Joshua 5:14

And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant?

  • 2
    Does the word translated worship always indicate the same intensity as when clearly directed to YHWH? No it does not. The same word is used when Bowing to a human king.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 14:59
  • You might be interested in this answer I wrote to a different question Hermes: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/68725/43095 mostly unrelated question but some of what you say makes me think ya might
    – Al Brown
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 18:25
  • 3
    @Kris You may notice that Joshua did not "bow" to a human being, he "fell on his face to the earth, and did worship." This is a description of the common effect of encountering God throughout Scripture. And, these are two very different things: one bowing and the other falling on your face to the earth in reverence.
    – Xeno
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 19:31
  • 2
    Never said he owed to a human. But the word translated worshipped is same one used in the cases where a man prostrates himself and does obeisance to another human in higher station also when angels were given homage by men.
    – Kris
    Commented Sep 15, 2021 at 21:31

4 Answers 4


Let us list the facts about this fascinating encounter described in Josh 5:13 - 6:5 -

  • the person is described as "a man" in Josh 5:13, NOT an angel
  • The person describes Himself as "commanded of the LORD's army" (V14)
  • Joshua falls down in reverence
  • Joshua is instructed to remove his sandals (V15) because the place where he is standing is holy ground (compare Ex 3:5, 6)
  • In Josh 6:2 this person is described as 'the LORD" who then proceeds to give Joshua instructions about how Jericho was to be conquered.

Thus, by the explicit declaration of the text, confirmed by the instruction to remove sandals, etc, the person speaking with Joshua was the LORD/YHWH Himself.

Now, whether this was Christ or not in another matter - but in view of the following, the incident in Josh 5:13 - 6:5 is likely to have been a Christophany

  • -John 1:18 - No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
  • John 5:37 - You have never heard His voice nor seen His form
  • John 6:46 - No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. (See also Matt 18:10.)
  • 1 John 4:12 - No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us

This "theophany" is similar to other places in the OT where the LORD appeared to people such as in Gen 18:1, 10, 32:30, Judges 6:14, Job 42:4, etc.

See also my answer to this question: In what sense did Jesus descend/come from heaven? John 3:13 & 3:31


To understand this ‘behaviour’ you need to understand the Hebraic mindset. In this case ‘representation’. The Pentateuch were Hebrew books, written by a Hebrew, for Hebrews…. In their thinking, if a representative of an official stood before you, it was as if that official themselves was standing there. If they spoke, it was as if that official was speaking. And when you replied, you were replying directly to that official (through the representative).

So irrespective of whether this angel was a christophany (pre incarnation), or theophany, or not, Joshua needed to bow and worshiped this entity as Yahweh. This was the right thing to do.

Nowhere in the Old Testament are saints told not to worship angels. This is only found in the New Testament. And the person bowing (John) was a Jew (Hebrew), so natural ‘thing’ to do - but - John forgot that he was born again, and now a son of God - just the same as the angel was - soJohn was admonished.

  • This doesn't quite fit with John in Revelation, who worships the angel as God and is rebuked. Clearly the worship he was giving was as you describe, and not obeiscance as in the case in the question. Commented Sep 20, 2021 at 13:41

Why was the angel of the LORD worshipped by Joshua if he was just and angel?

In the same verse Joshua 5:14 of this question, notice that Joshua addressed the angel "my lord" (adoni) which is a form of the word lord which is used for human and angelic superiors but never once means God. Also, in Zechariah 1:12-13, the Angel of the LORD asked the the LORD for information and received comforting words which shows that he is not equal with God in knowledge and power.

The word worship here does not mean sacred service. וַיִּשְׁתָּ֔חוּ (way·yiš·tā·ḥū) means Strong's 7812: To depress, prostrate. If the word "worship' has taken on a different meaning in todays age, the shift should be considered and modern translations should use modern language. The verse does not say that Joshua did sacred service to the only true God of the bible.


Why was the Angel Of The Lord worshiped by Joshua if he was just an angel?

The word "angel" is not in Joshua 5. Joshua saw a man, Joshua 5:

13 Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?”

Did Joshua worship the man?

Joshua 5:14 New International Version

“Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?”

English Standard Version

And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the LORD. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?”

The operative Hebrew word here is ambiguous.

Keil and Delitzsch:

for the word השׁתּחוה, which is connected with the falling down, does not always mean divine worship, but very frequently means nothing more than the deep Oriental reverence paid by a dependant to his superior or king (e.g., 2 Samuel 9:6; 2 Samuel 14:33), and Joshua did not address the person who appeared to him by the name of God, but simply as אדני, "My lord."

If you interpret this being as just an angel, then Joshua didn't worship him.

If you interpret this being as a theophany, then Joshu did worship him.

Both interpretations have received supports from different translations.

  • You should have read the rest of Keil & Delitzsch on this matter. Statrting at Joshua 5:13-15 and then Joshua 6:1-2. They connect vs 15 as a sequel to Joshua 6:2, "And the Lord said to Joshua etc. Also, irrespective of this encounter with Joshua K&D explicitly explain that the angle of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ. I believe it's stated by them at Genesis 16 starting at vs7. Please notice I did not address the issue of worship but rather the identity of the person.
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented Sep 16, 2021 at 1:05

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