Joshua 3:15
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,)
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Joshua 3:15. The feet of the priests were dipped in the brim of the water — The stream stopped immediately, as if a sluice had been let down to dam it up; so that the waters above swelled, stood on a heap, and ran back, and yet, it seems, did not spread themselves over the adjacent lands. When they passed through the Red sea, the waters were a wall on either hand; here only on the right hand. Thus the God of nature, when he pleaseth, can change the course of nature, and alter any of its properties; can “turn waters into rocks, and rocks into waters,” to serve his own purposes. What can he not do? What will he not do for the perfecting of the salvation of his people? Hear the psalmist celebrate this work of wonder, in most beautiful and striking language: “When Israel went out of Egypt — Judah was his sanctuary. The sea saw it and fled: Jordan was driven back. What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?” Well might he add, “Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of Jehovah, who turneth the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.” Jordan overfloweth 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 had fallen all the winter, partly because of the snows which melted and came 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.

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.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. Jos 3:14-17. The Waters of Jordan Are Divided.

14-16. And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, &c.—To understand the scene described we must imagine the band of priests with the ark on their shoulders, standing on the depressed edge of the river, while the mass of the people were at a mile's distance. Suddenly the whole bed of the river was dried up; a spectacle the more extraordinary in that it took place in the time of harvest, corresponding to our April or May—when "the Jordan overfloweth all its banks." The original words may be more properly rendered "fills all its banks." Its channel, snow-fed from Lebanon, was at its greatest height—brimful; a translation which gives the only true description of the state of Jordan in harvest as observed by modern travellers. The river about Jericho is, in ordinary appearance, about fifty or sixty yards in breadth. But as seen in harvest, it is twice as broad; and in ancient times, when the hills on the right and left were much more drenched with rain and snow than since the forests have disappeared, the river must, from a greater accession of water, have been broader still than at harvest-time in the present day.

Which is also noted 1 Chronicles 12:15 /APC Sir 24:26, and by Aristoeas in the History of the LXX. Interpreters. This is meant not of the wheat harvest, but of the barley harvest, (which was before it, Ruth 1:22 2 Samuel 21:9) as is manifest from their keeping of the passover at their first entrance, Joshua 5:10, which feast was kept on the fourteenth day of their first month, when they were to bring a sheaf of their first-fruits, Leviticus 23:10 Deu 16:9,10, which were of barley, as Josephus affirms, and is evident from the thing itself. 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, and partly because of the snows, which then melt into water and come into the rivers; for which reasons the same overflowing of water which is here ascribed to Jordan, is by other authors ascribed to Euphrates, and Tigris, and the Rhine, and Maine, &c. And this time God chose for this work, partly that the miracle might be more glorious in itself, more obliging to the Israelites, and more amazing and terrible to the Canaanites; and partly that the Israelites might be entertained at their first entrance with more plentiful and comfortable provisions.

And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan,.... Not to the bank, which was overflowed, but to the extremity of the water overflowing:

and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water; which was doubtless the first they came to, and not the brim or extremity of it on the other side:

for Jordan overfloweth all its banks all the time of harvest; that is, of barley harvest, as appears from the time of year; for it was in the first month, the month Nisan, or Abib, which answers to part of March, and April, it used to overflow, 1 Chronicles 12:15; and it was now the tenth day of that month, Joshua 4:19; on the sixteenth of which, at the time of the passover, the sheaf of the firstfruits of barley harvest was offered up, Leviticus 23:10; the inundation continued all the time of harvest; and so Aristeas (w) testifies, that"the river being filled, it overflows as the Nile in the time of harvest, and waters much of the country:''it overflows its banks both on the one side and on the other, the eastern and western shores. This overflow is supposed to be occasioned either by the latter rains, which fell about this time; or rather by the snow on Mount Lebanon melting at this time of the year, when the sun has great strength in those parts, and which poured down in great quantities into this river, that took its rise from thence. Josephus (x) speaks of Mount Lebanon and of the fountains of Jordan together; and says they have their rise from the mountain; and of the snow of Lebanon see Jeremiah 18:14. This river continued to overflow at this season in the times of David, 1 Chronicles 12:15; and in the times of Aristeas, who lived in the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus, king of Egypt, as before observed; and some late travellers (y) observe,"it generally happens in the month Nisan; that is, from the middle of March to the middle of April, the time of the first harvest;''but Mr. Maundrell (z), who was upon the spot in 1697, and at the proper time of its overflowing, perceived nothing of it. He says,"there is a small descent, which you may fitly call the, first and outermost bank of Jordan, as far as which it may be supposed the river does, or at least did anciently, overflow; but at present (whether it was because the river has by its rapidity of current worn its channel deeper than it was formerly, or whether because its waters are diverted some other way) it seems to have forgot its ancient greatness; for we could discern no sign or probability of such overflowings when we were there, which was the thirtieth of March, being the proper time for these inundations; nay, so far was the river from overflowing, that it ran at least two yards below the brink of the channel.''However, at this time of the passage of the children of Israel through it, it was overflowing; which made the miracle the greater.

