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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 3

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-6



Joshua 3:1

And Joshua rose up early in the morning, i.e; after the return of the spies, and most likely (see Joshua 1:10, Joshua 1:11) on the morning on which the announcement was made to the children of Israel that they were to cross the Jordan. "This newes is brought but overnight, Joshua is on his way by morning, and prevents the sunne for haste. Delays, whether in the business of God or our owne, are hatefull and prejudiciall. Many a one loses the land of promise by lingering; if we neglect God's time, it is just with Him to crosse us in ours" (Bp. Hall). And they removed from Shittim. Literally, from the acacias (see note on Joshua 2:1). To do this completely, and to be quite ready for the crossing, would, as Rosenmuller thinks, require the greater part of three days. But it adds that "they lodged (לִין) there before they passed over." But this need be no difficulty. The great mass of the people could easily leave the acacia meadows on the higher ground, and encamp on the brink of the Jordan, while the remaining two days might be spent in making the necessary arrangements for the crossing. For we must remember (as Keil observes) that, not only a body of armed men, but their women and children, and all their possessions, had to be led safely across. "Though they were not told how they should pass the river, yet they went forward in faith, having been told (Joshua 1:11), that they should pass it" (Matthew Henry).

Joshua 3:2

The officers. LXX; γραμματεις (see Joshua 1:10). This is evidently the history of the fulfilment of the command there given by Joshua. There he orders the officers to pass through the host; here the command is fulfilled. There is no reasonable doubt that the spies had returned before the order recorded in Joshua 1:10 had been given. Many commentators have raised objections to the order of the narrative in this and in the following chapter; and commentators like Houbigant, Masius (who says, "Narrationis ordo admodum perturbatus"), and Bishop Horsley, have suggested a different order of the verses. But Delitzsch has observed that the narrative is drawn up in a threefold order. First, the commencement of the crossing is detailed, from Joshua 1:7-17 of this chapter; then (Joshua 4:1-14), its further progress; lastly (Joshua 4:15-24), its conclusion. And in each separate paragraph we have

(1) God's command to Joshua;

(2) Joshua's command to the people; and

(3) their fulfilment of his command.

Thus the Divine command, the human leadership, and the measures taken in obedience to that leadership are kept in close connection throughout. We need not suppose (he adds) that each separate act was enjoined at the moment when the necessity for the injunction arrived. Nor, we may add, is it necessary to suppose that every intimation given by God to Joshua is necessarily recorded in chronological order (see note on Joshua 2:1) We are only to understand by the order followed by the sacred historian, that he desires to impress fully upon his readers how entirely every step taken by Joshua was taken at the express command of God. The idea of Paulus, Eichhorn, Ewald, Knobel, and others, that this account is compiled from two or more different documents, would not only require us to suppose great clumsiness in the compiler, if their view of his work be true, but is wholly unnecessary. The text involves no contradictions; only an amount of repetition, which is an essential feature of all the early Hebrew historical narratives, as is evident to the most casual observer, and is a proof, not of compilation, but of the antiquity of the document, and the simplicity and absence of art of the writer. Ewald has remarked that it is characteristic of the Hebrew historians to mention the termination of the event as soon as possible, and then to fill in their outline by the narration of intermediate circumstances (see Joshua 1:1-18; Joshua 3:1-17; Joshua 6:1-27; Joshua 7:1-26, of the Book of Joshua). As a specimen of the way in which contradictions are manufactured, we may take Knobel's assertion that the two statements that the people came to Jordan, and that there was a space of 2,000 cubits between them and the priests, are irreconcilable. As though it were not possible that the 2,000 cubits were to be measured along the river, and that the priests were ordered to walk along the bank until it was signified to them that they had arrived at the place of crossing. For we are plainly told that this distance was to be preserved that the people might "know the way which they must go" (verse 4).

Joshua 3:3

And they commanded the people, saying. These words are interesting as showing that all was orderly in the Israel-irish camp. Everything was carried on according to the strictest rules of military discipline. The removal of the ark was to be the signal for the advance of the whole host. The ark of the covenant. We may with advantage compare the religious use of the ark here and in Joshua 6:1-27; with its superstitious use in 1 Samuel 4:3, 1 Samuel 4:4. We do not read that when the Israelites were defeated at Ai, Joshua took the ark with him in a march to repair the disaster. Such a misuse of the symbol of God's Presence was only possible in days when faith had grown cold. When the Israelites had need of supernatural guidance, when they were placed in circumstances where no use of their own unaided powers could guide them, then they must repair to the ark of God. There they must seek counsel, this they must set before them to guide their ways. But to regard it as a charm which could possibly atone for their want of faith and their lack of obedience, was to profane it. Such temptations as these Jesus Christ resisted in the wilderness; such temptations Christians must resist now. We have no right to seek for supernatural aids where natural ones will suffice us—no right to invoke the special intervention of God till we have exhausted all the means He has placed at our disposal. Above all, we have no right to expect Him to save us from the consequences of our own sin and disobedience except on His own condition, that we shall truly repent. We may further remark that the Pillar of the Cloud and the fire, like the manna, had ceased, and even the ark of the covenant only preceded the Israelites on special occasions. The priests the Levites. This phrase has given rise to some discussion. Some editions of the LXX; as well as some Hebrew MSS; read, "the priests and the Levites." The Chaldee and Syriac versions have the same reading. The Vulgate—more correctly, as it would seem—renders "sacerdotes stirpis Levitiae," i.e; "the priests who are of the tribe of Levi" (see Joshua 8:33, Numbers 4:18, and Deuteronomy 31:9). Keil's explanation that this expression must be taken in opposition to non-Levitical and, therefore, unlawful priests, seems hardly satisfactory. It is not till much later—in fact, till the time of Jeroboam—that we hear of unlawful priests. It is more probable that it is intended to emphasise the position of Levi as the sacerdotal tribe, the one tribe which had no share in the operations of the war. So Rabbi Solomon Jarchi explains it, citing the B'reshith Babbah, which states that the phrase is found in forty-five places in the Bible, with the meaning that the priests are of the tribe of Levi.

Joshua 3:4

There shall be a space between you and it. Perhaps in order that they might keep it in view. This agrees best with the remainder of the verse, "that ye may know the way by which ye must go." Keil remarks that, had the Israelites pressed close on the heels of the priests who bore the ark, this would have defeated the very object with which the ark was carried before the people, namely, to point them out the way that they should go. But Cornelius Lapide among the earlier commentators and Knobel among the moderns hold that it was the sacredness of the ark which rendered it necessary that there should be a space of more than half a mile between it and the Israelites. Jarchi says the space was "in honour of God." We may learn hence that irreverent familiarity with sacred things is not the best way to obtain guidance in the way in which God would have us walk. "What awfull respects doth God require to be given unto the testimony of His presence? Uzzah paid deare for touching it; the men of Bethshemesh for looking into it. It is a dangerous thing to bee too bold with the ordinances of God" (Bp. Hall). "Neither was it onely for reverence that the arke must be wayted on afarre, but for convenience" (Ibid). "The work of ministers is to hold forth the word of life, and to take care of the administration of those ordinances which are the tokens of God's presence and the instruments of His power and grace, and herein they must go before the people of God in their way to heaven" (Matthew Henry in loc). (Cf. Numbers 4:19, Numbers 4:20; 1Sa 6:19; 2 Samuel 6:6, 2 Samuel 6:7; also Exodus 19:21) The original here is more emphatic than the translation. "Only there shall be a distance (LXX. μακρὰν ἔστω) between you and it." Ye have not passed this way heretofore. Literally, ye have not crossed since yesterday, the third day. Paulus would translate this "lately," and thus get rid of the miracle, regarding it as an intimation that they were crossing at one of the fords. But they had not crossed the Jordan at all before. Consequently the translation lately is inadmissible. And even if they had been crossing Jordan by one of the fords, there is, as we have seen, a wide difference between crossing at the ford in ordinary times and crossing it when Jordan had overflowed its banks. This is a fair sample of the criticism which seeks to explain away miracles, as well as finds discrepancies where there are none.

