The chief river of Palestine, running from north to south, and dividing the Holy Land into two parts, of which the larger and more important lay on the west. There are two small streams, each of which claims to be its source. One of these, near Banias, anciently Caesarea Philippi, issues from a large cave in a rocky mountain side, and flows several miles towards the south-west, where it is joined by the second and larger stream, which originates in a fountain at Tell-el-Kady, three miles west of Banias. But besides these, there is a third and longer stream, which rises beyond the northern limit of Palestine, near Hasbeia on the west side of mount Hermon, flows twenty-four miles to the south, and unites with the other streams before they enter the "waters of Merom," now lake Huleh, the Jordan flows about nine miles south-ward to the sea of Tiberias, through which its clear and smooth course may be traced twelve miles to the lower end. Hence it pursues its sinuous way to the south, till its pure waters are lost in the bitter sea of Sodom.
Between these two seas, that of Tiberias and the Dead Sea, lies the great valley or plain of the Jordan, 2Ki 25:4; 2Ch 4:17. It is called by the Arabs El-Ghor. Its average width is about five miles, but near Jericho it is twelve or fifteen miles. It is terminated on both sides, through its whole length, by hills, which rise abruptly on the western border 1,000 or 1,200 feet high, and more gradually on the east, but twice as high. This valley is excessively not, and except where watered by fountains or rivulets, is sandy and destitute of foliage. It is covered in many parts with innumerable cone-like mounds, and sometimes contains a lower and narrow terrace of similar character, perhaps an eighth of a mile wide. Through this valley the river takes its serpentine course in a channel from fifteen to fifty feet below the general level. Its immediate banks are thickly covered with trees and shrubs, such as the willow, tamarisk, and oleander; and often recede, and leave a larger space for vegetation. In the lower Jordan, the stream is bordered by numerous canebrakes. The thickets adjoining the river were formerly the retreat of wild beasts, which of course would be driven out by a freshet; hence the figure, "He shall come up like a lion from the swelling of Jordan," Jer 49:19; 50:44. The channel of the river may be deeper sunk than of old, but even now not only the intervales within the banks are overflowed in spring, but in many places the banks themselves, 1Ch 12:15. Lieutenant Lynch of the United States navy, who traversed the Jordan in 1848, ascertained that, although the distance from the sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea is but sixty miles in a straight line, it is two hundred miles by the course of the river, which has innumerable curves. Its width varies at different points from seventy-five to two hundred feet, and its depth from three to twelve feet. Its volume of water differs exceedingly at different seasons and from year to year. The current is usually swift and strong; and there are numerous rapids and falls, of which no less than twenty-seven are specified by Lieutenant Lynch as dangerous even to his metallic boats. The sea of Tiberias lies 312 (according to Lynch, 653) feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and the Dead Sea 1,316 feet; hence the fall of the Jordan between the two seas is 1,000 feet. The waters of the Jordan are cool and soft, and like the Sea of Galilee, it abounds in fish. It is crossed by a stone bridge, below Lake Huleh, (see GESHUR;) and the fragments of another, just south of the Sea of Tiberias, still remain. Several fords, available in ordinary season, are mentioned in Scripture, Jg 3:28; 12:5; 2Sa 17:22-24. Ferryboats were also used, 2Sa 19:17-18,39. See SEA 4.
It was during the annual "swelling of the Jordan" that Joshua and the Israelites crossed it, Jos 3:15. Yet the swift and swollen current was arrested in its course, opposite to Jericho; and while the waters below the city rolled on to the4 sea, those above it were miraculously stayed, and left in the river bed a wide passage for the hosts of Israel. Twice afterwards the Jordan was miraculously crossed, by Elijah and Elisha, 2Ki 5:14; 6:6. Here, too, our Savior was baptized, Mt 3:13; and this event is commemorated, in the middle of April of each year, by thousands of pilgrims of various sects of nominal Christians, who on a given day, and under the protection of a strong Turkish escort, visit the sacred river, drink and bathe in its waters, and after an hour or two return to Jerusalem.
