|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
4:1-9 The works of the Lord are so worthy of rememberance, and the heart of man is so prone to forget them, that various methods are needful to refresh our memories, for the glory of God, our advantage, and that of our children. God gave orders for preparing this memorial.
Verse 9. - And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan. A great deal of ingenuity has been wasted over this passage. Kennicott would read "from the midst," instead of "in the midst;" but this purely conjectural emendation is contrary to the fact that these stones were to be set up where the priests bearing the ark stood, while the others were to be set up where the Israelites rested for the night. Again: it has been asked why stones should be placed as a memorial in the Jordan itself, where no man could see them. The answer is a simple one. They were not placed in the Jordan, but at some distance from its banks. They were placed where the priests stood, i.e., at the brink of the Jordan ("juxta ripam," Jarchi), which at that time had overflowed its banks (Joshua 3:15). It is no reply to this to observe with the translator of Keil that the stones would by this interpretation be left high and dry for the greater part of the year, for this would be the very reason why that precise spot was fixed upon for a memorial. Nor does the word בְּתּוך in the midst, constitute any valid objection to this interpretation, for the same word is used in Joshua 3:17, although two verses previously we are told that the priests stood at the brink of the swollen river with the soles of their feet just dipped in the water (see note there). Thus while the Vulgate translates "in medio Jordanis alveo," the LXX. renders more accurately by ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ Ιορδάνῃ. Thus Rosenmuller's objection to the two monuments, namely, that such monuments would never be placed in a rapidly flowing stream like the Jordan, vanishes; while, as Poole suggests, these stones might be heavier, and form even a more enduring memorial than that of the first resting place of the Israelites, constructed as it were of stones which were not beyond the power of one man to carry after all, it may be asked whether it is more probable that this passage is an insertion from another, and an irreconcilable account (Meyer, Knobel), or that it is a later gloss (Rosenmuller, Maurer, etc.), or that two monuments of so mighty and memorable a miracle should have been set up, one at the place where the priests stood, and the other where the Israelites rested after this wonderful interposition of God on their behalf. So Hengstenberg 'Geschichte des Reiches Gottes,' p. 203. The Syriac version only supports Rosenmuller's view. The LXX. and Vulgate render "twelve other stones." The supposition that the sacred historian gives all the commands of God to Joshua, and that therefore such parts of the narrative as are not contained in these commands are to be rejected, is refuted by a comparison, for instance, of Joshua 3:7, 8, with vers. 13, 17.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan,.... Twelve other stones, as the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions, and so Jarchi; which he set one upon another, so that they might be seen above the water; or however the water of Jordan being clear, they might easily be discerned by those who either passed over the river, or walked by the side of it, where they were; and perhaps may be the very stones John the Baptist pointed at in Matthew 3:9; since it was at Bethabara he was baptizing, supposed to be the very place of the passage of the children of Israel over Jordan, and had its name from thence, John 1:28,
in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood; and which was done in commemoration of it: the words will bear to be read "under the station" of the feet of the priests: hence Jarchi fancies these were set, that their feet might not sink in the mud at the bottom of the river; but this, though here recorded, might be done by Joshua immediately after the priests were come out of Jordan, or as they were coming up: hence some think Joshua was the last that came up from it; but Abarbinel observes, that the word signifies "in the room" or "stead of"; see Gill on Exodus 21:24; so that these stones were placed in the room and stead of the station of the priests, in the midst of the river, and in memory of it:
and they are there unto this day; to the time of the writing of this book, which is no objection to Joshua being the writer of it, though it is by some made one; since it might be wrote by him, as doubtless it was, when such an observation could not be impertinent; and if what has been before observed is true, these stones were in the same place in the times of John the Baptist; and that they were in the order in which they were first set; for that they were in the waters of Jordan, there could scarce be any question of it. This was done to perpetuate the memory of this remarkable event: so Alexander the great set up twelve altars on the borders of India, by the river Oraxes, in commemoration of his exploits (k).
(k) Arrian. Expedit. Alex. l. 5. Curtius, l. 9. sect. 3.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Jos 4:9. Twelve Stones Set Up in the Midst of Jordan.
9. Joshua set up twelve stones … in the place where the feet of the priests … stood—In addition to the memorial just described, there was another memento of the miraculous event, a duplicate of the former, set up in the river itself, on the very spot where the ark had rested. This heap of stones might have been a large and compactly built one and visible in the ordinary state of the river. As nothing is said where these stones were obtained, some have imagined that they might have been gathered in the adjoining fields and deposited by the people as they passed the appointed spot.
they are there unto this day—at least twenty years after the event, if we reckon by the date of this history (Jos 24:26), and much later, if the words in the latter clause were inserted by Samuel or Ezra.
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