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Joshua 5, Faulty Assumptions about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
Some claim that, since these specific instructions are given in reference to animals offered to God, the principle of giving one's best to the Master does not apply to vegetable or grain offerings! Does that mean we may give God any old vegetation we happen to have lying around? As living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2), are we free to give God any old thing, and He must accept it or else? Does He not deserve the best we have?
A holy people must give holy offerings! A holy offering is one given according to the details that God lays down. Jesus gives a practical application of this principle in Matthew 5:23-24: "Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."
He is essentially saying, "First things first." If a reconciliation does not take place, God has no obligation to accept the offering. It has been made based on a corrupt relationship with a brother, making the offering unacceptable. Likewise, God has no obligation to accept a defective, corrupted animal or unqualified grain offered before Him.
Furthermore, the principle of holiness comes to the fore in an additional way, for God plainly stipulates in Leviticus 22:25 that nothing is to be offered to Him from a foreigner's hand because the foreigner's corruption is in them. The uncleanness from the foreigner's idolatries is in the thing offered. The foreigner is not a holy, sanctified, or set-apart person.
In the case of Joshua 5:10-11, the Israelites clearly would have had to offer produce from the foreigner's hand—if they offered anything, which they did not—because that was all they would have had to offer. Having just come from the wilderness, they had no harvest of a crop they had sown, as Exodus 23:16 demands.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5
The WCG's Pentecost Study Paper refers to Deuteronomy 12 five times, each time only to reference certain words on how to count to Pentecost. Not even one time does it refer to what Deuteronomy 12 is actually saying in regard to a significant subject pertinent to Joshua 5:10-11.
Moses wrote Deuteronomy in the last months before Israel entered the Promised Land. The book is a prelude to renewing the covenant between God and Israel and what would immediately follow. As such, when Israel entered the Land, some of the worship patterns followed in the wilderness were to undergo a radical change.
Moses divided Deuteronomy into at least four sections. The first section serves to remind Israel of the many things God had done for Israel to bring them to where they were just about ready to inherit the land. The second section, beginning in chapter 12, contains instructions on the response God expected from the Israelites once they entered the land. It calls for a number of changes in their worship of Him.
In verses 1-4, He makes it abundantly clear that He would not tolerate even a shadow of syncretic mixing with the gods and religions of the people of the land. Regardless of location, every place where the Canaanites worshipped was to be utterly destroyed, and every idol of stone or wood smashed and/or burned to ashes. They were even to eradicate the names of those places!
The imagery is of God storming into the land as a conquering General who will brook no interference from the conquered people. He shows His disdain for everything they hold dear and important in their worship of the gods they admire and are devoted to. By doing so, He also shows the Israelites the weaknesses of Canaanite gods. They cannot protect the Canaanites.
Verse 5 begins to relate instructions for one of the more radical changes involved in Israel's worship of God. Once in the land, they would no longer be permitted to worship by erecting an altar and offering sacrifices at any place, except as God Himself appointed. No Israelite was free to choose for himself where worship could take place. God would be worshipped at His Tabernacle, His dwelling place in Israel, and it would be located and erected where He and He alone would choose. There and there only, on the Tabernacle's brazen altar—just outside His front door, as it were—would they be able to offer their sacrifices.
God had already given Israel a prelude to this. Once the Tabernacle was constructed in the wilderness, all religious and civil affairs revolved around the location where it was set up. Every time Israel camped in one place long enough to erect the Tabernacle, it became the center of their encampment, and each tribe was assigned its never-varying place in relation to the Tabernacle. All religious and civil affairs were thus conducted in His presence.
The context of Deuteronomy 12 makes it clear that, to God, there are two overriding issues behind these commands. The first is loyalty to Him only as God. The first commandment reads, "You shall have no other gods before Me," meaning "no other gods in place of Me." God will not brook sharing the relationship with Him with another "god" on any level of devotion. The second issue is the Israelites' unity with each other as a nation. Unlike other nations, Israel's national unity was not driven by political or military forces but by religion, the one God gave to them through Moses. This is why the central sanctuary is of supreme importance to them as a nation.
In the wilderness, the Israelites had already shown themselves to be easily attracted to heathen practices. They had also exhibited a strong, independent spirit that drove them to go their own way, to do their own thing, whether or not religion was directly involved. Once settled in the land, they would be scattered over an area far larger than any wilderness encampment. Their free moral agency was thus about to be severely tested. They needed a central sanctuary to retain their relationship with God and their unity as a nation.
