Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 3:16

the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Adam;   Dead Sea;   Miracles;   Salt;   Water;   Zaretan;   Scofield Reference Index - Israel;   Miracles;   Thompson Chain Reference - Dead Sea;   Miracles;   Salt;   Sea;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Jordan, the River;   Miracles Wrought through Servants of God;   Water;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Adam;   Miracle;   Zaretan;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Ark;   Dead sea;   Earthquake;   Palestine;   Priest;   Salt;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Adam, the City of;   Admah;   Arabah;   Ark;   Jericho;   Salt Sea;   Zaretan;   Zereda;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Adam (2);   Jericho;   Jordan;   Miracles;   Sea, the Salt;   Zaretan;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Adam;   Adam and Eve;   Arabah;   Jordan River;   Water;   Zaretan;   Zarethan;   Zererah;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Adam (1);   Jericho;   Joshua;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Walk (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Adam ;   Arabah;   Jordan ;   Miracles;   Salt Sea;   Sea;   Zaretan, Zarthan ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Adam;   Ark;   Chief parables and miracles in the bible;   Harvest;   Journeyings of israel from egypt to canaan;   Lachish;   Salt (2);   Zaretan;   Zereda;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Ad'am,;   Jer'icho;   Tabernacle;   Zar'etan,;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Bethabara;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Adam, City of;   Admah;   Arabah;   Champaign;   Dead Sea, the;   Fail;   Heap;   Jordan;   Joshua (2);   Sea;   Zaketan;   Zarethan;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Adam;   Ark of the Covenant;   Jordan, the;   Miracle;   Salt;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Rose up upon a heap - That is, they continued to accumulate, filling up the whole of the channel toward the source, and the adjacent ground over which they were now spread, to a much greater depth, the power of God giving a contrary direction to the current. We need not suppose them to be gathered up like a mountain, instar montis, as the Vulgate expresses it, but that they continued to flow back in the course of the channel; and ere they could have reached the lake of Gennesareth, where they might have been easily accumulated, the whole Israelitish army would have all got safely to the opposite side.

Very far from the city Adam - beside Zaretan - Where these places were it is difficult to say. The city Adam is wholly unknown. From 1 Kings 4:12; we learn that Zartanah was below Jezreel near Bethshean, or Scythopolis, and not far from Succoth, 1 Kings 7:46. And it appears from Genesis 33:17, Joshua 13:27, that Succoth lay on the east side of Jordan, not far from the lake of Gennesareth; and probably Adam was on the same side to the north of Succoth. It is probable that the Israelites crossed the Jordan near Bethabara, where John baptized, John 1:28, and which probably had its name, the house of passage, from this very circumstance. After all, it is extremely difficult to ascertain the exact situation of these places, as in the lapse of upwards of 3,000 years the face of the country must have been materially changed. Seas, rivers, and mountains, change not; and though we cannot ascertain the spot, it is sufficiently evident that we can come near to the place. It has been considered a lame objection against the truth of the Iliad that the situation of Troy cannot now be exactly ascertained. There are even many ancient cities and considerable towns in Europe, that, though they still bear their former names, do not occupy the same spot. There are not a few of those even in England; among such Norwich, Salisbury, etc., may be ranked, neither of which is in its primitive situation.

Right against Jericho - It would be impossible for the whole camp to pass over in the space opposite to Jericho, as they must have taken up some miles in breadth, besides the 2,000 cubits which were left on the right between them and the ark; but the river was divided opposite to Jericho, and there the camp began to pass over.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-3.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The passage should run “rose up, an heap far away, by Adam, the city which is beside Zarthan.”

