Joshua 4:16
Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.
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(16) Command the priests . . . that they come up out of Jordan.—Observe that the removal of the priests and the ark of the covenant from their station in Jordan is made the subject of a distinct section, and treated as a distinct event. It need not have been so for the purpose of the mere historical narrative. We might have taken it for granted. But the significance of the event is so marked as to receive a separate notice. We are not suffered to forget by what means Jordan was driven back, and held in check; and the check was not meant to be perpetual. We are reminded that the suspension of the power of death for men has its limits. When the day of grace is over, the waters will “return unto their place and flow over all the banks as before.” (Comp. Isaiah 28:16-18; Isaiah 28:20.)

4:10-19 The priests with the ark did not stir till ordered to move. Let none be weary of waiting, while they have the tokens of God's presence with them, even the ark of the covenant, though it be in the depths of adversity. Notice is taken of the honour put upon Joshua. Those are feared in the best manner, and to the best purpose, who make it appear that God is with them, and that they set him before them.The passage of the priests to the further bank had been already referred to, Joshua 4:11; but the writer, in observance of his general plan (compare introductory remarks to Joshua 3), re-introduces it here as the leading feature in the concluding section of his account, and (as before) with mention of God's special direction about it. The statement that on the removal of the ark the waters of Jordan at once returned to their former level Joshua 4:18, heightens the impression which is especially inculcated throughout - that the whole transaction was extraordinary and miraculous. The details and incidents of the passage are no doubt open to manifold discussion: but all such discussion will be futile unless it proceed throughout on the admission that we have here before us the record of a distinctly supernatural interposition: compare the introduction to the Book of Joshua. Jos 4:14-24. God Magnifies Joshua.

14-17. On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel—It appeared clear from the chief part he acted, that he was the divinely appointed leader; for even the priests did not enter the river or quit their position, except at his command; and thenceforward his authority was as firmly established as that of his predecessor.

For being now in the middle, and lowest, and deepest place of the river, (of which See POOLE "Joshua 3:17",) they are most properly said to ascend or go up to the land; which word is thrice used ill this and the two next following verses. Command the priests that bear the ark of the testimony,.... In all places before, in this history, the ark is called the ark of the covenant, here the ark of the testimony, which signifies the same thing, the law; which was both the covenant between God and the people, and a testimony of his will unto them; the Septuagint version has both words:

that they come up out of Jordan; where they stayed until all the people passed over, for the encouragement of them, and until they received this order.

Command the priests that bear the {g} ark of the testimony, that they come up out of Jordan.

(g) Because the ark testified God's presence, and the tables of the Law contained in it signified God's will toward his people.

Verse 16. - The testimony. The word עֵדוּת though derived from the same root as עֵד witness, would seem rather to have the sense of precept, from the idea of repetition contained in the root. Compare the well known Hebrew particle עוד again. It must refer to the two tables of the law which (Hebrews 10:4) were placed in the ark (see Deuteronomy 10:5, and comp. Exodus 25:16, 21, 40, Numbers 17:10, where this is said to be the testimony). Other things were placed in the ark, such as the manna, Aaron's rod, and these, no doubt, were for a witness to the facts of the Mosaic record. The LXX., however, consistently render this word by μαρτύρια μαρτύριον. The Vulgate here has arcam foederis. Whilst Joshua was carrying out all that Jehovah had commanded him to say to the people, according to the command of Moses-that is to say, whilst the people were passing through the Jordan before the ark, and the twelve men were carrying over the stones out of the river to the resting-place on the other side, and Joshua himself was setting up twelve stones in Jordan for a memorial-during all this time, the priests stood with the ark in the bed of the river; but after all the people, including the twelve men who took the stones out of the Jordan, had finished crossing, the ark of the Lord passed over, with the priests, before the people: that is to say, it stationed itself again, along with the priests, at the head of the people. The words "according to all that Moses had commanded Joshua" do not refer to any special instructions which Moses had given to Joshua with reference to the crossing, for no such instructions are to be found in the Pentateuch, nor can they be inferred from Numbers 27:23; Deuteronomy 3:28, or Deuteronomy 31:23; they simply affirm that Joshua carried out all the commands which the Lord had given him, in accordance with the charge which he received from Moses at the time when he was first called. Moses had called him and instructed him to lead to the people into the promised land, in consequence of a divine command; and had given him the promise, at the same time, that Jehovah would be with him as He had been with Moses. This contained implicite an admonition to Joshua to do only what the Lord should command him. And if this was how Joshua acted, the execution of the commands of God was also an observance of the command of Moses. The remark in Joshua 4:10, "and the people hastened and passed over," i.e., passed hastily through the bed of the river, is introduced as an explanation of the fact that the priests stood still in the bed of the river the whole time that the crossing continued. As the priests stood in one spot whilst all the people were passing over, it was necessary that the people should hasten over, lest the strength of the priests should be exhausted. This reason for hastening, however, does not preclude the other-namely, that the crossing had to be finished in one day, before night came on. The statement in Joshua 4:11, that when all the people had passed over, the ark of the Lord also passed over with the priests, is so far anticipatory of the actual course of the events, that up to this time nothing has been said about the fighting men belonging to the two tribes and a half having passed over (Joshua 4:12, Joshua 4:13); nor has the command of God for the ark to pass over been mentioned (Joshua 4:15.), though both of these must have preceded the crossing of the ark in order of time. It is to be observed, that, in the words "the art of the Lord passed over, and the priests," the priests are subordinate to the ark, because it was through the medium of the ark of the Lord that the miracle of drying up the river had been effected: it was not by the priests, but by Jehovah the Almighty God, who was enthroned upon the ark, that the waters were commanded to stand still. "Before the people" (Eng. Ver. "in the presence of the people") has the same signification in Joshua 4:11 as in Joshua 3:6, Joshua 3:14.
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