Judges: From Gilgal to Bochim: The legacy of Joshua

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Bible Study book of Judges: The Message of Judges Part Three

From Gilgal to Bochim: The legacy of Joshua

by I Gordon

Introduction to the types: The death of Joshua

Joshua 1:1-3 'Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' servant, saying, 'Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel.  'Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it to you  , just as I spoke to Moses.'

Judges 1:1 'After the death of Joshua...'

The two books of Joshua and Judges begin with two very symbolic pictures in the death of two very symbolic characters. Firstly we read that the events in the book of Joshua occur 'after the death of Moses'. Moses is forever associated with the law of God  [1]  , and as such is a picture here showing that entry into the Promised Land can only occur after his death. This speaks to us of the utter stupidity of legalism and trying to live and approach God through the 'good works' of the flesh. Moses had to die, and so do we have to die to our own ability to live the Christian life if we are to proceed on in our journey with God. So who could take them in to the Promised Land and into their inheritance? Joshua, whose name means 'Yahweh is salvation' was the man who could lead them in. As Moses is a picture of the law, so Joshua is a picture of both Jesus Himself, and of true faith in the grace and salvation of God. Now one of the first things we read in the book of Joshua is that God had given the sons of Israel the Promised Land, but they still needed to personally place their foot on that land for it to be theirs. Again this is highly symbolic for our lives as Christians for although God 'has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms', like Israel we need to place our foot upon these things by faith to experience the benefit of that blessing.  [2]  Now, that is the picture given to us in Joshua... Moses (the law) had to die and Joshua (faith) would take them in. But here in Judges the book starts with the words 'after the death of Joshua', and in a very real sense, goes on to portray that which happens when the Joshua type of faith has died. This same lesson is presented to us in chapter two of Judges in two different cities mentioned: Gilgal and Bochim.

From Gilgal to Bochim

Judges 2:1-4 ' The angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to Bochim and said, 'I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land that I swore to give to your forefathers. I said, 'I will never break my covenant with you, and you shall not make a covenant with the people of this land, but you shall break down their altars.' Yet you have disobeyed me. Why have you done this? Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them out before you; they will be thorns in your sides and their gods will be a snare to you.'    When the angel of the LORD had spoken these things to all the Israelites, the people wept aloud, and they called that place Bochim  .'

In the first verse of chapter two, we read about 'the angel of the Lord'. Now it should be noted first of all that it doesn't say 'an angel of the Lord' for this is no ordinary angel! A quick analysis of this term in the Old Testament clearly shows this angel to be the pre-incarnate Son of God  [3]  . In other words, Jesus! So we read that the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. Do you think there is anything important in that? Well, obviously there is as I wouldn't have asked the question now would I? And nor for that matter would the Bible have specifically mentioned where the angel of the Lord was before He came to where the people were. So what do you know about Gilgal, because it is hugely significant! In fact, you could say that these two cities and what they represent give us a picture of the two books before us - Joshua and Judges. Gilgal means 'the rolling away' and presents us with the key thought from the book of Joshua, while Bochim means 'the place of weeping' and unfortunately shows the state of affairs in Judges. So what is it about Gilgal and why was the Lord there? Well, the Lord was there because that's where the people were meant to be! It was meant to be the base for Israel's operations and the place to which they also returned. But lets not jump ahead of ourselves just yet! Hopefully this should become a little clearer with a quick history lesson. And please, stick with me, read the verses and look them up in your Bibles. For this is not just about history! In these pictures presented to us in Joshua and Judges lies the key to victory in our lives!

The Significance of Gilgal

The first mention of Gilgal is found in Deut 11:28 where it is spoken of as the place they would come to once they had crossed the Jordan and were 'in the land'. It is the very first place they would possess in the land that God had given them. In fact, before they have had any victories at all, Joshua and his people have to have camped at Gilgal. Now, as earlier mentioned, being in the Promised Land speaks to us today of entering into the inheritance that we have 'in Christ' and allowing Him to live through us. So Gilgal is the first stop for us in possessing all that God has given us. So if this is so significant that the Lord is there, that the people are meant to be there, and that it is also the very starting place for our spiritual victory, then what happens there??? Two key things that we all should learn (and not just in theory!)

Don't forget to remember the stones!

