Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth and New Christian Bible Study Staff
Joshua 4: Twelve stones are taken from the river Jordan
In this chapter we pick up on the command to take twelve men, one from each tribe, which was mentioned in chapter 3. The task is for each man to pick up a large stone from where the priests’ feet stand, and take it across, and put it in the lodging place. These stones will be as memorial stones so that later generations who ask what these stones mean will be told about the miracle of the Lord in the crossing of the river Jordan.
Later, the Israelites camped at Gilgal and Joshua set the twelve stones up as a permanent memorial.
A ‘stone’ is a piece of hard rock. It corresponds to a truth; for us it stands for a truth which we have made ours and which guides us in our life (Apocalypse Revealed 231). It might be the truth that the Lord’s providence is involved in everything that happens. It could be the great truth that we will live for ever, or that God came on earth as a human being and overcame the power of hell. These and other truths are rock hard truths or stones.
But here, it is a stone which has been washed and worked on by the waters of the river Jordan, and over much time has become fashioned and rounded by erosion. So, it could be a life-truth, for example that we are to show respect to other people. That’s a great truth, but now it is connected with our understanding of the Lord. So we are to show respect to other people because each and every person has been created by God for a unique purpose. And we can also add that we know how it feels when other people respect us.
So we assemble our twelve memorial stones. These are to be recalled, remembered, revisited by us again and again as time passes. “Yes, God brought me here from where I was before.” (Arcana Caelestia 1988). This meaning of the stones helps us with the apparent contradiction in the chapter between Joshua 4:9 where “the stones are set up in the Jordan and are there to this day” and verse Joshua 4:20 where “Joshua sets up the twelves stones from out of the Jordan, in Gilgal.” Stones can’t be in two places at once, but yes, spiritually they can and need to be.
We need to always remember and be mindful of how the Lord works with us in giving us truths for our life. Everything is the Lord! These are stones in the Jordan. Yet we need to always remember that we are to live, act, and turn away from any evil as if it is only us making that decision and doing it. These are the stones set up at Gilgal (Apocalypse Explained 700). Both of them are involved in our regeneration and spiritual life.
Then we are told that the men of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh went across the Jordan armed and went before all the other tribes. This links with several other mentions of these tribes who had chosen to live back over the Jordan and not in the land of Canaan. They stand for our outward life and our life in the world which, while it is not directly spiritual, must have qualities that come from God’s truths. Here, those qualities come from being willing to go in and fight to help take the land (Arcana Caelestia 2184).
Verse 13 says that about 40,000 prepared for war and crossed the river Jordan before the Lord for battle. Here is a number. Numbers in the Word are helpful clues to the inner meaning. The number 40 always stands for some kind of temptation or crisis in the Word – for example, Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days and 40 nights, tempted. Here, 40 has grown to become 40,000 but it has the same meaning of temptation (Arcana Caelestia 2273). Our spiritual life and regeneration will certainly take us into various temptations (‘battles’) and the Lord allows them so that we grow stronger through them. The whole conquest of Canaan is nothing else!