The contents of this and the next chapter, which record the miraculous passage of Israel over Jordan, are given in four sections:
-1Jos 3:1-6, describing the preliminary directions;
-2Jos 3:7-17, the commencement of the passage;
-3Jos 4:1-14, the accomplishment of it;
-4Jos 4:15-24, the conclusion of the passage and erection of a monument to commemorate it.
A certain completeness and finish is given to each division of the narrative, and to effect this the writer more than once repeats himself, anticipates the actual order of events, and distributes into parts occurrences which in fact took place once for all.
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."The acacia groves" (Exodus 25:5 note) of Shittim on both sides of Jordan line the upper terraces of the valley (compare 2 Kings 6:4). They would be in this part at some six miles distance from the river itself.
And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;These days (Joshua 1:11 note) were no doubt occupied in preparations of various kinds. The host consisted not of armed men only, but of women and children also; and many arrangements would be necessary before they actually advanced into a hostile country.
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.
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.The ark, which was since the making of the covenant the special shrine and seat of God's presence, went before to show the people that God, through its medium, was their leader. They were to follow at a distance that they might the better observe and mark how the miracle was accomplished. This they would do to the greatest advantage while coming down the heights, the ark going on before them into the ravine.
And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.
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.They took up - i. e. on the day following. The course of events is anticipated.
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.This day will I begin to magnify thee - One cause why the miracle now to be narrated was performed is here suggested. As Moses was declared to he sent immediately from God with an extraordinary commission by the miracles which he worked, more especially that of dividing the Red Sea in two parts, so was Joshua both sent and accredited in a like manner. (Compare Joshua 1:5, and Joshua 4:14.) Other reasons are given in Joshua 3:10; Joshua 5:1.
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.
And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.
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.The living God - Compare the marginal reference. The gods of the pagan are "dead idols." On the names of the seven nations, see Genesis 10:16, etc., note.
Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.
Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.
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.
And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people;
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,)Jordan overfloweth all his banks - Rather "is full up to all his banks," i. e. "brim-full." This remark strikingly illustrates the suddenness and completeness, not less than the greatness, of the marvel. The Jordan River flows at the bottom of a deep valley, which descends to the water's edge on either side in two, occasionally in three, terraces. Within the lowest of these the stream, ordinarily less than 100 feet wide in this lower part of its course, is confined. The margin is overgrown with a jungle of tamarisks and willows, which in the spring is reached by the rising waters (compare the figure in Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44); and the river, occasionally at least, fills the ravine which forms its proper bed to the brim. Its highest rise takes place about the time when Joshua had to cross it. By the middle of April the river cannot be forded; and, if passed at all, can only be so by swimming. This, however, was a hazardous feat (compare 1 Chronicles 12:15); and though no doubt performed by the two spies, was utterly out of the power of the mixed multitude that followed Joshua. The mere fact that the whole vast host crossed the stream of Jordan at this season, is no small proof of the miracle here recorded. No human agency then known and available could have transported them speedily and safely from bank to bank.
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 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.
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.The miraculous passage to the holy land through Jordan is not less pregnant with typical meaning than that through the Red Sea (compare 1 Corinthians 10:1-2). The solemn inauguration of Joshua to his office, and his miraculous attestation, by the same waters with which Jesus was baptized on entering on the public exercise of His ministry (compare Matthew 3:16-17); the choice of twelve men, one from each tribe to be the bearers of the twelve stones, and the builders of the monument erected therewith (compare 1 Corinthians 3:10; Revelation 21:14): these were divinely-ordered occurrences, not without a further bearing than their more immediate one upon Israel. Nor must in this point of view the name "Adam," the place where the stream flowed to the people which cut them off from the promises, and the failure for the time under the rule of Joshua of the full and rapid flood which supplies the Dead Sea, be overlooked.