Joshua 3:5

Sanctify yourselves. The Hithpahel, which is used here, is frequently used of ceremonial purification, as in Exodus 19:22; 1 Chronicles 15:12, 1 Chronicles 15:14; 2 Chronicles 5:11; and especially 2 Samuel 11:4. It is also connected with purification, but ironically, in Isaiah 66:17. Tomorrow. These words were uttered while all was in preparation. We learn from Isaiah 66:7, though it is not expressly stated, that the actual crossing took place the next day. We ought, probably, to place this verse in a parenthesis, and to translate "Joshua had said," because the sanctification (see Exodus 19:10, Exodus 19:14) involved some definite period. Knobel, however, assumes, as usual, that there is at least a faulty arrangement here. Wonders, or rather, miracles, from פָלָא to separate, distinguish. They were, therefore, acts distinguished from the ordinary course of God's providence. We may observe that, while among the Canaanites all was terror and confusion, m the camp of Joshua all was confidence and faith. "Either successe or discomfiture begins ever at the heart. A man's inward disposition doth more than presage the event. If Satan see us once faint, he gives himselfe the day. There is no way to safety, but that our hearts be the last that shall yield" (Bp. Hall).

Joshua 3:6

And Joshua spake. We return now to the ordinary course of the narrative. To the priests. This was because the occasion was an extraordinary one. On ordinary occasions this was the duty of the Kohathites (Numbers 4:15). And went before the people. The people were to "follow the priests as far as they carried the ark, but no further; so we must follow our ministers only as they follow Christ" (Matthew Henry).


Joshua 3:1-6

The command to cross Jordan.

We have here a chapter replete with instruction, whether we take the words in their natural and literal or in their figurative and allegorical sense. The instruction is of a kind which it is difficult to gather up into one point of view, so various and many-sided is it. It will be best, therefore, to follow the events of the narrative seriatim, and endeavour to notice the various points which may be observed for instruction and exhortation, rather than to gather up the whole into the materials for one or two separate discourses. We may therefore observe—


(1) of this world;

(2) of the soul.

The maxim

(1) as regards the affairs of this world, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might," has been exemplified in the history of God's servants in all ages. They have not been wont to let the grass grow under their feet. "Not slothful in business,'' is the precept of St. Paul, and he laboured energetically at his craft while he preached the gospel. When we have a work to do, it is our duty to do it, and not to take our rest till it is done. Procrastination is not only foolish, it is wrong. Habits of industry, punctual attendance to duty, business-like habits, as they are called, are required of every Christian by his profession. And it is remarkable that in no other saint of the Old Testament do we find that virtue so conspicuous as in the great captain, who alone among them was privileged to bear the Saviour's name.

(2) This is also the case in the affairs of the soul. It is our duty to wait until the will of God is made known. So Samuel waited (1 Samuel 13:10), and Saul for his unwise haste was censured. But when it is made known, there should be no hesitation, no delay. By such hesitation Moses provoked God's wrath (Exodus 4:10-14). It is a question whether Gideon did well to prove the Lord repeatedly (Judges 6:36-40). Balaam was involved in the most grievous sin by not being content with God's decisive answer to his prayer (Numbers 22:12). Many a good man makes shipwreck of his work, and some of their faith also, by hesitating to carry out a plain command of God, by waiting for some additional manifestation of His pleasure, or some opportunity to do that for which an opportunity should be made. The time of waiting in Joshua's case was over. The spies had brought back their report; the way was open; the command clear. The very next morning, and that early, the preparations were made for the decisive step which committed Israel to the struggle which lay before them. So in the work which God has set us. When the path of duty is clear, we are bound to enter upon it at once.

II. OBSERVE THE FAITH OF THE CHILDREN OF ISRAEL. They implicitly obeyed Joshua's command, though it seemed the very height of folly. Jordan was overflowed; the ordinary fords were impassable; there was no way through the river. They had been told that "within three days they should cross Jordan, and there is neither murmuring nor disputing. So we ought to follow the directions of our Joshua, even where success seems hopeless. It is want of faith alone which hinders us from performing like impossibilities now. The mountain of difficulty will ever be removed by the purpose of faith. When a duty lies before us, we must set about performing it as far as our human strength goes. What lies beyond it, we must leave to God. And we shall find that the same power which rolled back the waves of the Jordan can arrest the overrunning flood of ungodliness, the headlong stream of the opposition of evil men. Where no way appears to human eyes, there can He make one when He pleases, "Whose way is in the sea, and His path in the great waters."

III. THE ARK OF THE COVENANT MUST GO BEFORE, i.e; the visible signs and symbols of God's presence. The ark contained the law of God and the manna—that is, God's Word, and His sacraments and ordinances. Over it was the mercy-seat, the token of the presence of Christ, in whom sin and pardon meet. We can but go in the path marked out for us by these. His Word is "a lantern to our feet, and a light unto our paths." His earthly life has been lived as a pattern to us. His presence is "with us always, even unto the end of the world," to animate and to guide. The visible signs and tokens of His presence among us are to be reverenced and kept in view, lest the "remembrance of Him," which He ordered to be kept up, should perish from off the earth. By thus keeping Him ever in view, in public as well as in private, in the visible sanctuary as well as in the sanctuary of our own hearts, we shall pass through the "waves and storms of this troublesome world," and attain to the eternal rest at last.

IV. THERE MUST BE NO UNDUE FAMILIARITY WITH SACRED THINGS. A space is kept between the people and the ark. So between His perfect example and our imperfect obedience there is a gulf which cannot be passed over. We are ever pressing forward in the direction of it; we never thoroughly attain to it (Philippians 3:13, Philippians 3:14). Again, we learn that reverence is the best means towards knowledge of spiritual things. "Not to be wise above what is written" is good advice. The mysteries of the kingdom of God are hidden from the "wise and prudent" in their own estimation, and are "revealed unto babes" (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-16). This is true, both in opinion and in action. Those who think that all the deepest questions that concern humanity are to be settled by argument and logic, rather than by teachableness, experience, and prayer, are likely to end with a very moderate acquaintance with the "deep things of God." Those who look upon God's Word as a common book, or Christ's sacraments as simple symbols, without any mystery about them, even to the faithful worshipper, are likely to deprive themselves of a very necessary help and guidance in their way through the world. Awe, and reverence, and a sense of the mystery as well as the nearness of the Unseen, are among the most necessary features of a life that seeks aright after the perfection of man's nature.

V. THE MINISTERS MUST LEAD THE WAY. Without any undue sacerdotal pretensions, it may at least be said that if the ministers of Christ's Church be not the guides and teachers of the people, we were better without them. Yet, as Matthew Henry remarks, we are only to follow them when they follow Christ. Nor is there any contradiction in this. It is our duty ever to "search the Scriptures, whether these things are so." We are to "prove all things," to "hold fast" only "that which is good." But it is the duty of those whose province it is to "rule the Church of God" to be ever foremost in every good work. It is idle to preach if we do not practice. It is useless to exhort men to follow the right path, unless we ourselves go before them in the way. An officer cheers his men into action not from behind, but from the front. So the officers of God's army should be in the van of its progress. Therefore in all things which become the Christian, the Christian minister must set the example. In zeal for his Master's cause, in unwearied efforts to promote it, in purity of life, in acts of love to the sick and aged, to the young and tender, in kindness to all, in public spirit moreover, and regard for the general welfare, in honour, in truth, in prudence, in self command, in self abnegation, the ordained servant of God should be in the forefront of the grand army. But the army must follow its leaders. It is not sufficient to lay down a high ideal for our officers, and to consider that the part of the privates is to criticise sharply and closely the actions of those who are set over them. Whatever. they do, we must do also. Where they go, we must go too. We are all pledged to the same work, and, taking our tone from those who are appointed to lead us, we must lead a life animated by the same spirit as theirs, the Spirit of the living God.

VI. A SPECIAL WORK REQUIRES A SPECIAL PREPARATION. Joshua bids the Israelites "sanctify themselves" because God was about to "do wonders among" them. So when we set about any work of more than ordinary importance, be it sacred or be it secular, we are bound to prepare ourselves by prayer, by meditation, by reception of the Holy Communion, by a special study of God's Word, by a cessation, as far as possible, of ordinary cares and engagements, for the task that awaits us. Thus Jesus Christ spent the night before choosing His apostles in prayer to God. Thus before His Passion He withdrew Himself for a while from the concourse of men. Thus the apostles waited in silence at Jerusalem for the descent of the Holy Spirit. Thus St. Paul spent three years in Arabia communing with God before he entered on his life-long work. God's Spirit is ever near us, but at special times He requires to be specially sought. And he who never permits himself a moment's retirement from the ordinary business and amusements of life may well doubt whether God's Spirit have really a hold on his soul.


