Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 3:3

and they commanded the people, saying, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God with the Levitical priests carrying it, then you shall set out from your place and go after it.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Tabernacle;   Scofield Reference Index - Miracles;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Jordan, the River;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Ark of the Covenant;   Levites;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Pentateuch;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Joshua, the Book of;   Presence of God;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ark;   Jericho;   Joshua;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ark of God;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Ark;   Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;   Lachish;   Levites;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Le'vites;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ark of the Covenant;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Priest;  

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And they commanded the people,.... In the name of Joshua, by whom they were sent:

saying, when ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it: the Targum reads, the priests and Levites; so the Septuagint: it was the business of the Levites, particularly the Kohathites, to bear the ark in journeying, but here the priests, who also were Levites, were to carry it: it is remarked in the TalmudF16T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 33. 2. , that there are three places in which the priests are said to bear the ark; here, and when they surrounded Jericho, Joshua 6:6; and when it was returned to its place in the times of David, 2 Samuel 15:29; and Kimchi and Abarbinel observe a fourth, when it was brought into Solomon's temple, 1 Kings 8:6,

then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it; their usual signal for marching was the cloud, when that was taken up, Numbers 9:17, &c. but now the ark, the clouds of glory having removed at the death of Moses, and were seen no more, as Abarbinel and other Jewish writers observe; and therefore it was proper the Israelites should be made acquainted with this signal; for, as Jarchi says, this journey was different from all the journeys (though that of the three days journey from Sinai must be excepted, Numbers 10:33), for all the time Moses was in being, the pillar of cloud marched first and showed them the way, and the ark moved after two of the standards (Judah and Reuben), and now the ark went first: the cloud was a figure of the dark and cloudy dispensation of the law, particularly the ceremonial law, the shadow of good things to come, and which continued only during the former state, and discontinued to be of any use when the Mosaic dispensation ceased, and when Joshua or Jesus was come: the ark was a type of Christ, the forerunner for us entered, and whom we are to follow whithersoever he goes or directs to, in the exercise of grace and performance of duty; and the ark being carried now by different persons, may denote that Christ was held forth in a weaker manner under the legal dispensation, and by his apostles and ministers under the Gospel dispensation in a clearer and stronger manner, and who are to be followed no further or longer than as they bear the ark or direct to Christ.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-3.html. 1999.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Jesus is the ark of his people. In him as in the ark of old, are lodged the tables of the law, and the mercy seat from whence God speaks. My soul! when the Holy Ghost gives me to see him before me, may I follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. And Reader! do observe, this ark is called the ark of the covenant of the Lord our God; meaning that Christ is God's, and that it is a God in covenant with him for all his people. It is sweet to be looking unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy through him, unto eternal life. Jude 1:21.

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Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/joshua-3.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

Commanded the people — In Joshua's name, and by his authority. Priests and Levites - Who were not only Levites, but priests also. For altho' the Levites were to carry the ark, Numbers 4:1-15, yet the priests might perform that office, and did so upon some solemn occasions.

Go after it — Towards Jordan, to go over it in such a manner as I am about to describe. 'Till this time the ark went in the middle of the cloudy pillar, now it goes in the front. Probably the pillar of fire and cloud was still hovering over the ark.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-3.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 3:3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

Ver. 3. When ye see the ark of the covenant.] Which represented that angel of the covenant, Christ Jesus.

And the priests the Levites bearing it.] The Koathites properly and ordinarily did this office, [Numbers 3:31] which as it had more honour, so more burden and danger. [Numbers 4:15]

Fructus honos oneris, fructus honoris onus.

And go after it.] God must and may be followed without peril. Magnus est animus qui se Deo tradidit, saith Seneca.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-3.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 3. When ye see the ark—and the priests the Levites bearing it See Numbers 4:15. The Levites of the family of Kohath were appointed to the office of carrying the ark of the covenant; but, in extraordinary cases, this care was committed to the priests, who are here called the Levites, for a reason given in a former place. See Deuteronomy 17:9.

Then ye shall remove, &c.— Whereas in common marches the ark was carried in the middle of the camps, as we read Numbers 2:17. God on this occasion would have it carried in the front, or at the head of the whole army, as it had been at the first march which was made on leaving mount Sinai. Numbers 10:33.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/joshua-3.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

They commanded the people, in Joshua’s name, and by his authority.

