Josue iii.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver 1. Days, in part, as they arrived on the 8th of Nisan, staid there the following day, and crossed the Jordan on the 10th, on Friday the 30th of our April. Thus Christ is said to have remained three days in the tomb, (Calmet) though he was there only a small part of Friday and of Sunday, and the whole of Saturday. Hebrew, “they lodged there before they passed over, (2) and it came to pass after three days that the,” &c.

Ver. 2. Heralds. Shoterim, chap. i. 10. Protestants, “the officers went through the host.” (Haydock)

Ver. 3. Levi. Sigonius thinks that the Caathites performed this office on this as on other occasions. But the Vulgate shews that the priests sometimes carried the ark, perhaps because it was uncovered, chap. vi. 6., and 2 Kings xv. 25. At this period the number of priests was but small. Some of the sons of Eleazar and of Ithamar might be old enough to assist their parents: only two would be necessary at a time, though the Rabbins assign four, (which is not improbable. Theodoret) and pretend that the two who went first were obliged to go backwards, in order that their faces might be turned towards the ark, out of respect. The ark now marked the way for the people, as the cloud had disappeared on the death of Moses. (St. Augustine, q. 3.; Masius.) (Calmet) — It had been carried at the head of the army in the desert. (Haydock)

Ver. 4. Space of. Hebrew adds, “about…by measure.” It was not easy to observe the exact distance in the march. This was prescribed both to keep the people at a respectful distance, and also to enable them to see which way they were to proceed. When the priests stood in the bed of the river, the waters rose up like a firm wall on the north side, while those to the south flowed away into the lake of Sodom, leaving about 16 miles open for the army of Israel to pass on dry land. The soldiers did not approach within 600 paces of the ark. — Before. This insinuated that they would pass over in a miraculous manner; though perhaps Josue did not know by what means God would enable them to cross (Calmet) the overflowing waters. Josephus only seems to intimate that they abated suddenly, so that they might be forded, &c. He also greatly diminishes or destroys the miracle performed at the passage of the Red Sea. Yet here he acknowledges a sort of “prodigy in the waters being restrained,” and resuming their usual course as soon as the priests had left the channel of the river. — And take, &c. Hebrew places these words at the beginning of the sentence, after cubits. (Haydock)

Ver. 5. Sanctified, as Moses had required at Mount Sinai, (Exodus xix. 10, 15,) ordering the people to wash their garments, and to abstain from their wives, that by this exterior purity, they might be reminded not to neglect that of the soul, without which they would derive but small benefit or instruction from the greatest miracles.

Ver. 6. Commands. Josue was only the organ of God, (Calmet) whose orders he announces to the sacred ministers; (ver. 8.; Menochius) though as a civil magistrate, he was bound to hear and to obey them in matters of religion. (Calmet) — When he ordered circumcision to be administered, when he blessed the multitude, and ratified the covenant between God and the people, (Chap. v., and xxiv., &c.) he did nothing but what a virtuous governor ought to do; yet he did not these things by virtue of his civil jurisdiction, or in opposition to the spiritual authority of Eleazar. Moses had been the supreme head, being both priest and king. But only part of his glory was communicated to Josue, while Eleazar was directed to consult the Lord for him, (Numbers xxvii. 21.; Theodoret, q. 48. in Numbers) Josue was to govern at his word, so that he was bound to consider the high priest as his superior. What he therefore did, was in subordination and conformity to the will of Eleazar and of God, and not designed to shew that the priestly authority belonged to himself, as English Protestants would hence infer. The best of princes, both in the Old and New Testament, have always looked upon it as a part of their duty to promote the true religion. (Worthington) — Isaias (xlix) foretold that kings and queens would esteem it their glory to guard and to advance the prosperity of the Church. (Haydock) — Hence they may enact laws for this purpose. (St. Augustine, contra Crescon. iii. 51.) Constantine ratified the judgment passed already by the bishops in the cause of Cecilian, though he confessed at the same time that the determination did not belong to his tribunal; (Worthington) and he greatly disapproved of the conduct of the Donatists, who appealed to him, as the heathens might have done to an emperor, who was at the same time one of their high priests. (Haydock) — O rabida furoris audacia, said he, sicut in causis gentilium fieri solet, appellationem interposuerunt. (1. Optat. c. Parm. i.; St. Augustine, ep. 166.) Other emperors and kings have acquired great fame, on account of their labours and zeal in defence of the Church. Thus the kings of Spain and of France have obtained the titles of Catholic and Most Christian, and our Henry VIII was honoured by Pope Leo X with the title of Defender of the Faith, in 1521, (Worthington) on account of the book which he presented to that pontiff, while he was yet an obedient son of the Catholic Church, and undertook to defend her faith on the sacraments, against the objections of Luther. Is this the faith which the kings of England defend at present? Whatever the princes might do in the old law in spiritual matters, no inference can be drawn for the same right being now exercised by civil magistrates, how supreme soever in their own sphere. Those princes, Josue, &c. might be considered not only in the light of civil governors, but also in that of prophets, who had a great share in the administration of affairs under the Jewish theocracy. If God chose to make known his will by the mouth of a king, or by that of a shepherd, his mandates were to be put in execution with equal exactitude. But now the distinctive limits of the ecclesiastical and of the civil power are more clearly ascertained. Render therefore to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. (Matthew xxii. 21.) The kingdom of Christ is not of this world; neither did he appoint kings to be the pastors of his Church. (Haydock)

