Joshua 4:4, 5: Joshua Commands concerning the Twelve Stones

Verse 4:[1] Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man…

[Whom he had chosen, אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֵכִ֖ין] Whom he had prepared (Syriac), he had made ready (Masius, similarly Montanus), because he had commanded them to be present, ready at an instant (Masius), he had appointed (Arabic).

Prepared, that is, appointed or chosen for that work, and commanded them to be ready for it.


Verse 5:[2] 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, that is, go back again to the place where the ark stands.

[Stones] Concerning this kind of monument, see Genesis 31:46 and Joshua 4:21 (Grotius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרָ֣א יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ אֶל־שְׁנֵ֤ים הֶֽעָשָׂר֙ אִ֔ישׁ אֲשֶׁ֥ר הֵכִ֖ין מִבְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אִישׁ־אֶחָ֥ד אִישׁ־אֶחָ֖ד מִשָּֽׁבֶט׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֤אמֶר לָהֶם֙ יְהוֹשֻׁ֔עַ עִ֠בְרוּ לִפְנֵ֙י אֲר֧וֹן יְהוָ֛ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֖ם אֶל־תּ֣וֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן וְהָרִ֙ימוּ לָכֶ֜ם אִ֣ישׁ אֶ֤בֶן אַחַת֙ עַל־שִׁכְמ֔וֹ לְמִסְפַּ֖ר שִׁבְטֵ֥י בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

Joshua 4:1-3: God Commands Joshua concerning the Twelve Stones

Verse 1:[1] And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed (Deut. 27:2; Josh. 3:17) over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying…

[With whom having crossed over, the Lord said] Some note a hyperbaton[2] here, which is quite common in this book. What things are from this word, He said, to the end of verse 3 (verse 2, says Vatablus), they enclose in parentheses (thus Junius and Tremellius, a great many in Malvenda, Piscator). (Because Jehovah had declared, etc… [Junius and Tremellius].) Now, He had said (Vatablus, Piscator), namely, in Joshua 3:12. Some think that the same precept was given twice: Others, that there it was a prolepsis, but it is narrated here in its proper place: Others, that there the matter was narrated in its proper place and order, but here a little more fully and accurately (Malvenda).

The Lord spake unto Joshua: This was commanded before, Joshua 3:12, and is here repeated with enlargement, as being now to be put in execution.

[The Lord said] Therefore, this was not appointed by some vain superstition or ambition of glory in the Emperor, but by God (Masius).


Verse 2:[3] (Josh. 3:12) Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man…

[Choose ye] Hebrew: take ye[4] (Malvenda). Take those already chosen (Lapide).

[Twelve men throughout the individual tribes] For this monument was, as it were, a certain writing, on which all the Tribes and individual heirs were written by God, or seals of that writing. For, although two Tribes were on the other side of Jordan, nevertheless as the religion of all the tribes was one, so also the society of the inheritance, which ought not to be considered as interrupted by the river flowing between (Masius).

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.


Verse 3:[5] And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where (Josh. 3:13) the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in (Josh. 4:19, 20) the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.

Out of the midst of Jordan; of which see on Joshua 3:17. 

[Where their feet stood, מִמַּצַּב וגו״] From the station of their feet, etc., that is, from the place where they stand with their feet planted (Vatablus, Masius): not precisely, but from the vicinity (Lapide, Bonfrerius, Masius).

[Exceedingly hard stones, הָכִין[6]] See what things are on Joshua 3:17.[7] [They vary. Some refer it to the priests.] Of the ready priests (Vatablus), or, standing with their feet planted (Vatablus, similarly Junius and Tremellius, thus Pagnine, Masius and Tigurinus in Bonfrerius). The Zaqeph qaton accent (֔)[8] on הַכֹּהֲנִ֔ים/priests is incompatible with these interpretations, requiring that הָכִין be construed with what follows (Dieu[9]). [Others, therefore, refer it to the stones.] Prepared (Septuagint, Aquila and Symmachus in Bonfrerius), by God, that is, placed there for this end by Divine providence, and firmly remaining: on account of this it was also necessary that they be very large, since other stones are wont easily to be worn away by the force of waters, or to be moved in place (Bonfrerius). Or, prepared, that is, apt, suitable for the determined end; or, strong, or hardened, that is, solid, hard (Malvenda). Others: prepare ye stones (Syriac); in preparing (Montanus); to prepare them, namely, for that use in verse 20 (Malvenda). In righting twelve stones, that is, with the right and firm or exact number of twelve (Dieu). Remove ye the equal number of twelve stones (Arabic).

[Where ye shall have fixed, בַּמָּלוֹן[10]] In the lodging-place (Montanus); in the camps (Septuagint); in the place of lodging (Jonathan), or of spending the night (Arabic, Piscator).

[This night (thus Junius and Tremellius, Arabic), הַלָּיְלָה] By night (Montanus, Septuagint), in the night (Jonathan). Others: by night, understanding, the following (Malvenda out of Vatablus).

Where ye shall lodge this night, that is, in Gilgal, as is expressed below, Joshua 4:19, 20.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִי֙ כַּאֲשֶׁר־תַּ֣מּוּ כָל־הַגּ֔וֹי לַעֲב֖וֹר אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן וַיֹּ֣אמֶר יְהוָ֔ה אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ לֵאמֹֽר׃

[2] That is, an inversion of the normal ordering of words.

[3] Hebrew: קְח֤וּ לָכֶם֙ מִן־הָעָ֔ם שְׁנֵ֥ים עָשָׂ֖ר אֲנָשִׁ֑ים אִישׁ־אֶחָ֥ד אִישׁ־אֶחָ֖ד מִשָּֽׁבֶט׃

[4] Hebrew: קְחוּ.

[5] Hebrew: וְצַוּ֣וּ אוֹתָם֮ לֵאמֹר֒ שְׂאֽוּ־לָכֶ֙ם מִזֶּ֜ה מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּ֗ן מִמַּצַּב֙ רַגְלֵ֣י הַכֹּהֲנִ֔ים הָכִ֖ין שְׁתֵּים־עֶשְׂרֵ֣ה אֲבָנִ֑ים וְהַעֲבַרְתֶּ֤ם אוֹתָם֙ עִמָּכֶ֔ם וְהִנַּחְתֶּ֣ם אוֹתָ֔ם בַּמָּל֕וֹן אֲשֶׁר־תָּלִ֥ינוּ ב֖וֹ הַלָּֽיְלָה׃

[6] Joshua 4:3b:  “Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones (מִמַּצַּב֙ רַגְלֵ֣י הַכֹּהֲנִ֔ים הָכִ֖ין שְׁתֵּים־עֶשְׂרֵ֣ה אֲבָנִ֑ים)…”

[7] Joshua 3:17a:  “And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the midst of Jordan firmly (הָכֵן)…”

[8] The Zaqeph qaton is among the stronger disjunctive accents.

[9] Louis de Dieu (1590-1642) was a Dutch Reformed minister, linguist and orientalist.  He brought his considerable learning to bear upon the interpretation of the Scripture.

[10] מָלוֹן/lodging-place is derived from the verbal root לוּן, to lodge.

Joshua 4 Outline

God commands them to carry twelve stones for a memorial out of Jordan; Joshua orders it; the people perform, 1-8.  Twelve other stones set up for a memorial in the midst of Jordan, 9.  The people pass over:  the order they observe, 10-13.  God magnifies Joshua, 14.  The priests with the ark are commanded to come up out of Jordan, 15-17.  The waters return, 18.  The time of this passage, 19.  Twelve stones set up in Gilgal; to what purpose declared, 20-24.