1. And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.
1. Surrexit autem Josue summo mane, et profecti sunt e Sittim, venerantque usque ad Jordanem ipse et omnes filii Israel, pernoctaveruntque illic antequam transirent.
2. And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;
2. Et fuit a fine trium dierum, ut praefecti transirent per medium castrorum.
3. And they commanded the people, saying, When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then you shall remove from your place, and go after it.
3. Praeciperentque populo, dicendo, Quum videritis arcam foederis Jehovae Dei vestri, et sacerdotes Levitas portantes eam, proficiscemini e loco vestro, ibitisque post illam.
4. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that you may know the way by which you must go: for you have not passed this way heretofore.
4. Veruntamen interstitium erit inter vos et ipsam fere duorum milium cubitorum in mensura: ne appropinquetis ei, ut cognoscatis viam per quam ambulaturi estis. Non enim transiistis per viam illam heri vel nudius tertius.
5. And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.
5. Dixerat autem Josue ad populum, sanctificate (praeparate) vos. Cras enim faciet Jehova in medio vestri mirabilia.
6. And Joshua spoke unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.
6. Loquutus autem est Josue ad sacerdotes, dicendo, Tollite arcam foederis, et transite ante populum. Tulerunt itaque arcam foederis, et ambularunt ante populum.
7. And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.
7. Dixerat autem Jehova ad Josuam, Hodie incipiam magnificare te in oculis totius Israel, ut, sciant, quomodo fui cum Mose, sic me fore tecum.
8. And thou shall command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When you are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, you shall stand still in Jordan.
8. Tu ergo praecipies sacerdotibus portantibus arcam foederis, dicendo, Quum ingressi fueritis usque ad extremum aquae Jordanis, in Jordane stabitis.
9. And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.
9. Dixitque Josue ad filios Israel Accedite huc, et audiate verba Jehovae Dei vestri.
10. And Joshua said, Hereby you shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.
10. Dixit item Josue, In hoc cognoscetis quod Deus vivens est in medio vestri, et quod expellendo expellet a facie vestra Chananaeum, Hitthaeum, et Hivaeum, et Pherisaeum, et Gergesaeum, et Amorrhaeum, et Jebusaeum.
11. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth passes over before you into Jordan.
11. Ecce arca foederis Dominatoris universae terrae transibit ante vos per Jordanem.
12. Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.
12. Nunc ergo tollite vobis duodecim viros e tribubus Israel, singulos per singulas tribus.
13. And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.
13. Quum autem quieverint plantae pedum sacerdotum portantium arcam Jehovae Dominatoris universae terrae in aquis Jordanis, aquae Jordanis intercidentur, et aquae superne (vel desuper, vel desursum) fluentes, consistent in acervo uno.
It is true, there were fords by which the Jordan could be passed. But the waters were then swollen, and had overflowed, so that they might easily prevent even men altogether without baggage from passing. There was therefore no hope, that women and children, with the animals, and the rest of the baggage, could be transported to the further bank. That, in such apparently desperate circumstances, they calmly wait the issue, though doubtful, and to them incomprehensible, is an example of faithful obedience, proving how unlike they were to their fathers, who, on the slightest occasions, gave way to turbulence, and inveighed against the Lord and against Moses. This change was not produced without the special agency of the Holy Spirit.
In the end of the verse it is shown how necessary it was for them to be divinely guided by an unknown way; that anxiety and fear might keep them under the protection of the ark.
I conclude, therefore, that after the priests had for some time been kept in suspense, along with the multitude, the Lord, on ascertaining the obedience of all, publicly declared what he was to do. First, then, it is related that the priests were enjoined by Joshua to bear the ark before the people; and secondly, lest any one might think that he was making the attempt at random, or at his own hand, mention is at the same time made of the promise with which he had been furnished as a means of ensuring his command. But although it is not then distinctly said that the course of the Jordan would be interrupted, yet, from the language which Joshua used to the people, we may infer that the Lord spoke more in detail, and explained more distinctly what he had determined to do. For Joshua did not mention anything which he had not previously learned from the mouth of God himself. Nay, before he makes any mention of the matter at all, he tells them to hear the words of the Lord, and thus premises that he has the authority of God for what he is about to say.
He says, Hence shall you know that the Lord is present with you; to what end? Not only to plant your feet in the land of Canaan, but also to give you full possession of it. For surely when mention is made of the overthrow of the nations, an ultimate, free, and peaceful possession is implied. Therefore, as the Lord by dividing the river clearly showed that his power resided with the Israelites, so the people must on their part have conceived hopes of perpetual assistance, as much as if they had already seen their enemies worsted and lying prostrate before them.
