|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
3:1-6 The Israelites came to Jordan in faith, having been told that they should pass it. In the way of duty, let us proceed as far as we can, and depend on the Lord. Joshua led them. Particular notice is taken of his early rising, as afterwards upon other occasions, which shows how little he sought his own ease. Those who would bring great things to pass, must rise early. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty. All in public stations should always attend to the duty of their place. The people were to follow the ark. Thus must we walk after the rule of the word, and the direction of the Spirit, in everything; so shall peace be upon us as upon the Israel of God; but we must follow our ministers only as they follow Christ. All their way through the wilderness was an untrodden path, but most so this through Jordan. While we are here, we must expect and prepare to pass ways that we have not passed before; but in the path of duty we may proceed with boldness and cheerfulness. Whether we are called to suffer poverty, pain, labour, persecution, reproach, or death, we are following the Author and Finisher of our faith; nor can we set our feet in any dangerous or difficult spot, through our whole journey, but faith will there see the prints of the Redeemer's feet, who trod that very path to glory above, and bids us follow him, that where he is, we may be also. They were to sanctify themselves. Would we experience the effects of God's love and power, we must put away sin, and be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.
Verse 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, 20; 1 Samuel 6:19; 2 Samuel 6:6, 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.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Yet there shall be a space between you and it,.... The ark; the Keri or marginal reading is, "between you and them"; the priests that bear it: hence sprung a fiction among the Jews, that there were two arks, the ark of the Shechinah or divine Majesty, and the ark of Joseph, in which his bones were put, which went together (q); which Jarchi, Kimchi, and Abarbinel take notice of, but has no foundation in the text:
about two thousand cubits by measure; by a certain well known measure, that of a common cubit; for the "caph" we render "about" is a note of truth, reality, and certainty, and designs the exact precise measure here given: this difference was to be observed, partly in reverence to the ark, the symbol of the divine Presence; Christ is to be reverenced by his people, and so his word and ordinances; and there is a reverence and respect due to his ministers and priests that bear the ark; as also that they might the better see the ark and go after it, as Ben Gersom; or the way in which they should go, as is suggested in the following clause; and likewise have the better view of the greatness of the miracle, as Abarbinel; the dividing of the waters of Jordan as soon as the ark came to it, and while it was in it: the Jews conclude from hence that this was the measure of ground they may go on a sabbath day, and no further, called a sabbath day's journey, Acts 1:12,
come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go; over Jordan into Canaan's land; for being at some distance from them they could better discern that and the way he directed them to walk in: Christ the antitype of the ark is the way to the heavenly Canaan, and his ministers point out the right way of salvation by him, in the ministration of the word, by attending to which the way is seen and known in which men must go:
for ye have not passed this way heretofore; a path indeed untrodden by any; neither they nor any other ever went into Canaan the way they were now going, through the river Jordan as on dry land: the way to heaven by Christ is only revealed in the Gospel, and only trodden by believers in him, and especially the way to glory through Jordan's river; or death is an untrodden path, which, though the way of all flesh, is a trackless path, and gone through, but once, and those who pass it have never before gone that way.
(q) T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 13. 1.
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