In Joshua 5:13–15 we read of Joshua’s conversation with the “commander of the army of the LORD.” This commander appeared to Joshua near Jericho, before that fateful battle. The personage held a sword and told Joshua that the place where he stood was holy ground.
The person who appeared to Joshua was clearly a powerful being. We are told Joshua fell on his face and gave him reverence.
Then, Joshua addresses the man using a Hebrew word that means “master” or “lord.” Joshua clearly had much respect for this being. Finally, the man tells Joshua to remove his sandals, “for the place where you are standing is holy.”
Based on this information, there are only two possible identities for this person. First, this commander could be an example of a theophany, a visible appearance of God Himself. Supporting this view is the fact that Joshua was to take off his sandals similar to how Moses did at the burning bush when he met God (Exodus 3:5).
The other possible identity of this commander is that he was an angel. This theory notes that the being identifies himself as the “commander” of the Lord’s army, not as the Lord Himself. In this view, Joshua’s bowing is seen as an act of reverence rather than worship. Joshua’s address of the commander as “lord” could be a general term of respect.
Those who favor the view that Joshua met an angel appeal to the fact that no one can see God and live (Exodus 33:20). Those who favor the view that Joshua met God suggest that this was God the Son, a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ.
Whether the commander of the Lord’s army was angelic or divine, it was God who communicated an important message to Joshua to prepare him for the upcoming battle.