Instructions before the Crossing. 1 Joshua and all of the Israelites rose early the next morning and set out for Shittim, arriving at the Jordan where they camped before they crossed over it. 2 Three days later the leaders of the people passed through the camp 3 giving orders to the people saying, “When you see the priests and Levites carrying the Ark of the Lord, your God, set out from where you are and follow after it. 4 Maintain a distance of about two thousand cubits[a] between it and yourselves; do not approach it too closely. Thus you will know the way you are to go, for you have never passed this way before.” 5 Joshua said to the priests, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will perform wondrous deeds in your midst.”[b] 6 Joshua also said to the priests, “Pick up the Ark of the Covenant and pass on in front of the people.” So they picked up the Ark of the Covenant and went on ahead of the people.
7 The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all of Israel, so that they may know that I will treat you the same way that I treated Moses. 8 Say to the priests who are carrying the Ark of the Covenant: ‘Approach the edge of the water and stand in the Jordan.’ ” 9 Joshua instructed the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord, your God.” 10 Joshua continued, “This is how you will know that there is a living God among you who will drive out the Canaanites,[c] the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites from before you. 11 Behold, the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord of all the earth will pass before you into the Jordan. 12 Choose twelve men from out of the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe. 13 [d]As soon as the priests who are carrying the Ark of the Lord, the Lord of the whole earth, set their feet down in the water, the waters of the Jordan will stop flowing downstream and will mount up in a heap.”
14 Crossing over the Jordan. When the people broke camp to cross over the Jordan, the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant went on ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan was at its flood stage during the entire harvest season, but as soon as the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the Jordan, 16 the waters from upstream stopped flowing. They stood up in a mound quite a distance away, at a town called Adam, near Zarethan. The waters that were flowing downstream to the Arabah (the Salt Sea) disappeared entirely, so the people were able to cross over the Jordan. 17 The priests who were carrying the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord were standing on dry ground right in the middle of the Jordan. All of the Israelites passed over on dry ground until the entire people had crossed over the Jordan.
- Joshua 3:4 Cubits: a measure of length in Hebrew; a cubit was about 50 cm. Two thousand cubits or a thousand yards was the distance of a Sabbath walk, that is, of the walk permitted to Hebrews on the Sabbath; this limitation symbolized the respect due to the divine transcendence.
- Joshua 3:5 See Ex 19:10, 15. The consecration or purification consisted in washing one’s clothes and being sexually continent.
- Joshua 3:10 A list of the peoples living in the land of Canaan (present-day Palestine and Lebanon): Canaanites: the oldest inhabitants of the country; Hittites: a people from Anatolia who had settled in Syria and were of non-Semitic origin; Hivites: a non-Semitic people on whom we have no information; Perizzites: these, as the etymology of their name indicates, are inhabitants of open villages; Girgashites: people on whom we have no information; Amorites: in around the 20th century B.C. they were living in the area of the middle Euphrates, where they found the kingdom of Mari and the first Babylonian dynasty; in around the 15th century B.C., they would settle in Syria and then push southward; Jebusites: the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
- Joshua 3:13 Crossing the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land through God’s parting of the water correlates to the crossing of the Red Sea (Ex 14) to leave Egypt. God was with them then and is with them now. The evidence of the Lord’s mighty power restored their confidence and enhanced their reputation among their enemies.