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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 3

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-6

Joshua - Chapter 3

Preparing to Cross Jordan, vs. 1-6

The Israelite camp at Shittim was opposite the city of Jericho, on the east side of the Jordan River. They had been camped here since they had successfully defeated the Amorite kings (Numbers 25:1), and it was in the camp here that Moses gave the farewell addresses before his death recorded in the Book of Deuteronomy.

It is probable that Joshua moved the camp nearer to the river crossing, as shown in verse 1, while awaiting the report of the spies he had sent to Jericho. This is suggested by the fact that just three days later (the spies were gone three days), the officers were sent through the camp to advise the people that they were to be ready to decamp and follow the ark of the covenant when they saw the priest and Levites depart with it to go before them.

The ark was a holy vessel of the tabernacle, to be borne only by the Kohathite family of the Levites after the son of the high priest had covered it with the veil (Numbers 4:17-20).

It was to precede the people in battle and such campaigns as they were about to undertake (Numbers 10:33). The distance prescribed be­tween the people and the ark would separate the people as profane from the ark, the holy symbol of God’s presence, borne by men sanctified to the Lord’s purpose. There was also another reason; this was a new way by which they had not previously gone.

A thousand yards behind, the people could see the priests bearing the ark down the slope to the river crossing, the symbol of the Lord’s leadership to give them confidence for the battles to come.

Joshua said to the people, "Sanctify yourselves: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you."

They were to go through ceremonial cleansing to prepare themselves for a manifestation of the Lord’s greatness to come the next day.

Here is a strong witness for God’s children today, to keep themselves clean from the world and its evil that in the days ahead the Lord may do wonders among them. This done the Israelites (and Christians by analogy) are ready to set forth on the journey, (1 Peter 3:15).

Verses 7-8

God’s commands, vs. 7-8

This verse relates what the Lord had told Joshua in chapter one, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee" (v. 5). The people of Israel had not yet seen what the Lord would do with Joshua, as their new leader; he was yet unproven.

Note that God said He would on this day "begin to magnify" him. The people, after the miracle which the Lord is about to perform, as Joshua leads the people in crossing the River, will realize that the Lord approves their new captain and will perform His promises through Joshua’s leadership. He will build on this initial magnifying of Moses’ successor until they will accept Joshua, just as they had Moses.

The Lord now directs Joshua to assume his authority, by telling the priest bearers of the ark to move forward to the river’s brink, and to stand still in the Jordan The priests must exercise faith and confidence in Joshua to obey, (1 Corinthians 11:1).

Verses 9-13

Joshua’s Command, vs. 9-13

Joshua comes now to the announcement of the mighty miracle which the Lord is about to perform before the Israelites. Its purpose is not merely to get Israel across the flooding river Jordan, but it is to strengthen the faith of the people that the Lord is indeed among them and is leading them through the ministry of Joshua.

It will further reassure them concerning their ultimate victory over the tribes of Canaan, seven of whom are named specifically here. There is one mysterious command of Joshua, the purpose of which will not at once be clear. Each tribe is to choose one particular man for a yet unspecified purpose.

It was then, as it is often today, that the Lord prepares His workmen for purposes not readily apparent. The great event which is about to occur, which will magnify Joshua in their sight, is that the waters of the Jordan will cease to flow downstream as soon as the feet of the priests bearing the ark touch the water of the Jordan The waters will be impounded behind an invisible dam, producing a lake which is contained by the hand of the Lord. The following Israelites would be able to look down upon this scene and have faith to follow where the Lord leads them, (Hebrews 12:1-2).

Verses 14-17

Crossing Jordan, vs. 14-17

The event of crossing of the Jordan is now described. The people moved out according to the Lord’s direction, following the priests with the ark. Here it is noted that the Jordan was in the harvest season, at which time it floods the valley, creating a much wider stream than normally.

But as the priest and people go forward with faith in the Lord He performs His mighty feat of damming the stream invisibly, a condition which occurs immediately upon the sole of the ark-bearing priests’ feet coming in contact with the surface.

The water formed a lake the extent of which reached far upstream to Adam and Zaretan, places about eighteen miles upriver from Jericho, near the mouth of the Jabbok, where it empties into the Jordan down­ river the water ran off into the salt sea (Dead Sea), leaving the ground dry where the priests stood, remaining dry, not even muddy, as the hundreds of thousands of Israelites crossed over into Canaan.

The Jordan valley is quite visible from the city of Jericho. The watchmen on the walls of this barricaded city must have been stricken with panic when they observed what was taking place a few miles away.

They must have been able to see the forming lake, though the crossing Israelites may have been hidden behind the invisible dam, (cf Revelation 6:17).

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Joshua 3". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/joshua-3.html. 1985.
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