Joshua 3:5

Preparation for beholding displays of Divine power.

With what longing eyes must the Israelites have looked upon the river which they were soon to cross. Hope had been deferred for years. The promised land, fertile and beautiful, seemed to disappear from their sight, as did the fruit and water from the eager hands and parched lips of Tantalus. Could it, then, be really true that on the morrow the boundary line would separate them from their inheritance no more? By the Jordan the Israelites were encamped, and the command of the text sounded in their ears, "Sanctify yourselves." This was to be THE PEOPLE'S PREPARATION FOR GOD'S WORE AMONGST THEM. Probably the injunction respected rather the hearts than the dress and bodies of the people. It invoked a seriousness of deportment befitting the solemn ceremony of the coming day, an examination of themselves, a recalling of the facts of their past history, a mourning over their numerous transgressions, and a resolve henceforth to serve the Lord. We believe that in endeavouring to ascertain the reasons which dictated the advice of the text, we shall be meditating on truths profitable to our own souls.

I. SANCTIFICATION WOULD FIT THEM TO BEHOLD THE MANIFESTED PRESENCE OF GOD. Emblem, ritual, and precept were unceasingly employed to remind the Israelites of the holiness of God. They were to observe the sanitary regulations, because "the Lord thy God walketh in the midst of the camp." Before their offerings could be accepted they must purify themselves with ablutions. And, above all, they were excluded from the tabernacle where God's dwelling was, and into the Holiest only the high priest could enter once a year. Now every prodigy was the special coming of Jehovah into the midst of Israel. Whilst really present in the unceasing operations of nature, nevertheless it was on the occasion of the miraculous that God seemed to put aside the veil and to draw nigh in person. Hence the need that the Israelites should be sanctified. Holiness consumes impurity as light destroys darkness. The people must prepare themselves to stand in the glory of God's presence. So was it required at the appearance of the Almighty on Sinai, and before the wondrous shower of quails, and so afterwards for the battle of Ai; otherwise would "the Lord break forth upon them." Whilst we are not under the terrors of the law, yet reverence beseemeth us in our approach to the "Father of our spirits." We would not rush heedlessly to communion with Him, nor fall into levity while upon our knees. With us, too, there are times when we must sanctify ourselves for the special manifestation of the Divine. Sin amongst Christians is a chief obstacle to the accomplishment of signs and wonders in the name of Jesus.

II. SANCTIFICATION WOULD PREPARE THEM TO APPRECIATE THE GREATNESS OF THE MIRACLE. As was the case with the "mighty works" of our Lord, these wonders of the Old Testament were not wrought simply to assist men in their straits and feebleness, but to exert an ethical influence upon them, teaching the power and love of God. Now that the Israelites were about to enter upon their inheritance, the time was fitting one for signal marks of Divine favour and might. But in order that the miracle have due weight, previous reflection and expectation were essential. The Israelites were as children whose curiosity must be aroused and excitement intensified by stimulating annunciations. Then, when the notable day dawned, attention would be drawn to every detail, every occurrence, and the more vivid and lasting would he the impressions produced. A miracle silently and suddenly performed would fail of the results intended. Preparation befits our solemn engagements, qualifying us the more quickly to hear the "still small voice," and to note the "way of God" amongst men. It is well for the passions to be quieted, and the common duties dismissed from the mind, as we near the sacred operations of God. Of what abiding influence would the services of the Lord's day he capable, if it were possible to spend the previous evening in preparing the mind to say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth"! Fully to reap benefit from witnessing a "sign," or from perusing an account thereof, demands of us the same sanctification of heart.

III. SANCTIFICATION WOULD AFFORD EVIDENCE OF FAITH IN THEIR LEADER AND IN GOD. What folly to trouble about purification unless they believed that the promise would be fulfilled. The miracle was to be eminently a proof of the love of God. His honour demanded that the people should show themselves to be in some degree worthy of His favour. Jesus inquired of the applicants for relief whether they had faith in His ability to heal them; and we read of places where "he did not many mighty works because of their unbelief." Unbelief is the great hindrance to the progress of religion, both in the individual and in the world. We block the only avenue by which heavenly blessings can come to us; we shut the gates, and wonder why our city is not thronged with angelic visitants. Faith in preparation would lead to augmented faith in the time of action. Soon was coming the hour of trial. How would the people venture between the dangerous heaps of water? Here would be reaped the advantage of previous thought. Faith grows by exercise. The conquest of one difficulty opens the way for subsequent victories. If the Church of Christ is paralysed by secret disbelief of the efficacy of God's Word and Spirit to convert men, how can she expect great awakenings? "According to our faith" is it unto us. And if there is not sufficient faith to lead to the making of the necessary arrangements, where shall be the faith to enable us to rejoice in the evident tokens of God's presence? Let us "lift up holy hands without wrath and doubting."—A.


The Entry of the Promised Land

Joshua 3:3

At this decisive moment, when the people of Israel were about to enter on the great conflict which was to secure the possession of the land of promise, the command was given to gather themselves together around the ark of the covenant, as their banner. This indicates the great central truth of the history of Israel. The focus of its national life is the law of its God. It is for this it is to fight and overcome, and not merely that it may gain possession of a rich country and develop its material resources. In its fidelity to the ark of the covenant, lies moreover the secret of its success. This sacred memorial of its religious faith must be its great rallying point in the day of battle. This is a principle applicable to the people of God in all ages, and equally true of their individual or collective life.

I. For mankind at large, as for Israel, there are two aspects of all the great phases of its history. ONE DIRECT, TEMPORAL, TERRESTRIAL, LIKE THE CONQUEST OF A FRUITFUL LAND for Israel; the other higher, more comprehensive, more Divine—THE FULFILMENT OF A DIVINE PURPOSE ENTERING INTO THE PLAN OF REDEMPTION. Such was the double significance to the descendants of Abraham, of the conquest of the land of promise, the land in which their religious destinies were to be fulfilled, where the ark of the covenant was to find its resting place, and to become the centre of the theocracy. So is it in all our lives. Everything that befals us in our private and domestic life has a twofold bearing. It has an earthward aspect; and marriage, the birth of children, the acquisition or loss of property, affect primarily our temporal estate. But these same results have also a heavenward side; they tell upon the higher life within, and help to work out our eternal destinies. Their true intention is to develop our higher life, and to establish within us the reign of righteousness, of which the ark of the covenant was the emblem to the Israelites.

II. It is not enough that we believe in this realisation of our higher destiny through the events of life; WE MUST OURSELVES DIRECTLY AID IN ITS FULFILMENT. We must make this our first consideration, and rally round the ark of the covenant in order to fight the battles of the Lord. This is our duty, as members, or, to speak more truly, as soldiers of the Church. The same obligation rests upon us in our individual life. Through all its varied phases it should be our aim to hold high our sacred banner, and to conduct ourselves valiantly under all circumstances as the soldiers of Christ. Let us carry into all our life the thought of immortality. Let us be ever watching, ever fighting, and let the ark of the covenant be that around which centres all our public and private life.—E. DE P.

Joshua 3:5

God's wonders.

"Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. These words admirably express the conditions of all blessing for the people of God. Those conditions are at once Divine and human. The Divine is the essential; the human can only be realised through it.

I. GOD WILL DO WONDERS. This is a true description of all God's works of deliverance, and primarily of His great miracle of pardon. For, of all the marvellous things which He does, the most amazing is that He should have pity upon us, and should come back to us after we have forsaken Him. Grace is the crowning miracle. Never discouraged, it is perpetually triumphing over all obstacles, breaking down all that opposes its designs, bidding the mountain to become a plain, and magnifying itself in our infirmities. There are periods in the history of the race, and in that of individuals, when this miracle of constant recurrence is made yet more emphatic, as though to hasten on the purpose of eternal love. So was it at the time of the conflict between Israel and the Canaanitish nations. So was it at the birth of Christianity. So is it at the time of the beginning of the new life in the individual soul. The free and sovereign grace which does wonders is thus the necessary, antecedent Divine condition.

