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Jordan River

The name Jordan in Hebrew is ירדן (Yarden) which means “to descend”.  The Jordan River is exactly a descending river

The Jordan River is Israel’s first major river, and it is an important area of Canaan.  Water originating from northern Mt. Hermon, the highest mountain in Israel, flows south through the Sea of Galilee into the Jordan Rift Valley, passing through the city of Adam, descending to the lowest sea level on earth at the Dead Sea.  The Jordan River along the way has many streams.

How long and how wide is the Jordan River?  To be honest, you will get different answers from different sources, such as the internet, reputable websites or reference books.  The figures below are quoted from Dr. Carl Rasmussen:

The Lower Jordan River is a 65 mi. [105 km.] portion of the Rift Valley that stretches from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.  Because of its winding nature its actual length is about 135 mi. [215 km.].  Prior to all of these diversionary usages the Jordan was about a 100 ft. [30 m.] wide and 3 to 10 ft. [1 to 3 m.] deep — swelling in the floods of spring to almost a mile [1.6 km.] in places.”

A number of things happened in the Jordan River.  Below are some examples.

It was the place where God’s Chosen People first crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land:

Joshua 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead.  Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites.”

It was the place where Elijah and Elisha divided the water and crossed over on dry ground:

2 Kings 2:6-8 “ 6 Then Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord has sent me to the Jordan.” And he replied, “As surely as the Lord lives and as you live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them walked on.

7 Fifty men from the company of the prophets went and stood at a distance, facing the place where Elijah and Elisha had stopped at the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his cloak, rolled it up and struck the water with it. The water divided to the right and to the left, and the two of them crossed over on dry ground.”

It was the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus:
Matthew 3:13-17 13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.””
Let’s explore this miraculous place!

Map - waters descend to the Dead Sea

April is the harvest time in Israel. During this time the snow and ice from Mt Hermon would melt causing water to flood both sides, flow through the Sea of Galilee into the Jordan Rift Valley, pass through the city of Adam (as you can see from the map in the middle north), and descend to the lowest sea level on earth at the Dead Sea.
Map credited to the “Regions on the Run” published by James Monson with Steven P Lancaster.

A miracle: The flood water was stopped

Did you know that miracles happened thousands of years ago that made the flood water stop at the city of Adam so that God’s Chosen People could cross the dry ground of the Jordan River (opposite Jericho)?

Joshua 3:14-17 “14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.”

Soldiers on patrol

The baptismal place of the Jordan River has two sides: Qasr-el-Yahud on the west belongs to Israel and Wadi-al-Kharrar on the east belongs to Jordan.

The picture shows that an Israelite soldier on the side of Qasr-el-Yahud made sure that nobody was crossing over, the same as the other side with Jordanian soldiers.  It is because of the Israeli-Jordan Peace Agreement between Jordan and Israel.

Qasr-el-Yahud belonged to Jordan until 1968.  Israel won the Six-Day War in 1967, and the Jordan River became the boundary between Israel and Jordan.  However, this site was not opened until 2011 due to 4,000 mines that needed to be cleared.

An iron fence is installed between Israel and Jordan in the middle of the River.  No one can swim across to the other side! 

qasr-el-yahud

Qasr-al-Yahud קאסר אל יהוד means the Palace of the Jews.  It is on the west side of the Jordan River.   Most Christians go to this site for baptism because they believe it is the place where John the Baptist baptized Jesus.  This side belongs to the border of Israel.

The east side (with the wood shade in the picture) of the Jordan River is called Wadi-al-Kharrar.  Some claim that Jesus was baptized at Wadi-al-Kharra.  It is under the control of Jordan.  The river is divided by an iron fence.

Where was Jesus baptized? Qasr-el-Yahud oR Wadi-al-Kharrar?

According to John 1:24-28, when John the Baptist answered the Pharisees, he mentioned a place called Bethany:

John 1:24-28
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 “I baptize with[e] water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” 24 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.”

In the Bible, there are two places named Bethany; one is near the Mount of Olives where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44); another one is east of Jericho where Qasr-el-Yahud and Wadi-al-Kharrar are located.
UNESCO has declared Bethany Beyond the Jordan a World Heritage site, identifying Wadi-al-Kharrar on the Jordan side as the location where Jesus’ baptism is believed to have taken place. The Vatican and Orthodox Christian patriarchs and top church officials have given their blessings to the site.

No matter which side is the exact side for the baptism of Jesus, it is all about economics.  Israel roughly has 750,000 visitors a year to its baptism site and Jordan’s baptism site roughly has 250,000 visitors annually.  It is all about the millions of dollars in annual tourist revenue.

Click here for more information.

a leap of faith

In the picture, a group of bible believers celebrated a “reborn” person who has a new heart and spirit eternally.

In our Tanakh the book of Ezekiel 36:26 says: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”

How can I have a new heart and a new spirit that will dwell within me?

In John 3:1-5, there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.  He believed Jesus had come from God as no one could perform the signs Jesus was doing.  Jesus replied to him that no one could see the kingdom of God unless they were born again.   Nicodemus did not understand how a human could enter a second time into the womb to be born.  Jesus answered that no one could enter the kingdom of God unless they were born of water and the Spirit.  Jesus further explained that “everyone who believes may have eternal life in Him.”

Therefore, how can a person have a new heart and a new spirit eternally? The answer is in the verse of John 3:16 below:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Some people say it takes a big leap to believe in Jesus; I would say it would be a big loss NOT to believe in Jesus after you hear His words!

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