Joshua 4:22-24: The Meaning of Gilgal’s Stones, Part 2

Verse 22:[1] Then ye shall let your children know, saying, (Josh. 3:17) Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.


Verse 23:[2] 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, (Ex. 14:21) which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over…

[With Him drying, etc., אֲשֶׁר־הוֹבִישׁ] Because He dried up,[3] etc. (Jonathan, similarly the Septuagint, Syriac, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius). Which He made dry (Arabic).

[In your sight, מִפְּנֵיכֶם] From your face [a great many interpreters]; because of you (Junius, Masius), or, for your sake (Masius).

[In the case of the Red Sea, which He dried, until we passed over] Hebrew: which He dried for our sake, etc., or, because of us,[4] that is, me, Caleb, and your parents (Junius, Malvenda). All to whom he was speaking had passed over Jordan, but their fathers the Red Sea, in whose number was he who was speaking. But this explanation is not quite full (Masius). This explanation only holds good, if Joshua here speaks in his own person. But he speaks in the person of the people living hereafter in the land of Canaan, who crossed the sea in the loins of their parents.[5] Although it appears to be closer to the truth, that it is established in verses 23 and 24 that Joshua speaks in his own person; yet in such a what that, what he here delivers to the Israelites, the same he wills to be delivered, with the necessary alterations made, to their children also, who were ignorant of these things. With which posited, the former exposition will hold good. Now, thus the Prophet speaks, for our sake, or from our face, because he was understanding the benefits to pertain, not only to those present, but to all their posterity equally. It is evident that so it is, because he commands the people to make use of these words in the future in the presence of their grandchildren, God dried up the waters of Jordan because of you, until ye had crossed over: for they, not yet being born, were not able to cross, except in their parents’ loins (Masius).

Before us, that is, 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.


Verse 24:[6] (1 Kings 8:42, 43; 2 Kings 19:19; Ps. 106:8) That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is (Ex. 15:16; 1 Chron. 29:12; Ps. 89:13) mighty: that ye might (Ex. 14:31; Deut. 6:2; Ps. 89:7; Jer. 10:7) fear the LORD your God for ever (Heb. all days[7]).

[That all might learn] It ought not to be doubted that the neighboring nations were very much dismayed by the marvels reported, which had happened, etc. (Grotius).

[That ye might fear] Hebrew: ye feared[8] (Masius). The past tense in place of the future (Munster), that ye might fear. Such an Enallage of tenses and moods is common in the Sacred Books (Masius). By the language of fear all worship and religion toward God is signified (Masius, Lapide, Bonfrerius).

[1] Hebrew: וְהוֹדַעְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֣ם לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּיַּבָּשָׁה֙ עָבַ֣ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֖ן הַזֶּֽה׃

[2] Hebrew: אֲשֶׁר־הוֹבִישׁ֩ יְהוָ֙ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֜ם אֶת־מֵ֧י הַיַּרְדֵּ֛ן מִפְּנֵיכֶ֖ם עַֽד־עָבְרְכֶ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשָׂה֩ יְהוָ֙ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֧ם לְיַם־ס֛וּף אֲשֶׁר־הוֹבִ֥ישׁ מִפָּנֵ֖ינוּ עַד־עָבְרֵֽנוּ׃

[3] Here אֲשֶׁר is rendered with causal force.

[4] Hebrew: אֲשֶׁר־הוֹבִ֥ישׁ מִפָּנֵ֖ינוּ.

[5] See Hebrews 7:10.

[6] Hebrew: לְ֠מַעַן דַּ֜עַת כָּל־עַמֵּ֤י הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ אֶת־יַ֣ד יְהוָ֔ה כִּ֥י חֲזָקָ֖ה הִ֑יא לְמַ֧עַן יְרָאתֶ֛ם אֶת־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם כָּל־הַיָּמִֽים׃

[7] Hebrew: כָּל־הַיָּמִים.

[8] Hebrew: יְרָאתֶם.