(w) Hist. de 72. Interpret. p. 41. (x) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 22. (y) Egmont and Heyman's Travels, vol. 1. p. 335, 336. (z) Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 81, 82.

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 {f} banks all the time of harvest,)

(f) Because the river was accustomed at this time to be full, the miracle is so much greater.

15. for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest] In the deeply sunken, tropical valley of the Jordan, the harvest had already commenced, and the snow on Hermon having begun to melt, the “yellow” water of the river stood high and had overflowed its lower bank. “We were on the banks of the Jordan.… Muddy, swollen, and turbid, the stream was far too formidable and rapid for the most adventurous to attempt their intended bathe.… Had we arrived a few days sooner, we could not have approached the river at all; for it had been overflowing its banks and filling the lower level, to which we had descended from the plain, and which was still a deep slimy ooze. Under our tree, however, the drift had formed a sandbank, on which we could sit. By measurement we found that the river had lately been fourteen feet higher than its present margin, and yet it was still many feet above its ordinary level.” Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 223.

Observe: (a) The feet of the priests were dipped in the brim of the water. This is explained by the season being that of a periodical inundation of the Jordan, which overflowed its banks all the time of harvest;

(b) The barley harvest is here meant, for the wheat harvest was not fully completed till Pentecost, or fifty days later in the year, and the Israelites crossed the Jordan on the 10th day of Abib or Nisan, i.e. four days before the Passover;

(c) Now in Exodus we learn that at the Plague of Hail, which was but a day or two before the Passover, “the flax and the barley were smitten, for the barley was in the ear and the flax was boiled. But the wheat and the rye were not smitten, for they were not grown up;”

(d) It would seem then that the flax and the barley were crops which ripened about the same time in Egypt, and as the climate of Canaan did not differ materially from that of Egypt, especially in the sunken Ghôr of the Jordan, this was, no doubt, the case in Canaan too; there also these two crops would come in at the same time, and this also must have been the season of the flax harvest;

(e) Now Rahab hid the spies in the stalks of flax (Joshua 2:6) laid on the roof doubtless to steep and season. Here we have a strikingly undesigned coincidence in the passage of the Israelites at the time of harvest, and that the barley harvest, which coincides with the Passover, and the ripening of the flax harvest. Blunt’s Undesigned Coincidences, pp. 105–107.

Verse 15. - Brim. The water's edge is meant here, as in ver. 8, where the same word is translated brink (see note on ver. 17, and on Joshua 4:19). Jordan overfloweth all his banks. Some commentators translate here, filleth all his banks (ἐπληροῦτο, LXX.). But this rendering is contrary

(1) to the Hebrew, and

(2) contrary to fact.

