M'Cheyne Bible Reading Notes

The Twelve Stones – Joshua 4

I love this reading of Israel’s history. Read Gill’s comment below it’s interesting.

Jos 4:1  And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,

Jos 4:2  Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,

Jos 4:3  And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.

Jos 4:4  Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:

Jos 4:5  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:

Jos 4:6  That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

Jos 4:7  Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

Jos 4:8  And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.

Jos 4:9  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.

Jos 4:19  And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.

Jos 4:20  And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

Jos 4:21  And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?

Jos 4:22  Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.

Jos 4:23  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, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:

Jos 4:24  That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.

Joshua 4:9 Gill

And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan – It seems from this chapter that there were two sets of stones erected as a memorial of this great event; twelve at Gilgal, Jos 4:20 and twelve in the bed of Jordan, Jos 4:9. The twelve stones in the bed of Jordan might have been so placed on a base of strong stone-work so high as always to be visible, and serve to mark the very spot where the priests stood with the ark. The twelve stones set up at Gilgal would stand as a monument of the place of the first encampment after this miraculous passage. Though this appears to me to be the meaning of this place, yet Dr. Kennicott’s criticism here should not be passed by. “It is well known,” says he, “that when Joshua led the Israelites over Jordan, he was commanded to take twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, to be a memorial that the ground in the very midst of that river had been made dry. But where was this memorial to be set up? The ninth verse says; Joshua set up these stones In the midst of Jordan. But is it likely that the stones should be placed or set down where they were taken up; and that the memorial should be erected there where, when the river was again united, it would be concealed, and of course could be no memorial at all? This however flatly contradicts the rest of the chapter, which says these stones were pitched in Gilgal, where Israel lodged in Canaan for the first time. The solution of this difficulty is, that בתוך bethoch In the midst, should be here מתוך mittoch, From the midst, as in Jos 4:3, Jos 4:8, Jos 4:20, and as the word is here also in the Syrian version. The true rendering therefore is, And Joshua set up the twelve stones (taken) From the midst of Jordan,” etc. I confess I see no need for this criticism, which is not supported by a single MS. either in his own or De Rossi’s collection, though they amount to four hundred and ninety-four in number. Twelve stones might be gathered in different parts of the bed of the Jordan, and be set up as a pillar in another, and be a continual visible memorial of this grand event. And if twelve were set up in Gilgal as a memorial of their first encampment in Canaan, it is still more likely that twelve would be set up in the bed of the river to show where it had been divided, and the place where the whole Israelitish host had passed over dry-shod. The reader may follow the opinion he judges most likely.

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