Joshua 4:20, 21: The Meaning of Gilgal’s Stones, Part 1

Verse 20:[1] And (Josh. 4:3) those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

[The twelve stones also] These were placed in the Ark, says Tertullian, Against Marcion 4; before the Ark, says Rabbi Levi (Masius). Which is false; for they were deposited and fixed in Gilgal (Lapide), as in a place most famous and near to the river. They were set in a visible place, in which manner it is customary to erect statues (Masius). Of these an Altar was constructed for a monument (Josephus in Bonfrerius). This does not satisfy; for these stones were designed to refer to the twelve Tribes, and their passage through Jordan, which they, compacted into one mass of an altar, were able not so agreeably to fulfill (Bonfrerius). We readily suppose that those stones, and what was placed upon their foundation, were erected as posts, or pillars, or columns, in an eminent place. Some also not incongruously think that they were placed as a sort of solemn contract of their newly occupied possession (Malvenda).

Those twelve stones…did Joshua pitch: 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.


Verse 21:[2] And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, (Josh. 4:6) When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come (Heb. to morrow[3]), saying, What mean these stones?

[What do they mean?[4]] He correctly supplies, according to the usage of the tongue (Piscator, Vatablus). Hebrew: what those, that is, what do those signify? No stone monument was set before the Red Sea, because those places were only stations, while also the name of Egypt ought to seem sad and detestable to the Israelites; still less that they might often return that way[5] (Masius).


[1] Hebrew: וְאֵת֩ שְׁתֵּ֙ים עֶשְׂרֵ֤ה הָֽאֲבָנִים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה אֲשֶׁ֥ר לָקְח֖וּ מִן־הַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן הֵקִ֥ים יְהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ בַּגִּלְגָּֽל׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֛אמֶר אֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל לֵאמֹ֑ר אֲשֶׁר֩ יִשְׁאָל֙וּן בְּנֵיכֶ֤ם מָחָר֙ אֶת־אֲבוֹתָ֣ם לֵאמֹ֔ר מָ֖ה הָאֲבָנִ֥ים הָאֵֽלֶּה׃

[3] Hebrew: מָחָר.

[4] Hebrew: מָ֖ה הָאֲבָנִ֥ים הָאֵֽלֶּה׃, woodenly, what these stones?

[5] See Deuteronomy 17:16.

[6] Hebrew: וְהוֹדַעְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֣ם לֵאמֹ֑ר בַּיַּבָּשָׁה֙ עָבַ֣ר יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֖ן הַזֶּֽה׃

Joshua 4:19: The Crossing of Jordan in the Jewish Year

Verse 19:[1] And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped (Josh. 5:9) in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.

[On the tenth day of the first month] Namely, of Nisan[2] (Masius, Drusius), which was the first month of the Ecclesiastical year, just as Tisri[3] was the first month of the civil year (Drusius). According to the reckoning of the former all the feasts were celebrated, except Jubilee and the seventh year, the beginning of which they appoint in Tisri[4] (Masius). God chose the first month, 1. as especially agreeable to the weary, and as the most pleasant with the crops then ripening, etc. (Serarius, Bonfrerius). 2. At that time the forty years of sojourning was ended (Serarius): For forty years previously they had come out of Egypt on the fifteenth day of Nisan (Lapide, Bonfrerius). He chose the tenth day, so that time might be left in which they might prepare themselves by circumcision to keep Passover. On the tenth day a lamb was to be chosen, and to be kept at home unto the fourteenth day[5] (Masius, similarly Serarius, Bonfrerius, Lapide). For it was unlawful for the uncircumcised to keep Passover, Exodus 12:48, and, except with the Deity appeased by those sacred rites, to undertake war (Masius).

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.

[In Gilgal] That is, in the place which was thus called afterwards. It is a prolepsis (Masius, Lapide, Malvenda), of which sort is that in Æneid 1, the Lavinian shore.[6] This place, as Josephus testifies, was fifty stadia beyond Jordan, ten stadia[7] short of Jericho. There they continued for many years: For, the place was suitable, since it was abounding in water and fruit (Masius), and forests, from which timber could be sought; and it was nourishing. Here he fixed camp, either, by Divine command, or, because, although it had been possible to have proceeded further on that day, it belonged to military prudence to proceed slowly, lest the enemy be left at their back (Menochius).

Gilgal; a place so called hereafter upon a following occasion, Joshua 5:9. So here it is an anticipation.

