Joshua 3:14-17

14. And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people;

14. Et fuit, quum proficiscentur populus ad transeundum Jordanem, sacerdotes qui portabant arcam foederis erant ante populum.

15. And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overflows all his banks all the time of harvest,)

15. Postquam autem venerunt qui portabant arcam usque ad Jordanem, et pedes sacerdotum potantium arcam intincti fuerunt in extremo aquarum (Jordanes autem erat plenus ultra omnes suas ripas toto tempore messis,)

16. That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon 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.

16. Constiterunt aquae quae descendebant desuper, et assurexerunt in acervum unum procul valde, ab Adam urbe quae est ad latus Sarthan, et quae descendebant ad mare solitudinis mare salis, consumptae sunt, interciderunt: populus autem transierunt e regione Jericho.

17. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.

17. Stabant autem sacerdotes portantes arcam foederis Jehovae in sicco in medio Jordanis expediti, (vel praeparati,) totus vero Israel transibant per siccum donec finem facerent universa gens transeundi Jordanis.


15. And as they that bare the ark, etc The valor of the priests in proceeding boldly beyond the bed into the water itself, was deserving of no mean praise, since they might have been afraid of being instantly drowned. For what could they expect on putting in their feet, but immediately to find a deep pool in which they would be engulfed? In not being afraid on reaching the stream, and in continuing to move firmly forward to the appointed place, they gave a specimen of rare alacrity, founded on confidence.

To the general danger was added the special one, that the Jordan had then overflowed its banks, as it is wont to do at the commencement of every summer. As the plain was covered, it was impossible to observe the line of the banks or the ford, and the slime spread far and wide, increased their fear and anxiety.1 God was pleased that his people, and especially the priests, should contend with these obstacles, in order that the victory of their faith and constancy might be more illustrious. At the same time, the difficulty thus presented tended to magnify the glory of the miracle when the waters, which had overflowed their banks, retired at the divine command, and were gathered together into a solid heap. First, Joshua explains the nature of the miracle for the purpose of removing doubt, and preventing profane men from denying the divine interposition by a subtle searching for other causes. It is not, indeed, impossible that the flowing of the water might have been restrained for a short time, and that some portion of the channel might thus have appeared dry, or that the course might have changed and taken some other direction. But it was certainly neither a natural nor fortuitous event, when the waters stood gathered up into a heap. It is therefore said that the waters which previously flowed from the higher ground, seeking in their descent a continuous outlet, stood still.

There cannot be a doubt that this wonderful sight must have been received with feelings of fear, leading the Israelites more distinctly to acknowledge that they were saved in the midst of death. For what was that collected heap but a grave in which the whole multitude would have been buried, had the waters resumed their naturally liquid state?2 Had they walked upon the waters their faith might have served them as a kind of bridge. But now, while mountains of water hung over their heads, it is just as if they had found an open and level path beneath them. The locality is marked out as situated between two cities,3 that the remembrance of it might never be lost; and, in like manner, God ordered stones to be set up as a perpetual memorial, that this distinguished mercy might be celebrated by posterity in all ages.

1 These remarks are made on the assumption that the waters had risen so as not only to reach the highest edge of the banks, and make the usual channel what may be called brim-full, but had spread themselves to some distance over the plain. It may have been so, but there is no distinct statement to this effect, and the concluding clause of the fifteenth verse does not literally bear the meaning which Calvin and our English translators have assigned to it. His rendering is, "Jordanes autem erat plenus ultra omnes suas ripas;" literally, "Now Jordan was full beyond all his banks." The original only says that "Jordan fills up to (completely fills) all his banks." The Septuagint, in like manner, says, "O de< Iorda>nhv ejphrou~to kaq o[lhn thn krhpi>da aujtou~;" "Now the Jordan was filled as to all his embankment." The same meaning is very exactly given by Luther, whose version is "Der Jordan aber war voll an allen feinen ufern;" "Now Jordan was full on all his banks." The difference between the renderings is slight, but it is of importance not to overlook it, because even such slight differences have sometimes furnished the infidel with plausible grounds for assailing the credit of the sacred narrative. In the present instance it has been insinuated that the historian has exaggerated the extent of the inundation in order to heighten the importance of the miracle. -- Ed.

2 French, "Si les eaux, selon lour nature, cussent alors recommence a eouler;" "Had the waters then according to their nature begun again to flow." -- Ed.

3 This is not very explicit, and may have been left vague on purpose because the original itself, as it now stands, is obscure, and both translators and commentators, instead of throwing any light upon it, have rather increased the darkness. For Adam, the Vulgate substitutes Edom, and the Septuagint, the district of Kirjath-jearim (me>rouv Kariaqiari>m) Two towns near each other, and bearing the respective names of Adam and Zarethan, are mentioned in Scripture as situated in the tribe of Manasseh, the one on the right and the other the left bank of the Jordan. Their distance above the place at which the Israelites are presumed to have crossed is about forty miles; and the most natural meaning of the passage seems to be, that when the waters stood, as it were, congealed in a heap, they remained so long in that state, as to cause a kind of reflux tide, which was perceptible as far back as Adam on the one hand, and Zareptan on the other. -- Ed.


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