Joshua 3


The Israelitish camp removes frown Shittim to Jordan, 1.

The officers inform them how they are to pass the river, and the

distance they are to keep from the ark, 2 4.

Joshua directs the people, 5, 6;

and the Lord gives directions to Joshua, 7, 8.

He delivers the Lord's message to the people, and foretells the

miraculous passage and division of Jordan, 9-13.

The priests, bearing the ark, enter the river, and immediately

the waters are cut off, and the priests stand on dry ground,

in the bed of the river, till all the camp passes over, 14-17.


Verse 1. Joshua rose early] Archbishop Usher supposes that this

was upon Wednesday, the 28th of April, A. M. 2553, the fortieth

year after the exodus from Egypt. From Shittim, where they had

lately been encamped, to Jordan, was about sixty stadia, according

to Josephus; that is, about eight English miles.

Verse 2. After three days] These three days are probably to be

thus understood: As soon as Joshua took the command of the army,

he sent the spies to ascertain the state of Jericho; as we have

seen Jos 1:12. They returned at the end of three days, or rather

on the third day, and made their report. It was at this time,

immediately on the return of the spies, that he made the

proclamation mentioned here; in consequence of which the people

immediately struck their tents, and marched forward to Jordan.

Verse 4. About two thousand cubits] This distance they were to

keep, 1. For the greater respect, because the presence of the ark

was the symbol and pledge of the Divine presence. 2. That the ark,

which was to be their pilot over these waters, might be the more

conspicuous which it could not have been had the people crowded

upon it.

Verse 5. Sanctify yourselves] What was implied in this command

we are not informed; but it is likely that it was the same as that

given by Moses, Ex 19:10-14. They were to wash themselves and

their garments, and abstain from every thing that might indispose

their minds from a profitable attention to the miracle about to be

wrought in their behalf.

Verse 6. Spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark] It is

remarkable that the priests, not the Levites, whose ordinary

business it was were employed to carry the ark on this occasion.

Calmet conjectures that this was because it was probably carried

without being wrapped up in its curtains, as it always was when

the Levites carried it. Though it was the business of the Levites,

the sons of Kohath, to carry the ark; yet on certain occasions the

priests alone performed this office. 1. In the present case. 2.

When they encompassed Jericho, Jos 6:6. 3. When it was carried to

the war against the Philistines by the priests, the sons of Eli,

2Sa 15:25. 4. When David sent it back to Jerusalem, at the time

he was obliged to fly from it, through the rebellion of his son

Absalom, 2Sa 15:25; and, 5. At the time that it was taken out of

the tabernacle, to be deposited in the temple; see 1Ki 8:6-11.

These were the most solemn occasions, and on such alone, we may

presume, the priests performed this office instead of the Levites.

In all their former marches the ark was carried in the centre of

this immense camp; (see the scheme at the end of Nu 2:2 of the

book of Numbers;) but now it was to proceed at the head of the

army, and to go before them, and at such a distance, about three

quarters of a mile, that the whole camp might see it as their


Verse 7. This day will I begin to magnify thee] By making him

the instrument in this miraculous passage, he did him honour and

gave him high credit in the sight of the people: hence his

authority was established, and obedience to him as their leader

fully secured. What must have confirmed this authority was, his

circumstantially foretelling how the waters should be cut off as

soon as the feet of the priests had touched them, Jos 3:13. This

demonstrated that the secret of the Lord was with him.

Verse 8. Ye shall stand still in Jordan.] The priests proceeded

first with the ark, and entered into the bed of the river the

course of which was immediately arrested, the waters collecting

above the place where the priests stood, while the stream fell

off towards the Dead Sea; so that the whole channel below where

the priests were standing became dry. The whole camp, therefore,

passed over below where the priests were standing, keeping at the

distance of two thousand cubits from the ark; this they would

readily do, as the whole bed of the river was dry for many miles

below the place where the priests entered.

Verse 10. Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you]

The Israelites were apt to be discouraged, and to faint at even

the appearance of danger; it was necessary, therefore, that they

should have the fullest assurance of the presence and assistance

of God in the important enterprise on which they were now

entering. They are to combat idolaters, who have nothing to trust

in and help them but gods of wood, stone, and metal: whereas

they are to have the living God in the midst of them-HE who is the

author of life and of being-who can give, or take it away, at his

pleasure; and who by this miracle proved that he had undertaken to

guide and defend them: and Joshua makes this manifestation of God

the proof that he will drive out the Hittites, Hivites, &c, before


With regard to the situation of each of these nations in the

land of Canaan, Calmet remarks, that those called CANAANITES

chiefly inhabited what is called Phoenicia, the environs of Tyre

and Sidon: the HITTITES occupied the mountains, southward of the

promised land: the HIVITES dwelt by Ebal and Gerizim, Sichem and

Gibeon, towards the mountains of Hermon: the PERIZZITES were

probably not a distinct nation or tribe, but rather villagers,

scattered through the country in general: the GIRGASHITES

possessed the country beyond the Jordan, towards the lake of

Gennesareth: the JEBUSITES possessed Jerusalem: and the AMORITES

occupied the mountainous country in the vicinity of the western

part of the Dead Sea, and also that part of the land of Moab which

the Israelites conquered from Sihon and Og.

Verse 12. Take you twelve men] See Clarke on Jos 4:2.

