Dave Burnette's Commentary

Joshua Chapter 3

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Joshua 
Date Penned: (1406-1370 BC)
Overview: A Record of Israel in the Promised Land (c 1-24)
Theme: Entering the Promised Land (c 1-5)
Message: Israel Crosses the Jordan River (v 1-17)

Joshua 3 Commentary

(3:2-4) The Ark of the Covenant - The ark of the covenant was Israel's most sacred treasure. It was a symbol of God's presence and power. The ark was a gold-covered rectangular box with two cherubim (angels) facing each other on the lid. Inside the ark were the tablets of the Ten Commandments Moses had received from God, a jar of manna (the bread God had miraculously sent from heaven during the wilderness wanderings), and Aaron's rod (the symbol of the high priest's authority). According to God's law, only the Levites could carry the ark. The ark was constructed at the same time as the tabernacle (Exodus 37:1-9) and placed in the sanctuary's most sacred room.

(3:5) The Purification Ceremony - Before entering the Promised Land, the Israelites were to perform a purification ceremony. This was often done before making a sacrifice or, as in this case, before witnessing a great act of God. God's law stated that a person could become unclean for many reasons-eating certain foods (Leviticus UI), giving birth (Leviticus 12), dealing with disease (Leviticus 13-14), touching a dead person (Numbers 19:11-22). God used these various outward signs of uncleanness to illustrate a person's inward uncleanness that comes as a result of sin. The purification ceremony pictured the importance of approaching God with a pure heart and mind. Like the Israelites, we need God's forgiveness to cleanse our hearts and minds before we approach him.

(3:9) Listening to God - Just before crossing over into the Promised Land, Joshua gathered the people to hear the words of the Lord. Their excitement was high. No doubt they wanted to rush into action, but Joshua made them stop and listen to what God wanted to tell them at that moment. We live in a fast-paced age where everyone is rushing here and there to keep up with their full agendas. We get caught up in the next task, too busy to listen to God's words--too busy to see what's most important. Before diving into your agenda each day, pause for a moment and focus on listening to God and seeking to know what he wants for you. Hearing from God before you rush into your day will remind you of his presence and clarify what he wants to do through and in you.

(3:10) God Drives out the Enemy -  Why would God help the Israelites drive out these nations from their native land? God had punished the people of Israel first for their disobedience. He then turned to the rest of the nations. Genesis 15:16 implies that the people of Canaan were an evil people and needed to be punished by God for their terrible sins. Israel was to be God's vehicle for this punishment. Even more important was the fact that Israel, chosen by God to be a nation that worshiped him alone, could not live among people who worshiped multiple gods and had no regard for the one true God, the God of Israel. Living in such an environment would make it difficult for the Israelites to reject their sinful practices. The only way to prevent Israel from being infected by these negative influences was to drive them out. But the Israelites failed to drive everyone out as God had told them to do. And sure enough, it wasn't long before God's people began following the pagan practices of the Canaanites.

(3:13-17) God Keeps His Promises - God had parted the waters of the Red Sea to let the people out of Egypt (Exodus 14), and here he parted the Jordan River to let them enter Canaan. These miracles showed Israel that God keeps his promises. God's presence among his people and his faithfulness to them made the entire journey from Egypt to the Promised Land possible. He was with them at the end of their wanderings just as he had been with them at the beginning.

(3:13-14) Trusting the Lord to Make a Way - The Israelites were eager to enter the Promised Land, conquer nations, and live peacefully. But first they had to cross the flood-level waters of the Jordan River. God gave them specific instructions: In order to cross, the priests had to step into the water. What if these priests had been afraid to take that first step? Often God provides no solution to our problems until we trust him and move ahead with what we know he wants us to do. What are the rivers, or obstacles, in your life? In obedience to God, take that first step.

(3:15-16) God Shows His Power - The Israelites crossed the Jordan River in the spring, when it was overflowing its banks. God chose the time when the river was at its highest to demonstrate his power--parting the waters so that the entire nation could cross on dry ground. It had been many years since Israel had witnessed God's miracle of parting the Red Sea, and the younger people had only heard about it. So witnessing this miracle would have been a great encouragement that God was still with them. Some say that God used a natural occurrence (such as a landslide) to stop the waters of the Jordan; others say he did it by a direct act. In either case, God showed his great power by working a miracle of timing and location to allow his people to cross the river on dry ground. This testimony of God's supernatural power served to build the Israelites' hope in God and to give them a reputation among their enemies, who greatly outnumbered them.

Dave Burnette's Life Application

Don't Forget

Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we continue in the book of Joshua with Chapter 3 and we see the nation of Israel passing over the Jordan River and the Lord instructs them to get 12 stones from the riverbed. One for each tribe of Israel which was constructed to make an alter to remember what the Lord had done and the victory the Lord gave them. In making application we see the need to also make memorials and to teach the generations to come about the victories of the Lord. This was a problem for Israel and continues to be a problem for us today. It reminds me of facing challenges that I pray about. When I pray and seek the Lord I am reminded of the victories in the past which makes me think, "How could I forget that?" It reminds me of out text today and the need to make a memorial remembering the victories in my life. Also my lack of making any memorial keeps my children from seeing what the Lord can do. How about you? Do you see the need to make memorials when God gives you the victory? Let us learn from today's text of the 12 stones lest we too forget God and the power of His Hand in our lives.


Joshua 3

Joshua 3

 1And Joshua rose early in the morning; and they removed from Shittim, and came to Jordan, he and all the children of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over.

 2And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;

 3And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.

 4Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.

 5And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.

 6And Joshua spake unto the priests, saying, Take up the ark of the covenant, and pass over before the people. And they took up the ark of the covenant, and went before the people.

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

 8And thou shalt command the priests that bear the ark of the covenant, saying, When ye are come to the brink of the water of Jordan, ye shall stand still in Jordan.

 9And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, Come hither, and hear the words of the LORD your God.

 10And Joshua said, Hereby ye shall know that the living God is among you, and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Hivites, and the Perizzites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Jebusites.

 11Behold, the ark of the covenant of the LORD of all the earth passeth over before you into Jordan.

 12Now therefore take you twelve men out of the tribes of Israel, out of every tribe a man.

 13And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the LORD of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.

 14And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people;

 15And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,)

 16That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.

 17And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.