[Over against the eastern region of Jericho, בִּקְצֵ֖ה מִזְרַ֥ח יְרִיחֽוֹ׃] In the extremity (in the borders [Jonathan]) of the east of Jericho (Montanus, Jonathan); on the eastern side of Jericho (Arabic, similarly the Septuagint, Syriac); in the eastern borders of Jericho (Masius); in the extremity, toward the east of Jericho (Junius and Tremellius). But the construct form in בִּקְצֵה does not bear that comma after in the extremity. I translate it, in the extremity of the east of Jericho; that is to say, not simply toward the East, but in the extreme declination of the eastern region, where it ceases toward the North: which is its true situation, as it is evident from a map[8] (Dieu).

[1] Hebrew: וְהָעָ֗ם עָלוּ֙ מִן־הַיַּרְדֵּ֔ן בֶּעָשׂ֖וֹר לַחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָרִאשׁ֑וֹן וַֽיַּחֲנוּ֙ בַּגִּלְגָּ֔ל בִּקְצֵ֖ה מִזְרַ֥ח יְרִיחֽוֹ׃

[2] That is, March-April on the Gregorian calendar.

[3] That is, September-October on the Gregorian calendar.

[4] See Leviticus 25.

[5] See Exodus 12:3-6.

[6] It was not called Lavinium when Æneas first arrived there, but afterwards.

[7] There are six hundred and seven feet in a stadium.  Fifty stadia would be just short of six miles.

[8] Gilgal is due north of Jericho, with a slight bend toward the east.

Joshua 4:18: The Miraculous Return of Jordan’s Waters

Verse 18:[1] 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 (Heb. plucked up[2]) unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, (Josh. 3:15) and flowed (Heb. went[3]) over all his banks, as they did before.

[When they had ascended] The Chaldean explicitly renders that the Divine motion in the feet of the priests, etc., might express more plainly, from which, as the water, only just contacted by them, had stopped before, so now, the waters, scarcely freed, flow forth. And this wonderfully illustrates the miracles, and acquires authority for Joshua (as formerly for Moses, Exodus 14:31, for the same reason), since the waters, which before this he restrained and held back, he loosed again. Otherwise men ungrateful, and too prone to detract from the glory of God and His ministers, might refer this event to a fortuitous cause, or to certain hidden causes of nature, and say that in these extraordinary currents, as it were, ignorance of causes and the novelty of the matter caused wonder. But now the opportunity for all calumny is taken away, etc. Moveover, the modesty of the priests and of Joshua is here commended to us, while neither is mentioned to have rushed blindly, but the latter to have expected patiently the commands of God, the former the commands of their Prince (Masius).

[And they had begun to tread upon dry ground] Dry simply, not dried merely for some hours (Serarius). Upon the mainland, or upon the ground (Masius, Drusius). For otherwise even in the riverbed they had stood upon dry ground (Masius).

[נִתְּק֗וּ כַּפּוֹת֙[4]] Were torn away the hollows, etc. (Montanus), or the soles (Jonathan, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius); were placed the feet (Septuagint); were drawn away the soles (Jonathan), or, were positioned (Arabic), as at first they rested (Syriac), were transported (Pagnine), were transposed (Munster), scarcely (or, when at first [Piscator]) they were torn away (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Drusius, Serarius), were removed (Tigurinus, Serarius). Not that they were fixed in any deeper mire, but that on account of the long lasting station in the same place, and an altogether unmoved position, they appeared to be sunk in that place after the likeness of trees (Serarius).

[The waters returned] It signifies that they through the downhill channels descended toward the Dead Sea; for they were wont previously to move that way. Unless you might prefer that this be said, that the waters, previously driven back by God, now reverted straight toward that place where they were led by their own nature (Masius). The waters are said to return, although they had never descended into the downstream riverbed, for according to the desire and usual course of nature they had already descended, so to speak; and only an extraordinary and previously unknown barrier restrained them. Or rather the waters of Jordan are the Jordan itself, which is properly said to return, because it was there previously (Serarius).

[And they were flowing just as before] Nevertheless, God so moderated the waters that they might not rush forward with fury, but either, with that heap abating by degrees, or waning, or drawn aside through hidden channels of the earth (Masius). God slowly released the waters; for, if all had been loosed at one time, they would have flooded all things far and wide, even the camp of the Hebrews (Lapide, Bonfrerius).

The waters came down from their heaps, and returned with all convenient speed into their proper channel, according to their natural and usual course.

