Sign saying Jordan River in English and Hebrew Jordan River in the Bible

Fascinating Facts About the Jordan River In The Bible

The Jordan River in the Bible is the Bible’s most famous body of water. The Jordan was an important natural boundary and landmark of ancient Israel, and is mentioned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. It is 156-mile-long river which flows from its source in Mount Hermon, and into the Sea of Galilee before emptying into the Dead Sea, also called the Salt Sea.

When the Jordan River enters into the Dead Sea, it has the significance of arriving at the lowest elevation of any river. It is actually below sea level, of any river on Earth. Because of its many mentions in Biblical history, now in modern times, the Jordan River is a popular attraction of the Holy Land.

Road sign saying Israel With green palm fronds

It was the Jordan River that formed the natural boundary of the Promised Land, the land God promised to the people of Israel after He helped them escape slavery in Egypt. Here are some notable Bible events that occurred in and around the Jordan River.

Jordan River in the Bible — The Plain of Jordan

The first mention of the Jordan River, specifically the Jordan River valley, is in Genesis: “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered every where, before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt, as thou comest unto Zoar.” Genesis 13:10 (KJV)

Lot had traveled with his Uncle Abraham and tensions arose; it was time for them to part ways. Abraham gave Lot first choice of where to settle, and as Lot considered his options, he saw, and then choose to relocate in the well-watered area of the Jordan valley.

The Jordan River in the Bible — The Boundary of the Promised Land

God promised a land to Abraham and his descendants. This Promised Land, a place for God’s people to inhabit, was in the area was across the Jordan River. Moses specifically gave this location in his farewell address to the children of Israel, which is recorded in Deuteronomy 27:2 “…when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee…” (KJV)

Unfortunately, some of the tribes, specifically those of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh, requested that they would receive their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan River. God granted them their request, and in the years following, the river Jordan flowed between the settlement of the tribes of Israel.

Also, Moses gave specific instructions to the people that after they crossed the Jordan River. The first thing they were to do in their new land was to take large stones, and on these large stones they were to write God’s commands as a reminder to them of how God expected them to conduct themselves in their new land.

large stones

Specifically, Moses said: “And it shall be on the day when ye shall pass over Jordan unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, that thou shalt set thee up great stones, and plaister them with plaister: And thou shalt write upon them all the words of this law, when thou art passed over, that thou mayest go in unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, a land that floweth with milk and honey; as the LORD God of thy fathers hath promised thee.” Deuteronomy 27:2-3 (KJV)

After the death of Moses, God told Joshua to lead His people across the Jordan River. God said in Joshua 1:2, “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.” (KJV)

Looking at the natural barrier of this great river, the people may have been afraid and wondered just how they were going to cross it. But since it was God’s will for them to cross over, He made a way for them. He performed a miracle similar to that of the crossing of the Red Sea — God stopped the water flow of the Jordan until all of the people went across on dry ground through the midst of the Jordan. This is how He explained what He would do to Joshua:

“And it shall come to pass, as soon as the soles of the feet of the priests that bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of Jordan, that the waters of Jordan shall be cut off from the waters that come down from above; and they shall stand upon an heap.” Joshua 3:13 (KJV)

Just as God promised, when the Levitical priests who carried the ark of the Lord first stepped into the Jordan River, God stopped the flow of the river so that His people could go across on dry ground. Then, after the crossing of the Jordan was completed, and the priests came up out of the middle of the river and God allowed the waters of the Jordan to resume its flow.

Joshua 4:18 “And it came to pass, when the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD were come up out of the midst of Jordan, and the soles of the priests’ feet were lifted up unto the dry land, that the waters of Jordan returned unto their place, and flowed over all his banks, as they did before.” (KJV)

a portion of the Jordan River lined with green trees

After all of the people were safely across the river and finally in the Promised Land, then Joshua, following the instructions of Moses, instructed twelve men to each take out of the Jordan River a large stone from the middle of the Jordan, and to set them as a memorial to commemorate what God did for His people. Read the full account of this in the book of Joshua chapter 4, verses 1 through 9.

Jordan River in the Bible — Other Notable Old Testament Events

Years after the children of Israel were settled in the Promised Land, the Jordan River was still an important place. It was in the Jordan valley where many of the instruments used in the temple of the Lord were made, according to 1 Kings 7:45-46 “And the pots, and the shovels, and the basons: and all these vessels, which Hiram made to king Solomon for the house of the LORD, were of bright brass. In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zarthan.” (KJV)

It was near the Jordan River where Elijah went up to heaven via a chariot of fire. This act of the Spirit of God is recorded in 2 Kings 2:11-14:

Statue of the chariots of fire

“And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried, My father, my father, the chariot of Israel, and the horsemen thereof.

And he saw him no more: and he took hold of his own clothes, and rent them in two pieces. He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; And he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.” (KJV)

Elisha, the prophet of God, told the Syrian leper Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River to be cleansed of his deadly disease. 2 Kings 5:10 “And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.” (KJV)

At first Naaman resisted this command because of the poor quality of the water of the Jordan. But when he obeyed the words of the Lord, he was healed.

Jordan River in the Bible — The Baptism of Jesus

The most significant event of the New Testament that occurred in the Jordan River was the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist before He started His public ministry. John the Baptist was preaching and baptizing people in the Jordan River. The most famous person he baptized there was Jesus. The account from Mark reads “And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan.” —Mark 1:9 (KJV)

Painting depicting the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist

Here is the account from Luke’s perspective: “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.” – Luke 3:21—22 (KJV)

The three Persons of the Triune Godhead: God the Father and God the Holy Spirit all were witnesses at the baptism of God the Son.

Jordan River in the Bible – Modern Area of Qasr El Yahud

Qasr El Yahod Area of the Jordan River

The Biblical events surrounding the Jordan River has made it famous. Today, the area called Qasr El Yahud (translated: “the citadel of the Jews”), which is located in the area of the West Bank, is supposed to be the place where Jesus was baptized. Traditionally, this is also the place where the children of Israel crossed over into the Promised Land and Elijah ascended into heaven.

Jordan River Pinterest optimized image

For another Old Testament Bible study article, check out Sons of Korah Bible Dedication of the Old Testament.

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