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Divine warfare is as real today as it was in the days of old. The battle ensues in both the cosmic battleground and on earth. Too many have chosen to give honor and obeisance to lesser gods, increasing their influence on the lives of those who fail to follow the glory of God into every battle.
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Joshua 3

God spoke to Joshua and gave him specific instructions as to how to lead Israel across the Jordan River. God intended to assure the people that He was still with them after their leader (Moses) had passed and Joshua had been appointed High Priest by God over the children of Israel. God desired to show His glorious Kingship over His people as they carefully followed His explicit instructions. There was to be a holy entourage.

Joshua told the people to “sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” The priests received instruction by Joshua: “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over before the people.


Imagine hearing these words as you camped on the shores of the Jordan after the Lord had delivered you from Egypt and led you on the journey to the current destination. Even though the children of Israel had witnessed victory after victory as YHWH led them into battle time after time, they must have been a bit nervous knowing the enemies that surrounded them.

God’s instructions to Joshua included a holy entourage that would pave the way across the Jordan … not figuratively but literally. But why such a display? Why the Ark? Why the specific instructions? What did all this mean in the eyes of ancient Israel?


The deities in the ancient Near East knew no other kind of war. The spiritual battle was to establish and/or re-establish YHWH’s preeminence over all, not just physically but in the cosmic landscape where deities (gods) continually contended with each other to attempt to prove their supremacy. These battles were not just among the lesser gods attempting to prove some supremacy within their ranks as lesser gods, but ultimately to overthrow YHWH, the Most High God.

These other gods/deities were given rule over other nations at Babel (see Deuteronomy 32). For instance, Assyria was empowered by their god of battle, Nergal. Ishtar was also a war goddess. The Canaanite Baal and Babylonian Marduk are divine warriors. Every nation had their gods and goddesses who fought to provide and ensure prosperity for their nation which, in turn, provided prosperity for themselves. Both physical and cosmic warfare served to bring additional wealth and grandeur for a god who would then be expected to respond to the people by bestowing blessings upon them. The nation’s gods were the ones who commanded war to be undertaken, usually through oracles or divination.[1]

What we see happening in YHWH’s instructions to Joshua is His desire to put on a display of His supremacy in divine warfare. YHWH made a statement that would be clearly understood in the ancient Near East. He is Supreme. There is none greater than YHWH. This happened in the form of a holy entourage.

Standards or statues of the deity were usually carried to symbolize [a] god’s presence. Assyrian kings of the ninth and eighth centuries BC regularly refer to the divine standard that goes before them. The ark of the covenant as Yahweh’s standard, represents the Lord as clearing the way before the Israelites and leading the armies into Canaan. Nearly every army in the ancient Near East included priests and diviners (as seen in the Mari tables), prophets (cf. 2 Kings 3), and portable sacred objects (Assyrian annals of Shalmaneser III [858-824 BC]). In this way, the god(s) could be consulted on the battlefield or invoked to lead the soldiers to victory. In this worldview, human warfare is simply a representation of warfare among the gods. The stronger god would be victorious regardless of the strengths or weaknesses in the human combatants. Therefore, if Yahweh fought on their behalf, the Israelites would be convinced that they would be victorious.[2]

In the ancient Near East, when a nation went into battle, the army was led by an entourage such as detailed in the second-millennium BC Hittite “Instruction for the Royal Bodyguard.”

This tablet describes the responsibilities of the palace guard for the protection of the king. Most of it concerns the movement of the king in a cart from his palace to the place where he gives judgment and the return at the end of the day … As the guards are required to stay at a certain distance from the cart carrying the king, so the Israelites are commanded to stay 2,000 cubits from the ark representing God in its movement across the Jordan River (v.4). The specific directions and the whole ceremony of Joshua 3-4 suggest a movement comparable to that of a king surrounded by his army as they march to battle.[3]

God never instructs His people to do something without a reason that will bring Himself glory, that will once again establish His supremacy in the heavens and on the earth. When we see details like those given to Joshua and the ancient Israelites in Scripture, it is important we seek out purpose in the details because there’s a message in it for us today. The Scriptures, we need to remember, were not written TO us – they addressed contemporaries of the authors of each canonical book. However, the Scriptures were written FOR us … for every generation wherever and whenever living on Earth.

The Holy Entourage in Joshua 3 is a detailed description of God’s display of His glory as He led His people across the Jordan River on dry ground. The Ark, carried on poles hoisted on the shoulders of the Levites with the people following while keeping a specific distance as prescribed by God is the ultimate display of the Supreme Deity leading His people into victory. No other god or deity could ever hope to accomplish both actually and metaphorically what YHWH did as He continued to display His mighty power on behalf of and in view of a people chosen to bear His name.


Divine warfare is as real today as it was in the days of old. The battle ensues in both the cosmic battleground and on earth. Sadly, too many have chosen to give honor and obeisance to lesser gods, increasing their influence on the lives of those who fail to follow the Ark – the glory of God – into every battle, day after day.

But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.[4]


In Jesus we see the full manifestation of the majesty and glory of God. Follow Him as our Ark leading us into battle. Let His glory be on display as He leads us — His holy entourage into victory as we bear the visible and glorious presence of God through our consecrated and sanctified lives.


© 2022 Jan Ross
All Rights Reserved

[1] Notes from NKJV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (2017), Zondervan, (p. 380-382). Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid.
[4] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (2 Co 2:14). (2016). Crossway Bibles.