[1] Hebrew: וַ֠יְהִי בַּעֲל֙וֹת הַכֹּהֲנִ֜ים נֹשְׂאֵ֙י אֲר֤וֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָה֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּ֔ן נִתְּק֗וּ כַּפּוֹת֙ רַגְלֵ֣י הַכֹּהֲנִ֔ים אֶ֖ל הֶחָרָבָ֑ה וַיָּשֻׁ֤בוּ מֵֽי־הַיַּרְדֵּן֙ לִמְקוֹמָ֔ם וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ כִתְמוֹל־שִׁלְשׁ֖וֹם עַל־כָּל־גְּדוֹתָֽיו׃

[2] Hebrew: נִתְּקוּ.

[3] Hebrew: וַיֵּלְכוּ.

[4] נָתַק signifies to be drawn or torn away.

Joshua 4:15-17: The Ark-Bearing Priests Ascend from Jordan

Verse 15:[1] And the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying…

[And He said] More clearly, He had said (Lapide, Masius). Here is narrated at greater length was in verse 11 had been sketched (Masius, Lapide).


Verse 16:[2] Command the priests that bear (Ex. 25:16, 22) the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.

[That they ascend from Jordan] Unto the farther bank (Vatablus). They are commanded to ascend, not, to cross. Therefore, who does not see that they stood at the edge of the Canaanite bank, so that, with even with the first step extended beyond the riverbed, they might pass into Canaan (Masius).

Come up out of Jordan: For being now in the middle, and lowest, and deepest place of the river, (of which see on 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.


Verse 17:[3] 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.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ לֵאמֹֽר׃

[2] Hebrew: צוֵּה֙ אֶת־הַכֹּ֣הֲנִ֔ים נֹשְׂאֵ֖י אֲר֣וֹן הָעֵד֑וּת וְיַעֲל֖וּ מִן־הַיַּרְדֵּֽן׃

[3] Hebrew: וַיְצַ֣ו יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ אֶת־הַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים לֵאמֹ֑ר עֲל֖וּ מִן־הַיַּרְדֵּֽן׃

Joshua 4:14: God Magnifies Joshua before the People

Verse 14:[1] On that day the LORD (Josh. 3:7) magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.

[He magnified Joshua] That is, so that his authority might increase with honor among the people, who willingly yield to those that are greater than themselves, that Divine Providence favors. Just how important it was to the Israelites that Joshua was venerable to them, the great tempests following his death[2] clearly show (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֗וּא גִּדַּ֤ל יְהוָה֙ אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ בְּעֵינֵ֖י כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּֽרְא֣וּ אֹת֔וֹ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר יָרְא֥וּ אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֖ה כָּל־יְמֵ֥י חַיָּֽיו׃

[2] See Judges.

Joshua 4:11-13: Israel’s Order in Crossing Jordan, Part 2

Verse 11:[1] 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.

[When all had crossed, etc.] As the priests’ faith is here commended, so also their patience, who, neither by their desire to pass over into Canaan with the others, nor by fear of the immense mass of waters hanging over their heads, are moved from their duty (Masius).

[Before the people (thus Munster, Tigurinus, Grotius, Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic)] That is, after crossing Jordan, the Ark and the priests were at the head of the march, not in the midst as in the desert (Grotius). Before the people, that is, who had preceded the people (Vatablus). The Ark presented itself anew as the guide in the journey, and, passing through the people looking before the crossed river, entered into the first ranks (Masius).

[לִפְנֵ֥י הָעָֽם׃] Others translate it, in the sight of the people (Junius and Tremellius); that they might go before the people (certain interpreters in Vatablus); with the people observing (Hebrews in Vatablus, Masius). That is to say, The people observed with their eyes that the waters instantly began to flow again in their accustomed course when the Ark carried out of the river bed (Masius).

In the presence of the people: The people looking on, and beholding this wonderful work of God with attention and admiration.


Verse 12:[2] And (Num. 32:20, 27, 28) 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…

[They went before] Hebrew: before the facies of the sons of Israel.[3] Some maintain that they went before: Others translate it, in their presence, that is to say, joined with them (Malvenda).


Verse 13:[4] About forty thousand prepared for war (or, ready armed[5]) passed over before the LORD unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.

