Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 4:20

Those twelve stones which they had taken from the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Instruction;   Stones;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Jordan, the River;   Pillars;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Gilgal;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Elisha;   Gilgal;   Jordan;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Pilgrimage;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Gilgal;   God;   Jericho;   Joshua;   Quarry;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Gilgal;   Jordan ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Gilgal;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Gil'gal;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Gerizim, Mount;   Images;   Joshua (2);   Joshua, Book of;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Stone and Stone-Worship;   Tagin;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Those twelve stones - It is very likely that a base of mason-work was erected of some considerable height, and then the twelve stones placed on the top of it; and that this was the case both in Jordan and in Gilgal: for twelve such stones as a man could carry a considerable way on his shoulder, see Joshua 4:5, could scarcely have made any observable altar, or pillar of memorial: but erected on a high base of mason-work they would be very conspicuous, and thus properly answer the end for which God ordered them to be set up.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-4.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And those twelve stones which they took out of Jordan,.... The twelve men who were sent there for that purpose, and took them from thence, and brought them hither, Joshua 4:3,

did Joshua pitch in Gilgal; set them in rows, or one upon another, and made a pillar of them commemorative of their passage over Jordan into the land of Canaan: according to JosephusF14Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 4.) , he made an altar of these stones; and Ben Gersom is of opinion, that they were placed in the sanctuary by the ark, though not in it; which yet was the sentiment of TertullianF15Contr. Marcion. l. 4. c. 13. , but very improbable; since that ark was not capable of such a number of large stones; and it must be a very large ark or chest, if one could be supposed to be made on purpose for them; but it is most likely they were erected in form of a pillar or statue, in memory of this wonderful event, the passage of Israel over Jordan, see Joshua 4:7; they may be considered as emblems of the twelve apostles of Christ, and their ministrations and writings; their number agrees, and so does the time of their appointment to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel, which was after the resurrection of Christ, typified by the passage of Joshua over Jordan, and out of it; the name of one of them, and he a principal one, was Peter or Cephas, which signifies a stone; and all of them in a spiritual sense were lively stones, chosen and selected from others, and called by grace, and were very probably most, if not all of them, baptized in this very place, Bethabara, from whence these stones were taken; and were like them unpolished, as to external qualifications, not having an education, and being illiterate, but wonderfully fitted by Christ for his service; and were not only pillars, as James, Cephas, and John, but in some sense foundation stones; as they were the instruments of laying Christ ministerially, as the foundation of salvation, and of preaching the fundamental truths of the Gospel, in which they were constant and immovable; and their ministry and writings, their Gospels and epistles, are so many memorials of what Christ, our antitypical Joshua, has done for us in passing over Jordan's river, or through death; finishing thereby transgression and sin, obtaining peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation, opening the way to the heavenly Canaan, abolishing death, and bringing life and immortality to light.

Copyright Statement
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 4:20". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-4.html. 1999.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Who knows but that these very stones were remaining in the days of our Lord? And it is not improbable, but as all the words of Jesus were significant and full of grace, Jesus might point to them when he said to the people, when he stood at Bethabara near Jordan, God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. For these twelve stones were monuments of the twelve tribes of the stock of Abraham. And Bethabara seems to have been the very spot in the house of passage, where Joshua and the people passed over. Matthew 3:9; John 1:28.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/joshua-4.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

In Gilgal — Probably in order, like so many little pillars, to keep up the remembrance of this miraculous benefit.

Copyright Statement
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 4:20". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-4.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

MEMORIAL STONES

‘Twelve stones in the midst of Jordan.’ ‘Twelve stones which they took out of Jordan.’

Joshua 4:9; Joshua 4:20

There were two sets of stones raised in commemoration of the passage of the Jordan.

I. Those on the bank.—From the place where the priests’ feet had stood in Jordan, twelve chosen men took each one a stone; and these were piled together in a heap before the eyes of all men. As they stood there, with the certainty to all men that they had once been in the river bed, they were a proof to the senses of what otherwise might have been disputed, that the river had actually been dried up. But there is a deeper lesson for us. As in the passage of the Jordan, all Israel stood in the river, and then came up on to the river’s bank, so in the death and resurrection of our Lord, the whole Church lay with Him in His grave, all rose with Him on the Easter morning, all passed with Him in the Divine intention to His throne. Those twelve stones represented the entire people, and commemorated their marvellous transportation from the one side of Jordan to the other. So each recurring Lord’s Day and Eastertide should remind us that the river of death rolls between us and the world, and that we have been raised together with Christ, and made to sit together with Him in the heavenlies.

II. Those in the bed of the stream.—Not content with pitching a cairn of stones on the river’s bank, Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, where the feet of the priests had stood. It was to remind Israel from whence they had come, and the hole of the pit from which they had been digged. Ah! it is well to remember what the grace of God has done for us. ‘Such were some of you …’

Illustrations

(1) ‘The rude circle of unhewn stones without inscription was, no doubt, exactly like the many prehistoric monuments found all over the world, which forgotten races have raised to keep in everlasting remembrance forgotten fights and heroes. It was a comparatively small thing; for each stone was but a load for one man, and it would seem mean enough by the side of Stonehenge or Carnac, just as Israel’s history is on a small scale, as compared with the world-embracing empires of old. Size is not greatness; and Joshua’s little circle told a more wonderful story than its taller kindred, or Egyptian obelisks or colossi.’

