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.
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(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 1Kings 4:12; 1Kings 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.

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.

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.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.

16. 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 (Ex 15:8; Ps 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 (1Ki 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 (Ps 114:2, 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.

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.

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 Talmudists (a) 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 traveller (b) 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.

(a) T. Hieros. Sotah, fol. 21. 4. (b) Maundrell, ut supra, (Journel from Aleppo to Jerusalem) p. 84. Ed. 7.

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.
16. the waters which came down from above] Let us try to realise the scene;—

(a)  At a distance of about 2000 cubits, or a mile, from the river stood the great mass of the army (Joshua 3:4).

(b)  On the broken edge of the river were the priests bearing on their shoulders the sacred Ark;

(c)  As soon as the feet of the priests were “dipped in the brim of the water,” the flow of the stream was arrested;

(d)  Far up, beyond where they stood, at the city of Adam, that is beside Zaretan, about 30 miles from the place where the host was encamped, the waters which rushed down from above “stood and rose upon an heap,” drawn up by the Divine Hand;

(e)  At the same moment the waters that came down toward the Salt Sea “failed and were cut off” (Joshua 3:16), and thus from north to south the waters were “driven backwards” (Psalm 114:3), and the dry river-bed was exposed to view.

from the city Adam] is a correction of the text. The Hebrew has, at the city Adam, which was situated, it is thought, where now we find the ford Damieh with remains of a bridge of the Roman period (Van de Velde, Narrative, 11. 322).

beside Zaretan] Or, more correctly, Zarthan (1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46), the situation of which is unknown, but it is thought to have been near Succoth, at the mouth of the Jabbok (1 Kings 7:46). By some it has been identified with the modern Surtabeh, an isolated hill some 17 miles above Jericho, where high rocks compress the Jordan Valley within its narrowest limits, and seem almost to throw a barrier across it.

the sea of the plain] This name, which also occurs in Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 4:49, is used for the Dead Sea, the waters of which are clear, but strongly tinctured with salt, and fatal to fish.

failed] “The scene presented is of the descending stream,’ not ‘parted asunder,’ as we generally fancy, but as the Psalm (Psalm 114:3) expresses it, ‘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, imbedded in the soft bottom; or the shingly pebbles drifted along the course of the channel.” Stanley’s Lectures, p. 232.

Verse 16. - Stood and rose up upon a heap. Literally, "stood - they rose up, one heap." The narrative assumes a poetic form here (cf. Exodus 15:8, 9; Judges 5:27). Very far from the city Adam. The Masorites have corrected the text here. The original text has בְאָדָם for which the suggested Keri is מֵאָדָס. But the correction is needless. It is better to render, "they rose up, one heap, very far off, at the city Adam." The city Adam is nowhere else mentioned in Scripture, The LXX. appears to have read מְאֹד מְאֹד instead of מְאֹד מֵאָדָס, for it translates σφόδρα σφοδρῶς. This reading of the LXX. shows that the correction, though it obscures the sense, is of great antiquity, and that the site of Adam was then quite unknown. Knobel would place it either just south of the Jabbok, where the ford Damieh now exists, or at Eduma, now Daumeh, twelve German miles east of Neapolis. The former is generally accepted now, and Conder ('Handbook,' p. 241) identifies it with Admah (see Genesis 14:2), in the plain or ciccar of Jordan. That is beside Zaretan. Called Zarthan in the original (cf. 1 Kings 4:12; 1 Kings 7:46), and Zeredatha, in 2 Chronicles 4:17. Some read Zeredatha for Zererath in Judges 7:22. Knobel supposes, and not without some probability, that Zereda, Jeroboam's birthplace, is the same as this. It was in the plain of Jordan, not far from Succoth, at the mouth of the Jabbok. The LXX. here reads Καριαθιαρείμ, i.e., either Kiriathaim or Kirjath-jearim, but without authority. Delitzsch and Knobel suppose the spot to be Kurn, or Karn (i.e., horn) Sartabeh, near the ford Damieh, where the Jordan valley is at its narrowest, and the rocks stretch forward so as almost to meet. They fix on this spot, partly from the suitability of the situation for such an arresting of the waters, partly from its agreement with the situation of Zarthan, as described in the Scriptures. Vandevelde agrees with them. There was an Adami and a Zartanath higher up the river near Bethshean, which some have supposed to be meant (see Joshua 19:83; 1 Kings 4:12), but these lay entirely out of Joshua's line of march. The sea of the plain. Rather the sea of the עֲרָבָה (θάλασσαν Αραβα, LXX.), or desert (so Deuteronomy 3:17; Deuteronomy 4:49; 2 Kings 14:25; see also Deuteronomy 1:1). The term is applied by the Hebrews and Arabs to any sterile region, and thence to the sterile depression which borders on the Jordan, extending from the lake of Tiberias southward. The Arabs now apply the term el ghor to the part between Tiberias and the Dead Sea, and reserve the term Arabah for the desert valley, or wady, which extends thence to the Red Sea. So Gesen., 'Thesaurus,' s.v.; and Robinson, 'Bibl. Res.' The word translated plain in Genesis 13:10 is כִּכַּר, a word of very different signification (see also 'Shephelah' and 'Emek,' Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:2). The salt sea. This sea is called the Dead Sea from the immobility of its waters, as well as from the apparent absence of all life within them. "Some of our party," says Canon Tristram," employed themselves in searching, but without avail, for life in the Dead Sea." It lies at a level of more than 1,300 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. Its waters are thus described by Dr. Thomson: "The water is perfectly clear and transparent. The taste is bitter and salt, far beyond that of the ocean. It acts upon the tongue and mouth like alum; smarts in the eye like camphor; produces a burning, pricking sensation." The specific gravity of its waters is very great, and bathers find a great difficulty in swimming in it from the unusual buoyancy of the water. This is caused by the very large quantity of saline matter held in solution from the salt hills in the neighbourhood. One of them, Jebel Usdum, is described by Canon Tristram as "a solid mass of rock salt," and the water in its vicinity as "syrup of chloride of sodium," that is to say, of common salt. So also Bartlett, 'Egypt and Palestine,' p. 451. The statement that no bird can fly across its waters is a fable. The fullest account of the various attempts - some of them fatal - to explore the Dead Sea are to be found in Ritter's 'Geography of Palestine,' vol. 3. Canon Tristram explored the western side thoroughly, while Mr. Macgregor's canoe voyage, described in his 'Rob Roy on the Jordan,' gives a number of most interesting details. In Ritter's work will also be found some valuable observations on the physical geography of the district, on the geological formation of the basin of the Dead Sea, together with two papers, one by M. Terreil and the other by M. Lartet, on the chemical composition of the Dead Sea waters. Failed and were cut off. Literally, were completed, were cut off, i.e., were completely cut off, so that the supply of water failed, and the channel of the Jordan to the southward, and to the northward as far as Zaretan, became dry ground (see also Psalm 114:3). Joshua 3:16The 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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