The charges given to them in Deuteronomy 12 are strongly reinforced by the demand of verse 32: "Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it." If they were to remain the holy people of God, no deviations were allowed!
Beginning in verse 8, God strictly forbids them to do as they had done in the past, erecting altars virtually wherever they wished. They are to understand that they were no longer a wandering people but a nation anchored in the land, and their worship of God and actions as a nation must reflect that. Their days of transition in the wilderness from a slave to a free people, from a loosely scattered, blood-related people to a united nation, were over! Their real birth as a nation under God had begun.
Central to this idea is that all sacrificing, except for the Passover, had to be done on one national altar. The festivals, especially the three major ones, had to be kept in one central location, and all tithes were to be sent to that same central place of worship. This did not mean that they could not hold Sabbath services in their home locations, but any local services would have to be conducted without the sacrificing of animals or any of the rituals assigned to festivals, daily acts of worship like evening and morning sacrifices, and voluntary offerings that an Israelite felt compelled to give. This general prohibition against local sacrifices included the waving of the sheaf, which was always done at the Tabernacle/Temple within the "Passover season," which continued from Passover until Pentecost.
The Tabernacle was not erected until the land had rest from the warfare of conquering the Canaanites. This occurred as God appointed in Deuteronomy 12:9-11. The period of peace that satisfied God's requirements was not reached until seven years after the Israelites crossed over the Jordan. At that time, His choice of location for the Tabernacle and its altar was Shiloh: "Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them" (Joshua 18:1).
Does this mean that no sacrificing as part of the normal worship of God was done for seven years? Yes, but consider that, regarding the Joshua 5 circumcisions, Scripture says that no Israelite male born in the wilderness had been circumcised (Joshua 5:2-7). In fact, only two people alive at the time, Joshua and Caleb, had lawfully been able to partake of perhaps the most important of all rituals—Passover—for the entire forty years!
It also means that none of those uncircumcised males—probably a million or more men!—had been able to make the Old Covenant with God (Exodus 12:43-49). Seven years spent doing God's work of conquering the land was a drop in the bucket compared to other long-term works He had them do by His command. Even so, He would have that work done by a circumcised people. This is another case of God saying through His example, "First things first."
The concept of one central sanctuary and altar was so deeply and emotionally ingrained that Joshua 22 relates the history of a war that nearly erupted between the tribes on the east side of the Jordan River and those on the west. The western Israelites charged those in the east with building an altar, breaking God's commandment. Such an altar would compete with the sanctuary altar in Shiloh for the loyalty of the people. Building another altar would be a direct, rebellious act of idolatry against God, and it would destroy the unity of Israel as a nation under the God of Creation.
The west-side tribes were poised to launch a war against their eastern brethren until they heard the easterners' explanation. The "altar" was actually a monument, a memorial in the shape of an altar, raised to serve as a constant reminder of the east side's unity with their western relatives in common cause under the God of Israel. The memorial's shape was to remind them that their unity was in and through the God they worshipped.
Another altar, appearing briefly in Joshua 8:30, is also easily explained. It in no way conflicts with God's commands in Deuteronomy 12. Why? God Himself had commanded this particular altar to be erected as part of an important ceremony—a renewal of a covenant. The event in Joshua 8 has its beginning in Deuteronomy 11:26-32 where the ceremony is commanded. Immediately after, God begins His charge in Deuteronomy 12 concerning His expectations of the Israelites after they crossed into the land.
In Deuteronomy 29—30, which occurs while the Israelites were still outside the Promised Land but just about to enter into it, a special covenant is made between God and Israel. This covenant, with Moses presiding, served as a specific and immediate preparation for entering the Promised Land. Part of its purpose was surely motivational, highlighting the powerful, steadfast faithfulness of God.
