1 And Joshua [Yehoshua] rose early in the morning [boker]; and they removed from Shittim [Sheetim], and came to Jordan [Yarden], he and all the children of Israel [Kol Bnei Yisroel], and lodged [camped] there before they passed over.
There was to be no delay in advancing the warfare of faith. Surely there is an impressive exhortation in such an attitude. The pursuit of the Kingdom cannot be undertaken in a half-hearted manner.
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. . ." (1 Cor. 9:24).
2 And it came to pass after 3 days [shloshet yamim], that the officers [Shoterim] went through the host [Machaneh];
The word "officers" is the same as in 1:10. These were key men who worked in close harmony with Joshua and under his direction. There, on the banks of the Jordan, these men moved amongst the people - doubtless in an organised way: tribe by tribe and clan by clan - encouraging them with forthright, virile and enthusiastic exhortation.
Here, indeed was "Ecclesial life" at its most inspiring: faithful leaders, giving responsible guidance and direction; and a flock of men and women eager to respond. *
4 Yet there shall be a space [rachok] between you and it, about 2 000 cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know [have da'as of] the way [Derech] by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
The ark was the symbol for Yahweh's presence amongst His people; thus Yahweh was to lead them forward, but would also be the last to cross (4:10-11). This action provided a type of the Lord Jesus Christ:
"I am alpha and omega, the first and the last. . ." (Rev. 1:11, cp.v.17). These words have their foundation in the prophecy of Isaiah: "I the first one and the last one. . ." and "I, Yahweh, the first one and the last ones. . ." (44:6; 41:4, lit. Heb.).
The former of these verses emphasises the basic reality that the One Eternal Spirit is first and last in the unfolding of His purpose. The other reference from Isaiah illustrates the fact that the One Eternal Spirit purposes to be manifested in a multitude of men and women whom He will redeem and glorify with His own incorruptible nature. Hence, the verses quoted from the Apocalypse show that the Lord Jesus Christ is the means by which Yahweh will bring His purpose to fruition.
As the Israelites were to "go after" the ark, so Christ's disciples are to follow him. If they fail to do so, they will be lost eternally (cp. Heb.6:20; 1 Pet. 2:21).
A distance of nearly half a mile was to separate the people from the ark. This instruction was of considerable significance. Clearly, the people were being shown that Yahweh was so holy that the people were not to approach Him with an easy familiarity. "Come not near unto it."
In the first ritual which the Israelites were called upon to obey after coming out of Egypt, they learned that because of sin Yahweh held them at arms length (cp. Ex. 19:12, 21). The lesson is unmistakeable: mankind must seek to carefully understand, and follow, the principles for divine worship as established by the Creator (cp. 1 Chron. 13:9-10; 1 Sam. 6:13-20).
In another respect, this instruction drew attention to the ark as a symbol for Christ. He has gone ahead of Israel - spiritual and natural - by the space of 2,000 years. Shortly, spiritual Israelites will follow him through the anti-typical Jordan: the "descender" - human nature - into their eternal inheritance. After the same pattern, natural Israel will be led into their inheritance by the greater Joshua, following the redemption of the true Saints.
Two strong themes of exhortation were spoken: "That ye may know the way by which ye must go. . ." The way leading to eternal salvation has been clearly defined... It is the responsibility of humankind to "know the way" and to walk steadfastly therein.
"I am the way, the truth, and the life", said the Son of God.
Bro John Ullman - His Life and Times.
5 And Joshua [Yehoshua] said unto the people [HaAm], Sanctify yourselves [Set yourselves apart as kodesh]: for to morrow Yahweh will do wonders [nifla'ot] among you.
The word sanctify presupposes a state of uncleanness, for it means "to be made clean". The Israelites were to learn that it was pointless to become ceremonially "clean" without an accompanying inner state of moral cleanliness, effected through the influence of God's word (see Ex.19:10; cp. Eph. 5:26; John 17:17-19). The call to the Truth requires a special preparation.
"Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. . ." (John 15:3; cp. Phil. 2:12-13).
The line of demarcation between Israel and the world was thus clearly stressed (cp. Eph. 2:12).
Man's entire hope of eternal salvation is an Israelitish one. It is therefore necessary to repudiate gentilism in all its forms and embrace the "hope of Israel", thereby becoming a member of "the Commonwealth of Israel" (Eph. 2:12). *
6 And Joshua [Yehoshua] spake unto the priests [Kohanim], saying, Take up the ark of the covenant [Aron HaBrit], and pass [cross] over before the people [HaAm]. And they took up the ark of the covenant [Aron HaBrit], and went before the people [HaAm].
