3:1 Early in the morning Joshua and all the Israelites set out from Shittim and went to [a journey of about ten miles] the Jordan where they camped before crossing over.
3:2 After three days [on the third day] the officers went throughout the camp,
3:3 giving orders to the people: “When you see the ark of the covenant [symbolized God’s presence among His people; contained the stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments had been written, a jar of manna, and Aaron’s staff (symbol of the high priest’s authority)] of the LORD your God, and the priests [only the priests were permitted to carry the ark], who are Levites, carrying it, you are to move out from your positions [specific locations in the camp and an assigned order in the march] and follow [better to follow God than to try to get ahead of Him] it.
3:4 Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before [important to follow God, especially when you are venturing to places where you have never been before]. But keep a distance [because the ark was very holy] of about a thousand yards between you and the ark; do not go near it.”
3:5 Joshua told the people, “Consecrate yourselves [involved bathing, washing one’s clothing, abstinence from sexual activity (Ex. 19:14-15)], for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing [miraculous] things among you.”
3:6 Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on ahead of the people.” So they took it up and went ahead of them.
3:7 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you [this miracle would help confirm Joshua’s leadership] in the eyes of all Israel, so they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses.
3:8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: ‘When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river [the river at this time was overflowing its banks].’”
3:9 Joshua said to the Israelites, “Come here and listen [a call to listen and obey] to the words of [points to the source of Joshua’s message] the LORD your God [Joshua pointed the people to the Lord and His greatness].
3:10 This [their obedience to God] is how you will know that the living [as opposed to the dead idols of the heathen nations that inhabited the promised land (cf. Ps. 115:3-7)] God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites [lived in the lowlands of the seacoast and the Jordan valley (Num. 13:29)], Hittites, Hivites [cf. Josh. 11:3], Perizzites [lived in the central highlands (Gen. 13:7; 34:30)], Girgashites, Amorites [lived in the mountainous areas (Num. 13:29) and Jebusites [inhabited Jerusalem (Josh. 15:63)].
3:11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you.
3:12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe.
3:13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the LORD—the Lord [ruler, owner] of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.”
3:14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead [cf. Josh. 3:3-4] of them.
3:15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage [Jordan normally about a hundred feet wide but as much as a mile wide in flood season (Wiersbe); making a crossing a dangerous, if not an impossible, venture] all during harvest. Yet as soon as [faith must come first] the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched [faith in action] the water’s edge,
Note: “Unless we step out by faith (1:3) and ‘get our feet wet,’ we’re not likely to make much progress in living for Christ and serving Him. … Unless we are willing to step out by faith and obey His Word, God can never open the way for us.” (Wiersbe • Be Strong • p. 51)
3:16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance [about twenty miles] away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (the Salt Sea) [the Dead Sea] was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.
3:17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground [no longer covered with water] in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.