Joshua 3:17: Crossing Jordan, Part 3

Verse 17:[1]  And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and (see Ex. 14:29) all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.

[They were standing upon dry ground]  For, either the bed of Jordan was sandy; or it was dried up by Divine power (Menochius).

[In the midst of Jordan (thus Montanus, Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius, Tigurinus, Pagnine), בְּתוֹךְ]  Within Jordan (Syriac, Masius).  Among the Hebrews תּוֹךְ does not signify the middle part of a thing, but what is within the thing itself, whether it be in the middle, or in some extremity (Masius).  Thus Tyre was situated in the heart of the sea, that is, within the sea[2] (Drusius).  Thus Genesis 45:6, in the midst of the earth, that is, in the earth.  So also Exodus 8:22 (Glassius’ “Grammar” 149).

[Girded, הָכֵן[3]]  [They do not render it in one way.]  The priests were standing in the midst of Jordan to furnish, namely, the multitude with a convenient passage (Masius, Drusius).  For in their delay they were restraining the upper waters.  Thus הָכֵן is taken in Joshua 4:3[4] (Masius).  By making firm, by establishing (Piscator), or, by fixing, namely, their feet.  Thus Rabbi Isaiah in Masius, and Piscator, and not without reason (Masius).  By preparing (Montanus).  Others:  in the midst of erect Jordan (Hebrew, to erect; the infinitive is often put in the place of a participle):  which (Jordan, of course), with the waters failing, was erect and firm, with its waters flowing in, as it is asserted in verse 16 (Glassius’ “Grammar” 363).  Others:  by establishing themselves, that is, in the same position and step (Bonfrerius).  With their foot fixed, or with deliberation (Vatablus).  Others:  well, firmly, solidly, immovably; so that it might be an adverb, just like אָכֵן, truly, surely[5] (Drusius).  [It is well known that guttural letters are easily exchange one for the other.[6]]  Infinitive among the Hebrews are often taken for adverbs, Isaiah 31:6;[7] Hosea 5:2;[8] 9:9;[9] Jonah 4:4[10] (Lapide).  Others:  thus; thus as they were, thus as they began, as they had first stopped:  or, for positioning, for ordering, namely, the people, so that they might pass over in a composed and orderly way (Malvenda).  Others observe that the infinitive is put in the place of the passive participle.  Thus the Hebrews, and many of our own men (Malvenda, thus Vatablus).  The stood ready (Munster), firm (Dutch, English), fixed (Castalio).  With an intention of soul and purpose not to withdrawn from the river bed until all the people passed over (Malvenda).  Well ordered, arranged (Malvenda).

Stood firm, that is, 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 verse 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 verse 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, verse 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 firmin 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, verse 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.

[Through the dry bed, בֶּחָרָבָה]  On dry, that is, on dry land[11] (Drusius).

[All the people, הַגּוֹי[12]]  This word indicates that some of the lowest sort (and which was hardly worthy of the name Israelite) remained.  For גּוֹי is not without good reason wont to be used of Israelites (Masius).  Therefore, others by גּוֹי here understand Egyptians and other proselytes.[13]  But the Israelites are understood (thus Jerome and the Chaldean), who are called גּוֹי, Joshua 5:6,[14] 8;[15] 10:13;[16] Isaiah 9:3[17] (Bonfrerius); Exodus 19:6[18] (Drusius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּעַמְד֣וּ הַכֹּהֲנִ֡ים נֹ֠שְׂאֵי הָאָר֙וֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָ֜ה בֶּחָֽרָבָ֛ה בְּת֥וֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּ֖ן הָכֵ֑ן וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל עֹֽבְרִים֙ בֶּחָ֣רָבָ֔ה עַ֤ד אֲשֶׁר־תַּ֙מּוּ֙ כָּל־הַגּ֔וֹי לַעֲבֹ֖ר אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּֽן׃

[2] Ezekiel 27:32:  “And in their wailing they shall take up a lamentation for thee, and lament over thee, saying, What city is like Tyrus, like the destroyed in the midst of the sea (בְּת֥וֹךְ הַיָּֽם׃)?”

[3] Joshua 3:17a:  “And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the midst of Jordan to make firm (הָכֵן), and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground…”

[4] Joshua 4:3:  “And command ye them, saying, Take you hence out of the midst of Jordan, out of the place where the priests’ feet stood firm (מִמַּצַּב֙ רַגְלֵ֣י הַכֹּהֲנִ֔ים הָכִ֖ין), twelve stones, and ye shall carry them over with you, and leave them in the lodging place, where ye shall lodge this night.”