II. THE HUMAN CONDITION IS CLEARLY EXPRESSED IN THESE WORDS OF JOSHUA. "Sanctify yourselves." We repeat, this condition cannot be fulfilled unless Divine grace have renewed our heart, and given us strength to sanctify ourselves. But our duty is none the less positive, imperative, sacred. God does not treat us as passive, inert beings, but as free agents made in His likeness. It behoves us, then, to respond to His grace. Hence the necessity to sanctify ourselves, in order that we may be partakers in the wonders He will work. This is all the more necessary since God will not work these wonders without us, but, by us and with us, calling us to be fellow workers with Him. Israel must prepare itself for victory by sanctifying itself. To sanctify ourselves is to put away all that is alien to the Divine life; to consecrate ourselves unreservedly to God; to give ourselves to Him; to bring Wire our heart that He may fill it. It is to yield ourselves to Him as wiring instruments in His hand; so that we are never better workers with Him than when we allow Him to work in us. To let Him work, this is our best way of serving. Do we desire that He should again "do wonders" in our age, in these days of final conflict between the gospel and antichrist? Let us, then, sanctify ourselves, like the children of Israel on the eve of battle with the Canaanites, and so will be fulfilled the twofold condition of all spiritual blessing so well set forth by St. Paul in the words: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God which worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13).—E. DE P.

Verses 7-17



Joshua 3:7

This day will I begin to magnify thee. "Neque enim ante mysterium baptismi exal-tatur Jesus, sed exaltatio ejus, et exaltatio in conspectu pepuli, inde sunlit exordium" (Orig; Hem. 4 on Joshua. Cf. Matthew 3:17; Luke 3:22).

Joshua 3:8

And thou shalt command the priests. We have not here the whole command. That is to be found in Joshua 3:13. To the brink עַד־קְצֵה. Literally, to the end, i.e; the end or brink of the waters at the eastern side. There they halted, and as long as the ark remained there, the waters of Jordan ceased to flow.

Joshua 3:10

That the living God. Rather, perhaps, that a living God, i.e; that you hare not with you some idol of wood or stone, or some deified hero, long since passed out of your reach, but a living, working, ever present God, who shows by His acts that your faith in Him is not vain. The phrase is a very common one as applied to God in the Old Testament. In the New, Christ is frequently referred to as the source of life. Is among you. The original is stronger, in the midst of you. The Canaanites. The descendants of Canaan, the son of Ham (Genesis 9:18). The word which signifies "low" is by some supposed to signify the same as lowlanders, because the Canaanites inhabited the less mountainous portions of Palestine, by the sea (Numbers 13:29; Joshua 5:1), and by the side of Jordan (Numbers 13:29). According to Ewald, their territory extended along the west bank of the Jordan as far as the Mediterranean Sea. Canaan has also been held to signify bowed down, depressed (see Genesis 9:25). But St. Augustine, in his exposition of the Epistle to the Romans (sec. 13), says that the country folk of the neighbourhood of Carthage, a Phoenician colony, as the name Punic implies, called themselves Canani, which they would hardly have done were the name a badge of servitude. Whether we are to attach much importance to this statement or not, it is certainly a remarkable coincidence. The story told by Procopius ('DeBello Vandalico, 2.10; see also Suidas, s.v. χάνααν) of two pillars of white stone near Tangier, with the inscription in Phoenician, "We are those who fled from the face of the robber Joshua, the son of Nun," is obviously not to be depended upon. Even if the inscription existed it was not likely to be of ancient date And as Kenrick remarks, those who erected the pillars were not likely

(1) to represent themselves as fugitives, and

(2) to speak of Joshua as the "son of Nun."

He further remarks that, while the oldest genuine Phoenician inscription is not more than four hundred years before Christ, this, if genuine, must have been erected nearly a thousand years earlier still; and he further observes on the impossibility of its having been deciphered by the scholars of Justinian's day. The stow, no doubt, had its origin in the Rabbinical tradition, mentioned by Jarchi in his Commentary, as well as by Kimchi, that Joshua grote three letters to the Canaanites before invading Palestine: the first inviting them to make peace; the second, on their refusal, proclaiming war; the third, to those who feared the wrath of Jehovah, warning them to depart to Africa—advice which, Jarchi adds, was actually taken by a great many. Concerning these seven nations more will be found in the Introduction. That a Hebrew signification is found for Phoenician words need not surprise us. The descendants of Ham, when "dwelling in the tents of Shem," might have formed for themselves a similar language. But that the Aramaic, which was spoken throughout Syria and Palestine, was closely similar to the Hebrew, we have overwhelming evidence. Not only is there clear proof that Abraham and the Canaanites spoke the same language, not only are all the ancient names of places and persons of Hebrew origin, but even the Carthaginian language is pronounced by Jerome, a competent judge, to be cognate to the Hebrew (see Havernick, Introduction, see. 21). The Hittites. The Hittites (Hebrew, Chittim) were out of all proportion the principal tribe in Palestine at this time, as we have already seen (Joshua 1:4). They were the descendants of Heth or Chet (Genesis 10:15), who dwelt in the neighbourhood of Hebron in the days of Abraham (Genesis 23:19; Genesis 25:9). At that time they do not appear to have attained the importance which they afterwards reached (Genesis 12:6; Genesis 13:7; Genesis 34:30), though this is perhaps not altogether a safe inference (cf. Judges 1:4, Judges 1:5). For the mention of the Canaanites in Genesis 12:6 without the Perizzite might lead to a similar inference with regard to the relative importance of these two tribes, whereas in the other two passages they appear on a level. Be this as it may, we find the Hittites occupying a prominent position in Canaan at this time, not only in the Book of Joshua, but on the Egyptian monuments, "Before the exodus the Kheta had become the terrible rivals of Egypt, and had mingled their genealogy with that of the renowned Pharaohs of the nineteeth dynasty". It is worthy of remark, however, that on the Egyptian monuments their leaders are spoken of as chieftains (see note on Joshua 9:3, and 'Records of the Past,' 2.67-78). In later times they had attained to regal government (1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6; 2 Chronicles 1:17). It is, however, possible that the proud monarch of Egypt would not admit the petty kings of the Hittites to an equality with himself (see also note on Joshua 1:4). Moses connects the Chittim (Numbers 24:24; Isaiah 23:1; Ezekiel 27:6), or the inhabitants of Cyprus, with the Hittites. Since these words were written an able article appeared in The Times of Jan. 23rd, 1880, on the Hittite Empire. Carchemish, on the Euphrates, and Kadesh, or the Holy City, on the Orontes, appear to have been the chief centres of the Hittite power. They were "powerful enough to threaten Assyria on the one hand and Egypt on the other, and to carry the arts and culture of the Euphrates to the Euxine and AEgean seas." Professor F. W. Newman, finding no mention of their existence in profane histories, came to the usual conclusion of his school, that where the Bible mentioned persons or nations and profane history did not, it was quite clear that such persons or nations never existed. The cases of Sargon and the Hittites may perhaps induce critics of this school to be a little less hasty henceforth in dismissing the statements of Scripture. The site of ancient Carchemish has lately been discovered on the western bank of the Euphrates. The Hivites, or rather Hivrites. The name of this tribe is not found in the first enumeration of the nations of Canaan (Genesis 15:19-21), but we find the name in the list of Canaan's descendants in Genesis 10:17 and 1 Chronicles 1:15. Shechem, the prince of the city of that name, was a Hivite (Genesis 34:2), though some copies of the LXX. read Horite for Hivite without authority. The Hivites then (Genesis 34:10-21) seem, as afterwards in the case of the Gibeonites, to have been a peaceful, commercial race. The character of the Shechemites afterwards seems to have been unwarlike. At least they were neither very spirited nor successful in their military enterprises, as the narrative in Judges 9:1-57. shows. The voluptuous beauty of the place, testified to by so many modern travellers, such as Robinson, Vandevelde, etc; falls in well with the character of the inhabitants. A colony of Hivites seem to have dwelt in the north, in the highlands beneath Mount Hermon, a country to which the name of Mizpeh, or watchtower, seems to have been given, no doubt from its elevation. This must not, however, be confounded with Mizpeh in the land of Benjamin (see Joshua 11:3). In 2 Samuel 24:7 they appear to have been found in the neighbourhood of Tyre, though this is by no means clear. The derivation of the word is uncertain. Ewald would explain it "midlander;" Gesenius explains it by "village," from הָוָה to live, breathe. That חַוָּה signifies a town or village we may learn from Numbers 32:41, Deuteronomy 3:14, Joshua 13:30, Judges 10:4, I Kings Judges 4:13. The mention of their city so early as the time of Jacob, the description given of their character in that narrative, and the characteristic astuteness of the Gibeonites as well as their unwarlike conduct, would lead to the conclusion that they dwelt in settled habitations, not nomadic encampments, and that they gained their living chiefly by commerce. We ought not to quit the subject without the remark that all we learn from Scripture concerning the Hivites is remarkably consistent, and bears testimony to the scrupulous accuracy of the writers. The Perizzites. The word Perizzite signifies countryman, as distinguished from the dwellers in houses. Thus the word signifies "unwalled," or "open," in Deuteronomy 3:5, 1 Samuel 6:18, and in the Keri of Esther 9:19. Perhaps the reason of the omission of their name in Genesis 10:1-32. and 1 Chronicles 1:1-54. may justify the supposition that they were of no particular tribe, but were a collection of men from every tribe engaged in agricultural pursuits. Redslob (see art. in 'Dictionary of the Bible ') suggests that the Hawoth (Joshua 13:30) were pastoral, the Perazoth agricultural villages. This is to a certain extent borne out by the fact that Hawoth signifies "living places," and Perazoth" places spread out," as well as by the fact that the trans-Jordanic tribes were specially pastoral in their habits. Passages such as 2Sa 5:20, 2 Samuel 6:8, 1 Chronicles 14:11, Isaiah 28:21 are cited as illustrative of this word, but erroneously, for in the Hebrew the letter is Tzade, and not Zain, as here. Ritter regards the word as analogous to Pharisee, from pharash, to separate, and regards them as nomad tribes. But the authority of Ewald and Gesenius must outweigh his. The Girgashites. They are not mentioned in Scripture, save in Joshua 24:11, Genesis 15:21, Deuteronomy 7:1. They were therefore no doubt a small tribe, in. habiting, it has been supposed, the country of Gergesa or Gerasa (as some editions read in Matthew 8:28) upon the lake of Gennesareth. But this was on the other side of Jordan. If therefore there be any connection between Gergesa or Gerasa and the Girgashites, there must have been a small settlement of them on the eastern side of the lake of Gennesareth. The Amorites. These were the most powerful of the Canaanitish peoples (see Amos 2:9). They not only inhabited the mountains (Numbers 13:29; Joshua 11:3), but crossed the Jordan and wrested the country from Arnon to Jabbok out of the hands of the Moabites (Numbers 21:13, Numbers 21:24, Numbers 21:26), and dwelt there until dispossessed by Moses. In Genesis 14:9 we find them west of Jordan, near Engedi, on the shores of the Dead Sea. Thence crossing Jordan they seem to have spread eastward. They are found in the Shephelah, on the borders of Dan (Judges 1:34), and even in the mountain district near Ajalon. But (verse 35) they seem to have been driven out of Judah, and to have occupied a small portion of the Arabah south of the Dead Sea (cf. Joshua 15:3). Ewald, as well as Gesenius, regards the word Amorite as signifying highlander, and he quotes Isaiah 17:9, where Amir signifies the highest part of anything, as of a tree. So the Syriac Amori signifies a hero, and the Arabic Emir signifies a ruler. With this we may compare the term Ameer of Afghanistan, no doubt derived from a similar root. See also Isaiah 17:6, and the Hithpahel of אמר in Psalms 94:4, with the meaning to exalt one's self. Shechem, though a Hivite settlement, is spoken of by Jacob (Genesis 48:22) as an Amorite city, and in Joshua 10:6 the sovereigns of Jerusalem and the neighbour cities are spoken of as Amorite monarchs. This would suggest that the words applied to the inhabitants were to a great extent convertible terms, just as we apply the term Celt, Gael, Highlander indiscriminately to the inhabitants of the north of Scotland, Dutchman and Hollander to the inhabitants of Holland, and as Scotus and Erigena were both applied to Irishmen up to the 10th century. The Jebusites were in possession of the central highlands around Jerusalem, their stronghold. They retained possession of this until David dislodged them (2 Samuel 5:6-8. See note on Joshua 10:1).

