26 Apr. Joshua 4:1-24,5:1

26 Apr. The Israelites build a stone circle to claim the land

“After all the people had finished crossing the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe. Tell them to get twelve rocks from the middle of the river, from where the priests stood. Carry the rocks and put them down where you stay tonight.’”

“So Joshua chose one man from each tribe… and said to them, ‘Go out into the river where the Ark of the LORD your God is. Each of you bring back one rock, one for each tribe of Israel, and carry it on your shoulder. They will be a sign among you.’”

“'In the future your children will ask you, "What do these rocks mean?" Tell them the water stopped flowing in the Jordan when the Ark of the [Covenant] Agreement with the LORD crossed the river. These rocks will always remind the Israelites of this.'”

“So the Israelites obeyed Joshua and carried twelve rocks from the middle of the Jordan River… They carried the rocks with them and put them down where they made their camp. Joshua also put twelve rocks in the middle of the Jordan River where the priests had stood while carrying the Ark of the [Covenant] Agreement. These rocks are still there today...”

“The people crossed the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month and camped at Gilgal, east of Jericho. They carried with them the twelve rocks taken from the Jordan, and Joshua set them up at Gilgal.”

“Then he spoke to the Israelites: ‘In the future your children will ask you, “What do these rocks mean?” Tell them, “Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry land. The LORD your God caused the water to stop flowing until you finished crossing it, just as the LORD did to the Red [Reed] Sea… The LORD did this so all people would know he has great power and so you would always respect the LORD your God.”’”

“All the kings of the Amorites west of the Jordan and the Canaanite kings living by the Mediterranean Sea heard that the LORD dried up the Jordan River until the Israelites had crossed it. After that they were scared and too afraid to face the Israelites.”

          (Joshua 4:1-24, 5:1)



After successfully crossing the River Jordan without any opposition, the Israelites camped at Gilgal on the floor of the Jordan valley, east of Jericho (see 2 on the map on 23 April).

There are at least three different explanations for the meaning and significance of Gilgal – the name given to the place where the Israelites camped on the floor of the Jordan valley prior to their attack on Jericho.

Firstly, after the Israelites had successfully forded the River Jordan during the season of the spring floods, Joshua set up twelve standing stones at Gilgal (meaning ‘a circle’ of stones). This circle of twelve stones may simply have been a religious monument or memorial to the crossing (see Joshua 4:20-24).

But, secondly, standing stones (or ‘pillars’ - Hebrew, ‘netsib’ – see Genesis 19:26) were often erected at this time to indicate ownership of land (see 1 Samuel 13:3, where ‘netsib’ means a Philistine ‘pillar’, not a ‘garrison’ or ‘commander’). By erecting twelve standing stones, the twelves tribes of Israel may have been effectively claiming the land of Canaan as their own.

Thirdly, Joshua circumcised all the uncircumcised Israelites here (see Joshua 5:2-15), so Gilgal also became known as Gibeath Haaraloth (meaning ‘hill of foreskins’ or 'Circumcision Hill'). The LORD then said to Joshua, “As slaves in Egypt you were ashamed, but today I have removed that shame” (Joshua 5:9). ‘Gilgal’ also sounds like the Hebrew for ‘freed’ or ‘liberated’ from shame, a third explanation for the name of the Israelite encampment.

Today, scholars identify Khirbet El Mafjir, 1 mile / 2 km north east of ancient Jericho, as the site of Joshua’s ‘Gilgal’, though other stone circles called Gilgal were probably erected elsewhere. (See 1 Samuel 7:16 & 2 Kings 2:1 for a Gilgal near Bethel, and Deuteronomy 11:29-30 for one near Mt Gerizim and Mt Ebal).

The photo (by הניאוליתי) shows a series of Israelite standing stones (‘netsib’) at Gezer.

You can read more about the crossing of the Jordan River @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/27-the-israelites-move-into-canaan/the-israelites-cross-the-river-jordan/

Printer Printable Version