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Commentary On Joshua by Jean Calvin

Joshua 4:19-24

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.

19. Populus autem ascendit e Jordane decima die primi mensis, et castramentati sunt in Gilgal ad plagam orientalem Jericho.

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

20. Ac duodecim lapides quos tulerant ex Jordane statuit Josue in Gilgal.

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

21. Et loquutus est ad filios Israel, dicendo: Quum interrogaverint cras filii vestri patres suos dicendo, Quid lapides isti?

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

22. Indicabitis filiis vestris dicendo, Per aridam transivit Israel Jordanem istum:

23. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until you 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:

23. Quoniam siccavit Jehova Deus vester aquas Jordanis a facie vestra donec transiretis: quemadmodum fecit Jehova Deus vester mari Suph, quod siccavit a facie nostra donec transiremus.

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

24. Ut cognoscant omnes populi terrae manum Jehovae, quod fortis sit: ut timeatis Jehovam Deum vestrum cunctis diebus.

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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