Joshua 4:8-9 read

8 So the Israelites did as Joshua commanded them. They took twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, as the Lord had told Joshua; and they carried them over with them to their camp, where they put them down.

9 Joshua set up the twelve stones that had been in the middle 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. (NIV)

3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan, from right where the priests are standing, and carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.” (NIV)

Verses 8 and 3 describe how the first pile of stones was taken from where the priests stood and placed in the Israelites' camp on dry ground. In verse 9, Joshua set up another twelve stones at the spot where the priests had stood. The scripture doesn't specify if God commanded this or if the stones were carried by representatives from each tribe. The phrase 'they are there to this day' at the end of verse 9 could refer to either pile of stones

Which pile of stones "are there to this day" in Joshua 4:9 refers to?

  • Twelve stones were taken out of Jordan and placed on the bank. Twelve were taken from the bank and placed in the river. It may be that John the Baptist pointed to the first stones beside Jordan, see Matthew 3:9. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 22:29
  • @NigelJ - Thank you. I read Matthew 3:9 but feel vague if John the Baptist pointed was a Joshua stone. Since time had passed for 1000 years. Do you suggest "they are there to this day" refer to the stones on the bank? Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 4:52

2 Answers 2


This is an "Old Chestnut", ie, Josh 4:9 has been debated and argued about since at least the times of the apostolic fathers and probably much earlier. Here are the various solutions to this problem that have been proposed. (There may be more.)

A: One Pile of 12 Stones

Adherents of this view suggest that Josh 4:9 should be translated as (eg, NIV, Kennicott, etc):

Joshua set up the twelve stones from the middle 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.

In support of this view, the second pile of stones was not ordered by God and thus should not exist.

B: Two Piles of 12 Stones

  • The second pile was in the center of the Jordan (eg, Matthew Poole, JFB commentary, etc) - This creates the difficulty of why a monument in a place where it would be both invisible and washed away, thus preventing the truth of the statement, "they are there to this day". However, these adherents suggest that the pile in the middle of Jordan was of very large stones (a fact that is conjectured because it is not recorded) and thus, would be both visible and unmoved.

  • The second pile was at the edge of the Jordan (eg, Pulpit commentary, Cambridge Commentary, etc) In this view, the stones were set up where the priests carrying the ark stood, at the edge of the Jordan. However, this is again, a conjecture as Josh 3:17 uses the same phrase to suggest that while the waters stopped flowing when the priests' feet touched the water, the priests still stood in the middle of the Jordan while Israel crossed.

That is, all three solutions to this problem require some conjecture and it is a matter of taste as to which is most plausible and requires least conjectural emendation of the story.

  • Proposal A has to resolve Joshua 4:8, that the stones were carried to their camp. Surely the Israelite should not camp in the river, that the stones should be piled on dry land. I have been thinking, if "are there to this day" was in vv4:8 instead of vv4:9, everything look fine. Moreover, I am highly suspect that vv3:12 is a duplicate of vv4:2, that shouldn't be there. Would there be a possibility of scribble error in Joshua? Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 20:14
  • @VincentWong - scribal error may be possible and that is the basis of option A
    – Dottard
    Commented Feb 23, 2023 at 20:38
  • + 1 ....not all questions have certain answers. Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 2:07

This is because of the Levite's concubine. The Levite is going to find his concubine who has run off whoring for 4 months, with the intention of speaking nicely to her. He arrives at her father's house, and they have a happy reunion and celebrate. The next day they do the same. And on the 3rd day at midday, the man is prepared to leave, but his father-in-law prevails on him to stay. 4th day stay to midday then leave. Then why don't you stay tonight? Celebrate and make merry. So they do so. And on the 5th morning, the Levite is prepared to leave and the father says stay to until midday and then leave, and he does. At midday, the father asks them to stay until night, and he says no, and they leave down the road together, the man and his concubine.

They come to a town of Benjamites... And they seek to lie with the man.. let him come out so we may know him. Buy they give them the concubine instead... in the morning he goes to leave... and she's prostrate on the doorstep.

27 And her lord rose up in the morning, and opened the doors of the house, and went out to go his way: and, behold, the woman his concubine was fallen down at the door of the house, and her hands were upon the threshold. 28 And he said unto her, Up, and let us be going. But none answered. Then the man took her up upon an ass, and the man rose up, and gat him unto his place. 29 And when he was come into his house, he took a knife, and laid hold on his concubine, and divided her, together with her bones, into twelve pieces, and sent her into all the coasts of Israel. 30 And it was so, that all that saw it said, There was no such deed done nor seen from the day that the children of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt unto this day: consider of it, take advice, and speak your minds.

This is why they take the 12 stones.

  • Would you elaborate how this answer the question? Commented May 20, 2023 at 1:38
  • Rereading the question, I see what you are saying... I initially understood it as why 12 stones.... the 12 stones there to this day I would take to be the monumental figures of civilization throughout the world.... when Israel is spoken of in this circumstance, it is referencing everyone that's not Egy..
    – Etanimur
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 11:46
  • ... Israel is referencing everyone that's not Egypt... the pieces of the concubine aren't dead flesh.. they are children of Moses by concubines.
    – Etanimur
    Commented May 21, 2023 at 11:59
  • sorry! I don't get how your answer and comment related to my question. Commented May 22, 2023 at 1:21

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