Notes & Commentary:
Ver 1. Over. Hebrew and Septuagint, “clean, or entirely;” perhaps two million people, with all their possessions, had crossed the river on that day, the 10th of Nisan, leaving many of their brethren to cultivate and defend the eastern parts of the Jordan. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Choose. Hebrew, “take,” as [in] chap. iii. 12. Those twelve men were ordered to attend the ark, and to observe the miracle with care: these are chosen to carry the stones for the monuments. (Salien) — Calmet supposes that they are the same people, and that the former verse might be translated, “the Lord had said.” But this does not agree with the context. Hebrew, “and it came to pass, when all the people were clean passed over the Jordan, that the Lord spake.” The former injunction was given before they entered the river. Hebrew, “the ark passeth…Now therefore take,” &c. (Haydock) — One was selected from the tribe of Levi, and one from that of Joseph, so that all the twelve tribes were represented. (Menochius)
Ver. 3. Hard. The Hebrew term is referred by some to the priests, “from the station of the priests, prepared, or standing firm,” (chap. iii. 17,) by others to the stones, which were to be prepared, hard, or exactly twelve. (Calmet) — The Septuagint have taken it in the latter sense, “twelve stones ready,” or such as they might easily find, in the place where the priests had stood. They were of a flinty nature, (Haydock) that they might perpetuate the memory of this event. (Menochius)
Ver. 5. Of Israel, who had twelve sons. The same expression occurs [in] Deuteronomy xxxii. 8., and must be explained of the immediate sons of Jacob, without including those grandchildren who might be born before his death. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. Day. Some hence infer that Josue did not write this book. But surely if he wrote it towards the end of his life, he might well use this expression, (Menochius) as St. Matthew does to denote a shorter term. The twelve stones at Galgal, and in the bed of the Jordan, at Bethabara, (Haydock) were probably each placed apart. See Exodus xxiv. 4. (Menochius) — They were still to be seen in the days of St. Jerome. Such monuments were formerly very common, and very useful, to make a lasting impression upon the minds of a gross people. See Genesis xxviii. 18., and Leviticus xxvi. 1.
Ver. 10. To him. Moses had been dead forty days. But it seems this miraculous division of the Jordan had been revealed to him, and he had cautioned Josue to let slip no opportunity of attaching the people to God’s service, by erecting monuments of religion, as he did on this occasion. (Calmet) — Haste. Though they were assured by the divine promise, they experienced a certain fear. (Salien) — Even the most constant are liable to such impressions. (Matthew xiv. 30.)
Ver. 11. People, who passed over 2000 cubits lower down, and always kept the same distance, till they arrived at Galgal. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Them. (Chap. i. 14., and Numbers xxxii. 28.) Forty thousand were only chosen. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Bands. Hebrew, “prepared for war passed over, before the Lord, unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.” (Haydock) — These formed the van-guard. — Plains. Hebrew harboth, which is translated desert, Jeremias lii. 8. A large plain, fit for pasturage, extended from the city to the Jordan, on the east side. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. In, &c. Josue recapitulates how this miracle established his authority, and how he was ordered to command the priests to come up from the midst of the Jordan, after the people had all got to the other side, and the stones were fixed, to denote where the ark had stood, like a wall, to hinder the waters from rushing down. (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Month of the ecclesiastical year. They had left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan, so that they had spent forty years, within five days, on their journey. (Calmet)
Ver. 20. Galgal. It received its name afterwards, chap. v. 9. It lay in a direct line from Jericho to the Jordan eastwards, being ten stadia from the former, and fifty from the latter place. Josue had his camp here while he subdued the kings of Chanaan, (Calmet) as it had plenty of water and wood in its environs; (Menochius) though perhaps at this time, there were no houses. Saul was here recognized king of all Israel, 1 Kings xi. 14. Tertullian (contra Marc. iv.) supposes, that the twelve stones were placed on the ark, in arcam, which is not at all probable. (Calmet) — But they might be erected in its vicinity, and that may perhaps be the meaning of the author. (Haydock) — R. Levi says the stones were placed near the ark, that all Israel might see them thrice a year. Josephus believes that an altar was formed of them.
Ver. 25. Earth, particularly of Chanaan. This miracle tends to inspire the enemy with fear and consternation, and to confirm the faith and hope of the Israelites. The obstinacy of the former was thus rendered more inexcusable. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Twelve stones are taken out of the river, to be set up for a monument of the miracle: and other twelve are placed in the midst of the river.
1 And when they were passed over, the Lord said to Josue:
2 Choose twelve men, one of every tribe:
3 And command them to take out of the midst of the Jordan, where the feet of the priests stood, twelve very hard stones, which you shall set in the place of the camp, where you shall pitch your tents this night.
4 And Josue called twelve men, whom he had chosen out of the children of Israel, one out of every tribe,
5 And he said to them: Go before the ark of the Lord your God to the midst of the Jordan, and carry from thence every man a stone on your shoulders, according to the number of the children of Israel,
6 That it may be a sign among you: and when your children shall ask you to-morrow, saying: What mean these stones?
7 You shall answer them: The waters of the Jordan ran off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord, when it passed over the same: therefore were these stones set for a monument of the children of Israel for ever.
8 The children of Israel therefore did as Josue commanded them, carrying out of the channel of the Jordan twelve stones, as the Lord had commanded him, according to the number of the children of Israel, unto the place wherein they camped, and there they set them.
9 And Josue put other twelve stones in the midst of the channel of the Jordan, where the priests stood, that carried the ark of the covenant: and they are there until this present day.
10 Now the priests that carried the ark, stood in the midst of the Jordan, till all things were accomplished, which the Lord had commanded Josue to speak to the people, and Moses had said to him. And the people made haste, and passed over.
11 And when they had all passed over, the ark also of the Lord passed over, and the priests went before the people.
12 The children of Ruben also, and Gad, and half the tribe of Manasses, went armed before the children of Israel, *as Moses had commanded them.
13 And forty thousand fighting men by their troops and bands, marched through the plains and fields of the city of Jericho.
14 In that day the Lord magnified Josue in the sight of all Israel, that they should fear him, as they had feared Moses, while he lived.
15 And he said to him:
16 Command the priests, that carry the ark of the covenant, to come up out of the Jordan.
17 And he commanded them, saying: Come ye up out of the Jordan.
18 And when they that carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, were come up, and began to tread on the dry ground, the waters returned into the channel, and ran as they were wont before.
19 And the people came up out of the Jordan, the tenth day of the first month, and camped in Galgal, over-against the east side of the city of Jericho.
20 And the twelve stones, which they had taken out of the channel of the Jordan, Josue pitched in Galgal,
21 And said to the children of Israel: When your children shall ask their fathers to-morrow, and shall say to them: What mean these stones?
22 You shall teach them, and say: Israel passed over this Jordan through the dry channel,
23 The Lord your God drying up the waters thereof in your sight, until you passed over:
24 *As he had done before in the Red Sea, which he dried up till we passed through:
25 That all the people of the earth may learn the most mighty hand of the Lord, that you also may fear the Lord your God for ever.
12: Numbers xxxii. 28.
24: Exodus xiv. 21.