Joshua 4

1 When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua,
2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe,
3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe,
5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites,
6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’
7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the LORD had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.
9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been[a] in the middle of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.
10 Now the priests who carried the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan until everything the LORD had commanded Joshua was done by the people, just as Moses had directed Joshua. The people hurried over,
11 and as soon as all of them had crossed, the ark of the LORD and the priests came to the other side while the people watched.
12 The men of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over, ready for battle, in front of the Israelites, as Moses had directed them.
13 About forty thousand armed for battle crossed over before the LORD to the plains of Jericho for war.
14 That day the LORD exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him all the days of his life, just as they had stood in awe of Moses.
15 Then the LORD said to Joshua,
16 “Command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant law to come up out of the Jordan.”
17 So Joshua commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.”
18 And the priests came up out of the river carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD. No sooner had they set their feet on the dry ground than the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and ran at flood stage as before.
19 On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho.
20 And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan.
21 He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’
22 tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’
23 For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea[b] when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over.
24 He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God.”

Joshua 4 Commentary

Chapter 4

Stones taken out of Jordan. (1-9) The people pass through Jordan. (10-19) The twelve stones placed in Gilgal. (20-24)

Verses 1-9 The works of the Lord are so worthy of rememberance, and the heart of man is so prone to forget them, that various methods are needful to refresh our memories, for the glory of God, our advantage, and that of our children. God gave orders for preparing this memorial.

Verses 10-19 The priests with the ark did not stir till ordered to move. Let none be weary of waiting, while they have the tokens of God's presence with them, even the ark of the covenant, though it be in the depths of adversity. Notice is taken of the honour put upon Joshua. Those are feared in the best manner, and to the best purpose, who make it appear that God is with them, and that they set him before them.

Verses 20-24 It is the duty of parents to tell their children betimes of the words and works of God, that they may be trained up in the way they should go. In all the instruction parents give their children, they should teach them to fear God. Serious godliness is the best learning. Are we not called, as much as the Israelites, to praise the loving-kindness of our God? Shall we not raise a pillar to our God, who has brought us through dangers and distresses in so wonderful a way? For hitherto the Lord hath helped us, as much as he did his saints of old. How great the stupidity and ingratitude of men, who perceive not His hand, and will not acknowledge his goodness, in their frequent deliverances!

Cross References 36

  • 1. Deuteronomy 27:2
  • 2. S Joshua 3:12
  • 3. ver 20
  • 4. S Joshua 3:17
  • 5. ver 19
  • 6. S Joshua 3:12
  • 7. S Joshua 3:17
  • 8. S Joshua 2:12
  • 9. S Exodus 10:2
  • 10. ver 21; Exodus 12:26; S Exodus 13:14
  • 11. Joshua 3:13
  • 12. S Exodus 28:12; Exodus 12:14
  • 13. Exodus 28:21
  • 14. S Joshua 3:17
  • 15. ver 20
  • 16. S Genesis 28:18; Joshua 24:26; 1 Samuel 7:12
  • 17. S Genesis 35:20
  • 18. S Genesis 29:32
  • 19. S Genesis 30:11
  • 20. S Genesis 41:51
  • 21. S Numbers 32:27
  • 22. Numbers 32:29
  • 23. S Exodus 13:18
  • 24. S Numbers 32:17
  • 25. S Joshua 3:7
  • 26. Exodus 25:22
  • 27. Exodus 14:27
  • 28. S Joshua 3:15
  • 29. S Deuteronomy 11:30; Joshua 5:9
  • 30. ver 3,8
  • 31. S ver 6
  • 32. S Exodus 14:22; Joshua 3:17
  • 33. Exodus 14:19-22; Exodus 14:21
  • 34. 1 Kings 8:60; 1 Kings 8:42-43; 2 Kings 19:19; 2 Kings 18:36; 2 Kings 5:15; Psalms 67:2; Psalms 83:18; Psalms 106:8; Isaiah 37:20; Isaiah 52:10; Jeremiah 10:7
  • 35. Exodus 15:16; 1 Chronicles 29:12; Psalms 44:3; Psalms 89:13; Psalms 98:1; Psalms 118:15-16
  • 36. S Exodus 14:31

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. Or "Joshua also set up twelve stones"
  • [b]. Or "the Sea of Reeds"

Chapter Summary


This chapter relates an order, that is men, should take twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, and carry them to the first place they lodged at as a memorial of their passage over it, Jos 4:1-8; and how Joshua set up twelve other stones in the river itself, Jos 4:9; and how many of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, went before the Israelites when they passed over, Jos 4:10-14; which being done, the priests were ordered to come out of Jordan, when the waters returned to their place, Jos 4:15-18; The time when this miracle was wrought is observed, Jos 4:19; and an account is given of Joshua's pitching the twelve stones taken out of Jordan in Gilgal, and the use they were to be of in future time, Jos 4:20-24.

Joshua 4 Commentaries

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