Josh 4:19-24 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho.  And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan  . He said to the Israelites, 'In the future when your descendants ask their fathers, 'What do these stones mean?' tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.'  For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan just what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.

The first thing we read about Gilgal is that twelve stones were set up as a memorial to all generations. The stones stood as a sign of what the Lord did in drying up the Jordan River and allowing the nation of Israel to cross over on dry ground. Like the Red Sea experience before them when they left Egypt, so Israel was again faced with a baptism type experience upon entering the Promised Land.  [4]  This speaks to us today of our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ. It is what Israel had to learn again before they could enter into the Promised Land, and it is also what the majority of Christians overlook and need to re-learn if they are to enter into their inheritance 'in Christ'. Thus, a memorial was set up within Gilgal so that even future generations would know what happened at the Jordan!  [5]  Go to Gilgal and you couldn't miss it! Straight away you were faced with this constant reminder of the way in which the Lord had enabled them to enter into their Land. Boy do we need to constantly see (spiritually  [6]  ) this reminder!

Gilgal and the knife of God

Joshua 5:2-9 At that time the LORD said to Joshua, 'Make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again.'... So he raised up their sons in their place, and these were the ones Joshua circumcised. They were still uncircumcised because they had not been circumcised on the way. And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed. Then the LORD said to Joshua, '  Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.' So the place has been called Gilgal  ('to roll away') to this day. 

The second characteristic of Gilgal is related to the first, in that it is the place of circumcision. It is the place where the pride and strength of the flesh (all that man is without God) is cut away by the knife of God. Have you come to this place?  [7]  The Jordan speaks of a memorial - something we are all to know and count upon just as it says in Romans 6:11 'In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.' But circumcision speaks of this reality in experience and that it costs us! Just as circumcision hurt back then, so it will cost us now. It cost us our pride, our independence, our very right to govern and control our own lives. We lose something of ourselves, but we gain something of God! Often it takes trials and hardship before we are ready to once again count ourselves dead and let God be God in us. But this is where God wanted the people to be, remember? The Apostle Paul stated the two sides to Gilgal when he wrote

Phil 3:10 'I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection (the memorial of stones at Gilgal) and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, (the circumcision at Gilgal) and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.'

Gilgal is the starting place for all spiritual progression

Josh 5:10 On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover.

Josh 9:6 Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal...

Josh 10:13-15 The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a man. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!  Then Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal. 

Josh 14:6 Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him...

Ok, so hopefully you're getting the picture! The next important point to see is that throughout the book of Joshua, Gilgal is not simply the place where they first camped, but it is the place that they constantly returned to and used as the base for all their operations. Thus, we read that after the great victory against the Amorite coalition, Joshua returned with all Israel to the camp at Gilgal (Josh 10). What a great picture this is for us! We have seen that Gilgal speaks to us of our death and resurrection with Jesus, and as such, it should be the place that we not only start from, but the place that we return to! Each victory should start from that place of dependence. Have you learned to have Gilgal as the basis of your life? Many learn that they do not have what it takes and start from this place, yet they don't always return here. It is a humbling thing to learn that no matter how long you have been a Christian, you still do not have the strength within you to start from any other place. This is where God wants you and this is the legacy of Joshua. It is the legacy of a man who walked by faith and dependence upon the living God, and one whose victories stemmed from the significance of having his base at Gilgal.

So what is your current situation? Do you currently have the benefit of dwelling at Gilgal or, like Israel in the book of Judges, have you moved to Bochim 'the place of weeping'. Bochim is the place that you end up when you have forgotten to take God into account! It is the place where your eyes are focused on yourself and your situation from an earthly point of view. And that will always be the place of weeping!  [8]  But when you dwell at Gilgal the peace of God will fill your heart and mind because you consider yourself alive to God, His very own possession, and little else matters! The creator and sustainer of the universe is also your Father, and He will do what is right! You don't need to know all the details or constantly question what He is doing, for you know that He his good, and that in love He will work all things for your good. This is Gilgal, the legacy of Joshua, and it is a place of rest.

[1] ↩  Just a few obvious points here... Moses was the one who received the law directly from God for 40 days and 40 nights. (Exodus 24:15-18). He was the one who wrote the law down and presented it to the people (Exodus 24:3-4) The entire covenant which Israel had with God is called the Mosaic covenant for it was brought into being through Moses. Hence in the New Testament it says 'the law was given through Moses but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.' (John 1:17) So as a type of the law, he couldn't enter into the Promised Land.

