Wednesday 04 September 2013

Bible Book:

Joshua 3:1-17 Wednesday 4 September 2013


The crossing of the Jordan is presented in this and the nextchapter as an elaborate ritual to ensure its significance wasappreciated. Just as the crossing of the Red Sea on dry ground (Exodus14:21-31) marked the change of status for Israel from slaveryto free people, so the crossing of the Jordan on dry ground markstheir transition from nomadic life to nationhood. The event becameboth for Jews and Christians deeply symbolic of entering a new era;consider the hymn Guide me, O thou great Jehovah with the lines,"When I tread the verge of Jordan … land me safe on Canaan'sside".

Chapters 3 and 4 contain 21 uses of the Hebrew word that means'cross over' making clear that this transition is indeed the maintheme. Much of chapter 3 contains preparatory speeches by theleading officers, by Joshua, and by the Lord, whilst much ofchapter 4 concerns steps taken to ensure the future remembrance ofthe occasion.

The "ark of the covenant", from the time of its construction inthe desert, right through to the later Israelite monarchy, is avisible representation of the throne of the invisible God andtherefore of God's power. Apart from the priests who have been setaside to manage this holy object the rest of the people are to marktheir respect for God by keeping a distance of about a kilometrefrom it (verse 4). The story understands the presence of the ark asresponsible for the temporary interruption in the river's flow; itis unimportant to propose any particular natural explanation.

"Canaanites" is often used as an inclusive term for all seventribal peoples that are named in verse 10 as the existinginhabitants of the land; many of them are named as branches ofCanaan's family in Genesis 10:15-18.

"Lord of all the earth" (vv. 11, 13) may only refer to thepromised land in that 'earth' and 'land' are not different words inHebrew. Nevertheless, later readers, for example in the time of theExile when the final editing of the book of Joshua took place,would want to adopt the bigger meaning.

To Ponder

  • What do you find helpful or otherwise about the image ofcrossing the Jordan as a metaphor for dying and what follows?
  • A secondary theme in the passage (verse 7 and Joshua4:14) is the elevation of Joshua's status as leader. Howprominent do you think named leaders need to be in the churchtoday? In what senses (if any) should they be "exalted"?
  • What visible signs of God's presence and power might beidentified in today's world?
Previous Page Tuesday 03 September 2013
Next Page Thursday 05 September 2013