Joshua’s Mysterious Barefoot Encounter

Joshua’s Mysterious Barefoot Encounter by JUSTIN DILLEHAY for The Gospel Coalition

The Bible is full of repeat stories. Peter Leithart describes how he used to train his children during family worship to notice these recurring patterns by saying things like “Wow! This is the first time in the Bible this has happened.” He might read the story of Moses meeting Zipporah and say, “This is the first man to meet his wife at a well!”—which for his children meant, “Actually, this has happened before!”

Something similar is going on in Joshua 5:13–15, the story of Joshua’s encounter with a mysterious stranger calling himself “the commander of the army of the LORD.” Even on a surface reading the story will sound familiar to most Bible readers. But a more patient reading can also bring us face to face with someone even greater than Joshua.

Joshua as the New Moses

The most obvious repeat comes when the commander tells Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy” (Josh. 5:15). One is immediately reminded of the burning bush, where the voice told Moses the same thing (Ex. 3:5).

And this repetition should hardly surprise us. Joshua was the man chosen by God to be Moses’s successor (Num. 27:12–23Deut. 31:1–8). He was charged with leading Israel into the Promised Land after Moses failed to believe God at Meribah (Num. 20:10–13). Given the clear parallels between the men, it makes sense that God would encounter Joshua in a similar way with a similar command.

The Bible is full of repeat stories

Indeed, assuming Joshua was familiar with the story of Moses at the bush, hearing this command would likely have served to strengthen his faith in God’s promise: “Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you” (Josh. 1:5).

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