In Joshua 8, with the conquest of the land just beginning, the tribes—in another solemn ceremony, this time presided over by Joshua—carry out God's command to repeat the renewal of the covenant within the land on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim. This one-time erection of an altar in no way conflicted with God's commands in Deuteronomy 12. It was not part of the normal worship of God. It was nonetheless an important reminder of their weighty responsibility to carry out God's work of conquering the land of their inheritance, and of His ever-present faithfulness in assisting them.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5
In Joshua 1:11, just before crossing the Jordan into Canaan, Joshua commands the Israelites, "Prepare provisions for yourselves, for within three days you will cross over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess." Where did the Israelites obtain these provisions? It could not have been manna because manna could not be stored. There is only one possibility: The Israelites were already gathering food, including grains (remember, it was the spring harvest season), in the area in which they were camped. This leads to the inescapable conclusion that the Israelites were no longer completely dependent on manna.
This is pertinent because Joshua 5:11 says, "And they ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread, and parched grain on the very same day." If this took place on the fifteenth day of the first month, as is most likely, it was a high-holy-day Sabbath, so no manna would have fallen that day.
They did not go hungry because they had the produce of the land (at the very least the provisions of Joshua 1:11) to eat. They could eat it without restriction because it was produce that Gentiles had sown. If they had had to wait until the wavesheaf ceremony had occurred before they could harvest (Leviticus 23:14), thresh, winnow, and grind the grain into flour, then bake unleavened bread or parch the grain "the very same day," they really would have been pushing any Sabbath liberty (Exodus 16:23-24; 12:16)! Instead, their food preparation had been completed before the holy day arrived because they were not required to wait for a wavesheaf ceremony!
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5
Joshua 5:2-9 records the circumcisions performed in Gilgal. It gives no date, but this probably took place on Nisan 11, since Joshua would want to obey God as soon as possible, as well as to begin subduing the land right away. Gilgal means "rolled away," indicating that God officially "rolled away" or forgave the shame of Israel's captivity in Egypt and their behavior in the wilderness.
The circumcision was necessary for at least two reasons: first, to make the uncircumcised Israelites eligible to take the Passover on the 14th, and second, to have a fully covenanted people prepared to fight the wars and take over the land. Notice that the assault on Jericho followed immediately after these events. In the spiritual application of circumcision, God makes the New Covenant only with those circumcised in the heart and only a covenanted people will be in His Kingdom, of which the Promised Land is a type. Through circumcision and the "rolling away," God prepares the people for the following steps needed to live in the land and take it over.
Those circumcised remained in the camp in Gilgal until they were healed. Because Israel observed Passover in the home, the circumcision did not affect the men keeping it. The Bible contains absolutely no evidence of miraculous healings or especially rapid recovery from the surgeries due to extremely good health.
Then as the 14th began at twilight, the Israelites killed the lambs as instructed in Exodus 12:1-6. Some, including Joshua, Caleb, and others above the age of forty, undoubtedly remembered the experience from Egypt. Whether anyone kept Passover in the wilderness is debatable, since the Bible records nothing of it, but Exodus 12:25 commands them to keep it when they came into the land. After the Passover meal, the Israelites burned any remaining lamb parts and stayed in their homes until morning.
This brings us to the daylight portion of the 14th. What did they do then? They did what we do then: It is the preparation day for the first day of Unleavened Bread, so they made final preparations for observing it. Manna appeared on that day because Passover is not a Sabbath but is a preparation day for the high holy day Sabbath. Therefore, they gathered a double portion in anticipation of the holy day, an annual Sabbath (Exodus 16:25-30). God is concerned about witnessing to His people in all His holy convocations, so there would be no excuse for them not knowing to collect double.
Exodus 13:3-10 commands Israel to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread and specifically draws attention to the day they left Egypt. When does the 15th of Nisan begin? At sunset. Sunset between the 14th and 15th of Nisan begins the Night To Be Much Observed, the very first one in the Promised Land. Chronologically, this brings us into alignment with Genesis 15:17, Exodus 12:40-42, and Christ being in His grave. The first two are separated by 430 years to the day, and now in Joshua 5:11, exactly forty years to the day later, Abraham's descendents are in the land keeping the Night To Be Much Observed. Notice in Joshua 5:11 the phrase, "the selfsame day" appears. This occurred at night, and of course, the daylight portion following memorializes God's faithfulness to His promise to Abraham and his seed, both the Israelites as his physical seed and us now as his spiritual seed. These events falling on these specific dates as Israel entered the Promised Land cannot be mere coincidence.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001
Some assume the events of Joshua 5:10-12 can only mean—by the eating of unleavened cakes and parched corn—"that Passover occurred on a weekly Sabbath and wavesheaf day was the first day of Unleavened Bread." However, nothing in the context directly states those assumptions, nor does it indicate anywhere that a wavesheaf offering or its accompanying burnt offering occurred either.
We may know the dates on which these events occurred, but they in no way reveal on which days of the week they fell. If Israel made a wavesheaf offering, when did they do it? It seems especially critical at this point, since it would have been the first time in the land. But Joshua says absolutely nothing about it.
We know that Passover observance begins at twilight when the lamb is slain, but the bulk of it is observed at night. We also know that twenty-four hours after Passover begins the Night to be Much Observed begins. The first day of Unleavened Bread begins with this observance at night. On the 15th, beginning with the keeping of the Night to be Much Observed, the people would be eating unleavened bread just as we do today because it is such a significant event in the history of God's people.
Where did the grain for making the unleavened bread and parched corn come from? It came from the grain of the land, exactly as the Scripture implies (Joshua 1:11). They could have used the old corn confiscated from the Canaanites' storage places or even harvested a sufficient amount from fields of grain left behind by Canaanites as they fled the Israelites. They had sufficient time to make such preparations. Joshua 5:11 says the Israelites ate unleavened bread and parched grain on the day after Passover. Day does not necessarily have to mean "daylight," but simply any portion of the next 24-hour day. The observance of the Night to be Much Observed is a very significant part of the day after Passover.
The Israelites rested on the holy day. They could eat manna as well as unleavened preparations. On the 16th, the next day, when they would normally have expected manna to appear, it did not. From this point, they were completely dependent upon the crops harvested from the land.
Why did Israel not make a wavesheaf offering? Because they could not lawfully do so for many reasons:
1. Because the 15th is a Sabbath, and Leviticus 23:11 clearly commands the wavesheaf offering to be made on the day following the Sabbath, not on the Sabbath.
2. Because, if the particular Sabbath that preceded the 15th was also Passover (as per the WCG scenario), it would not qualify to determine wavesheaf day since it is not part of the Days of Unleavened Bread.
3. Because they had absolutely no grain that qualified as an acceptable offering. The wavesheaf offering law states specifically that it had to be from seed that they had sown. Israel reaped what Canaanites had sown. Conquest did not change this fact. They could eat it but not offer it.
4. Because Deuteronomy 12 specifically forbids making the required animal sacrifice that accompanied the wavesheaf offering until the Tabernacle was established where God had placed His name. This did not occur until seven years had passed (compare Joshua 14:6-13 and Joshua 18:1).
5. Because Leviticus 22 strictly forbids an offering from the stranger's hand. It had to come from someone who had covenanted with God. A stranger is someone "unknown" to God, an outsider, or someone not in the family.
Israel never made a wavesheaf offering in Joshua 5.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001
Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to justify changing from the normal Pentecost counting pattern used when Passover falls on a Monday, Wednesday, or Friday.
Some, realizing their argument for always keeping Wavesheaf Day within the Days of Unleavened Bread is still quite weak, have leapt on another rationalization and conclusion from a series of assumptions read into Joshua 5:10-11. These assumptions have led them to the conclusion that, since Leviticus 23:14 states that the Israelites were not to eat bread nor parched grain nor fresh grain from their new spring harvest until they had brought their sheaf offering to God, and since Joshua 5:11 records that the Israelites ate of the produce of the land on the day after Passover, it means they must have made a wavesheaf offering.
However, major assumptions in their argument have led them to a wrong conclusion:
First Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites waved the sheaf following a harvest of Canaanite grain. This must be read into the context because this is nowhere stated. In fact, neither the words "wave," "waved," "waves" nor "wavesheaf" or "wave offering" appear in the entire book of Joshua. In addition, the context makes no mention of the burnt or meal offerings that were to accompany the waving of the sheaf (Leviticus 23:12-13). Finally, it does not mention the erection of an altar. This is no minor element because it would have been the first altar established after entering the Promised Land.
Second Assumption: This was a year Passover fell on a Sabbath. How do they know that? No one knows it! Nobody knows with absolute certainty what year Israel entered into the Promised Land, let alone the exact day this offering was supposedly made! They have no calendar date from which to offer proof. The argument is built on a series of "ifs" centered on the assumption that the Israelites were required to wave the sheaf before they could eat of the harvest of the land.