(2) ‘The stones were set up because Israel remembered, but also lest Israel should forget. We often think of the Jews as monsters of ingratitude; but we should more truly learn the lesson of their history, if we regarded them as fair, average men, and asked ourselves whether our recollection of God’s goodness to us is much more vivid than theirs. Unless we make distinct and frequent efforts to recall, we shall certainly forget God’s goodness. The cultivation of thankful remembrance is a very great part of practical religion.’

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/joshua-4.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 4:20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

Ver. 20. And those twelve.] See Joshua 4:3.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-4.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 20. And those twelve stones—did Joshua pitch in Gilgal Josephus relates the matter as if the Israelites had reared these stones in the form of an altar. It is more probable, that, in order to represent the number of the tribes, they were pitched each upon its basis, as so many small pillars, perhaps in three lines, and probably on an elevation.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/joshua-4.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Which most probably were placed severally and in order, like so many little pillars, which was most proper to keep remembrance of this miraculous benefit vouchsafed to this people.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-4.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘And those twelve stones which they took out of Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal.’

This was in obedience to YHWH Who had told them that they must be set up at the place where they first lodged (Joshua 4:3). The stones had been carried there and laid there (Joshua 4:8), now Joshua erected them in a pile (or in a line, or even as a memorial altar) and declared their significance and importance for the future. The heap was a witness to the faithfulness of YHWH and His great power (compare Genesis 31:48). It indicated the border of the land and that YHWH watched over the land (compare Genesis 31:49; Genesis 31:52).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-4.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

20.Did Joshua pitch in Gilgal — The Hebrew word here rendered pitch is precisely the same as that rendered set up in Joshua 4:9, where see note. These twelve memorial stones were here built up by Joshua into a perpetual monument, resting, doubtless, upon a pedestal, to render it more conspicuous. More than six hundred years afterwards the Minor Prophets, Hosea (Hosea 4:15; Hosea 9:15; Hosea 12:11) and Amos, (Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5,) repeatedly reprove the Jews for going to Gilgal “to multiply transgression;” and Stanley, in his History of the Jewish Church, suggests that this monument came to be regarded with idolatrous veneration, like the worship of the cross among the Papists.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-4.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Joshua 4:20. In Gilgal — Probably in order, like so many little pillars, to keep up the remembrance of this miraculous benefit. Gilgal was situate between Jordan and Jericho, and, according to Josephus, was ten furlongs from the city, and fifty from the river. Joshua had his camp there during all the time that the war lasted, and till the division of the country among the tribes. There the Israelites were circumcised; there they celebrated the passover for the first time in the land of Canaan; and there the tabernacle was erected and fixed, till, Canaan being subdued, they placed it in Shiloh. Gilgal, however, always continued to be a place of importance, as we learn from divers passages of Scripture. See 2:1; 1 Samuel 11:14; 1 Samuel 13:12.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-4.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Galgal. It received its name afterwards, chap. v. 9. It lay in a direct line from Jericho to the Jordan eastwards, being ten stadia from the former, and fifty from the latter place. Josue had his camp here while he subdued the kings of Chanaan, (Calmet) as it had plenty of water and wood in its environs; (Menochius) though perhaps at this time, there were no houses. Saul was here recognized king of all Israel, 1 Kings xi. 14. Tertullian (contra Marc. iv.) supposes that the twelve stones were placed on the ark, in arcam, which is not at all probable. (Calmet) --- But they might be erected in its vicinity, and that may perhaps be the meaning of the author. (Haydock) --- R. Levi says the stones were placed near the ark, that all Israel might see them thrice a year. Josephus believes that an altar was formed of them.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-4.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

took out. Compare verses: Joshua 4:8, Joshua 4:9.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-4.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

Those twelve stones ... did Joshua pitch in Gilgal. Probably to render them more conspicuous, they might be raised on a foundation of earth and turf; and as the Hebrew word Gilgal signifies a circle, it may be applied either to a circular stone or a circular row of stones: so that Gilgal was a place for the assembling of the people, first, for religious purposes, and afterward for general objects, especially for holding courts of justice (cf. Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6-7; Joshua 14:6; Joshua 15:7; 1 Samuel 10:8; 1 Samuel 11:14-15; 1 Samuel 13:4-9; 1 Samuel 15:21). Stonehenge, Crookem Tor on Dartmoor, and the Druidical circles were similar in construction, and devoted to analogous purposes. To find these stones is one of the objects contemplated by the Palestine Archaeological Association, the council of which, in the prospectus issued October, 1854, use the following words regarding them: 'Doubtless these stones which Joshua pitched were large and remarkable, and were probably arranged numerically, and with some significant order, that their purpose might be ever afterward recognized. Nor is it improbable that some name or device might have been put on them, to identify them individually with the tribes of Israel. The remote period of those stones would lead us to expect that they would, many years ago, have sunk into the earth, and would be hidden under an accumulation of mosses and herbage, but still not lost beyond the reach of diligent and skillful research.' The pile was designed to serve a double purpose-that of impressing the pagan with a sense of the omnipotence of God, while at the same time it would teach an important lesson in religion to the young and rising Israelites in later ages; and it became the first sanctuary in Canaan (Joshua 4:15), the earliest station of the tabernacle (Joshua 18:1).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-4.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.
3,8
Reciprocal: Genesis 31:46 - Gather;  Exodus 24:4 - according;  Joshua 4:9 - and they are there;  Joshua 24:26 - set it;  Judges 3:19 - quarries;  1 Samuel 7:12 - took a stone;  1 Kings 18:31 - twelve stones;  Isaiah 19:20 - for a

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 4:20". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-4.html.