Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 3:6

And Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, "Take up the ark of the covenant and cross over ahead of the people." So they took up the ark of the covenant and went ahead of the people.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Ark;   Tabernacle;   Scofield Reference Index - Miracles;   Thompson Chain Reference - Leaders;   Miracles;   Priests;   Religious;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Ark of the Covenant;   Jordan, the River;   Priests;  
Dictionaries:
Easton Bible Dictionary - Ark;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Pentateuch;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Presence of God;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Jericho;   Joshua;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Ark;   Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;   Lachish;   Priest;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ark of the Covenant;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Ark of the covenant;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ark of the Covenant;   Priest;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark - It is remarkable that the priests, not the Levites, whose ordinary business it was were employed to carry the ark on this occasion. Calmet conjectures that this was because it was probably carried without being wrapped up in its curtains, as it always was when the Levites carried it. Though it was the business of the Levites, the sons of Kohath, to carry the ark; yet on certain occasions the priests alone performed this office.

  1. In the present case.
  • When they encompassed Jericho, Joshua 6:6.
  • When it was carried to the war against the Philistines by the priests, the sons of Eli, 2 Samuel 15:25.
  • When David sent it back to Jerusalem, at the time he was obliged to fly from it, through the rebellion of his son Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:25; and,
  • At the time that it was taken out of the tabernacle, to be deposited in the temple; see 1 Kings 8:6-11.
  • These were the most solemn occasions, and on such alone, we may presume, the priests performed this office instead of the Levites. In all their former marches the ark was carried in the center of this immense camp; (see the scheme at the end of Numbers 2:2; (note) of the book of Numbers); but now it was to proceed at the head of the army, and to go before them, and at such a distance, about three quarters of a mile, that the whole camp might see it as their guide.

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    Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-3.html. 1832.

    Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

    They took up - i. e. on the day following. The course of events is anticipated.

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    Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-3.html. 1870.

    John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

    And Joshua spoke unto the priests,.... On the morrow, that is, on the tenth day of the month, the day on which they went over Jordan:

    saying, take up the ark of the covenant; in which the law was put, which was the covenant between God and the people, from whence the ark had this name; and in which it was typical of Christ, in whom both the law, the covenant of works, was fulfilled, and with whom the covenant of grace was made; who is the Mediator; surety, and messenger of it, and in whom all the blessings and promises of it are, and with whom it is, and will be kept for evermore: the ark, the priests were ordered to take up and bear on their shoulders; for no other way might they carry it; these typified the ministers of Christ who bear his name, his Gospel in the world, see Acts 9:15,

    and pass over before the people; over the river Jordan, to direct them in the way through it, and encourage them to follow them:

    and they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people; from the place where they had lodged the night before to the brink of the river.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-3.html. 1999.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

    Joshua spake unto the priests — This order to the priests would be given privately, and involving as it did an important change in the established order of march, it must be considered as announced in the name and by the authority of God. Moreover, as soon as the priests stepped into the waters of Jordan, they were to stand still. The ark was to accomplish what had been done by the rod of Moses.

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    These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
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    Bibliographical Information
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/joshua-3.html. 1871-8.

    Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

    I would have the Reader remark with me that the priests, and not the Levites, were here appointed to the service of carrying the ark. See Numbers 4:15. Was not this to show that Jesus in his priestly office, and not the law which the Levites represented, must go in before the people! Under the law they were seeking out a resting place. In the gospel that rest is found. See Numbers 10:33. Compared with Psalms 132:8. I beg the Reader yet further to remark with me, that heretofore the ark was carried in the midst of the people, implying that God was in the midst of his people. But now in going before, did it not imply, that Jesus would go before to take possession in their name? It is not an unsuitable observation neither, to remark, that the priests bearing the ark and going before the people may be supposed to intimate, that it is the office of the ministers of the gospel to go before the people in all appointed ordinances, holding up to their view the person of the Lord Jesus in all his endearing offices, and characters, and relations. Oh, for more of Paul's disposition in the servants of the sanctuary! See 1 Corinthians 2:2.

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    Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/joshua-3.html. 1828.

    Wesley's Explanatory Notes

    And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

    Take up — Namely, upon your shoulders; for so they were to carry it, Numbers 7:9.

    Before the people — Not in the middle of them, as you used to do.

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    Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-3.html. 1765.

    John Trapp Complete Commentary

    Joshua 3:6 And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

    Ver. 6. And went before the people.] To the further side of the river, say some; to the middle only, say others, {as Joshua 3:17} the pillar of cloud still going before them for a guide, as some conceive, but others doubt.

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    Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-3.html. 1865-1868.

    Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

    Take up the ark, to wit, upon your shoulders; for so they were to carry it, Numbers 7:9.

    Before the people; not in the middle of them, as you used to do.

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    Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-3.html. 1685.

    Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

    And Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the Ark of the covenant and cross over before the people,” and they took up the Ark of the covenant, and went before the people.”

    The stress here is on the fact that they moved forwards as the people of the covenant, in obedience. When they go into battle it will be following ‘the Ark of Yahweh’, but here it is with ‘the Ark of the Covenant’. Note the emphasis on obedience. ‘Take up ----- they took up.’ The swollen river lay before them but they did what they were bid.

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    Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-3.html. 2013.

    Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

    6.Take up the ark — This command was among the announcements relating to the order of crossing, and not to the crossing itself, which took place on the next day.

    And they took up the ark — A statement which is, according to the rules of modern composition, brought in before its proper place, which would naturally be between Joshua 3:13-14. For the message from God to Joshua, and the address of the latter, must have been given before the priests moved. But this is the manner of the Hebrew historians, who often thus mention the fulfilment of a prophecy or the execution of a command in the immediate connection.

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    Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-3.html. 1874-1909.

    Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

    Joshua 3:6. Take up the ark — Namely, upon your shoulders; for so they were to carry it, Numbers 7:9. Before the people — Not in the middle of them, as you used to do. And they took up the ark — They did as they were commanded. And now we may suppose that prayer of Moses to be used, which he addressed to God when the ark set forward, Numbers 10:3. Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered.

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    Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-3.html. 1857.

    George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

    Commands. Josue was only the organ of God, (Calmet) whose orders he announces to the sacred ministers; (ver. 8.; Menochius) though as a civil magistrate, he was bound to hear and to obey them in matters of religion. (Calmet) --- When he ordered circumcision to be administered, when he blessed the multitude, and ratified the covenant between God and the people, (Chap. v., and xxiv., &c.) he did nothing but what a virtuous governor ought to do; yet he did not these things by virtue of his civil jurisdiction, or in opposition to the spiritual authority of Eleazar. Moses had been the supreme head, being both priest and king. But only part of his glory was communicated to Josue, while Eleazar was directed to consult the Lord for him, (Numbers xxvii. 21.; Theodoret, q. 48. in Numbers) Josue was to govern at his word, so that he was bound to consider the high priest as his superior. What he therefore did, was in subordination and conformity to the will of Eleazar and of God, and not designed to shew that the priestly authority belonged to himself, as English Protestants would hence infer. The best of princes, both in the Old and New Testament, have always looked upon it as a part of their duty to promote the true religion. (Worthington) --- Isaias (xlix) foretold that kings and queens would esteem it their glory to guard and to advance the prosperity of the Church. (Haydock) --- Hence they may enact laws for this purpose. (St. Augustine, contra Crescon. iii. 51.) Constantine ratified the judgment passed already by the bishops in the cause of Cecilian, though he confessed at the same time that the determination did not belong to his tribunal; (Worthington) and he greatly disapproved of the conduct of the Donatists, who appealed to him, as the heathens might have done to an emperor, who was at the same time one of their high priests. (Haydock) --- O rabida furoris audacia, said he, sicut in causis gentilium fieri solet, appellationem interposuerunt. (1 Optat. c. Parm. i.; St. Augustine, ep. 166.) Other emperors and kings have acquired great fame, on account of their labours and zeal in defence of the Church. Thus the kings of Spain and of France have obtained the titles of Catholic and Most Christian, and our Henry VIII was honoured by Pope Leo X with the title of Defender of the Faith, in 1521, (Worthington) on account of the book which he presented to that pontiff, while he was yet an obedient son of the Catholic Church, and undertook to defend her faith on the sacraments, against the objections of Luther. In this the faith which the kings of England defend at present? Whatever the princes might do in the old law in spiritual matters, no inference can be drawn for the same right being now exercised by civil magistrates, how supreme soever in their own sphere. Those princes, Josue, &c. might be considered not only in the light of civil governors, but also in that of prophets, who had a great share in the administration of affairs under the Jewish theocracy. If God chose to make known his will by the mouth of a king, or by that of a shepherd, his mandates were to be put in execution with equal exactitude. But now the distinctive limits of the ecclesiastical and of the civil power are more clearly ascertained. Render therefore to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's and to God the things that are God's. (Matthew xxii. 21.) The kingdom of Christ is not of this world; neither did he appoint kings to be the pastors of his Church. (Haydock)

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    Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-3.html. 1859.

    Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

    And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

    Joshua spake unto the priests. This order to the priests would be given privately; and involving, as it did, an important change in the established order of march, it must be considered as announced in the name and by the authority of God. Moreover, as soon as the priests stepped into the waters of the Jordan, they were to stand still. The ark was to accomplish what had been done by the rod of Moses.

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    Bibliographical Information
    Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "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 Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.
    Take up
    3; Numbers 14:15; 10:33; Micah 2:13; John 14:2,3; Hebrews 6:20
    Reciprocal: Numbers 4:33 - under the hand;  Deuteronomy 9:1 - to pass;  Joshua 3:14 - bearing the ark;  Joshua 6:6 - Take up the ark;  Joshua 8:33 - priests;  2 Samuel 15:24 - bearing;  1 Kings 8:3 - the priests took up;  2 Chronicles 5:4 - the Levites;  Acts 7:45 - Jesus

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    Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-3.html.

    Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

    6.And Joshua spoke unto the priests, etc It is probable that the priests were informed why God wished the ark to precede, that they might be more ready to execute the command, for the whole people are immediately after made acquainted with the intended division of the waters. As the prefects had formerly published in the camp, that the people were to follow the ark of the covenant, the priests could not possibly be ignorant as to the office which they were to perform. For it had been distinctly declared that they were to be leaders or standard-bearers. But when all were in readiness, Joshua publicly unfolded the divine message which he had received. For it would have been incongruous to make the divine favor more clearly manifest to the common people than to them. It is added, however, immediately after, that the people were made acquainted with the miracle.

    I conclude, therefore, that after the priests had for some time been kept in suspense, along with the multitude, the Lord, on ascertaining the obedience of all, publicly declared what he was to do. First, then, it is related that the priests were enjoined by Joshua to bear the ark before the people; and secondly, lest any one might think that he was making the attempt at random, or at his own hand, mention is at the same time made of the promise with which he had been furnished as a means of ensuring his command. But although it is not then distinctly said that the course of the Jordan would be interrupted, yet, from the language which Joshua used to the people, we may infer that the Lord spoke more in detail, and explained more distinctly what he had determined to do. For Joshua did not mention anything which he had not previously learned from the mouth of God himself. Nay, before he makes any mention of the matter at all, he tells them to hear the words of the Lord, and thus premises that he has the authority of God for what he is about to say.

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    Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:6". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/joshua-3.html. 1840-57.