Matthew Poole's Commentary
And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,God commands them to carry twelve stones for a memorial out of Jordan; Joshua orders it; the people perform, Joshua 4:1-8. Twelve other stones set up for a memorial in the midst of Jordan, Joshua 4:9. The people pass over: the order they observe, Joshua 4:10-13. God magnifies Joshua, Joshua 4:14. The priests with the ark are commanded to come up out of Jordan, Joshua 4:15-17. The waters return, Joshua 4:18. The time of this passage, Joshua 4:19. Twelve stones set up in Gilgal; to what purpose declared, Joshua 4:20-24.
This was commanded before, Joshua 3:12, and is here repeated with enlargement, as being now to be put in execution.
Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,For the greater evidence and certainty, and the more effectual spreading of the report of this marvellous work among all the tribes.
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.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.
Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:Prepared, i.e. appointed or chosen for that work, and commanded them to be ready for it.
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:Pass over before the ark, i.e. go back again to the place where the ark stands.
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?A sign; a monument or memorial of this day’s work.
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.Before the ark; as it were at the sight and approach of the ark, to give it and the Israelites a safe passage.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
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.In the midst of Jordan; properly so called; as Joshua 3:17.
Quest. How could these stones be a monument of this work, when they were not seen, but generally covered with the waters of Jordan?
Answ. These stones are not the same with those which a man could carry upon his shoulders, Joshua 4:5, and therefore might be very much larger; and being set up in two rows one above another, they might possibly be seen, at least sometimes when the water was low, and especially where the water was commonly more shallow, as it might be ordinarily in this place, though not at this time, when Jordan overflowed all its banks. Add to this, that the waters of Jordan are said to be very pure and clear; and therefore these stones, though they did not appear above it, might be seen in it, either by those who stood upon the shore, because that river was not broad; or at least by those that passed in boats upon the river, who could easily discern them by the peculiar noise and motion of the water occasioned by that heap of stones. And this was sufficient, especially considering that there was another more distinct and visible monument of this miracle set up in Gilgal.
They are there unto this day: this might be written, either,
1. By Joshua, who wrote this book near twenty years after this was done; or,
2. By some other holy man, divinely inspired and approved of by the whole Jewish church, who inserted this and some such passages, both in this book, and in the writings of Moses.
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.To speak unto the people, i.e. to command the people to do. According to all that Moses commanded Joshua; which he did not particularly, but in the general, because he commanded Joshua to observe and do all that God had commanded him by Moses, and all that he should command him any other way. Hasted and passed over, i.e. passed over with haste; which is noted as an argument of their fear, or weakness of their faith; as, on the contrary, the priests are commended that they stood firm, and fixed, and settled in their minds, as well as in the posture of their bodies.
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.The people looking on, and beholding this wonderful work of God with attention and admiration.
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:No text from Poole on this verse.
About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the LORD unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.Either,
1. Before the ark, by which they, as well as the rest, passed when they went over Jordan. Or,
2. In the presence of God, who diligently observed whether they would keep their promise and covenant made with their brethren, or not.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.For being now in the middle, and lowest, and deepest place of the river, (of which See POOLE "Joshua 3:17",) they are most properly said to ascend or go up to the land; which word is thrice used ill this and the two next following verses.
Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan.The priests staid contentedly in the river, till God by Joshua called them out.
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.The waters came down from their heaps, and returned with all convenient speed into their proper channel, according to their natural and usual course.
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.The first month, to wit, of Nisan, which wanted but five days of forty years from the time of their coming out of Egypt, which was on the fifteenth day of this month; so punctual is God in the performing of his word, whether promised or threatened. And this day was very seasonable for the taking up of the lambs, which were to be used four days after, according to the law, Exodus 12:3,6.
Gilgal; a place so called hereafter upon a following occasion, Joshua 5:9. So here it is an anticipation.
And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.Which most probably were placed severally and in order, like so many little pillars, which was most proper to keep remembrance of this miraculous benefit vouchsafed to this people.
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?No text from Poole on this verse.
Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.No text from Poole on this verse.
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:Before us, i.e. myself and Caleb, and all of us here present; for this benefit, though done to their fathers, is justly and rightly said to be done to themselves, because they were then in their parents’ loins; and their very being, and all their happiness, depended upon that deliverance.
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.No text from Poole on this verse.