The principal branches of the Jordan are the Yermak, anciently Hieroma, a large stream, and the Jabbok, both on the east. There are several small rivulets and many mountain brooks, which dry up more or less early in the summer. The phrase, "beyond Jordan," usually indicates the east side of the river, but before the conquest by Joshua it meant the west side.
At the present day, the Jordan is lost in the Dead sea; but many have supposed that in very ancient times, before the destruction of the cities in the vale of Sodom, the Jordan passed through the Dead Sea and the vale of Siddim, and continued its course southward to the Elanitic Gulf of the Red Sea. The southern end of the Dead Sea is found to be connected with the Elanitic gulf, or gulf of Akaba, by the great valley, called El-Arabah, forming a prolongation of El-Ghor, the valley of the Jordan. See map in EXODUS. The course of this valley is between south and south-southwest. Its length, from the Dead Sea to Akaba, is about one hundred miles in a direct line. From the extremity of the Dead Sea, a sandy plain extends southward between hills, and on a level with the sea, for the distance of eight or ten miles, where it is interrupted by a chalky cliff, from sixty to eighty feet high, which runs nearly across the valley, but leaves at its western end the opening of a valley nearly half a mile wide, which runs up for many miles to the south within the broad and desert valley El-Arabah, upon which it at length emerges, and the water of which it conveys to the Dead Sea. The cliff above referred to, probably the Akrabbim of the Bible, marks the termination of El-Ghor and the commencement of El-Arabah, which is thence prolonged without interruption to Akaba. It is skirted on each side by a chain of mountains; but the streams which descend from these, are in summer lost in their gravelly beds before they reach the valley below; so that this lower plain is in summer entirely without water, which alone can produce verdure in the Arabian deserts and render them habitable. There is not the slightest appearance of a road, or of any other work of human art, in any part of the valley. The opinion that the Jordan formerly traversed this great valley is rendered untenable by the fact that the Dead Sea lies nearly 1,300 feet lower than the Gulf of Akaba, and that most of the intervening region now pours its streams north into the Dead Sea. Of course the Jordan must also have stopped there of old, as it does now, unless, according to the somewhat startling theory of Lieutenant Lynch and others, the Dead sea-and with it, though less deeply, the whole valley to the north and south-sunk down from a higher level into its present deep chasm, perhaps long before that appalling catastrophe from which Lot found refuge in "the mountain," Ge 19:17-28,30. See SEA 3.
Heb Yarden, "the descender;" Arab. Nahr-esh-Sheriah, "the watering-place" the chief river of Palestine. It flows from north to south down a deep valley in the centre of the country. The name descender is significant of the fact that there is along its whole course a descent to its banks; or it may simply denote the rapidity with which it "descends" to the Dead Sea.
It originates in the snows of Hermon, which feed its perennial fountains. Two sources are generally spoken of. (1.) From the western base of a hill on which once stood the city of Dan, the northern border-city of Palestine, there gushes forth a considerable fountain called the Leddan, which is the largest fountain in Syria and the principal source of the Jordan. (2.) Beside the ruins of Banias (Illustration: Source of the Jordan near Banias), the ancient Caesarea Philippi and the yet more ancient Panium, is a lofty cliff of limestone, at the base of which is a fountain. This is the other source of the Jordan, and has always been regarded by the Jews as its true source. It rushes down to the plain in a foaming torrent, and joins the Leddan about 5 miles south of Dan (Tell-el-Kady). (3.) But besides these two historical fountains there is a third, called the Hasbany, which rises in the bottom of a valley at the western base of Hermon, 12 miles north of Tell-el-Kady. It joins the main stream about a mile below the junction of the Leddan and the Banias. The river thus formed is at this point about 45 feet wide, and flows in a channel from 12 to 20 feet below the plain. After this it flows, "with a swift current and a much-twisted course," through a marshy plain for some 6 miles, when it falls into the Lake Huleh, "the waters of Merom" (q.v.).