For God does not abandon the work of his hands midway, leaving it maimed and unfinished. (Psalm 138:8) When he leads his people unto the promised inheritance, he makes a dry passage for them by cutting off the course of the Jordan. How perverse then would it have been for the Israelites to stop short at that momentary act, instead of feeling confident in all time to come, until quiet possession of the land were actually obtained! Let us learn then from this example, prudently to combine the different acts of divine goodness relating to our final salvation, so that a happy commencement may cherish and keep alive in our minds the hope of an equally happy termination.
When Joshua says that the people will know the presence of God from the miracle, he indirectly upbraids them with their distrust, as the mere promise of God ought to have sufficed for a full assurance, and our faith, unless founded solely on this promise, must be continually wavering. But although faith ought properly to recline on the truth of God alone, it does not follow that experimental knowledge may not act as a secondary support to its weakness, and give subsidiary aid to its confirmation. For that which God promises to us in word he seals by act, and as often as he exhibits to us manifestations of his grace and might, he intends them to be so many confirmations of what he has spoken, and so many helps tending to suppress all our doubts.
Let us however remember, that the only reason which induced the Lord to display his grace in the ark was because he had placed the tables of his covenant within it. Moreover, as the thing could not be easily credited, Joshua directs the mind of the people to the contemplation of the divine power, which surmounts all difficulties. The title of Ruler of the whole earth here applied to God is not insignificant, but extols his power above all the elements of nature, in order that the Israelites, considering how seas and rivers are subject to his dominion, might have no doubt that the waters, though naturally liquid, would become stable in obedience to his word.
1 This seems to be the proper place to insert a short account of the Jordan, and more especially of that part of it in the neighborhood of which the Israelites were now encamped. This becomes necessary, because Calvin had altogether omitted it, partly, as some expressions in his Commentary would seem to indicate, from having unfortunately attached little comparative importance to geographical details, and partly, as he very modestly expresses it, from not having been very well acquainted with them. Indeed, at the period when he wrote, the geography of the Holy Land was very imperfectly known, but we have not the same excuse, as numerous well-qualified travelers have since traversed it in all directions, and published careful descriptions both of its general features and of almost all the localities possessed of much historical interest. In a single note, only a few leading points can be adverted to, but it seems not impossible in this way, to give a distinct idea of the nature of the passage which the Israelites were now preparing to make, and of the wonderful interposition by which they were enabled to accomplish it.
The Jordan, then, by far the most important river of Palestine, is formed, near its northern frontiers, by several streams which descend from the mountains of Lebanon, and after flowing nearly due south, for a direct distance of about 175 miles, discharges its waters into the north side of the Dead Sea. In the upper part of its course, before it reaches the late of Tiberius, more familiarly known by its usual scriptural name of the Sea of Galilee, it has much of the character of an impetuous torrent, and is hemmed closely in on both sides by loftly mountains, but on issuing from the south side of the lake, it begins to flow in a valley, the most remarkable circumstance connected with which, is its great depth beneath the level of the ocean. Even the Sea of Galilee is 84 feet, and the Dead Sea, where the Jordan falls into it is 1337 feet beneath this level. The intervening space between the two seas, forms what is properly called the valley of the Jordan, and consists of a plain, about six miles across in its northern, but much wider in its southern half, where it spreads out, on its east or left bank, into the plains of Moab, and on its west or right bank, into the plains of Jericho. This valley, throughout its whole length, is terminated on either side by a mountain chain, which in many parts rises so rapidly as soon to attain a height exceeding 2500. Within the valley thus terminated, a minor valley is enclosed. It is about three quarters of a mile in breadth, and consists, for the most part, of a low flat, bounded by sandy slopes, and covered by trees or brushwood. Nearly in the center of this flat the river, almost concealed beneath its overhanging banks, pursues its course, with few large windings, but with such a multiplicity of minute tortuosities, that though the direct distance is not more than sixty-five, the indirect distance or total length of the stream is estimated at not less than two hundred miles. The river, in its ordinary state, within its banks, has a width of from twenty to thirty yards, and a depth, varying from nine to fifteen feet. The banks are there from twelve to fourteen feet high, and immediately beyond them, the flat bears evident marks of being frequently inundated. These inundation's take place in spring, and are caused by the melted snow brought down, partly by the three principal tributaries of the Jordan, the Jarmuch, or Shurat-el-Mandour, the Jabbok, or Zerka, and the Arnon, or Wady Modjet, which all join it from the east, but chiefly by the main stream, which is then copiously supplied from the snowy heights of Lebanon. This rising of the waters, of course, begins as soon as the thawing influence of the returning heat begins to be felt, but does not attain its maximum till the impression has been fully made, or, in the first weeks of April. Such was the state of the stream as the Israelites now safely assumed to have been from seven to Twelve miles north of the Dead Sea, and not far from the Bethabarah, where our Savior, after condescending to receive baptism at the hands of his forerunner, went up from the banks, while the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and lighted upon him. -- Ed.