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Commentary On Joshua by Jean Calvin

Joshua 4:1-9

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

1. Et fuit, postquam finem fecit tota gens trajiciendi Jordanis; quia loquutus erat Jehova ad Josuam, dicendo.

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

2. Tollite vobis e populo duodecim viros virum unum ex quaque tribu.

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

3. Et praecipite illis dicendo: Tollite vobis hinc e medio Jordanis a loco ubi stant pedes sacerdotum expeditorum, duodecim lapides quos feretis vobiscum, et deponetis in loco ubi hac nocte manebitis.

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

4. Tunc vocavit Josue duodecim viros quos ordinaverat e filiis Israel, singulos ex quaque tribu.

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:

5. Et dixit illis Josue, Transite ante arcam Jehovae Dei vestri per medium Jordanis, et tollat quisque ex vobis lapidem unum super humerum suum pro numero tribuum filiorum Israel.

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

6. Ut sit hoc inter vos (vel, in medio vestri) signum quum interrogaverint filii vestri cras patres suos, quid sunt lapides isti apud vos?

7. Then you 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.

7. Tunc respondeatis eis, quod intercisae fuerunt aquae Jordanis ante arcam foederis Jehovae, quum, interquam, transiret Jordanem, intercisae fuerunt aquae Jordanis, tunc facti fuerunt lapides iste in monumentum filiis Israel perpetuo.

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 spoke 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.

8. Fecerunt itaque filii Israel sicut praeceperat Josue, et sustulerunt duodecim lapides e medio Jordanis sicut loquutus fuerat Jehova ad Josuam pro numero tribuum filiorum Israel, tuleruntque eos secum ad locum ubi pernoctaverunt, et reposuerunt illic.

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.

9. Duodecim quoque lapides erexit Josue in medio Jordanis sub statione pedum sacerdotum qui portabant arcam foederis, manseruntque ibi usque in hunc diem.

l. And it came to pass, etc The brief and obscure allusion previously made with regard to the twelve men he now explains more at length. He had said that they were chosen by the order of God, one each from his own tribe; but breaking off his discourse, he had not mentioned for what purpose. He now says, that by command of Joshua they took up twelve stones and placed them in Gilgal, that a well marked memorial might exist among posterity. Moreover, as he only relates what was done after the passage of the people, what is interposed should be interpreted as in the pluperfect tense. It is also very obvious that the copula is used instead of the rational particle. The substance is, that before the priests moved their foot from the middle of the river where they stood, the stones at their feet were taken and placed in Gilgal, to be perpetual witnesses of the miracle, and that Joshua thus faithfully executed what God had commanded. Joshua, therefore, called the men whom he had previously chosen, but not without the command of God, that through it he might have a stronger attestation to his authority. For had Joshua raised up a trophy of that kind of his own accord, the piety which dictated it might indeed have been laudable, but the admonition founded only on the will of man might perhaps have been despised. But now when God himself raises the sign, it is impious to pass it carelessly by. He intimates, accordingly, that it was a monument deserving of the greatest attention when he introduces the children asking, what mean these stones?

7. Then you shall answer them, etc Although the stones themselves cannot speak, yet the monument furnished the parents with materials for speaking, and for making the kindness of God known to their children. And here zealous endeavors to propagate piety are required of the aged, and they are enjoined to exert themselves in instructing their children. For it was the will of God that this doctrine should be handed down through every age; that those who were not then born being afterwards instructed by their parents might become witnesses to it from hearing, though they had not seen it with their eyes.

The stones were placed according to the number of the tribes, that each might be incited to gratitude by its own symbol. It is true that two tribes and a half tribe who had obtained their inheritance beyond the Jordan, had not, when considered apart from the others, any occasion for making that passage. But as the land of Canaan was possessed by the others for the common good of the whole race of Abraham, so it behooved those who were all engaged in the same or a common cause not to be separated from each other. And although as yet mention had been made only of twelve men, it is obvious from a short clause, that the divine command had been declared to the whole people; for it is said that the children of Israel obeyed the words of Joshua. Nay, it is even probable that deputies were elected by suffrage to carry the stones in the name of the whole people.

9. And Joshua set up twelve stones, etc Apparently there was no use of stones under the water, and it may therefore seem to have been absurd to bury stones at a depth. The others which were placed in Gilgal being publicly visible, furnished occasion for inquiry; but stones hidden from the eyes of men at the bottom of the water could have no effect in inciting their minds. I admit that a monument altogether buried in silence would have been useless. But when they talked among themselves of the evidence of the passage left there, the hearing even of what they did not see, strongly tended to confirm their faith. The ark of the covenant was shut up in the sanctuary and covered by a veil placed over against it, and yet its hidden splendor was not without benefit, when they learned from the Law that the covenant of God was deposited in it. It might also happen, that when the river was low, the tops of the heap would sometimes appear. But what I have already said is more probable, that though Joshua buried the stones in the middle of the stream, he did a useful act by establishing a testimony in presence of the people, which would afterwards become the subject of general conversation.

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