The literal rendering here is, "filleth out (or upon) all its banks." In ch. 4:18 we read that Jordan goeth over all its banks And that the Jordan is not merely full, but full to overflowing, at the harvest season, is proved by the statements of many travellers. Take, for instance, Canon Tristram ('Land of Israel,' p. 223), who describes his visit to the Jordan as occurring just after it had been overflowing its banks, and the lower level of the valley as filled with "a deep slimy ooze." He adds that, by measure merit, the river was found to have been fourteen feet above the level at which he found it, and it was then quite full. Bartlett ('From Egypt to Palestine,' p. 451) remarks, "We were fortunate enough to see it in the state in which it is described in Joshua, 'overflowing all its banks' - that is, the whole line of its banks. The turbid stream rushed along like a mill race, and though it had fallen from its greatest height, the proper banks of the channel were invisible, and indicated only by lines of oleanders and other shrubs and trees." This was on the 22nd of March. This overflowing is caused by the melting of the snows of Hermon, which then rush down, fill Lake Huleh and its marshes, as well as Gennesareth, and cause the "swelling of Jordan" (Jeremiah 12:5; Jeremiah 49:19; 1:44), which drives the wild beasts from their retreats on its banks (see also 1 Chronicles 12:15). Some travellers have boldly asserted, in spite of this concurrent testimony, that Jordan does not overflow its banks at the time of harvest. But they have mistaken the wheat for the barley harvest, forgetting that in Palestine the latter precedes the former by six or seven weeks. By the time of wheat harvest Jordan has returned to its normal condition, and all traces of the inundation have passed away (see Thomson, 'Land and the Book,' pp. 618-621). The time of harvest, i.e., the barley harvest, which took place about the 10th Nisan, or Abib, when the Israelites crossed. The wheat harvest was about Pentecost, or seven weeks later (Exodus 34:22). An important argument for the genuineness of the narrative (and much the more important as its chief incident is miraculous) is drawn from this passage by Blunt in his 'Undesigned Coincidences.' He remarks that in Exodus 9:31, 33 the barley and flax are said to have ripened together. Therefore the time of the barley and flax harvest would be identical. Accordingly we have Rahab, three days before the event here recorded, in possession of the as yet undried stalks of flax which had just been cut. Nothing could be a more satisfactory proof that the narrative we have before us comes from persons who were accurately and minutely informed concerning the circumstances of which they tell us. Joshua 3:15The event corresponded to the announcement. - Joshua 3:14-16. When the people left their tents to go over the Jordan, and the priests, going before the ark of the covenant, dipped their feet in the water ("the brim of the water," Joshua 3:15, as in Joshua 3:8), although the Jordan was filled over all its banks throughout the whole time of harvest, the waters stood still: the waters flowing down from above stood as a heap at a very great distance off, by the town of Adam, on the side of Zarthan; and the waters flowing down to the salt sea were entirely cut off, so that the people went through the dried bed of the river opposite to Jericho. Joshua 3:14-16 form one large period, consisting of three protases (Joshua 3:14, Joshua 3:15), the first and third of which are each of them more precisely defined by a circumstantial clause, and also of three apodoses (Joshua 3:16). In the protases the construction passes from the infinitive (בּנסע and כּבוא) into the finite verb (נטבּלוּ), - a thing of frequent occurrence (see Ewald, 350). The circumstantial clause (Joshua 3:15), "and the Jordan was filled over all its banks all the days of harvest," brings out in all its fulness the miracle of the stoppage of the water by the omnipotence of God. Every attempt to explain the miracle as a natural occurrence is thereby prevented; so that Eichhorn pronounces the clause a gloss, and endeavours in this manner to get rid of it altogether. על־כּל־גּבותיו might mean full against all its banks, flowing with its banks full, or "full to the brim" (Robinson, Pal. ii. p. 262, according to the lxx and Vulg.); but if we compare Joshua 4:18, "the waters of Jordan returned to their place, and went over all its banks as before," with the parallel passage in Isaiah 8:7, "the river comes up over all its channels and goes over all its banks," there can be no doubt that the words refer to an overflowing of the banks, and not merely to their being filled to the brim, so that the words must be rendered "go over the banks." But we must not therefore understand them as meaning that the whole of the Ghor was flooded. The Jordan flows through the Ghor, which is two hours' journey broad at Beisan, and even broader to the south of that (see at Deuteronomy 1:1), in a valley about a quarter of an hour in breadth which lies forty or fifty feet lower, and, being covered with trees and reeds, presents a striking contrast to the sandy slopes which bound it on both sides. In many places this strip of vegetation occupies a still deeper portion of the lower valley, which is enclosed by shallow banks not more than two or three feet high, so that, strictly speaking, we might distinguish three different banks at the places referred to: namely, the upper or outer banks, which form the first slope of the great valley; the lower or middle banks, embracing that strip of land which is covered with vegetation; and then the true banks of the river's bed (see Burckhardt, Syr. pp. 593ff., and Robinson, Pal. ii. pp. 254ff., and Bibl. Researches, pp. 333ff.). The flood never reaches beyond the lower line of the Ghor, which is covered with vegetation, but even in modern times this line has sometimes been overflowed. For example, Robinson (Pal. ii. p. 255, compared with p. 263) found the river so swollen when he visited it in 1838, that it filled its bed to the very brim, and in some places flowed over and covered the ground where the bushes grew. This rise of the water still takes place at the time of harvest in April and at the beginning of May (see at Leviticus 23:9.), and therefore really at the close of the rainy reason, and after the snow has been long melted upon Hermon, as it is then that the lake of Tiberias reaches its greatest height, in consequence of the rainy season and the melting of the snow, so that it is only then that the Jordan flows with its full stream into the Dead Sea (Robinson, ii. p. 263). At this time of the year the river cannot of course be waded through even at its shallowest fords, whereas this is possible in the summer season, when the water is low. It is only by swimming that it can possibly be crossed, and even that cannot be accomplished without great danger, as it is ten or twelve feet deep in the neighbourhood of Jericho, and the current is very strong (vid., Seetzen, R. ii. pp. 301, 320-1; Rob. ii. p. 256). Crossing at this season was regarded as a very extraordinary feat in ancient times, so that it is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 12:15 as a heroic act on the part of the brave Gadites. It may possibly have been in this way that the spies crossed and recrossed the river a few days before. But that was altogether impossible for the people of Israel with their wives and children.