Verse 15. And the feet of the priests-were dipped in the brim of

the water] Thus we find that every thing occurred exactly in the

way in which Joshua had foretold it. This must have greatly

increased his credit among the people.

For Jordan overfloweth all his banks, &c.] It has often been

remarked that there was no need of a miracle in crossing Jordan,

as it is but an inconsiderable stream, easily fordable, being but

about twenty yards in breadth. But the circumstance marked here by

the sacred historian proves that there was a time in the year,

viz., in the harvest, that this said river overflowed its banks;

and this is confirmed by another place in Scripture, 1Ch 12:15.

As the miracle reported here took place about the beginning of

April, a time in which rivers in general are less than in winter,

it may be asked how there could be such an increase of waters at

this time? The simple fact is, that the Jordan, as we have already

seen, has its origin at the foot of Mount Lebanon, which mountain

is always covered with snow during the winter months; in those

months therefore the river is low: but when the summer's sun has

melted these snows, there is consequently a prodigious increase of

waters, so that the old channel is not capable of containing them;

this accounts for the statement in the text that the Jordan

overfloweth his banks all the time of harvest; and this was the

time which God chose they should pass over it, that a miraculous

interposition might be necessary, and that by the miracle they

should be convinced of his omnipotence, who was not only their

guide, but had promised to put them in possession of this good


Verse 16. Rose up upon a heap] That is, they continued to

accumulate, filling up the whole of the channel toward the source,

and the adjacent ground over which they were now spread, to a much

greater depth, the power of God giving a contrary direction to the

current. We need not suppose them to be gathered up like a

mountain, instar montis, as the Vulgate expresses it, but that

they continued to flow back in the course of the channel; and ere

they could have reached the lake of Gennesareth, where they might

have been easily accumulated, the whole Israelitish army would

have all got safely to the opposite side.

Very far from the city Adam-beside Zaretan] Where these places

were it is difficult to say. The city Adam is wholly unknown. From

1Ki 4:12 we learn that

Zartanah was below Jezreel near Bethshean, or Scythopolis,

and not far from Succoth, 1Ki 7:46. And it appears from

Ge 33:17, Jos 13:27, that

Succoth lay on the east side of Jordan, not far from the lake of

Gennesareth; and probably Adam was on the same side to the north

of Succoth. It is probable that the Israelites crossed the Jordan

near Bethabara, where John baptized, Joh 1:28, and which probably

had its name, the house of passage, from this very circumstance.

After all, it is extremely difficult to ascertain the exact

situation of these places, as in the lapse of upwards of 3,000

years the face of the country must have been materially changed.

Seas, rivers, and mountains, change not; and though we cannot

ascertain the spot, it is sufficiently evident that we can come

near to the place. It has been considered a lame objection

against the truth of the Iliad that the situation of Troy cannot

now be exactly ascertained. There are even many ancient cities and

considerable towns in Europe, that, though they still bear their

former names, do not occupy the same spot. There are not a few of

those even in England; among such Norwich, Salisbury, &c., may be

ranked, neither of which is in its primitive situation.

Right against Jericho.] It would be impossible for the whole

camp to pass over in the space opposite to Jericho, as they must

have taken up some miles in breadth, besides the 2,000 cubits

which were left on the right between them and the ark; but the

river was divided opposite to Jericho, and there the camp began to

pass over.

Verse 17. The priests-stood firm on dry ground] They stood in

the mid channel, and shifted not their position till the camp,

consisting of nearly 600,000 effective men, besides women,

children, &c., had passed over.

1. Is it not surprising that the Canaanites did not dispute this

passage with the Israelites? It is likely they would, had they had

any expectation that such a passage would have been attempted.

They must have known that the Israelitish camp was on the other

side of the Jordan, but could they have supposed that a passage

for such a host was possible when the banks of the Jordan were

quite overflowed? It was not merely because they were panic struck

that they did not dispute this passage, but because they must have

supposed it impossible; and when they found the attempt was made,

the passage was effected before they could prepare to prevent it.

2. GOD now appears in such a way, and works in such a manner, as

to leave no doubt concerning his presence or his power, or of his

love to Israel. After this, was it possible for this people ever

to doubt his being or his bounty? This, with the miraculous

passage of the Red Sea, were well calculated to have established

their faith for ever; and those who did not yield to the evidence

afforded by these two miracles were incapable of rational


3. In some respects the passage of the Jordan was more

strikingly miraculous than that even of the Red Sea. In the latter

God was pleased to employ an agent; the sea went back by a strong

east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, Ex 14:21.

Nothing of this kind appeared in the passage of the Jordan; a very

rapid river (for so all travellers allow it to be) went back to

its source without any kind of agency but the invisible hand of

the invisible God.

4. Through the whole period of the Jewish history these

miracles, so circumstantially related, were never denied by any,

but on the contrary conscientiously believed by all. Nor did any

of them in their revolts from God, which were both foul and

frequent, ever call these great facts in question, when even so

full of enmity against God as to blaspheme his name, and give his

glory to dumb idols! Is not this a manifest proof that these facts

were incontestable? and that Jehovah had so done his marvellous

works that they should be had in everlasting remembrance? Reader,

the same God who is over all is rich in mercy to all that call

upon him. HE changes not, neither is he weary: trust in the Lord

for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength; and HE

ever saves his followers out of the hands of all their enemies,

and, having guided them by his counsel, will receive them into his


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