Joshua 4



1 And it was, as all the nation had finished crossing·​·over the Jordan, that Jehovah said to Joshua, saying,

2 Take for yourselves twelve men out·​·of the people; one man, one man from each tribe,

3 and command ye them, saying, Lift·​·up for yourselves from this place, from the midst of the Jordan, from the place which the feet of the priests stood·​·over, twelve stones prepared, and you shall cause them to cross·​·over with you, and place them in the lodging·​·place in which you shall lodge* tonight.

4 And Joshua called to the twelve men whom he had prepared from the sons of Israel; one man, one man from each tribe.

5 And Joshua said to them, Cross· ye ·over before the ark of Jehovah your God, to the midst of the Jordan, and lift·​·up for yourselves each man one stone on his shoulder, according·​·to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel,

6 so·​·that this may be a sign among you, when your sons shall ask tomorrow, saying, What are these stones to you?

7 And you shall say to them, Because the waters of the Jordan were cut·​·off from before the ark of the covenant of Jehovah; when it crossed·​·over into the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut·​·off; and these stones shall be for a memorial to the sons of Israel even·​·to eternity.

8 And the sons of Israel did so as Joshua had commanded, and they took·​·up twelve stones out·​·of the midst of the Jordan, as Jehovah had spoken to Joshua, according·​·to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel; and they brought· them ·across with them to their place·​·to·​·pass·​·the·​·night, and placed them there.

9 And Joshua raised·​·up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, beneath the place which the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood·​·over; and they are there even·​·to this day.

10 And the priests that bore the ark stood in the midst of the Jordan, until every word was finished that Jehovah commanded Joshua to speak to the people, according·​·to all that Moses commanded Joshua; and the people hastened and crossed·​·over.

11 And it was, when all the people had finished crossing, that the ark of Jehovah and the priests crossed·​·over in the presence* of the people.

12 And the sons of Reuben, and the sons of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh crossed·​·over girded·​·to·​·the·​·fifth* before the sons of Israel, as Moses had spoken to them.

13 About forty thousand armed for the army crossed·​·over before Jehovah to battle, to the plains of Jericho.

14 On that day Jehovah magnified Joshua in the eyes of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.

15 And Jehovah said to Joshua, saying,

16 Command the priests who bear the ark of the testimony, and they shall come·​·up out·​·of the Jordan.

17 And Joshua commanded the priests, saying, Come· ye ·up out·​·of the Jordan.

18 And it was, when the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of Jehovah had come·​·up out·​·of the midst of the Jordan, and the soles of the feet of the priests had been pulled·​·out onto the dry ground, that the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as from yesterday and the day before*.

19 And the people went·​·up from the Jordan, on the tenth of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, on the edge of Jericho toward the sunrise.

20 And those twelve stones, which they took out·​·of the Jordan, Joshua raised·​·up in Gilgal.

21 And he said to the sons of Israel, saying, When your sons shall ask their fathers tomorrow, saying, What are these stones?

22 Then you shall let your sons know, saying, On dry land Israel crossed·​·over this Jordan.

23 As Jehovah your God dried·​·up the waters of the Jordan from before you until you had crossed·​·over, as Jehovah your God did to the Suph Sea*, which He dried·​·up from before us until we had crossed·​·over,

24 so·​·that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of Jehovah, that it is firm, so·​·that you may fear Jehovah your God all the days.


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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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.