Third Assumption: Israel was required by God—forced by law—to make the wavesheaf offering before they could eat the grain from a Canaanite planting. This assumption is drawn from Leviticus 23:10, 14. Taken alone, these scriptures may lead one to think the wavesheaf had to be done immediately. However, where does God say that it had to be done immediately or that they could not eat of the produce of the land upon entering it? He says nothing of the sort as they approached the land. We will see that the Israelites not only did not have to make a wavesheaf offering of Canaanite grain before eating of the land's produce, but that they did not do so, and further, doing so would have been sin to them.
Fourth Assumption: God would accept an Israelite offering derived from crops they had not planted on their own land. Exodus 23:14-16 explicitly states that their offerings had to come from grain that the Israelites themselves had sown in the field. Any grains they would have harvested after entering the land would have come from what the Canaanites had sown. This makes all the difference in the world when we consider the spiritual significance of sowing and harvesting. Does God's Spirit produce the heathen—the unconverted—person's spiritual harvest?
II Samuel 24:24 shows that David clearly understood another principle involved here. The one making the offering must have done the labor and made the sacrifices necessary to produce the offering and render it acceptable to God. Offerings that cost the offerer nothing are not acceptable.
Where are the labor and sacrifice involved in Israel's supposed wavesheaf offering? Offering from Canaan's harvest was not acceptable for Israel to give because it cost them nothing. In short, God wants offered to Him what He has first given to us. When God loves us and we then return love to Him, it is acceptable because He first loved us (I John 4:19) and shed His Spirit abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). When we offer love to Him, it is His own love, providence, the fruit of His Spirit that we have labored to produce, returning to Him.
Fifth Assumption: God would accept an offering of polluted things. The context in Leviticus 22:19-25 specifically covers animal offerings, but the principle applies to grain offerings as well, as the explanation of the fourth assumption indicates. No animals with blemishes of explicit nature are permitted to be the food of God. In verse 25, God says that nothing from the foreigner's hand is acceptable "because their corruption is in them." God states, "They shall not be accepted on your behalf."
If one thinks this is of small consequence, then perhaps it would be good to review what happened to Nadab and Abihu, Aaron's sons, when they foolishly used coals from a profane or common fire as they made the offering on the incense altar. God did not think it insignificant when they offered fire He considered unfit for His altar. He struck them dead as a lesson to all those who are less concerned about purity of worship than they should be.
Israel was symbolically under the blood of Jesus Christ and had made the covenant with God. This rendered them a holy people consecrated for God's use and glorification. Because they were chosen by God and holy, their offerings, as long as they were without blemish and not from the stranger's hand, were acceptable to Him.
Israel had no acceptable harvest to offer in Joshua 5. In fact, under the circumstance, Israel was required by law not to make an offering!
Sixth Assumption: Israel was permitted to make an offering of any kind. This is a big one, reinforcing all the other objections against the common interpretation that Joshua 5:10-11 permits or demands a First Day of Unleavened Bread waving of the sheaf and beginning of the count.
In reality, upon entering the land, offerings involved in the worship of God were specifically forbidden by Him until certain things were first accomplished. Through Moses, God instructs in Deuteronomy 12:1, 5-14:
These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. . . . [Y]ou shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His habitation; and there you shall go. There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and flocks. And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you. You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes—for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your menservants and maidservants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you. (emphasis added)
This instruction supersedes Leviticus 23 and Numbers 28-29—and especially for the purposes of this article, Leviticus 23:10, 14, where God commands, "When you come into the land. . . ." From those two verses, one could easily assume that the Israelites were to begin keeping those days and all their offerings immediately upon entering. However, Deuteronomy 12, written within the last month before entering the Promised Land, puts a hold on doing these things immediately upon entering the land (Deuteronomy 1:3). Deuteronomy 12 makes clear that they were not free to follow the Leviticus 23 instructions until certain matters were accomplished.
Deuteronomy 12 paves the way for Israel, at God's command, to establish a headquarters, a national, central place for the worship of the Lord God at the site of His choosing. Further, God adds that they were actually to be dwelling in the land, to be at rest, and to be dwelling in safety from their enemies. Also included within these instructions, though not specifically mentioned, is that the Tabernacle, the altar, the laver, and all the interior furniture had to be erected and in place.
