Circumcision at Gilgal (Joshua 5:2-15) August 14
Upon their arrival at the camp in Gilgal, God instructs Joshua to prepare the Israelites to observe the first Passover that a sizeable percentage of them have ever been allowed to participate in. Apparently, as part of Israel's rejection, the people in the wilderness did not circumcise their sons (verses 2-7). And keeping the Passover in the wilderness would have required the exclusion of these uncircumcised sons (Exodus 12:43-49). Still, it seems likely that the Passover would have been kept by the nation of Israel all through the wilderness wanderingsby all those who came out of Egypt and then, after the older generation died out, by Joshua, Caleb, all the males of the first generation who were under 20 at the time of the Exodus and, presumably, the women. (It should be noted that even the uncircumcised males would have observed God's festivals in generalalong with the rest of Israel.)
Now, on the 10th day of the month on which Israel came up from the Jordan (Joshua 4:19), the day the Passover lambs were chosen in Egypt (Exodus 12:3), God confirms that He has chosen the Israelites as His people. The Bible elsewhere explains that physical circumcision is a type of spiritual circumcision "of the heart" (Deuteronomy 30:6; Romans 2:29), which entails repentance from past sin and obedience to God. In literal circumcision, there is a rending of a veil of flesh and a shedding of blood that is reminiscent of sacrifices. Egypt is a type in Scripture of the sinful life we have left behind.
All of this is most interesting when we consider the words of Joshua 5:9: "Then the Lord said to Joshua, 'This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.' Therefore the name of the place is called Gilgal to this day." As The King James Study Bible notes: "A play on words occurs here. Gilgal ('Rolling Away') marks the place where God rolled away the reproach of Egypt. Israel's era of shameful captivity [and rejection] now came officially to an end. The inheritance of Canaan lay ahead (compare 1:6; 21:43-45). The same verbal root marks the New Testament site of Golgotha, the place where mankind's captivity by sin [and resultant rejection] was ended [that is, for those who have repented and obtained forgiveness]. There man's sins were rolled away and rolled onto the person of Jesus Christ, so believers might enter God's spiritual inheritance" (note on 5:9). And this, of course, requires our spiritual circumcision. Indeed, it is only through being spiritually circumcised that we are allowed to partake of the bread and wine of the New Testament Passover.
The Israelites take a few days to heal (compare 5:8), and undoubtedly many of them are still sore when they keep the Passover a few days later, on the 14th of Abib (verse 10), and when they start their processions around Jericho, which apparently begin the next day.
This next day, Abib 15, was the First Day of Unleavened Bread. It was on this Holy Day that Joshua encountered the "Commander of the army of the Lord" (verse 14), who proved to be none other than God Himself, since Joshua was permitted to worship Him (compare Revelation 19:10; 22:8-9) and since Joshua was commanded to remove his sandals in this Being's presence, just as Moses was commanded to do before God at the burning bush (verse 15; compare Exodus 3:5-6). In both cases, it should be noted, this was the preincarnate Jesus Christ and not God the Father (compare John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Corinthians 10:4; see our free booklet Who Is God?).
Godthat is, the preincarnate Christmade His appearance to Joshua on this occasion to provide encouragement for the task ahead, of taking the land. Christ's instructions to Joshua immediately follow in the next verses (6:2-5).