Joshua 3:11

The Lord of all the earth. As He was about to prove Himself to be by the mighty miracles He wrought to establish the Israelites in their land and thus fulfil His promise. The Israelites needed to be reminded of this to support them during the crossing of the Jordan. The translation of the LXX; though rejected by the Masorites, who separate the words "covenant" and "Lord," is admissible here, "the covenant of the Lord of all the earth." If we follow the Masoretic punctuation, we must supply the word "ark" again, and translate "the ark of the covenant, the ark of the Lord of the whole earth."

Joshua 3:12

Take you twelve men. Joshua commands the election of twelve men previous to the passage of the Jordan, and in pursuance of the command he had already (Joshua 4:2; cf. note on Joshua 4:2) received from God. The reason for which they were to be chosen was probably not communicated to the Israelites till after the passage had taken place. Masius thinks that it would make the narrative clearer, "si proximum is versiculum sequeretur." But see note on Joshua 4:1.

Joshua 3:13

The Lord, the Lord of all the earth. The original is, Jehovah, the Lord of all the earth. That the waters of Jordan shall be cut off. The construction here seems to have perplexed the LXX; Vulgate, and English translators. The former have given the sense, but have changed the construction. The second have supposed יִכָּרֵתוּן to mean fail, and to refer to the waters below the place of crossing. The third have interpolated the word "from." The words "the waters descending from above" are in apposition to, and explanatory of, the words "the waters" above. If for "from" in our version we substitute "namely," we shall express the meaning of the original. The Masorites point thus, dividing the verb from what follows by Zakeph Katon. A heap (cf. Psalms 38:7). The original is picturesque, "and they shall stand, one heap."

Joshua 3:14

Removed from their tents. The word used for "removed" in this chapter is the same as is used of Abraham's removing. It is appropriate to the nature of the removal, for it signifies originally to pull up stakes or tent-pins, and has reference, there. fore, to the removal of a people who dwelt in tents.

Joshua 3:15

Brim. The water's edge is meant here, as in Joshua 3:8, where the same word is translated brink (see note on Joshua 3:17, and on Joshua 4:19). Jordan overfloweth all his banks. Some commentators translate here, filleth all his banks (ἐπληροῦτο, LXX). But this rendering is contrary

(1) to the Hebrew, and

(2) contrary to fact.

The literal rendering here is, "filleth out (or upon) all its banks." In Joshua 4:18 we read that Jordan goeth over all its banks And that the Jordan is not merely full, but full to overflowing, at the harvest season, is proved by the statements of many travellers. Take, for instance, Canon Tristram, who describes his visit to the Jordan as occurring just after it had been overflowing its banks, and the lower level of the valley as filled with "a deep slimy ooze." He adds that, by measure merit, the river was found to have been fourteen feet above the level at which he found it, and it was then quite full. Bartlett remarks, "We were fortunate enough to see it in the state in which it is described in Joshua, 'overflowing all its banks'—that is, the whole line of its banks. The turbid stream rushed along like a mill race, and though it had fallen from its greatest height, the proper banks of the channel were invisible, and indicated only by lines of oleanders and other shrubs and trees." This was on the 22nd of March. This overflowing is caused by the melting of the snows of Hermon, which then rush down, fill Lake Huleh and its marshes, as well as Gennesareth, and cause the "swelling of Jordan" (Jeremiah 12:5; Jeremiah 49:19; Jer 1:1-19 :44), which drives the wild beasts from their retreats on its banks (see also 1 Chronicles 12:15). Some travellers have boldly asserted, in spite of this concurrent testimony, that Jordan does not overflow its banks at the time of harvest. But they have mistaken the wheat for the barley harvest, forgetting that in Palestine the latter precedes the former by six or seven weeks. By the time of wheat harvest Jordan has returned to its normal condition, and all traces of the inundation have passed away. The time of harvest, i.e; the barley harvest, which took place about the 10th Nisan, or Abib, when the Israelites crossed. The wheat harvest was about Pentecost, or seven weeks later (Exodus 34:22). An important argument for the genuineness of the narrative (and much the more important as its chief incident is miraculous) is drawn from this passage by Blunt in his 'Undesigned Coincidences.' He remarks that in Exodus 9:31, Exodus 9:33 the barley and flax are said to have ripened together. Therefore the time of the barley and flax harvest would be identical. Accordingly we have Rahab, three days before the event here recorded, in possession of the as yet undried stalks of flax which had just been cut. Nothing could be a more satisfactory proof that the narrative we have before us comes from persons who were accurately and minutely informed concerning the circumstances of which they tell us.

