[Yehoshua 4 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]
1 And it came to pass, when all the people [Kol HaGoy] were clean passed over Jordan [the Yarden], that Yahweh spake unto Joshua [Yehoshua], saying,
2 Take you twelve men [Shneym Asar Anashim] out of the people [HaAm], out of every tribe a man [ Shevet an ish], (cp. 3:12)
3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan [the Yarden], out of the place where the priests' feet [feet of the Kohanim] stood firm, twelve stones [avanim], and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place [malon], where ye shall lodge this night [ halailah].
What may appear to have been a rather puzzling and pointless exercise was shown to have profound significance. This place was still well known in the days of John the Baptist. John baptised at a place called Bethabara (John 1:28) which means "the house of passage" according to some authorities. However, Beth signifies "house" and bara means "create". The name can therefore be understood as meaning "the house of the (new) creation.
The fact that John baptised at this very place provides an undeniable link between the crossing of Jordan in the days of Joshua and the preparation of the Jewish people to receive Christ.
The Hebrew word rendered "stones" has been used in numerous passages as a symbol for Christ (see Gen. 49:24; Ps. 118:22; Isa. 28:16. The equivalent Chaldean word occurs in Dan. 2:34, 35, 45). Twelve stones obviously represented the tribes of Israel, though a deeper import will be appreciated when it is understood that "twelve" is the Biblical number to represent perfect government.
The number must therefore be associated with the perfected spiritual Israel who will rule the earth with Christ (Gen. 17:20; 25:16; Num. 1:44; 1 Kings 10:18-20; 18:30-39; Matt. 19:28; Rev. 21:14; etc.). Peter described true Believers as "living stones" (1 Pet. 2:5, lit.Gk.).
John the Baptist emphasised the deeper significance of what had been done at this place in the days of Joshua. Baptising at "the house of the (new) creation", he addressed the ungodly with righteous indignation:
"O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" And he added: "God is able, of these stones, to raise up children unto Abraham!" (Lk. 3:3, 7, 8).
In that particular place, the "stones" could only be those which Israel had taken from the Jordan in the days of Joshua. John was stating that his contemporaries who refused to submit to God's truth vainly trusted in their fleshly descent from Abraham. They were not spiritual Israelites (cp.Rom. 2:29). John pointed to the stones because they typified the perfected Israel, to be manifested at the Lord's second advent. Washed, shaped and smoothed by the waters of Jordan, these twelve stones aptly symbolised the perfected saints who will live and reign with Christ. *
4 Then Joshua [Yehoshua] called the twelve men [Shneym Asar Ish], whom he had prepared of the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], out of every tribe a man [Ish]:
With Characteristic spirituality Joshua would have explained to the men concerning the significance of their action on this occasion. He would have "set them up" or "raised them up" in a spiritual sense. Joshua was not merely a leader and a military commander, he was a true shepherd of Yahweh's flock. *
5 And Joshua [Yehoshua] said unto them, Pass over before the ark [Aron] of Yahweh your Elohim into the midst of Jordan [the Yarden], and take you up every man [ish] of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel [Shivtei Bnei Yisroel]:
6 That this may be a sign [ot] among you, that when your children [banim] ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones [ avanim]?
7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan [the Yarden] were cut off before the ark of the covenant [Aron Brit] of Yahweh; when it passed over Jordan [the Yarden], the waters of Jordan [the Yarden] were cut off: and these stones [avanim] shall be for a memorial [zikaron] unto the children of Israel for ever [Bnei Yisroel ad olam].
He was also aware of the need to carefully instruct the generations which were to follow. "That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? Then ye shall answer them. . ."
Among the people of Yahweh, parents must be ever-aware of their responsibility to know and understand the Truth themselves, and to lovingly educate their children accordingly (see Deut. 4:9; 6:4-7; Ex. 12:25-27; 13:14; etc.). It is necessary to preserve a "godly seed" from generation to generation (Mai. 2:15). It is therefore obligatory for parents to be sound in their own knowledge of the Truth, and their way of life.
Upon such a sound basis they will implant a similar spirit of zeal and dedication within their children. Where this is not done the Truth will fail to continue in a family from generation to generation. Curiosity and an eagerness to learn are precious faculties in children if directed into the right paths.
Parents cannot be too generous towards their children in regard to these matters. It is necessary to manifest a loving sympathy for the spiritual needs of one's children, and to evoke a warm response from them, thus drawing parents and children together in a mutual reverence for the word of God (cp. Lk. 2:46-47 with Eccles. 12:13).
