Crossing the Jordan and the Waters Above the Firmament

This post is the third in a series about the Waters Above the Firmament.

The first post discussed how the flood of Noah has some deliberate parallel to these waters above the firmament and the waters of the flood with the use of the word “the deep” or “tehom” in Hebrew.

The second post discussed how this word tehom is used to communicate a very COMPLEX parallel to the actions of God, including actions that literally happen on Earth, but which are ascribed to God.

The third post discussed how the word tehom was used to describe the parting of the Red Sea, and how the relationship of “the sea” (yam) and “the deep” (tehom) is quite complex.

This post describes how this cosmic geography of these “waters” (mayim) and “the deep” (tehom) is shown again, specifically as it relates to the crossing of the Jordan.

A Brief Review of Mentions of “the Deep.”

There are a total of 36 occurrences of the word “the deep” (tehom) in the Old Testament. The plurality of which are in Psalms (with 12). Job and Genesis and Proverbs are in a three-way tie for second (with 4 each). Deuteronomy, Exodus, and the minor prophets While Deuteronomy and Exodus are tied in fourth (with 2 each). Proverbs has a unique occurrence, where it describes the relationship that “Wisdom” and the Lord had during creation:

“The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of old.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth (erets).
When there were no depths (tehom) I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs (mayan) abounding with water (mayim).
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
before he had made the earth (erets) with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
When he established the heavens (shamayim), I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep (tehom),
when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep (mayim),
when he assigned to the sea (yam) its limit,
    so that the waters (mayim) might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth (erets),
    then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world (erets)
    and delighting in the children of man.
(Proverbs 8:22-31)

Here we can see a confirmation of the order that was described in the creation account. We see that there is an “ex nihilo” account of the creation. Notice that there was a time when “the depths” (tehom) were not made, there was a time when “the heavens” (shamayim) were not made. There was a time when “the earth” (erets) was not made.

In the beginning, God created the heavens (shamayim) and the earth (erets). The earth (erets) was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep (tehom). And the Spirit (ruach) of God was hovering over the face of the waters (mayim).
(Genesis 1:1-1:2)

Surprisingly, Wisdom was created BEFORE the creation of the Heavens and the Earth:

Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs (mayan) abounding with water.

Those “springs” (mayan) are the same springs that we see that were opened in the flood of Noah. They are springs of “water,” (mayim), which is that ambiguous Hebrew word that applies both to what is above and below the firmament.

We can also see this barrier that was “established” between heaven and Earth. We noticed this metaphorical barrier in the account of the Exodus, when the Red Sea was parted. Now, we’re about to explore it in a second time at a different water crossing.

The Crossing of the Jordan

Let’s review the account of the crossing of the Jordan. The relevant passage is as follows. Follow along in the interlinear if you’d like:

Then Joshua rose early in the morning and they set out from Shittim. And they came to the Jordan, he and all the people of Israel, and lodged there before they passed over. At the end of three days the officers went through the camp and commanded the people, “As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.” Then Joshua said to the people, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” And Joshua said to the priests, “Take up the ark of the covenant and pass on before the people.” So they took up the ark of the covenant and went before the people.

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. And as for you, command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the brink of the waters (mayim) of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” And Joshua said to the people of Israel, “Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God.” And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. Behold, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is passing over before you into the Jordan. Now therefore take twelve men from the tribes of Israel, from each tribe a man. And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters (mayim) of the Jordan, the waters (mayim) of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters (mayim) coming down from above shall stand in one heap.”

So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (mayim) (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters (mayim) coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea (yam) of the Arabah, the Salt Sea (yam), were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood firmly on dry ground (charabah) in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground (charabah) until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.

At first glance, this looks like a very typical Old Testament Bible story. Yes, there is a miracle, but what are you expecting. We don’t get stories of “the totally normal day in Palestine.” This is n o genealogy. This is a story we tell to children in Sunday School. This is one with pizzazz!

But on closer examination, I noticed some very strange things about this story. Just like the word “sea” (yam) is never used in the story of Noah and the Flood, there is also a word missing from this passage, too.

The Hebrew word for “river” (nahar) is never used in this entire chapter.

Looking for the Missing Word

This is a story about crossing a river. The river they are crossing is the Jordan River. The Hebrew word for “river” is nahar, and it is used five times in the book of Joshua. But it is NEVER used in Joshua 3. This is strange, because this entire chapter is about crossing a nahar.

