Joshua Comes to Jordan.
1. Joshua rose early in the morning—On
the day following that on which the spies had returned with their
encouraging report. The camp was broken up in "Shittim" (the acacia
groves), and removed to the eastern bank of the Jordan. The duration of
their stay is indicated (Jos 3:2),
being, according to Hebrew reckoning, only one entire day,
including the evening of arrival and the morning of the passage; and
such a time would be absolutely necessary for so motley an assemblage
of men, women, and children, with all their gear and cattle to make
ready for going into an enemy's country.
2-4. the officers went through the host; And they
commanded the people—The instructions given at this time and
in this place were different from those described (Jos 1:11).
3, 4. When ye see the ark …, and the priests
the Levites bearing it—The usual position of the ark, when at
rest, was in the center of the camp; and, during a march, in the middle
of the procession. On this occasion it was to occupy the van, and be
borne, not by the Kohathite Levites, but the priests, as on all solemn
and extraordinary occasions (compare Nu 4:15; Jos 6:6; 1Ki
then ye shall … go after it. Yet there
shall be a space between you and it—These instructions refer
exclusively to the advance into the river. The distance which the
people were to keep in the rear of the ark was nearly a mile. Had they
crowded too near the ark, the view would have been intercepted, and
this intervening space, therefore, was ordered, that the chest
containing the sacred symbols might be distinctly visible to all parts
of the camp, and be recognized as their guide in the untrodden way.
5. Joshua said unto the people—rather
"had said," for as he speaks of "to-morrow," the address must have been
made previous to the day of crossing, and the sanctification was in all
probability the same as Moses had commanded before the giving of the
law, consisting of an outward cleansing (Ex 19:10-15) preparatory to that serious and devout
state of mind with which so great a manifestation should be
6. Joshua spake unto the priests—This
order to the priests would be given privately, and involving as it did
an important change in the established order of march, it must be
considered as announced in the name and by the authority of God.
Moreover, as soon as the priests stepped into the waters of Jordan,
they were to stand still. The ark was to accomplish what had been done
by the rod of Moses.
Jos 3:7, 8.
The Lord Encourages Joshua.
7, 8. the Lord said to Joshua, This day will I
… magnify thee in the sight of all Israel—Joshua had
already received distinguished honors (Ex 24:13; De 31:7). But a higher token of the divine favor
was now to be publicly bestowed on him, and evidence given in the same
unmistakable manner that his mission and authority were from God as was
that of Moses (Ex 14:31).
Joshua Encourages the People.
9-13. Come hither, and hear the words of the
Lord—It seems that the Israelites had no intimation how they
were to cross the river till shortly before the event. The premonitory
address of Joshua, taken in connection with the miraculous result
exactly as he had described it, would tend to increase and confirm
their faith in the God of their fathers as not a dull, senseless,
inanimate thing like the idols of the nations, but a Being of life,
power, and activity to defend them and work for them.
Jos 3:14-17. The Waters of
Jordan Are Divided.
14-16. And it came to pass, when the people
removed from their tents, &c.—To understand the scene
described we must imagine the band of priests with the ark on their
shoulders, standing on the depressed edge of the river, while the mass
of the people were at a mile's distance. Suddenly the whole bed of the
river was dried up; a spectacle the more extraordinary in that it took
place in the time of harvest, corresponding to our April or
May—when "the Jordan overfloweth all its banks." The original
words may be more properly rendered "fills all its banks." Its channel,
snow-fed from Lebanon, was at its greatest height—brimful; a
translation which gives the only true description of the state of
Jordan in harvest as observed by modern travellers. The river about
Jericho is, in ordinary appearance, about fifty or sixty yards in
breadth. But as seen in harvest, it is twice as broad; and in ancient
times, when the hills on the right and left were much more drenched
with rain and snow than since the forests have disappeared, the river
must, from a greater accession of water, have been broader still than
at harvest-time in the present day.
16. the waters which came down from
above—that is, the Sea of Galilee
stood and rose up upon a heap—"in a
heap," a firm, compact barrier (Ex 15:8; Ps 78:13);
very far—high up the stream;
from the city Adam, that is beside
Zaretan—near mount Sartabeh, in the northern part of the Ghor
7:46); that is, a distance of
thirty miles from the Israelitish encampment; and
those that came down toward the sea of the
desert—the Dead Sea—were cut off (Ps 114:2, 3). The river was thus dried up as
far as the eye could reach. This was a stupendous miracle; Jordan takes
its name, "the Descender," from the force of its current, which, after
passing the Sea of Galilee, becomes greatly increased as it plunges
through twenty-seven "horrible rapids and cascades," besides a great
many lesser through a fall of a thousand feet, averaging from four to
five miles an hour [Lynch]. When swollen
"in time of harvest," it flows with a vastly accelerated current.
the people passed over right against
Jericho—The exact spot is unknown; but it cannot be that
fixed by Greek tradition—the pilgrims' bathing-place—both
because it is too much to the north, and the eastern banks are there
sheer precipices ten or fifteen feet high.
17. the priests … and all the Israelites
passed over on dry ground—the river about Jericho has a firm
pebbly bottom, on which the host might pass, without inconvenience when
the water was cleared off.