Joshua 3:16

16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.

Read Joshua 3:16 Using Other Translations

That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.
the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho.
the water above that point began backing up a great distance away at a town called Adam, which is near Zarethan. And the water below that point flowed on to the Dead Sea until the riverbed was dry. Then all the people crossed over near the town of Jericho.

What does Joshua 3:16 mean?

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible
Joshua 3:16

That the waters which came down from above
Above where the priests' feet rested, and which came down from Mount Lebanon, and the fountains of Jordan northward:

stood [and] rose up upon an heap;
they stopped their current, and as the water came down they rose up on high, and made one vast heap of waters:

very far from the city of Adam, that is, beside Zaretan;
the Cetib, or textual reading, is, "in Adam the city"; we follow the marginal reading, "from Adam": both readings, as is usually, if not always the case, are to be received; and the meaning is, that this heap of waters, though the river was at a considerable distance from Adam; yet through the overflow of it, it reached to, and was "in Adam": this city was in Perea, on the other side Jordan, that side on which the Israelites were before their passage; and Zaretan, which is supposed to be the same with Zartanah, and Zarthan, ( 1 Kings 4:12 ) ( 7:46 ) , was on this side, in the tribe of Manasseh; and the sense is, not that Adam was on the side of Zaretan, or near it, for it was on the other side of the river; and according to the Talmudists F1 was twelve miles from it; but the construction is with the word "heap", "which [heap] was on the side of Zaretan"; it was there where the waters were heaped up; it seems as if they reached on the one side to Adam, and on the other side to Zaretan:

and those that came down towards the sea of the plain, [even] the salt
sea, failed, [and] were cut off;
those waters, which were below where the priests' feet rested, ran down into the lake Asphaltites, where Sodom and Gomorrah formerly stood, the sea of the plain, or vale of Siddim, ( Genesis 14:3 ) ; sometimes called the dead sea, and here the salt sea, its water being exceeding salt; so, Mr. Maundrell, the above mentioned traveller F2 testifies on his own knowledge;

``the water of the lake (the lake Asphaltites, or dead sea, says he) was very limpid, and salt to the highest degree; and not only salt, but also extreme bitter and nauseous;''

so that these waters running down thither, and those above stopped, made a dry channel for sixteen or eighteen miles: and the people passed over right against Jericho; which was the city Joshua had in view to attack first, and had sent spies thither to get intelligence of it, and the disposition of the people in it: (See Gill on Joshua 2:1).


F1 T. Hieros. Sotah, fol. 21. 4.
F2 Maundrell, ut supra, (Journel from Aleppo to Jerusalem) p. 84. Ed. 7.
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