This was an astonishing instruction, as the Law required that the ark be carried by the Kohathites (Num. 1:50; 4:15). Why the dramatic change in what had been the established arrangement since the giving of the Law? There can be only one enlightening answer: the Israelites were about to learn that their hope of eternal salvation lay outside the Law of Moses (Gal.2:21; 3:11, 18). Thus, as has been demonstrated earlier, it was necessary that Oshea's name ("saviour") be changed to Yahoshua ("Yahweh saves"). "For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works lest any man should boast. . ." (Eph. 2:8-9). *
7 And Yahweh said unto Joshua [Yehoshua], This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel [kol Yisroel], that they may know that, as I was with Moses [Moshe], so I will be with thee.
8 And thou shalt command the priests [Kohanim] that bear the ark of the covenant [Aron HaBrit], saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan [the Yarden], ye shall stand still in Jordan [the Yarden].
Again, the lesson was clear: the priests were to move forward, believing that Yahweh would
cause the waters to stop flowing. It was necessary that, once their feet entered the muddy waters of the river, they were to ''stand still". *
9 And Joshua [Yehoshua] said unto the children of Israel [Bnei Yisroel], Come hither, and hear the words [Divrei] of Yahweh your elohim.
What had to be done was a work which could not be effected by flesh:only Yahweh could do it - "Yah saves", not man. There appears here to be a remarkable parallel with the crossing of the Red Sea, when Israel had been taught a similar lesson: 'Fear ye not! Stand still! And
see the salvation of Yahweh. . . " (Ex. 14:13).
Joshua then explained to the people what was to happen. With knowledge of the Truth it is possible to exercise faith. "Faith comes. . .by hearing the word of God. . ."(Rom. 10:17).
They would have to go forward in faith, recognising Yahweh's hand in the miracle which was to be performed. *
10 And Joshua [Yehoshua] said, Hereby ye shall know [have da'as] that the living [Chai] El 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 [Kena'ani, and the Chitti, and the Chivi, and the Perizzi, and the Girgashi, and HaEmori, and the Yevusi].
"The living Ail is among you", said Joshua, with absolute conviction. The divinely-established basis upon which the nation would be delivered had been revealed through Moses (see Deut.11:22-25). Yahweh is not a God of wood or stone, but a Mighty, Living Deity.
Making further reference to the Mosaic writings, the people were told that God would "without fail" drive out their enemies from before them (see Ex. 13:5,and note the marginal references against that verse).
The Great God of Israel could be fully trusted to keep His word. "We have heard with our ears, Ο God, our fathers have told us, what work Thou didst in their days, in the times of old. How Thou didst drive out the heathen with Thy hand, and plantedst them; how Thou
didst afflict the people and cast them out. For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but Thy right hand and Thine arm, and the light of Thy countenance,because Thou hadst a favour unto them" (Ps. 44:1-3).
Those who today have embraced the Hope of Israel are required to exercise the same faith. Yahweh fulfilled His word to Israel of old. Why should twentieth century Believers not hold the same clear and fervent conviction? What Yahweh has done in the past, He will do
The seven major groupings of the Canaanites were then listed. Seven" is the Biblical number to illustrate completeness. Thus, these seven nations - all descended from Ham and Canaan - typified the "completeness" of gentile opposition to Israel - an opposition which will be swept away in the establishment of the kingdom of God under the leadership of the Greater Joshua, at his second coming.
Israel's great undoing was that after they were put in possession of the Land, they failed to annihilate these nations - all of them hostile to Yahweh and His Truth (see Deut. 7:1-11; Josh. 18:1-3; Ps. 106:34-36). *
11 Behold [Hinei], the ark of the covenant [Aron HaBrit] of the Lord of all the earth [ Adon Kol HaAretz ] passeth over before you into Jordan [the Yarden].
The ark was the token of God's presence. Previously it had travelled at the centre of the marching tribes, with the pillar of cloud going before them, readily discernible in the sky. Now that was to change. No further mention is made of the cloud, implying that its function ceased once the people came to Jordan.
Now, the ark was to lead them. Yet, it would unquestionably be out of their sight (v.4). Thus a deeper faith and conviction would be required of the Israelites. The visible evidence of Yahweh's miraculous presence - seen in the cloud and the fire - would be withdrawn.
The circumstances of those times typify the conditions which have applied in relation to all true Believers since the Lord was taken up into heaven. No visible presence now exists; the
"ark" has gone forward and for the time being remains out of sight. But those who would serve Yahweh must, themselves, continue to "go forward". Faith and hope propel them onward toward their promised rest and inheritance (cp. 2 Cor. 4:18; 5:7).
Since it is true that "all the earth shall be filled with the glory of Yahweh" He is aptly described by Joshua as "the Lord of all the earth" a term which points forward to
the ultimate divine purpose (Num. 14:21). His power and authority are not restricted to certain areas of the Middle East. The time will come when the prayer of His faithful servants will be answered:
"Arise, Ο God, judge the earth: for Thou shalt inherit all nations. . .Thou, whose Name alone is Yahweh, art the Most High over all the earth. . . " (Ps. 82:8; 83:18). Hence, "The earth is Yahweh's, and the fulness thereof: the world, and they that dwell therein. . . " (Ps. 24:1). *
12 Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.
