And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan - It seems from this chapter that there were two sets of stones erected as a memorial of this great event; twelve at Gilgal, Joshua 4:20; and twelve in the bed of Jordan, Joshua 4:9. The twelve stones in the bed of Jordan might have been so placed on a base of strong stone-work so high as always to be visible, and serve to mark the very spot where the priests stood with the ark. The twelve stones set up at Gilgal would stand as a monument of the place of the first encampment after this miraculous passage. Though this appears to me to be the meaning of this place, yet Dr. Kennicott's criticism here should not be passed by. "It is well known," says he, "that when Joshua led the Israelites over Jordan, he was commanded to take twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, to be a memorial that the ground in the very midst of that river had been made dry. But where was this memorial to be set up? The ninth verse says; Joshua set up these stones In the midst of Jordan. But is it likely that the stones should be placed or set down where they were taken up; and that the memorial should be erected there where, when the river was again united, it would be concealed, and of course could be no memorial at all? This however flatly contradicts the rest of the chapter, which says these stones were pitched in Gilgal, where Israel lodged in Canaan for the first time. The solution of this difficulty is, that בתוך bethoch In the midst, should be here מתוך mittoch, From the midst, as in Joshua 4:3, Joshua 4:8, Joshua 4:20, and as the word is here also in the Syrian version. The true rendering therefore is, And Joshua set up the twelve stones (taken) From the midst of Jordan," etc. I confess I see no need for this criticism, which is not supported by a single MS. either in his own or De Rossi's collection, though they amount to four hundred and ninety-four in number. Twelve stones might be gathered in different parts of the bed of the Jordan, and be set up as a pillar in another, and be a continual visible memorial of this grand event. And if twelve were set up in Gilgal as a memorial of their first encampment in Canaan, it is still more likely that twelve would be set up in the bed of the river to show where it had been divided, and the place where the whole Israelitish host had passed over dry-shod. The reader may follow the opinion he judges most likely.
Another set of stones is intended than that before mentioned. The one set was erected by the command of God at the spot where they passed the night Joshua 4:3; the other by Joshua on the spot where the priests‘ feet rested while they bore up the ark during the passage of the people. This spot was near, or perhaps on, the eastern brink (compare Joshua 3:8). These stones would therefore mark the spot at which the people crossed, as the others marked the place in which they lodged the night after the crossing; nor, as the stones would only be reached by the water in flood time, and then by the utmost edge of it, is there any reason why they could not both be seen, and continue in their place as the writer asserts they did up to the time when he wrote.
The promptness and bravery of Saul, as well as the generalship shown in the successful conduct of so large a force, were qualities which the people of Israel had desired in a monarch, that they might be able to cope with other nations. They now greeted him as their king, attributing the honor of the victory to human agencies and forgetting that without God's special blessing all their efforts would have been in vain. In their enthusiasm some proposed to put to death those who had at first refused to acknowledge the authority of Saul. But the king interfered, saying, “There shall not a man be put to death this day: for today the Lord hath wrought salvation in Israel.” Here Saul gave evidence of the change that had taken place in his character. Instead of taking honor to himself, he gave the glory to God. Instead of showing a desire for revenge, he manifested a spirit of compassion and forgiveness. This is unmistakable evidence that the grace of God dwells in the heart. PP 613.1
Samuel now proposed that a national assembly should be convoked at Gilgal, that the kingdom might there be publicly confirmed to Saul. It was done; “and there they sacrificed sacrifices of peace offerings before the Lord; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.” PP 613.2
Gilgal had been the place of Israel's first encampment in the Promised Land. It was here that Joshua, by divine direction, set up the pillar of twelve stones to commemorate the miraculous passage of the Jordan. Here circumcision had been renewed. Here they had kept the first Passover after the sin at Kadesh and the desert sojourn. Here the manna ceased. Here the Captain of the Lord's host had revealed Himself as chief in command of the armies of Israel. From this place they marched to the overthrow of Jericho and the conquest of Ai. Here Achan met the penalty of his sin, and here was made that treaty with the Gibeonites which punished Israel's neglect to ask counsel of God. Upon this plain, linked with so many thrilling associations, stood Samuel and Saul; and when the shouts of welcome to the king had died away, the aged prophet gave his parting words as ruler of the nation. PP 613.3Read in context »
At the appointed time began the onward movement, the ark, borne upon the shoulders of the priests, leading the van. The people had been directed to fall back, so that there was a vacant space of more than half a mile about the ark. All watched with deep interest as the priests advanced down the bank of the Jordan. They saw them with the sacred ark move steadily forward toward the angry, surging stream, till the feet of the bearers were dipped into the waters. Then suddenly the tide above was swept back, while the current below flowed on, and the bed of the river was laid bare. PP 484.1
At the divine command the priests advanced to the middle of the channel and stood there while the entire host descended and crossed to the farther side. Thus was impressed upon the minds of all Israel the fact that the power that stayed the waters of Jordan was the same that had opened the Red Sea to their fathers forty years before. When the people had all passed over, the ark itself was borne to the western shore. No sooner had it reached a place of security, and “the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land,” than the imprisoned waters, being set free, rushed down, a resistless flood, in the natural channel of the stream. PP 484.2
Coming generations were not to be without a witness to this great miracle. While the priests bearing the ark were still in the midst of Jordan, twelve men previously chosen, one from each tribe, took up each a stone from the river bed where the priests were standing, and carried it over to the western side. These stones were to be set up as a monument in the first camping place beyond the river. The people were bidden to repeat to their children and children's children the story of the deliverance that God had wrought for them, as Joshua said, “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 forever.” PP 484.3
The influence of this miracle, both upon the Hebrews and upon their enemies, was of great importance. It was an assurance to Israel of God's continued presence and protection—an evidence that He would work for them through Joshua as He had wrought through Moses. Such an assurance was needed to strengthen their hearts as they entered upon the conquest of the land—the stupendous task that had staggered the faith of their fathers forty years before. The Lord had declared to Joshua before the crossing, “This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.” And the result fulfilled the promise. “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.” PP 484.4Read in context »
It is the hour of the evening sacrifice, and Elijah bids the people, “Come near unto me.” As they tremblingly draw near, he turns to the broken-down altar where once men worshiped the God of heaven, and repairs it. To him this heap of ruins is more precious than all the magnificent altars of heathendom. PK 151.1
In the reconstruction of this ancient altar, Elijah revealed his respect for the covenant that the Lord made with Israel when they crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land. Choosing “twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, ... he built an altar in the name of the Lord.” PK 151.2
The disappointed priests of Baal, exhausted by their vain efforts, wait to see what Elijah will do. They hate the prophet for proposing a test that has exposed the weakness and inefficiency of their gods; yet they fear his power. The people, fearful also, and almost breathless with expectancy, watch while Elijah continues his preparations. The calm demeanor of the prophet stands out in sharp contrast with the fanatical, senseless frenzy of the followers of Baal. PK 151.3
The altar completed, the prophet makes a trench about it, and, having put the wood in order and prepared the bullock, he lays the victim on the altar and commands the people to flood the sacrifice and the altar with water. “Fill four barrels,” he directed, “and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.” PK 151.4Read in context »