Joshua Chapter 3  PDF  MSWord

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Go to Bible: Joshua 3
Jos 3:1

“And Joshua rose up early in the morning.” Chapters 3 and 4 describe the miraculous entrance of Israel into its inheritance, the Promised Land, including the stopping and drying up of the waters of the Jordan River just as had happened with Moses at the Red Sea. Joshua 5:1 then describes the effect of the Jordan crossing on the local inhabitants. Just as the crossing of the Red Sea melted the hearts of Canaanites (Rahab’s testimony), so the stopping of the Jordan did the same to the Amorites in the Hill Country and the Canaanites on the coast; they had no spirit anymore (cp. Josh. 2:11; 5:1).

“before they crossed over.” The Hebrew word abar (#05674 עָבַר), here translated “crossed over” is a major theme in Joshua because the man Joshua is a type of Christ and the book of Joshua typologically portrays people crossing over from this mortal life into the “Promised Land” of everlasting life (see commentary on Josh. 1:11).

Jos 3:2(top)
Jos 3:3

“the priests, the Levites.” Every priest was from the tribe of Levi, but the priests were descendants of Aaron, the brother of Moses, who were from the tribe of Levi.

“the ark of the covenant of Yahweh.” The ark represented the very presence of Yahweh Himself, and as such is mentioned ten times in Joshua 3 alone (Josh. 3:3, 6 (2x), Josh. 3:8, 11, 13, 14, 15 (2x), and Josh. 3:17). And the fact that the ark is in the Jordan while Israel crosses over into the Promised Land showed Israel that it was Yahweh Himself who was holding back the water of the Jordan River, and so it was “Yahweh of Armies” that was fighting for Israel even as they enter the Promised Land. The fact that the ark of the covenant went first into the Jordan is a picture of the God of Israel leading His people to victory. The name, “the ark of the covenant of Yahweh” occurs five times in Joshua (some 30 times in the Bible) and is one of several names that describe the ark. For example, it is called “the ark of the testimony” a number of times, including Joshua 4:16, and nine times in Joshua it is simply called the “ark of Yahweh” (Josh. 3:13; 4:5, 11; etc.). The name here in Joshua 3:3, “the ark of the covenant of Yahweh your God” may emphasize the king-vassal covenant in which Yahweh, the people’s God, is leading His people to victory in battle.

“and the priests, the Levites, carrying it.” In the wilderness wanderings, God put a pillar of cloud over the Tabernacle by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exod. 40:38), and when the cloud over the Tabernacle moved, the children of Israel moved and followed it (Exod. 40:34-38). The Bible never mentions when the pillar of cloud and fire disappeared, but it had by this time and the people were now to follow the priests carrying the ark, not the pillar of cloud. In fact, the 2,000 cubit distance between the priests and the rest of the Israelites was so that the Israelites could tell where the priests were going and then follow them (Josh. 3:4).

Jos 3:4

“2,000 cubits.” Scholars estimate that a standard cubit was about 18 inches, so 2,000 cubits would be about 3,000 feet (about 1,000 yards; 914 meters; .57 miles, or just over half a mile).

“before.” The Hebrew text uses an interesting idiom, and literally reads, “yesterday and three days ago.” It means, “before, formerly, in the past,” and gets translated “before” in many English versions. So in the idiom, the current day would be day one, “yesterday” would be day two, and “three days ago” would be day three, and the idiom would then use that to refer to “before.”

Jos 3:5

“Make yourselves holy​.” The people were to do what it took to make themselves holy in the sight of God. This involved ritual purity, for example, doing what it took to restore physical purity in the sight of God, such as by washing or doing a necessary sacrifice, and abstaining from sex (cp. Exod. 19:15; Num. 11:18). However, more importantly, it involved “turning the heart to God, in faith and trust in His promise, and in willing obedience to His commandments, that they [Israel] should lay to heart in a proper way the miracle of grace which the Lord was about to work in the midst of them and on their behalf on the following day.”a Thus, “making yourself holy” involved both outward and inward obedience to the commandments of God, and it is a key to God actively being in the midst of His people and working powerfully.

Jesus Christ said it this way: “Whoever has my commandments, and is keeping them, that is the one who loves me. And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him...If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:21, 23). God and Jesus are gracious and full of mercy, and there are many times when they move powerfully in the lives of people who have not been obedient or faithful. However, experience has proven over and over that, if people want to have a consistent and powerful relationship with God and the Lord, their being purposely obedient, that is, “making themselves holy,” is a vital key to that happening.

The Schocken Bible by Everett Fox translates the phrase, “Make yourselves holy” (cp. BBE, CEB). The most common English translation, “Sanctify yourselves” is good if you understand what “sanctify” means, but to most readers the phrase is unclear.

The translation, The Scriptures, done by the Institute for Scripture Research, South Africa, has “set yourselves apart.” While that translation captures the meaning of the word “holy” as something that is set apart, the idea of being “set apart” in this context was being set apart from the world and the unclean and ungodly things in it by obedience and dedication to God, which may not be clear to readers. Nevertheless, the translation “set yourselves apart” shows that it was something the people could do in obedience to God.

The people were to make themselves holy—purify themselves—to be able to enter into God’s presence. Yahweh is a warrior (Exod 15:3), and for Israel to fight alongside God in the battles, they must be holy.

“for tomorrow Yahweh will do wonders among you.” This is a prophecy and promise that Yahweh would do miracles among the people. That generation had seen many miracles, including manna appearing on the ground six days a week, and the pillar of cloud and fire over the Tent of Meeting (Tabernacle). Now they would see some new miracles.

Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 41.
Jos 3:6

“cross over.” “Cross over” is a theme and key phrase in Joshua (cp. Josh. 1:11).

“before the people.” The Hebrew can mean “before” in the sense of “ahead of,” or it can mean “before” in the sense of “in the presence of,” that is, in the presence of the people such that the people can see the ark and gain courage from it. Actually, the Hebrew text could well have both meanings here (cp. Josh. 1:14).

Jos 3:7

“I will begin to make you great.” God and the Devil both empower people so that they are great in the eyes of others, but being elevated by the Devil brings only short success and then a very heavy price, while being elevated by God brings blessings now and in the future. That the text states that it is God who makes Joshua great is part of Joshua’s being a type of Christ, because Christ did the works of God and was magnified by God (cp. Acts 10:38).

“so that they will know.” A part of the reason that God elevated Joshua in the eyes of Israel the way He did was so that Israel would know that God was with Joshua. Similarly, the works that Jesus did testified that he was sent by God (John 5:36; 10:25; 14:10-11). When God is obviously working in someone’s life but scoffers deny and denigrate it, that is sin (John 15:22-24).

Jos 3:8(top)
Jos 3:9

“Draw near and hear the words of Yahweh your God.” Joshua spoke the words of God to the people. In this, we see the continued typology between Joshua and Jesus. Joshua, a type of Christ, spoke the words of God to the people just as Jesus spoke God’s words, not his own words (John 12:49; 14:10).

Jos 3:10

“the living God.” The Hebrew is el hai (אֵ֥ל חַ֖י), and the el, “God” is singular. (cp. Hos. 1:10; Ps. 42:3; 84:3). The Hebrews did not see “God” as a plurality of “Persons.” Also, Yahweh is active and alive; He intervenes in human affairs. In this case, He is going to intervene by driving the Canaanites out from before Israel.

“drive out, yes, drive out.” God uses the figure polyptoton for emphasis (see commentary on Gen. 2:16).

“the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Hivite and the Perizzite and the Girgashite and the Amorite and the Jebusite.” These are seven nations spoken of in the Mosaic Law (Deut. 7:1). The fact that the people groups were not a unified front helped Israel fight these nations. The geography of Israel is such that it divides people into people groups. The groups are all connected by “and,” the figure polysyndeton, to emphasize each individual group and not lump them together.

[See figure of speech “syndeton.”]

Jos 3:11

“is crossing over before you.” The ark of Yahweh did not completely cross over before the people, but it started its crossing over first.

Jos 3:12(top)
Jos 3:13

“coming down.” The Hebrew words are related to the name of the Jordan itself: the “coming down one.” For most of its journey, the Jordan River descends very rapidly.

“heap.” The Hebrew word is used in Exodus 15:8 when there were “walls” of water when the Red Sea split (cp. Ps. 78:13).

Jos 3:14

“moved from their encampment.” Although the Hebrew might be more literally, “moved from their tents,” that makes it sound like they left their tents behind on the east side of the Jordan, which is not what they did. They moved from where they had been tenting to across the Jordan.

Jos 3:15

“the Jordan overflows all its banks.” Israel entering the Promised Land occurred in the spring and the rains had swollen the Jordan River, which has now flooded the area. This does not deter God at all, but shows His power more dramatically. Also, the Canaanite god Baal was a storm and rain god, and the fact that Yahweh entered Baal’s territory by stopping the Jordan River and drying up the river bottom when the Jordan was at flood stage was a demonstration that Baal would be powerless against Yahweh.

Jos 3:16

“a great way off, at Adam.” Adam is about 25 miles (40 km) north of the Dead Sea. The Israelites would not have needed such a long stretch of dry ground to cross over, so perhaps God did that for such a long way so many Canaanites could see for themselves the power of God.

“the Sea of the Arabah, even the Salt Sea.” This is the Dead Sea.

“Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho.” The Israelites must have crossed over Jordan close to where the modern Allenby Bridge is, which leads into Jericho today. “Crossed over” is a major theme in Joshua because the man Joshua is a type of Christ and the book of Joshua typologically portrays people crossing over from this mortal life into the “Promised Land” of everlasting life (see commentary on Josh. 1:11).

Jos 3:17

“in the midst of the Jordan.” That is to say that there was water all around where the priests were, but they were not in the “middle” of the Jordan, which would have been the very middle of the riverbed.

“on dry ground.” The fact that God not only divided the water but dried up the ground is an important part of the miracle of the crossing of the Jordan (and the crossing of the Red Sea; cp. Exod. 14:21-22). The God who can split the waters can also dry up the land so the riverbed was dry to cross over. This is the same word as when Elijah struck the Jordan and Elijah and Elisha crossed over on dry ground (2 Kings 2:8; cp. also Gen. 7:22).

“the nation.” The Hebrew word goy is rarely used of Israel. E. Fox (The Schocken Bible) says: “Its usage here suggests that the crossing of the Jordan is an act of nation-founding.” There was also a “mixed multitude” with Israel, and this may indicate that in the Promised Land they would become more integrated with Israel, and indeed, even some Canaanites, such as Rahab, joined the nation of Israel.

During the seven years of famine that came over Egypt and Palestine, Joseph sent for his family and brought them to Egypt. Jacob must have had some concern about leaving the land God promised to Abraham and even to Jacob (Gen. 48:3-4) because God spoke to Jacob as he was starting the journey to Egypt and said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down into Egypt, for there I will make of you a great nation” (Gen. 46:3). So God promised to make Jacob a great nation in Egypt, and that came to pass. Now they enter the Promised Land as a nation.


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