Joshua 4:18: The Miraculous Return of Jordan’s Waters

Verse 18:[1] And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up (Heb. plucked up[2]) unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, (Josh. 3:15) and flowed (Heb. went[3]) over all his banks, as they did before.

[When they had ascended] The Chaldean explicitly renders that the Divine motion in the feet of the priests, etc., might express more plainly, from which, as the water, only just contacted by them, had stopped before, so now, the waters, scarcely freed, flow forth. And this wonderfully illustrates the miracles, and acquires authority for Joshua (as formerly for Moses, Exodus 14:31, for the same reason), since the waters, which before this he restrained and held back, he loosed again. Otherwise men ungrateful, and too prone to detract from the glory of God and His ministers, might refer this event to a fortuitous cause, or to certain hidden causes of nature, and say that in these extraordinary currents, as it were, ignorance of causes and the novelty of the matter caused wonder. But now the opportunity for all calumny is taken away, etc. Moveover, the modesty of the priests and of Joshua is here commended to us, while neither is mentioned to have rushed blindly, but the latter to have expected patiently the commands of God, the former the commands of their Prince (Masius).

[And they had begun to tread upon dry ground] Dry simply, not dried merely for some hours (Serarius). Upon the mainland, or upon the ground (Masius, Drusius). For otherwise even in the riverbed they had stood upon dry ground (Masius).

[נִתְּק֗וּ כַּפּוֹת֙[4]] Were torn away the hollows, etc. (Montanus), or the soles (Jonathan, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius); were placed the feet (Septuagint); were drawn away the soles (Jonathan), or, were positioned (Arabic), as at first they rested (Syriac), were transported (Pagnine), were transposed (Munster), scarcely (or, when at first [Piscator]) they were torn away (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Drusius, Serarius), were removed (Tigurinus, Serarius). Not that they were fixed in any deeper mire, but that on account of the long lasting station in the same place, and an altogether unmoved position, they appeared to be sunk in that place after the likeness of trees (Serarius).

[The waters returned] It signifies that they through the downhill channels descended toward the Dead Sea; for they were wont previously to move that way. Unless you might prefer that this be said, that the waters, previously driven back by God, now reverted straight toward that place where they were led by their own nature (Masius). The waters are said to return, although they had never descended into the downstream riverbed, for according to the desire and usual course of nature they had already descended, so to speak; and only an extraordinary and previously unknown barrier restrained them. Or rather the waters of Jordan are the Jordan itself, which is properly said to return, because it was there previously (Serarius).

[And they were flowing just as before] Nevertheless, God so moderated the waters that they might not rush forward with fury, but either, with that heap abating by degrees, or waning, or drawn aside through hidden channels of the earth (Masius). God slowly released the waters; for, if all had been loosed at one time, they would have flooded all things far and wide, even the camp of the Hebrews (Lapide, Bonfrerius).

The waters came down from their heaps, and returned with all convenient speed into their proper channel, according to their natural and usual course.

[1] Hebrew: וַ֠יְהִי בַּעֲל֙וֹת הַכֹּהֲנִ֜ים נֹשְׂאֵ֙י אֲר֤וֹן בְּרִית־יְהוָה֙ מִתּ֣וֹךְ הַיַּרְדֵּ֔ן נִתְּק֗וּ כַּפּוֹת֙ רַגְלֵ֣י הַכֹּהֲנִ֔ים אֶ֖ל הֶחָרָבָ֑ה וַיָּשֻׁ֤בוּ מֵֽי־הַיַּרְדֵּן֙ לִמְקוֹמָ֔ם וַיֵּלְכ֥וּ כִתְמוֹל־שִׁלְשׁ֖וֹם עַל־כָּל־גְּדוֹתָֽיו׃

[2] Hebrew: נִתְּקוּ.

[3] Hebrew: וַיֵּלְכוּ.

[4] נָתַק signifies to be drawn or torn away.

1 thought on “Joshua 4:18: The Miraculous Return of Jordan’s Waters

  1. Matthew Henry: “As soon as ever the priests and the ark had come up out of Jordan, the waters of the river, which had stood on a heap, gradually flowed down according to their nature and usual course, and soon filled the channel again, Joshua 4:18. This makes it yet more evident that the stop which had now been given to the river was not from any secret natural cause, but purely from the power of God’s presence, and for the sake of his Israel; for when Israel’s turn was served, and the token of God’s presence was removed, immediately the water went forward again; so that if it be asked, What ailed thee, O Jordan! that thou wast driven back? It must be answered, It was purely in obedience to the God of Israel, and in kindness to the Israel of God. There is therefore none like unto the God of Jeshurun; happy also art thou, O Israel! who is like unto thee, O people? Some observe here, by way of allusion, that when the ark, and the priests that bore it, are removed from any place, the floodgates are drawn up, the defence has departed, and an inundation of judgments is to be expected shortly. Those that are unchurched will soon be undone. The glory has departed if the ark is taken.”

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