Joshua 3:4

4 But keep a distance of about 1,000 yards[a] between yourselves and the ark. Don't go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven't traveled this way before."[b]

Joshua 3:4 Meaning and Commentary

Joshua 3:4

Yet there shall be a space between you and it
The ark; the Keri or marginal reading is, "between you and them"; the priests that bear it: hence sprung a fiction among the Jews, that there were two arks, the ark of the Shechinah or divine Majesty, and the ark of Joseph, in which his bones were put, which went together F17; which Jarchi, Kimchi, and Abarbinel take notice of, but has no foundation in the text:

about two thousand cubits by measure;
by a certain well known measure, that of a common cubit; for the "caph" we render "about" is a note of truth, reality, and certainty, and designs the exact precise measure here given: this difference was to be observed, partly in reverence to the ark, the symbol of the divine Presence; Christ is to be reverenced by his people, and so his word and ordinances; and there is a reverence and respect due to his ministers and priests that bear the ark; as also that they might the better see the ark and go after it, as Ben Gersom; or the way in which they should go, as is suggested in the following clause; and likewise have the better view of the greatness of the miracle, as Abarbinel; the dividing of the waters of Jordan as soon as the ark came to it, and while it was in it: the Jews conclude from hence that this was the measure of ground they may go on a sabbath day, and no further, called a sabbath day's journey, ( Acts 1:12 ) ;

come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go;
over Jordan into Canaan's land; for being at some distance from them they could better discern that and the way he directed them to walk in: Christ the antitype of the ark is the way to the heavenly Canaan, and his ministers point out the right way of salvation by him, in the ministration of the word, by attending to which the way is seen and known in which men must go:

for ye have not passed [this] way heretofore;
a path indeed untrodden by any; neither they nor any other ever went into Canaan the way they were now going, through the river Jordan as on dry land: the way to heaven by Christ is only revealed in the Gospel, and only trodden by believers in him, and especially the way to glory through Jordan's river; or death is an untrodden path, which, though the way of all flesh, is a trackless path, and gone through, but once, and those who pass it have never before gone that way.


F17 T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 13. 1.

Joshua 3:4 In-Context

2 After three days the officers went through the camp
3 and commanded the people: "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God carried by the Levitical priests, you must break camp and follow it.
4 But keep a distance of about 1,000 yards between yourselves and the ark. Don't go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven't traveled this way before."
5 Joshua told the people, "Consecrate yourselves, because the Lord will do wonders among you tomorrow."
6 Then he said to the priests, "Take the ark of the covenant and go on ahead of the people." So they carried the ark of the covenant and went ahead of them.

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Lit 2,000 cubits
  • [b]. Lit yesterday and the day before