In this respect, as in others, it is evident that Joshua was imitating the excellent example of his mentor, Moses. "These stones shall be a memorial unto the children of Israel forever", Joshua told them. *
8 And the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel] did so as Joshua [Yehoshua] commanded, and took up twelve stones [Shtei Esreh Avanim] out of the midst of Jordan [the Yarden], as Yahweh spake unto Joshua [Yehoshua], according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel [ Shivtei Bnei Yisroel], and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged [malon], and laid them down there.
9 And Joshua [Yehoshua] set up twelve stones [Shteym Esreh Avanim] in the midst of Jordan [the Yarden], in the place where the feet of the priests [Kohanim] which bare the ark of the covenant [Aron HaBri] stood: and they are there unto this day.
But the exercise had not been completed. These were twelve "other stones" (LXX., Vulg.). They were taken from the bank of the river, rough and unshaped. Beneath the torrent
of water they would be hidden from view. But the living water, descending from the north, would continue to act upon them: washing, smoothing, cleansing.
The lesson appears evident: The twelve washed and smooth stones at Gilgal would be a continual reminder that Yahweh would produce a perfected spiritual Israel as manifestations of Himself, to rule the earth. The twelve stones beneath the water would symbolically demonstrate that the developing of spiritual Israelites was a continuing process unperceived by the eye of flesh.
"The things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. . ." (2 Cor. 4:18). *
10 For the priests [Kohanim] which bare the ark stood [Aron] in the midst of Jordan [the Yarden], until everything was finished that Yahweh commanded Joshua [Yehoshua] to speak unto the people [ HaAm], according to all that Moses [Moshe] commanded Joshua [Yehoshua]: and the people [ HaAm] hasted and passed over.
It would have taken considerable time and organisation to implement such an operation, hence the need for swift, prompt action. The entire nation was to be transported
across Jordan in one day. There was no time to lose. Similarly, when given the opportunity to overcome obstacles standing in the way of eternal inheritance, men and women should be positive, and not indecisive.
With an understanding of the Truth laid before them, they should go forward, unhesitatingly and wholeheartedly. *
11 And it came to pass, when all the people [ Kol HaAm] were clean passed over, that the ark [Aron] of Yahweh passed over, and the priests, in the presence of the people [Kohanim, ahead of HaAm].
This statement stresses an important principle. Borne by the priests, the ark was first into the waters of Jordan, but was also last in completing the crossing. The people had earlier been told that "Yahweh thy God is He which goeth over before thee. . ." (Deut. 9:3). This was typical of Christ, who, as the "forerunner", has entered into his inheritance first, providing the
means whereby others might follow him (Heb. 6:20).
The same idea was expressed by Isaiah, and then conveyed through into the Apocalypse. "I, the first one, and the last one" wrote the prophet, of the One Eternal Spirit (44:6, lit. Heb.). In endorsing Isaiah's concept that Yahweh is both first and last, the beginning and the ending
of the divine purpose for the Ages, Christ told John: "I am the first and the last. . ." (Rev. 1:17)-thus showing that the Lord Jesus Christ is the means by which Yahweh will bring His purpose to fulfilment.
The Deity must be first and last in bringing His purpose to fruition: "All the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh. . ." (Num. 14:21).
But what of the multitude of Israelites who passed over Jordan?
They typify those who will attain unto eternal redemption. Isaiah spoke of the One Eternal Spirit becoming manifested in a multitude: "I who will be the first one and the last ones. . . " (41:4,lit. Heb.). This prospect was also endorsed by the Lord Jesus:
"That they (the redeemed) all may be one, as Thou, Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in us. . ." (John 17:21). *
12 And the children of Reuben [Bnei Reuven], and the children of Gad [Bnei Gad], and half the tribe of Manasseh [Menasheh], passed [crossed] over armed before the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], as Moses [Moshe] spake unto them:
Fulfilling the obligation to which they had committed themselves earlier, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh passed over first. The A.V. states that they were "armed". The word literally means "by fives". There was no disorganised scramble to cross Jordan.
The men were organised and marshalled in an orderly fashion. Although having been granted their inheritance on the east of Jordan, these tribes, as the first to cross, would understand that they would be the first Israelites to meet any opposition which might face them on the western side.
The men of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to cross, in faith, believing that Yahweh would
deliver "all the land" into their hands (2:24; cp. Ex. 13:18, marg.; Num. 32:1-33; Josh. 1:12-15).
