The Israelites come to Jordan. (1-6) The Lord encourages joshua-Joshua encourages the people. (7-13) The Israelites pass through Jordan on dry land. (14-17)
Verses 1-6 The Israelites came to Jordan in faith, having been told that they should pass it. In the way of duty, let us proceed as far as we can, and depend on the Lord. Joshua led them. Particular notice is taken of his early rising, as afterwards upon other occasions, which shows how little he sought his own ease. Those who would bring great things to pass, must rise early. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty. All in public stations should always attend to the duty of their place. The people were to follow the ark. Thus must we walk after the rule of the word, and the direction of the Spirit, in everything; so shall peace be upon us as upon the Israel of God; but we must follow our ministers only as they follow Christ. All their way through the wilderness was an untrodden path, but most so this through Jordan. While we are here, we must expect and prepare to pass ways that we have not passed before; but in the path of duty we may proceed with boldness and cheerfulness. Whether we are called to suffer poverty, pain, labour, persecution, reproach, or death, we are following the Author and Finisher of our faith; nor can we set our feet in any dangerous or difficult spot, through our whole journey, but faith will there see the prints of the Redeemer's feet, who trod that very path to glory above, and bids us follow him, that where he is, we may be also. They were to sanctify themselves. Would we experience the effects of God's love and power, we must put away sin, and be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Verses 7-13 The waters of Jordan shall be cut off. This must be done in such a way as never was done, but in the dividing of the Red sea. That miracle is here repeated; God has the same power to finish the salvation of his people, as to begin it; the WORD of the Lord was as truly with Joshua as with Moses. God's appearances for his people ought to encourage faith and hope. God's work is perfect, he will keep his people. Jordan's flood cannot keep out Israel, Canaan's force cannot turn them out again.
Verses 14-17 Jordan overflowed all its banks. This magnified the power of God, and his kindness to Israel. Although those who oppose the salvation of God's people have all advantages, yet God can and will conquer. This passage over Jordan, as an entrance to Canaan, after their long, weary wanderings in the wilderness, shadowed out the believer's passage through death to heaven, after he has finished his wanderings in this sinful world. Jesus, typified by the ark, hath gone before, and he crossed the river when it most flooded the country around. Let us treasure up experiences of His faithful and tender care, that they may help our faith and hope in the last conflict.
Joshua 3:1-6 . 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 ( Joshua 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 ( Joshua 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 Numbers 4:15 , Joshua 6:6 , 1 Kings 8:3-6 ).
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 ( Exodus 19:10-15 ) preparatory to that serious and devout state of mind with which so great a manifestation should be witnessed.
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.
Joshua 3:7 Joshua 3:8 . 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 ( Exodus 24:13 , Deuteronomy 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 ( Exodus 14:31 ).
Joshua 3:9-13 . 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.
Joshua 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 ( Exodus 15:8 , Psalms 18:13 );
very far--high up the stream;
from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan--near mount Sartabeh, in the northern part of the Ghor ( 1 Kings 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 ( Psalms 114:2 Psalms 114:3 ). 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.