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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 3

Wesley's Explanatory NotesWesley's Notes

Verse 1

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

In the morning — Not after the return of the spies, but after the three days, Joshua 1:11, as it follows, verse3:2.

Lodge there — That night, that they might go over in the day time, that the miracle might be more evident and unquestionable, and strike the greater terror into their enemies.

Verse 2

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

After three days — Either at the end of them, or upon the last of them.

Through the host — The second time to give them more particular directions, as they had given them a general notice, Joshua 1:10-11.

Verse 3

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

Commanded the people — In Joshua’s name, and by his authority. Priests and Levites - Who were not only Levites, but priests also. For altho’ the Levites were to carry the ark, Numbers 4:1-15, yet the priests might perform that office, and did so upon some solemn occasions.

Go after it — Towards Jordan, to go over it in such a manner as I am about to describe. ’Till this time the ark went in the middle of the cloudy pillar, now it goes in the front. Probably the pillar of fire and cloud was still hovering over the ark.

Verse 4

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

Two thousand cubits — A thousand yards, at which distance from it the Israelites seem to have been encamped in the wilderness. And because they generally went from their tents to the ark to worship God, especially on the sabbath-days; hence it hath been conceived, that a sabbath-day’s journey reached only to two thousand cubits. But that may be doubted; for those who encamped nearest the ark, were at that distance from it, and came so far; but the rest were farther from it, and their sabbath-day’s journey was considerably longer.

Near unto it — Partly from the respect they should bear to the ark; but chiefly, that the ark marching so far before you into the river, and standing still there ’till you pass over, may give you the greater assurance of your safe passage.

Ye have not passed this way heretofore — While we are here, we must expect unusual events, to pathways that we have not passed before: and much more when we go hence, when we pass thro’ the valley of the shadow of death. But if we have the assurance of God’s presence, what have we to fear?

Verse 5

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

And Joshua said — Or rather, had said, the day before their passage; for it follows, to-morrow.

Sanctify yourselves — Both in soul and body, that you may be meet to receive such a favour, and with more reverence observe this great work, and fix it in your hearts.

Verse 6

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

Take up — Namely, upon your shoulders; for so they were to carry it, Numbers 7:9.

Before the people — Not in the middle of them, as you used to do.

Verse 7

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

Magnify thee — That is, to gain thee authority among them, as the person whom I have set in Moses’s stead, and by whom I will conduct them to the possession of the promised land.

Verse 8

And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan.

The brink — Heb. to the extremity, so far as the river then spread itself, which was now more than ordinary, Joshua 3:15.

In Jordan — Within the waters of Jordan, in the first entrance into the river; Where they stood for a season, ’till the river was divided, and then they went into the midst of it, and there abode ’till all the people were passed over.

Verse 9

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

Come hither — To the ark or tabernacle, the place of public assemblies.

The Lord your God — Who is now about to give a proof that he is both the Lord, the omnipotent governor of heaven and earth, and all creatures; and your God, in covenant with you, having a tender care and affection for you.

Verse 10

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

Ye shall know — By experience and sensible evidence.

The living God — Not a dull, dead, senseless God, such as the gods of the nations are; but a God of life, and power, and activity to watch over you, and work for you.

Among you — Is present with you to strengthen and help you.

Verse 12

Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.

Twelve men — For the work described, Joshua 4:2-3.

Verse 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, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.

The ark of the Lord — That so it may appear this is the Lord’s doing, and that in pursuance of his covenant made with Israel.

Of all the earth — The Lord of all this globe of earth and water, who therefore can dispose of this river and the adjoining land as he pleaseth.

Cut off — The waters which now are united now shall be divided, and part shall flow down the channel towards the dead sea, and the other part that is nearer the spring of the river, and flows down from it, shall stand still.

An heap — Being as it were congealed, as the Red-Sea was, Exodus 15:8, and so kept from overflowing the country.

Verse 15

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

All the time of harvest — This is meant not of wheat-harvest, but of the barley-harvest, as is manifest from their keeping the passover at their first entrance, Joshua 5:10, which was kept on the fourteenth day of the first month, when they were to bring a sheaf of their first-fruits, which were of barley. So that this harvest in those hot countries fell very early in the spring, when rivers used to swell most; partly because of the rains which have fallen all the winter, partly because of the snows which melt and come into the rivers. And this time God chose that the miracle might be more glorious, more amazing and terrible to the Canaanites; and that the Israelites might be entertained at their first entrance with plentiful and comfortable provisions.

Verse 16

That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.

Adam — The city Adam being more obscure, is described by its nearness to a more known place, then eminent, but now unknown. The meaning is, that the waters were stopped in their course at that place, and so kept at a distance from the Israelites whilst they passed over.

Against Jericho — Here God carried them over, because this part was, 1. The strongest, as having in its neighbourhood an eminent city, a potent king, and a stout and war-like people — 2. The most pleasant and fruitful, and therefore more convenient both for the refreshment of the Israelites after their long and tedious marches, and for their encouragement.

Verse 17

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

Stood firm — That is, in one and the same place and posture; their feet neither moved by any waters moving in upon them, nor sinking into any mire, which one might think was at the bottom of the river. And this may be opposed to their standing on the bank of the water when they came to it, commanded, Joshua 3:8, which was but for a while, ’till the waters were divided and gone away; and then they were to go farther, even into the midst of Jordan, where they are to stand constantly and fixedly, as this Hebrew word signifies, until all were passed over.

The midst of Jordan — In the middle and deepest part of the river.

Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/wen/joshua-3.html. 1765.
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