Joshua 3 / Hebrew – English Bible / Mechon-Mamre

Joshua 4 / Hebrew – English Bible / Mechon-Mamre

These chapters tell of the Israelites crossing of the Jordan river. We mentioned earlier that Joshua had no moment of consecration, and God, perhaps recognizing the need for one, declares that the miracles of the crossing will serve to elevate Joshua in the eyes of the people and prove to them that God is with Joshua as He was with Moses. Certainly, by parting a body of water for Joshua, as He parted the Sea of Reeds for Moses, God is establishing Joshua as leader in the eyes of the people.

Joshua also takes upon himself to prepare various stone memorials. The name Gilgal, the place where Joshua and the nation camped is a common place-name, thought to refer to circles of standing stones, some of which are likely to be Neolithic in origin. It is unclear whether a stone circle already existed in Joshua’s Gilgal, or whether it was named Gilgal after Joshua erected his stone monument, perhaps in a circle. Also unclear is the exact location of Gilgal. While most place it a few miles northeast of Jericho, Vendyl Jones, the controversial antiquarian (I’ll call him an archaeologist just as soon as he gets his degree in the field) claims to have found Gilgal south of the city of Jericho. His claims are based upon the finding a rectangular wall only twenty inches high that dates to somewhere between 1550 and 3150 BCE. Dr. Jones claims that this wall was the boundary wall separating the Tabernacle’s grounds from the rest of the camp. Perhaps, but with 1,500 years of wiggle room, I’m not yet convinced.

In any case, Joshua certainly has a penchant for these monuments. I’m reminded first of the Patriarchs and their various stone monuments and altars, but with a key difference. Joshua’s monuments are built to be everlasting, unlike those of the Patriarchs. In general, Joshua acts as one taking permanent possession of a land, whereas the Patriarchs were wanderers in the land. I also wonder exactly when Joshua was written – a number of times the phrase “and they are there until this day” appears, and I’m not sure when that time is. Bib-Crit types will claim that it was written in about the 8th or 7th century BCE, Christians will claim Solomon wrote it, or perhaps Ezra, while traditional Jewish sources ascribe the text to Joshua, with a postscript by Phineas ben Elazar. Admittedly, by the latter claim, the claim that the monument stands “until this day” is not so impressive, since Joshua only lives about thirty years after crossing into the land, but of course, that issue is problematic throughout the first five books of the Torah as well.

Getting back to the Exodus elements of the story, the crossing itself occurs on the tenth day of Nisan, just prior to Passover. I wonder why there is no holiday or commemoration of any kind for this crossing, or for the conquest of the land in general. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

And finally, after the crossing and construction of the monument, we get a very Passover-like set of verses:

א וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל, לֵאמֹר: אֲשֶׁר יִשְׁאָלוּן בְּנֵיכֶם מָחָר אֶת-אֲבוֹתָם לֵאמֹר, מָה הָאֲבָנִים הָאֵלֶּה. 21 And he spoke unto the children of Israel, saying: ‘When your children shall ask their fathers in time to come, saying: What mean these stones?
כב וְהוֹדַעְתֶּם, אֶת-בְּנֵיכֶם לֵאמֹר: בַּיַּבָּשָׁה עָבַר יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֶת-הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה. 22 then ye shall let your children know, saying: Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.
כג אֲשֶׁר-הוֹבִישׁ יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם אֶת-מֵי הַיַּרְדֵּן, מִפְּנֵיכֶם–עַד-עָבְרְכֶם: כַּאֲשֶׁר עָשָׂה יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם לְיַם-סוּף אֲשֶׁר-הוֹבִישׁ מִפָּנֵינוּ, עַד-עָבְרֵנוּ. 23 For 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 passed over,
כד לְמַעַן דַּעַת כָּל-עַמֵּי הָאָרֶץ, אֶת-יַד יְהוָה, כִּי חֲזָקָה, הִיא–לְמַעַן יְרָאתֶם אֶת-יְהוָה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם, כָּל-הַיָּמִים. {פ} 24 that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty; that ye may fear the LORD your God for ever.’ {P}