We’re back to Joshua’s preparation for crossing the Jordan. There’s a bit of a continuity hiccup, since it starts over with the Israelites coming to the Jordan river and waiting three days. Maybe this is two traditions being grafted together, maybe this is the author wanting to make sure we remember where the story was at after the digression to talk about Rahab.
When the Sea of Reeds were parted for Moses, there was a very distinctive reason for it. They had to escape from Pharaoh’s army. The sea parts, the people go through, and the army is drowned underneath.
The Israelites crossing the Jordan doesn’t have quite the same sense of urgency. According to Rahab, the armies of Jericho are scared of them and holing up in the city, so there’s not a need to cross the river quickly to face them. In fact, having a river between them and the opposing army might actually be beneficial.
Basically this happens for two reasons. First, God is proving that Joshua is Moses’ true successor (v 7), giving him a miracle that parallels Moses’, even if the situation is different. It tries to build up the Jordan river to being comparable to the Sea of Reeds by saying that it was almost overflowing its banks from the spring thaw (v 15 – thanks to the NCT for giving me the season), but even that’s a little bit underwhelming. The Jordan “River” isn’t exactly the Mississippi. Perhaps it was more impressive to the new generation, who hadn’t been there in Egypt.
The second reason seems to be preserving the Ark of Covenant. The moment the Ark, containing the book of the Law and the seat of God, reaches the river, the water rolls back. If you think of this as river water – muddy, gross – it would make sense that this unclean liquid peeled back before the presence of God’s holy power.
Not much else to say here. I’m not feeling as inspired tonight, but at least there wasn’t anything too appalling in this chapter either.
The Japanese: yaei suru “to encamp” (v 1), sekitomeru “to dam” (v 13), tassuru “to reach,” kariire “harvest,” tsutsumi “riverbank,” hitaru “to dip” (v 15), kawakami “upper parts of a river, upstream” (v 16), kawadoko “riverbed” (v 17).