Joshua 4

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1 And when they were passed over, the Lord said to Josue:

2 Choose twelve men, one of every tribe:

3 And command them to take out of the midst of the Jordan, where the feet of the priests stood, twelve very hard stones, which you shall set in the place of the camp, where you shall pitch your tents this night.

4 And Josue called twelve men, whom he had chosen out of the children of Israel, one out of every tribe,

5 And he said to them: Go before the ark of the Lord your God to the midst of the Jordan, and carry from thence every man a stone on your shoulders, according to the number of the children of Israel,

6 That it may be a sign among you end when your children shall ask you to morrow, saying: What mean these stones?

7 You shall answer them: The waters of the Jordan ran off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, when it passed over the same: therefore were these atones set for a monument of the children of Israel for ever.

8 The children of Israel therefore did as Josue commanded them, carrying out of the channel of the Jordan twelve stones, as the Lord had commanded him, according to the number of the children of Israel, unto the place wherein they camped, and there they set them.

9 And Josue put other twelve stones in the midst of the channel of the Jordan, where the priests stood that carried the ark of the covenant: and they are there until this present day.

10 Now the priests that carried the ark, stood in the midst of the Jordan till all things were accomplished which the Lord had commanded Josue to speak to the people, and Moses had said to him. And the people made haste and passed over.

11 And when they had all passed over, the ark also of the Lord passed over, and the priests went before the people.

12 The children of Ruben also and Gad, and half the tribe of Manasses, went armed before the children of Israel as Moses had commanded them.

13 And forty thousand fighting men by their troops, and bands, marched through the plains and fields of the city of Jericho.

14 In that day the Lord magnified Josue in the sight of all Israel, that they should fear him, as they had feared Moses, while he lived.

15 And he said to him:

16 Command the priests, that carry the ark of the covenant, to come up out of the Jordan.

17 And he commanded them, saying: Come ye up out of the Jordan.

18 And when they that carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, were come up, and began to tread on the dry ground, the waters returned into the channel, and ran as they were wont before.

19 And the people came up out of the Jordan, the tenth day of the first month, and camped in Galgal, over against the east side of the city of Jericho.

20 And the twelve stones which they had taken out of the channel of the Jordan, Josue pitched in Galgal,

21 And said to the children of Israel: When your children shall ask their fathers, to morrow, and shall say to them: What mean these stones?

22 You shall teach them and say: Israel passed over this Jordan through the dry channel.

23 The Lord your God drying up the waters thereof in your sight, until you passed over:

24 As he had done before in the Red Sea, which he dried up till we passed through :

25 That all the people of the earth may learn the most mighty hand of the Lord, that you also may fear the Lord your God for ever.

  

Exploring the Meaning of Joshua 4      

Napsal(a) New Christian Bible Study Staff and Rev. Julian Duckworth

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[14]). 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!

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