The city of Adam is not named elsewhere, and Zarthan (mentioned here and in marginal references.) has also disappeared. It is, however, probably connected with the modern Kurn Sartabeh (Horn of Sartabeh), the name given to a lofty and isolated hill some 17 miles on the river above Jericho.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-3.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

That the waters which came down from above,.... Above where the priests' feet rested, and which came down from Mount Lebanon, and the fountains of Jordan northward:

stood and rose up upon an heap; they stopped their current, and as the water came down they rose up on high, and made one vast heap of waters:

very far from the city of Adam, that is, beside Zaretan; the Cetib, or textual reading, is, "in Adam the city"; we follow the marginal reading, "from Adam": both readings, as is usually, if not always the case, are to be received; and the meaning is, that this heap of waters, though the river was at a considerable distance from Adam; yet through the overflow of it, it reached to, and was "in Adam": this city was in Perea, on the other side Jordan, that side on which the Israelites were before their passage; and Zaretan, which is supposed to be the same with Zartanah, and Zarthan, 1 Kings 4:12, was on this side, in the tribe of Manasseh; and the sense is, not that Adam was on the side of Zaretan, or near it, for it was on the other side of the river; and according to the TalmudistsF1T. Hieros. Sotah, fol. 21. 4. was twelve miles from it; but the construction is with the word "heap", "which heap was on the side of Zaretan"; it was there where the waters were heaped up; it seems as if they reached on the one side to Adam, and on the other side to Zaretan:

and those that came down towards the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off; those waters, which were below where the priests' feet rested, ran down into the lake Asphaltites, where Sodom and Gomorrah formerly stood, the sea of the plain, or vale of Siddim, Genesis 14:3; sometimes called the dead sea, and here the salt sea, its water being exceeding salt; so, Mr. Maundrell, the above mentioned travellerF2Maundrell, ut supra, (Journel from Aleppo to Jerusalem) p. 84. Ed. 7. testifies on his own knowledge;"the water of the lake (the lake Asphaltites, or dead sea, says he) was very limpid, and salt to the highest degree; and not only salt, but also extreme bitter and nauseous;'

so that these waters running down thither, and those above stopped, made a dry channel for sixteen or eighteen miles: and the people passed over right against Jericho; which was the city Joshua had in view to attack first, and had sent spies thither to get intelligence of it, and the disposition of the people in it: See Gill on Joshua 2:1.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-3.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

the waters which came down from above — that is, the Sea of Galilee

stood and rose up upon a heap — “in a heap,” a firm, compact barrier (Exodus 15:8; Psalm 78:13);

very far — high up the stream;

from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan — near mount Sartabeh, in the northern part of the Ghor (1 Kings 7:46); that is, a distance of thirty miles from the Israelitish encampment; and

those that came down toward the sea of the desert — the Dead Sea - were cut off (Psalm 114:2, Psalm 114:3). The river was thus dried up as far as the eye could reach. This was a stupendous miracle; Jordan takes its name, “the Descender,” from the force of its current, which, after passing the Sea of Galilee, becomes greatly increased as it plunges through twenty-seven “horrible rapids and cascades,” besides a great many lesser through a fall of a thousand feet, averaging from four to five miles an hour [Lynch]. When swollen “in time of harvest,” it flows with a vastly accelerated current.

the people passed over right against Jericho — The exact spot is unknown; but it cannot be that fixed by Greek tradition - the pilgrims‘ bathing-place - both because it is too much to the north, and the eastern banks are there sheer precipices ten or fifteen feet high.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/joshua-3.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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 people2. 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.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-3.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 3:16 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.

Ver. 16. That is beside Zaretan.] A city in the tribe of Ephraim, [1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46] called also Zererath in 7:22, and Zereda in 1 Kings 11:26.

Failed, and were cut off.] Quickly perished in the lake Asphaltites, or Dead Sea, Tanquam si repente fuissent dissectae gladio, ut Job 6:15, as if they had been suddenly cut in twain with a sword, (a)

And the people passed over.] Not by bridges or boats, but on foot, dry shod, though in such an inundation.

