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Israel Crosses the Jordan River

Early the next morning, Joshua and the Israelites packed up and left Acacia. They went to the Jordan River and camped there that night. Two days later[a] their leaders went through the camp, 3-4 shouting, “When you see some of the priests[b] carrying the sacred chest, you’ll know it is time to cross to the other side. You’ve never been there before, and you won’t know the way, unless you follow the chest. But don’t get too close! Stay about half a mile back.”

Joshua told the people, “Make yourselves acceptable[c] to worship the Lord, because he is going to do some amazing things for us.”

Then Joshua turned to the priests and said, “Take the chest and cross the Jordan River ahead of us.” So the priests picked up the chest by its carrying poles and went on ahead.

The Lord told Joshua, “Beginning today I will show the people that you are their leader, and they will know that I am helping you as I helped Moses. Now, tell the priests who are carrying the chest to go a little way into the river and stand there.”

Joshua spoke to the people:

Come here and listen to what the Lord our God said he will do! 10 The Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites control the land on the other side of the river. But the living God will be with you and will force them out of the land when you attack. And now, God is going to prove that he’s powerful enough to force them out. 11-13 Just watch the sacred chest that belongs to the Lord, the ruler of the whole earth. As soon as the priests carrying the chest step into the Jordan, the water will stop flowing and pile up as if someone had built a dam across the river.

The Lord has also said that each of the twelve tribes should choose one man to represent it.

14 The Israelites packed up and left camp. The priests carrying the chest walked in front, 15 until they came to the Jordan River. The water in the river had risen over its banks, as it often does in springtime.[d] But as soon as the feet of the priests touched the water, 16-17 the river stopped flowing, and the water started piling up at the town of Adam near Zarethan. No water flowed toward the Dead Sea, and the priests stood in the middle of the dry riverbed near Jericho while everyone else crossed over.

The People Set Up a Monument

After Israel had crossed the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua:

2-3 Tell[e] one man from each of the twelve tribes to pick up a large rock from where the priests are standing. Then have the men set up those rocks as a monument at the place where you camp tonight.

Joshua chose twelve men; he called them together, and told them:

Go to the middle of the riverbed where the sacred chest is, and pick up a large rock. Carry it on your shoulder to our camp. There are twelve of you, so there will be one rock for each tribe. 6-7 Someday your children will ask, “Why are these rocks here?” Then you can tell them how the water stopped flowing when the chest was being carried across the river. These rocks will always remind our people of what happened here today.

The men followed the instructions that the Lord had given Joshua. They picked up twelve rocks, one for each tribe, and carried them to the camp, where they put them down.

Joshua had some other men set up a monument next to the place where the priests were standing. This monument was also made of twelve large rocks, and it is still there in the middle of the river.

The People of Israel Set Up Camp at Gilgal

10-13 The army got ready for battle and crossed the Jordan. They marched quickly past the sacred chest[f] and into the desert near Jericho. Forty thousand soldiers from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh[g] led the way, as Moses had ordered.[h]

The priests stayed right where they were until the army had followed the orders that the Lord had given Moses and Joshua. Then the army watched as the priests carried the chest the rest of the way across.

14-18 “Joshua,” the Lord said, “have the priests come up from the Jordan and bring the chest with them.” So Joshua went over to the priests and told them what the Lord had said. And as soon as the priests carried the chest past the highest place that the floodwaters of the Jordan had reached, the river flooded its banks again.

That’s how the Lord showed the Israelites that Joshua was their leader.[i] For the rest of Joshua’s life, they respected him as they had respected Moses.

19 It was the tenth day of the first month[j] of the year when Israel crossed the Jordan River. They set up camp at Gilgal, which was east of the land controlled by Jericho. 20 The men who had carried the twelve rocks from the Jordan brought them to Joshua, and they made them into a monument. 21 Then Joshua told the people:

Years from now your children will ask you why these rocks are here. 22-23 Tell them, “The Lord our God dried up the Jordan River so we could walk across. He did the same thing here for us that he did for our people at the Red Sea,[k] 24 because he wants everyone on earth to know how powerful he is. And he wants us to worship only him.”


  1. 3.2 Two days later: The Hebrew text has “At the end of three days,” two days after they had set up camp.
  2. 3.3,4 the priests: The Hebrew text has “the priests, the Levites” ; priests belonged to the tribe of Levi.
  3. 3.5 Make yourselves acceptable: People had to do certain things to make themselves acceptable to worship the Lord (see Leviticus 7.20,21; 15.2,33; 22.4-8; Deuteronomy 23.10,11).
  4. 3.15 springtime: Or “harvest time” ; the grain harvest was in late spring.
  5. 4.1-3 Joshua. . . Tell: Or “Joshua, you and the other leaders must tell.”
  6. 4.10-13 the sacred chest: The Hebrew text has “the Lord.” The army was marching past the sacred chest, which was a symbol of God’s throne on earth (see 1 Samuel 4.4 and Exodus 25.10-22; 37.1-9).
  7. 4.10-13 Forty thousand soldiers from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh: Or “There were forty thousand soldiers altogether, and those from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh.”
  8. 4.10-13 Moses. . . ordered: See Numbers 32.16-32; Joshua 1.12-16.
  9. 4.14-18 leader: See 3.7.
  10. 4.19 first month: Abib (also called Nisan), the first month of the Hebrew calendar, from about mid-March to mid-April.
  11. 4.22,23 Red Sea: See the note at 2.10.