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The book of Joshua represents a transition for Israel. The people of Israel are developing from wandering as a wilderness gang to living as a partially settled nation. (Joshua 5:9-12) captures a moment in the transition—just after they cross the Jordan into this new land and before the Israelite's lay siege to the fortressed city of Jericho. The experience of transition is emphasized by the recurrence of the word day, the Hebrew yom. Within this section, day is repeated five times. The repetition of a specific time, a specific day, heightens the transitional message of the passage. What was true yesterday is no longer true. Today is a new day. Tomorrow, everything will be different. This particular day is like a doorway through which one passes, not just into a new room but into a new existence.
This new day, this transition point for Israel, is also illustrated through a place: Gilgal, which in Hebrew means “to roll way.” At Gilgal, it becomes clear that the Israelites have rolled away from the Egyptians and from the dangers of the wilderness. Gilgal is a specific location, not just any place. Gilgal is not a city; it is more like a neighborhood for which one carries nostalgic memories. Years later, the Israelite's might remember Gilgal just as a family remembers their home. Picture someone wistfully saying, “This is where our kids were born.” Twelve stones from the Jordan River, placed in remembrance of the crossing by the twelve tribes, symbolize their arrival (Joshua 4:19-20). This place communicates that the disgrace of slavery in Egypt is past and the promise of a new home has been realized. What God has promised, a land flowing with milk and honey, has come true.