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.
Here, on the banks of the Jordan, no doubts were expressed as to how they might cross. The people calmly appraised the problem of the swiftly-flowing river, but made no attempt
to seek a solution. They were simply prepared to await, in faith, Yahweh's instructions. This is borne out by the fact that, as Joshua supervised the transportation of the people and their goods in preparation for the crossing, not a single word of opposition was raised.
It took "three days" to bring the people to a state of final readiness. The third day would have been the ninth day of Nisan (Abib). cp. v.5; 4:19.
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;
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 overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)
At the command of Joshua, the priests bearing the ark began to move forward. The great moment had come. Doubtless in silent wonder, the people thoughtfully observed the unhurried movement of the priests towards the river bank. They then watched the ark, borne
by the specially chosen priests, turn to the right and move northward.
Priests and ark disappeared into the thickly wooded forest of trees which lined the bank.**
The priests continued until they had covered the required distance of two thousand cubits.
The people waited. A wave of expectancy swept through their ranks. The priests bearing the ark came to the river's edge. Resolutely, they entered the shallow water. They stood, waiting. Their feet were 'dipped in the edge of the waters" (Roth.).
**This appears to provide the only logical explanation for the manner in which the downward crossing was effected. *
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.
There was to be no mere easing of the torrent; the flow was to completely cease.
The waters would "stand in one mound" (Roth.). A number of the Israelites would have recalled the crossing of the Red Sea. There is a certain similarity in the two events. The eldest
among the younger generation would have been 57 years old when they crossed Jordan (Num. 14:29), and their memories concerning the miracle at the Red Sea would have remained vivid.
What followed was both breathtaking and spectacular. A deep resonant sound would have been heard, at first distantly, then increasing into a steady, rumbling roar. The earth began to shake and tremble. The ear-splitting sound of rock tearing from rock, earth heaving, the
whole surface of the area coming alive with movement. Huge trees dancing and swaying; many uprooted and flung out of the earth. Everything moving.
"The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back. The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs. What aileth thee, Ο thou sea, that thou fleddest? Thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back? Ye mountains that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs? Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob; which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters. . . " (Ps. 114:3-8).
The Sea of Galilee represents living water. After sin entered into the world, God introduced a law under which mankind travels a downward path through Adam, leading from life to
death. The living waters of the Jordan flowed through Adam, and became lifeless in the Dead Sea. Again, it should be noted that the name Jordan signifies "descender" and thus typifies man's natural course from life to death. But now, a miracle occurred: the decline from life to death was arrested. Not only so: the process was reversed. The living water was turned backward, and "Adam" - being inundated with water - was immersed into a typical death.
The reader may ponder further the typical significance of these matters, and should find such meditative thoughts rewarding. And so "the people passed over". Meanwhile, the feet of the
priests, earlier muddied in the swirling waters of Jordan, "stood firm on dry ground". *
17 And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of Yahweh 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.
The children of Israel faced west. To their north they saw the land and the river bed rise up as though some unseen hand was pushing it upward from beneath. Before they could fully comprehend all that was happening, suddenly the river was no longer there: only the course where it had run. The sight would have been overwhelming.
The miraculous Hand of Providence had been revealed. The priests bearing the ark were the last ones across. Then the limitless power of Yahweh was again unleashed: the roaring, tearing sounds of volcanic eruption; the earth shuddering and heaving, the ground shaking beneath the feet of every Israelite. Looking back, they saw that all was as before. The course of the river was as it had been previously. Once more the swirling mass of water resumed its downward race.
There could be no retreat. No going back. They had to go forward. Before them lay the Promised Land, with Jericho barring their entrance. The path to victory lay ahead, not behind. They were to advance, taking up the "weapons" of their "warfare" that they might fight the warfare of faith.
The Israelites, under the leadership of Joshua, typify all who would follow Christ "in spirit and in truth". For Christ's disciples, baptism marks the beginning of their warfare against the forces of sin, both within and without. There can be no turning back to the "beggarly elements" of the world, for
"no man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God"
(Lk. 9:62). To these challenging words might be added the sober exhortation:
"Remember Lot's wife" (Lk. 17:32).
She did turn back. And lost everything. The warfare of faith is a struggle towards the perfection which is seen in the character of Christ. It is to be pursued without compromise until the victory is gained. See Rom.6:13; 2 Cor. 10: 3-5; 1 Tim. 1: 18-19; 2 Tim. 4: 7; Rev. 3: 21.
The nation of Israel, miraculously guided to the western side of Jordan, could follow only one course. No doubt many of them would have remembered the two words of instruction which they had received at the Red Sea, when they faced either defeat or triumph:
"Go forward!" (Ex. 14:15).
Disciples of Christ face the same ideal and the same challenge. *
*Bro John Ullman - His Life and Times.