Joshua Chapter 4  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Joshua 4
Jos 4:1

“crossed over the Jordan.” The Hebrew word abar (#05674 עָבַר), here translated “crossed over” is a major theme in Joshua because the man Joshua is a type of Christ and the Book of Joshua typologically portrays people crossing over from this mortal life into the “Promised Land” of everlasting life. “Crossed over” the Jordan occurs 12 times in Joshua 4 (Josh. 4:1, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 (2x), Josh. 4:12, 13, 22, and 4:23 (2x)). [For more on “cross over,” see commentary on Joshua 1:11].

Jos 4:2(top)
Jos 4:3

“and make them cross over with you.” The stones were taken from the edge of the Jordan River where the feet of the priests stood in the water, so just as Yahweh was making the Israelites cross the Jordan, the Israelites were making the stones cross over the Jordan. It is as if the stones also were obeying God and going into the Promised Land. The fact that the stones themselves came from the other side of the Jordan adds to the effect of them being a witness of the crossing.

Jos 4:4

“Then Joshua called the 12 men.” One of the themes in Joshua is Joshua’s obedience to God. We see it here in Joshua 4:3-4. God says, and Joshua obeys. See commentary on Josh. 4:16.

“one man from each tribe.” The Hebrew is idiomatic: “one man, one man from a tribe.”

Jos 4:5

“Cross over.” Since the Jordan was at flood stage, and the priests were on the east side, standing where their feet had touched the water, that these men might be carrying these stones a mile or even more.

“in front of.” The Hebrew word “before” has the meaning of “in front of,” and also “in the presence of.” These men had to pass in front of the ark to get the stones, and were “in the presence of” Yahweh as He held back the Jordan River.

“the midst of the Jordan.” That is, into the dry river bed.

“each of you take up a stone onto your shoulder.” This gives some indication as to the size of the stones set up as a memorial. They were large enough that they had to be hoisted up onto the shoulder, but small enough that one man could carry one of them.

Jos 4:6

“in time to come.” The Hebrew is the word “tomorrow,” being used idiomatically for the future.

Jos 4:7

“And these stones will be for a lasting reminder for the children of Israel.” There can be great value to memorials that remind future generations of great things that have happened.

Jos 4:8

“And the children of Israel did that.” One of the themes of the early part of Joshua was the people’s obedience to Joshua, who himself obeyed Yahweh. The act of setting up the stones from the Jordan is ascribed to “the children of Israel” even though only the 12 men actually carried and set up the stones because the men acted on behalf of the whole nation. In Joshua 4:9, “Joshua” is said to have set up the stones because he was causing and overseeing the whole event. There is no record of what happened to these stones, but the pile would likely have been dismantled by the enemies of Israel during the time of the captivities of Israel in the period of the Judges, or perhaps even later during Israel’s subjugation by Assyria, Babylon, Persia, etc. In any case, the pile is not there now.

Jos 4:9

“And Joshua also set up 12 stones in the middle of the Jordan.” Not only was there a heap of stones on the bank of the Jordan to mark the crossing spot where Israel crossed the Jordan, but Joshua also had a memorial of stones placed in the Jordan where the priests stood. The REV adds the word “also” to make it clear there was a second set of stones, as do some other versions (cp. CEB; CJB; CSB; GWN; JPS; NET; NLT). While the stones for the monument set up where the people lodged were taken from the place where the priest's feet stood, this second monument was set up where the priest's feet stood. This could have been a monument that in some way commemorated the role that Yahweh, via his ark and priests, played in drying up the Jordan. Also, since the pile was placed where the priest’s feet stood at the edge of the Jordan, since the Jordan was at flood stage, it almost certainly meant that this second pile of stones was on the east bank of the Jordan most of the year (Josh. 3:12-13, 15.) Predictably, however, since the Jordan flooded every year, it would not have lasted too long before it started to break down, get covered in mud, and/or wash away. Perhaps a few decades.

“they are there to this day.” So when the account that is recorded in Joshua 4 was written, the stones in the Jordan were still there. They would have been very large stones, and the top of the pile was almost certainly visible late in the dry season when the Jordan River ran very low. Of course over time they would have washed away.

Jos 4:10

“in the midst of the Jordan.” In this case, the “midst” means “in,” not “in the middle of.” The priests stood near the east edge of the Jordan River. The priests and ark had led the way “into” the water, but then stood somewhere just inside the water (Josh. 3:15, 17).

“and the people hurried and crossed over.” When Israel crossed the Red Sea forty years earlier, the people were being chased by the Egyptians. Although they were not being chased by an enemy now, they hurried to cross over even though there was no danger and no command from Joshua to do so. The reason they hurried was likely due to them being uncomfortable with the Jordan being supernaturally dried up and a basic fear of being in the riverbed of the Jordan during its annual flood stage without really knowing at that time what happened to the water.

Jos 4:11

“when all the people had completely crossed over.” There had to be people assigned to make sure that everyone was accounted for. There are almost always stragglers when any group moves from one place to another, and the leaders in the front would not be able to tell if anyone was still on the east bank of the Jordan. In this case there was a clear picture of God taking care of His people: The ark went first into the water and stopped the water, then it stayed in the riverbed holding back the water while everyone crossed over, then it crossed over last to be sure everyone else was safely over the river. “Yahweh is my shepherd….” (Ps. 23:1).

Jos 4:12

“And the children of Reuben.” The fighting men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh who had wanted land on the east side of the Jordan now made good on their promise to fight along with the rest of the tribes of Israel until the Promised Land was conquered (Num. 32, Josh, 1:12-18).