In the Bible, it is not typical for “the Jordan” to be called “the Jordan River,” (at least not in Hebrew). But obviously this river IS a river (see Job 40:23 and Matthew 3:6). Instead, the words that are used are “Jordan” (Yarden) and “waters” (mayim). We have already discussed the meaning of the word “waters” (mayim). But not it is worth explaining that not only is the word “Jordan” a proper noun, but it also has a specific meaning in Hebrew, too.

It means “downward flow.” That’s not too hard to understand. The Jordan River is 156 miles long. It starts at a high elevation, the drops quickly to the Sea of Galilee. Then, it meanders in the Jordan River valley, dropping from the Sea of Galilee’s elevation of 690 feet below sea level (210 meters) to the Dead Sea’s elevation of 1385 feet below sea level (422 meters).

But that might not be all that important to you, and if that were all, then I’d agree. It is not that big a deal when the word “river” (nahar) is not used. We need a lot more to put any significance into this story.

Well, ends up, there IS a lot more.

Strange Thing 1: A Completely Unnecessary Miracle

The passage also involves detailed instructions about how to cross the Jordan River. We see from the beginning that God is doing this so that the Israelites will know that he is with Joshua in the same way that God was with Moses:

The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.
(Joshua 3:7)

So we’ve obviously got some parallels to the crossing of the Red Sea. But there are some differences, too. In the Red Sea, the Israelites were being chased by the Egyptians. Here, the Isrealites are coming into the promised land IN POWER. The roles have switched.

But those differences aside, here is the REALLY strange thing: As opposed to almost every other river on the face of the earth, you LITERALLY DO NOT HAVE TO CROSS the Jordan River to get from one side of the Jordan River to the other.

Because the Jordan River flows into the Dead Sea and just STOPs, here are some easy directions to cross the Jordan:

Since you’re coming from the East, just take a left at the water, and just keep following that water. Keep following it until the water gets salty, and just keep that water on your right the whole time. Eventually you’re going to have to take a long right hand turn, and if you see sand instead of water on your right, you’ve gone too far.

Eventually, you’ll notice that the water isn’t salty anymore, and that should be about when the river starts again. Just follow that river the same distance you did before, just in the other direction. Just keep following it until you get to that spot over there [points to opposite side of Jordan].

Those are literally all the directions you need, and I’ve never even been to Israel. The fact that God told Joshua that he was going to do this means that there is something significant to it.

I’d like to make the point that the significance isn’t just that it somewhat resembled the crossing of the Red Sea. Just as the Red Sea had larger symbolic and metaphorical implications, the crossing of the Jordan also has larger symbolic and metaphorical implications, too.

Strange Thing 2: The Directions Make No Sense and Seem to Be False

We see that God explicitly instructs the Israelites that they should hold back while “the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God” is “carried by the Levitical priests” through the camp. Then there is an instruction to stay about half a mile back from the ark. We get an explicit reason for why they must stay back:

“Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before.”

This doesn’t make sense for two reasons. The first is explained above. It is easy to get from one side of the river to the other. Just walk around. But the second reason is even stranger. Some of the Israelites definitely HAVE been this way before.

We’re explicitly told that the Israelites cross the Jordan “opposite Jericho.” But Joshua 2 is all about the Israelite spies that were sent into the Promised land, and DIRECTLY TO JERICHO. They met Rahab the Prostitute (a rather unfortunate last name, if you ask me), and spied out the land.

Second, forty years before, Moses sent 12 spies to spy out the land, and they had come back with a report. Joshua was one of these spies, along with “Caleb the son of Jephunneh” (no relation to the author) in Numbers 13.

Third, 400 years before, this had been the ancestral homeland of the Hebrews, and so contrary to this claim, the people of Israel actually HAD been this way before. And to top it off, the Levitical priests who are carrying the ark hadn’t been that way before, either.

So what on Earth is up with this instruction?

Explanation of the Strange Instructions

Here is the reason this makes sense, but stay with me here, because I know this is going to sound weird. The crossing of the Jordan, much like the crossing of the Red Sea, is about YOUR DEATH.

Just like the passover meal was both a specific instruction of the Lord to Israel at the time AND a sign of things to come with Jesus; just as the sacrifices were a specific instruction of the Lord to Israel at the time AND a sign of things to come with Jesus; just as the crossing of the Red Sea was an instruction of the Lord to Israel at the time AND a sign of God’s deliverance with Jesus; the crossing of the Jordan is both a specific instruction of the Lord to Israel at the time AND a sign of things to come with Jesus, and you, right here, right now.

