Beginning of the End


People of Jericho Already Terrified

The spies returned with the report, “Truly the Lord has delivered all the land into our hands, for indeed all the inhabitants of the country are fainthearted because of us.” In Jericho they had been told, “We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were on the other side of the Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we heard these things, our hearts melted; neither did there remain any more courage in anyone because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” BOE 240.2

Orders were now given to prepare to go forward. The people were to take a three-day supply of food, and the army was to be prepared for battle. Leaving their encampment, the host went down to the edge of the Jordan river. Everyone knew that without God’s help they could not hope to cross the river. At this time of year the melting snows of the mountains had raised the Jordan so that the river overflowed, making it impossible to cross over. It was God’s will that the crossing of the Jordan should be miraculous. BOE 240.3

By divine direction, Joshua commanded the people to put away their sins and free themselves from all outward impurity, “for tomorrow,” he said, “the Lord will do wonders among you.” The “ark of the covenant” was to lead the way, carried toward the river by the priests from its place in the center of the camp. “By this you shall know that the living God is among you, and that He will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites. ... Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is crossing over before you into the Jordan.” BOE 240.4

At the appointed time the forward movement began, with the ark leading the way, carried on the shoulders of the priests. An empty space of more than half a mile separated the ark from the people. Everyone watched with deep interest as the priests walked down the bank of the Jordan. They saw the sacred ark move steadily toward the surging stream till the feet of the priests carrying the ark went into the waters. Then suddenly the waters above were swept back, while the current below flowed on, and the riverbed was exposed. BOE 240.5

The priests moved to the middle of the channel and stood there while the entire mass of people descended and crossed to the farther side. The power that held back the waters of Jordan was the same that had opened the Red Sea to the previous generation forty years before. When the people had all passed over, the ark itself was carried to the western shore. No sooner had “the soles of the priests’ feet touched the dry land” than the trapped waters rushed down, an overpowering flood, in the natural channel of the stream. BOE 240.6

While the priests carrying the ark were still in the middle of the Jordan, twelve men, one from each tribe, each took a stone from the riverbed where the priests were standing and carried them over to the western side. These stones were to be set up as a monument in the first camping place beyond the river, as Joshua said, “that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” BOE 241.1

This miracle assured Israel of God’s continued presence and protection, showing that He would work for them through Joshua as He had through Moses. The Lord had told Joshua before the crossing, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.” BOE 241.2

When the news that God had held back the waters of the Jordan for the children of Israel reached the kings of the Amorites and Canaanites, their hearts melted with fear. To the Canaanites, to all Israel, and to Joshua himself, unmistakable evidence had been given that the living God, the King of heaven and earth, was with His people. He would not fail them nor abandon them. BOE 241.3

The Hebrews made their first camp in Canaan, not far from the Jordan river. The stopping of the Passover celebration and the rite of circumcision had been an evidence of the Lord’s displeasure because of their desire to return to the land of slavery and their breaking of the covenant. Now, however, the years of rejection had ended, and the sign of the covenant was restored. The rite of circumcision was performed on those who had been born in the wilderness, and the Lord declared to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” BOE 241.4

Heathen nations had ridiculed the Lord and His people because the Hebrews had failed to take possession of Canaan soon after leaving Egypt. Their enemies had triumphed because Israel had wandered so long in the wilderness, and they had mockingly declared that the God of the Hebrews was not able to bring them into the Promised Land. The Lord had now unmistakably shown His power and favor by opening the Jordan before His people, and their enemies could no longer ridicule them. BOE 241.5

They celebrated the Passover, “and the manna ceased on the day after they had eaten the produce of the land; and the children of Israel no longer had manna, but they ate of the food of the land of Canaan.” The long years of their desert wanderings were over. The feet of Israel were at last walking in the Promised Land. BOE 241.6