Joshua 4

The meaning of Jordan is, jor, "spread, and dan, "judging." [Dan, Gen 30:6]. The Baptist told the wicked to repent of their sins; that is, judge yourselves. The ones who did were baptized in the Jordan. Christ was baptized in the Jordan as the coming sin bearer for His people.

Vv. 1-11

Though the previous chapter sounded as though the priests and ark of the Lord were some distance above the crossing, this chapter implies that the ark was within a very short distance of the crossing.

1) What did the Lord command Joshua to do, v. 3? Take one man of each tribe, and have him take a stone from the place where the priests stood, and place that stone where they lodged for the night.

A) Upon his shoulder implies what, v.5? The stones were quite large, for they could not be carried in the hands.

2) Why did the Lord command this to be done, vv. 6, 7? So the coming generations would know the power and works of the Lord.

3) What did they do with the stones, v. 8? Laid them down where they camped for the night.

A) As the people camped that night waiting for the morning and the coming battle and as they looked at the stones in the midst of the camp, of what would they be reminded? That the Lord is real; He is alive, and that He is the One who brought them over and will, therefore, take care of them.

4) Then what was done, v. 9? Twelve stones from the Canaan side of Jordan were taken as set in the midst of the river where the priests stood with the ark.

A) The land was well watered by the Lord, so the river flowed a good amount. If the river got low and the stones appeared, of what should the people have been reminded? Of the Lord's love and care in bringing them into the land. When the droughts come into our lives, we also remember the Lord's love and care.

B) If the stones appeared, what else should they have done, Deut 28:15, 23, 24? Looked for sin, for drought was a sign of sin and turning from the Lord.

5) What should the stones have said to the Canaanites? That Israel's God was a living God, and He would carry out His promises.

A) What did the drying of the river do to the Canaanites, 5:1? Caused their hearts to melt. In fact, rather than fight, the city of Jericho locked itself up.

Regardless of what took place after they were in the land, the stones in the river and on the bank should have reminded them that the LORD IS THE ONE WHO BROUGHT THEM INTO THE LAND. Whether things were good or bad, they were God's covenant people, and they were responsible to the Lord God and He was responsible for them as they walked in His way.

Furthermore, the stones in the bottom of the river and the stones erected on the bank spoke/speaks of the death, burial and resurrection to walk in newness of life of the believer in Christ, Rom 6:4-5.

6) Passage through the Jordan river under Joshua's leadership pictures believers' passage from death unto life. What memorial has been given to remind them of their passage, I Cor 11:26? The Lord's supper.

V. 9, from the time they passed over the river they were known as Israelites [Jews latter] from Palestine: Palestine was from this time their home. From this time on, when sin dispossessed them, they were known as wondering "Jews." Their new home gave them a new identity.

Old Israel was displaced from Palestine by sin. The new Israel of God is regathered to Christ, who is our land of rest. (See "Israel's Identity/Israel's Conversion.)

V. 10, how did the people pass over? They hasted, moved quickly.

The priests bearing the ark had to stand there for many hours while the people pass through the Jordan. In consideration of the priests, the people wasted no time getting across.

...God's people should do everything in their power to make the spiritual lot of God's servants easier. That can be done by promptly responding to their instructions, by supporting them through earnest prayer, and by being thoughtful of their comfort. That is something which particularly needs to be laid to heart in this day of selfishness and lack of concern for the comfort of others. It is both solemn and blessed to note how God took note of this detail, that the Holy Spirit has specifically recorded this thoughtful "hast" of the people. The Lord not only marks what we do, but how we do it: as in "his princes gave willingly" (II Chron. xxxv, 8), "their nobles put their necks to the work of the Lord...Zabbi earnestly repaired the other piece" (Neh. iii.5, 20). (A.W. Pink)

Vv. 12, 13

1) who passed over first? Reuben, Gad, 1/2 Manasseh.

2) why? Moses had told them to.

3) how many?

V. 14, what did the Lord do for Joshua? Magnified him in the sight of Israel.

Why, 3:7? God had promised to do so.

Vv. 15-19

There was 3000 feet between the ark and the people (3:4). They had to act by faith that the ark was in the Jordan, that the waters had stopped and that they would not be caught in the flood as were the Egyptians in the Red Sea. The people could only see the results of the ark in the midst of the Jordan, the dried up river. They could not see the ark because there had to be the 3000 ft between them always. So the ark would have gone ahead, stopped the river and the people passed over 3000 ft below the ark, except for the 12 who were to take the stones from where the priests stood with the ark.

Obviously, we must act by faith in Christ to move into the promised land.

1) how long did the priests remain in the midst of the river with the water piled up behind them? Until the Lord told Joshua to tell them to move. They remained at their post for hours until told by the Word of the Lord to move.

2) what happened when the priests removed from the river? It returned as it was before, flood stage.

3) what did v. 18 again prove? That the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, was with them and brought them over the river. Also, that He controls nature itself.

Considering the meaning of the word, Jordan, the faithful priest, as salt and light, held back the judgment of God. As the salt and light diminishes, God's judgment overflows the earth, as in our day.

4) what day did the people come out of the river?

a) what has happened on this day several years ago, Ex 12:2, 3? The passover lamb was set aside for the passover.

b) what happened 4 days latter, and thus 4 days after the people crossed the river, Ex 12:6; Josh 5:10? The passover was observed.

c) by coming across the river at this time, what were the people reminded of? The Lord's deliverance from Egypt and His promises.

Vv. 20-24

V. 22, we are responsible for letting our children know, teach them, about the God of the Bible, and to trust him. It is interesting here that the God they are to learn about is the God who dried up the Jordan—that is, the God who can provide for his people, supernaturally if needed.

V. 24, That all the people of the earth might know... what the Lord did. He wrote it down for our information today.

1) What was one reason for the pile of stones, v. 21? To cause the children to ask questions. We should not discourage our children from asking questions; rather, we should direct those questions in a way to instruct them in the wonderful works of the Lord.

a) we should build and treasure what kind of memories? about the care and workings of the Lord.

2) God's miraculous care and deliverance of His people should cause what, v. 24? all the world to know and fear the Lord.


A key in this chapter is REMEMBER. Why the emphasis on REMEMBER, Deut 4:23; 6:10-14? We are prone to forget the Lord, His goodness and His requirements.

Another key is found in v. 6, 21-23. What should be a major concern of God's people, Deut 6:7? Teaching the children about the Lord and His Word.

V. 3, though 2 1/2 tribes remained on one side and the 9 1/2 on the other, 12 stones were taken and placed on the westward side in Gilgal. This shows us that though each child of God has a different calling and place in life in Christ, we are all still one body in Christ: We are the same Family of God with common interests.

V. 21, do we need some overflowing waters stopped? Step out by faith.

V. 22, God commands the study, remembrance of honest past history; it shows His hands at work. He commands teaching our children about the Biblical God, trusting Him, His marvelous works, &c. They must be taught honest, Godly history. Thus history is not an unimportant subject of unrelated facts, for it shows God's hand at work to accomplish His purpose.

V. 24, we are to let all the people of the earth know what He has done for us, 1 Cor 10:11

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