Joshua 4

1 And it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying: “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man from every tribe, and command them, saying, ‘Take for yourselves twelve stones from here, out of the midst of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood firm. You shall carry them over with you and leave them in the lodging place where you lodge tonight.’”

Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.”

And the children of Israel did so, just as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord had spoken to Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them to the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. Then Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests who bore the ark of the covenant stood; and they are there to this day.

10 So the priests who bore the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan until everything was finished that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua; and the people hurried and crossed over. 11 Then it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over, that the ark of the Lord and the priests crossed over in the presence of the people. 12 And the men of Reuben, the men of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them. 13 About forty thousand prepared for war crossed over before the Lord for battle, to the plains of Jericho. 14 On that day the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they had feared Moses, all the days of his life.

15 Then the Lord spoke to Joshua, saying, 16 “Command the priests who bear the ark of the Testimony to come up from the Jordan.” 17 Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, “Come up from the Jordan.” 18 And it came to pass, when the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord had come from the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet touched the dry land, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks as before.

19 Now the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20 And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. 21 Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ 22 then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; 23 for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.”

Observation – What does it Say?

  • This chapter is not written in a linear fashion. That is to say in an orderly sequence of events.
    • Verse 1 says “…when all the people had completely crossed over…”
    • Verse 10 says “..the people hurriedly crossed over…”
    • Verse 12, “…Reuben, the men of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the children of Israel…”
    • The first group to cross over were the men of the 2 ½ tribes that had already received their inheritance. (v12)
    • Moses had commanded the men of the 2 ½ tribes to lead the way into Canaan
    • 40,000 crossed over prepared for war.
      • The census in Numbers 26 of the men 20 years old and up has 43,73 Reubenites, 40,500 Gadites, 52,700 Manassehites. Where did the rest go?
      • Did they all not go as they should have?
      • Did they all go but only 40,000 suited up for battle?
      • The Israelites hurried across the Jordan v 10
      • After the children of Israel had completely crossed over Jordan one man from each of the 12 tribes took a stone from the middle of the Jordan
        • Verse 3 the Lord is telling Joshua
        • Verses 4-7 Joshua is telling the 12 men
        • The stones taken from the Jordan were from the place where the priest stood. This meant that the men would have needed to gotten close to the ark.
        • The stones were to be carried to the Gilgal where they set up camp for the night.
        • The stones were to be as reminder of what God had done in cutting off the waters of the Jordan to allow the Children of Israel to cross over
        • The stones were to be a memorial for ever
        • Verse 9 starts with “Then” so after the 12 stones were taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up 12 stones where the priests stood in the middle of the Jordan
        • The priest stood in the middle of the Jordan until all children of Israel had crossed and the 12 stones were removed from the Jordan and 12 stones were set up in the middle of the Jordan.
        • After the Israelites crossed the Jordan they were in the plains of Jericho
        • On the day of the crossing the Israelites fear Joshua as the feared Moses.
        • On the day of the crossing the Lord exalted Joshua.
        • They Israelites fear Joshua the rest of his life.
        •  The Lord told Joshua when to have the priest come out from the Jordan
        • When the priest came out of the Jordan the Jordan started flowing again.
        • The crossing of the Jordan occurred on the 10 day of the first month
        • When the priest soles touched dry land, (v18) According to verse 22 Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land. Therefore, the priests were already on dry ground while they were in the middle of the Jordan.

Interpretation – What does it mean?

God is a God who is active in the world today. He is not like a watch maker who make a watch, winds is up and lets it run. God is continually active in His creation. Twice the bible records a body or water being dried up so the Israelites can cross. The first was at the Red Sea. The second is the Jordan. Both of these events are miraculous. They are not things we obverse on a common basis. From a scientific basis they are not repeatable. That is we cannot set up the conditionals cause them to occur. From a historian perspective, these events are not recorded historically occurring anywhere else. Therefore they do not have historical precedence. So from a historical and scientific perspective it is more probable these events did not occur than historically and scientifically they did. And that is the point! These are miracles. Miracles are not normal. Miracles do not occur daily. If they did we would not call them miracles. We would call it normal. But God intervened into the world specifically to reveal Himself. Throughout biblical history miracles occurred for one of two reasons to confirm either the prophet or the message. In the miracle the crossing of the Jordan It was to confirm Joshua as God chosen leader for the Israelites as well as confirmation of God’s promise that He had given the land to the Israelites.

The Israelites made monuments to remember this day and so their children would remember this day. Because miracles did not occur regularly they monument were to be reminder that God had intervened in a strange and miraculous way.

Application – How does it work?

Christians today, try to cheapen Gods work and intervention into history. Perhaps not intentionally but that is the result of slogans and saying such as “Expect a miracle today”, “Every birth is a miracle.” “I see miracles all around me” Miracles are strange. Miracles are unusual. Miracles are not normal. That does not diminish the wonder and awe of the natural universe and God’s creation. That does not mean that God is not regularly and actively involved in His universe. His creates and sustains the universe. And as the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 3 Section 1, states “God from all eternity did by the most and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established”

The Christian can rest and be at peace that everything that occurs is under the control of God. He, and He alone is sovereign.

 

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