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Joshua 4:9

And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of the Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the covenant had stood; and they are there to this day.

How could they still be there much later? Wouldn't these stones be pushed downstream by the torrents?

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Note the following details:

  • Josh 3:15 - Now the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest season. But as soon as the priests carrying the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge,
  • Josh 4:9 - Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the midst of the Jordan at the spot where the priests who carried the ark of the covenant had stood. And they are there to this day.

Thus we may conclude the following:

  1. The Jordan was in flood and running with very strong currents:
  2. the word "midst" in Josh 4:9 is תָּוֶךְ which means "among" (Gen 3:8) or "within" (Gen 9:21) and does not necessarily mean "center". Thus, the stones were collected from the "midst of the river" meaning that the stones were collected from somewhere within the river - perhaps near the center and elsewhere in the river floor.
  3. The river stopped flowing as soon as the priests' feet touched the water and then they stood still. That is, the priests carrying the ark were standing near the eastern edge of the river but still within, or in the "midst" of the river
  4. The pile of 12 stones was erected where the priests stood
  5. The pile of 12 stones lasted at least until the writer of Joshua wrote the narrative - an unknown number of years later.

Whether they were subsequently washed away or used for other purposes is unknown but no evidence for them is now extant.

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I find Keil and Delitzsch's explanation reasonable:

But it cannot be so absolutely affirmed that these stones would be carried away at once by the stream, so that they could never be seen any more. As the priests did not stand in the middle or deepest part of the river, but just in the bed of the river, and close to its eastern bank, and it was upon this spot that the stones were set up, and as we neither know their size nor the firmness with which they stood, we cannot pronounce any positive opinion as to the possibility of their remaining. It is not likely that they remained there for centuries; but they were intended rather as a memorial for the existing generation and their children, than for a later age, which would be perpetually reminded of the miraculous help of God by the monument erected in Gilgal.

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