Please pay special attention to what Moses says while the Israelites are still in the wilderness: "You shall not at all do as we are doing here today" (verse 8), referring to making offerings any old place that was convenient. In addition, Israel actually had to be living in the land, not marching around it fighting wars. They had to be in a settled circumstance—so settled that they were in safety. Obviously, this eliminates a wavesheaf offering and its accompanying burnt and meal offerings from happening in Joshua 5.
The place God ultimately chose and in which Israel erected the Tabernacle was Shiloh. This was not accomplished until Joshua 18:1: "Then the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them." This was the first sign that things were almost ready so they could legitimately offer sacrifices to God. However, some land had yet to be apportioned. The land for seven tribes plus the allocation of cities to the Levites and the cities of refuge had yet to be settled. The final apportioning is recorded in chapters 18-21. Thus, many of the tribes were not yet dwelling and at rest at the beginning of Joshua 18.
The official announcement that all was in place appears in Joshua 21:43-45:
So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.
From the time they crossed the Jordan and entered the land, seven years passed before they were free to offer what Deuteronomy 12 forbade and what some claim occurred in Joshua 5.
Seventh Assumption: Joshua and the Israelites were so irresponsible as to disregard God's clear instruction given through Moses while they were still wandering. Does the Scripture anywhere speak badly of Joshua? In Joshua 1:6-9, God specifically seeks out Joshua to exhort him to be courageous, not turning to the right or left regarding what he had been instructed as Moses' right-hand man. That Joshua did just this is verified in Joshua 11:15: "As the Lord had commanded Moses His servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did. He left nothing undone of all that the Lord had commanded Moses." At the end of his life, he is as firm as ever (Joshua 23-24).
Joshua 22:25-30 provides a telling example of how deeply the command not to make any sacrifices except where God had placed His name was burned into all of Israel's heart at that time. When it was found that Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, which had settled on the east side of Jordan, had erected what appeared to be a sacrificial altar, the remaining tribes almost entered into civil war to stop them! A fuller explanation revealed they had erected, not an altar, but a monument dedicated as evidence of the East Bank tribes' unity with God and the other tribes of Israel on the west side. They were not about to make offerings anywhere except where God commanded.
The Israelites did not make the wavesheaf offering when they came into the land.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty
Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used to support using the First Day of Unleavened Bread to begin the count to Pentecost because:
1. No authority is given in Scripture to change the method of counting to Pentecost when Passover falls on the weekly Sabbath.
2. Counting to Pentecost always begins the day after the weekly Sabbath within the Days of Unleavened Bread. It is the weekly Sabbath, God's sign, not Wavesheaf Day that must fall within the Days of Unleavened Bread.
3. Exodus 23 explicitly requires the grain offering to be planted by the offerer, thus they had none to offer immediately after entering the land.
4. Leviticus 22 forbids making an offering of heathen substance, thus they had no acceptable grain offering.
5. Deuteronomy 12 forbids offerings until the Tabernacle, altar, laver, and all the Tabernacle's furniture were in place.
6. Deuteronomy 12 requires the Israelites to be settled in their inheritances and no longer involved in warfare before any sacrifices could be lawfully made.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost, Consistency, and Honesty
The following quotation is from the Pentecost Study Material, assembled by Dr. Charles V. Dorothy during and following the 1974 study by the Worldwide Church of God (WCG), which provided the paper to its ministry:
Some brethren are concerned over the alleged "arbitrary" decision, especially since Joshua 5:10-11 seems to show the Israelites counted that Pentecost from Sunday, the High Day within Unleavened Bread. More study is needed and more is being done. (p. 73; emphasis his)
It appears that Dr. Dorothy was sensitive to some people's skepticism, otherwise why did he emphasize "seems"? Did he draw attention to the word because he felt that the doctrinal committee was banking on something vague, assuming some points, and reaching a conclusion it could not fully justify?
Joshua 5 is where the majority of the disagreement begins. Joshua 4:19 records that the children of Israel crossed the Jordan River on the tenth day of the first month. Joshua 5:1-9 leads a reader to conclude that the Israelite males were probably circumcised beginning on the eleventh day. But even this may be an assumption because Joshua 5:10-11 does not say that Israel kept Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month. In other words, it could have been lawfully kept in the second month (Numbers 9), although this scenario is less likely.