Right over against Jericho.] The place being therehence called Bethabara, as some think, [John 1:28] or Traiectum, the place of passage. Here baptism was first administered, [John 1:28] where it had been foreshadowed. Christ is the true Bethabara. [Ephesians 2:18]

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-3.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 16. The waters which came down from above, stood, &c.— Instead of continuing their course, being arrested by the divine hand, they accumulated, and formed as it were a mountain, which is the rendering of the Vulgate. Or else, as we may plainly conceive, being obliged to go back towards their source, they rose up in heaps for a vast way backward, very far, as the text expresses it, from the city of Adam, which is beside Zaretan. This city of Adam is not known; and the situation of Zaretan is in dispute.

Perhaps the most probable account that can be given, is, that Zaretan was placed to the west of the Jordan, a little below Bethsan, or Scythopolis, which stood opposite to Succoth; 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46. Now Succoth lay on the other side of the river, (see Genesis 33:17. Joshua 13:27.) not far from the lake of Gennezareth; consequently, Adam was on the east side, but more northerly than Succoth. Now, as the Israelites crossed the Jordan, as it is supposed, by the borders of Bethabara, where St. John afterwards baptized, (see on ver. 17.) the waters must have gone back the whole computed distance from Bethabara to Zaretan.

And those that came down toward the sea of the plain—failed That is, the waters which were below the place where the Israelites passed, continued to flow, and lose themselves in the sea of the plain, otherwise called the Salt or Dead Sea; thus leaving dry a great part of the river's channel. From the place where the waters stopped, down to the Dead Sea, is reckoned sixteen or eighteen miles. Such, therefore, was the breadth of the passage which opened to the Israelites, opposite to, and in the face of the city of Jericho.

See commentary on Joshua 3:14

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/joshua-3.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

The waters rose up upon an heap; which having been affirmed by heathen writers to have been done by magicians, it is great impudence to disbelieve or doubt of God’s power to do it.

Adam, that is beside Zaretan: the city Adam being more obscure, is described by its nearness to a more known place, Zaretan, or Zarthan, which some think is the same place mentioned 1 Kings 4:12 7:46; but it rather seems to have been another place then eminent, but now unknown, as many thousands are. The meaning is, that the waters were stopped in their course at that place, and so kept at a due distance from the Israelites whilst they passed over.

Right 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 warlike 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 to their present expedition.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-3.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16.The city Adam, that is beside Zaretan — It is impossible to locate these cities; no traces of them remain. The latter city is elsewhere more correctly spelled Zarthan. There is in the Hebrew a marginal reading which is generally preferred by the critics: “The waters stood and rose up upon one heap very far off — by Adam, the city that is by the side of Zarthan.”

In accordance with this reading many commentators suppose that the entire channel of the Jordan was dry for many miles above the place of crossing, and that the waters were rolled back and piled up in a place many miles distant towards, or near, the Sea of Tiberias. The following is Stanley’s graphic description: “On the broken edge of the swollen stream the band of priests stood, with the ark on their shoulders. Suddenly the full bed of the Jordan was dried before them. High up the river, far, far away, in Adam, (that is, at a distance of thirty miles from the encampment,) the waters stood which ‘descended’ from the heights above; stood, and rose up as if gathered into a waterskin, as if in a barrier or heap, as if congealed, (LXX;) and those that descended toward the Sea of the Desert, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off. Thus the scene presented is of the ‘descending stream,’ (Jordan, etymologically, means the Descender, ) not parted asunder, as we generally fancy, but, as the Psalm expresses it, ( Psalms 114:3,) ‘turned backwards;’ the whole bed of the river left dry from north to south, through its long windings; the huge stones lying bare here and there, embedded in the soft bottom; or the shingly pebbles drifted along the course of the channel.” To this theory of the miracle, which is also that of Dr. A. Clarke, we object. We see no reason for heaping up the waters in a far-distant place where there were no Hebrew witnesses.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-3.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Joshua 3:16. Adam — The city of 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 while they passed over. Against Jericho — Here God carried them over, because this part was, 1st, The strongest, as having in its neighbourhood an eminent city, a potent king, and a stout and warlike people. 2d, 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.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-3.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Mountain. Hebrew, "heap or bottle." The billows were forced to roll back almost as far as the lake of Genesareth, where Sarthan stands, about twenty leagues above Jericho. --- Sarthan. Hebrew, "rose up on a heap, very far from (or to) the city of Adom, that is beside Sarthan." The situation of Adom can only be ascertained by that of Sarthan, which was near Bethsan, or Scythopolis, (3 Kings iv. 12,) in the vale of Jezrahel, on the Jordan. Many copies of the Septuagint read Cariathiarim, though it was six or seven leagues up the country, west of Jericho. (Calmet) --- The swelling billows might perhaps be seen from this place. (Haydock) --- But it could not properly determine how far the waters rolled back. (Calmet) --- Failed. Hebrew, "and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, (or of Araba, which means a desert, fit only for pasturage) the salt sea, failed were cut off" from the waters above Jericho. The Jordan after running three miles in the lake of Sodom, without mixing its waters, becomes at last reluctantly confounded with it. Velut invitus...postremo ebibitur, aquasque laudatas perdit, pestilentibus mixtus. (Pliny, [Natural History?] v. 15.)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-3.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Adam. The waters were divided at (or near) the city "Adam", and they were heaped up at (or near) "Zaretun", another city far off from "Adam".

