God told the Israelites to cross the Jordan River in springtime, when the flax and barley were ready to harvest. This was a difficult and dangerous time to cross; snow from Mount Hermon had melted, and the river was often in flood and overflowed its banks. The water was 12-15 feet deep and moved quickly. At the time of the Israelite conquest, the river flow was greater than it is now. Today, large amounts of water are diverted from the Jordan River for irrigation, tourism, and settlement use.
How do we know the Israelites crossed the river in springtime? Joshua 3:15 mentions the harvest season, and Joshua 4:19 explains the Israelites crossed the river on the 10th day of the first month. On the Hebrew calendar, the first month of the year occurs in late March or early April (on the Gregorian calendar). Several miles upriver, at Adam (a city near Zarethan), God blocked the southern flow of the Jordan River, resulting in many miles of dry riverbed. This allowed the Israelites to walk across dry ground, while viewing the ark of the covenant from about 1000 yards away.
Crossing the dry riverbed would have been quick and easy; it was 50 - 75 yards from one side of the river to the other, and the land was relatively flat (perhaps a gradual 20-foot drop from the riverbank to the center of the riverbed).
Can you answer the questions below?
- How do we know the Israelites crossed the Jordan in springtime?
- Read Exodus 14 and Joshua 3. How did the Red Sea crossing differ to the Jordan River crossing?