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 Joshua 3:7And the LORD said to Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
American King James Version×
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 Joshua 4:14On that day the LORD magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life.
American King James Version×
). 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 Exodus 14:21-22 [21] And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. [22] And the children of Israel went into the middle of the sea on the dry ground: and the waters were a wall to them on their right hand, and on their left.
American King James Version×
). 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 3:13And 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 on an heap.
American King James Version×
, Joshua 3:16 Joshua 3:16That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up on 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.
American King James Version×
). 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 Numbers 4:1-15 [1] And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, [2] Take the sum of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, after their families, by the house of their fathers, [3] From thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old, all that enter into the host, to do the work in the tabernacle of the congregation. [4] This shall be the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation, about the most holy things: [5] And when the camp sets forward, Aaron shall come, and his sons, and they shall take down the covering veil, and cover the ark of testimony with it: [6] And shall put thereon the covering of badgers’ skins, and shall spread over it a cloth wholly of blue, and shall put in the staves thereof. [7] And on the table of show bread they shall spread a cloth of blue, and put thereon the dishes, and the spoons, and the bowls, and covers to cover with: and the continual bread shall be thereon: [8] And they shall spread on them a cloth of scarlet, and cover the same with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put in the staves thereof. [9] And they shall take a cloth of blue, and cover the candlestick of the light, and his lamps, and his tongs, and his firepans, and all the oil vessels thereof, with which they minister to it: [10] And they shall put it and all the vessels thereof within a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put it on a bar. [11] And on the golden altar they shall spread a cloth of blue, and cover it with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put to the staves thereof: [12] And they shall take all the instruments of ministry, with which they minister in the sanctuary, and put them in a cloth of blue, and cover them with a covering of badgers’ skins, and shall put them on a bar: [13] And they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth thereon: [14] And they shall put on it all the vessels thereof, with which they minister about it, even the censers, the meat hooks, and the shovels, and the basins, all the vessels of the altar; and they shall spread on it a covering of badgers’ skins, and put to the staves of it. [15] And when Aaron and his sons have made an end of covering the sanctuary, and all the vessels of the sanctuary, as the camp is to set forward; after that, the sons of Kohath shall come to bear it: but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. These things are the burden of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of the congregation.
American King James Version×
). For this, and other special occasions, the priests themselves (fellow Kohathites, Aaron having been a grandson of Kohath, see Exodus 6:18 Exodus 6:18And the sons of Kohath; Amram, and Izhar, and Hebron, and Uzziel: and the years of the life of Kohath were an hundred thirty and three years.
American King James Version×
, Exodus 6:20 Exodus 6:20And Amram took him Jochebed his father’s sister to wife; and she bore him Aaron and Moses: and the years of the life of Amram were an hundred and thirty and seven years.
American King James Version×
) carried the ark (compare Joshua 6:6 Joshua 6:6And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said to them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.
American King James Version×
; 2 Samuel 15:29 2 Samuel 15:29Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.
American King James Version×
; 1 Kings 8:6 1 Kings 8:6And the priests brought in the ark of the covenant of the LORD to his place, into the oracle of the house, to the most holy place, even under the wings of the cherubim.
American King James Version×
).

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