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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.”

16. Command the priests, etc Here it is shown more clearly how meekly and calmly the priests yielded implicit obedience to the divine command, for they did not move a foot until Joshua ordered the signal to retire. But as it was an instance of rare virtue to be thus modest and obedient, so the fatherly kindness of God is conspicuous in this, that he condescended to direct and govern almost every step in their progress by his own voice, lest any perplexity might occur to retard them.

Next follows a more conspicuous confirmation of the miracle; for as soon as they climbed the opposite bank, the Jordan began again to flow as usual. Had it not returned to its former state, and indeed, suddenly, many would have imagined the cause of the change to be hidden but fortuitous. But when God displays his power and favor at minute intervals of time all doubt is removed. The moment the feet of the priests were made wet the Jordan retired; now on their departure he recovers his free course, and that at the very instant when they reached the bank. For the term dry here means that part which was not covered by the overflow. 5252     Calvin, still adhering to the view that part of the plain beyond the immediate bank was overflowed, seems to think that the priests, after climbing up the steep bank, continued to walk for some time among the shallow water. The other view which supposes that the banks were only filled and not overflowed, besides being more in accordance with the original, as was formerly shown, appears to derive additional confirmation from the language here used. It is said the waters returned the moment the priests touched the dry ground with the soles of their feet; in other words, so long as they were climbing up the steep bank, and, of course, had no firm footing, the heap of waters continued, but it was immediately dissolved as soon as they could set down their foot firmly in consequence of having reached the flat. — Ed. Thus the river, though dumb, 5353     “Dumb.” Latin, “mutus.” French, “une creature insensible et sans voix;” “An inanimate creature without voice.” — Ed. was the best of heralds, proclaiming with a loud voice that heaven and earth are subject to the God of Israel.

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