Bible Commentary: Joshua 4:1-5:1

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Joshua 4:1-5:1

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Stones for a Memorial 

Before the priests exited the riverbed, God had Joshua send the 12 men he had chosen (Joshua 3:12 Joshua 3:12Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.
American King James Version×
) over to the area around the ark to collect one large stone per man (Joshua 4:5 Joshua 4:5And Joshua said to them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the middle of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:
American King James Version×
). They also set up 12 stones in the midst of the river, probably as a visible disturbance of the current, if not actually extending above the surface, to commemorate the spot where the priests stood (verse 9).

The stones removed from the Jordan were taken to Gilgal, where they made camp (verses 19-20). Gilgal is about five miles from the river, but only about one mile from Jericho. The stones were to serve as a reminder of the miracle God performed that day (verses 21-24). Such monuments were often set up as “witnesses” of events (Genesis 31:45-52 Genesis 31:45-52 [45] And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. [46] And Jacob said to his brothers, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there on the heap. [47] And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed. [48] And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and you this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed; [49] And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and you, when we are absent one from another. [50] If you shall afflict my daughters, or if you shall take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness between me and you. [51] And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast between me and you: [52] This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and that you shall not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.
American King James Version×
; Joshua 22:26-28 Joshua 22:26-28 [26] Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice: [27] But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, You have no part in the LORD. [28] Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.
American King James Version×
; Joshua 24:26-27 Joshua 24:26-27 [26] And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. [27] And Joshua said to all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us; for it has heard all the words of the LORD which he spoke to us: it shall be therefore a witness to you, lest you deny your God.
American King James Version×
).

News of this great miracle quickly spread throughout the land, the inhabitants of which were gripped with terror. Indeed, imagine how the people of Jericho felt, with the Israelites camped only a mile away.

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