At no time or place in Scripture does God designate what month or day of the week this date fell upon that year. In fact, researchers are unable to give an absolute answer even to what year Israel entered the land. We always end up with calculated guesses. Should we build an important spiritual doctrine on a guess?
It is not this article's purpose to prove whether the Wavesheaf offering took place in the first or second month, only that Joshua 5 does not prove that the Israelites offered one at all. If they did not make one, it absolutely destroys the assumptions of a first day of Unleavened Bread Wavesheaf ceremony, since Joshua 5:10-11 is the source used to "support" this deviation.
So where is the authority from God's Word that Israel's observance of Passover that year was on a weekly Sabbath and that Wavesheaf Day was the next day, a Sunday, the first day of Unleavened Bread, a high-holy-day Sabbath? What positively, absolutely, biblically affirmed events are these conclusions based upon?
Notice that, thus far, the chapter makes:
1. No mention of an altar.
2. No mention of a priest.
3. No mention of the offerings God commanded to accompany the waving of the sheaf (Leviticus 23:12-13).
4. No mention whatever of a harvest.
5. No mention of the waving of the sheaf.
Interestingly, God mentions the circumcisions (which had not been performed during the wilderness journey), yet He makes no mention of what would have been the first altar, first sacrificial offerings, and first formal service in the Promised Land. It would also have been the first waving of the sheaf in the land.
However, Joshua 5:11 does say, "They ate the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day." There is nothing wrong with this statement unless one claims that the Israelites had to wave Canaanite-grown grain before God for acceptance before they could eat it. Do the ceremonial instructions give them permission to do this? Do the wavesheaf instructions require that they do this?
The answer to both questions is "No." In fact, such a wavesheaf is strictly forbidden. Exodus 23:16 says this in direct reference to Pentecost: "The Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits of your labors which you have sown in the field" (emphasis ours throughout). The offering had to be made of something the Israelites had sown by their own labors! Pentecost ends the harvest begun on Wavesheaf Day. Therefore, the same "you have sown" qualification applies to Wavesheaf Day as to Pentecost.
The Israelites had surely labored in harvesting grain in Canaan, but they had not sown what they harvested upon entering the land. It was an incomplete production and therefore not qualified. God could not accept such an offering because it did not meet the qualifications He had laid down for a holy people.
For God to accept such an offering would break the spiritual principle Paul mentions in I Corinthians 3:9: "We are laborers together with God." The Israelites were not part of the cycle of cooperation of purpose between them and God in the production of this particular harvest. It was therefore unacceptable for use as the wavesheaf.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5
WJoshua 5:10-11 gives absolutely no evidence of any wavesheaf ceremony. According to God's instructions on the matter, the Israelites had nothing acceptable to offer to Him. Any wavesheaf lifted before Him from Gentile-grown grain would have been an abomination!
Deuteronomy 12 absolutely forbids the erection of an altar for the normal ceremonial worship of God until the land had been conquered, Israel had peace, the location of the central sanctuary (the Tabernacle with all its furniture and priests standing to serve) had been determined, and the Tabernacle set up.
Due to the facts that no wavesheaf ceremony was possible, no accompanying sacrifices were permitted, and the Israelites' preparation for the holy-day Sabbath was finished in time, one cannot extrapolate with absolute certainty that that particular Passover occurred on a weekly Sabbath immediately prior to the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Further, one certainly cannot use such an assumption as permission to begin the count to Pentecost from a holy-day Sabbath, which can never be a common workday.
Leviticus 23 specifically states that the wavesheaf must be made on the day after a Sabbath, not on a Sabbath. The present practice of most of the churches of God is so unusual that no one else in the world of Christianity or Judaism may have ever done such a thing.
Basing an important doctrine on symbolism is a shaky proposition in the first place, especially when its application is tied to a lunar calendar with its annual shifting of days and dates. Should we build major doctrines on symbolism or the solidity of a direct statement or example?
Joshua 5:10-11 cannot be used as the basis to change God's firmly set rule established in Leviticus 23:15-16, which says to begin the count to Pentecost with the day following the weekly Sabbath that falls within the Feast of Unleavened Bread. When building on sandy assumptions, the foundation is inherently weak, and the conclusion will crumble when put to the test.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Pentecost Revisited (Part Two): Joshua 5
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