Summary: There are two Joshuas in the Bible.
Joshua Meets His Namesake
When Moses died, the Lord had appointed Joshua to take his place. Joshua had proven himself a man of courage. He and Caleb were the only two spies who had given a good report about Canaan 40 years earlier. The other spies agreed the land was good, but the people were a race of giants who has iron chariots. Joshua tried to convince the people that the Lord was well able to make the Children of Israel prevail, but Israel would not listen. The entire generation except Caleb and Joshua were sentenced to death in the wilderness. Moses was also sentenced to death for another transaction.
Joshua followed the commands of the Lord and crossed the Jordan. They sent out spies to spy out Jericho who returned by the help of Rahab the Harlot. God put dread in the inhabitants there and called upon Joshua to be strong and of good courage. They stopped at Gilgal to circumcise the males at Gilgal and proceeded to encircle the city of Jericho. So far, so good.
Jericho wasn’t a large city by today’s standards, but it was well-fortified. It had high and broad walls. They shut the gates to the city and waited. Israel probably had no siege equipment to be able to attack the walls. By human means, their only hope for success lay in starving the inhabitants out. But even this was fraught with danger. They would have called out to neighboring cities for help, and a large and well-armed relief army might fall upon Israel at any moment. But God was not concerned about the strength of Israel’s enemies. What was that to Him.
Joshua was probably surveying the situation when a man came up to him. This was a man and not an angel according to the Bible. Who was this man? Joshua saw him with a drawn sword in his hand and asked him whose side he was on. The man answered that He was the commander of the LORD’s army, which of course meant that He was on the side of Israel. Joshua responded by prostrating himself before the man in worship. We can read in Revelation that a mighty angel twice rebuffs John for trying to worship him. And here Joshua prostrates himself before a man. Who is this man? One thing for certain is that by prostrating himself, Joshua was entirely defenseless and his life or death was in the hand of the man with the drawn sword. It would have been an easy thing for this man to step on the neck of Joshua and to have cut off his head. So not only was Joshua prostrated before Him, but he was trusting this man with his life.
I would like to propose that this commander of the LORD’s army was no more than an Old Testament appearance of the pre-incarnate Jesus in human form but not in an earthly human body. Who else is able to fight the LORD’s battles than the LORD Himself. If this is so, then the worship of Joshua was entirely appropriate.
When we translate the Hebrew “Yeshua,” which is translated “Joshua in the Old Testament into Greek, we get the name “Jesus!” This would be no less than a meeting of Jesus with His namesake. The name itself means “Yahweh is Salvation.” The first Joshua followed Moses and brought the Children of Israel into the earthly Canaan. The second Joshua would also follow Moses and would some day bring the spiritual Israel into an even better Promised Land. The first Joshua, like Moses was the servant of this greater Joshua, who as the captain of the LORD’s army would lead earthly Israel into Canaan and who will also lead the LORD’s army to victory over Satan at Armageddon at the end of time.
Coming back to this present passage, the LORD gives military advice which by human standards would seem most foolish. What good would circling the city for seven days accomplish but sore feet. And to circle it seven times on the Sabbath, would that not tire the men out before the great battle. Could the shout of an army, even a mighty shout bring down the walls of a city? How foolish is that? Not at all, when the LORD has ordered it. The Lord spoke a single word, and all creation came into existence. So when God sends the Son unto Joshua with these words, it was to make the shout of Israel be that of the LORD. The walls would come tumbling down at the word of Yahweh.
Generations later, this heavenly Joshua would come again to earth to be born of the Virgin Mary. This time Joshua would not just be in human form, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. This Joshua would not bruise Satan’s head with a drawn sword. Instead, as Paul relates to us, the plan of deliverance was even more foolish. This Joshua would be rejected by His own people and instead of defeating the enemy with a drawn sword would be led away to death by men with drawn swords. He would die outside the strong walls of another city named Jerusalem. He would defeat Satan with a single Greek word: “It is finished.” He would conquer death through death. But God would raise Him again on the third day.