Joshua 3

Listen to Joshua 3

Israel Crosses the Jordan

1 Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out 1from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.
2 2At the end of three days the officers went through the camp
3 and commanded the people, "As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God being carried by 3the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it.
4 4Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits[a] in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before."
5 Then Joshua said to the people, 5"Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do wonders among you."
6 And Joshua said to the priests, 6"Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people." So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.
7 The LORD said to Joshua, "Today I will begin to 7exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, 8as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
8 And as for you, command 9the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, 'When you come to the brink of the waters of the Jordan, 10you shall stand still in the Jordan.'"
9 And Joshua said to the people of Israel, "Come here and listen to the words of the LORD your God."
10 And Joshua said, "Here is how you shall know that 11the living God is among you and that he will without fail 12drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
11 Behold, the ark of the covenant of 13the Lord of all the earth[b]14 is passing over before you into the Jordan.
12 Now therefore 15take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, 16from each tribe a man.
13 And 17when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the LORD, 18the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall 19stand in one heap."
14 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing 20the ark of the covenant before the people,
15 and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and 21the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now 22the Jordan overflows all its banks 23throughout the time of harvest),
16 the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside 24Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of 25the Arabah, 26the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho.
17 Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, 27and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

Joshua 3 Commentary

Chapter 3

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.

Cross References 27

  • 1. Joshua 2:1
  • 2. Joshua 1:10, 11
  • 3. ver. 8; Deuteronomy 31:9, 25
  • 4. [Exodus 19:12]
  • 5. Joshua 7:13; Ex. 19:10, 14, 15; Leviticus 20:7; Numbers 11:18; 1 Samuel 16:5; Joel 2:16
  • 6. Numbers 4:15
  • 7. Joshua 4:14; 1 Chronicles 29:25; 2 Chronicles 1:1
  • 8. Joshua 1:5
  • 9. ver. 3
  • 10. ver. 17
  • 11. Deuteronomy 5:26; 1 Samuel 17:26
  • 12. Exodus 33:2; Deuteronomy 7:1; Psalms 44:2; [Exodus 13:5]
  • 13. Micah 4:13; Zechariah 4:14; Zechariah 6:5
  • 14. [Deuteronomy 9:3]
  • 15. Joshua 4:2, 4
  • 16. [Numbers 13:2]
  • 17. ver. 15, 16
  • 18. [See ver. 11 above]
  • 19. Psalms 114:3; [Exodus 15:8; Psalms 78:13]
  • 20. Acts 7:44, 45
  • 21. ver. 13
  • 22. 1 Chronicles 12:15; Jeremiah 12:5; Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44
  • 23. [Joshua 4:18; Joshua 5:10, 12]
  • 24. 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46
  • 25. See Deuteronomy 1:1
  • 26. Genesis 14:3; Numbers 34:3
  • 27. Joshua 4:22; [Exodus 14:29]

Footnotes 2

  • [a]. A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
  • [b]. Hebrew the ark of the covenant, the Lord of all the earth

Chapter Summary


Joshua removed from Shittim to Jordan, where he stayed three days, Jos 3:1,2; the people are directed to move when they saw the ark bore by the priests, and what distance they should keep from it, Jos 3:3,4; are bid to sanctify themselves against the morrow, when wonders would be wrought, Jos 3:5; and the priests are ordered to take up the ark, Jos 3:6; Joshua is encouraged by the Lord, and instructed to command the priests when they come to Jordan to stand still in it, Jos 3:7,8; and he declares to all the people, as a token that God would drive the Canaanites from before them, that as soon as the feet of the priests bearing the ark should rest in the waters of Jordan, they should be parted, and make way for them to pass through, Jos 3:9-13; which accordingly came to pass, so that all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, Jos 3:14-17.

Joshua 3 Commentaries

The English Standard Version is published with the permission of Good News Publishers.