Did rocks in Old Testament times talk?

Q. Please explain Joshua 24:27 which says: “Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.”

My question is this… of course we know that rocks cannot hear and Joshua meant this figurativley… or did he? The context doesn’t provide clues so it is all a matter of how this is interpreted. The Bible does use the word “heard”, but does that mean that rocks were, in Bible days, conscious things so cognitive as to be witnesses to something? If this passage is taken literally, it might be argued so.

We use similar figurative expressions in English. We say, “The White House says today…..” when we actually mean that a representative of the “White House” has spoken on a certain issue. In English this is a figure of speech called “metonymy.” In Hebrew it is known as “prosopopaeia.” The comment I have pasted below comes from the commentator GILL, and I think it is a good one.

The Hebrew figure called “prosopopaeia”, frequent in Scripture, by which inanimate creatures are represented as hearing, seeing, and speaking, and may signify, that should the Israelites break this covenant, and disobey the commands of the Lord they had promised to keep, they would be as stupid and senseless as this stone, or more so, which would rise in judgment against them. Nachmanides {d} a Jewish commentator, interprets this stone of the Messiah, the same as in Ge 49:24 Ps 118:22 Zec 3:8,9 ; it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God; for a memorial and testimony to prevent them from going into atheism, a denying of the true God, or into apostasy from him, and into idolatry and false worship.

The Targum of which is,

“behold, this stone shall be to us as the two tables of stone of the covenant, for we made it for a testimony; for the words which are written upon it are the sum of all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us, and it shall be unto you for a memorial, and for a testimony, lest ye lie before the Lord.”

Comments are closed.