Joshua 3

Crossing the Jordan


Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow Yahweh will do wonders among you (Joshua 3:5).

The word “consecrate” here means to set apart for some purpose; it is not associated in the Old Testament with any particular activity, but would entail a general avoidance of sin and concentration of the mind on what was to come. The scene in this picture is the night observance of the Passover by Samaritans, including sacrifices. Although the Israelites did not observe the Passover as part of the consecration described in this verse, there may have been Israelites who offered sacrifice at the tabernacle as part of their consecration to God at that time.


When the people set out from their tents . . . (Joshua 3:14)

The Israelites had lived in tents since leaving Egypt; by this point, they would have been thoroughly accustomed to nomadic living. These Bedouin tents, perhaps not much different than those of the ancient Israelites, were photographed by an American Colony photographer between 1900 and 1920.

Jordan River, flood covering area by Allenby Bridge

Harvest Floods

For the Jordan overflows all its banks all the time of harvest (Joshua 3:15).

The Jordan does not flood today due to the heavy use of waters from its tributaries in the national water systems of Israel and Jordan. Even the Sea of Galilee, through which the river flows on its way south, often experiences low levels today because of the large quantities that are pumped out. But this photo from February 1935 offers a rare glimpse of what the Israelites would have been facing as they prepared to cross over.


The waters . . . rose up in one heap, a great way off, at Adam (Joshua 3:16).

The water heaped up at Adam, a place that is 16 miles (26 km) upstream from Jericho, as the crow flies (and longer with the river’s normal meandering course). This provided the Israelites with plenty of space to move across. Some have proposed naturalistic explanations for this event, such as an earthquake causing a landslide that blocked the river, but the text of Joshua emphasizes the miraculous nature of the event.


Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan (Joshua 3:16).

Tell es-Saidiyeh is often considered to be biblical Zarethan given its occupational history, its location in the Jordan Valley, and its proximity to Adam (11 mi; 18 km). Excavations at Tell es-Saidiyeh have produced significant remains from the Late Bronze and Iron Ages (circa 1500–586 BC) in the upper city, and from the Early Bronze Age (circa 2500 BC) in the lower city.

Approaching Jericho

And the people passed over opposite Jericho (Joshua 3:16).

The Jordan River is visible at the top of this photo, and the area of ancient Jericho can be seen near the bottom left corner of the green fields. As this perspective illustrates, there is a plain between Jericho and the Jordan River about 6 miles (10 km) wide. Jericho itself would not have been visible from the crossing point, due to the distance across the flat plain. However, the hills behind Jericho would have been easy to see.

Purchase the Collection:

Joshua (Photo Companion to the Bible)

FREE Shipping plus Immediate Download