LESSON 45 – Crossing the Jordan River – Joshua 3:1 – 4:24


  • Joshua 3 – It is finally time for the people to cross the Jordan and begin the main campaign of conquest.
    • What was to go first across the Jordan River? (The Ark of the Covenant- see picture at end of lesson.)
    • What were the instructions given about the crossing? (3:2-5. The ark was to go first, carried by the priests. The people were to keep about 1000 yards – about 10 football fields or a half-mile – between them and the ark. They were to consecrate themselves also. That means they were to cleanse themselves and pray. )
    • What time of year was it and how did that affect the river? (3:15. Harvest time – the fall. The river was at flood stage.)
    • What did God say would happen when they stepped in to the rivers? (3:13 – as soon as the priests would step into the river, the upper part of the river’s waters would gather up into a heap and cease flowing down.)
    • What did God say was the purpose for all of this? (3:9.10. They would see the miracle and know that God was with them and would help them drive out the Canaanites, etc.)
    • Describe how all of the people went across. (3:16, 17. The priests took the ark first, went to the center of the river after the waters had receded and stopped. Then all of the people passed through, going around the ark.)
  • Joshua 4
    • Why did Joshua pick 12 men from each tribe? (4:2,3, 8,9. They were to pick up one stone each from the place in the middle of the river when the priests stood with the ark. They were to take the stones to the other side and lay them down at the camp. NOTE:  the NIV indicates only one set of 12 stones were collected, but the NASB and other versions say in 4:9 that Joshua took 12 stones and set up another group in the middle of the river as well. It is more likely that the NASV version is the correct one.)
    • Why did they do this? (4:5-9. The stones were to be piled up into a memorial.  They were to mark the place where the Israelites had crossed the Jordan. In the future, when the children asked about the stones they were to tell their children about God’s provision and miracle. They were to never forget what God did for them.) [Note:  at the time of the writing of Joshua – years later – the stones were still standing. They are not there today.]
    • How many armed soldiers from the 3 tribes on the other side of the river crossed? (4:13. around 40,000 – that’s just from three tribes.) After all had crossed the Lord exalted Joshua in the sight of Israel. They saw that he really was God’s man for them at that time.
    • The priests came up out of the Jordan and then what happened? (4:18. The waters flowed back into flood stage again.) The Lord reminded Israel about the time, 40 years before, when He had dried the Red Sea for their parents.
    • What two reasons did God give for these miracles? (4:24. So all the people of the earth would know that the Lord is powerful and so that the Israelites would fear Him.)


What a magnificent and triumphant day for the children of Israel! They were finally setting foot onto the Promised Land and in a miraculous fashion. It would be a memory they would cherish forever.  God wanted them to remember this day always. That’s why He commanded the 12 men to make a monument from stones that had once been under the water of the Jordan.  This is a centrally located place in Israel and as the people passed the area in the years to come, they were to point of the monument to their children and explain the significance. God gave two reasons for His miracle at the Jordan. One was that the miracle was an indicator of His great power over the earth. The world was to note that He was One in charge. The other reason was for His own people – that they would see His power and be in fear of the One who could do such things.  Many times we think of fear as negative, but the Bible sees fearing God as the most basic belief of anyone follower of God.  Look up these commandments about fearing God: Proverbs 1:7, Ps 33:8-11, Ps 34:9.

  • What do these verses teach us about fearing God? (possible answers: fearing God means were are wise, God has power over everything –not fearing Him is dangerous and will bring destruction, fearing God means we hate evil and agree with Him about right and wrong) Fearing God means we respect and honor Him. We know He has control over everything in our lives and we live only by His permission.  The Israelites have not been characterized by fearing God up to this point. Their complaints and arguments dishonor Him and show that they don’t believe in His power or goodness.
  • Do the members of your family fear God? Do they honor and respect Him? What does disrespectful behavior look like? (possible answers: taking His name in vain or lightly, doing our own thing – being disobedient, complaining about anything, not eager to come to church to worship Him, not thinking of Him during the day or even the week, etc.)
  • After determining some behaviors and attitudes that show disrespect for God and His power, confess these together before the Lord. [You may want to do this one on one if you have several children] Also, have the children encourage one another by identifying ways other family members do show their respect and love for the Lord. Praise God for what He has done in your life this week and ask Him to help each of you grow in love and respect for Him and His Word.

Digging Deeper

  1. The ark of the covenant of God was kept in the holy of holies in the tabernacle. It was the meeting place between God and man. The blood of the atoning sacrifice was put on the mercy seat which covered the ark. Thus the sins of Israel were covered and the relationship between God and His people was maintained. Update this in terms of the ark as a picture of Christ. Draw a picture of the ark and label the parts. Tell how the ark is a picture of Christ. This should have a profound meaning to you. Does it? Explain.
  2. The children built a memorial for their children to see at the place they crossed the Jordan because they wanted to remind them of what God had done.  What “Jordan”-like experience do you have to tell others about the works of God? What symbol could you use to remember this (the Jews used rocks from the river bottom). Tell the story of what God has done for you.