The priests the Levites, who were not only Levites, but priests also. For although the Levites were to carry the ark, Num 4, yet the priests might perform that office, and did so upon some solemn occasions, as here, and Joshua 6:6. Go after it towards Jordan, to go over it in such manner as I am about to describe. Till this time the ark went in the middle of the cloudy pillar, probably being now vanished, now it goes in the front.

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Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-3.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

3.When ye see the ark of the covenant — This was a chest made of shittim or acacia wood, four feet in length, and two and one third feet in breadth and depth. It was overlaid with gold within and without. The cover, which was edged with gold, was called the mercy-seat. Standing on this lid were the cherubim with outstretched wings. The ark was borne upon the shoulders by means of rods passing through two rings on each of the two sides. When transported, it was enveloped in the veil of the dismantled tabernacle, the curtain of badger skins, and the blue cloth, (Numbers 4:5-6,) and was therefore not seen. Its name is derived from its chief contents, the “covenant of Sinai” — the two tables of stone, on which was the Decalogue, written by the finger of God. From Hebrews 9:4, we learn that it contained also “the pot of manna,” and “Aaron’s rod that budded.” It was never seen save by the high priest, thus symbolizing the invisible Jehovah. See on Exodus 25:10-22.

And the priests the Levites — The Levite-priests, as distinguished from all irregular priests who are not Levitical. Such occasionally arose in times of apostasy from the law. On ordinary occasions the Levites of the house of Kohath, by special command, bore the ark. But when removed from within the veil, or when borne on festive occasions of extraordinary interest, the priests, the offspring of Aaron, were the bearers. Joshua 6:6 and 1 Kings 8:3; 1 Kings 8:6.

Go after it — Let the ark of God be your leader, and move ye as the ark moves. Heretofore it stood at the centre when Israel was encamped, and in mid army when they marched. The ark now led them, as heretofore the pillar of fire.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-3.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Levi. Sigonius thinks that the Caathites performed this office on this as on other occasions. But the Vulgate shews that the priests sometimes carried the ark, perhaps because it was uncovered, chap. vi. 6., and 2 Kings xv. 25. At this period the number of priests was but small. Some of the sons of Eleazar and of Ithamar might be old enough to assist their parents: only two would be necessary at a time, though the Rabbins assign four, (which is not improbable. Theodoret) and pretend that the two who went first were obliged to go backwards, in order that their faces might be turned towards the ark, out of respect. The ark now marked the way for the people, as the cloud had disappeared on the death of Moses. (St. Augustine, q. 3.; Masius.) (Calmet) --- It had been carried at the head of the army in the desert. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

the ark. Not the cloud, but the ark; as from Sinai. Compare Numbers 10:33.

the LORD your God = Jehovah your Elohim. App-4.

the Levites. Some codices, with three early printed editions, Septuagint, and Syriac, reed "and the Levites". bearing it. Supply the Ellipsis (App-6.) by adding "[going before]" from next clause.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

And they commanded the people. The instructions given at this time and in this place were different from those described, Joshua 1:11, having a direct reference to the act and order of the approaching passage.

When ye see the ark ... The usual position of the ark, when at rest, was in the center of the camp; and during a march, in the middle of the procession. On this occasion it was to occupy the van, and be borne not by the Kohathite Levites, but the priests, as on all solemn and extraordinary occasions (cf. Numbers 4:15; Joshua 6:6; 1 Kings 8:3-6).

Then ye shall ... go after it,

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-3.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.
When ye see
Numbers 10:33
the priests
6,8,14-17; 4:10; 6:6; Numbers 4:15; Deuteronomy 31:9,25; 2 Samuel 6:3,13; 1 Chronicles 15:11; 1 Chronicles 15:12
ye shall remove
Exodus 13:21,22; Matthew 8:19; 16:24; Revelation 14:4
Reciprocal: Joshua 3:17 - the priests;  Joshua 4:16 - GeneralJoshua 8:33 - priests;  2 Samuel 15:24 - bearing;  1 Chronicles 15:2 - None ought to

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Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 3:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-3.html.