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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 4

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-9

Joshua - Chapter 4

Prepared Men for a Purpose, vs. 1-9

Now occurs the event which was anticipated in chapter Numbers 3:12. These twelve men had been chosen in the beginning, but did not have anything yet to do until now. Their business was to be ready and waiting for the time when their services would be needed and they would be called on. So the people are now across the Jordan, on the same side as Jericho, and the Lord repeats the command. These men are representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel. They are to go into the river bed, each to take up a stone on his shoulder from the place where the ark-bearing priests had stood and to precede the ark out of the river, depositing them on the shore. These large stones will compose a large pile, and will be a memorial. Children of future generations will be attracted by the memorial stones and ask their fathers why they are there. They are then to be told how the children of Israel came to the Jordan at flood time, and the Lord stopped the flow of the river so that the Israelites crossed the river on dry ground.

Thus the remarkable event would be well known and the faith of future generations encouraged.

Verses 10-14

Joshua Magnified, vs. 10-14

Keep in mind the purpose of this miracle in the eyes of the people of Israel. It was not merely to get them across the Jordan, for natural means might have been sufficient when the waters ran down.

God’s stated purpose was to magnify Joshua before them as He had magnified Moses before him (see Numbers 3:7). This magnification was complete when the crossing was completed, and the priests with the ark came out of the river bed onto the banks of the Jordan

The people could see what the Lord had done through Joshua’s leadership and would know that this power would be theirs so long as they were obedient to the leadership of this new man the Lord had appointed over them, (John 10:4).

The Israelites accepted Joshua as evidenced by the 40,000 men from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half-Manasseh. According to their promise they were foremost among those who crossed and were armed to do battle along with their brethren who would receive their tribal inheritance on the west side of Jordan The summary statement of verse 14 asserts that Joshua was indeed magnified before the people. The fear they had had for Moses was now passed on to Joshua.

This trait called "fear" may be interpreted as respect of those who might be tempted to disobey and appreciation on the part of those who were ready to follow his leadership, (Proverbs 1:7; Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Verses 15-24

The Memorial Stones, vs. 15-24

The passage now under consideration contains much reiteration of what has already been related. This is not mere redundancy, but is emphatic of what the Lord has done and admonitory of what the people may expect Him to do hereafter.

Note that the priests did not leave their station until the Lord so commanded, a lesson for those today who might think their work complete and be impatient to move on too soon.

The Lord told Joshua when to have the priests come out with the ark, and he passed on the command to them. From the original Hebrew language of the passage it appears that, though the people passed over the river dryshod, the priests’ feet actually were planted in the water, the symbol of the divine power which stayed the flow of the river. They "lifted up" their feet from the mud of the river to the dry bank, after which the water flowed down again and spread out over the flood plain. They camped at Gilgal (though the place received its name somewhat later), about five miles from the river and some two miles east of the city of Jericho. Thus when the Lord removed His invisible dam and drained the lake which must have excited the people of Jericho very much, they could see their enemy, Israel, encamped on their threshold at Gilgal

The memorial of the stones is repeated and is now associated with the miracle of the Red Sea when its waters were parted allowing the old generation to flee across from the pursuing Egyptians when they left Egypt. As the miracle at the Red Sea identified Israel as God’s people and exemplified His power and readiness to provide all they needed, so now the new generation, forty years later, learns the same lesson anew. This should embolden them for whatever hardships they may encounter in Canaan. Then, the purpose of this spectacular event is enlarged to include all the people of the earth, that they "might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty," and that they might learn to fear the Lord, (1 Peter 5:6).

It will be interesting to note the many memorials which were established by Joshua and the children of Israel, of which this is the first. It will be a profitable exercise to evaluate each of these as to its special significance and learn how each one succeeding portrays the progress of the Lord’s servants in their work. This first memorial will show to those attracted by it the power of the Lord to deliver, (2 Corinthians 1:10). Let us learn also 1) children are to be taught the things of the Lord, and His power is to be made known to them to perpetual generations; 2) God uses those prepared for His service, though they may not be readily aware how, where, or when; 3) the Lord teaches His people to respect those to whom He grants positions of leadership among them.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Joshua 4". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/joshua-4.html. 1985.
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