|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:20-24 It is the duty of parents to tell their children betimes of the words and works of God, that they may be trained up in the way they should go. In all the instruction parents give their children, they should teach them to fear God. Serious godliness is the best learning. Are we not called, as much as the Israelites, to praise the loving-kindness of our God? Shall we not raise a pillar to our God, who has brought us through dangers and distresses in so wonderful a way? For hitherto the Lord hath helped us, as much as he did his saints of old. How great the stupidity and ingratitude of men, who perceive not His hand, and will not acknowledge his goodness, in their frequent deliverances!
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And those twelve stones which they took out of Jordan,.... The twelve men who were sent there for that purpose, and took them from thence, and brought them hither, Joshua 4:3,
did Joshua pitch in Gilgal; set them in rows, or one upon another, and made a pillar of them commemorative of their passage over Jordan into the land of Canaan: according to Josephus (n), he made an altar of these stones; and Ben Gersom is of opinion, that they were placed in the sanctuary by the ark, though not in it; which yet was the sentiment of Tertullian (o), but very improbable; since that ark was not capable of such a number of large stones; and it must be a very large ark or chest, if one could be supposed to be made on purpose for them; but it is most likely they were erected in form of a pillar or statue, in memory of this wonderful event, the passage of Israel over Jordan, see Joshua 4:7; they may be considered as emblems of the twelve apostles of Christ, and their ministrations and writings; their number agrees, and so does the time of their appointment to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel, which was after the resurrection of Christ, typified by the passage of Joshua over Jordan, and out of it; the name of one of them, and he a principal one, was Peter or Cephas, which signifies a stone; and all of them in a spiritual sense were lively stones, chosen and selected from others, and called by grace, and were very probably most, if not all of them, baptized in this very place, Bethabara, from whence these stones were taken; and were like them unpolished, as to external qualifications, not having an education, and being illiterate, but wonderfully fitted by Christ for his service; and were not only pillars, as James, Cephas, and John, but in some sense foundation stones; as they were the instruments of laying Christ ministerially, as the foundation of salvation, and of preaching the fundamental truths of the Gospel, in which they were constant and immovable; and their ministry and writings, their Gospels and epistles, are so many memorials of what Christ, our antitypical Joshua, has done for us in passing over Jordan's river, or through death; finishing thereby transgression and sin, obtaining peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation, opening the way to the heavenly Canaan, abolishing death, and bringing life and immortality to light.
(n) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 4.) (o) Contr. Marcion. l. 4. c. 13.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
20-24. those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal—Probably to render them more conspicuous, they might be raised on a foundation of earth or turf. The pile was designed to serve a double purpose—that of impressing the heathen with a sense of the omnipotence of God, while at the same time it would teach an important lesson in religion to the young and rising Israelites in after ages.
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