Ver. 7. Also. Grotius remarks that God made known his choice of the governors of his people by miracles, till the days of Saul. In effect, we hardly find any, before that time, whose public authority was not sanctioned by some prodigy. (Calmet)

Ver. 8. It. Hebrew, “when you shall have come to the brink (or extremity) of the water of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan,” (Haydock) which some explain by saying that they were to stop on the eastern bank, as soon as they had wet their feet, (Serarius) while others say they crossed quite over, and stood at the other side. (Masius) — But it is more probable, that as soon as they had touched the waters, the priests halted till the bed of the river was presently dried up, and then they placed themselves in the middle of it, close to the raging billows, which, rising up like mountains, were stopped in their career, (Haydock) and forced to retire backwards to their source, ver. 15, 17, and chap. iv. 9. (Bonfrere; Cornelius a Lapide) — Some translate, “into the division,” instead of part, or extremity. (Calmet)

Ver. 9. Hither, probably to the door of the tabernacle, where the assemblies were held.

Ver. 10. Living God, in opposition to the idols of the Gentiles, who were dead men, or at least incapable of affording any assistance to their votaries. Josue gives the people two signs of the divine protection, the destruction of the devoted nations, and the miraculous division of the Jordan, or rather the latter prodigy would be an earnest of the former event; and all, both friends and enemies, might be convinced, that the Lord was with his people, and their present leader, as he had been with Moses. No miracle could have been more suitable for the occasion, none more convincing or useful. (Calmet) — It would naturally inspire the Israelites with confidence, at the revival of the miracles wrought 40 years before, when their fathers and some of themselves had passed the Red Sea, in a similar manner. At the same time, it would fill the Chanaanites with still greater dismay and teach them that all resistance would prove fruitless. Some have wondered that they did not oppose the passage of the Israelites on this occasion. But it is a greater matter of surprise that they should have ventured on the dangerous expedient of encountering them in war, after what they had seen and heard. It can be attributed to nothing but their infatuation, and that blindness with which God punished them, that they might draw on a more speedy and merited destruction for their crimes. (Haydock) — Destroy. Hebrew. “dispossess, or drive out before you the Chanaanite,” &c. These seven nations comprised the ten which are mentioned, Genesis xv. 19. The Chanaanite occupied the countries chiefly about Tyre, while the Hethite dwelt in the southern part of Palestine. The Hevite possessed Mount Hermon, Garizim, &c. The Pherezite were not perhaps a separate people, but employed in cultivating the country. The Gergesite were fixed to the east of the lake of Genesareth, the Jebusite at Jerusalem, and the Amorrhite about the Dead Sea. (Calmet) — But they were often mixed with one another, so that their limits cannot be ascertained with any degree of precision. (Haydock)

Ver. 12. Prepare. Hebrew, “take.” But they must have been selected from the tribes, either to carry twelve stones out of the bed of the Jordan, and to place twelve others in their stead, as monuments of this stupendous miracle; (Calmet) or to accompany the priests and the ark, out of respect. (Cajetan) (Menochius)

Ver. 13. Heap. Hebrew, “the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off: the waters that come down from above, even they shall stand as upon a heap,” like mountains of ice. The Vulgate informs us what became of the waters (Haydock) below this division. Where it took place we do not find recorded, so that we cannot know exactly how large a space would be left dry. Calmet allows, “near six leagues,” ver. 4, and 16. But here, supposing that the Jordan was divided over-against Jericho, he says, that “the waters running off into the Dead Sea, would, in all probability, leave not less than two or three thousand paces of the channel dry.”

Interruptus aquis fluxit prior amnis in æquor;

Ad molem stetit unda fluens. —–Lucan, Phar. ii.

