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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 3

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-17

Joshua 3:5 . Sanctify yourselves, by washings and purifications. The Persians, when commissioned to march against Babylon, are called God’s sanctified ones; for the ministers of his vengeance are holy. Isaiah 13:3.

Joshua 3:13 . The waters of Jordan. The river near the place where the Israelites passed was a rapid stream; its depth is from five to six feet, and its breadth about twenty yards. But by overflowing its banks it has worked an outward bank at the distance of two hundred and twenty yards from the channel. This overflowing is occasioned by the melting of the snow of the northern mountains. The Euphrates overflows at the same time, and from the same cause.

Joshua 3:16 . The waters were stopped at the city of Adam by the Angel of the covenant. The ark proceeded about half a mile at the head of the Israelites, unawed by the Jordan and the hostile nations. The ark is still able to defend itself against the waters of death, and all the enemies of the church. The people kept at this respectful distance because of the majesty of God.


No sooner had the spies arrived than all the hopes of Israel revived. Joshua rose up early next morning, and received a series of the most encouraging promises from the mercyseat. He therefore hastened the people to the bank of the Jordan, that they might repose awhile in sight of the promised land. The Canaanites, confident of security from the overflowing of the river, seem to have made no immediate preparations to oppose their passage. Great stupors often seize the wicked in the hour of death.

On approaching the river they were directed to follow the ark, and at the usual respectful distance of a thousand paces; for God abode with the ark of his strength. Of the cloud we hear no more. It had been given for a guide by day, and a cheering flame by night. It had led them in a winding peaceful path, and led them to the promised inheritance. Even so now, the cloud of providence and grace is often pleased to lead the saints in a humble retired path, that they may get the more quietly through the desert into the heavenly rest. Let us therefore simply follow the ark, or letter of the covenant, and it will lead us also to his holy place. The people for three days, as when the law was given on Sinai, were required to purify themselves and calmly wait the Lord’s pleasure. Wise and salutary advice. Do we in like manner approach the Jordan; do many of us already stand on the brink? Let us put away all defilements of body and mind; let us purify the soul by devotion, and raise it to God by constant acts of faith and love. It is serious and great to die; and they are the most prepared who live with death and heaven constantly in view.

But how shall we cross the river? Alas, we have neither bridge nor boats; what shall we do. These were Israel’s fears; these were difficulties they could not solve. It is often the same with timorous saints. To us also Jordan seems to overflow his banks. Death seems preseded by all awful train of afflictions, of fears, of doubts and temptations. Meanwhile where is our faith? Has not God said, When thou passest through the water, the floods shall not drown thee? Let us then be confident in Jeshurun’s God. He has said to the fearful, by his servant, Stand still and see the salvation of God.

And what did he do for his people, when human means were inadequate? The moment Eleazar’s feet were dipped in the river, the waters were afraid. Knowing the presence of their God, they fled back far as the city of Adam; and those below, trembling with fear, were drained away, leaving an open channel to the sea of Sodom. Israel now saw the hand of God as they had seen it forty years before at the Red sea. What a glorious sight to behold a whole nation at once walk dryshod over the channel, not fearing, but rejoicing to put their hallowed feet on the inheritance covenanted to their fathers. The whitening of the barley harvest, with all the charms of nature, made them welcome; while the enemy saw it, and fainted with fear. And now, oh my soul, look at the wonders of the Lord, and dismiss thy fears. Jesus, thy great Highpriest dipping his feet in the cold waters of Calvary, hath made the grave afraid. He hath rolled away the stone, and put on life and immortality as a garment. He holds the waters of affliction and death in his hand to give passage to his people, that crossing the Jordan they may die no more. Contemplating Jesus in the triumphs of his death, and the glory of his resurrection, the terrors of dying are vanished away, while all heaven, with a smiling aspect, says, come timid soul, cross the vale, there are no waters here.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/joshua-3.html. 1835.
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