During this part of its course the Jordan has descended about 1,100 feet. At Banias it is 1,080 feet above sea-level. Flowing from the southern extremity of Lake Huleh, here almost on a level with the sea, it flows for 2 miles "through a waste of islets and papyrus," and then for 9 miles through a narrow gorge in a foaming torrent onward to the Sea of Galilee (q.v.).
In the whole valley of the Jordan from the Lake Huleh to the Sea of Galilee there is not a single settled inhabitant. Along the whole eastern bank of the river and the lakes, from the base of Hermon to the ravine of Hieromax, a region of great fertility, 30 miles long by 7 or 8 wide, there are only some three inhabited villages. The western bank is almost as desolate. Ruins are numerous enough. Every mile or two is an old site of town or village, now well nigh hid beneath a dense jungle of thorns and thistles. The words of Scripture here recur to us with peculiar force: 'I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation...And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it...And your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate' (Le 26:31-34)., Dr. Porter's Handbook.
From the Sea of Galilee, at the level of 682 feet below the Mediterranean, the river flows through a long, low plain called "the region of Jordan" (Mt 3:5), and by the modern Arabs the Ghor, or "sunken plain." This section is properly the Jordan of Scripture. Down through the midst of the "plain of Jordan" there winds a ravine varying in breadth from 200 yards to half a mile, and in depth from 40 to 150 feet. Through it the Jordan flows in a rapid, rugged, tortuous course down to the Dead Sea. The whole distance from the southern extremity of the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea is in a straight line about 65 miles, but following the windings of the river about 200 miles, during which it falls 618 feet. The total length of the Jordan from Banias is about 104 miles in a straight line, during which it falls 2,380 feet.
There are two considerable affluents which enter the river between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, both from the east. (1.) The Wady Mandhur, called the Yarmuk by the Rabbins and the Hieromax by the Greeks. It formed the boundary between Bashan and Gilead. It drains the plateau of the Hauran. (2.) The Jabbok or Wady Zerka, formerly the northern boundary of Ammon. It enters the Jordan about 20 miles north of Jericho.
The first historical notice of the Jordan is in the account of the separation of Abraham and Lot (Ge 13:10). "Lot beheld the plain of Jordan as the garden of the Lord." Jacob crossed and recrossed "this Jordan" (Ge 32:10). The Israelites passed over it as "on dry ground" (Jos 3:17; Ps 114:3). Twice afterwards its waters were miraculously divided at the same spot by Elijah and Elisha (2Ki 2:8,14).
The Jordan is mentioned in the Old Testament about one hundred and eighty times, and in the New Testament fifteen times. The chief events in gospel history connected with it are (1) John the Baptist's ministry, when "there went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and were baptized of him in Jordan" (Mt 3:6). (2.) Jesus also "was baptized of John in Jordan" (Mr 1:9).
Illustration: Shepherds Fording the Jordan
From yarad "to descend," Arab. "the watering place." Always with the Hebrew article "the Jordan," except Job 40:23; Ps 42:6. 200 miles long from its source at Antilebanon to the head of the Dead Sea. It is not navigable, nor has it ever had a large town on its banks. The cities Bethshan and Jericho on the W., and Gerasa, Pella, and Gadara to the E. of Jordan, produced intercourse between the two sides of the river. Yet it is remarkable as the river of the great plain (ha Arabah, now el Ghor) of the Holy Land, flowing through the whole from N. to S. Lot from the hills on the N.W. of Sodom seeing the plain well watered by it, as Egypt is by the Nile (Lot's allusion to Egypt is apposite, Abram having just left it: Ge 12:10-20), chose that district as his home, in spite of the notorious wickedness of the people (Ge 13:10). Its sources are three. The northernmost near Hasbeya between Hermon and Lebanon; the stream is called Hasbany.
