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They Don't Make 'em Like They Used To

wayyy back in the day.

Joshua 5:2–8

At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives for yourself, and circumcise the sons of Israel again the second time.” So Joshua made flint knives for himself, and circumcised the sons of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. And this is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: All the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, had died in the wilderness on the way, after they had come out of Egypt. For all the people who came out had been circumcised, but all the people born in the wilderness, on the way as they came out of Egypt, had not been circumcised. For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people who were men of war, who came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they did not obey the voice of the LORD—to whom the LORD swore that He would not show them the land which the LORD had sworn to their fathers that He would give us, “a land flowing with milk and honey.” Then Joshua circumcised their sons whom He raised up in their place; for they were uncircumcised, because they had not been circumcised on the way.

So it was, when they had finished circumcising all the people, that they stayed in their places in the camp till they were healed.

This is nuts (from a secular point of view). In fact, this is the most dangerously stupid thing Joshua has done yet. Now the Israeli army is really vulnerable, much more than before. They’ll have limited fighting ability for many days while they recover from circumcision. Any attack from “the locals” would be devastating.

But the secular point of view is totally wrong. The Israeli army is well protected, by God’s providence in the first place, and by the melted hearts of the people and kings of Canaan in the second place. The LORD has this all planned out—foreordaining the means as well as the ends.

So, with that taken care of, the real priorities can be attended to. Israel hasn’t been circumcising their male children. That needs fixing. But why flint knives?

Flint knives are Stone Age technology. You can make “knives” by chipping away at a flint rock with another rock. The flakes that break off have very sharp edges that can be used as knives, arrowheads, spearpoints, etc.

But these folks have been using bronze to make things (like the altar in Exodus 27) for a long time. Why revert to Stone Age technology just for this one thing?

Well, the inside of a rock is sterile (though the Israelites don’t know anything about sterility). Thus, these freshly flaked flint knives are less likely to cause infection than regular knives.

Isn’t that interesting? Even the most obdurate skeptic admits that the book of Joshua was written thousands of years before the discovery of microbiology.

Yet here’s an instruction that seems ridiculous but makes perfect sense in light of modern science.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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