Joshua 3:16

Stood and rose up upon a heap. Literally, "stood—they rose up, one heap." The narrative assumes a poetic form here (cf. Exodus 15:8, Exodus 15:9; Judges 5:27). Very far from the city Adam. The Masorites have corrected the text here. The original text has בְאָדָם for which the suggested Keri is מֵאָדָס. But the correction is needless. It is better to render, "they rose up, one heap, very far off, at the city Adam." The city Adam is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture, The LXX. appears to have read מְאֹד מְאֹד instead of מְאֹד מֵאָדָס, for it translates σφόδρα σφοδρῶς. This reading of the LXX. shows that the correction, though it obscures the sense, is of great antiquity, and that the site of Adam was then quite unknown. Knobel would place it either just south of the Jabbok, where the ford Damieh now exists, or at Eduma, now Daumeh, twelve German miles east of Neapolis. The former is generally accepted now, and Conder identifies it with Admah (see Genesis 14:2), in the plain or ciccar of Jordan. That is beside Zaretan. Called Zarthan in the original (cf. 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46), and Zeredatha, in 2 Chronicles 4:17. Some read Zeredatha for Zererath in Judges 7:22. Knobel supposes, and not without some probability, that Zereda, Jeroboam's birthplace, is the same as this. It was in the plain of Jordan, not far from Succoth, at the mouth of the Jabbok. The LXX. here reads Καριαθιαρείμ, i.e; either Kiriathaim or Kirjath-jearim, but without authority. Delitzsch and Knobel suppose the spot to be Kurn, or Karn (i.e; horn) Sartabeh, near the ford Damieh, where the Jordan valley is at its narrowest, and the rocks stretch forward so as almost to meet. They fix on this spot, partly from the suitability of the situation for such an arresting of the waters, partly from its agreement with the situation of Zarthan, as described in the Scriptures. Vandevelde agrees with them. There was an Adami and a Zartanath higher up the river near Bethshean, which some have supposed to be meant (see Jos 19:1-51 :83; 1 Kings 4:12), but these lay entirely out of Joshua's line of march. The sea of the plain. Rather the sea of the עֲרָבָה (θάλασσαν Αραβα, LXX), or desert (so Deuteronomy 3:17; Deu 4:49; 2 Kings 14:25; see also Deuteronomy 1:1). The term is applied by the Hebrews and Arabs to any sterile region, and thence to the sterile depression which borders on the Jordan, extending from the lake of Tiberias southward. The Arabs now apply the term el ghor to the part between Tiberias and the Dead Sea, and reserve the term Arabah for the desert valley, or wady, which extends thence to the Red Sea. So Gesen; 'Thesaurus,' s.v.; and Robinson, 'Bibl. Res.' The word translated plain in Genesis 13:10 is כִּכַּר, a word of very different signification (see also 'Shephelah' and 'Emek,' Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:2). The salt sea. This sea is called the Dead Sea from the immobility of its waters, as well as from the apparent absence of all life within them. "Some of our party," says Canon Tristram," employed themselves in searching, but without avail, for life in the Dead Sea." It lies at a level of more than 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. Its waters are thus described by Dr. Thomson: "The water is perfectly clear and transparent. The taste is bitter and salt, far beyond that of the ocean. It acts upon the tongue and mouth like alum; smarts in the eye like camphor; produces a burning, pricking sensation." The specific gravity of its waters is very great, and bathers find a great difficulty in swimming in it from the unusual buoyancy of the water. This is caused by the very large quantity of saline matter held in solution from the salt hills in the neighbourhood. One of them, Jebel Usdum, is described by Canon Tristram as "a solid mass of rock salt," and the water in its vicinity as "syrup of chloride of sodium," that is to say, of common salt. So also Bartlett, 'Egypt and Palestine,' p. 451. The statement that no bird can fly across its waters is a fable. The fullest account of the various attempts—some of them fatal—to explore the Dead Sea are to be found in Ritter's 'Geography of Palestine,' vol. 3. Canon Tristram explored the western side thoroughly, while Mr. Macgregor's canoe voyage, described in his 'Rob Roy on the Jordan,' gives a number of most interesting details. In Ritter's work will also be found some valuable observations on the physical geography of the district, on the geological formation of the basin of the Dead Sea, together with two papers, one by M. Terreil and the other by M. Lartet, on the chemical composition of the Dead Sea waters. Failed and were cut off. Literally, were completed, were cut off, i.e; were completely cut off, so that the supply of water failed, and the channel of the Jordan to the southward, and to the northward as far as Zaretan, became dry ground (see also Psalms 114:3).

Joshua 3:17

Firm. The LXX. does not translate this. The Vulgate renders accincti. The original, literally translated, means to cause to stand upright. In the midst of Jordan. That is, they stood surrounded by water, but not in midstream, which would be expressed by בְּקֶרֶב as in Joshua 3:10, where our version has "among" (see note on Joshua 4:9). So Drusius: "In medio Jordanis; i.e; intra Jordanem. Sic Tyrus legitur sita in corde maris; i.e; intra mare nam non procul abest a continente." Clean over. The word is the same as that translated "failed" in the last note. It means completion—"till the people had entirely finished crossing." Origen thus explains, in his fourth homily on Joshua, the mystical signification of this crossing the Jordan: "Cure catechumenorum aggregatus es numero, et praeceptis Ecclesiasticis parere coepisti digressus es mare rubrum, et in deserti stationibus positus, ad audiendam Dei legem, et intuendum Mosei vulture per gloriam Domini revelatum quotidie vacas. Si vero ad mysticum baptismi veneris fontem, et consistente sacerdotali et Levitico ordine initiatus fueris venerandis illis magnificisque sacramentis quae norunt illi quos nosse fas est, hanc etiam sacerdotum ministeriis Jordane digresso terram repromissionis intratis, in qua te post Moysen suscipi Jesus, et ipse tibi efficitur novi itineris dux."


Joshua 3:7-17

The passage of Jordan.

I. THE MINISTRY OF JOSHUA AND JESUS BEGAN AT JORDAN. As with Joshua at his crossing, so with Jesus at His baptism, God marked the moment of their coming to Jordan with a special favour. For as the waters of the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2), so the waters of Jordan are the type of Christian baptism. In connection with the wandering in the wilderness, the stream of Jordan is the type of death, which admits us to the promised land. But in connection with the conflicts in Canaan, to which it was the introduction, it is a type of the commencement of the spiritual life. For in it we are dedicated to our Joshua—we begin to follow our Leader. In it He was first "marked out to be the Son of God" (Matthew 3:17); and in it He shows to us the power of God in delivering us from our wanderings in the wilderness of evil, and translating us into the regions of His promises. In baptism we enter into covenant with God, and receive His blessings and gifts, as well as declare our resolution to serve Him. Thus it is the turning point of our lives whenever we receive it. It places us in a new covenant relation to God. It introduces us into new obligations, and entitles us to new blessings. It gives us the right to claim the aid of God in our conflict with evil; in other words, it is the starting point of our sanctification. And the work is all of God. He alone parts the waters for us to cross from the world into His kingdom. Jordan is overflowed. No passage is possible by human means; that is, no works of our own can avail to place .us where we may hope to carry on a successful war against our own and God's enemies. "Not of works, lest any man should boast," but "by grace are ye saved through faith, and even that (i.e; faith) not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." We attribute no magical power thus to the sacrament of baptism. It derives its sole power from being the means appointed by Jesus Christ Himself whereby we enter into covenant with Him.

II. IT WAS NO LONGER THE PILLAR OF CLOUD THAT GUIDED THEM, BUT THE ARK OF THE COVENANT. That is, the mystery of the law was unveiled in the gospel. Like the veil on the face of Moses (2 Corinthians 3:1-18), so this figure teaches us that what was dark under the Mosaic dispensation should be made clear by Jesus Christ. "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did" (cf. also Hebrews 12:18-24). The law guided through the wilderness; the gospel, into the promised land. The law, which was enshrouded in darkness, led man only in uncertain wanderings; the gospel led them to favour and victory. God was with them, no longer by cloudy tokens in the skies, but by the visible symbols of His presence. And so the God who leads us now is no longer a God who hides Himself, but God manifest in the flesh; God clothed in a visible form, that thus we might see Him who is invisible. The humanity of Jesus is at once the revelation of God, and the perfection of man. Following Him, though at a respectful distance, beholding Him, though not too nigh, we enter into the enjoyment of the promise.