The second is best known, near Banias, i.e. Caesarea Philippi (the scene of Peter's confession, Mt 16:16); a large pool beneath a high cliff, fed by gushing streamlets, rising at the mouth of a deep cave; thence the Jordan flows, a considerable stream. The third is at Dan, or Tel el Kady (Daphne); from the N.W. corner of a green eminence a spring bursts forth into a clear wide pool, which sends a broad stream into the valley. The three streams unite at Tel Dafneh, and flow sluggishly through marsh land into lake Merom (Huleh). Capt. Newbold adds a fourth, wady el Kid on the S.E. of the slope, flowing from the springs Esh Shar. Indeed Anti-Lebanon abounds in gushing streams, which all make their way into the swamp between Bahias and Huleh and become part of the Jordan. The traditional site of Jacob's crossing Jordan (Jisr Benat Yacobe) at his first leaving Beersheba for Padan Aram is a mile and a half from Merom, and six from the sea of Galilee; in those six its descent with roaring cataracts over the basaltic rocks is 1,050 ft.
This, the part known to Naaman in his invasions, is the least attractive part of its course, and unfavorably contrasted with Abana and Pharpar of his native land (2Ki 5:12). From the sea of Galilee it winds 200 miles in the 60 miles of actual distance to the Dead Sea. Its tortuous course is the secret of the great depression (the Dead Sea being 663 ft. below the lake of Galilee) in this distance. On Jacob's return from Padan Aram he crossed near where the Jabbok (Zerka) enters the Jordan (Ge 32:10,22). The next crossing recorded is that of Joshua over against Jericho, the river being then flooded, in harvest time in April, in consequence of the rainy season and the melting of the snow of Hermon (Jos 3:15-16; 4:12-13; 5:10-12). The men of Jericho had pursued the spies to the fords there (Jos 2:7), the same as those "toward Moab" where the Moabites were slain (Jg 3:28).
Higher up were the fords Bethbarah or Bethabara (house of passage), where Gideon intercepted the fleeing Midianites (Jg 7:24) and the Gileadites slew the Ephraimites (Jg 12:6), probably the place also of Jacob's crossing. Near was "the clay ground between Succoth and Zarthan" used for Solomon's foundry (1Ki 7:46). Three banks may be noted in the Ghor or Jordan valley, the upper or first slope (the abrupt edge of a wide table land reaching to the Hauran mountains on the E. and the high hills on the W. side), the lower or middle terrace embracing the strip of land with vegetation, and the true banks of the river bed, with a jungle of agnus castus, tamarisks, and willows and reed and cane at the edge, the stream being ordinarily 30 yards wide. At the flood the river cannot be forded, being 10 or 12 ft. deep E. of Jericho; but in summer it can, the water being low. To cross it in the flood by swimming was an extraordinary feat, performed by the Gadites who joined David (1Ch 12:15); this was impossible for Israel under Joshua with wives and children.
The Lord of the whole earth made the descending waters stand in a heap very far from their place of crossing, namely, by the town of Adam, that is beside Zarthan or Zaretan, the moment that the feet of the priests bearing the ark dipped in the water. The priests then stood in the midst of the dry river bed until all Israel crossed over. Joshua erected a monument of 12 large stones in the river bed where the priests had stood, near the E. bank of the river. This would remain at least for a time as a memorial to the existing generation, besides the monument erected at Gilgal (Jos 4:3,6-7,9,20). By this lower ford David passed to fight Syria (2Sa 10:17), and afterwards in his flight from Absalom to Mahanaim E. of Jordan. There Judah escorted him, and he crossed in a ferry boat (2Sa 17:22; 19:15,18). Here Elijah and Elisha divided the waters with the prophet's mantle (2Ki 2:4,8,14).
