In Joshua 5:2 (NASB)

At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make for yourself flint knives and circumcise again the sons of Israel the second time.”

What's the reason behind a second circumcision? Notice the usage of the word "again".

  • I would have thought that the reason would be perfectly clear when the following verses are read. Please edit to add more context as to what remains unclear when the whole passage is read as a unit. – curiousdannii Mar 11 at 13:16
  • @curiousdannii it's not as easy as it might look. For example, the current answer draws attention to the ones being born in the wilderness. Yet, verse 9 might imply another kind of circumcision (the Egyptian one) was involved. – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Mar 11 at 13:28
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    Up-voted +1. Agreed that there is a question needs answering. YLT is even more emphatic At that time said Jehovah unto Joshua, `Make for thee knives of flint, and turn back, circumcise the sons of Israel a second time;' – Nigel J Mar 11 at 15:18

Joshua 5:2 Berean Study Bible

At that time the LORD said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel once again.”

once again.”
וְשׁ֛וּב (wə·šūḇ)
Conjunctive waw | Verb - Qal - Imperative - masculine singular
Strong's Hebrew 7725: To turn back, in, to retreat, again


1 turn back ...
2 return, come or go back ...
3 especially return unto: ...
4. a. bring back

Let's see the context.

6The Israelites had moved about in the wilderness forty years until all the men who were of military age when they left Egypt had died, since they had not obeyed the Lord. For the Lord had sworn to them that they would not see the land he had solemnly promised their ancestors to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey. 7So 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. 8And after the whole nation had been circumcised, they remained where they were in camp until they were healed.

Joshua was addressing the new generation who had never been circumcised.

In Joshua 5:2, why is Joshua commanded to conduct a second circumcision?

According to the literal interpretation of the word וְשׁ֛וּב and the context, it is not really a second circumcision. Joshua ordered a return to the circumcision ritual. So once again, the sons of Israel were being circumcised after a suspension of the ritual in the wilderness.


I believe he was referring to those who were born during their wanderings in the wilderness

Joshua 5:3-6 NASB

3 So Joshua made himself flint knives and circumcised the sons of Israel at [b]Gibeath-haaraloth. 4 This is the reason why Joshua circumcised them: all the people who came out of Egypt who were males, all the men of war, died in the wilderness along the way after they came out of Egypt. 5 For all the people who came out were circumcised, but all the people who were born in the wilderness along the way as they came out of Egypt had not been circumcised. 6 For the sons of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, until all the nation, that is, the men of war who came out of Egypt, [c]perished because they did not listen to the voice of the Lord, to whom the Lord had sworn that He would not let them see the land which the Lord had sworn to their fathers to give us, a land flowing with milk and honey.

All those that had come from Egypt who had been circumcised there had perished in the wilderness during the forty years.The second time does not refer to the same group being circumcised for the second time but those that had been born in the wilderness underwent the second circumcision that was carried out by Israel.

  • I'm not sure this sits right with me though. Why would the Lord (infallible) deliver incomplete work that required completion by fallible humans? Isn't that assuming a lot of risk? – DaveDev Mar 11 at 23:14
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    @DaveDev when hasn’t the Lord completed His work though humans? The Bible is literally the story of God using (very) fallible people! (See: Moses, David, Jonah, Peter, Paul, etc etc)... – Tim Mar 12 at 0:05

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