Preparations for Crossing the Jordan. 1Early the next morning, Joshua and all the Israelites moved from Shittim and came to the Jordan, where they stayed before crossing over. 2a Three days later the officers went through the camp 3b and issued these commands to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant of the LORD, your God, which the levitical priests will carry, you must break camp and follow it, 4that you may know the way to take, for you have not gone over this road before. But let there be a space of two thousand cubits between you and the ark: do not come nearer to it.” 5Joshua also said to the people, “Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will perform wonders among you.” 6And he told the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and cross ahead of the people”; so they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.
7c Then the LORD said to Joshua: Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.d 8Now command the priests carrying the ark of the covenant, “When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, there take your stand.”
9So Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen to the words of the LORD, your God.” 10He continued: “By this you will know that there is a living God in your midst: he will certainly dispossess before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites.e 11The ark of the covenant of the Lord of the whole earth will cross the Jordan before you. 12Now choose twelve men,f one from each of the tribes of Israel. 13When the soles of the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the LORD, the Lord of the whole earth, touch the waters of the Jordan, it will cease to flow; the water flowing down from upstream will halt in a single heap.”*
The Crossing Begun. 14The people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan, with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant ahead of them. 15When those bearing the ark came to the Jordan and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were immersed in the waters of the Jordan—which overflows all its banks during the entire season of the harvest—* 16the waters flowing from upstream halted, standing up in a single heapg for a very great distance indeed, from Adam, a city in the direction of Zarethan; those flowing downstream toward the Salt Sea of the Arabah disappeared entirely.* Thus the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17The priests carrying the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the Jordan riverbedh while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until the whole nation had completed the crossing of the Jordan.
* [3:13] Heap: Heb. nēd, the same word found in Ex 15:8; the narrative echoes the ancient Song of Miriam (Ex 15:1–18), which celebrates the crossing of the Red Sea. Thus the language provides another parallel between Joshua and Moses, conquest and exodus.
* [3:15] Season of the harvest: toward the end of March and the beginning of April, when the barley and other crops that grew during the rainy season of winter were reaped. The crossing took place “on the tenth day of the first month” of the Hebrew year, which began with the first new moon after the spring equinox; cf. 4:19. At this time of the year the Jordan would be swollen as a result of the winter rains and the melting snow of Mount Hermon.
* [3:16] Some scholars have suggested that this account may reflect an annual ritual reenactment of the event near the sanctuary of Gilgal.