Joshua 4:3
And command you them, saying, Take you hence out of the middle of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and you shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where you shall lodge this night.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
IV.

(3) Out of the midst of Jordan . . . twelve stones—(9) Twelve stones in the midst of Jordan.—It would seem that we are to understand two cairns to have been set up, one on either side the river, to mark the place where the Israelites crossed. The western cairn was in Gilgal, the other on the opposite side, at the edge of the overflow, where the priests had stopped. The only difficulty lies in the words above cited, in the midst of Jordan. The phrase, like many other Hebrew phrases, is used in a different way from that in which we should use it. The words “in the middle of the Jordan” to an English reader appear to mean half-way between the banks. But if the river were divided, and half of it had recoiled many miles towards the north, and the rest flowed away to the south, any one standing between these two parts of the river might be said to stand in the midst of Jordan, the two parts being on either side; and he would be equally in the midst, as regards them, whether he were at the edge of the stream or not. It is contrary to common-sense, as well as to the words of the text, to suppose that a cairn was set up in the midst of the river’s bed. “They are there unto this day,” the writer adds in Joshua 4:9. It is perfectly clear from Joshua 3:8 that the priests stood at the brim of the overflow. That spot and no other would be the particular spot which it would be most interesting to mark, the place from which Jordan, in full flood, was driven back.

Further, the words “in the midst” (Hebrew, Vthôlc) do not necessarily mean more than within. In Joshua 19:1, it is said the inheritance of Simeon was within (b’thôk) the inheritance of the children of Judah. Yet it was entirely on one edge of it. May not the ark standing in the midst of Jordan represent that suspension of the power of death which is effected by the interposition of our Saviour, and fills the interval between the reign of death “from Adam to Moses,” and the “second death” that is to come?

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.Take you twelve men - The order is given in the plural, because no doubt the tribes themselves were to choose their own representatives, the choice being approved by Joshua Jos 4:4. These twelve would be left with Joshua on the hither bank of the river, waiting to receive his orders after the rest of the people had made their way across Joshua 3:17; Joshua 4:1. CHAPTER 4

Jos 4:1-8. Twelve Stones Taken for a Memorial Out of Jordan.

1-3. the Lord spake unto Joshua, Take you twelve men—each representing a tribe. They had been previously chosen for this service (Jos 3:12), and the repetition of the command is made here solely to introduce the account of its execution. Though Joshua had been divinely instructed to erect a commemorative pile, the representatives were not apprised of the work they were to do till the time of the passage.

Out of the midst of Jordan; See POOLE "Joshua 3:17". There ye shall lodge this night, i.e. in Gilgal, as is expressed below, Joshua 4:19,20. And command you them, saying,.... As follows:

take you hence out of the midst of Jordan; so that they were obliged to go back into the midst of Jordan, having already passed over it, as appears from Joshua 4:1,

out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm; where being stones, they chose to stand upon them, and which were a firm standing for them; and which secured them from the slime and mud at the bottom of the river the waters left behind; though it is not absolutely necessary to understand it that they were to take, and did take, the stones from under their feet, but those that lay about the place where they stood:

twelve stones; each man a stone; and, according to the Samaritan Chronicle (f), every man inscribed his name on the stone:

and ye shall carry them over with you; from the place they took them up, to the place they should next stop at:

and leave them in the lodging place where you shall lodge this night: which was in the place afterwards called Gilgal, Joshua 4:19.

(f) Apud Hottinger. Smegma Oriental. p. 500, 503.

And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood {a} firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the {b} lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.

(a) As in Jos 3:17.