It was necessary, therefore, that the Lord of the whole earth should make a road by a miracle of His omnipotence, which arrested the descending waters in their course, so that they stood still as a heap "very far," sc., from the place of crossing, "by the town of Adam" (בּאדם must not be altered into מאדם, from Adam, according to the Keri), "which is by the side of Zarthan." The city of Adam, which is not mentioned anywhere else (and which Luther has erroneously understood as an appellative, according to the Arabic, "people of the city"), is not to be confounded with Adamah, in the tribe of Naphtali (Joshua 19:36). The town of Zarthan, by the side of which Adam is situated, has also vanished. Van de Velde and Knobel imagine that the name Zarthan has been preserved in the modern Kurn (Horn) Sartabeh, a long towering rocky ridge on the south-west of the ford of Damieh, upon which there are said to be the ruins of a castle. This conjecture is not favoured by any similarity in the names so much as by its situation. For, on the one hand, the mountain slopes off from the end of this rocky ridge, or from the loftiest part of the horn, into a broad shoulder, from which a lower rocky ridge reaches to the Jordan, and seems to join the mountains on the east, so that the Jordan valley is contracted to its narrowest dimensions at this point, and divided into the upper and lower Ghor by the hills of Kurn Sartabeh; and consequently this was apparently the most suitable point for the damming up of the waters of the Jordan (see Robinson, Bibl. Researches, pp. 293-4). On the other hand, this site tallies very well with all the notices in the Bible respecting the situation of the town of Zarthan, or Zeredetha (1 Kings 7:46, compared with 2 Chronicles 4:17): viz., at 1 Kings 4:12, where Zarthan is said to have been by the side of the territory of Bethshean; also at 1 Kings 7:46, where Zarthan and Succoth are opposed to one another; and at Judges 7:22, where the reading should be צרדתה, according to the Arabic and Syriac versions. Hence Knobel supposes that Adam was situated in the neighbourhood of the present ford Damieh, near to which the remains of a bridge belonging to the Roman era are still to be found (Lynch, Expedition). The distance of Kurn Sartabeh from Jericho is a little more than fifteen miles, which tallies very well with the expression "very far." Through this heaping up of the waters coming down from above, those which flowed away into the Dead Sea (the sea of the plain, see Deuteronomy 4:49) were completely cut off (נכרתוּ תּמּוּ are to be taken together, so that תּמּוּ merely expresses the adverbial idea wholly, completely), and the people went over, probably in a straight line from Wady Hesbn to Jericho.

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