God had led the people of
Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land
(Joshua 3–4). It was a miraculous crossing. Imagine
two million people, including women and children,
crossing a swollen river at flood stages.
Joshua was out surveying
city of Jericho and planning his battle strategy.
How would he take this tightly shut, fortified city
with its king and valiant warriors?
Suddenly there was a
dramatic, unexpected appearance of a mysterious man
with a drawn sword in combat readiness. Joshua
immediately went over and asked him, "Are you for us
or for our adversaries?" (v. 13). Joshua had been
waiting forty years; he was ready to fight.
Joshua asked the wrong
question. The man replied, "No; rather I indeed come
now as captain of the host of the Lord" (v. 14). How
often do we go in to God asking the wrong questions?
Who was this "captain of
the host of the LORD"? A "host" in the Bible is an
unseen army, invisible to the human eye that
surrounds the throne of God. It is an angelic host.
Cf. 2 Kings 6:17ff; Psalm 148:2; 103:21. Christ said
twelve legions of angels were ready to defend Him.
recognized the supernatural character of this
visitor. Joshua was in the presence of God. "And
Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed
down, and said to him, 'What has my lord to say to
his servant?'" (v. 14b). Joshua fell on his face and
worshiped. The worship paid to this messenger of the
LORD is directed to Yahweh Himself. Who is this
person? It is sin to worship angels and men (Exodus
20; Deuteronomy 5-8; Revelation 19:10; 22:8, 9). The
total impact of the context of the passage indicates
that a superhuman person is present. He is in the
presence of Deity. The commander of the army of the
LORD is God Himself. Yahweh has come to lead and
fight for His people. All distinctions between the
messenger of the covenant and the LORD Himself
evaporate in the context.
Verse fifteen removes any
doubt as to who this "captain of the army of Yahweh"
was. "The captain of the Lord’s host said to Joshua,
'Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place
where you are standing is holy.' And Joshua did so."
In the Bible only things, places and people can be
called holy because they are set aside for God or
claimed by Him.
Joshua did not have any
problem with obedience. Jesus said, "If you love Me
you will keep My commandments." If you love Him, you
will obey Him. You don't turn 18 and no longer have
a need to obey Him. It is a question of love and
This is a theophany, or
more correctly a Christophany. This "captain" is the
angel of the covenant appearing in human form to
take command of the armies of Israel. Our Joshua was
under His command! Israel's deliverance comes from
only one source just as our deliverance comes from
only one source––God for us in Christ.
This is "a preliminary
manifestation of the Eternal Word of God, who, in
the fullness of time, 'became flesh and dwelt among
us,'" declared Alexander Maclaren. It is a
preincarnate appearing of the Son of God, the Lord
Jesus Christ. We always find Him revealing God. In
the Bible the Triune God is alone seen or manifested
in Christ. Cf. John 1:18; 14:9; Colossians 1:15;
Yahweh had come to lead
His people to victory. Yahweh is our salvation. The
captain of the LORD's host is none other than the
Great Captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus
Christ. The angel of the covenant of the Old
Testament is Jesus Christ in the New Testament. He
is Immanuel––God with us. Moreover, the captain's
army is nothing short that the LORD Himself.
We cannot help but make
the comparison between Moses and the burning bush
that would not burn, and Joshua and the Captain of
the host of the LORD (cf. Exodus 3:1ff). I believe
it is there on purpose for the people of Israel and
Joshua. "Just as I have been with Moses, I will be
with you; I will not fail you or forsake you"
This is the same person
we meet in other theophanic manifestations by
God the Son in the Old Testament. Sometimes we meet
Him in the form of the angel of the LORD and at
other times in the form of a man. He is called "the
God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob," "the God of
Israel" and "the Angel of the covenant."
It was God the Son who
thus appeared in human form to Hagar (Gen. 16:7),
Abraham (Gen. 18:1), Jacob (Gen. 32:24-30), Israel
(Judges 2:1), Gideon (Judges 6:12-18), Manoah
(Judges 13:21). He is also called "the Messenger" or
"Angel of the Covenant" and "Lord of His temple"
A promise of God's
personal presence always carries with it the
assurance of God's personal care and provision. God
is not our personal genie. The battle, Joshua is
reminded, is the LORD's. We are here to serve Him in
His battle for righteousness. We are here to do His
will. He is not here to serve us. Christ is our
It was a humbling
experience for Joshua, and a reminder that most of
us are too big for God to use. He has to show us who
is in charge and bring us to our knees to worship.
"Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place
where you are standing is holy." Where ever God is
there is holy ground. Let's humble ourselves and
walk in His ways.
5:13–6:5 Captain of the Host of the LORD
Christ in the Old Testament