49. Monumental Stones

Genesis 28:18; Genesis 35:14; Exodus 24:4; Numbers 7:1; Joshua 4:3-9; Joshua 24:26; 1 Samuel 7:12; 1 Timothy 3:15
Genesis 28:1818And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. (Genesis 28:18). Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
1. This stone was set up as a monument of God’s wonderful revelation to him, and of his vow (vs. 20). Thirty years later he repeated this solemn act in the same place (Gen. 35:1414And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he talked with him, even a pillar of stone: and he poured a drink offering thereon, and he poured oil thereon. (Genesis 35:14)). Moses likewise built twelve pillars at Sinai as a sign of God’s covenant (Ex. 24:44And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord, and rose up early in the morning, and builded an altar under the hill, and twelve pillars, according to the twelve tribes of Israel. (Exodus 24:4)). So Joshua set up a monument of stones in commemoration of the passage of the Jordan (Josh. 4:3-93And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests' feet stood firm, twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night. 4Then Joshua called the twelve men, whom he had prepared of the children of Israel, out of every tribe a man: 5And Joshua said unto them, Pass over before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of Jordan, and take ye up every man of you a stone upon his shoulder, according unto the number of the tribes of the children of Israel: 6That this may be a sign among you, that when your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, What mean ye by these stones? 7Then ye shall answer them, That the waters of Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord; when it passed over Jordan, the waters of Jordan were cut off: and these stones shall be for a memorial unto the children of Israel for ever. 8And the children of Israel did so as Joshua commanded, and took up twelve stones out of the midst of Jordan, as the Lord spake unto Joshua, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, and carried them over with them unto the place where they lodged, and laid them down there. 9And Joshua set up twelve stones in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood: and they are there unto this day. (Joshua 4:3‑9)). At Shechem also he set up a atone under an oak as a memorial of the covenant between God and his people(Josh. 24:2626And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. (Joshua 24:26)). In like manner Samuel erected a stone between Mizpeh and Shen to commemorate his victory over the Philistines(1 Sam. 7:1212Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-ezer, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us. (1 Samuel 7:12)). As these stone pillars were all erected as testimonies of some great events, it has been suggested that Paul in 1 Tim. 3:1515But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. (1 Timothy 3:15) designs to represent the Church as a pillar of testimony for the truth, God having founded and reared the Church as a monument for that purpose.
There existed in heathen countries a practice similar to the one referred to in the text. Morier gives a good illustration of our text in a little incident he saw while traveling in Persia. He says: “I remarked that our old guide, every here and there, placed a stone on a conspicuous bit of rock, or two stones one upon the other, at the same time uttering some words, which I learned were a prayer for our safe return” (Second Journey through Persia, p. 85). He had frequently seen similar stones without knowing their design.
2. The anointing of the stone by Jacob was doubtless designed as a solemn act of consecration of this stone to its monumental purposes; just as subsequently Moses, by command of God, anointed the tabernacle and its furniture (Num. 7:11And it came to pass on the day that Moses had fully set up the tabernacle, and had anointed it, and sanctified it, and all the instruments thereof, both the altar and all the vessels thereof, and had anointed them, and sanctified them; (Numbers 7:1)). This act of the patriarch is not to be confounded with the idolatrous practice, common among heathens, of pouring oil upon stones and worshiping them. See note on Isaiah 52:66Therefore my people shall know my name: therefore they shall know in that day that I am he that doth speak: behold, it is I. (Isaiah 52:6) (#527).