Sefer Yehoshua-Chapter 4: The stone monuments and the crossing of the Kohanim

Chapter 4: The stone monuments and the crossing of the Kohanim


1. Twelve stone are hewed from the Jordan and established as a monument:

  • Hashem instructs Yehoshua to establish 12 monuments of stone:[1] After the entire nation passed through the Jordan, Hashem said to Yehoshua: Take [the] 12 people [who have been already designated] from the nation, one per tribe, and instruct them to carry 12 stones from the Jordan, from under the area that the Kohanim are standing. These stones are to be brought with you to your place of encampment, where you will settle for the night, and are to be set up there.
  • Yehoshua instructs the 12 men: Yehoshua summoned the 12 designated men from the tribes of Israel and instructed them to go back into the Jordan, towards the Aron of Hashem, and for each one to lift up a single rock and carry it on their shoulder. Yehoshua said as follows: “The purpose of doing so is in order to establish a monument as a sign of that which G-d has done for us today. In the future, when your children ask you as to the meaning of the monument, you will answer them that the Jordan river split upon the approach of the Aron Habris and these rocks [which were taken from beneath the Jordan, from under the area of the Aron Habris] are a reminder of that miracle.”
  • The stones are established: The Jewish people did as they were instructed by Yehoshua, and they carried 12 stones from the Jordan, and they brought them to their area of encampment that night.

2. Yehoshua establishes another set of 12 stones:[2]

  • Yehoshua established [another[3]] set of 12 stones within the actual Jordan, under the feet of the Kohanim who were carrying the Aron Habris. These stones have remained there until this very day [to serve a as an additional sign of the miracle].

3. The Kohanim travel:

  • The Kohanim, who were carrying the Aron, remained standing in the Jordan until Yehoshua culminated the giving of all the instructions to the Jewish people, as he was commanded by G-d, and Moshe, [and until after the stones were established in both the area of encampment, and in the Jordan[4]].
  • When the entire nation completed the passage to the other side of the Jordan, the Aron of G-d, and the Kohanim [crossed the Jordan and] passed before the nation.[5]

4. Bnei Reuvein, Gad, and half of Menashe lead Bnei Yisrael:

  • The armed military personnel of the tribes of Reuvein, Gad, and half of Menashe led Bnei Yisrael in their journey, as Moshe instructed them. There were approximately 40,000 soldiers who led the conquest before Hashem, heading towards Jericho.

5. Yehoshua becomes renowned as a person of great stature:

  • On that day, Hashem made Yehoshua famous and spread his great stature in the eyes of all Israel. The Jewish people feared Yehoshua as they feared Moshe, his entire life.

6. Recollection of how the Kohanim passed the Jordan:

  • Hashem spoke to Yehoshua saying that he should instruct the Kohanim who are carrying the Aron to go up from the Jordan. Yehoshua did as commanded, and he instructed the Kohanim to leave the Jordan. The moment the Kohanim lifted their feet from the riverbed of the Jordan, the waters returned to their normal flow as they did the previous days.[6]
  • The nation crossed the Jordan on the 10th day of the first month [i.e. Nissan] and they settled in Gilgal, which was on the east side of the Jordan.

7. More details of the establishing of the 12 stones as a monument:

  • The 12 stones that were brought from the Jordan were established by Yehoshua in Gilgal.
  • Yehoshua told the people that the purpose of the stones is to serve as a reminder of the miracle of the splitting of the river. When the descendants of the Jewish people ask as to their meaning, their parents will tell them that they serve as a reminder that Hashem dried the riverbed of the Jordan for the Jewish people to cross, just as was done by the Yam Suf. This will show the mighty hand of G-d and cause the people of the world to fear Him all their lives.


[1] See Parshas Ki Savo 27:1 where Moshe already instructed this command of building a stone monument after passing the Jordan and write on it the entire Torah and plaster it with lime. See Rashi Ki Seitzei 27:2 that Hashem commanded for two sets of stones to be established, one in the Jordan, and one in Har Eival

[2] See previous footnote in Rashi on Ki Seitzei that this was already commanded by Moshe.

[3] Rashi 4:7; Rashi Ki Seitzei 27:2

[4] Radak 4:10

[5] See Rashi 4:11 and Radak 4:11 for different interpretations of how the Kohanim passed the Jordan. One understanding is that the Jewish people awaited them by the other side of the river and the Kohanim then walked on the dried riverbed until they walked past the Jewish people and began leading them again. Chazal, however, explain that a great miracle occurred, as the waters of the Jordan returned to flow prior to the passing of the Kohanim and the Aron miraculously lifted the Kohanim in the air and that is how they passed.

[6] See previous footnote as for how the Kohanim crossed the Jordan.

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