At the upper fords Naaman washed off his leprosy. Here too the Syrians fled, when panic struck by the Lord (2Ki 7:15). John the Baptist "first" baptized at the lower ford near Jericho, where all Jerusalem and Judea resorted, being near; where too our Lord took refuge from Jerusalem, and where many converts joined Him, and from from whence He went to Bethany to raise Lazarus (Joh 10:39-40; 11:1). John's next baptisms were (Joh 1:29-34) at Bethabara (or "Bethany") the upper ford, within reach of the N.; there out of Galilee the Lord Jesus and Andrew repaired after the baptisms in the S. (Lu 3:21), and were baptized. (See BETHABARA.) His third place of baptism was near Aenon and Salim, still further to the N., where the water was still deep though it was summer, after the Passover (Joh 2:13-23), for there was no ford there (Joh 3:23); he had to go there, the water being too shallow at the ordinary fords. John moved gradually northwards toward Herod's province where ultimately he was beheaded; Jesus coming from the N. southwards met John half way.
The overflow of Jordan dislodged the lion from its lair on the wooded banks (Jer 49:19); in Jer 12:5 some translated "the pride of Jordan," (compare 2Ki 6:2,) "if in the champaign country alone thou art secure, how wilt thou do when thou fallest into the wooded haunts of wild beasts?" (Pr 24:10.) Between Merom and lake Tiberias the banks are so thickly wooded as often to shut out the view of the water. Four fifths of Israel, nine tribes and a half, dwelt W., and one fifth, two and a half, dwelt E. of Jordan. The great altar built by the latter was the witness of the oneness of the two sections (Jos 22:10-29). Of the six cities of refuge three were E., three W. of Jordan, at equal distances. Jordan enters Gennesareth two miles below the ancient city Julias or Bethsaida of Gaulonitis on the E. bank. It is 70 ft. wide at its mouth, a sluggish turbid stream. The lake of Tiberias is 653 ft. below the Mediterranean level.
The Dead Sea is 1,316 ft. below the Mediterranean, the springs of Hasbeiya are 1,700 above the Mediterranean, so that the valley falls more than 3,000 ft. in reaching the N. end of the Dead Sea. The bottom descends 1,308 ft. lower, in all 2,600 below the Mediterranean. The Jordan, well called "the Descender," descends 11 ft. every mile. Its sinuosity is less in its upper course. Besides the Jabbok it receives the Hieromax (Yarmuk) below Gennesareth. From Jerusalem to Jordan is only a distance of 20 miles; in that distance the descent is 3,500 ft., one of the greatest chasms in the earth; Jerusalem is 2,581 ft. above the Mediterranean. Bitumen wells are not far from the Hasbeya in the N. Hot springs abound about Tiberias; and other tokens of volcanic action, tufa, etc., occur near the Yarmuk's mouth and elsewhere. Only on the E. border of lake Huleh the land is now well cultivated, and yields largely wheat, maize, rice, etc. Horses, cattle, and sheep, and black buffaloes (the "bulls of Bashan") pasture around. W. of Gennesareth are seen grain, palms, vines, figs, melons, and pomegranates.
Cultivation is rare along the lower Jordan, but pink oleanders, arbutus, rose hollyhocks, the purple thistle, marigold, and anemone abound. Tracks of tigers and wild boars, flocks of wild ducks, cranes, and pigeons have been seen by various explorers. Conder considers the tells in the Jordan vall
The longest and most important river in Palestine.
The river of Palestine is first referred to when Lot chose the plain of Jordan, because it was well watered, as the garden of the Lord. Ge 13:10. The first great event at the river was when the waters from above were driven back, and those below failed and were cut off, and Israel marched over on dry land. They had previously passed through the Red Sea, but the details of the two passages are quite different. At the Red Sea Moses lifted up his rod and the waters divided; but at the Jordan it was when the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the water that it divided. The ark also remained in the river until all had passed over. Twelve stones were taken out of the river to form a cairn on the land, and twelve stones were placed in the bed of the river to be covered by the water. The waters were piled up at Adam, some twenty miles from where the Israelites crossed; but at the Red Sea the water was as a wall on each side. Jos 3:8-17; 4. (The waters being piled up 'at Adam' Jos 3:16 is according to the Hebrew text see also R.V. and Mr. Darby's Trans.; the reading 'from Adam' is according to the Keri.)
