The first big obstacle the Israelites faced after Joshua assumed command did not come from an opposing army but rather a natural boundary - the Jordan River (Joshua 3:1). God allowed Joshua, like Moses before him (Exodus 13:17-14:29), to successfully traverse a large body of water (Joshua 3:1-17). Once successfully on the other side, God commanded that a representative from each of Israel’s twelve tribes procure a stone from the river to be used as part of a monument to commemorate the milestone (Joshua 4:1-7). The place where the stones were stacked was called Gilgal (Joshua 4:20).
Fittingly, the name “Gilgal” is derived from the Hebrew verb galal, meaning “to roll, roll away, roll down, roll together”. Though this is the most famous incident at a place called Gilgal there are several other Gilgals in the Old Testament and debate as to which Biblical references overlap. The Bible also speaks of a Gilgal near Shechem (Deuteronomy 11:30), a Gilgal near Bethel that served as a prophetic headquarters during the time of Elijah and Elisha (II Kings 2:1, 4:38); a Gilgal in the valley of Lebanon (Joshua 12:23), and a Gilgal that served as a border city for Judah between Jericho and Jerusalem (Joshua 15:17). Joshua is even said to have captured a Gilgal (Joshua 12:7) but whether or not this is the same site where the stones were stacked is subject to debate.
Why do people build monuments? What monuments are near you? Why were they built? Who was involved in the decision to build them?
People naturally celebrate milestones in their lives. The crossing of the Jordan River represented a new era in Israelite history. The nation was finally actively pursuing the Promised Land and the event also legitimized the reign of a new leader, Joshua (Joshua 3:7).
What events do you want to commemorate? Do you venerate your own successes or God’s successes through you?