[2] ↩  A very basic example - All born again Christians have been given a 'gift of righteousness' which is said to enable us to 'reign in life' (Rom 5:17) Yet so many Christians won't apply faith to this and count it as theirs! Instead they live without the peace and rest that comes from this blessing even though it has been given to them as a free gift. This is the sort of picture that is presented to us in Joshua here that God has given us 'the land' but the absolute need is to daily apply these things by faith!

[3] ↩  The following is stolen from a note in the Scofield Study Bible. 'This particular angel, as distinguished in scripture from all others, is often referred to in the O.T. (Gen 16:9,22:11,48:16,Ex 3:2, 14:19, Num 22:22, Jud 2:4,6:11,13:3,Isa 63:9, Zech 1:12,12:8). He is clearly identified with the Lord Himself as in Gen 31:11-13 where the angel said to Jacob 'I am the God of Bethel'. See also Ex 3:2-6 where the same angel said to Moses 'I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham.' Also Gen 16:10 where Hagar spoke of Him as the all-seeing God. It is significant that in the N.T there is no further reference to the angel of the Lord.

[4] ↩  If Israel had obeyed God when they were first commanded to enter the Promised Land, they would not have needed to cross the Jordan. It was only because of their unbelief that God allowed them to wander for 40 years and then, in teaching them the first principles again, God dried up the Jordan and allowed them to cross. In doing so God is teaching us that the escape from Egypt (worldliness) and entrance into the Promised Land (our inheritance) is always by the same principle - our union with the Christ in His death and resurrection.

[5] ↩  While I believe that the Red Sea and the Jordan crossing are both teaching us the same fact - that is the importance of our death and resurrection with the Lord Jesus Christ, - there could be a slightly different aspect to the two baptisms. The emphasis in the Red Sea speaks of our death to the world while the emphasis in the Jordan is our resurrection and entrance into the Land, which is Christ living through us.

[6] ↩  It can only be understood by revelation from God. I remember as a young Christian at Bible College having to do a book review on 'The Normal Christian Life' by Watchman Nee. I started the 'Personal Response' section by saying 'For me, reading this book was like being given the map to a great treasure. I felt that if I could only memorise the entire book then I would know it all! Now obviously, God does not work through mere head knowledge, and nor does examining a map give you the treasure, but through reading this book I feel that I at least know where to look!' The truth of our union with Christ and entering into the benefits of it does start with 'knowledge' for Romans 6 begins early on with 'Knowing this, that our old man was crucified...' But alas, it's not just head knowledge or the guy with the greatest memory that wins! (I had only set myself the small goal of memorising the entire book!!!) We absolutely need to know this truth but it must come from God and that usually only takes place once we have seen our great need of Him first.

[7] ↩  Major Ian Thomas in 'If I Perish, I Perish' says 'Fulfilment comes with the realisation that you do not have in yourself what it takes. Death to all that you are in your own inadequacy is the only gateway through which you may enter into the fullness of all that Christ is, so that you may live miraculously in the power of His resurrection, crying out from your heart 'Lord Jesus, I can't, but you can, and that is all I need to know - let's go!'

[8] ↩  It is good to get more practical here for our fleshly tendencies towards self-pity and depression can be very strong. Even while I have been writing these words it has just occurred to me that I have been trying to deal with a situation over the last few days without taking God into account! And surprise surprise, I'm inching my way towards Bochim! If there is something that is making you sad and down then it is essential that you do not let self talk to you, but that you talk to self! I hope you know what I mean... I'll try to explain. In a hard or trying situation your fleshly nature will give you one hundred and one reasons why things are sooooo bad, and if you dwell on them then your emotions will follow what you are filling your head with, and within long you'll find yourself in Bochim - the place of weeping. But look at what the psalmist did - He would not let himself get down but instead of letting self speak to him, he spoke to his own soul saying  'why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence! My soul is in despair within me. Therefore I will remember you...' (Psalm 42:5-6) 

So has something been eating away at you and getting you down? Make a conscious effort to take God into account once again! Begin to praise Him like the psalmist, and don't let your fleshly 'woe is me' thoughts take a hold in your mind! If you are in despair, then, like the psalmist, choose to remember God.