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׃

2 thoughts on “Joshua 4:9: The Other Twelve Stones in Jordan

  1. Robert Hawker, “Poor Man’s Portion”: “And think not to say within yourselves, we have Abraham to our Father; for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.—Matthew 3:9

    Precious are the doctrines contained in the bosom of this most blessed scripture! May the almighty Author of his own holy word, open to me, this evening, some of the many divine things contained in it. And first, my soul, remark that the blessing to Abraham and to his seed was not through the law. He is not a Jew that is one outwardly. The blood of nature which ran through Abraham’s veins, had no respect to the grace which was planted in Abraham’s heart. If ye be Christ’s, is the relationship, for then the Holy Ghost beareth witness ye are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. No Ishmaels, no sons of Keturah, not of the bondwomen, but of the free. And what a sweet thought it is also to consider, that as God called Abraham when an idolater, so now the gifts and callings of God are the same. And in every call doth he not say, ‘look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged? Look unto Abraham your father, and unto Sarah that bare you, for I called him alone, and blessed him, and increased him.’ Do not overlook this, my soul, it will always tend to exalt and endear thy Jesus. But let us not stop here. Supposing, as some have thought, that the Baptist was standing on the banks of Jordan, and referring to the twelve stones which Joshua formerly placed there for a memorial (Joshua 4:9) of the twelve tribes of Israel; the allusion to the creating souls from such unpromising, and unheard-of means, becomes a most delightful thought to a child of God, to comfort him concerning the sovereignty of God’s grace. Pause, my soul, and let the thought fill up thine evening’s meditation, lie down with thee, and form thy songs of the night. Had it pleased thy covenant God in Christ so to have wrought his salvation, no doubt, nothing could have been more easy to his Omnipotency than to have raised heirs of glory from the stones. When the human soul, which came out of the Almighty Maker’s hand at first pure and holy, had by apostacy lost all its beauty and loveliness, how quickly might Jehovah have reduced it to its original nothingness, and from the stones of the earth raised up a seed to praise him! But here, as in a thousand instances, God’s ways are not our ways, nor his thoughts our thoughts. To glorify his dear Son, the soul, though polluted and defiled, shall be made infinitely more precious by redemption, than it was by creation when unpolluted. Beautiful as it was before it fell, yet it is vastly more beautiful now, when washed in the Redeemer’s blood. Had it continued in its uprightness, it would have been but the uprightness of the creature, still liable to fall at any time from its integrity, as Adam did. But now united to Jesus, the righteousness and purity of the redeemed is the righteousness and holiness of the Redeemer, and cannot possibly be lost or forfeited any more. ‘Thy Maker is thine husband, the Lord of Hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth shall he be called.’ Pause, my soul! Hast thou a part, an interest in this blessedness? Art thou a poor gentile by nature and practice, an alien to the commonwealth of Israel, a stranger to the covenants of promise, and once without hope, without God, and without Christ in the world; and art thou now brought nigh by the blood of Christ? Surely had God raised a seed from the stones of the earth to Abraham to bless him, the act would not have been more sovereign, neither the mercy more gracious! Hath Jehovah raised thee from death, sin, and hell; washed thee in the blood of the Lamb; regenerated thee by his blessed Spirit; made thee a temple for himself, and formed thee for his glory? O then join the prophet’s song, and cry out in his words, ‘Sing, O ye heavens! for the Lord hath done it; shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains: O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.”

  2. W.G. Blaikie, “The Book of Joshua”: “It would appear, from Joshua 4:9, that two sets of stones were set up, Joshua, following the spirit of the Divine direction, having caused a second set to be erected in the middle of the river on the spot where the priests had stood…. The one memorial stood on the spot where the ark had indicated the presence of God, the other where the first encampment of the host had shown God’s faithfulness to His word. Both seemed to proclaim the great truth afterwards brought out in the exquisite words of the psalm–‘God is our refuge and our strength; a very present help in time of trouble’.”

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