Jos 4:13

“ready and armed for war crossed over.” The people from Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh made good on their promise and crossed over Jordan to help the rest of Israel claim their inheritance (Josh. 1:12-18).

“in the presence of Yahweh.” The ark, representing God, was in the Jordan River when the people crossed over.

“to the plains of Jericho.” The “plains of Jericho” is the flat land in the Arabah, the Jordan valley, just north of Jericho. The Hebrew word for “plains” comes from the word “mixed.” The area might well have been known as “mixed” because there are patches of gray, brown, and green, in part due to the agriculture and vegetation there from springs, streams, and the Jordan itself.

Jos 4:14

“Yahweh made Joshua great.” Just as Yahweh had promised Joshua (Josh. 3:7). One of the most defining characteristics of God is that He keeps His promises.

“stood in awe of him.” The Hebrew can be “feared him,” but in this context, the word “feared” is better translated “stood in awe.” There is an element of fear in awe, but not enough for the translation to read “feared.”

Jos 4:15

“Then Yahweh spoke to Joshua.” There are a number of ways God could have spoken to Joshua. It seems most likely that this would have been through the holy spirit that God had put upon Joshua (Num. 27:18; Deut. 34:9). But God spoke in various ways (Heb. 1:1).

Jos 4:16

“Command the priests.” One of the themes of the Book of Joshua is that Joshua obeyed the word of Yahweh. We see that in Joshua 4:16-17. God tells Joshua to command the priests (v. 16) and Joshua commands the priests (v. 17). This theme occurs elsewhere in Joshua, and helps us see the type of Christ in Joshua (cp. Josh. 4:3-4; 5:2-3; 6:2-6; 7:14-16; 8:18; cp. Josh. 5:15).

Jos 4:17

“So Joshua commanded the priests.” God commands (Josh. 4:16) and Joshua obeys (Josh. 4:17). The exact obedience of Joshua is part of the motif of Joshua as a type of Christ, who always did the will of the Father (cp. John 8:29).

Jos 4:18

“when the priests...had come up out of the midst of the Jordan.” The exact timing of the priests leaving the Jordan River and the water returning at that same time is more evidence that this is a great miracle of Yahweh and that He is able to control things that happen on earth. The gods of the Canaanites could not do that. Also, this verse gives evidence that “midst” does not always mean “middle,” but just somewhere “in” something, in this case, the ark was close to the edge of the Jordan, not in the middle.

“separated from the ground.” When the feet of the priests stepped off the dry riverbed of the Jordan River, Yahweh let the water flow back down the riverbed and over the banks as it had been flowing before. The riverbed had been made “dry” by God, so the verse is not primarily saying that when the feet of the priests stepped “onto” the dry ground, but rather when the priest’s feet “separated from” the dry ground of the riverbed that the water returned. In Joshua 3:17 the feet of the priests stood firm on the dry ground, and here the feet of the priests are separated from that dry ground and the water then returned. The HALOT Hebrew-English Lexicon gets the sense of the separation of the priest’s feet from the riverbed correct because it says, “be raised from the ground,” that is, the feet of the priests were “raised from the ground” of the riverbed, not “set down” on the bank of the Jordan River.

“the Jordan returned.” The Hebrew verb “returned” is the same as when Yahweh held back the waters of the Red Sea and then the sea “returned” upon the Egyptian army (Exod. 14:26, 28). It is clear in both the Exodus record and here in Joshua that it is Yahweh who has the power to split the sea and stop the river.

Jos 4:19

“the tenth day of the first month.” The 10th day of the first month, Nisan, is the day that the Passover lamb is selected (Exod. 12:3). That means it had been almost 40 years to the day that Israel left Egypt, because they left on Nisan 15, forty years before (Exod. 12:29-40).

“on the east side of Jericho.” No evidence for this camp has ever been found.

Jos 4:20(top)
Jos 4:21

“in times to come.” The Hebrew is idiomatic: “tomorrow,” meaning “in the future.”

“What do these stones mean?” The literal Hebrew is “What are these stones,” but the idiomatic meaning is, “What do these stones mean?” In the biblical culture, “remember” was not nostalgia that led to good feelings, but rather memory that helped people recall the deeds of Yahweh so people could know who He was and what the relationship was between Him and people. Then the memories led to good theology (“God acts this way.”) and then to right actions. If you have no memory, if you forget, you will eventually not know how to relate to God, which will result in bad theology, bad relationship, and a bad life (Deut. 6:12; 8:11, 18; Judg. 3:7).

Jos 4:22

“to make known to your children.” This translation may be a little weak. The Hebrew is causative; make them know. It is a parent’s responsibility to teach their children about God. The assumption of Scripture is that children are curious and will ask questions, such as “What do these stones mean” (Josh. 4:21). At that time parents are to “make them know” the great deeds of Yahweh. Parents today often express that they want their children to “make up their own mind.” That will happen naturally. Eventually every person makes up their own mind as they grow and mature. But it is the parent's responsibility before God to raise their young children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In reality, the children do not belong to the parent, they belong to God; the parents are simply the wards of the children until they mature, and so the parents are responsible to raise the children as the Heavenly Father would have them raised. To not teach children about God early on puts them at a serious disadvantage because they learn to live without thinking about God even though every breath of air they breathe is from God. Eternal life and eternal death are not things to take a chance on. Every parent should give their children the best chance to live forever. “...a child who is left to itself puts his mother to shame” (Prov. 29:15).

“dry ground.” The Hebrew is also used of the dry seabed of the Red Sea (cp. Exod. 14:22, 29).

Jos 4:23(top)
Jos 4:24(top)

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