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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 4

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-24

Joshua 4:2 . Take you twelve men; out of every tribe a man of great strength to be the witnesses in their respective tribes, while the twelve stones spake with silent voice on the western shore of the Jordan. Oh glorious miracle, leaving unbelief without excuse.

Joshua 4:9 . Joshua set up twelve stones. Most critics contend, that these were huge stones placed on one side the bed of the river, but within the flood- banks, to mark the identical spot where the ark rested. They stood within the boundaries of the camp in Gilgal, as is recorded Joshua 4:20; consequently they remained there at the day he transcribed, towards the close of life, a fair copy of his wars and administration.

Joshua 4:13 . Forty thousand. The Reubenites were 43,700; the Gadites 40,500; the half of Manasseh 26,350; total 110,550: yet 40,000 were thought sufficient.

Joshua 4:19 . The tenth day of the first month; that is, Abib, or about the twenty fifth of April, according to the table. Exodus 12:0. This was the year in the Julian period, 3263. The tabernacle, and part of the host pitched that night in Gilgal, two miles from Jericho.

Joshua 4:22 . Let your children know. Fathers should recommend religion to their children by telling them how the Lord once raised them up from poverty to riches, from ignorance to knowledge, from sin to holiness, to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.


The dividing of the Jordan, and at the moment when the river overflowed its banks, was a most signal monument of the divine favour to Israel. In one moment it removed all their fears, and filled them with transports of joy. They were all ready to leap into the bed of the river, but dared not to move till the signal was given by their leader. So Israel had now learned to obey, and to do all things in decency and order.

This most signal monument of the divine favour must be perpetuated by a pillar of twelve stones, erected in Gilgal for the instruction of future generations. And if all nations raised trophies, pillars, arches, and temples, in memory of victories and illustrious deeds, the erection of the rude pillar in Gilgal was not only congenial to the sentiments of national glory, but sacred as a religious memorial. This is a strong argument for the truth of all that Moses had said of the ages before he wrote; for oral tradition from the beginning corresponded with the monuments of antiquity, with which Moses had the best opportunities of being acquainted. Hence we learn that the sacred writings, containing the ancient works of God, should often be read by our children, that they may become largely acquainted with the power and glory of the Most High. For the same purpose baptism and the Lord’s supper have been instituted, that having the covenant seals always before our eyes, we might never forget the grace and glories of our redemption.

The ark of the covenant was the first in the brink of the river, and the last in ascending from the depth of its channel. The Lord’s presence went in front of his people, and was a rereward after them for safety and defence. So he has ever done to the christian church. The good shepherd has gone before his flock to lead it, and to encounter danger. Having died on Calvary he rose again, the firstfruits of them that slept; and he is our forerunner into the heavens. In his divine presence he still stays with his afflicted people in all the waters and troubles of life, which fly back, like Jordan, at his approach: nor will he remove his presence till all the saints, forgetting the toils of the desert, and trampling on death, shall ascend to meet him in the air. Truly he is faithful, keeping covenant and promise unto all generations. May our hearts never be so base as to distrust his power and love.

Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh by asking their lot on the left bank of the river had excited the jealousy of their brethren, and even of Moses; but by sending to the conquest as many of their chosen men as were asked, they fulfilled their engagements, and set a fine example of fidelity to their country, and to future generations. Nothing is more pleasing to God, or more happy in contributing to the peace of men and nations, than fidelity to engagements; and on the contrary, breach of covenant has ever been attended with the worst of consequences.

Joshua, we lastly find, looked by faith beyond the glories and joys of the present day. He assured the people that the waters of Jordan were not dried up merely to give them a passage; but also for the conversion of the people in most distant parts of the earth. He seemed to behold the glorious high throne of God in Israel, and proselytes and worshippers coming from all places with gifts and offerings to the Lord, having heard of his fame and glorious works.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/joshua-4.html. 1835.
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