Crossing the Jordan (Joshua 3)

The Bible describes the miracle of crossing the Jordan in graphic language: “That the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.” (Joshua 3:16).

The town of Adam (now a site called Tell ed-Damiyeh) was nearly 26 km north of the point at which the Israelite procession crossed the Jordan, located at a spot where the river flowed near high banks. The Jordan Valley, part of the great Rift Valley, is an unstable region where earthquakes frequently occur. On a number of occasions throughout recorded history earthquakes have dislodged the riverbanks in the vicinity of Adam, resulting in a damming of the Jordan. The most recent occurrence was the quake of 1927, at which time a 46 m high embankment of the western side of the river collapsed, completely blocking the waters for more than 21 hours. Similar cutoffs have been recorded (moving backward in time) in A.D. 1906, 1834, 1546, 1267 and 1160.

Excavations at Jericho indicate that an earthquake did in fact occur at the time that city was destroyed. This suggests the possibility of seismic activity around the time of the crossing of the Jordan. It is possible that God used one tremor to dam up the Jordan and a second a short time later to bring down the walls of Jericho.


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