[By troops and battalions, לִפְנֵ֤י יְהוָה֙] Before the Lord, or, in the presence of the Lord (Septuagint, Syriac, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus, Pagnine, Masius, Drusius, Grotius), that is, before the Ark (Vatablus, Drusius, Grotius, Junius and Tremellius), which is often thus called in the Sacred Scriptures (Vatablus), because it represented the Lord (Drusius). In the sight of the Lord (Masius). Either it signifies the excellence of their strength and military readiness; or, if you prefer, their noteworthy order and their perfectly ordered battle-formation. I take it in the same sense as in Genesis 10:9 (Masius). Before the people of the Lord (Chaldean). Thus, the mountain of the Lord, that is, the mountain of the house of the Lord[6] (Drusius). In the presence of the Lord; it is the same in 2 Samuel 21:9: that is to say, in a distinguished and lofty place (Masius). Others maintain that they were in the first battle-line, and that they went ahead of the read in the order of proceeding (certain interpreters in Masius). Therefore, these would translate it, they had crossed over before the Lord, that is, before the people of the Lord (Masius).

Before the LORD: 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.

[The flatlands of Jericho, אֶ֖ל עַֽרְב֥וֹת] Unto the flatlands, or plains (Junius and Tremellius, Montanus, Arabic, etc.); unto the fields (Masius). [But Symmachus has unto the wilderness, but inappropriately.] No place in Canaan was more pleasant than that (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֛י כַּֽאֲשֶׁר־תַּ֥ם כָּל־הָעָ֖ם לַֽעֲב֑וֹר וַיַּעֲבֹ֧ר אֲרוֹן־יְהוָ֛ה וְהַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים לִפְנֵ֥י הָעָֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: וַ֠יַּעַבְרוּ בְּנֵי־רְאוּבֵ֙ן וּבְנֵי־גָ֜ד וַחֲצִ֙י שֵׁ֤בֶט הַֽמְנַשֶּׁה֙ חֲמֻשִׁ֔ים לִפְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר דִּבֶּ֥ר אֲלֵיהֶ֖ם מֹשֶֽׁה׃

[3] Hebrew: לִפְנֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל.

[4] Hebrew: כְּאַרְבָּעִ֥ים אֶ֖לֶף חֲלוּצֵ֣י הַצָּבָ֑א עָבְר֞וּ לִפְנֵ֤י יְהוָה֙ לַמִּלְחָמָ֔ה אֶ֖ל עַֽרְב֥וֹת יְרִיחֽוֹ׃

[5] Hebrew: חֲלוּצֵ֣י הַצָּבָ֑א.

[6] Isaiah 2:2, 3; Micah 4:1, 2.

Joshua 4:10: Israel’s Order in Crossing Jordan, Part 1

Verse 10:[1] 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.

[Until all things were finished, כָּל־הַדָּבָר[2]] Every word (Montanus, Bonfrerius, Malvenda, Jonathan); all the speeches (Syriac, Arabic). Whether concerning the carrying out and bringing in of the stones; or they were to be instructed to cross the river bed with alacrity; or they were to be exhorted to remember the blessing and to fear God (Bonfrerius). Others understand this, not of words, but of matters completed (Masius out of Kimchi). Until the whole was finished (Junius and Tremellius), or, the whole business (Piscator).

To speak unto the people, that is, to command the people to do.

[And Moses had said] It does not signify individual commands of Moses, but those instructions by which he educated Joshua (Masius). In this manner, and with this alacrity and obedience of soul, which Moses had always prescribed and commended to him (Menochius, Serarius, Bonfrerius, Masius). It is not improbable that Moses in particular commanded Joshua that, on occasion of the completion of the miracles, he inculcate in the people the fear and worship of God; which Joshua here did (Bonfrerius).

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.

[The people hastened] Because of the infirmity of their faith, fearing that they might not quickly enough escape that monstrous mountain of waters standing up on their right hand and hanging, as it were, in the air (Lapide, Masius). Although they crossed in faith, Hebrews 11:29, yet our faith is wont to waver in crises. Thus Matthew 14:30 (Masius). They were hastening also, because all were obliged to cross on that same day in a few hours (Lapide, Lyra). Others refer this to the twelve men, who, having been commanded by Joshua, carried the stones with haste (Kimchi in Masius).

Hasted and passed over, that is, 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.

