(3) Out of the midst of Jordan . . . twelve stones—(9) Twelve stones in the midst of Jordan.—It would seem that we are to understand two cairns to have been set up, one on either side the river, to mark the place where the Israelites crossed. The western cairn was in Gilgal, the other on the opposite side, at the edge of the overflow, where the priests had stopped. The only difficulty lies in the words above cited, in the midst of Jordan. The phrase, like many other Hebrew phrases, is used in a different way from that in which we should use it. The words “in the middle of the Jordan” to an English reader appear to mean half-way between the banks. But if the river were divided, and half of it had recoiled many miles towards the north, and the rest flowed away to the south, any one standing between these two parts of the river might be said to stand in the midst of Jordan, the two parts being on either side; and he would be equally in the midst, as regards them, whether he were at the edge of the stream or not. It is contrary to common-sense, as well as to the words of the text, to suppose that a cairn was set up in the midst of the river’s bed. “They are there unto this day,” the writer adds in Joshua 4:9. It is perfectly clear from Joshua 3:8 that the priests stood at the brim of the overflow. That spot and no other would be the particular spot which it would be most interesting to mark, the place from which Jordan, in full flood, was driven back.
Further, the words “in the midst” (Hebrew, Vthôlc) do not necessarily mean more than within. In Joshua 19:1, it is said the inheritance of Simeon was within (b’thôk) the inheritance of the children of Judah. Yet it was entirely on one edge of it. May not the ark standing in the midst of Jordan represent that suspension of the power of death which is effected by the interposition of our Saviour, and fills the interval between the reign of death “from Adam to Moses,” and the “second death” that is to come?
Reuben, Gad, and Simeon formed the second division on the march in the wilderness (Numbers 10:18-20). Why Reuben and Gad discarded Simeon, and associated themselves with part of Manasseh, is not explained. (See Names on the Gates of Pearl.—Simeon.)
(19) On the tenth day of the first month.—Of the forty-first year after they left Egypt. Exactly forty years before, on the tenth day of the first month, (Exodus 12:5), they had been commanded to take them “a lamb for an house,” that they might keep the Passover. The forty years of the Exodus were now complete, and on the self-same day they passed over the last barrier, and entered the Promised Land.
Joshua 4:21And he spake unto the children of Israel, saying, When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean these stones?
Joshua 4:22Then ye shall let your children know, saying, Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.
Joshua 4:23For the LORD your God dried up the waters of Jordan from before you, until ye 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:
Joshua 4:24That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.