|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!
Verse 24. - The hand of the Lord, that it is mighty. "Thus the river, though dumb, was the best of heralds, proclaiming with a loud voice that heaven and earth are subject to the Lord God of Israel" (Calvin). That ye might fear. The construction here is unusual. Instead of the imperfect or infinitive with לְמַעַן we have the perfect. Therefore Ewald, Maurer, and Knobel (who says that the second member of the sentence ought to correspond with the first) have altered the pointing in order to bring this passage into conformity with the supposed necessities of grammar. In so doing they have robbed it of its picturesqueness and its meaning. For the object is clearly to show the lasting nature of the fear, "that ye might recognise now the hand of the Lord, that ye might have a thorough and lasting fear of his name." We may here remark on the necessarily miraculous character of the whole narrative of the crossing the Jordan. It admits of no explaining away. The account must either be accepted or rejected en bloc. First we have the specific declaration of Rahab in chap. 2:10, that Jehovah dried up the Red Sea, and that this proof of the peculiar protection of Israel by the Most High had struck terror into the hearts of the inhabitants of Canaan. Next we have the fact that Jordan had overflowed its banks. The dangerous nature of the crossing, even at ordinary times, has been mentioned already. Lives are frequently lost in the attempt, as recent travellers with one voice declare. At the time when the waters were out such a crossing was practically impossible to a host like the host of Israel. Nor can there be any mistake about its being the period of the overflowing of Jordan, for the time of the crossing is mentioned. It was the time of harvest - that is, of the barley harvest. This is confirmed by the fact that the recently cut flax was now lying on the roof of Rahab's house, and by the fact that the harley and flax ripened together, a coincidence which we have already mentioned in the note on chap. 2:6. The time is yet further defined. It was the "tenth day of the first month." We learn, moreover, from Leviticus 23:9-15 and Deuteronomy 16:6 that this was the time when the firstfruits were offered, from which seven weeks were reckoned to the beginning of wheat harvest (Exodus 34:2). Moreover, the passover was kept immediately afterwards (Joshua 5:10), on "the fourteenth day of the first month." Thus the date of the crossing, which is accurately fixed by a variety of circumstances, is clearly proved to correspond with the time of Jordan's overflow. We next come to the measures taken to secure the crossing. There is likewise no mistake here. Not one single intimation is given of an endeavour to break in any way the force of the current, or to preserve the Israelites, either men, women, or children, from the imminent risk they ran of death by drowning. Not only are no other expedients resorted to, but no animals seem to have been prepared to transport them over. Nor, again, were any means used to elude the vigilance of the inhabitants of Canaan. Readers of Xenophon's 'Anabasis ' will not fail to notice how often the passage of the rivers was a matter of the utmost difficulty to that expedition, and how fiercely attempts at crossing were disputed by the half savage tribes of Asia Minor. How are we to account for the fact that no opposition was offered to Joshua's passage by the highly civilised nations of Palestine? According to the narrative before us it was effected in the most leisurely and peaceful manner. What other explanation is possible titan that offered in the text, that when the feet of the priests bearing the ark touched the waters, those waters were cut off by supernatural power, and a way was miraculously made for the people of God through the midst of Jordan? The crossing was remarkable enough, we are told, to have been commemorated by a double memorial (vers. 8, 9). If it had taken place through an unusually easy ford there would have been nothing remarkable about it. Therefore it is clear that the whole narrative of the crossing is either absolute fable or strictly and historically accurate. Let us conclude by summing up the several reasons which make the former alternative inadmissible. The first is the precision with which the date is fixed, and the fact that the correctness of this date is confirmed, as we have seen, by a variety of corroborative evidence. The next is the simplicity and artlessness of the narrative, and its appeal to still existing monuments as confirmatory of the facts recorded. The third is that no account of a battle at Jordan is even hinted at by the Hebrew or any other historian, a battle which must infallibly have taken place had the Israelites attempted to enter Palestine in any ordinary manner; for the supposition that the waters of the ford at Jericho were unusually low at this time is quite inadmissible for the reasons given above; nor can it be supposed that the Israelites crossed the river by any other ford without rejecting the whole history of the conquest. The last reason is the touch of detail given in the word XXX which seems to mark the transition from the soft adhesive mud of the river to the firmness of the dry land beyond (for the word translated "dry land" in chap. 3:17 only means that it was land and not water. Gesenius). Our witness, in fact, can be subjected to the severest cross examination without shaking his testimony. And we are thus compelled to choose between accepting the literal correctness of the narrative as it stands, or crediting the author with a skill in constructing a work of fiction which itself scarcely falls short of the miraculous.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty,.... Even almighty, and can do that which is marvellous and surprising, and above the power of nature to effect; things unsearchable and past finding out, which cannot be expressed, or conceived how and by what means they are brought about; this the very Heathens would own and acknowledge when they should see these stones, and be told the meaning of them, or should hear of this amazing event:
that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever; as the above mentioned end was to be answered among the people of the earth by these stones, this among the people of Israel; who upon sight of them would call to mind the power and goodness of God, which would serve to keep an awe of his majesty on their mind, a due reverence of him and his greatness, and engage them to fear, serve, and worship him; who by such acts as these had abundantly showed himself to be the only true and living God, and the covenant God of them his people Israel; the Septuagint version is,"that ye may worship the Lord your God in every work.''
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