The Crossing of the Jordan

The Bible presents a vivid picture of the final encampment of the Israelites outside the land that had been promised them. Here, in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, we can almost see the lines of tents standing around the Tabernacle in this comparatively lush corner of the river valley.

It is the last of the forty-five stations enumerated in Numbers 33 (vs. 48,49). The sites of Abel Shittim and Beth Jesimoth would have been located here at either end of this well irrigated stretch of plain bordering the east bank of the Jordan. This dramatic view of the Israelites poised for the long awaited entry to the Promised Land formed part of the panorama seen first by Balaam, and shortly afterwards by Moses, from the lofty mountain tops above. The distance of 2,000 cubits (0.61 km.) that the Israelites were commanded to leave between themselves and the Ark ensured that it could be clearly seen. As soon as the feet of the priests that carried the Ark touched the waters of the Jordan, the river "stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan" (Josh. 3.16). Zaretan was obviously a well-known landmark and Tell es-Saidiyeh, an imposing mound in the centre of the Rift Valley has been tentatively proposed as the site of this Biblical city. Adam itself, has been identified with Tell Damiya, some 18 miles or 30 km. from the place of the Israelite crossing opposite Jericho and where there is a bridge known as the Adam Bridge today. If this identification is correct, the Israelites had a considerably long stretch of dry riverbed over which they could cross in safety. In modern times, the river Jordan has been blocked on a number of occasions by collapsed cliffs and mud, caused by earthquakes. In 1267, a large mound fell into the river near Damiya blocking its flow for 16 hours. It was also in Damiya, in the earthquake of 1927, that a mudslide cut off the river, this time for 24 hours.

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