III. JORDAN WAS CROSSED AT THE TIME OF ITS OVERFLOWING. Thus God manifests His own glory and man's insufficiency. The miracle was the greater in that it was performed at such a time. So God always deals with His people. The time of trouble is the time when He manifests His power. It is then that He makes our way most "plain before our face." Both Churches and individuals are apt in their prosperity to say, "I shall never be removed." But in adversity they betake themselves in all humility to God, and He makes them a way through the deep waters. "The swellings of Jordan" abate at His presence; "the overflowings of ungodliness" give ground at His word. When He speaks, sorrow and distress flee away "far off," and they whose "treadings had well-nigh slipt," who were "grieved at the wicked," or at the seeming tokens of God's wrath, find that He has made "straight paths for their feet" where all had seemed disappointment and despair.

IV. HELP AND STRENGTH ARE TO BE FOUND IN THE ORDINANCES OF RELIGION. When the priests' feet touched the brink of the waters they fled away. And is it not a spiritual fact that the consolations and helps of religion are to be found at the hands of the ministers of religion? How often did the exhortations of a Moses, a Joshua, or Samuel revive the drooping spirits of God's people? How often were the first converts of the gospel "provoked unto love and good works" by the mouth of a St. Peter or St. Paul! How many date their first serious impressions of Divine things from an earnest sermon, or a few words of loving counsel spoken by a minister of Christ. How many have felt kindled to love and devotion by the prayers reverently offered up in the sanctuary, where the sacred fire spreads from soul to soul till it has enkindled the warmth of zeal in all present! How often has the worshipper, either in the congregation or on the sick bed, been moved to tears and stirred to the depths of his soul by the "blest memorials of a dying Lord," consecrated and administered according to His word! It is one of the privileges of the Christian ministry of the New Covenant, when faithfully carried on, as of the priests at the command of the Jesus of the Old Covenant, that as their feet touch the swelling waters of neglect, thoughtlessness, and indevoutness, they subside, they flee far off, at least when, at the root of the individual life, there lies the spark—even though almost quenched—of faith. Not that the ministers are to take credit to themselves for this. They are but the organs of the Spirit of Christ. As Matthew Henry remarks, "God could have divided the river without the priests, but they could not do without Him." But He is pleased to use human means, and He blesses them. Though the "treasure is in earthen vessels," yet the "excellency of the power is of God."

V. THE PRIESTS STOOD FIRM. They were "caused to stand upright," as the Hebrew says; that is, there was no faltering or wavering. Had they drawn back after entering Jordan, had they shown signs of uncertainty, the waters would have returned, or the people had never dared to cross. So great is the responsibility that rests on God's ministers. The people look to them for guidance—for encouragement. If they "faint by the way," if they falter in their work of contending for the faith, of promoting the spread of Christ's Gospel, if their trumpet gives an uncertain sound, or if they retreat from their appointed task, the conflict with evil stands still; the pathway for God's Church to proceed to further conquests is not opened. How many great works for the spread of Christ's Gospel, for the proclamation of His truth, for the victory of His cause among men, have failed because the "priests" have not "stood firm" in the waters of Jordan; because timidity, halfheartedness, divided counsels, profitless controversies have obscured the witness for God's truth I If "the kingdoms of this world" have not "become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ," if the number of Christ's elect is not yet filled up, if the pathway to the final fulfilment of God's promises be not yet open, how much of it is because His ministers have not yet learned to "stand firm in the midst of Jordan"?


Joshua 3:11

The passage of the Jordan.

The lessons of importance are not exhausted in those already suggested in this passage of the Jordan. A deed so great, so solemn, so vast in its results, has many sides, and many subordinate points of interest. I gather up in this second homily a few of those points of interest and instruction. And first observe—

I. THE SIGN OF GOD'S PRESENCE WITH ISRAEL IS TEMPORARY, BUT THE PRESENCE ITSELF IS PERMANENT. This lesson arises at once from the fact that the pillar of cloud which hitherto had led them does not precede them now. To its guidance hitherto they had marched, and under its shadow rested. And the sign of God's presence had been a sweet assurance and a constant augury of success. Now it disappears altogether from the history of Israel. They will cross Jordan under the guidance of the ark, and of that alone. God's presence remains with them, but the sign of it is withdrawn. There were doubtless many who regarded such a loss as an omen of sinister significance; and many who, mixing devotion and superstition, would deplore that when the great crisis of the enterprise was come, their usual assurance of God's presence failed them. But there were some that had looked net to but through the sign, and built their hopes on the living God. And they, Joshua leading them, trusting in the love and faithfulness which they felt must be His character, were ready to venture without their sign. And venturing, they found God there, though the cloud of His presence had been withdrawn, and they got a notable lesson in walking by faith rather than by sight. We need few lessons more than this: That God's presence or absence is not to be concluded from the presence or absence of the sign of it. We are all Jewish enough to "require a sign." We want some assurance of acceptance over and beyond what gospel words convey. We want some "leading of Providence" in addition to the sense of duty before we feel comfortable in starting on any course. Raptures, mystic whisperings of God's consolation, special experiences not granted to others—these are apt in the regard of all of us to assume too much importance. We are apt to make the same mistake concerning these which some in Israel doubtless made concerning the pillar of cloud and fire; namely, to imagine them a special crown, a testimony to our unusual sanctity, instead of a gracious condescension to our weaknesses and to the fears which mark our setting out on a pilgrimage. Just escaping from slavery, Israel needed signs; now, maturer in experience and stronger in faith, the signs are no longer needed. Probably. in all cases it will be found that signs belong to the earlier stages of the experience either of the community or the individual. When experience and faith are strong, they are withdrawn. Put not a dark construction on any mere want of signs, for while the sign of the presence is temporary, the presence itself is permanent with all God's people. Growing out of this a second lesson suggests itself, viz.:

II. THEY ARE WELL LED WHO ARE ARK LED. Israel no longer had the pillar of cloud and fire, but they had the ark of God, and, as the event proved, the ark led them just as wisely as the pillar; and in following it they found just the same help of miraculous power. What was this ark of the covenant? A wonderful piece of sacred symbolism. Over it—in fact, forming the lid of it—was what was named the mercy seat, God's earthly throne. Within it were the ten commandments, written on two tables of stone. This combination of symbols of law and mercy belonged to no religion but that of Israel. The gods of other nations required but little duty, and were hardly expected to show mercy. But the symbolism of the ark and the whole Mosaic economy projected these thoughts before the minds of Israel: The true God is a God of mercy. But at the same time He insists on duty. The ark proclaimed Him the God of mercy and of law; of gracious promise, of ennobling precept; delivering men by the grace He gave, dignifying them by the duty He exacted. This was the God of Israel. And now, in lieu of signs, the symbol of mercy and of duty was to lead the way. Not eagles, symbols of victorious power, but tables of stone led them, and "marshalled them the way that they were going." And their successful following of this lead suggests that when any one marches to the lead of the ten commandments, or of the promises of God, he is as well led and as grandly succoured as when some cloudy pillar moves before him. There is importance in this. Often our signs are withdrawn; as with the community of Israel so with us, it is probably the case that signs grow fewer and that special experiences grow more rare as character matures. Then comes a time, more or less clearly definite, when, instead of mysterious movings felt to be Divine, the guidance of the Lord is given, through a testimony of mercy and of duty. Before you goes the symbol of heavenly love and of earthly duty. And you have to march, coldly as it may seem, to the lead of tables of stone and verbal assurances only of God's care. Murmur not at this; a hope and a duty are guides sublime. The ark is just as good as the cloud. If you had the choice of an enlightened conscience or a special angel to be your guide, you would do wisely to choose the conscience in preference to the angel. You may mistake the reading of your signs—you rarely will your duty. Next to His redeeming grace, the richest mercy He gives us is a "word behind us," or within us, "saying, this is the way, walk ye in it." And the grandest spirits of mankind—in their pilgrimage from victory to victory—have marched under the lead of nothing grander than some ark, something that whispered hope and demanded duty. Thus led, did Israel lose? Nay, as before the cloudy pillar the sea divided, so before the sacred ark did Jordan. If you have something like what the ark embodied—a promise and a precept—ask no more; where the tables of the covenant lead you, there follow. Few get more, and none get anything better, than these. God guides through enlightenment of conscience, or Bible precept, or the devout example which you instinctively perceive is a pattern to be followed. Seek not any sign; God's presence will ever be with all those that keep His precepts. If the ark of God, as replacing the pillar of cloud, has such suggestions, observe thirdly—

