The twelve stones which were laid down in Gilgal (Josh. 4:8) are here set up either one upon another, yet so as that they might be distinctly counted, or one by another in rows; for after they were fixed they ar not call a heap of stones, but these stones.
I. It is here taken for granted that posterity would enquire into the meaning of them, supposing them intended for a memorial: Your children shall ask their fathers (for who else should they ask?) What mean these stones? Notes, Those that will be wise when they are old must be inquisitive when they are young. Our Lord Jesus, though he had in himself the fulness of knowledge, has by his example taught children and young people to hear and ask questions, Luke 2:46. Perhaps when John was baptizing in Jordan at Bethabara (the house of passage, where the people passed over) he pointed at these very stones, while saying (Matt. 3:9) God is able of these stones (which were at first set up by the twelve tribes) to raise up children unto Abraham. The stones being the memorial of the miracle, the children’s question gave occasion for the improvement of it; but our Saviour says (Luke 10:40), If the children should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out; for one way or other the Lord will be glorified in his works of wonder.
II. The parents are here directed what answer to give to this enquiry (Josh. 4:22): “You shall let your children know that which you have yourselves learned from the written word and from your fathers.” Note, It is the duty of parents to acquaint their children betimes with the word and works of God, that they may be trained up in the way they should go.
1. They must let their children know that Jordan was driven back before Israel, who went through it upon dry land, and that this was the very place where they passed over. They saw how deep and strong a stream Jordan now was, but the divine power put a stop to it, even when it overflowed all its banks—“and this for you, that live so long after.” Note, God’s mercies to our ancestors were mercies to us; and we should take all occasions to revive the remembrance of the great things God did for our fathers in the days of old. The place thus marked would be a memorandum to them: Israel came over this Jordan. A local memory would be of use to them, and the sight of the place remind them of that which was done there; and not only the inhabitants of that country, but strangers and travellers, would look upon these stones and receive instruction. Many, upon the sight of the stones, would go to their Bibles, and there read the history of this wondrous work; and some perhaps, upon reading the history, though living at a distance, would have the curiosity to go and see the stones.
2. They must take that occasion to tell their children of the drying up of the Red Sea forty years before: As the Lord your God did to the Red Sea. Note. (1.) It greatly magnifies later mercies to compare them with former mercies, for, by making the comparison, it appears that god is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. (2.) Later mercies should bring to remembrance former mercies, and revive our thankfulness for them.
3. They must put them in the way of making a good use of these works of wonder, the knowledge whereof was thus carefully transmitted to them, Josh. 4:24. (1.) The power of God was hereby magnified. All the world was or might be convinced that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that nothing is too hard for God to do; nor can any power, no, not that of nature itself, obstruct what God will effect. The deliverances of God’s people are instructions to all people, and fair warnings not to contend with Omnipotence. (2.) The people of God were engaged and encouraged to persevere in his service “That you might fear the Lord your God, and consequently do your duty to him, and this for ever,” or all days (margin), “every day, all the days of your lives, and your seed throughout your generations.” The remembrance of this wonderful work should effectually restrain them from the worship of other gods, and constrain them to abide and abound in the service of their own God. Note, In all the instructions and informations parents give their children, they should have this chiefly in their eye, to teach and engage them to fear God for ever. Serious godliness is the best learning.