The Parallel Reading of the Exodus with Baptism, the Christian Life, and Death in 1 Corinthians

The Apostle Paul EXPLICITLY makes this connection in the book of 1 Corinthians:

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:1-12)

Paul makes the point that by passing through “the cloud” in the story of the Exodus. This event is shown here:

Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and the Lord drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right hand and on their left.
(Exodus 14:19-22)

This is what Paul is saying BAPTIZED the Israelites, just as Christians today are baptized with water.

Then Paul makes the point that the Israelites at “the same spiritual food” (manna, the bread from heaven in Exodus 16) and the same spiritual drink (the water from the rock of Merebah in Exodus 17), just as we eat the body and blood of Christ:

As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
(John 6:57-58)

Paul is using this passage in Exodus, which as we have already shown, is connected to the “Waters above the Firmament” to warn Christians not to “fall away” in this life just as some of the Isrealites “fell away” in the wilderness.

After passing through “the wilderness,” the Israelites are coming into the promised land in Joshua 3. This corresponds not to “baptism” of our Christian life. Instead, it corresponds to our DEATH at the end of our life, and the passage through the “Waters above the Firmament,” being united with God. The connection is repeated in the gospel of John.

The Waters Above the Firmament in John 3

Look at this insight we get from Jesus when he speaks with Nicodemus:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
(John 3:5-6)

“Hm…” says the person struggling with this verse who hasn’t seen the diagram on the first post in this series, “What is this ‘water’ and what is this ‘spirit’?”

Well, let’s look back at the diagram of the same cosmic geography of heaven and earth that was described in Genesis:

Now am I saying that this diagram is this the ONLY THING that Jesus is referencing by this statement? No, not at all. But I am saying that this cosmic geography, made clear all the way back in Genesis and repeated throughout the old testament (including Exodus 14 and 15, Joshua 3, Psalm 148, and other places), is CONSISTENTLY DERSCRIBED in Scripture.

After all, notice that Jesus does not believe that he is telling Nicodemus anything new. He is astonished that Nicodemus doesn’t already know this:

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.
(John 3:9-13)

When Nichodemus is confused, Jesus tells him three things:

  • First, he should know this, because he is a teacher of Israel.
  • Second, if he were to explain these HEAVENLY things (ahem…. shamayim things), Nicodemus would not believe him because they will not even believe Jesus when he speaks of EARTHLY things.
  • Third, Jesus is telling Nicodemus that Jesus has SEEN these things. Apparently, because Jesus (and maybe his disciples at the transfiguration?) has seen these cosmic layers, but Nicodemus has not.

There is a lot packed into this conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, and we should expect as much in a conversation between God himself and a teacher of Israel who wants to learn from him.

But this cosmic geography continues in the next chapter.

The Waters Above the Firmament in John 4

This cosmic geography of “waters” continues to be referenced in the next chapter of John:

Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water [at Jacob’s well] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
(John 4:13-14)

That “living water” is the water ABOVE THE FIRMAMENT.

The living water is not “dead” like the water of “the sea” (yam) which only causes MORE thirst when it is consumed. Instead, this water (mayim) that Jesus gives will become a SPRING (remember Noah?) of WATER (remember the ambiguity of this word in Hebrew?) that wells UP (remember the direction of these waters “above” the firmament?) to eternal life (remember where “the spirit” (ruach) is located?).

These are HEAVENLY THINGS. This is the cosmic geography of the Bible!

The Metaphorical Geography of Heaven and Earth and the Literal Geography of Israel

I hope this is starting to make sense, because we need to recognize some VERY strange things about the geography of Israel and the “water” that is in and around it.

The Sea of Galilee is a body of fresh water in Israel. It is the o the LOWEST fresh water lake in the entire world. This is the place where Jesus preached. This is around the place where Jesus lived. This geographical elevation is significant when we consider the “up-and-down” nature of the Earth as it relates to heaven. Take note of the following Psalm that is famously quoted in Hebrews:

O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
     Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
    to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
    and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
    you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
    and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
    whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!
(Psalm 8:1-9)

Do you see the placement of all of humanity as BELOW the heavens? Do you see the invocation here of “the heavens” above? But let’s also get a picture of the Bible’s location of the “not good place”:

My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me.
But those who seek to destroy my life
    shall go down into the depths (tachti) of the earth (erets);
they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
    they shall be a portion for jackals.
(Psalm 63:9-10)

That word for “the depths” (tachti) means “lower/lowest.” It is NOT the same word as “the deep,” (tehom), which we’ve already established is “Up.” And notice that not only is this not-good-place “down,” it is in the depths of “the Earth” (erets).