[1] Hebrew: וְהַכֹּהֲנִ֞ים נֹשְׂאֵ֣י הָאָר֗וֹן עֹמְדִים֮ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּן֒ עַ֣ד תֹּ֣ם כָּֽל־הַ֠דָּבָר אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֙ה יְהוָ֤ה אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־הָעָ֔ם כְּכֹ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּ֥ה מֹשֶׁ֖ה אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁ֑עַ וַיְמַהֲר֥וּ הָעָ֖ם וַֽיַּעֲבֹֽרוּ׃

[2] Joshua 4:10a:  “For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until every thing (כָּל־הַדָּבָר) was finished that the Lord commanded Joshua to speak unto the people…”

Joshua 4:9: The Other Twelve Stones in Jordan

Verse 9:[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.

[Stones…in the midst of Jordan] That is, so that the glory of God and the truth of the matter conducted might be attested to all ages (Lapide). Question: Where, and to what end, and how, were these stones erected? Responses: 1. Cajetan maintains that these stone were placed conjointly and in piles (Serarius). Others: separately and as individuals (thus Masius, Menochius, Serarius out of Tostatus). For, 1. the manner of numbering them indicates disjunction. 2. Thus they were in Exodus 24:4, and in Gilgal, Joshua 4:20. 3. Thus the number of the twelve tribes is more apparent, and the memory of this blessing (Serarius). 2. Those stones were set up in the place where the Ark stood; that is, on the far shore of the bed, which rarely was covered except with the river flooding; and so they were generally visible (Masius). 3. Others locate them in the depth of the river (Rabbis in Serarius, Bonfrerius). With respect to situation they were obscure; but with respect to fame, prominent (Hebrews in Masius). [This does not satisfy Masius:] Whom does a monument that never appears prompt? or why is it needful at all, if fame alone produces the memory of it (Masius)? Responses: 1. Those stone were so gret that they were standing out of the waters (Estius). It is not said of these as of the former, that individual men carried individual stones; but that Joshua placed them, that is, with the help of many (Lyra). They were able to be seen on the bank, because the stones were great, and the waters of Jordan are regarded as altogether pure and especially clear; especially since they appear to have been located toward the bank (Lapide, similarly Malvenda). 2. What is only perceived by hearing is able to be a monument in a certain manner (Serarius, Bonfrerius). For example, A place in which there is a tradition that an illustrious battle was fought to wont to thrust its recollection upon men, even if no visible monument is left (Bonfrerius). It holds great force for memory and testimony, if some fixed and certain sign be certainly evident somewhere, although it be not seen, but, if the matter and necessity require, it could be sought and seen; for example, if the written documents or certificates of some privilege or contract in some most arcane archive were also lying completely concealed (Serarius). 3. Massive stones, either heaped up or joined together, in the bed of a river are wont, although not visible, to raise a more powerful din; which was more than sufficiently able to be for the stirring up of the recollection of the miracle (Bonfrerius). The twelve former stones are set in Gilgal, in the place of Circumcision, as witnesses of the Old Testament, and they signify the twelve Patriarchs: but the latter twelve are set in the place of Baptism, as witnesses of the New Testament, and they signify the twelve Apostles (Estius).

In the midst of Jordan; properly so called; as Joshua 3:17. Question. How could these stones be a monument of this work, when they were not seen, but generally covered with the waters of Jordan? Answer. 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.

[Unto the present day] Therefore, this book does not appear to have been written by Joshua (Tostatus in Bonfrerius, Masius). Responses: 1. In the very books of Moses the same occurs (Serarius, Bonfrerius). 2. These and similar things were able to be added by other authors (Bonfrerius, Malvenda). 3. Joshua, as an aged man, was able to write this book (Bonfrerius, Serarius, Malvenda). He placed them during the first crossing into Canaan. What then shall be the absurdity in thus speaking fourteen or twenty years later (Serarius)? 4. Some maintain that it is a Hebraism, unto this day, that is, in perpetuity (Malvenda), or by an immutable and lasting ordinance (Malvenda, Junius). For this purpose these stones were collected there by Joshua, that they might ever remain in that place (Augustine in Masius).

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.

[1] Hebrew: וּשְׁתֵּ֧ים עֶשְׂרֵ֣ה אֲבָנִ֗ים הֵקִ֣ים יְהוֹשֻׁעַ֮ בְּת֣וֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּן֒ תַּ֗חַת מַצַּב֙ רַגְלֵ֣י הַכֹּהֲנִ֔ים נֹשְׂאֵ֖י אֲר֣וֹן הַבְּרִ֑ית וַיִּ֣הְיוּ שָׁ֔ם עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃

Joshua 4:6-8: The Significance of the Twelve Stones

Verse 6:[1] That this may be a sign among you, that (Josh. 4:21; Ex. 12:26; 13:14; Deut. 6:20; Ps. 44:1; 78:3-6) when your children ask their fathers in time to come (Heb. to morrow[2]), saying, What mean ye by these stones?

[That it may be a sign among you] Of the matter conducted in this place (Menochius), that is, which shall bring back into memory for you so great a blessing (Vatablus). A sign and trophy of Jordan conquered by you and bound, as it were, and thence of the entire land of Canaan (Lapide). The goodness of God toward mankind is to be admired here, who, being conscious of human carelessness and senselessness, orders such an event to be marked with twelve stones, that He might rescue it from oblivion. Thus He furnished other helps: the Rainbow, Genesis 9:13; Circumcision, Genesis 17:11; Passover, Exodus 12 (Masius).

A sign; a monument or memorial of this day’s work.

[And when (thus Masius, Septuagint), כִּי[3]] Because they shall ask (Malvenda). Thus he shows the reason for placing the monument (Masius).

[Tomorrow, מָחָר] That is, unto posterity, or for the future (Vatablus, Drusius, Masius). Thus Genesis 30:33;[4] Exodus 13:14;[5] Proverbs 27:1[6] (Drusius).


Verse 7:[7] Then ye shall answer them, That (Josh. 3:13, 16) 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 (Ex. 12:14; Num. 16:40) 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.

[When it crossed it, בְּעָבְרוֹ] When it (the Ark) crossed through Jordan (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, etc.).

[Unto eternity, עַד־עוֹלָם] For a long time (Menochius, Bonfrerius, Drusius). No better or more useful inheritance from parents is able to be left to children than if they take care that they be established in true religion, etc. The piety of Joshua is to be observed here, who has a thankful heart, so fixed upon the blessings of God that, with words repeated again and again in commemoration of such an event, he is filled with the great pleasantness of recollection, and appears hardly able to satisfy himself (Masius).


Verse 8:[8] 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.

[Therefore, the children of Israel did] Thus those twelve men are called, because each was representing his Tribe (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: לְמַ֗עַן תִּֽהְיֶ֛ה זֹ֥את א֖וֹת בְּקִרְבְּכֶ֑ם כִּֽי־יִשְׁאָל֙וּן בְּנֵיכֶ֤ם מָחָר֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר מָ֛ה הָאֲבָנִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה לָכֶֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: מָחָר.

[3] Joshua 4:6:  “That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying (כִּי־יִשְׁאָל֙וּן בְּנֵיכֶ֤ם מָחָר֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר), What mean ye by these stones?” כִּי can introduce a temporal, causal, or resultative clause.

[4] Genesis 30:33a:  “So shall my righteousness answer for me in time to comeבְּי֣וֹם) מָחָ֔ר), when it shall come for my hire before thy face…”

[5] Exodus 13:14a:  “And it shall be when thy son asketh thee in time to come (מָחָר), saying, What is this?”

[6] Proverbs 27:1:  “Boast not thyself of to morrow (בְּי֣וֹם מָחָ֑ר); for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

[7] Hebrew: וַאֲמַרְתֶּ֣ם לָהֶ֗ם אֲשֶׁ֙ר נִכְרְת֜וּ מֵימֵ֤י הַיַּרְדֵּן֙ מִפְּנֵי֙ אֲר֣וֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָ֔ה בְּעָבְרוֹ֙ בַּיַּרְדֵּ֔ן נִכְרְת֖וּ מֵ֣י הַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן וְ֠הָיוּ הָאֲבָנִ֙ים הָאֵ֧לֶּה לְזִכָּר֛וֹן לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַד־עוֹלָֽם׃

[8] Hebrew: וַיַּעֲשׂוּ־כֵ֣ן בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֘ל כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר צִוָּ֣ה יְהוֹשֻׁעַ֒ וַיִּשְׂא֡וּ שְׁתֵּֽי־עֶשְׂרֵ֙ה אֲבָנִ֜ים מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּ֗ן כַּאֲשֶׁ֙ר דִּבֶּ֤ר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ לְמִסְפַּ֖ר שִׁבְטֵ֣י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיַּעֲבִר֤וּם עִמָּם֙ אֶל־הַמָּל֔וֹן וַיַּנִּח֖וּם שָֽׁם׃