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Chapter  3 and 4

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Crossing The Jordan River (ch. 3:1 to 4:24)  

In chapter 3, verses 1 to 6 Israel is about to cross over the Jordan.  They camped at the Jordan River for three days before crossing.  They had just come from a place called Shittim.

Shittim is a transliteration of a Hebrew word for acacia trees and the name of a large area in Moab directly across the Jordan from Jericho and northeast of the Dead Sea. Israel camped there for a long period before crossing into the Promised Land.  While at Shittim, they were blessed by Balaam (Num. 22-24), committed sin with the Moabite and Midianite women (Num. 25), and Joshua was announced as Moses’ successor (Deut. 34:9).  Joshua sent spies out from Shittim (Josh. 2:1).

I'm sure that you can find some significance to the three days of camping, but I will not comment on that now.

This crossing place is significant.  The following is part of my commentary on John 1:28.  I mention this here, because in John 1:28 we see John the Baptist baptizing, and most commentators suggest that where John baptized is this very place where Israel crossed the Jordan.

I need to mention a contextual problem concerning verse 28.  You will note that the NIV says that John baptized at "Bethany, beyond the Jordan".  The KJV states that John baptized in "Bethabara, beyond the Jordan".  The question thus arises, "which version is right'?  The problem stems from the manuscripts we have to translate this passage.  Some manuscripts say Bethany while others say Bethabara.  All manuscripts say "beyond the Jordan "which would be on the east side of the Jordan River .  So it appears that whatever town it is supposed to be, the town is on the east side of the Jordan. 


Bethany is not on the east side of the Jordan River .  It is on the west side of the Jordan.  It is on the east side of the Mount of Olives, which is east of Jerusalem.  Therefore, unless there were two Bethany's, which there probably wasn't because of their closeness of location to each other, Bethabara and the KJV could be right. 


The location to this town is somewhat significant because this is where Israel crossed over the Jordan into the promised land of Canaan.  This too was where Elijah was caught up into heaven.  For those who take stock in types and shadows, this would be significant.           

The text states that the ark of the covenant would lead the way into the promised land because the Israelis had never been this way before.  This is obviously true with all people of God.  We should allow the Lord to lead us in all aspects of our lives.  This was truly the case in this instance.

The reason for the Israeli's to get no closer to the ark than a thousand yards was due to the power of the Lord that came from the ark.  One was not to touch the ark.

In verse 7 God tells Joshua that at this point in time He would now exalt him before all of Israel.  From verses 8 through 13 we see how this would happen. When the ark of the covenant was carried into the Jordan River, the river would suddenly dry up.  The water flowing from the north would pile up in a heap, as the text states.  This would give credibility to Joshua's leadership. 

The drying up of the Jordan should remind us of the drying up of the Red Sea when Israel escaped Egypt and fled into the wilderness.  So, as they left Egypt, and as they entered Canaan, the waters dried up for them.  Both the leaving and the entering was a miracle of God.  I'd suggest that the same is true for the Christian.  Being born again is a miracle. We can not be born again on our own strength and ability.  I suggest that you might be able to equate Israel's departure from Egypt as repenting, and their entering the promised land of Canaan as faith, or trust in Jesus.  Both repentance and faith are something that we cannot do on our own.  We need help from the Lord to both repent and believe.  Actually, there are passages in the Bible that tells us that both repentance and faith are a gift from God.  Therefore, if we are willing, God will grant us repentance and faith, as miraculous as that is.

From verses 14 to the end of the chapter we see all the children of Israel cross the dry river bed of the Jordan River.  The priests stayed in the dry river until all Israel had passed by.  

Note the time of year of this crossing. It was in the fall, in harvest time.  The waters of the Jordan River would have been normally deep at this point, making this an even greater miracle.  The crossing of the Jordan River is a harvest of sorts.  The seeds planted in Egypt now would blossom in Canaan. 

Concerning the ark staying in the river until all passed by reminds me of Jesus being the door to the Father, or, the way into salvation.  Jesus is the only way to God.  Everyone coming to the Father, entering the Kingdom of God, finding salvation, however you call it, must pass by and through Jesus.

From verse 1 to verse 13 we note that Joshua appointed a man from each of the twelve tribes to get a stone out of the Jordan River where the ark stood.  The size of the stone depended on the size of the tribe.  These stones were to be placed in a pile on the east side of the Jordan River where Israel spent their first night. This was supposed to be a reminder of the miracle of Israel crossing the Jordan River.  We often see such reminders that God commanded Israel to keep in the Old Testament.  God wants His people not to forget the past.  That is probably the reason why Jesus instituted what we have called the Lord's Supper.  We are to remember the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.

Note in verse 12 that the fighting men of Rueben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh led the procession.  You will remember that these two and a half tribes made a deal with Israel that they would help fight to battle to enter Canaan in exchange for being able to live on the east side of the Jordan River.  They were fulfilling their promise.

Verse 14 tells us that day made Joshua a very revered man in Israel.  His leadership now was ranked alongside Moses' leadership.  Joshua is a very important man in Jewish history.  He is also important because he symbolizes Jesus.  Moses symbolizes the Law.  As John 1:17 states, "the Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus".

We see in verses 15 through 18 that the priests came out of the dried Jordan River at the command of Joshua.  Immediately the pile of water broke and the river went back to normal.  The miracle of entering Canaan was over.  Now the fight would begin.  As I said earlier, when considering this event as a type of  our salvation, we need a miracle to enter into salvation.  Yet once saved, it's not the life of ease.  Battles are to be won with the help of the Lord, just as Israel had to win battles to possess what God miraculously gave them.

From verse 19 to the end of the chapter we see once again the reason why God wanted the pile of stones.  It was to be a memorial of this occasion.  This memorial should remind the whole world, not just Israel , that the Lord, that's Yahweh, the Lord of Israel is really the only God and that He should be feared.  Fearing God is really the ultimate purpose why God does anything He does.

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