King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Joshua 4

Stones taken out of Jordan. (1-9) The people pass through Jordan. (10-19) The twelve stones placed in Gilgal. (20-24)

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Stones taken out of Jordan

1 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over Jordan, that the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,

2 Take you twelve men out of the people, out of every tribe a man,

3 And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.

4 Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man:

5 And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of Jordan, and take you up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel:

6 That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones?

7 Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever.

8 And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the LORD spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there.

9 And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day.

The people pass through Jordan

10 For the priests which bare the ark stood in the midst of Jordan, until everything was finished that the LORD commanded Joshua to speak unto the people, according to all that Moses commanded Joshua: and the people hasted and passed over.

11 And it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over, that the ark of the LORD passed over, and the priests, in the presence of the people.

12 And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, passed over armed before the children of Israel, as Moses spake unto them:

13 About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the LORD unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.

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

15 And the LORD spake unto Joshua, saying,

16 Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.

17 Joshua therefore commanded the priests, saying, Come ye up out of Jordan.

18 And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before.

19 And the people came up out of Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, in the east border of Jericho.

The twelve stones placed in Gilgal

20 And those twelve stones, which they took out of Jordan, did Joshua pitch in Gilgal.

21 And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?

22 Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.

23 For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye were passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red sea, which he dried up from before us, until we were gone over:

24 That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver 1. Over. Heb. and Sept. “clean, or entirely;” perhaps two million people, with all their possessions, had crossed the river on that day, the 10th of Nisan, leaving many of their brethren to cultivate and defend the eastern parts of the Jordan. H.

Ver. 2. Choose. Heb. “take,” as C. iii. 12. Those twelve men were ordered to attend the ark, and to observe the miracle with care: these are chosen to carry the stones for the monuments. Salien. — Calmet supposes that they are the same people, and that the former verse might be translated, “the Lord had said.” But this does not agree with the context. Heb. “and it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over the Jordan, that the Lord spake.” The former injunction was given before they entered the river. Heb. “the ark passeth…Now therefore take,” &c. H. — One was selected from the tribe of Levi, and one from that of Joseph, so that all the twelve tribes were represented. M.

Ver. 3. Hard. The Heb. term is referred by some to the priests, “from the station of the priests, prepared, or standing firm,” (C. iii. 17,) by others to the stones, which were to be prepared, hard, or exactly twelve. C. — The Sept. have take it in the latter sense, “twelve stones ready,” or such as they might easily find, in the place where the priests had stood. They were of a flinty nature, (H.) that they might perpetuate the memory of this event. M.

Ver. 5. Of Israel, who had twelve sons. The same expression occurs Deut. xxxii. 8, and must be explained of the immediate sons of Jacob, without including those grandchildren who might be born before his death. H.

Ver. 9. Day. Some hence infer that Josue did not write this book. But surely if he wrote it towards the end of his life, he might well use this expression, (M.) as S. Matthew does to denote a shorter term. The twelve stones at Galgal, and in the bed of the Jordan, at Bethabara, (H.) were probably each placed apart. See Ex. xxiv. 4. M. — They were still to be seen in the days of S. Jerom. Such monuments were formerly very common, and very useful, to make a lasting impression upon the minds of a gross people. See Gen. xxviii. 18. Lev. xxvi. 1.

Ver. 10. To him. Moses had been dead forty days. But it seems this miraculous division of the Jordan had been revealed to him, and he had cautioned Josue to let slip no opportunity of attaching the people to God’s service, by erecting monuments of religion, as he did on this occasion. C. — Haste. Though they were assured by the divine promise, they experienced a certain fear. Salien. — Even the most constant are liable to such impressions. Mat. xiv. 30.

Ver. 11. People, who passed over 2000 cubits lower down, and always kept the same distance, till they arrived at Galgal. C.

Ver. 12. Them. C. i. 14. Num. xxxii. 28. Forty thousand were only chosen. H.

Ver. 13. Bands. Heb. “prepared for war passed over, before the Lord, unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.” H. — These formed the van-guard. — Plains. Hebrew harboth, which is translated desert. Jer. lii. 8. A large plain, fit for pasturage, extended from the city to the Jordan, on the east side. C.

Ver. 14. In, &c. Josue recapitulates how this miracle established his authority, and how he was ordered to command the priests to come up from the midst of the Jordan, after the people had all got to the other side, and the stones were fixed, to denote where the ark had stood, like a wall, to hinder the waters from rushing down. H.

Ver. 19. Month of the ecclesiastical year. They had left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan, so that they had spent forty years, within five days, on their journey. C.

Ver. 20. Galgal. It received its name afterwards, C. v. 9. It lay in a direct line from Jericho to the Jordan eastwards, being ten stadia from the former, and fifty from the latter place. Josue had his camp here while he subdued the kings of Chanaan, (C.) as it had plenty of water and wood in its environs; (M.) though perhaps at this time, there were no houses. Saul was here recognized king of all Israel, 1 K. xi. 14. Tertullian (c. Marc. iv.) supposes that the twelve stones were placed on the ark, in arcam, which is not at all probable. C. — But they might be erected in its vicinity, and that may perhaps be the meaning of the author. H. — R. Levi says the stones were placed near the ark, that all Israel might see them thrice a year. Josephus believes that an altar was formed of them.

Ver. 25. Earth, particularly of Chanaan. This miracle tends to inspire the enemy with fear and consternation, and to confirm the faith and hope of the Israelites. The obstinacy of the former was thus rendered more inexcusable. C.