Joshua 3

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1 And Joshua got·​·up·​·early in the morning and they journeyed from Shittim, and came to the Jordan, he and all the sons of Israel, and passed·​·the·​·night there before they crossed·​·over.

2 And it was, at the end of three days, that the officers passed·​·through among the camp;

3 and they commanded the people, saying, As you are seeing the ark of the covenant of Jehovah your God, and the priests, the Levites, bearing it, then you shall journey from your place, and go after it.

4 Only it shall be far between you and it about two·​·thousand cubits by measure; come· not ·near to it, so·​·that you may know the way by which you must go; for you have not crossed·​·over by this way from yesterday and the day before*.

5 And Joshua said to the people, Sanctify yourselves, for tomorrow Jehovah will do wonders among you.

6 And Joshua said to the priests, saying, Bear the ark of the covenant, and cross·​·over before the people. And they bore the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

7 And Jehovah said to Joshua, This day I will begin to magnify thee in the eyes of all Israel, that they may·​·know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.

8 And thou shalt command the priests bearing the ark of the covenant, saying, As you have come even·​·to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand in the Jordan.

9 And Joshua said to the sons of Israel, Approach now, and hear the words of Jehovah your God.

10 And Joshua said, By this you shall know that a living God is among you; and dispossessing you shall dispossess from before you the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Hivite, and the Perizzite, and the Girgashite, and the Amorite and the Jebusite.

11 Behold the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth crosses·​·over before you into the Jordan.

12 And now, take for yourselves twelve men out·​·of the tribes of Israel; one man, one man for each tribe.

13 And it shall be, as the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of Jehovah, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, that the waters of the Jordan shall be cut·​·off, the waters that come·​·down from above; and they shall stand as one heap.

14 And it was, when the people journeyed from their tents to cross·​·over the Jordan, and the priests were bearing the ark of the covenant before the people,

15 and as those bearing the ark had come even·​·to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the waters (and the Jordan fills all its banks all the days of the harvest),

16 that the waters coming·​·down from above stood; they rose·​·up in one heap, exceedingly far·​·away from Adam, the city that is by the side of Zarethan, and the waters coming·​·down upon the sea of the desert, the Salt sea, were finished, they were cut·​·off; and the people crossed·​·over in·​·front·​·of Jericho.

17 And the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of Jehovah stood firm on the dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed·​·over on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing·​·over the Jordan.

Exploring the Meaning of Joshua 3      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Joshua 3: The Israelites cross the river Jordan

In this chapter, the Israelites cross the river Jordan by means of a miracle: the waters of the river get held back to create dry ground to walk on. This miracle happens a number of times in the Old Testament beginning with the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus. And, as we will see, it means things for us too.

All the people of Israel move to the edge of the river Jordan and camp (see Arcana Caelestia 6537). Then a number of commands are given: to move only when they see the priests carrying the ark move first; to keep well away from the ark; to consecrate themselves; to choose twelve men, one from each tribe. The priests are told to carry the ark ahead of the people and to step into the waters of the river.

These detailed instructions are important for us, in the work of regeneration. At the end of verse Joshua 3:4 it says something very telling, that “you have not passed this way before.” In truth, we haven’t; the work of regeneration is new to us and takes us into things we haven’t yet experienced. Seeing the ark going ahead pictures our own need to keep the commands and truths of the Lord in our vision and goals.

Keeping well away from the ark is also important because we must not mix together our view of what we do, with the Lord’s view of what we must do – the ark contains the ten commandments and must always be seen (Arcana Caelestia 6724).

The text says, “Do not come near it, that you may know the way by which you must go.” (Joshua 3:4) The people are also told to consecrate themselves, to make themselves holy. This would have included washing, which stands for cleansing our mind and actions of anything which goes against God.

The last command the people are given is to choose twelve men, one from each tribe. This will become important in the next chapter when twelve memorial stones are taken out of the river Jordan.

The priests carrying the ark are told to step in and get wet. For us this means that our dedication to God and our highest intentions (the ‘priest’ in us) must come into touch with the flowing water of the river Jordan (the first spiritual truths, first because the Jordan is a boundary).

When the priests do this, the waters immediately stop far upstream, making dry ground for everybody to safely cross while the priests stand still (see Arcana Caelestia 1664[7]). When our dedication to God dovetails with God’s truths for our life and become united, we have the heavenly ideal and we will now go forward. (Doctrine of Life 55[3]).

In verses 9 to 13 Joshua reminds the people of what it is they are now doing. They are crossing into Canaan, “and the living God is among you and he will without fail drive out the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites”, who, for us, stand for the wrongs, weaknesses, delusions, tricks and deceits of our human nature such as it is before we belong to God. “Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan.”

This chapter is our first action and resolve at the start of our regeneration or new birth. It will take us from here to there, never to go back. It is a transition from one side of our life to the other (Arcana Caelestia 7779[3]). And all Israel crossed over on dry ground. Each of us is ‘all Israel’ because there are many parts to us; we love, think, believe, value, act, do useful things, share, work and play, and all these and many others will be part of our spiritual life that lies ahead.

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Thanks to the Kempton Project for the permission to use this New Church translation of the Word.