Do you know what is LITERALLY the lowest place on the face of the earth? That’s the Dead Sea, in ISRAEL. Do you know that the waters there are EXTREMELY salty? Do you know what it is like to swim in the Dead Sea? Take the description from this HuffPost article:

You will not feel refreshed. You will not stop sweating. And there is a very, very good chance you will dehydrate if you stay in there for more than fifteen minutes. Theoretically, if you could get to a deep portion of the Dead Sea and get down to the depths, it might be cool there, but this would require quite a bit of concerted effort on your end of things, and there would be a tremendous risk of getting salt in your eyes.

If you get salt in your eyes, I imagine it would burn really bad. With everything “dead” in the Dead Sea and the effect of the salt in the water, I guess it wouldn’t be so in accurate to look at the lake of the Dead Sea as a lake of fire or something.

Wait a minute… where have we seen that phrase before… it’s in reference to Hell itself:

And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
(Revelation 20:13-14)

What does this mean about the literal geography of Israel…..?

Let’s look at this again.

Do you see how this works?

There is a strange — VERY STRANGE — parallel between the LITERAL geography of Israel and the COSMIC Geography of the cosmos as described in the Bible. Let’s use this geography to explain the crossing of the Jordan directly.

The Metaphorical Geography of Israel

There is a one-way flow of water from a place that is high above to a place that is far, far below. The place where the water supports life is Earth, represented by the Sea of Galilee. The dead place is Hell, represented by the Dead Sea. The path from this living place to this dead place is the downward flow to death, represented by the Jordan Valley.

When the Israelites are crossing the Jordan at its flood stage, then they will LITERALLY be washed away into the Dead Sea if they do not receive help.

The reason the Israelites “have not come this way before” is not because they have never been to the promised land. It is because THEY HAVE NOT DIED, and they have not crossed “the waters” (mayim) above the firmament. So how do they get from one side to the other?

The instruction that God gives to the Israelites is this: The presence of God, carried by the priests of God will go INTO “the waters.” When that happens, the inevitable flow from Earth to Hell, then STOPS. This presence of God stays on the earth as the people cross from the wilderness to the promised land.

This crossing of the Jordan has a double meaning, and just as Paul wrote in Corinthians about the Exodus, it also applies here:

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.
(1 Corinthians 10:11-12)

And where does the flow stop? Well that’s the craziest part.

Strange Thing 3: The Odd Name of the Town

We read in the passage that this inevitable flow from the Sea of Galilee piles up in a giant heap at a particular location in the valley of the Jordan. Here is what it says:

So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (mayim) (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters (mayim) coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea (yam) of the Arabah, the Salt Sea (yam), were completely cut off.
(Joshua 3:14-16)

Wait a minute…. Adam? Is that a joke? I check the citation in Hebrew. When you look up the meaning of this word in Strong’s Concordance, it defines it as “the first man, also a city in the Jordan Valley.”

Well, that’s… …strange.

The Meaning of the Crossing of the Jordan

The inevitable flow of the Earth (the Sea of Galilee) to Hell (the Dead Sea) was stopped AT ADAM, THE FIRST MAN WHO EVER EXISTED, when the presence of God (the ark of the Covenant) stepped INTO THAT FLOW, until ALL of God’s chosen people (the nation of Israel) pass from the wilderness to the home that they were promised by God.

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.

Do you see how this is getting really-META really quickly? Look at the theme of this book of Joshua:

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9)

“Wherever you go” includes places that you have not been before — “Death” — but where our Lord Jesus Christ has gone, and from which he has returned, as well. The point of this passage and this book of Joshua is that we do not need to fear DEATH ITSELF, because the inevitable flow to Hell has been STOPPED by the presence of the Lord.

That flow will continue to stop until ALL of God’s people cross from the wilderness to the promised land.

Conclusion

Once again, I hope you have all been enjoying this series on the Waters above the Firmament. There is one more installation to go. I don’t have an exhaustive study of all the theological literature, but I do not believe this has ever been observed. Since even Martin Luther was confused by the Waters above the Firmament, I might be the first one ever to make these connections.

But this is actually a side-project. The real project I have is the Magi’s Star. I’ve found the astronomical event that is the Magi’s Star (both the “star in the East” and the “Star of Bethlehem”) in ACTUAL history. I can prove it, but I need help. I need connections with people who can help me polish my significant research into something that is fashioned for acceptance in the academic field.

If you or anyone you know would be interested in helping me or seeing what I have, shoot me an email at mrcalebjones at gmail dot com. I’d also be happy to speak to a church or Bible study on the topic, too. Like, totally serious. If you’re curious and would like to hear me talk, I’d happily share. If you pay me for it, then I’ll DEFINITELY share. This is going to be my thing. It’s a big deal. You won’t want to miss it.

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