Joshua was the new leader in Israel following the death of Moses (Josh. 1:2). Joshua was to bring the people across the Jordan into the land that God had promised Moses and their forefathers to give to them. We read about the people crossing the Jordan River in Joshua 3-4. Joshua tells the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant to walk into the Jordan River and when their feet hit the river’s edge God would stop the river upstream from flowing so that they could cross over (remember Ex. 14). The priests revealed a deep trust by doing so especially since it was the time of harvest which meant, “the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest” (Josh. 3:15). The Jordan was not calm, but moving rapidly, it was not low, but overflowing, it was not a smooth, but covered bushes and jungle growth.
They cross over safely and then Joshua is given this command from the LORD, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time” (Josh. 5:2). Now back in Genesis 34 we read about Shechem raping Dinah, Jacob’s daughter (vv. 2, 5). When the brothers hear about it they deceive Shechem and his father and tell them to have all the males circumcised so they can intermarry. They agree and on the third day after all the males were circumcised, “when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males” (Gen 34:25).
Here in Genesis 34 Shechem and the men with him felt secure, but they were far from secure as Simeon and Levi attacked them for treating their sister like a prostitute (v. 31). Israel has just crossed a raging river, one that no one else would try to cross, and they are now in the land of promise. And the first command they are given is to circumcise the males, for the younger generation, who did not die in the wilderness (Josh. 5:5), had not been circumcised by their rebellious fathers. Wouldn’t this be safer on the other side of the raging Jordan River then in enemy territory? For as there was a recovery time for Shechem and his men, there would be a recovery time for the men of Israel too (Josh. 5:8), when they would be sore. They would be an easy target for the kings of the Amorites and the kings of the Canaanites, just as Simeon and Levi took advantage of the situation before them.
Joshua and the people of Israel trusted in the LORD. They trusted in the reports that they had received about the people of land having their hearts melted (2:9, 11, 24; 5:1). And rather than being overtaken, since the LORD protected His people, they instead ate the produce of the land that year (5:11-12).
When our feelings about a situation seem to be telling us one thing, but God’s word says the opposite, we must take God at His word. Our feelings can be deceived and lead us astray, but our trust in the LORD should never waver. Of course this is easier said than done at times. So we remember what God has told us. God loves His children, those who are in Christ, and so we trust, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32).
Resource Highlight – For a good exposition of Joshua that is very accessible for all readers check out: No Falling Words by: Dale Ralph Davis