Crossing Jordan has been a metaphor for dying and going to Heaven (the Promised Land). I have heard that metaphor stems from Joshua leading the Children from the east bank to the west bank of the Jordan River. Going across the Jordan was part of life in Israel and is mentioned many times from Judges to David. There were no bridges, it seems, and people waded across at fords or shallow spots.
There are Biblical characters that crossed the river in the same direction as Joshua at key times in Israel’s history. I am looking at their stories in this post. I will start with someone who went contrary to the metaphor and had his way back blocked with a flaming sword and cherubim.
Adam and Eve – They started in Paradise and were sent to the East (Genesis 3:24). I believe there was a Garden with five rivers, and two very important trees, and Adam was responsible for tending it. God has always shown an interest in this region. Terah was sent there but he did not go, Abram did. Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High God was in the area. I said that because it makes more sense to think the Garden was here because this place means something to God. Before the objections start, I live in America, and we have recycled names pinned on many cities, rivers, and regions so renaming four rivers is a high possibility. I can see Noah’s grandchildren using things he told them just to honor him. My God has mysteries that He has not shared, but the world changed after Adam and Eve ate the fruit and Noah’s Flood.
If the land of Canaan (Noah’s grandson by Ham, Genesis 9:18-24) was part of the Garden; Adam would have traveled over where the Jordan was or would be. East is an important direction in Genesis 2 and 3.
Jacob and Family – When Jacob ran from Esau, he was by himself. Genesis 28:10 says he left Beersheba to go to Haran. He stopped at Luz (Bethel) and spent the night. That is the end of his route until he is with the “eastern people” in Haran. I believe from Luz (28:18) he had three routes he may have taken: 1. The road along the seashore, 2. The highway through the mountains that went above Lake Galilee, and 3. to cross the Jordan and go through the Bashan/Gilead. I would have taken the coast road, but in Genesis 32:10 Jacob says he crossed the Jordan with just his staff.
When Jacob ran from Laban, he had four wives, eleven sons, a daughter, and a lot of possessions. After the ordeal of Chapter 31, Jacob’s camp made it to Mahanaim. There he was met by a camp of angels (reminds you of Elisha). Sometime after meeting Esau Jacob’s camp(s) crossed the Jordan and went to Shechem. Jacob had returned to his land which was part of the promise to Abraham from God. It makes me wonder what route Abram took to get to Canaan.
Thoughts on Jacob – 1. He had many experiences with angels. 2. He is older than you might expect. I had to work backward from his death and consider every timestamp that was given during his life. I made mistakes in How Old Were These Guys. I did better in the Patriarch Timeline and the Tribes of Israel Timeline. 3. Angel of the Lord or Metatron means angel of countenance this is a theophany.
Joshua and Israel – The event that gave the name of this post is found in Joshua 3 and 4. God exalted Joshua in the people’s eyes because of this event (3:7). He also dried up the Jordan to show Israel and the world His power (4:24). We tend to focus on the human aspect of this day, but I believe it was much more important to the Father. He was bringing His children home.
This day was an end and the beginning for Joshua and Israel. With years of learning to trust God behind them, they were facing a new test of their faith. They now had to fight for the land promised to Abraham for his family. In the crossing of this Jordan, they left behind the Moabites and Midianites and now had to face the giants and walled cities that had intimidated their forefathers. When we cross the spiritual Jordan, our fighting is done. Metaphors are limited and this is a good example of that.
This is a good time to compare and contrast the passage out of Egypt and the entrance into Canaan. (Please, ignore Exodus through Joshua and look at the rest of the Scriptures.) Passing through the Red Sea has more references than going through the dried-up Jordan River. I found two – Psalms 114:5 and 74:15. (If you know of others, please share.) If you use that as an indicator, leaving Egypt (baptism) is more important than the crossing at the Jordan. I have used the crossing of the Jordan as a shadow of baptism, I will not do that anymore. Israel went through two walls of the sea; the Jordan was dry. Remember, the water was stopped about twenty miles above the crossing site, they were not flanked by walls of water. You could stretch that and say the Dead Sea was on one side and the water at Adam (man or red) was on the other side. (Some bullet points.)
- Both Crossings had enemies just before going through.
- The oldest people at the Jordan were Joshua and Caleb. The nineteen-year-olds were now fifty-seven. It seems that the men thirty-eight and younger were not circumcised.
- Some of the people had seen both crossings.
- The people took memorial stones from the Jordan. Solomon may have built a memorial on the eastern side of the Red Sea.
- The Red Sea was after Passover. The Jordan was just before. They crossed on the day they were to choose the lamb for the meal, the tenth day of the first month. (That could be a preaching point.)
- The direction of travel was different for the two crossings.
This crossing happened at Jericho/Gilgal. Gilgal was the first campsite where they were circumcised and celebrated Passover.
David, His Family, His Officials – David and those fleeing from Absalom left the west bank and traveled east to Mahanaim, 2 Samuel 17:22. (The same city Jacob named. It was also a refuge city.) David returned, east to west, in 2 Samuel 19 and proceeded to Jerusalem. Jesus would follow the same path in Matthew 20 + 21. Both had a mess to clean up when they reached Jerusalem.
This crossing occurred at the fords or shallow spot near Gilgal. Even the king’s return caused an uproar that had to be fixed.
Elisha – Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan near Jericho, going west to east. Elisha, a shadow of Jesus, returned east to west at the same spot. Both of these crossings were done on dry land with the waters dividing for the men. 2 Kings 2
This set of crossings involved the fewest people and the least amount of material goods. Elisha crossed back to the west with a well-used cloak and a double anointing. The entire scene is a shadow of John the Baptist (Elijah) diminishing before Jesus (Elisha) took center stage.
Jesus, His Disciples, His Camp – Jesus’ final pilgrimage to Passover started in Matthew 19:1, Mark 10, Luke 17:11, and John 10:40. (Matthew is my main reference.) He left Galilee crossing the Jordan and went to the area across from Jericho, where he taught and healed the people. If you compile all of the Gospels, it is clear He crossed back and forth several times before going to Jerusalem for Palm Sunday.
I blame too many movies about Jesus for the idea that just twelve men followed Jesus as He preached about the Kingdom. Mark 15:41 talks about women in Galilee, Luke 24:9 speaks of others that were with the Eleven after the resurrection and Acts 1:21+22 mentions the requirements for taking Judas’ position, so there had to be more than just the Twelve.
This parade started big with His Camp at the Jordan and got larger. The only parade for Jesus that was bigger was the one in Heaven after He disappeared in the clouds when He ascended.
Thoughts – Crossing Jordan is a beautiful metaphor. I admit that my thoughts have changed as I have grown older. But for these crossings, work, warfare, and new experiences waited for those that crossed from east to west over the Jordan.