Joshua 4


וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר־תַּמּוּ כָל־הַגּוֹי לַעֲבוֹר אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁעַ לֵאמֹר׃

Josh. 4:1   And it was, as all of the nation were finished crossing the Jordan, that the Lord spoke to Joshua saying,

קְחוּ לָכֶם מִן־הָעָם שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר אֲנָשִׁים אִישׁ־אֶחָד אִישׁ־אֶחָד מִשָּׁבֶט׃

Josh. 4:2   “Take for yourselves twelve men from the people, one man, one man from a tribe,

וְצַוּוּ אוֹתָם לֵאמֹר שְׂאוּ־לָכֶם מִזֶּה מִתּוֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּן מִמַּצַּב רַגְלֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים הָכִין שְׁתֵּים־עֶשְׂרֵה

אֲבָנִים וְהַעֲבַרְתֶּם אוֹתָם עִמָּכֶם וְהִנַּחְתֶּם אוֹתָם בַּמָּלוֹן אֲשֶׁר־תָּלִינוּ בוֹ הַלָּיְלָה׃

Josh. 4:3   and command them saying, ‘Bring forth for yourselves from here, from the midst of the Jordan, from the place the feet of the priests made ready, twelve stones and you will carry them over with you and set them down in the lodging place in which you tarry tonight.’”

וַיִּקְרָא יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶל־שְׁנֵים הֶעָשָׂר אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר הֵכִין מִבְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אִישׁ־אֶחָד אִישׁ־אֶחָד מִשָּׁבֶט׃

Josh. 4:4   Then Joshua called to the twelve men whom he had prepared from the children of Israel, one man, one man from a tribe.

וַיֹּאמֶר לָהֶם יְהוֹשֻׁעַ עִבְרוּ לִפְנֵי אֲרוֹן יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֶל־תּוֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּן וְהָרִימוּ לָכֶם אִישׁ אֶבֶן

אַחַת עַל־שִׁכְמוֹ לְמִסְפַּר שִׁבְטֵי בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל׃

Josh. 4:5   And Joshua said to them, “Pass before the ark of the Lord, your God, to the midst of the Jordan and take away for yourselves, each man one stone on his shoulder, for the number of tribes of the children of Israel,

לְמַעַן תִּהְיֶה זֹאת אוֹת בְּקִרְבְּכֶם כִּי־יִשְׁאָלוּן בְּנֵיכֶם מָחָר לֵאמֹר מָה הָאֲבָנִים הָאֵלֶּה לָכֶם׃

Josh. 4:6   so that this will be a sign in your midst.  When your children will ask in time to come saying, ‘What are these stones to you,’

וַאֲמַרְתֶּם לָהֶם אֲשֶׁר נִכְרְתוּ מֵימֵי הַיַּרְדֵּן מִפְּנֵי אֲרוֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָה בְּעָבְרוֹ בַּיַּרְדֵּן נִכְרְתוּ מֵי

הַיַּרְדֵּן וְהָיוּ הָאֲבָנִים הָאֵלֶּה לְזִכָּרוֹן לִבְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל עַד־עוֹלָם׃

Josh. 4:7   then you shall say to them, ‘Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off from before the ark of the covenant of the Lord.  In its crossing in the Jordan the waters of the Jordan were cut off, so these stones shall be for a memorial for the children of Israel for ever.’”

Another “everlasting” memorial lost to us.  However, I hold out the possibility that these stones may yet be found by archeologists.  Should that happen, the stones would likely be easy to identify.  Twelve rather large similar stones that would obviously have come from the bed of the Jordan, but now situated some distance away from it, should be a pretty obvious sign.