Thus these tribes, without qualm or fear, passed over "in front of the Israelites" (v.12, J.B.). *
13 About 40 000 prepared for war passed [crossed] over before Yahweh unto battle [for milchamah], to the plains of Jericho [Yericho].
The question of their numbers raises an important principle. Of these three tribes about 40 thousand made the crossing. However, Num. 26:7, 18, 34 records that their combined numbers were far in excess of this. About 70,000 from these tribes must have remained behind on the east, to guard and care for the women and children.
Is there an anomaly in this? Why has this detail been recorded? To remind Yahweh's servants that He can save "by many or by few". "One" may chase "a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight". God's faithful servants must endorse the proposition: "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (1 Sam. 14:6; Deut. 32:30;Rom. 8:31).
In the warfare of faith, mere numbers have no correlation with the question of victory. "Yahweh your God is He that goeth with you, to fight for you against your enemies. . ." (Deut. 20:4).
In this instance, 40,000 was a suitable number to meet God's requirements. Those who led the way, however, were to make themselves ready. They were "prepared" for war - a word which literally means "to pull off, or to strip". It was necessary that they should go forward,
not only prepared to fight should the necessity arise, but also unencumbered with any paraphernalia which might impede their progress.
The spiritual lessons are readily discernible. "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us."(Heb. 12:1). Paul set forth his own example, exhibiting the need for eager dedication and spiritual fleetness of foot, in the struggle toward the kingdom: "All I can say is that I forget the past, and I strain ahead for what is still to come. I am racing for the finish, for the prize to which God calls us. . ." (Phil.3:14, J.B.).
And again, Paul's wise counsel: "Fight the good fight of the faith, and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses. . ." (1 Tim. 6:12, J.B.). When does a disciple of Christ "speak up for the truth"? When he makes his confession of the faith, and submits to the ordinance of baptism. From that time onward, he is totally and irrevocably committed to the warfare of faith. And nothing must hamper his progress.
Yahweh has provided the means whereby those who would serve Him may "pass over" into their inheritance. But any who would follow Christ must act. In this present dispensation, they must "go forward", "prepared", using only weapons which are not carnal (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
To become a skilful soldier a man requires seven basic qualities. He must be: Trained, Self-disciplined, Loyal, Courageous, Determined, Obedient, Enduring. These distinguishing characteristics apply equally to those who fight a spiritual warfare. A disciple of Christ is "trained" through his understanding of the word of God; he becomes "self-disciplined"
when he conditions himself to strictly conform to the training he has received; he will be "loyal" to his King if he learns to love and respect him, and will not betray his Master by turning aside to another; he will exercise "courage", not being readily diverted from those things his Lord requires of him, no matter how difficult the way may be at times; he will exercise "determination" in devoting himself to the cause of his King with single-minded dedication; putting aside all self-will and self-interest, he will be "obedient" to Christ's commandments; and he will patiently "endure" until the end, knowing that there is a glorious
reward for all who remain faithful without wavering.
The time came for the men of war to go forward. The "forty thousand prepared for war" crossed the river, ahead of their brethren who were to follow. They found themselves in "the plains of Jericho". They had arrived. In the land of promise. It is difficult to comprehend
the feelings of the people at that time. Nothing that Yahweh had promised had failed. Exhilarated and elated, the Israelites would have known the joy of becoming a part of the fulfilling purpose of Yahweh. *
14 On that day Yahweh magnified Joshua [Yehoshua] in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.
On that day Yahweh magnified Joshua. . .". As their divinely appointed leader, Joshua was vindicated by the events which occurred that day. Confidence in sound and able leadership is necessary if a body of people are to prosecute a war victoriously.
In Joshua, they had such leadership. So also with those who follow the Greater Joshua, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has proven himself a faithful and trustworthy leader, and demonstrated that Yahweh was with him. Christ may be followed with the utmost confidence.
15 And Yahweh spake unto Joshua [Yehoshua], saying,
16 Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.
Yahweh then commanded Joshua [Yehoshua] that the priests should come up from the bed of the Jordan, bearing "the ark of the testimony". This is the only place where this expression occurs in Joshua. The ark has also been termed "the ark of the covenant". The former expression emphasised God's faithfulness; the latter signified that Israel was joined to Yahweh upon the basis of a covenant (cp. Ex. 25:16, 21, 22).*
17 Joshua [Yehoshua] therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan.
18 And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of Yahweh were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests' feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan [the Yarden] returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before.