All this was typical: the passage of the Red Sea typified Christ dying for the believer (by which the believer escapes death and judgement); the passage of the Jordan typified the believer dying with Christ, and being raised with Him (the path of death becomes the path of life), according to Col 2:20; Col.3:1. The waters of the river overflowing its banks at that time typified that the full power of death was met, and overcome by the death and resurrection of Christ. The Jordan itself has often been taken as a type of death having to be passed in order to enter heaven; but it is rather a figure of the entrance, while on earth, through death with Christ to the heavenly position of the Christian, where he has to stand for the Lord in conflict with spiritual powers of wickedness (cf. Eph 6:10-18), as Israel had to fight the Canaanites, and so make good the Lord's possession through them of the promised land.
The Jordan may further be regarded as the boundary of the promised land, so that the two and a half tribes who stayed on the east of the Jordan stopped short of their privileges. They are a type of many Christians who do not in faith accept the heavenly portion, through death and resurrection, that God intends for them. They are thus more exposed to the attacks of the enemy, as were the two and a half tribes who were the first to be carried into captivity.
The 'SWELLING' OF JORDAN is alluded to as causing dangers or difficulties. It not only prevented persons crossing at the usual fords, but it disturbed the wild beasts in their lairs on its banks, as is thrice alluded to. Jer 12:5; 49:19; 50:44. Various incidents and conflicts occurred at the river or on its banks which do not call for remark. In the N.T. it was where John baptized.
The Jordan is like no other river in the world. The Hebrew name for it, Yarden, always has the article, and signifies 'the Descender.' It is remarkable for the great fall it has from its source to the Dead Sea. It may be said to have three sources: the highest near Hasbeiya, between Hermon and Lebanon, some 3000 feet above the level of the sea; the second, near the ruins of Banyas, the ancient Caesarea-Philippi; and the third near Tell el Kady, the ancient Dan. The three streams unite with other smaller ones (the Iyon River is now considered to be another source) and entered the lake of Huleh, which was also called 'the waters of Merom.' This is estimated to be seven feet above the level of the sea, this lake was drained in 1957. The Jordan falls from here in a stream about a hundred feet wide, running south. About two miles from the lake is a bridge called Jisr Benat Yakub, 'Bridge of Jacob's Daughters,' where Jacob is supposed to have crossed. Its banks from this point contract, and the stream rushes violently down a rocky bed, but gets more gentle before it reaches the Lake of Gennesaret. The distance from lake to lake is about ten miles, but the windings of the river make its length about thirteen miles. The Lake of Gennesaret is 682 feet below the level of the sea, giving a fall of 689 feet in the thirteen miles.
The river leaves this lake about a hundred feet wide and soon passes the remains of a Roman bridge. Some six miles from the lake is a bridge called Jisr el Mujamia. The river here was deep and rapid but much water is now extracted for irrigation; about fifteen miles farther south an island divides the river and there it is often fordable, as it is also near Jericho, and at low water in many other places. Another bridge is called Jisr ed Damieh, about 32 6' N. The river's greatest width is mentioned as 180 yards and it is about three feet deep in entering the Dead Sea. This is 1292 feet below the level of the sea, being 610 below the Lake of Gennesaret; the distance is about 65 miles, but the water-way has been estimated to be as much as 200 miles: during its course it has 27 rapids. There are several streams that run into the Jordan both on the east and the west. The two principal ones are on the east: the Yarmuk or Wady Hieromax and the Jabbok, now called Wady Zerka. They are both at times called rivers.
The valley in which the Jordan runs is called the Ghor. On the east it is bounded by a high table land and on the west by high hills. In the valley is a terrace of vegetation, and in the middle of this are the true banks of the river, having in places a jungle of willows, reeds, canes, etc. See SALT SEA.
