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.

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

  1. Robert Hawker, “Poor Man’s Portion”: “”The waters of Jordan.”—Josh 4:23

    The sacred streams of Jordan, so often and so highly celebrated in the word of God, open a very blessed subject for meditation. Sit down, my soul, by the side of that ancient river, and call to mind the faith exercised on that memorable spot by the multitude of the faithful gone before, who were heirs with thyself of the promises; and see, whether the Holy Ghost will not graciously, this evening, make thy meditation sweet? Recollect, as thou viewest the hallowed ground, that here it was, in this river, Jesus received the first public testimony from God the Father; and the first open display of the descent of God the Holy Ghost. Here Jehovah began to magnify the Lord Christ. And here, in ages before, had the Lord begun to magnify that memorable type of Jesus, his servant Joshua. And as, from the baptism of Jesus at this sacred river, the Lamb of God opened his divine commission, so here Joshua, his type, commenced his ministry. From hence he led the people to the promised land. And from hence Jesus, in the baptism of his Holy Spirit, leads his redeemed to the possession of the everlasting Canaan, in heaven. There is, indeed, a double view of our Lord’s ministry, in these waters of Jordan; not only of baptism, as introductory to the wilderness-state of temptation that follows to all his people; but also, as the close of the wilderness-dispensation, in the Jordan of death, when, finally and fully, Jesus leads them through, to their immortal possessions. And as the children of Israel had been exercised for forty years together, through a waste and howling wilderness, until they came to Jordan, which opened a passage to them of life and liberty, to a land flowing with milk and honey; so the followers of the Lord Jesus, having passed through the pilgrimage of this world, amidst the various assaults of sin and Satan, pass through the Jordan of death, conducted and secured by their almighty leader, unto the possession of that kingdom of glory and happiness which is above. Pause, my soul, over the review! behold, by faith, the wonderful events which passed here. In this sacred river, once rested the ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth. Here Jesus, whom the ark represented, was baptised. Here Israel passed over. And here, my soul, must thou pass over in the hour of death. Oh! how sweet and blessed, in the swellings of Jordan, to behold Jesus, and hear his well-known voice, ‘Fear not; for I have redeemed thee; I have called thee by thy name: thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee!'”

  2. Matthew Henry: “The parents are here directed what answer to give to this enquiry (Joshua 4:22): ‘You shall let your children know that which you have yourselves learned from the written word and from your fathers.’ Note, It is the duty of parents to acquaint their children betimes with the word and works of God, that they may be trained up in the way they should go.

    1. They must let their children know that Jordan was driven back before Israel, who went through it upon dry land, and that this was the very place where they passed over. They saw how deep and strong a stream Jordan now was, but the divine power put a stop to it, even when it overflowed all its banks—’and this for you, that live so long after.’ Note, God’s mercies to our ancestors were mercies to us; and we should take all occasions to revive the remembrance of the great things God did for our fathers in the days of old. The place thus marked would be a memorandum to them: Israel came over this Jordan. A local memory would be of use to them, and the sight of the place remind them of that which was done there; and not only the inhabitants of that country, but strangers and travellers, would look upon these stones and receive instruction. Many, upon the sight of the stones, would go to their Bibles, and there read the history of this wondrous work; and some perhaps, upon reading the history, though living at a distance, would have the curiosity to go and see the stones.

    2. They must take that occasion to tell their children of the drying up of the Red Sea forty years before: As the Lord your God did to the Red Sea. Note. (1.) It greatly magnifies later mercies to compare them with former mercies, for, by making the comparison, it appears that God is the same yesterday, today, and for ever. (2.) Later mercies should bring to remembrance former mercies, and revive our thankfulness for them.

    3. They must put them in the way of making a good use of these works of wonder, the knowledge whereof was thus carefully transmitted to them, Joshua 4:24. (1.) The power of God was hereby magnified. All the world was or might be convinced that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that nothing is too hard for God to do; nor can any power, no, not that of nature itself, obstruct what God will effect. The deliverances of God’s people are instructions to all people, and fair warnings not to contend with Omnipotence. (2.) The people of God were engaged and encouraged to persevere in his service ‘That you might fear the Lord your God, and consequently do your duty to him, and this for ever,’ or all days (margin), ‘every day, all the days of your lives, and your seed throughout your generations.’ The remembrance of this wonderful work should effectually restrain them from the worship of other gods, and constrain them to abide and abound in the service of their own God. Note, In all the instructions and informations parents give their children, they should have this chiefly in their eye, to teach and engage them to fear God for ever. Serious godliness is the best learning.”

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