|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:14-17 Jordan overflowed all its banks. This magnified the power of God, and his kindness to Israel. Although those who oppose the salvation of God's people have all advantages, yet God can and will conquer. This passage over Jordan, as an entrance to Canaan, after their long, weary wanderings in the wilderness, shadowed out the believer's passage through death to heaven, after he has finished his wanderings in this sinful world. Jesus, typified by the ark, hath gone before, and he crossed the river when it most flooded the country around. Let us treasure up experiences of His faithful and tender care, that they may help our faith and hope in the last conflict.
Verse 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 ver. 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."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And the priests that bare the ark of the Lord stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan,.... Which for its breadth Mr. Maundrell, the above mentioned traveller, says (c) might be about twenty yards over, and its depth exceeded his height; but Dr. Shaw (d), a later traveller still, says,"the river Jordan is by far the most considerable river, excepting the Nile, either of the coast of Syria, or of Barbary. I computed it to be about thirty yards broad, but the depth I could not measure, except at the brink, where I found it to be three yards.''Now in the midst of this river the priests bearing the ark stood firm on dry ground, the waters above being stopped and those below cut off. This perhaps might give rise to the fables among the Heathens of the river Scamander being swelled for the destruction of Achilles, and dried up by Vulcan, of which Homer (e) makes mention; and of the river Inachus, dried up by Neptune, as the Grecians fable; however, if Heathens can credit these accounts, surely we Christians ought to believe this, attested by divine revelation. And this may denote the presence of Christ with his people in afflictions, who will not suffer those waters to overflow them, and in death itself, when the swellings of Jordan shall not come near them to distress them; and when the covenant of grace will appear firm and sure, and be their great support; and when also the feet of the ministers of Christ stand firm, and their faith fails not; which is of great use, and very encouraging to the spiritual Israel of God:
and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground; the waters being divided to a space large enough for such a body of people to pass over, and which continued
until all the people were clean passed over Jordan; perfectly and completely, not one being left behind, or lost in the passage through it; in the midst of which the priests stood until all were passed over. So the spiritual Israel of God must all go over Jordan's river, or must all go through the valley of the shadow of death; and they will all go over safe to Canaan's land, to the heavenly glory; their souls go immediately to heaven at death, and their bodies will be raised at the last day, and be reunited to them, and partake of happiness with them; nor will anyone of them be lost; they all clean pass over, and arrive safe; for they are the chosen of God, the care and charge of Christ, the purchase of his blood, partake of his grace, and have the earnest of his Spirit.
(c) Maundrell, Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 83. (d) Travels, p. 346. (e) Iliad. 21.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
17. the priests … and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground—the river about Jericho has a firm pebbly bottom, on which the host might pass, without inconvenience when the water was cleared off.
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