25 Apr. Joshua 3:1-17

25 Apr. The Israelites cross the River Jordan

“Early the next morning Joshua and all the Israelites left Acacia [Abel Shittim]. They travelled to the Jordan River and camped there before crossing it.”

“After three days the officers went through the camp and gave orders to the people: ‘When you see the priests and Levites carrying the Ark of the [Covenant] Agreement with the LORD your God, leave where you are and follow it. That way you will know which way to go since you have never been here before. But do not follow too closely. Stay about a kilometre behind the Ark.’”

“Then Joshua told the people, ‘Make yourselves holy, because tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.’ Joshua said to the priests, ‘Take the Ark of the [Covenant] Agreement and go ahead of the people.’ So the priests lifted the Ark and carried it ahead of the people.”

“Then the LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to make you great in the opinion of all the Israelites so the people will know I am with you just as I was with Moses. Tell the priests who carry the Ark of the [Covenant] Agreement to go to the edge of the Jordan River and stand in the water.’”

“Then Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here … Here is living proof that the LORD your God is with you… The Ark of the [Covenant] Agreement with the Lord of the whole World will go ahead of you into the Jordan River… When they step into the water, it will stop. The river will stop flowing and will stand up in a heap.’”

“So the people left the place where they had camped, and they followed the priests who carried the Ark of the [Covenant] Agreement across the Jordan River.”

“During harvest the Jordan overflowed its banks. When the priests carrying the Ark came to the edge of the river and stepped into the water, the water a great distance away stopped flowing. It stood up in a heap a great distance away at Adam, a town near Zarethan. The water flowing down to the Sea of Arabah (the Dead Sea) was completely cut off.”

“So the people crossed the river near Jericho. The priests carried the Ark of the [Covenant] Agreement with the LORD to the middle of the river and stood there on dry ground. They waited there while all the people of Israel walked across the Jordan River on dry land.”

          (Joshua 3:1-17)



After the spies reported back to Joshua, the Israelites moved camp to the east bank of the River Jordan, east of Jericho. They were given instructions by their army officers on how to follow the priests and Levites when they carried the Ark of the Covenant across the river.

It was springtime and flax and barley would have been almost ready to harvest. The River Jordan was usually in flood at this time of year because the spring meltwaters from Mount Hermon in the north flow south towards the Dead Sea (see the photo).

But the surge of water was temporarily blocked upstream by a landslip at Adam (Tell Adamiyeh) near Damia (Adam) Bridge, 30 miles / 48 km upstream from Jericho (see the map on 23 April). So the priests, and then the people, were able to cross the river on dry land.

This dramatic crossing of the River Jordan on dry land has often been compared with the miraculous crossing of the 'Red Sea' [that is, the Reed Sea] on dry land (see Exodus 14:21-22). In the earlier crossing of the 'Red' [Reed] Sea, the Israelites escaped from slavery; in the later crossing of the Jordan River, the Israelites crossed over from ‘slavery to sin’ into a new covenant relationship with God.

In both cases, what was undoubtedly a ‘miracle’ can, nevertheless, be explained in non-supernatural terms. The Biblical account makes it quite clear that the flow of water in the River Jordan near Jericho was temporarily halted by a landslip upstream at Adam (see Joshua 3:16).

Similar well-documented landslips, temporarily cutting off the flow of water downsteam from Adam, occurred in 1267, 1909 and in 1927 (when a collapse of the high western bank of the river near Adam Bridge blocked the flow of the River Jordan for over 21 hours).

The photo (by Beivushtang) shows the River Jordan in full flow during the spring floods. You can see several, recent and unvegetated landslip scars on the steep banks of the river in the background of the photo.

You can read more about the crossing of the River Jordan @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/27-the-israelites-move-into-canaan/the-israelites-cross-the-river-jordan/

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