I'm a bit confused. How many monuments were raised in Joshua 4? I thought there were two, but my husband says there was only one.

Perhaps outlining the events in chapter 4 will make things clearer:

  1. The people of Israel finished crossing the Jordan (verse 1)
  2. Joshua picked twelve men, one from each tribe, to reenter the river bed and each carry a stone from where the priests were currently standing holding the ark of the covenant (verses 2-7)
  3. The men carried the stones from the river bed to where the people of Israel were currently camped on the west bank of the Jordan (verse 8)
  4. Joshua then set up twelve additional stones in the middle of the river bed to mark where the priest were standing (verses 9-10)
  5. The last of the stragglers hurriedly completed the crossing and the priests followed the last of the people to the edge of the river bed (verse 11)
  6. Joshua gave the order for the priests to leave the Jordan river bed (verses 15-17)
  7. The water returns literally as the soles of the priests' shoes left the riverbed (verse 18)
  8. The river returned to its previous flood stage level (verse 18)
  9. The twelve stones were taken to the camp at Gilgal where Joshua set up another monument (verses 19-24).

Notice that Joshua set up a monument in two places: in the middle of the riverbed (verse 9) and at Gilgal (verse 20). In addition, the twelve stones for the monument at Gilgal were removed before (verse 8) Joshua set up the monument in the middle of the river (verse 9), so we cannot claim that the same stones were used twice.

The commentator Adam Clarke says "It seems from this chapter that there were two sets of stones erected as a memorial of this great event; twelve at Gilgal, Jos 4:20 and twelve in the bed of Jordan, Jos 4:9. The twelve stones in the bed of Jordan might have been so placed on a base of strong stone-work so high as always to be visible, and serve to mark the very spot where the priests stood with the ark. The twelve stones set up at Gilgal would stand as a monument of the place of the first encampment after this miraculous passage. Though this appears to me to be the meaning of this place, yet Dr. Kennicott's criticism here should not be passed by. "It is well known," says he, "that when Joshua led the Israelites over Jordan, he was commanded to take twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, to be a memorial that the ground in the very midst of that river had been made dry. But where was this memorial to be set up? The ninth verse says; Joshua set up these stones IN the midst of Jordan. But is it likely that the stones should be placed or set down where they were taken up; and that the memorial should be erected there where, when the river was again united, it would be concealed, and of course could be no memorial at all? This however flatly contradicts the rest of the chapter, which says these stones were pitched in Gilgal, where Israel lodged in Canaan for the first time. The solution of this difficulty is, that bethoch, IN the midst, should be here mittoch, FROM the midst, as in Jos 4:3,8,20, and as the word is here also in the Syrian version. The true rendering therefore is, And Joshua set up the twelve stones (taken) FROM the midst of Jordan," &c. I confess I see no need for this criticism, which is not supported by a single MS. either in his own or De Rossi's collection, though they amount to four hundred and ninety-four in number. Twelve stones might be gathered in different parts of the bed of the Jordan, and be set up as a pillar in another, and be a continual visible memorial of this grand event. And if twelve were set up in Gilgal as a memorial of their first encampment in Canaan, it is still more likely that twelve would be set up in the bed of the river to show where it had been divided, and the place where the whole Israelitish host had passed over dry-shod. The reader may follow the opinion he judges most likely. "

The Jamieson-Faucett-Brown commentary says, "In addition to the memorial just described, there was another memento of the miraculous event, a duplicate of the former, set up in the river itself, on the very spot where the ark had rested. This heap of stones might have been a large and compactly built one and visible in the ordinary state of the river. As nothing is said where these stones were obtained, some have imagined that they might have been gathered in the adjoining fields and deposited by the people as they passed the appointed spot."

John Wesley in his Notes says, "These stones are not the same with those which a man could carry upon his shoulder, ver.Jos 4:5. They might be very much larger; and being set up in two rows one above another, might be seen, at least when the water was low, especially where it was shallow, as it was ordinarily, though not at this time, when Jordan overflowed all its banks. Add to this, that the waters of Jordan are very clear; therefore these stones might be seen in it, either by those who stood upon the shore, because the river was not broad; or by those that passed in boats. Unto this day-This might be written, either 1. by Joshua who probably wrote this book near 20 years after this was done: or, 2. by some other holy man divinely inspired, who inserted this and some such passages both in this book and in the writings of Moses."

Matthew Henry says, "According to these orders the thing was done.

1. Twelve stones were taken up out of the midst of Jordan, and carried in the sight of the people to the place where they had their head-quarters that night, Jos 4:8. It is probable that the stones they took were as big as they could well carry, and as near as might be of a size and shape. But whether they went away with them immediately to the place, of whether they staid to attend the ark, and kept pace with the solemn procession of that, to grace its triumphant entry into Canaan, is not certain. By these stones which they were ordered to take up God did, as it were, give them livery and seisin of this good land; it is all their own, let them enter and take possession; therefore what these twelve did the children of Israel are said to do (Jos 4:8), because they were the representatives of their respective tribes. In allusion to this, we may observe that when the Lord Jesus, our Joshua, having overcome the sharpness of death and dried up that Jordan, had opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers, he appointed his twelve apostles according to the number of the tribes of Israel, by the memorial of the gospel to transmit the knowledge of this to remote places and future ages.

2. Other twelve stones (probably much larger than the other, for we read not that they were each of them one man's load) were set up in the midst of Jordan (Jos 4:9), piled up so high in a heap or pillar as that the top of it might be seen above the water when the river was low, or seen in the water when it was clear, or at least the noise or commotion of the water passing over it would be observable, and the bargemen would avoid it, as they do a rock. Some way or other, it is likely, it was discernible, so as to notify the very place where the ark stood, and to serve for a duplicate to the other monument, which was to be set up on dry land in Gilgal, for the confirming of its testimony and the preserving of its tradition. The sign being doubled, no doubt the thing was certain."

March 15, 2005