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Twelve Stones Set Up at Gilgal


When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the L ord said to Joshua: 2“Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’ ” 4Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. 5Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the L ord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, 6so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the L ord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”

8 The Israelites did as Joshua commanded. They took up twelve stones out of the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the L ord told Joshua, carried them over with them to the place where they camped, and laid them down there. 9(Joshua set up twelve stones in the middle of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.)

10 The priests who bore the ark remained standing in the middle of the Jordan, until everything was finished that the L ord commanded Joshua to tell the people, according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua. The people crossed over in haste. 11As soon as all the people had finished crossing over, the ark of the L ord, and the priests, crossed over in front of the people. 12The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh crossed over armed before the Israelites, as Moses had ordered them. 13About forty thousand armed for war crossed over before the L ord to the plains of Jericho for battle.

14 On that day the L ord exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they stood in awe of him, as they had stood in awe of Moses, all the days of his life.

15 The L ord said to Joshua, 16“Command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, to come up out of the Jordan.” 17Joshua therefore commanded the priests, “Come up out of the Jordan.” 18When the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the L ord came up from the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet touched dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks, as before.

19 The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and they camped in Gilgal on the east border of Jericho. 20Those twelve stones, which they had taken out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal, 21saying to the Israelites, “When your children ask their parents in time to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 22then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel crossed over the Jordan here on dry ground.’ 23For the L ord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you crossed over, as the L ord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we crossed over, 24so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the L ord is mighty, and so that you may fear the L ord your God forever.”

19. And the people came up, etc Why the day on which they entered the land, and first encamped in it, is marked, we shall see in next chapter. But the name of Gilgal is given to the first station by anticipation, for this new name was afterwards given to it by Joshua on the renewal of circumcision; its etymology will be explained in its own place. Moreover, the thing here principally treated of is the monument of twelve stones; for though it was formerly mentioned, a kind of solemn dedication is now related, namely, that Joshua not only erected a mound, but called the attention of the people to its use in enabling fathers to keep the memory of the divine goodness alive among their children. From his introducing the children asking, What mean these stones? we infer that they were arranged so as to attract the notice of spectators. For had they been heaped together at random without any order, it would never have come into the mind of posterity to inquire concerning their meaning. There must therefore have been something so remarkable in their position as not to allow the sight to be overlooked.

Moreover, because the covenant by which God had adopted the race of Abraham was firm in an uninterrupted succession for a thousand generations, the benefit which God had bestowed on the deceased fathers is, on account of the unity of the body, transferred in common to their children who were born long after. And the continuation must have more strongly awakened their attention, inasmuch as posterity were in this way reminded that what had long ago been given to their ancestors belonged to them also. The answer of the parents would have been coldly listened to had the divine favor been confined to a single day. But when the sons’ sons hear that the waters of Jordan were dried up many ages before they were born, they acknowledge themselves to be the very people towards whom that wonderful act of divine favor had been manifested. The same account is to be given of the drying up of the Red Sea, though the event was not very ancient. It is certain that of those who had come out of Egypt, Caleb and Joshua were the only survivors, and yet he addresses the whole people as if they had been eye-witnesses of the miracle. God dried up the Red Sea before our face; in other words, it was done in virtue of the adoption which passed without interruption from the fathers to the children. Moreover, it was worth while to call the passage of the Red Sea to remembrance, not only that the similarity of the miracle might cause belief, but that on hearing the story of the Jordan, that former miracle might be at the same time renewed, although no visible symbol of it was present to the eye.

24. That all people of the earth might know, etc He states that God had put forth that manifestation of his power that it might not only be proclaimed among his own people, but that the form of it might spread far and wide among the nations. For although it pleased him that his praise should dwell in Zion, it pleased him also that his works should so far be made known to strangers that they might be forced to confess that he is the true God, and compelled unwillingly to fear him whom they had willingly contemned, as it is said in the song of Moses, (Deuteronomy 32:31) “Our enemies are judges.” For he means that unbelievers, whether they will or not, have this confession extorted from them by a knowledge of the works of God. But as it did not at all profit them to know how great the might of God was, Joshua distinguishes them from the Israelites, to whom he attributes a special knowledge, namely, that which begets serious fear of God. That the nations may know, he says; but that thou may fear thy God. Therefore while unbelievers extinguish the light by their darkness, let us learn from considering the works of God to advance in his fear. He says all days, because the favor here spoken of was diffused over several generations.

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