Jordan: 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, 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'"
(Leviticus 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"
(Matthew 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
(Genesis 13:10) "Lot beheld the plain of
Jordan as the garden of the Lord." Jacob crossed and recrossed "this
(Genesis 32:10) The Israelites passed over it as "on dry ground"
(Joshua 3:17; Psalms 114:3) Twice afterwards its waters were miraculously
divided at the same spot by Elijah and Elisha
(2 Kings 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"
2. Jesus also "was baptized of John in Jordan"