Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,Ch. Joshua 4:1-18. Completion of the Passage
1. when all the people were clean passed over] Below the spot, where the priests stood firm and motionless, the host, probably at various points, “hasted and passed over” (Joshua 4:10).
Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,
And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.3. twelve stones] We find on several occasions large stones set up to commemorate remarkable events, as (a) by Jacob in memory of the vision of the Angels at Beth-el (Genesis 28:18); (b) by the same patriarch on his return from Padan-aram (Genesis 35:14); (c) by the same patriarch again as a “heap of witness” between him and Laban (Genesis 31:45-47); (d) by Samuel at “Eben-ezer” to mark the site of the victory over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:12). Such stones were sometimes consecrated by anointing with oil (Genesis 28:18).
Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:
And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:
That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?6. when your children] Comp. Exodus 12:26; Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 6:20.
Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.
And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.8. unto the place] “On the upper terrace of the plain of the Jordan, which became the centre of the first sanctuary of the Holy Land—the first place pronounced ‘holy,’ the sacred place of the Jordan valley (Joshua 5:10-15), where the Tabernacle remained till it was fixed at Shiloh” (Joshua 18:1).
And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.9. And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan] “Alios quoque duodecim lapides,” Vulg. Another set of stones is here intended than that just mentioned. The latter were set up by the direct command of God to mark the spot where they passed the night; the former Joshua set up, apparently without the Divine suggestion, to mark the spot where the feet of the priests rested, while they bare upwards the Ark during the passage of the people. The expression “midst of Jordan” does not necessarily imply that the priests stood, and that the stones were built up, in the middle channel; but only that they were in the midst of the water when it flowed as it did before the occurrence of the miracle. Comp. Joshua 3:8 with Joshua 3:15.
unto this day] This phrase recurs again and again in the Book of Joshua. Comp. Joshua 5:9; Joshua 6:25; Joshua 7:26; Joshua 8:28-29; Joshua 9:27; Joshua 10:27; Joshua 13:13; Joshua 14:14; Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10.
For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until every thing was finished that the LORD commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua: and the people hasted and passed over.10. the priests which bare the ark stood] Their patient attitude, standing still and motionless, was eminently calculated to impart courage to the people.
And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over, that the ark of the LORD passed over, and the priests, in the presence of the people.
And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spake unto them:12. passed over armed before the children of Israel] Contrary to the usual order (Numbers 32:20), as if to secure that they should fulfil their vow.
About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the LORD unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.
On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.
And the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,
Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.
Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan.
And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before.18. the waters of Jordan returned] Thus the history of the crossing is related in sections: (a) first briefly, Joshua 3:14-17; (b) then more completely, Joshua 4:1-11; (c) some supplementary notices, Joshua 4:12-17; (d) finally, the conclusion, concerning the return of the water, till Jordan “flowed over all his banks,” as it did before.
And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.19–24. Erection of the Monument at Gilgal
19. the tenth day of the first month] Notice the exactness of the narrative. The first month is elsewhere called Abib, i.e. “the month of green ears” (Exodus 13:4; Exodus 23:15; Deuteronomy 16:1), and subsequently “Nisan” (Nehemiah 2:1; Esther 3:7).
encamped] The site was doubtless fortified by Joshua “as a frontier fortress, such as the Greeks under the name of epitichisma, and the Romans under the name of colonia, always planted as their advanced posts in a hostile country, such as at Kufa the Arab conquerors founded before the building of Bagdad, and at Fostal before the building of Cairo.” Stanley’s Lectures, p. 233.
in Gilgal] situated apparently on a hillock or rising ground in the Arboth-Jericho, or, as it is rendered in our Version, “the plains of Jericho,” the more level district of the “Ghôr” which lay between the town and the river. We find Gilgal mentioned again, (a) in the time of Saul (1 Samuel 7:16; 1 Samuel 10:8), and (b) some sixty years later in the history of David’s return to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 19:15). The name is here mentioned by anticipation, Joshua 5:9.
And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.20. those twelve stones] which seem to have been invested with a reverence which came to be regarded at last as idolatrous (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 9:15; Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5).
And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?21. When your children] Nothing is more carefully inculcated in the Law than the duty of parents to teach their children not only its precepts and principles, but the meaning of all the great historical events in their national existence. (Comp. Exodus 12:26; Exodus 13:8; Exodus 13:14; Deuteronomy 4:5; Deuteronomy 4:9-10.)
Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.
For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:
That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.24. that all the people of the earth might know] The miracle made the passage possible and easy for the Elect Nation, but it was intended also to have its effect on the nations around, and impart to them a knowledge of the power of Jehovah, the God of Israel.
that ye might fear] The tribes of Israel were now in the enemy’s country, and they had learnt afresh, as their fathers had done before them at the Red Sea, three important lessons; (i) that the power of Jehovah was unlimited; (ii) that it would be exerted on their behalf so long as they were obedient to His commands; (iii) that their leader was acting under the direct command and guidance of their Invisible Protector. These lessons were of universal application and were to be impressed on generation after generation.