Bible Question:

How wide and deep was the Jordan River where Israel crossed?

Bible Answer:

Joshua 1:1-2 tells us that God commanded Joshua to have the Israelites cross the Jordan River. Moses had died (Deuteronomy 34:1-6) and Joshua was now the leader (Deuteronomy 34:9). Notice that God told Joshua the nation was to cross the Jordan and go into the land that He had given them.

Now it came about after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ servant, saying, “Moses My servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them, to the sons of Israel. Joshua 1:1-2 (NASB)

The question we are concerned with is, “How wide and deep was the Jordan River where Israel crossed?”

Jordan River - Where Israel Crossed

Jordan River East of Jericho

Israel Crossed the Jordan River Opposite Jericho

Israel crossed the Jordan River from the plains of Moab (Joshua 13:22) into the land of Canaan, the Promised Land, about 1406 B.C. [1] The record of their crossing is given in Joshua 3:14-17. It is important to notice that the Israelites crossed the Jordan River opposite the city of Jericho.

So when the people set out from their tents to cross the Jordan with the priests carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and when those who carried the ark came into the Jordan, and the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks all the days of harvest), the waters which were flowing down from above stood and rose up in one heap, a great distance away at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan; and those which were flowing down toward the sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. So the people crossed opposite Jericho. And the priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan while all Israel crossed on dry ground, until all the nation had finished crossing the Jordan. Joshua 3:14-17 (NASB)

Therefore, since we are interested in knowing, “How wide and deep was the Jordan River where Israel crossed?” we have part of the answer. The Israelites crossed the Jordan River opposite the city of Jericho. Now we need to explore how the width of the Jordan River opposite Jericho.  This will help us have a greater appreciation of the miracle of the people crossing the Jordan River on dry ground (Joshua 3:15).

Map - Where Israel Crossed the Jordan River

How Wide and Deep Was The Jordan River?

The Jordan River flows about 60 miles between the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. The river drops 610 feet down to nearly 1,300 feet.[2] Since Joshua 3:15 indicates that the Jordan River was overflowing its banks due to the harvest season, this means the flood waters would have greatly complicated Israel’s crossing as explained by Richard S. Hess and Todd Bolen. Richard S. Hess states that the Jordan River was wider than the normal 90-100 feet at the place Israel crossed the Jordan River.

The text explains that this event took place a great distance away south of the town of Adam (v. 16). The time was in the spring of the year, when the river is in its flood stage and therefore wider than its normal width of 90-100 feet and deeper than its average 3-10 feet. The southern flow of the Jordan is turbulent. The ez-Zor surrounds it. This is a thicket that makes the river itself difficult to reach, and that in ancient times contained wild animals.[3]

Todd Bolen, author of BiblicalPlaces.com, writes the following:

In 1854 an expert swimmer was unable to make it across the river near Jericho because the river was too wide and the current too strong.[4]

How wide was the Jordan River when the Israelites crossed the river? We do not know since the book of Joshua does not tell us. The depth of the river was probably deeper since sediment would have moved down the river since the time Israel crossed the river. The crossing of a turbulent river at flood stage would have been difficult and was most likely greater than 100 feet wide and greater than ten feet deep.

How wide and deep was the Jordan River?
Probably more than 100 ft wide
and 10 ft deep.

Conclusion:

But the real miracle is not how wide or how deep the river bed was when Israel crossed the river, but that they crossed a dry river bed at flood season. It revealed God’s power and care for His chosen people Israel. Joshua 3:14-17 says that the river rose up in one heap at the city of Adam when the feet of the priests “dipped in the edge of the water” and instantly the river bed also became dry. We can praise our God for His care of His own.

What lesson can learn from this event? God has told us that He cares for us too! That is the message of 1 Peter.

. . . casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7 (NASB)

 

References:

1. Date of 1406 B.C.
2. G. A. Smith. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible. Zondervan Publishing. 1977. vol. 3, p. 685.
3. Richard S. Hess. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Inter-VarsityPress. 1996. p. 104.
4. Todd Bolen. Seven Fascinating Facts about Crossing the Jordan River.

Suggested Links:

Baptism of Jesus
Who wrote the book of Joshua?