The priests came up on the western side. The earthquake recurred. The Jordan resumed its previous course, almost as though nothing had happened.
19 And the people came up out of Jordan [the Yarden] on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.
It was the tenth day of the first month, four days before the slaying of the Passover lamb (cp. 5:10). The month was Abib, later to become known as Nisan (Neh. 2:1). The time was March/April. If it were not for the Hand of Providence overseeing all the details of Israel's entrance into the land, it would seem an impossibility that events and dates occurred as they did.
On the same day as they crossed Jordan, the Israelites reached their camp and selected their Passover lambs. The timing was perfect - because the Hand guiding Israel's affairs was Providential.
Israel thus entered the Promised Land just four days short of exactly forty years from the night of their departure out of Egypt. The significance of this should be understood and appreciated. God's purpose unfolds exactly as He plans it. When it comes to the divine purpose, nothing is left to chance or caprice.
"In faith we perceive that the ages have been so thoroughly adjusted by God's command, that not from things then manifest the things now seen have come to pass..." (Heb. 11:3, Diag)·
This knowledge should generate a sensation of excitement among God's people: knowing of a
surety that the unfolding of history is in the Hand of Providence, and that all events are working - by divine design - towards the ultimate goal:
"All the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh. . ."
20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua [Yehoshua] pitch in Gilgal.
The people of Israel came that day to their first encampment on the west of Jordan. The place was named Gilgal, which means "rolling". At this place, Yahweh rolled away the reproach of Egypt from His people. The day was brought to completion with a further exhortation from Joshua.
Gilgal remained an important place to succeeding generations of Israelites, because of its association with the establishment of the kingdom. Some 300 years after this event, Saul delivered Jabesh-gilead out of the hands of the Ammonites. At that time Samuel told the people:
"Come, and let us go to Gilgal, and renew the kingdom there. . ." (1 Sam. 11:14).
Later, Gilgal was to become associated with the ultimate national tragedy.
Yahweh had "rolled" the reproach of Egypt from off His people; but later, with characteristic human perversity, they had persisted in rolling that reproach back upon themselves by defying the commandments and statutes of the Living God.
"Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal. 6:7).
The lessons of Jordan were to be learned. Jordan, as the "descender", provided an apt symbol for corruptible human nature: making its way inevitably, through Adam, from life to death.
For man, eternal destruction may be avoided only if the downward rush toward oblivion can be arrested. As at Jordan, only Yahweh has the power to save mankind. Through that which has been accomplished in His Son, the way has been opened for men and women to "cross over" from the ways of Adam to a new life in Christ.
In addition to the miraculous power of Yahweh, the object which dominated the events of that day was the ark. The main features of the ark, and their symbolic relevance, would have impressed discerning minds: The Mercy Seat taught the Israelites that Yahweh would provide atonement for sins, and reconciliation. The Cherubim symbolised Yahweh manifested in a glorified multitude.
21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?
The adults were to anticipate questions from their children, and be ready to answer correctly and wisely.
22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan [the Yarden] on dry land.
One of the grandest days of Israel's history drew to a close, with the people making camp at Gilgal. It had been a momentous day. Many lessons had been taught and there was much to be learned. Faithful men and women would ponder deeply the events of that day, that they
might develop toward a greater maturity in the Truth through a richer understanding of the God whom they worshipped.
23 For Yahweh your Elohim dried up the waters of Jordan [the Yarden] from before you, until ye were passed over, as Yahweh your Elohim did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:
24 That all the people of the earth might know the hand of Yahweh, that it is mighty: that ye might fear Yahweh your Elohim for ever.
The objective of disseminating knowledge upon these matters was not merely that the Israelites might maintain a comprehension of the divine purpose, but that
"all the people of the earth might know. . ."
How was that to be accomplished? Israel would have to publish abroad the attributes and aims of the God whom they worshipped.
"All Thy saints shall bless Thee. They shall speak of the glory of Thy kingdom, and talk of Thy power. To make known to the sons of men His mighty acts, and the glorious majesty of His kingdom. . ." (Ps. 145: 11-12).
Similarly, those who would follow Christ have the same duty. They are to be
"the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life. . ." (Phil. 2:15-16).
The day will dawn when the faithful testimony of Yahweh's servants down through the ages will be vindicated. "All the people of the earth" will "know" that "the hand of Yahweh is mighty".
"The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of Yahweh,
as the waters cover the sea" (Hab. 2:14).
** Bro John Ullman. Joshua - His life and Times