(b) Meaning, the place where they would camp.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
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).Verse 3. - Stood firm. Much discussion has taken place about the proper rendering of the word הָכִין which the LXX. translates ἐτοίμους, and the Vulgate durissimos. It seems best to take it, as our version does, as the infinitive absolute, and to translate as in ch. 'Hi. 17. But the punctuation of the Masorites separates it from מִםמּצַּב. They would apparently render "to set up." The event corresponded to the announcement. - Joshua 3:14-16. When the people left their tents to go over the Jordan, and the priests, going before the ark of the covenant, dipped their feet in the water ("the brim of the water," Joshua 3:15, as in Joshua 3:8), although the Jordan was filled over all its banks throughout the whole time of harvest, the waters stood still: the waters flowing down from above stood as a heap at a very great distance off, by the town of Adam, on the side of Zarthan; and the waters flowing down to the salt sea were entirely cut off, so that the people went through the dried bed of the river opposite to Jericho. Joshua 3:14-16 form one large period, consisting of three protases (Joshua 3:14, Joshua 3:15), the first and third of which are each of them more precisely defined by a circumstantial clause, and also of three apodoses (Joshua 3:16). In the protases the construction passes from the infinitive (בּנסע and כּבוא) into the finite verb (נטבּלוּ), - a thing of frequent occurrence (see Ewald, 350). The circumstantial clause (Joshua 3:15), "and the Jordan was filled over all its banks all the days of harvest," brings out in all its fulness the miracle of the stoppage of the water by the omnipotence of God. Every attempt to explain the miracle as a natural occurrence is thereby prevented; so that Eichhorn pronounces the clause a gloss, and endeavours in this manner to get rid of it altogether. על־כּל־גּבותיו might mean full against all its banks, flowing with its banks full, or "full to the brim" (Robinson, Pal. ii. p. 262, according to the lxx and Vulg.); but if we compare Joshua 4:18, "the waters of Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as before," with the parallel passage in Isaiah 8:7, "the river comes up over all its channels and goes over all its banks," there can be no doubt that the words refer to an overflowing of the banks, and not merely to their being filled to the brim, so that the words must be rendered "go over the banks." But we must not therefore understand them as meaning that the whole of the Ghor was flooded. The Jordan flows through the Ghor, which is two hours' journey broad at Beisan, and even broader to the south of that (see at Deuteronomy 1:1), in a valley about a quarter of an hour in breadth which lies forty or fifty feet lower, and, being covered with trees and reeds, presents a striking contrast to the sandy slopes which bound it on both sides. In many places this strip of vegetation occupies a still deeper portion of the lower valley, which is enclosed by shallow banks not more than two or three feet high, so that, strictly speaking, we might distinguish three different banks at the places referred to: namely, the upper or outer banks, which form the first slope of the great valley; the lower or middle banks, embracing that strip of land which is covered with vegetation; and then the true banks of the river's bed (see Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 593ff., and Robinson, Pal. ii. pp. 254ff., and Bibl. Researches, pp. 333ff.). The flood never reaches beyond the lower line of the Ghor, which is covered with vegetation, but even in modern times this line has sometimes been overflowed. For example, Robinson (Pal. ii. p. 255, compared with p. 263) found the river so swollen when he visited it in 1838, that it filled its bed to the very brim, and in some places flowed over and covered the ground where the bushes grew. This rise of the water still takes place at the time of harvest in April and at the beginning of May (see at Leviticus 23:9.), and therefore really at the close of the rainy reason, and after the snow has been long melted upon Hermon, as it is then that the lake of Tiberias reaches its greatest height, in consequence of the rainy season and the melting of the snow, so that it is only then that the Jordan flows with its full stream into the Dead Sea (Robinson, ii. p. 263). At this time of the year the river cannot of course be waded through even at its shallowest fords, whereas this is possible in the summer season, when the water is low. It is only by swimming that it can possibly be crossed, and even that cannot be accomplished without great danger, as it is ten or twelve feet deep in the neighbourhood of Jericho, and the current is very strong (vid., Seetzen, R. ii. pp. 301, 320-1; Rob. ii. p. 256). Crossing at this season was regarded as a very extraordinary feat in ancient times, so that it is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 12:15 as a heroic act on the part of the brave Gadites. It may possibly have been in this way that the spies crossed and recrossed the river a few days before. But that was altogether impossible for the people of Israel with their wives and children.

It was necessary, therefore, that the Lord of the whole earth should make a road by a miracle of His omnipotence, which arrested the descending waters in their course, so that they stood still as a heap "very far," sc., from the place of crossing, "by the town of Adam" (בּאדם must not be altered into מאדם, from Adam, according to the Keri), "which is by the side of Zarthan." The city of Adam, which is not mentioned anywhere else (and which Luther has erroneously understood as an appellative, according to the Arabic, "people of the city"), is not to be confounded with Adamah, in the tribe of Naphtali (Joshua 19:36). The town of Zarthan, by the side of which Adam is situated, has also vanished. Van de Velde and Knobel imagine that the name Zarthan has been preserved in the modern Kurn (Horn) Sartabeh, a long towering rocky ridge on the south-west of the ford of Damieh, upon which there are said to be the ruins of a castle. This conjecture is not favoured by any similarity in the names so much as by its situation. For, on the one hand, the mountain slopes off from the end of this rocky ridge, or from the loftiest part of the horn, into a broad shoulder, from which a lower rocky ridge reaches to the Jordan, and seems to join the mountains on the east, so that the Jordan valley is contracted to its narrowest dimensions at this point, and divided into the upper and lower Ghor by the hills of Kurn Sartabeh; and consequently this was apparently the most suitable point for the damming up of the waters of the Jordan (see Robinson, Bibl. Researches, pp. 293-4). On the other hand, this site tallies very well with all the notices in the Bible respecting the situation of the town of Zarthan, or Zeredetha (1 Kings 7:46, compared with 2 Chronicles 4:17): viz., at 1 Kings 4:12, where Zarthan is said to have been by the side of the territory of Bethshean; also at 1 Kings 7:46, where Zarthan and Succoth are opposed to one another; and at Judges 7:22, where the reading should be צרדתה, according to the Arabic and Syriac versions. Hence Knobel supposes that Adam was situated in the neighbourhood of the present ford Damieh, near to which the remains of a bridge belonging to the Roman era are still to be found (Lynch, Expedition). The distance of Kurn Sartabeh from Jericho is a little more than fifteen miles, which tallies very well with the expression "very far." Through this heaping up of the waters coming down from above, those which flowed away into the Dead Sea (the sea of the plain, see Deuteronomy 4:49) were completely cut off (נכרתוּ תּמּוּ are to be taken together, so that תּמּוּ merely expresses the adverbial idea wholly, completely), and the people went over, probably in a straight line from Wady Hesbn to Jericho.

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