Joshua 4

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1 And it cometh to pass, when all the nation hath completed to pass over the Jordan, that Jehovah speaketh unto Joshua, saying,

2 `Take for you out of the people twelve men, one man -- one man out of a tribe;

3 and command ye them, saying, Take up for you from this [place], from the midst of the Jordan, from the established standing-place of the feet of the priests, twelve stones, and ye have removed them over with you, and placed them in the lodging-place in which ye lodge to-night.'

4 And Joshua calleth unto the twelve men whom he prepared out of the sons of Israel, one man -- one man out of a tribe;

5 and Joshua saith to them, `Pass over before the ark of Jehovah your God unto the midst of the Jordan and lift up for you each, one stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel,

6 so that this is a sign in your midst, when your children ask hereafter, saying, What [are] these stones to you?

7 that ye have said to them, Because the waters of the Jordan were cut off, at the presence of the ark of the covenant of Jehovah; in its passing over into the Jordan were the waters of the Jordan cut off; and these stones have been for a memorial to the sons of Israel -- to the age.'

8 And the sons of Israel do so as Joshua commanded, and take up twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordan, as Jehovah hath spoken unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel, and remove them over with them unto the lodging-place, and place them there,

9 even the twelve stones hath Joshua raised up out of the midst of the Jordan, the place of the standing of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant, and they are there unto this day.

10 And the priests bearing the ark are standing in the midst of the Jordan till the completion of the whole thing which Jehovah commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua, and the people haste and pass over.

11 And it cometh to pass when all the people have completed to pass over, that the ark of Jehovah passeth over, and the priests, in the presence of the people;

12 and the sons of Reuben, and the sons of Gad, and the half of the tribe of Manasseh, pass over, by fifties, before the sons of Israel, as Moses had spoken unto them;

13 about forty thousand, armed ones of the host, passed over before Jehovah for battle, unto the plains of Jericho.

14 On that day hath Jehovah made Joshua great in the eyes of all Israel, and they reverence him, as they reverenced Moses, all days of his life.

15 And Jehovah speaketh unto Joshua, saying,

16 `Command the priests bearing the ark of the testimony, and they come up out of the Jordan.'

17 And Joshua commandeth the priests, saying, `Come ye up out of the Jordan.'

18 And it cometh to pass, in the coming up of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of Jehovah out of the midst of the Jordan -- the soles of the feet of the priests have been drawn up into the dry ground -- and the waters of the Jordan turn back to their place, and go as heretofore over all its banks.

19 And the people have come up out of the Jordan on the tenth of the first month, and encamp in Gilgal, in the extremity east of Jericho;

20 and these twelve stones, which they have taken out of the Jordan, hath Joshua raised up in Gilgal.

21 And he speaketh unto the sons of Israel, saying, `When your sons ask their fathers hereafter, saying, What [are] these stones?

22 then ye have caused your sons to know, saying, On dry land Israel passed over this Jordan;

23 because Jehovah your God dried up the waters of the Jordan at your presence, till your passing over, as Jehovah your God did to the Red Sea which He dried up at our presence till our passing over;

24 so that all the people of the land do know the hand of Jehovah that it [is] strong, so that ye have reverenced 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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