Ver. 15. Water. Thus they manifested the strength of their faith. (Calmet) — Immediately the obedient waters divided, and the gravel or sand was left dry, ver. 17. (Haydock) — Channel. The barley harvest was ready about the 30th of April, Leviticus xxiii. 10. On other occasions this overflowing of the Jordan is noticed, 1 Paralipomenon xii. 15., and Ecclesiasticus xxiv. 36. Doubdan says that when he visited these parts, at the same season of the year, the Jordan was quite full, on account of the melted snow, and ready to leave its banks. It was about a stone throw across, and very rapid. See chap. i. 2. The rains which fall in spring, serve to increase the inundation, (Deuteronomy xi. 14,) as well as the snow which melts at that time on Libanus, though a great part resists the violent heats. Mirum dictu, says Tacitus v., tantos inter ardores opacum fidumque nivibus. (Jeremias xviii. 14., and xlix. 19.

Ver. 16. Mountain. Hebrew, “heap or bottle.” The billows were forced to roll back almost as far as the lake of Genesareth, where Sarthan stands, about twenty leagues above Jericho. — Sarthan. Hebrew, “rose up on a heap, very far from (or to) the city of Adom, that is beside Sarthan.” The situation of Adom can only be ascertained by that of Sarthan, which was near Bethsan, or Scythopolis, (3 Kings iv. 12,) in the vale of Jezrahel, on the Jordan. Many copies of the Septuagint read Cariathiarim, though it was six or seven leagues up the country, west of Jericho. (Calmet) — The swelling billows might perhaps be seen from this place. (Haydock) — But it could not properly determine how far the waters rolled back. (Calmet) — Failed. Hebrew, “and those that came down towards the sea of the plain, (or of Araba, which means a desert, fit only for pasturage) the salt sea, failed, were cut off” from the waters above Jericho. The Jordan after running three miles in the lake of Sodom, without mixing its waters, becomes at last reluctantly confounded with it. Velut invitus…postremo ebibitur, aquasque laudatas perdit, pestilentibus mixtus. (Pliny, [Natural History?] v. 15.)

Ver. 17. Jericho, at Bethabara, which was five or six leagues from the Dead Sea, all which space was left dry. Jericho was three leagues from the Jordan. (Calmet) — Girded. Septuagint, “ready,” preparing the way for all the army. Hebrew, “firm,” and undaunted. (Haydock) — A great part of the day must have been spent in crossing the river, and erecting the two monuments. (Menochius)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

The river Jordan is miraculously dried up, for the passage of the children of Israel.

1 And *Josue rose before day-light, and removed the camp: and they departed from Setim, and came to the Jordan: he, and all the children of Israel, and they abode there for three days.

2 After which, the heralds went through the midst of the camp,

3 And began to proclaim: When you shall see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests of the race of Levi carrying it, rise you up also, and follow them as they go before:

4 And let there be between you and the ark the space of two thousand cubits: that you may see it afar off, and know which way you must go: for you have not gone this way before: and take care you come not near the ark.

5 And Josue said to the people: Be ye sanctified: for to-morrow the Lord will do wonders among you.

6 And he said to the priests: Take up the ark of the covenant, and go before the people. And they obeyed his commands, and took it up, and walked before them.

7 And the Lord said to Josue: This day will I begin to exalt thee before Israel: that they may know that as I was with *Moses, so I am with thee also.

8 And do thou command the priests, that carry the ark of the covenant, and say to them: When you shall have entered into part of the water of the Jordan, stand in it.

9 And Josue said to the children of Israel: Come hither and hear the word of the Lord your God.

10 And again he said: By this you shall know, that the Lord, the living God, is in the midst of you, and that he shall destroy, before your sight, the Chanaanite and the Hethite, the Hevite and the Pherezite, the Gergesite also, and the Jebusite, and the Amorrhite.

11 *Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth shall go before you into the Jordan.

12 Prepare ye twelve men of the tribes of Israel, one of every tribe.

13 And when the priests, that carry the ark of the Lord the God of the whole earth, shall set the soles of their feet in the waters of the Jordan, the waters that are beneath shall run down and go off: and those that come from above, shall stand together upon a heap.

14 So the people went out of their tents, to pass over the Jordan: and the priests that carried the ark of the covenant, went on before them.

15 And as soon as they came into the Jordan, and their feet were dipped in part of the water, (now the Jordan, *it being harvest time, had filled the banks of its channel,)

16 The waters that came down from above stood in one place, and swelling up like a mountain, were seen afar off, from the city that is called Adom, to the place of Sarthan: but those that were beneath, ran down into the sea of the wilderness, (which now is called the Dead Sea) until they wholly failed.

17 And the people marched over-against Jericho: and the priests that carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, stood girded upon the dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all the people passed over, through the channel that was dried up.



1: Year of the World 2553.

7: Josue i. 5.

11: Acts vii. 45.

15: Ecclesiasticus xxiv. 36.