Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost , Nov 5th)

Pastor's Summary of Joshua 3:7-17

This book begins: "After the death of Moses...the LORD spoke to Joshua, Moses' assistant, saying, "...proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land I am giving to them, the Israelites." Spies have been dispatched to check on the enemy's defences. Reporting back to Joshua, they have told him: "Truly the LORD has given all the land in our hands; moreover all the inhabitants of the land melt in fear before us" (2:24). Israel has camped on the east bank of the Jordan. The ark, carried by priests, will precede the people into the river. The people are to make themselves ritually pure ("Sanctify yourselves", v. 5).

In v. 7 god tells Joshua that he will give a sign to show the people that God will be with him as he was with Moses. Joshua is to give the order to the priests (v. 8); he tells the people that what they will see will show that God is with them, and that he will be victorious (through them) over the present inhabitants of the Land. (The "Canaanites", v. 10, were native to Palestine; the "Hittites" had spread from Asia Minor; the "Jebusites" inhabited Jerusalem; nothing is known of the other peoples. )  The word translated "heap" (vv. 13, 15) is the one used in the story of the crossing of the Red Sea.

The action begins in v. 14. For much of the year, the Jordan is little more than a stream, but at the "time of harvest" (v. 15, April to May), it is in full flood, carrying melt waters from mountains to the north. The waters are blocked at "Adam" (v. 16), 20 miles to the north.  this does happen occasionally; the last time was in 1927. (The Jordan and the Dead Sea are in the "Arabah" plain.) It seems that the people passed the ark as they crossed the river; then the priests carried the ark to the western bank. The scene is more like a liturgical procession than a military tactic! This story is the beginning of how God's people triumph over pagan peoples and come to be the dominant people in Palestine.