What Do These Stones Mean?


Author: Dr. Stephen Newby, Minister of Worship


When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So, these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

Joshua 4:1-7


OK! Twelve stones. Piled up. In the middle of a river. What is this?

A pile of stones in the middle of the river stood between a motley bunch of tribes and a promise. Stones put there as a memorial to how God “did a miracle” to deliver on that promise and make those tribes a people.

It is a monument built by that people who had seen that miracle and had received that promise. Each tribe had been present, so each tribe had to ‘represent’ — with a stone.

It is a monument built by the people. And for the people — especially for their children, who, walking along the riverside with their elderly parents, will turn to them one day and ask, “What’s up with these stones?”

A pile of stones. An oversized conversation piece, not so much to be admired as decoded: What do those stones mean to you?

And your response…..

“Oh, these stones? They are a memorial to a miracle that God has given to make us the people that we are.”

Because it’s not about the things that we build. 

It’s about the people that we are.


O Lord, as we renew our promise, Let Your work be shown to Your servants and Your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” (Psalm 90:16-17)