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Y'hoshua/Joshua 5:10 And the Children of Israel camped in Gilgal and made the Pesach on the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, in the plains of Jericho.
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The traditional Ashkenazi Haftarah readings for the first day of Pesach focus on Joshua and how he has stepped into the shoes of Moshe. Starting with Joshua telling the people to "Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow Adonai will do wonders among you" (Joshua 3:5), then describing the circumcision of the people - as the 'new' generation has not been circumcised during the years in the wilderness - and the keeping of the first Pesach in the Land, followed by Joshua's vision of the commander ofHaShem's armies and being told to take off his shoes, finally confirming that "Adonai was with Joshua and the people heard about him throughout the Land" (6:1), the passages bear a strong resemblance to Moshe's own calling, instituting the first Pesach when our people left Egypt and being confirmed as HaShem's chosen leader for the nation.
Our text - "and the Children of Israel made Pesach on the fourteenth day of the month" - is a fulfillment of the specific commandment, "and you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, when the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill their lambs at twilight" (Shemot 12:6, ESV) and a physical re-enactment of both the command and history: "And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the L-RD commanded Moshe, so the people of Israel did" (B'Midbar 9:5, ESV). We know from both the historical and archaeological record that Israel was not consistent in keeping Pesach from the time of the judges until the Babylonian exile, with a few exceptions; the Bible uses King Josiah as an example when he did keep Pesach: "For Pesach had not been so observed since the days when the judges ruled Isra'el- not during the times of any of the kings of Isra'el or of the kings of Y'hudah" (2 Kings 23:22, CJB).
Two key things surround this first Pesach in the Land: a mass circumcision of the people and the stopping of the daily provision of manna. At the start of the reading, Joshua is told "Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time" (Joshua 5:2, NASB). Joshua is to circumcise the people before they eat the Pesach, the Passover offering. Why? As far as the Passover offering itself is concerned: "no-one who is uncircumcised shall eat of it" (Shemot 12:48). But what about the people? The text tells us, "this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way, after they came out of Egypt. For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised" (Joshua 5:4-5); all those who had come out of Egypt had been circumcised there, but they were all dead - those now alive had been born during the years in the wilderness and had not been circumcised. This implies that Pesach had not been kept in the wilderness except that first time (above); these people had to be circumcised so that they could eat the Pesach for the first time.
Joshua's record goes on: "And on the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain" (v. 11, NASB). The eating of the Passover itself, roasted lamb from their flocks, started the seven days of unleavened bread. This had been kept during the Exodus from Egypt - "they baked unleavened cakes of the dough that they had brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not wait, nor had they prepared any provisions for themselves" (Shemot 12:39, ESV) - but not in the wilderness because HaShem had supernaturally provided manna, not grain, each day for us to eat. Now that the people were in the Land, they could eat unleavened bread or parched grain1 gathered from the produce of the Land around them. But that was not all: "the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten some of the produce of the land, so that the sons of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate some of the yield of the land of Canaan during that year" (Joshua 5:12, ESV). Now that they had arrived and eaten some of the normal food produced by the Land, the need for supernatural food - the manna - had gone; they had entered their inheritance, the Promised Land, and it was capable of supporting them for the rest of the year until they could plant and sow at the beginning of the next agricultural cycle.
As we approach this Pesach, what can these ideas teach us? Firstly, that we must be circumcised in order to partake of the feast. This may not have been done for some time, if at all, but it is an essential step for both Jew and Gentile in our relationship with G-d. Moshe wrote, "Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn" (D'varim 10:16, ESV), while Jeremiah urged the people, "Circumcise yourselves to the L-RD; remove the foreskin of your hearts, O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest My wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds" (Jeremiah 4:4, ESV). But aren't Gentile believers expressly forbidden circumcision - "if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law" (Galatians 5:2-3, NIV)? Rav Sha'ul is talking about physical circumcision, not circumcision of the heart: "In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ" (Colossians 2:11, ESV). Both Jew and Gentile need to be circumcised inwardly, in our hearts: the circumcision done by G-d that enables us to love and serve Him: "And the L-RD your G-d will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the L-RD your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live" (D'varim 30:6, ESV).
Similarly, after we have kept the feast, after we have eaten of the Passover Lamb and daubed His blood on the doorposts and lintels of our lives so that the destroyer may not touch us, we are to enter into our inheritance - the Promised Land, the kingdom of G-d. Our food changes from the food of this world and instead we feast in the kingdom, on food that we have neither sown or nurtured, but which will support us for the remainder of our lives until we have planted and sown the seed of the gospel in another generation. Our Promised Land will endure forever, for the kingdom of G-d cannot perish or fall, but instead is a kingdom for all eternity, triumphing over sin and death by the power of our confession that Yeshua the Messiah is Lord of all. Yeshua - the Lamb of G-d who takes away the sin of the world - has been crucified; He rose victorious from the grave after three days "and having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15, NIV). We have been invited to be a part of His kingdom, to be part of His winning team! As Rav Sha'ul wrote, "Thanks be to G-d, who in the Messiah constantly leads us in a triumphal procession and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of what it means to know him!" (2 Corinthians 2:14, CJB)
Chag Pesach Sameach!
1. - grain that has been cooked by dry roasting. It is thought to be one of the earliest ways in which the ancients ate grains and historically, it was a common food in the Ancient Near East.
Further Study: Romans 2:28-29; 1 Corinthians 5:6-8
Application: Have you circumcised your heart and entered into the kingdom of G-d through Messiah Yeshua? If not, then why not use this Passover season to sign up and claim your inheritance!
© Jonathan Allen, 2012
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