(the descender), the one river of Palestine, has a course of little more than 200 miles, from the roots of Anti-Lebanon to the head of the Dead Sea. (136 miles in a straight line. --Schaff.) It is the river of the "great plain" of Palestine --the "descender," if not "the river of God" in the book of Psalms, at least that of his chosen people throughout their history. There were fords over against Jericho, to which point the men of Jericho pursued the spies.
comp. Judg 3:28 Higher up where the fords or passages of Bethbarah, where Gideon lay in wait for the Midianites,
and where the men of Gilead slew the Ephraimites. ch.
These fords undoubtedly witnessed the first recorded passage of the Jordan in the Old Testament.
Jordan was next crossed, over against Jericho, by Joshua.
From their vicinity to Jerusalem the lower fords were much used. David, it is probable, passed over them in one instance to fight the Syrians.
Thus there were two customary places at which the Jordan was fordable; and it must have been at one of these, if not at both, that baptism was afterward administered by St. John and by the disciples of our Lord. Where our Lord was baptized is not stated expressly, but it was probably at the upper ford. These fords were rendered so much more precious in those days from two circumstances. First, it does not appear that there were then any bridges thrown over or boats regularly established on the Jordan; and secondly, because "Jordan overflowed all his banks all the time of harvest."
The channel or bed of the river became brimful, so that the level of the water and of the banks was then the same. (Dr. Selah Merrill, in his book "Galilee in the Time of Christ" (1881), says, "Near Tarichaea, just below the point where the Jordan leaves the lake (of Galilee), there was (in Christ's time) a splendid bridge across the river, supported by ten piers." --ED.) The last feature which remains to be noticed in the scriptural account of the Jordan is its frequent mention as a boundary: "over Jordan," "this" and "the other side," or "beyond Jordan," were expressions as familiar to the Israelites as "across the water," "this" and "the other side of the Channel" are to English ears. In one sense indeed, that is, in so far as it was the eastern boundary of the land of Canaan, it was the eastern boundary of the promised land.
The Jordan rises from several sources near Panium (Banias), and passes through the lakes of Merom (Huleh) and Gennesaret. The two principal features in its course are its descent and its windings. From its fountain heads to the Dead Sea it rushes down one continuous inclined plane, only broken by a series of rapids or precipitous falls. Between the Lake of Gennesaret and the Dead Sea there are 27 rapids. The depression of the Lake of Gennesaret below the level of the Mediterranean is 653 feet, and that of the Dead Sea 1316 feet. (The whole descent from its source to the Dead Sea is 3000 feet. Its width varies form 45 to 180 feet, and it is from 3 to 12 feet deep. -Schaff.) Its sinuosity is not so remarkable in the upper part of its course. The only tributaries to the Jordan below Gennesaret are the Yarmuk (Hieromax) and the Zerka (Jabbok). Not a single city ever crowned the banks of the Jordan. Still Bethshan and Jericho to the west, Gerasa, Pella and Gadara to the east of it were important cities, and caused a good deal of traffic between the two opposite banks. The physical features of the Ghor, through which the Jordan flows, are treated of under PALESTINE.