Zaretan in the land of Manasseh. Called Zartanah in 1 Kings 4:12. The brazen vessels of the temple were cast there in the plain of Jordan (1 Kings 7:46.

sea of the plain: i.e. the Dead Sea.

salt sea. Figure of speech. Polyonymia. App-6.

the People passed over. A way cleft through the sea (Exodus 14), through the river (Joshua 3), and in the future through the air Philippians 3:14, 1 Thessalonians 4:17).

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-3.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

The waters which came down, [ hayor

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-3.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) Very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan.—The written text is “in Adam,” but the Masorites read it “from Adam.” The reading makes no difference to the literal fact. The two prepositions, in and from, express the same thought. The heap of water stood up as it were in Adam. From Adam to the place where Israel crossed, the river-bed was dry—the heap was as far away as Adam, but as it was not actually in the city, the word in was most likely altered to from. The more difficult reading, in, may very possibly be the best. For Zaretan see 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46. Adam, as the name of a city, does not occur elsewhere. The meaning of the fact has been well pointed out by Bishop Wordsworth on this place. Zaretan was beneath Jezreel, but has not been identified. Adam has been thought to be at the ford Damieh, thirty miles away.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-3.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
rose up
13; Psalms 29:10; 77:19; 114:3; Matthew 8:26,27; 14:24-33
Zaretan
1 Kings 4:12
Zartanah
1 Kings 7:46
Zarthan
the salt sea.
15:2; Genesis 14:3; Numbers 34:3; Deuteronomy 3:17; The passage through the Red Sea took place in the night, when the Israelites were fleeing from the Egyptians with great trepidation: but they passed Jordan in the day-time, with previous warning, leisurely, directly opposite to Jericho, and with a triumphant defiance of the Canaanites; this passage into the promised land evidently typifying the believer's passage through death to heaven.
Reciprocal: Exodus 14:29 - a wall;  Numbers 22:1 - on this side;  Deuteronomy 9:1 - to pass;  Joshua 4:10 - stood in the midst;  Joshua 12:3 - the sea;  Joshua 16:7 - Jericho;  Joshua 18:12 - Jericho;  Joshua 18:19 - the salt;  Judges 6:33 - went over;  2 Chronicles 20:2 - beyond the sea;  Psalm 33:7 - heap;  Psalm 66:6 - they;  Psalm 77:16 - GeneralPsalm 78:13 - made;  Psalm 126:4 - as the streams;  Isaiah 50:2 - I dry;  Isaiah 63:12 - dividing;  Ezekiel 47:8 - desert;  Habakkuk 3:8 - the Lord;  Habakkuk 3:10 - the overflowing

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 3:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-3.html.