[5] It appears that the adverb אָכֵן is being related to the verb כּוּן, to make firm (in the Hiphil).

[6] Here, the ה of הָכֵן has given way to the א of אָכֵן.

[7] Isaiah 31:6:  “Turn ye unto him from whom the children of Israel have deeply revolted (הֶעְמִ֥יקוּ סָרָ֖ה).”

[8] Hosea 5:2:  “And the revolters are profound to make slaughter (וְשַׁחֲטָ֥ה שֵׂטִ֖ים הֶעְמִ֑יקוּ), though I have been a rebuker of them all.”

[9] Hosea 9:9:  “They have deeply corrupted themselves (הֶעְמִֽיקוּ־שִׁחֵ֖תוּ), as in the days of Gibeah:  therefore he will remember their iniquity, he will visit their sins.”

[10] Jonah 4:4:  “Then said the Lord, Doest thou well to be angry (הַהֵיטֵ֖ב חָ֥רָה לָֽךְ׃)?”

[11] Here, חָֽרָבָה, dry land, appears to be taken as an adjective, dry.

[12] גּוֹי is typically used of Gentile nations.

[13] See Exodus 12:38.

[14] Joshua 5:6:  “For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people (כָּל־הַגּוֹי) that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the Lord:  unto whom the Lord sware that he would not shew them the land, which the Lord sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey.”

[15] Joshua 5:8:  “And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people (כָל־הַגּוֹי), that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole.”

[16] Joshua 10:13a:  “And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people (גּוֹי) had avenged themselves upon their enemies….”

[17] Isaiah 9:3a:  “Thou hast multiplied the nation (הַגּוֹי), and not increased the joy…”

[18] Exodus 19:6:  “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation (וְג֣וֹי קָד֑וֹשׁ).  These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”

3 thoughts on “Joshua 3:17: Crossing Jordan, Part 3

  1. Archibald Alexander, “Thoughts on Religious Experience”: “But to cut the matter short, death is placed in the category of the richest blessings. “For all things are yours, whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come, all are yours” [1 Corinthians 3:22]. The true Christian, then, has no reason to be appalled at the necessity of entering this darkly shaded valley. Dear friends, if we only approach, holding up the torch of revelation by faith, the dismal gloom which has gathered over the tomb will be immediately dissipated. Faith looks beyond this darkness and across this valley, and beholds a celestial city, the new Jerusalem. Though much indebted to John Bunyan—one of the most fertile geniuses the world ever produced—I cannot easily forgive him for making the passage over Jordan to Canaan so very difficult for Christian. If he had carried out the allegory, he would have turned the swelling waves backward, and have shown a dry path across the stream; for no sooner had the priests, who carried the ark of the testimony, dipped their feet in the brim of the river than—”all the Israelites passed over on dry ground” [Joshua 3:17]. But, after all, perhaps, the honest tinker drew his picture from the fact; for as Christians seldom enjoy in life the comfort provided for them, so it is analogous that in death they should lack that comfort to which in Christ they are entitled.”

  2. William Gurnall, “Christian in Complete Armor”: “This truth (perseverence by sovereign grace) prepares a sovereign cordial to restore the fainting spirits of weak believers, who are surprised with many fears concerning their persevering and holding out to the end of their warfare. Be of good cheer, poor soul, God hath given Christ the life of every soul within the ark of his covenant. Your eternal safety is provided for. Whom he loves, he loves to the end, John 13:1. Hath he made thee “willing in the day of his power” to march under his banner, and espouse his quarrel against sin and hell? The same power that overcame thy rebellious heart to himself, will overcome all thy enemies within and without for thee. Say not thou art a bruised reed, [for] with this [power] he will break Satan’s head, and not cease till he hath brought forth judgment into complete victory in thy soul. He that can make a few wounded men rise up and take a strong city, can make a wounded spirit triumph over sin and devils, Jeremiah 37:10. The ark stood in the midst of Jordan, till the whole camp of Israel was safely got over into Canaan, Joshua 3:17, and so doth the covenant, which the ark did but typify. Yea, Christ, covenant and all, stand to secure the saints a safe passage to heaven. If but one believer drowns, the covenant must drown with him; Christ and the saint are put together as coheirs of the same inheritance. “If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ,” Romans 8:17. We cannot dispute against one, but we question the firmness of the other’s title. When you hear [that] Christ is turned out of heaven, or that he is willing to sell his inheritance there; then, poor Christian, fear thy coming thither, and not till then. Coheirs cannot sell the inheritance except both give up their right, which Christ will never do nor suffer thee.”

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