Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.Joshua comes with the Israelites to Jordan, Joshua 3:1. The officers instruct the people and priests for the passage, Joshua 3:2-6. God encourages Joshua, and he encourageth the people, giving therefore a sign the dividing the waters of Jordan till the ark and people should pass over, Joshua 3:7-13. The people pass over, the priests standing all the time in the midst of Jordan, Joshua 3:14-17.
In the morning; not after the return of the spies, as may seem at first view; but after the three days, as it follows, Joshua 3:2.
Lodged there that night, that they might go over in the day time; partly that the miracle might be more evident and unquestionable; and partly to strike the greater terror into their enemies.
And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;After three days; either,
1. At the end of the three days mentioned Joshua 1:11, or upon the last of them, as this phrase is used. See Poole "Deu 16:1". Or,
2. After those days were expired. See Poole "Joshua 1:11". The officers went through the host the second time to give them more particular directions, as they had given them a general notice, Joshua 1:10,11.
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.They commanded the people, in Joshua’s name, and by his authority.
The priests the Levites, who were not only Levites, but priests also. For although the Levites were to carry the ark, Num 4, yet the priests might perform that office, and did so upon some solemn occasions, as here, and Joshua 6:6. Go after it towards Jordan, to go over it in such manner as I am about to describe. Till this time the ark went in the middle of the cloudy pillar, probably being now vanished, now it goes in the front.
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.Two thousand cubits make a thousand yards, and at which distance from it the Israelites seem to have been encamped in the wilderness. And because they generally went from their tents to the ark to worship God, especially on the sabbath days, hence it hath been conceived that a sabbath day’s journey reached only to two thousand cubits. But that may be doubted; for those who encamped nearest the ark were at that distance from it, and came so far; but the most were farther from it, and their sabbath day’s journey was considerably longer.
Come not near unto it; partly from the reverent respect they should bear to the ark; and partly for the following reason.
That ye may know the way by which ye must go; that the ark marching so far before you into the river, and standing still there till you pass over, may give you the greater assurance of your safe passage.
And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.Joshua said, or rather had said, to wit, the day before their passage; for it follows,
to-morrow. Sanctify yourselves, both in soul and body, that you may be meet to receive such a favour, and with more attention and reverence observe and ponder this great work, and fix it in your hearts and memories. See Poole "Exodus 19:10"; See Poole "Leviticus 20:7".
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.Take up the ark, to wit, upon your shoulders; for so they were to carry it, Numbers 7:9.
Before the people; not in the middle of them, as you used to do.
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.i.e. To gain thee authority and reputation among them, as the person whom I have set in Moses’s stead, and by whom I will conduct them to the possession of the promised land.
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.To the brink, Heb. to the extremity; so far as the river then spread itself, which was now more than ordinary, Joshua 3:5.
In Jordan; within the waters of Jordan, in the first entrance into the river; where they stood for a season, till the river was divided, and then they went into the midst of it, as it is implied, Joshua 3:17, and there abode till all the people were passed over, as it follows in the history.
And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.Come hither, to the ark or tabernacle, the place of public assemblies, and hear the words of the Lord your God; who is now about to give a proof that he is both the Lord, the omnipotent Governor of heaven and earth, and all creatures; and your God, in covenant with you, having a tender care and true affection for you.
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.Hereby ye shall know, to wit, by experience and sensible evidence.
The living God; not a dull, dead, senseless, and unactive god, such as the gods of the nations are; but a God of life, and power, and activity, to watch over you, and work for you.
Is among you; is present with you to strengthen and help you, as the phrase signifies, Exodus 17:7 Deu 31:17 Joshua 22:31.
Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.Into part of the river.
Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.Take you twelve men, for the work described, Joshua 4:2,3.
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.As soon as the soles of the feet of the priests shall rest in the waters of Jordan; that so it may appear that this is the Lord’s doing, and that in pursuance and for the accomplishment of his covenant made with Israel.
The Lord of all the earth; the Lord of all this terrestial globe made of earth and water, who therefore can dispose of this river and the adjoining land as he pleaseth.
The waters which now are united shall be divided, and part shall flow down the channel towards the Dead Sea, and the other part, that is nearer the spring or rise of the river, and flows down from it, shall stand still. They shall stand upon an heap, being as it were congealed, as the Red Sea was, Exodus 15:8, and so kept from overflowing all the country.
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;No text from Poole on this verse.
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,)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.
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 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.
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.Stood firm, i.e. in one and the same place and posture; their feet neither moved by any waters flowing in upon them, nor sinking into any mire, which one might think was at the bottom of the river. And this may be opposed unto their other standing in the brink of the water when they came to it, commanded Joshua 3:8, which was but for a while, till the waters were divided and gone away; and then they were to go farther, even
into the midst of Jordan, as is here said, where they are to stand constantly and fixedly, as this Hebrew word signifies, until all were passed over. If it be said that what is prescribed Joshua 3:8, is here said to be executed, and therefore the midst of Jordan here is the same place with the brink of the water of Jordan, Joshua 3:8; it may be answered, that the manifest variation of the phrase shows that it is not absolutely the same thing or place which is spoken of there and here; but what is there enjoined is here executed with advantage; for when it is said that they
stood firm...in the midst of Jordan, it must needs be supposed that they first came to the brink of the water, and that they stood there for a season, till the waters were cut off and dried up, as appears from the nature of the thing; and that then they went farther, even into the midst of Jordan. In the midst of Jordan: either,
1. Within Jordan, as it is expressed above, Joshua 3:8; for that phrase doth not always signify the exact middle of a place, but any part within it, as appears from Genesis 45:6 Exodus 8:22 24:18 Joshua 7:13 10:13 Proverbs 30:19. Or rather,
2. In the middle and deepest part of the river. For,
1. Words should be taken properly, where they may without any inconveniency, which is the case here.
2. The ark went before them to direct, and encourage, and secure them in the dangers of their passages, for which ends the middle was the fittest place.
3. In this sense the same phrase is used, Joshua 4:3,8; for certainly those stones which were to be witnesses and monuments of their passage over Jordan should not be taken from the brink or brim of the river, or from the shore which Jordan overflowed only at that season, but from the most inward and deepest parts of the river; and Joshua 3:16-17, where the priests are said to ascend or come up out of Jordan, and out of the midst of Jordan unto the dry land; whereas had this been meant only of the first entrance into the river, they must have been said first to go down into Jordan, and then to go up to the land.