Bible Commentary: Joshua 3

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Joshua 3

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Crossing the Jordan With the Ark of the Covenant 

Joshua 3:7 is significant. The people would naturally feel a big letdown after losing their great leader Moses. That feeling could easily have turned into chronic disappointment and contempt for Joshua if they never saw any more miracles. The crossing of the Jordan on dry ground coming so soon after the inauguration of Joshua provided the people with quick evidence that as God was with Moses, so He would be with Joshua. Truly God "exalted Joshua in the sight of all Israel" (Joshua 4:14). The parallel with the most impressive miracle under Moses' leadership, the crossing of the Red Sea, was unmistakable.

When the Israelites crossed the Red Sea in leaving Egypt, the waters were parted and formed a wall on both sides of them (Exodus 14:21-22). With the crossing of the Jordan River, the waters upstream halted and piled up, while the remaining water continued to drain downstream into the Dead Sea, leaving an empty streambed (Joshua 3:13, Joshua 3:16). Indeed, as in the Red Sea, the Israelites crossed on "dry ground" (verse 17)—not shallow water or even mud. And this didn't happen at some time of drought when the Jordan River was low. Rather, it happened in the spring, at a time when the Jordan overflowed its banks (verse 15). The people were to cross at a rather distant 2,000 cubits (more than a half mile) from the Ark of the Covenant (verse 4).

When journeying, it was normally the responsibility of the Levites who were sons of Kohath to transport the ark once the priests had prepared it (Numbers 4:1-15). For this, and other special occasions, the priests themselves (fellow Kohathites, Aaron having been a grandson of Kohath, see Exodus 6:18, Exodus 6:20) carried the ark (compare Joshua 6:6; 2 Samuel 15:29; 1 Kings 8:6).