III. GOD'S HYDRAULICS ARE NEVER FAULTY. In the West of England just now there is considerable discussion about" dockising" the river Avon, i.e; so throwing a dam across the mouth that all the river up to Bristol would be converted into one huge dock. And in the discussion the strength of such a dam, its cost, its leakage, the right place for it, how to provide for the outlet of all water above a certain level, are canvassed by all. Here we have the "dockising" for a day or two of the river Jordan, a very much larger river than the Avon, one whose very name suggests the swiftness of its current. And the dam that effects this great collection of the waters is "the ark of God," set down in the midst of the Jordan bed, with the priests grouped on either side. How would the philosophers of that day criticise that dam, and express with assumed anxiety their fears that the law of gravitation and the law that governs the flow of liquids would prove too much for the legs of the priests, and even for the weight of the tables of stone. But whatever fear might be entertained by the people before the ark entered Jordan, and whatever misgivings by the priests when they were standing in its pebbly bed, there was a power which operated from that ark which dammed the fiver as no engineer could have done it. So that instead of reading of struggling with the water, of multitudes carried down the stream, of hairbreadth escapes, of multitudes left behind, all got safely across. And here, I think, we have a specimen of what is everywhere to be seen; the efficiency of spiritual barriers against all assailing forces. We see them on all hands; we dread lest they be overborne by some strong current bearing down against them. But lo! they stand against all force that threatens them. God's truth is such a barrier. With error like a huge river rushing down upon it, it seems as slender and insufficient as was the barrier of the ark. Science is so arrogant and captious, chronology so sure, metaphysics so disputatious, error so agreeable to the natural man, that it seems as if there could be no standing. But the Jordan of all the philosophies and all the heresies threaten in vain, and God's ark of truth is sufficient to withstand them. God's grace in the heart is such a dam; nothing seemingly more feeble, nothing really more strong, against the swelling tides of inward corruption and outward temptation that assail the character. Sometimes prayer shields a distant boy, an erring friend, and protects them with a guard as really omnipotent as it appears feeble. Judge not by the outward appearance. The clock is not about to go backward, nor error usurp the place of truth. Don't tremble for the ark of God, as did Eli. Whatever God wants guarded, it is omnipotent to guard. So that, amongst other lessons, this sweet one comes to us that we are guarded better than we think. And what seems God's weakness is mightier than the strongest strength which can come against us.—G.


Joshua 3:14-17

The division of the waters.

The passage of Jordan, like that of the Red Sea, marks a momentous crisis in the career of the chosen people. The events are similar in their general character as Divine interpositions, but there are notable points of difference. In the first case there was haste, confusion, and alarm; the people fled precipitately, the noise of the Egyptian host behind them, the mountains shutting them in, the sea an object of terror before them; they cried unto the Lord, in their distress. Even Moses seems to have had his misgivings. "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" etc. (Exodus 14:15). But here, apparently, all is tranquillity and order. The territory on which they stand has been subdued and is their possession, and they move deliberately, under the direction of Joshua, down to the brink of the river, waiting in calm expectancy for the salvation of the Lord. In the former case, the region beyond the sea was a dread mystery to them. It was a waste, howling wilderness, towards which they could not look without sad forebodings. But here the hills, and forests, and fertile plains of the land of promise axe actually in sight, and though they know that they are not destined to enter at once into peaceable possession of it, the vision gives such stimulus to their faith that it is as if the inheritance were already theirs. Let us look at this event—

(1) as a revelation of God;

(2) as a chapter in the moral education of the people.

I. AS A REVELATION OF GOD. The miraculous, supernatural character of the event we take to be beyond all reasonable doubt. It is impossible to explain it on mere natural grounds. The spies, like David's "mighty men" at a later period (1 Chronicles 12:15), probably swam the flood. But, considering the condition of the river at the time (verse 15), it is incredible that so vast a host, with women and children, should have passed over except by a miraculous division of the waters. In the passage of the Red Sea an intermediate agent was employed to bring about the result. "The Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind" (Exodus 14:21). But there is no indication of anything of this kind here. It is a direct exercise of the wonder working hand of God. In the one case a natural agent is used supernaturally; in the other nothing intervenes between the supernatural cause and the visible effect. Note—

1. God's control over nature. All miracles in the physical realm are an assertion of the absolute sovereignty of God over the things He has made and the laws He has ordained. The possibility of miracles springs naturally from the fact of the existence of a "living God," who is "Lord of all the earth." Whether any particular miracle is credible must depend on the force of evidence, and in this evidence the moral end to be answered plays an important part. But to deny its possibility is to deny the Divine sovereignty. It is absurd to suppose that the order of nature which God Himself has established limits His own freedom. The power that created it must ever be Lord over it. Consider how this truth of the supremacy of the living God is the basis of our faith in a controlling Providence and in the efficacy of prayer. How the Divine will may work freely within the bounds of natural order we know not. But once grasp the principle that the forces and laws of nature are not fetters imposed on the freedom of Divine power, but instruments by which that power may accomplish the purposes of love as it pleases, and you have no longer any difficulty in believing in a fatherly Providence in which you can trust and to which you can appeal in time of need.

2. God's control over the nations. This miracle is to the people a prophecy and pledge of victory in their conflict with the Canaanites. "Hereby ye shall know," etc. (verse 10). The power that rolled back the waters of the rushing river could roll back the force of the barbarous tribes beyond it. The opening for the chosen people of a pathway across the stream would be a doubtful benefit unless they could take it as the pledge of the presence of that power with them afterwards. Moreover, shall not He who planted the nations be able to uproot them? Shall not He who "determined for them the times before appointed and the bounds of their habitation," etc; be able to change their boundaries as He pleases, and to destroy them when they fail to fulfil the ends for which He gave them their local habitation? This is a very different thing from saying that the strong have license to oppress and exterminate the weak. It may be perfectly true that there is a process ever going on among the peoples of the earth, by virtue of which those that have risen higher in the scale of humanity thrust out the lower, a "survival of the fittest." But this in no way overrides the law that the oppressor and the spoiler must, sooner or later, suffer a righteous retribution. "Woe to thee that spoilest," etc. (Isaiah 33:1). God may use one nation as the scourge of another, and the avenger of His own abused authority. But let none think to move in this path without a very distinct and definite Divine call. "Vengeance is mine," etc. (Romans 12:19). This violent seizure of the land of Canaan by the Israelites can be justified only on the ground of a direct Divine commission, and of that commission the miraculous passage of Jordan was the seal and proof.

II. A CHAPTER IN THE MORAL EDUCATION OF THE PEOPLE. AN EDUCATION IN FAITH, AND IN THE COURAGE THAT SPRINGS FROM FAITH. Their whole career in the wilderness had been marked by signal Divine interpositions. "The Lord alone did lead them, and there was no strange God with them" (Deuteronomy 32:12). They specially needed to have this impressed on them now, entering as they were on a new stage in their national history, new situations, new responsibilities; coming as an organised commonwealth into contact with the corruptions of Phoenician idolatry. This miracle was intended also to give them confidence in their leader: "This day will I begin to magnify thee," etc. (verse 7). And the calm strength of Joshua's faith was fitted to inspire them with the same spirit.

Lessons suggested:

(1) Life to most of us is a succession of trials of faith and fortitude. "Ye have not passed this way before." We are continually entering on new ground, new phases of experience, unknown difficulties and dangers. Our only security is the consciousness of the Divine presence, the faith that lays hold on the strength of God.

(2) The inspiring effect of a noble example. "It does a wrestling man good to be surrounded by tried wrestlers." He is most honoured of God who has most power to awaken in his fellows faith in God.

(3) The conditions of victory in the last emergency of life. Though there may be nothing in Scripture teaching to warrant it, it is not without reason that, in hymns and allegories, the Jordan is regarded as a symbol of death. The dark river rolls between us and the land of promise; how shall we cross it in safety? "Yea, though I walk through the valley," etc. (Psalms 23:4). Let us hear the voice of the Captain of our salvation, and we shall not be afraid. The ark of the covenant will open for us a sure pathway through the deep.—W.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/joshua-3.html. 1897.
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