וַיַּעֲשׂוּ־כֵן בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵלכַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה יְהוֹשֻׁעַ וַיִּשְׂאוּ שְׁתֵּי־עֶשְׂרֵה אֲבָנִים מִתּוֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּן כַּאֲשֶׁר

דִּבֶּר יְהוָה אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁעַ לְמִסְפַּר שִׁבְטֵי בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיַּעֲבִרוּם עִמָּם אֶל־הַמָּלוֹן וַיַּנִּחוּם שָׁם׃

Josh. 4:8   And so the children of Israel did as Joshua had commanded, and took twelve stones from the midst of the Jordan, as the Lord spoke to Joshua, for the number of tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them with them to the lodging place and set them down there.

וּשְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה אֲבָנִים הֵקִים יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בְּתוֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּן תַּחַת מַצַּב רַגְלֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים נֹשְׂאֵי אֲרוֹן הַבְּרִית

וַיִּהְיוּ שָׁם עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה׃

Josh. 4:9   And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan in the place that was the place of the feet of the priestly bearers of the ark of the covenant, and they have been there until this day.

The phrase “until this day” is another indication of the later writing of at least this chapter.  We have been told that the Jordan often overflowed during harvest time (Josh. 3:15), but did it ever dry up or become shallow enough to wade?  How would the scribe know that the stones were still there?  Perhaps he is telling us that no one had moved them, so they must still remain where Joshua set them.

וְהַכֹּהֲנִים נֹשְׂאֵי הָאָרוֹן עֹמְדִים בְּתוֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּן עַד תֹּם כָּל־הַדָּבָר אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּה יְהוָה אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁעַ

לְדַבֵּר אֶל־הָעָם כְּכֹל אֲשֶׁר־צִוָּה מֹשֶׁה אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁעַ וַיְמַהֲרוּ הָעָם וַיַּעֲבֹרוּ׃

Josh. 4:10   And the priestly bearers of the ark were standing in the midst of the Jordan until every thing that the Lord had commanded Joshua to speak to the people was finished according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua, and the people hurried and crossed over.

וַיְהִי כַּאֲשֶׁר־תַּם כָּל־הָעָם לַעֲבוֹר וַיַּעֲבֹר אֲרוֹן־יְהוָה וְהַכֹּהֲנִים לִפְנֵי הָעָם׃

Josh. 4:11   And it happened, as all the people finished crossing, that the ark of the Lord passed on, and the priests, before the people.

Picture this.  All the children of Israel, some hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children, and all their cattle, crossed on dry land.  Now in Josh. 3:4, they were told to stay a distance of 2,000 cubits from the ark.  That’s about 3,500 feet, more than half a mile.  Did they observe this restriction while crossing?  Was the length of the dry land that great?  Or was the restriction suspended for the crossing?  I suggest that it was suspended temporarily.  Then after the crossing, the priests carrying the ark had to pass before the crowd so they could lead the way again.

וַיַּעַבְרוּ בְּנֵי־רְאוּבֵן וּבְנֵי־גָד וַחֲצִי שֵׁבֶט הַמְנַשֶּׁה חֲמֻשִׁים לִפְנֵי בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶם


Josh. 4:12   Then the armed sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh passed on before the children of Israel, as Moses has spoken to them.

כְּאַרְבָּעִים אֶלֶף חֲלוּצֵי הַצָּבָא עָבְרוּ לִפְנֵי יְהוָה לַמִּלְחָמָה אֶל עַרְבוֹת יְרִיחוֹ׃

Josh. 4:13   About forty thousand armed men of war passed on before the Lord to battle, to the plains of Jericho.

בַּיּוֹם הַהוּא גִּדַּל יְהוָה אֶת־יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בְּעֵינֵי כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּרְאוּ אֹתוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר יָרְאוּ אֶת־מֹשֶׁה

כָּל־יְמֵי חַיָּיו׃

Josh. 4:14   On that day the Lord had magnified Joshua in the eyes of all Israel and they feared him as they had feared Moses all the days of his life.

Maybe this is not the same scribe who recorded Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.  Why would he believe that Israel feared Moses?  The people often rejected his commands and defied the Lord, as we have seen.

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁעַ לֵאמֹר׃

Josh. 4:15   And the Lord spoke to Joshua saying,

צַוֵּה אֶת־הַכֹּהֲנִים נֹשְׂאֵי אֲרוֹן הָעֵדוּת וְיַעֲלוּ מִן־הַיַּרְדֵּן׃

Josh. 4:16   “Command the priestly bearers of the ark of the testimony and they will come up from the Jordan.”

וַיְצַו יְהוֹשֻׁעַ אֶת־הַכֹּהֲנִים לֵאמֹר עֲלוּ מִן־הַיַּרְדֵּן׃

Josh. 4:17   So Joshua commanded the priests saying, “Come up from the Jordan.”

וַיְהִי בעלות כַּעֲלוֹת הַכֹּהֲנִים נֹשְׂאֵי אֲרוֹן בְּרִיתיְהוָה, מִתּוֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּן, נִתְּקוּ כַּפּוֹת רַגְלֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים

אֶל הֶחָרָבָה וַיָּשֻׁבוּ מֵיהַיַּרְדֵּן לִמְקוֹמָם, וַיֵּלְכוּ כִתְמוֹלשִׁלְשׁוֹם עַלכָּלגְּדוֹתָיו

Josh. 4:18   And it happened in the coming up of the priestly bearers of the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the midst of the Jordan, the soles of the feet of the priests were withdrawn to the dry land, then the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went like they were before over all its banks.

וְהָעָם עָלוּ מִן־הַיַּרְדֵּן בֶּעָשׂוֹר לַחֹדֶשׁ הָרִאשׁוֹן וַיַּחֲנוּ בַּגִּלְגָּל בִּקְצֵה מִזְרַח יְרִיחוֹ׃

Josh. 4:19   And the people came up from the Jordan on the tenth of the first month and camped in Gilgal on the east side of Jericho.

The tenth day of the first month is four days before Passover.

וְאֵת שְׁתֵּים עֶשְׂרֵה הָאֲבָנִים הָאֵלֶּה אֲשֶׁר לָקְחוּ מִן־הַיַּרְדֵּן הֵקִים יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בַּגִּלְגָּל׃

Josh. 4:20   And Joshua set up those twelve stones that they took from the Jordan in Gilgal.

וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁאָלוּן בְּנֵיכֶם מָחָר אֶת־אֲבוֹתָם לֵאמֹר מָה הָאֲבָנִים


Josh. 4:21   And he spoke to the children of Israel saying, “When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come saying, ‘What are these stones,’

וְהוֹדַעְתֶּם אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶם לֵאמֹר בַּיַּבָּשָׁה עָבַר יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה׃

Josh. 4:22   then you shall answer your children saying, ‘Israel crossed this Jordan on dry land.’”

In the preceding verse (4:21), Joshua says “When your children shall ask their fathers ....”  In saying this, was Joshua talking to the people or was he addressing future generations?  I imagine that if he were talking to the people, he would have instead said, “When your children ask you ....”  After all, the fathers and potential fathers were standing there before him as he spoke.  So I believe he was addressing future generations.

אֲשֶׁר־הוֹבִישׁ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֶת־מֵי הַיַּרְדֵּן מִפְּנֵיכֶם עַד־עָבְרְכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

לְיַם־סוּף אֲשֶׁר־הוֹבִישׁ מִפָּנֵינוּ עַד־עָבְרֵנוּ׃

Josh. 4:23   “That the Lord, your God, dried up the waters of the Jordan from before you until you crossed over, as the Lord, your God, did to the Reed Sea, which He dried up from before us until our crossing over,

לְמַעַן דַּעַת כָּל־עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ אֶת־יַד יְהוָה כִּי חֲזָקָה הִיא לְמַעַן יְרָאתֶם אֶת־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם


Josh. 4:24   in order that all the peoples of the earth acknowledge the ‘hand’ of the Lord, that it is mighty, in order that you revere the Lord, your God, all the time.”


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