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The Instructions for Crossing
v. 1. And Joshua rose early in the morning, on the fourth day after his great proclamation, Joshua 1:11. And they removed from Shittim, where their headquarters had been situated, and came to Jordan, a matter of about two hours' journey, during which they observed the usual order of march, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over, they rested for some time, probably during the noon-hour.
v. 2. And it came to pass after three days, those named in the order of Joshua, Joshua 1:11, that the officers, the officials in charge of the mustering, went through the host, during this pause in the day's march;
v. 3. and they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, your God, Exodus 25:10-22, and the priests, the Levites, the priests of the sons of Levi who were charged with this work, bearing it, at the head of the army, as it seems to have been done once before, Numbers 10:33, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it, in the orderly array commanded by God.
v. 4. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure (three thousand feet). Come not near unto it, they were to observe this respectful distance, lest their vanguard hide the Ark of the Covenant from the great number of the marchers, that ye may know the way by which ye must go; for ye have not passed this way heretofore. It was not that the people were in danger of losing their way to the river, but that the Lord wanted them to note the miracle by which He opened the way to Canaan before their eyes.
v. 5. And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves; after establishing camp for the night they were to engage in spiritual purification, typified also by the washing of their clothes and of their bodies, thus turning their hearts to God, in faith and trust in His promise, and in willing obedience to His commands, that they might rightly take to heart the miracle of grace which the Lord would perform among them the next day; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. The passage of Jordan took place on the tenth of Nisan, Joshua 4:19.
v. 6. And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the Ark of the Covenant and pass over before the people. This was the special work of the sons of Kohath, Numbers 4:15, and the order referred to the actual time of marching. and they took up the Ark of the Covenant and went before the people, this statement either anticipating the actual event, or having reference to the fact that the priests took up their station at the head of the army, ready for the march of the next day.
v. 7. And the Lord said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, for the miraculous crossing of Jordan was only the first of a series of wonders by which the Lord placed His people in possession of the Land of Promise and confirmed Joshua in his position as leader of the people, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee. Cf Joshua 1:2-9.
v. 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, the eastern bank or slope of the river, as it descended to the bed of the stream, ye shall stand still in Jordan, thus forming, as it were, a dam to hold back the waters rushing down from the north. The Ark of the Covenant here appears as the emblem of God's almighty presence. To this day God has bound His children to the use of certain means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. Where these are administered, there the true, living God is present, there we find evidences of God's power and mercy, of His protection and blessing.
The Miraculous Wall of Water
v. 9. And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither and hear the words of the Lord, your God, he addressed them in solemn assembly, as the congregation of Jehovah.
v. 10. And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail, most certainly, according to His promise, Deuteronomy 7:1, drive out from before you the Canaanites, occupying chiefly the valley of Jordan and the Plain of Sharon, and the Hittites, some tribes of which were living in the northern part of Canaan, northwest of the Sea of Chinnereth, and the Hivites, located almost in the center of the country, and the Perizzites, just east of them, and the Girgashites, west of the Sea of Chinnereth, and the Amorites, just west and southwest of the Dead Sea, and the Jebusites, in the neighborhood of what was later Jerusalem.
v. 11. Behold, the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan. Note that God, where the conquest of the land is in question, is called the Lord of the whole earth, the one to whom the whole earth belongs and who may dispense it at His pleasure, the one in whose almighty power the Israelites should have implicit faith.
v. 12. Now, therefore, take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man. The work which these men were to perform is described Joshua 4:3.
v. 13. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, the mere touch of their feet being sufficient to bring about the miracle, that the waters of Jordan, of the flowing stream before them, shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they, the rushing waters above the place of crossing, shall stand upon an heap, being held hack by the invisible dam of God's almighty power.
v. 14. And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, struck camp at their departure, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant before the people, in the order prescribed by God,
v. 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, barely a hundred feet wide in the dry season, overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest, the melting snows of the northern mountains in the late spring, the season at which the passage took place, at the beginning of the barley harvest, causing the river to overflow its lower banks and to fill even the space which was ordinarily overgrown with reeds and bushes,)
v. 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, where the lower valley was considerably narrowed by a low range of hills, at some distance from the place of crossing; and those (waters) that came down toward the Sea of the Plain, even the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off, diminished and finally disappeared entirely; and the people passed over right against Jericho.
v. 17. And the priests that bare the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, for so completely had the waters disappeared that they had solid ground beneath their feet. And all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan, and beyond the reach of even the high water which afterward again overflowed the bed of the stream. Thus wonderfully the Lord led His people into the Land of Promise. And He is the same living, almighty God today, opening paths before His children where they are unable to find any, and assisting them in the midst of all dangers, until they reach the promised home above.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Joshua 3". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent