of the foreskin.
  • When God’s separates us from our sin it can be an incredibly painful experience.

Today I want to dive deeper into three things from Joshua 5.
  • (1) Fear of the Lord
  • (2) The Divine Warrior
  • (3) God Sanctioned War


There are two verses we need to consider.
  • Joshua 4:23–24 (ESV) — 23 For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, 24 so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”
  • Joshua 5:14 (ESV) — 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”

These two verses are important for at least three reasons.
  • (1) We are told what a proper response is to the LORD who is mighty – “fear the Lord your God”.
  • (2) We are shown what that response looks like – humility and submission/reverence and awe – “face to the earth”.
    • It is important to point out here that Joshua, the warrior and leader of Israel bowed down before this Divine Warrior.
    • Clearly submission and humility were in play.
  • (3) Their relationship to Conquest.
    • God’s favor and presence and a proper response to Him are shown to be of great importance for the conquest of Canaan.

The Psalmist explains the third:
  • Psalm 33:16–20 (ESV) — 16 The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 17 The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. 18 Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 19 that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. 20 Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.

This of course shows, like Joshua 1, that the Israelites’ success is dependent on Joshua’s/Israelites’ recognition of and response to the mighty “hand of the Lord” that cut off the Jordan River.
  • In other words, “…what is at stake [in the conquest of Canaan] is not the political problem of existence and preservation of Israel among the nations, but individual piety…” – Gerhard Von Rad (Holy War in Ancient Israel).
  • Joshua 1:8 (ESV) — 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

And speaking of God’s presence and the conquest, let’s take a deeper look at Israel’s powerful ally, the Divine Warrior.


Joshua 5:13–15 (ESV) — 13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.

This text introduces us to what scholars call the Divine Warrior motif.
  • I want us to understand the Divine Warrior from two perspectives.
    • Divine Warrior and Ancient Near East
    • Divine Warrior and Jesus

(1) Divine Warrior and Ancient Near East:
  • “The Israelite authors employed rich Near Eastern expressions of cosmological warfare…” – Daniel Block.
  • The Divine Warrior is one such example.

Some examples:
  • Exodus 15:3 (ESV) — 3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.
  • Numbers 22:23 (ESV) — 23 And the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. And the donkey turned aside out of the road and went into the field. And Balaam struck the donkey, to turn her into the road.
  • 1 Chronicles 21:16 (ESV) — 16 And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.
  • And of course our text today.
  • …a man was standing before him with his drawn sword…I am the commander of the army of the Lord

In fact, such language and imagery “…was not unique to Israel, but common throughout the ancient Near East” – AYBD.
  • The Canaanites, for example, also had a divine warrior that fought on their behalf.
  • His name was Baal; he was their storm god.
  • And as their divine warrior and storm god, he was “…armed with thunder, lightning, and flood” – John Walton.

It is important to consider at this point our lesson on OT polemical theology from a couple of weeks ago.
  • Were the OT writers led to write “cosmological warfare” language as a deliberate polemic against the Pagans’ so-called gods?

For example, in numerous OT texts, the God of Israel is portrayed using language common to portrayals of Baal.
  • “God appears with the storm cloud representing the divine chariot (Judg 5:4; Hab 3:8; Ps 68:4, 7–9, 33) and heavily armed with the powers of the thunderstorm, violent winds (Exod 15:8–10), and lightning bolts (Hab 3:9–12)” – AYBD.

I think the answer to our above question is yes.
  • And this is made all the more evident when we understand the identity of Israel’s Divine Warrior.
  • Jesus vs. Baal

(2) Jesus is the Divine Warrior:
  • Many scholars agree that Jesus is the Divine Warrior (Calvin, Warfield, Oliphant).
  • Why?
  • There are a number of reasons.

Reason One – He is portrayed as such in the New Testament.
  • “This paradigm of the divine warrior extends into the New Testament as well, with Jesus' victory over all hostile forces and the climax of history in the book of Revelation” – Daniel Block.
  • Revelation 19:11–16 (ESV) — 11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
  • Remember, it was Jesus who controlled the sea and wind (Baal’s domain).
  • Matthew 8:27 (ESV) — 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Reason Two – Theologically, the 2nd person of the Trinity is the mediator of Yahweh’s personal revelation to creation.
  • “The Angel of the Lord…is...the Son of God condescended. From the beginning of creation there has been no revelation of God…that has not been mediated through the second person of the Trinity. He is the one…who from the beginning has condescended to interact with creation” – Scott Oliphant (Reformed Forum – The Aseity of the Son).
  • Along with the Angel of the Lord/Divine Warrior, this mediation through the 2nd person in the Trinity can be seen in the OT with God as:
    • Wisdom
    • Word

Reason Three – Jesus refers to himself in context of the Divine Warrior motif.
  • Daniel 7:13 (ESV) — 13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
  • The cloud rider is a Divine Warrior motif associated with Baal and now with the Son of Man.
  • Matthew 26:64 (ESV) — 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Next week will contend with Jesus as Divine Warrior sanctioning war.