See Palestina and Palestine
JORDAN, the largest and most celebrated stream in Palestine. It is much larger, according to Dr. Shaw, than all the brooks and streams of the Holy Land united together; and, excepting the Nile, is by far the most considerable river either of the coast of Syria or of Barbary. He computed it to be about thirty yards broad, and found it nine feet deep at the brink. This river, which divides the country into two unequal parts, has been commonly said to issue from two fountains, or to be formed by the junction of two rivulets, the Jor and the Dan: but the assertion seems to be totally destitute of any solid foundation. The Jewish historian, Josephus, on the contrary, places its source at Phiala, a fountain which rises about fifteen miles from Caesarea Philippi, a little on the right hand, and not much out of the way to Trachonitis. It is called Phiala, or the Vial, from its round figure; its water is always of the same depth, the basin being brimful, without either shrinking or overflowing. From Phiala to Panion, which was long considered as the real source of the Jordan, the river flows under ground. The secret of its subterranean course was first discovered by Philip, the tetrarch of Trachonitis, who cast straws into the fountain of Phiala, which came out again at Panion. Leaving the cave of Panion, it crosses the bogs and fens of the lake Semichonitis; and after a course of fifteen miles, passes under the city of Julius, the ancient Bethsaida; then expands into a beautiful sheet of water, named the lake of Gennesareth; and, after flowing a long way through the desert, empties itself into the lake Asphaltites, or the Dead Sea. As the cave Panion lies at the foot of Mount Lebanon, in the northern extremity of Canaan, and the lake Asphaltites extends to the southern extremity, the river Jordan pursues its course through the whole extent of the country from north to south. It is evident, also, from the history of Josephus, that a wilderness or desert of considerable extent stretched along the river Jordan in the times of the New Testament; which was undoubtedly the wilderness mentioned by the evangelists, where John the Baptist came preaching and baptizing. The Jordan has a considerable depth of water. Chateaubriand makes it six or seven feet deep close at the shore, and about fifty paces in breadth a considerable distance from its entrance into the Dead Sea. According to the computation of Volney, it is hardly sixty paces wide at the mouth; but the author of "Letters from Palestine" states, that the stream when it enters the lake Asphaltites, is deep and rapid, rolling a considerable volume of waters; the width appears from two to three hundred feet, and the current is so violent, that a Greek servant belonging to the author, who attempted to cross it, though strong, active, and an excellent swimmer, found the undertaking impracticable. It may be said to have two banks, of which the inner marks the ordinary height of the stream; and the outer, its ancient elevation during the rainy season, or the melting of the snows on the summits of Lebanon. In the days of Joshua, and, it is probable, for many ages after his time, the harvest was one of the seasons when the Jordan over-flowed his banks. This fact is distinctly recorded by the sacred historian: "And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water; for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest," Jos 3:15. This happens in the first month of the Jewish year, which corresponds with March, 1Ch 12:15. But in modern times, whether the rapidity of the current has worn the channel deeper than formerly, or whether its waters have taken some other direction, the river seems to have forgotten his ancient greatness. When Maundrell visited Jordan on the thirtieth of March, the proper time for these inundations, he could discern no sign or probability of such overflowing; nay, so far was it from overflowing, that it ran, says our author, at least two yards below the brink of its channel. After having descended the outer bank, he went about a furlong upon the level strand, before he came to the immediate bank of the river. This inner bank was so thickly covered with bushes and trees, among which he observed the tamarisk, the willow, and the oleander, that he could see no water till he had made his way through them. In this entangled thicket, so conveniently planted near the cooling stream, and remote from the habitations of men, several kinds of wild beasts were accustomed to repose, till the swelling of the river drove them from their retreats. This circumstance gave occasion to that beautiful allusion of the prophet: "He shall come up like a lion, from the swelling of Jordan, against the habitation of the strong," Jer 49:19. The figure is highly poetical and striking. It is not easy to present a more terrible image to the mind, than a lion roused from his den by the roar of the swelling river, and chafed and irritated by its rapid and successive encroachments on his chosen haunts, till, forced to quit his last retreat, he ascends to the higher grounds and the open country, and turns the fierceness of his rage against the helpless sheep cots, or the unsuspecting villages. A destroyer equally fierce, and cruel, and irresistible, the devoted Edomites were to find in Nebuchadnezzar and his armies.
The water of the river at the time of Maundrell's visit was very turbid, and too rapid to allow a swimmer to stem its course. Its breadth might be about twenty yards; and in depth, it far exceeded his height. The rapidity and depth of the river, which are admitted by every traveller, although the volume of water seems now to be much diminished, illustrate those parts of Scripture which mention the fords and passages of Jordan. It no longer, indeed, rolls down into the Salt Sea so majestic a stream as in the days of Joshua; yet its ordinary depth is still about ten or twelve feet, so that it cannot even at present be passed but at certain places. Of this well known circumstance, the men of Gilead took advantage in the civil war, which they were compelled to wage with their brethren: "The Gileadites took the passages of Jordan before the Ephraimites: