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.

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

  1. Matthew Henry: “When all the people had got clear to the other side, the priests with the ark came up out of Jordan. This, one would think, should have been done of course; their own reason would tell them that now there was no more occasion for them, and yet they did not stir a step till Joshua ordered them to move, and Joshua did not order them out of Jordan till God directed him to do so, Joshua 4:15-17. So observant were they of Joshua, and he of God, which was their praise, as it was their happiness to be under such good direction. How low a condition soever God may at any time bring his priests or people to, let them patiently wait, till by his providence he shall call them up out of it, as the priests here were called to come up out of Jordan, and let them not be weary of waiting, while they have the tokens of God’s presence with them, even the ark of the covenant, in the depth of their adversity.”

  2. Matthew Henry: “The two tribes and a half led the van, Joshua 4:12-13. So they had promised when they had their lot given them on that side Jordan, Numbers 32:27. And Joshua had lately reminded them of their promise, Joshua 1:12-15. It was fit that those who had the first settlement should be the first in the encounter of difficulties, the rather because they had not the incumbrance of families with them as the other tribes had, and they were all chosen men, and fit for service, ready armed. It was a good providence that they had so strong a body to lead them on, and would be an encouragement to the rest. And the two tribes had no reason to complain: the post of danger is the post of honour.”

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