Commentary Critical and Explanatory
on the Whole Bible
TAKEN FOR A
1-3. the Lord spake unto Joshua, Take you twelve men--each
representing a tribe. They had been previously chosen for this service
and the repetition of the command is made here solely to introduce the
account of its execution. Though Joshua had been divinely instructed to
erect a commemorative pile, the representatives were not apprised of
the work they were to do till the time of the passage.
4, 5. Joshua called the twelve men--They had probably, from a feeling
of reverence, kept back, and were standing on the eastern bank. They
were now ordered to advance. Picking up each a stone, probably as large
as he could carry, from around the spot "where the priests stood," they
pass over before the ark and deposit the stones in the place of next
(Jos 4:19, 20),
6, 7. That this may be a sign among you--The erection of cairns, or
huge piles of stones, as monuments of remarkable incidents has been
common among all people, especially in the early and rude periods of
their history. They are the established means of perpetuating the
memory of important transactions, especially among the nomadic people
of the East. Although there be no inscription engraved on them, the
history and object of such simple monuments are traditionally preserved
from age to age. Similar was the purpose contemplated by the conveyance
of the twelve stones to Gilgal: it was that they might be a standing
record to posterity of the miraculous passage of the Jordan.
8. the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded--that is, it
was done by their twelve representatives.
UP IN THE
9. Joshua set up twelve stones . . . in the place where the feet of the
priests . . . stood--In addition to the memorial just described, there
was another memento of the miraculous event, a duplicate of the former,
set up in the river itself, on the very spot where the ark had rested.
This heap of stones might have been a large and compactly built one and
visible in the ordinary state of the river. As nothing is said where
these stones were obtained, some have imagined that they might have
been gathered in the adjoining fields and deposited by the people as
they passed the appointed spot.
they are there unto this day--at least twenty years after the event, if
we reckon by the date of this history
and much later, if the words in the latter clause were inserted by
Samuel or Ezra.
10. the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan--This
position was well calculated to animate the people, who probably
crossed below the ark, as well as to facilitate Joshua's execution of
the minutest instructions respecting the passage
The unfaltering confidence of the priests contrasts strikingly with the
conduct of the people, who "hasted and passed over." Their faith, like
that of many of God's people, was, through the weakness of nature,
blended with fears. But perhaps their "haste" may be viewed in a more
favorable light, as indicating the alacrity of their obedience, or it
might have been enjoined in order that the the whole multitude might
pass in one day.
11. the ark of the Lord passed over, and the priests, in the presence
of the people--The ark is mentioned as the efficient cause; it had
been the first to move--it was the last to leave--and its movements
arrested the deep attention of the people, who probably stood on the
opposite bank, wrapt in admiration and awe of this closing scene. It
was a great miracle, greater even than the passage of the Red Sea in
this respect: that, admitting the fact, there is no possibility of
rationalistic insinuations as to the influence of natural causes in
producing it, as have been made in the former case.
12, 13. the children of Reuben . . . passed over armed before the
children of Israel--There is no precedency to the other tribes
indicated here; for there is no reason to suppose that the usual order
of march was departed from; but these are honorably mentioned to show
that, in pursuance of their promise
they had sent a complement of fighting men to accompany their brethren
in the war of invasion.
13. to the plains of Jericho--That part of the Arabah or Ghor, on the
west, is about seven miles broad from the Jordan to the mountain
entrance at Wady-Kelt. Though now desert, this valley was in ancient
times richly covered with wood. An immense palm forest, seven miles
long, surrounded Jericho.
14-17. On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all
Israel--It appeared clear from the chief part he acted, that he was
the divinely appointed leader; for even the priests did not enter the
river or quit their position, except at his command; and thenceforward
his authority was as firmly established as that of his predecessor.
18. it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark . . . were come
out of the midst of Jordan . . . that the waters of Jordan returned
unto their place--Their crossing, which was the final act, completed
the evidence of the miracle; for then, and not till then, the suspended
laws of nature were restored, the waters returned to their place, and
the river flowed with as full a current as before.
19. the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first
month--that is, the month Nisan, four days before the passover, and
the very day when the paschal lamb required to be set apart, the
providence of God having arranged that the entrance into the promised
land should be at the feast.
and encamped in Gilgal--The name is here given by anticipation
It was a tract of land, according to JOSEPHUS,
fifty stadia (six and one-half miles) from Jordan, and ten stadia (one
and one-fourth miles) from Jericho, at the eastern outskirts of the
palm forest, now supposed to be the spot occupied by the village
20-24. those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua
pitch in Gilgal--Probably to render them more conspicuous, they might
be raised on a foundation of earth or turf. The pile was designed to
serve a double purpose--that of impressing the heathen with a sense of
the omnipotence of God, while at the same time it would teach an
important lesson in religion to the young and rising Israelites in