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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 3

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - UnabridgedCommentary Critical Unabridged

Verse 1

And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.

Joshua rose early in the morning - i:e., 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 from the terraced heights of the valley 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.

Lodged there before they passed over - literally 'they had not yet passed over' (see the note at Joshua 2:8; Lodged there before they passed over - literally, 'they had not yet passed over' (see the note at Joshua 2:8; Genesis 2:5).

Verse 2

And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;

The officers went through the host;

Verse 3

And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

And they commanded the people. The instructions given at this time and in this place were different from those described, Joshua 1:11, having a direct reference to the act and order of the approaching passage.

When ye see the ark ... 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 (cf. Numbers 4:15; Joshua 6:6; 1 Kings 8:3-6).

Then ye shall ... go after it,

Verse 4

Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.

Yet there shall be a space between it and you. 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.

Verse 5

And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.

Joshua said unto the people - rather 'had said;' for, as he speaks of "tomorrow," 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.

Verse 6

And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

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 the Jordan, they were to stand still. The ark was to accomplish what had been done by the rod of Moses.

Verse 7

And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.

The Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee. Joshua had already received distinguished honours (Exodus 24:13; Deuteronomy 31:7). But a higher token of the divine favour was now to be publicly bestowed on him, and evidence given, in the same unmistakeable manner, that his mission and authority were from God, as were those of Moses (Exodus 14:31).

Verse 8

And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan. No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 9

And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.

Come hither and hear the words of the Lord. It seems that the Israelites had no intimation how they were to cross the river until 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.

Verses 10-13

And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 14

And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people;

And it came to pass ... 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 that it took place in the time of harvest, corresponding to our April or May, when 'the Jordan overfloweth all its banks.' The original word [ maalee' (H4390)] may be more properly rendered 'fills all its banks;' its channel, snow-fed from Anti-Lebanon, or Hermon, is at its greatest height-brim full: a translation which gives the only true description of the state of Jordan in harvest, as observed by modern travelers (cf. 1 Chronicles 12:15; Robinson's 'Biblical Researches,' 2: p. 262; Wilson's 'Lands of the Bible,' 2:, p. 18).

The river from Jericho is, in ordinary appearance, about 50 or 50 yards in width. 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. Unlike other steams which are generally bordered with meadows or cultivated fields, almost to the water's edge, Jordan has at least two banks; after descending the first of which, there appears a spacious and level plain, extending to the breadth of a furlong. It is a dry expanse of sand and gravel, over which one may walk without having the least suspicion, except from the distant ripple of the waves, that any current is near; because the inner bank, which forms the boundary of the river in its natural state, is so completely overspread with thickets of willows, reeds, tamarisks, and other wild shrubs, as keep the river entirely out of view. At the annual season of harvest the volume of water in the Jordan becomes so greatly increased that the whole even of the outermost channel is covered.

Verse 15

And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 16

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 which came down, [ hayorªdiym (H3381)] - descended rapidly.

From above - i:e., from the sea of Galilee.

Stood and rose up upon an heap, [ need (H5067) 'echaad (H259), one mound; Septuagint, peegma hen] (Psalms 33:7; Psalms 78:13: see the note at Exodus 15:8) - a firm, compact barrier.

Very far, [Septuagint, makran sfodra sfodroos] - i:e., high up the stream.

From the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan, [ bee-'Aadaam (H121), in Adam the city] - Zarthan or Zartanah, near mount Sartabeh, in the northern part of the Ghor (1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46) [the Septuagint has, instead of these names, heoos merous Kariathiarim] (Genesis 14:5) - i:e., a distance of 30 miles from the Israelite encampment; and 'those, that came down toward the sea of the desert' [ yaam (H3220) haa-`Araabaah (H6160), the sea of the Arabah; Septuagint, hee thalassa Araba): cf. Deuteronomy 4:49 ] - the Dead Sea-failed, and were cut off (Psalms 114:2-3). The river was thus dried up as far as the eye could, reach. 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 27 'horrible rapids and cascades,' besides a great many lesser, through a fall of 1,000 feet, averaging from 4 to 5 miles an hour (Lynch, 'Report of American Expedition,' pp. 149, 205; Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 276; Lieutenant Symond's 'Survey'). When swollen 'in time of harvest' it flows with a vastly accelerated current.

Right against Jericho, [ neged (H5048)] - in front, in full view of. 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 of 10 or 15 feet high (Van de Velde, 2:, p. 272). Stanley says, 'It was probably at the point, near the present southern fords, crossed at the time of the Christian era by a bridge (Josephus, 'Antiquities,' b. 5:, ch. 1:, sec. 3).

Verse 17

And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.

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.

Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/joshua-3.html. 1871-8.
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