They get into position. They prepare spiritually. They cross the Jordan River.
VERSE 1. Joshua got up early in the morning; and they moved from Shittim and came to the Jordan, he and all the children of Israel. They camped there before they crossed over.
Joshua got up early in the morning. Joshua is a man of action.
they moved from Shittim and came to the Jordan. Joshua is a man of faith.
He doesn’t know how they will cross the Jordan. But he directs about two million people to prepare to do it.
They camped there. The inhabitants of the land can see the nation on the camped on the shore of the Jordan River.
Were they frightened of this immense nation at their border? The people of Jericho were.
After three days. In these three days, everyone would have had an opportunity to see the Jordan River.
At this time of year it would have had a strong and rapid current. That was due to the melting of the winter snows of Mount Hermon in the north.
It would have made it seem impossible for them to cross it.
VERSE 3. and they commanded the people, saying, “When you see the ark of the LORD your God’s covenant, and the Levitical priests bearing it, then leave your place and follow it.
the ark of the … covenant. They will no longer be led by the Pillar of Fire and the Pillar of Cloud.
Now they are to follow the Ark of the Covenant. The ark is the sign of their VICTORY!
the Levitical priests bearing it. Their invasion of the Promised Land will not be led by an army.
Rather, it will be led by priests. They are carrying the Ark of the Covenant.
And since the ark stands for the LORD GOD, it is the LORD God who leads his people into the Promised Land.
VERSE 4. Yet there shall be a space between you and it of about two thousand cubits by measure—don’t come closer to it—that you may know the way by which you must go; for you have not passed this way before.”
about two thousand cubits. A cubit is the length from the tip of the middle finger to the elbow on a man’s arm, or about 18 inches or 46 centimeters. So 2,000 cubits is about 920 meters.
Perhaps they were to have that distance as a reminder of the sacredness of the Ark and the holiness of the LORD God it represents.
VERSE 5. Joshua said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you.”
Sanctify yourselves. They are to prepare to invade the Promised Land. How? Not by sharpening swords or checking their ammunition.
No, their preparation consists of sanctification. It is a spiritual preparation.
They will soon take part in one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world.
tomorrow the LORD will do wonders. Joshua expects a miracle. He plans for it. He makes decisions accordingly. He tells the nation how it will happen.
There is no stammering, no hedging of his bets, no “probably” in his words.
Joshua doesn’t even declare it “by faith.”
VERSE 6. Joshua spoke to the priests, saying, “Take up the ark of the covenant, and cross over before the people.” They took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.
cross over before the people. The Levitical priests lift the Ark of the Covenant and get into position.
They hav taken point. They are in front.
The priests are leading the way into battle. Into freedom.
They are standing in front of about two million people.
They are standing mere feet from a great river. And they have no idea how they will cross it.
VERSE 7. The LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to magnify you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
Today I will begin to magnify you. The LORD God will establish Joshua’s credentials as the chosen agent of the LORD God to lead the nation Israel.
VERSE 8. You shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, saying, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’ ”
stand still in the Jordan. They are about to cross from the desert into the Promised Land. The ark of the covenant stands in the middle. It is their gateway.
VERSE 9. Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God.”
VERSE 10. Joshua said, “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Hivite, the Perizzite, the Girgashite, the Amorite, and the Jebusite out from before you.
the living God is among you. This is the essence of Joshua’s message.
VERSE 11. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passes over before you into the Jordan.
the Lord. The Hebrew word translated “Lord” (mixed case) is “Adonai.”
passes over before you. The ark of the covenant leads them from the desert into the Promised Land. It is their gateway.
VERSE 12. Now therefore take twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, for every tribe a man.
VERSE 13. It shall be that when the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan will be cut off. The waters that come down from above shall stand in one heap.”
VERSE 14. When the people moved from their tents to pass over the Jordan, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant being before the people,
moved from their tents. The nation breaks camp. They are on their feet and ready to go.
The river was at flood stage, since it was the time of the barley harvest, the first month, the month of Nisan (March-April):
Joshua 4:19. The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, on the east border of Jericho.
The river being at flood stage must have been a foreboding sight to the priests and people. And a severe test of their faith.
VERSE 15. and when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark had dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the time of harvest),
those who bore the ark. That is, the Levites who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant.
dipped in the edge of the water. When their feet touch the water.
VERSE 16. the waters which came down from above stood, and rose up in one heap a great way off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those that went down toward the sea of the Arabah, even the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people passed over near Jericho.
the waters … rose up in one heap. The Jordan River was split in two!
This reminds us of when they crossed the Red Sea:
Exodus 15:8. With the blast of your nostrils, the waters were piled up. The floods stood upright as a heap. The deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea.
Joshua 3:16. the waters which came down from above stood, and rose up in one heap a great way off, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those that went down toward the sea of the Arabah, even the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people passed over near Jericho.
Psalm 78:13. He split the sea, and caused them to pass through. He made the waters stand as a heap.
at Adam. That city is usually identified with Tell ed-Damiyeh, which is about 16 miles north of the ford opposite Jericho.
Therefore the Jordan was split for 16 miles!
There was super-abundant space for the nation to cross.
VERSE 17. The priests who bore the ark of the LORD’s covenant stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the nation had passed completely over the Jordan.
priests … stood firm. This is the essence of being an ambassador of the LORD God. You stand firm.
on dry ground. They stood on the bottom of the river. It was dry. Solid.
until all the nation had passed completely. The entire nation walked through the Jordan River. On dry ground.
Centuries later, Elijah and Elisha will cross the same river on dry ground to the east:
2 Kings 2:8. Elijah took his mantle, and rolled it up, and struck the waters, and they were divided here and there, so that they both went over on dry ground.
VERSE 18. When the priests who bore the ark of the LORD’s covenant had come up out of the middle of the Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet had been lifted up to the dry ground, the waters of the Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks, as before.
VERSE 19. The people came up out of the Jordan on the tenth day of the first month, and encamped in Gilgal, on the east border of Jericho.
encamped in Gilgal. Now the battle begins. They will take the Promised Land by military conquest. They will face armies, chariots, and fortified cities.
VERSE 20. Joshua set up those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, in Gilgal.
VERSE 21. He spoke to the children of Israel, saying, “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean?’
VERSE 22. Then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel came over this Jordan on dry land.
VERSE 23. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordan from before you until you had crossed over, as the LORD your God did to the Sea of Suf, which he dried up from before us, until we had crossed over,
VERSE 24. that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD’s hand is mighty, and that you may fear the LORD your God forever.’ ”
that all the peoples of the earth may know. To this very day, we do know.
Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations on this page are from the World English Bible and the World Messianic Edition. These translations have no copyright restrictions. They are in the Public Domain.