|Cities of Ancient Israel|
esh-Sheri'ah el-Kebireh. River. (Heb. generally with article hayyarden, "the descender," probably from the rapid descent of the river). It is now called El Urdan, or Esh-Sheri'ah, or the watering-place, and is the main river in Palestine.
It flows along the geological Syro-African Rift and is formed by the merging of three streams at the base of Mount Hermon which are 250 feet above sea level. It descends extremely rapidly to the Huleh region and dividing again into several streams. Before it descends into the Sea of Galilee it drops 850 feet with extremely rocky banks. From the Sea of Galilee The river descends south on a windy course for 104 miles into the Dead Sea, although the straight distance is only 65 miles.
On its descent southward it is met by the Yarmuk River and the Jabbok River both from Gilead. The Bible mentions the plain through which the River flows as "the plain" (Josh 2:11), or the Plain of Jordan (I Kings 7:46). The Plain forms to shelves, with one above the other, the southern Plain was referred to the Bible as the Plains of Moab (Num 21:1) and the Plains of Jericho (Josh 4:13). Genesis refers to "the cities of the Plain" (Gen 19:29).
The Jordan valley contains thick vegetation and was filled with wildlife, including wild boar, and lions, as mentioned in the Bible (Jer. 49:19). In biblical times there were a few natural crossing places, and there were no bridges back then. The crossing of the Jordan in the Promised Land was as much of a miracle as a crossing of the Red Sea (Josh 3-4). The Bible mentions that the Jordan River was with divided the eastern tribes of Israel from the western tribes (Judg 5:17).
The Jordan River was held as sacred since the earliest of times. The Bible records that Elijah divided them when he smote the waters with his mantle, and so did Elisha (II Kings 2:8, 13-14). Naaman the Leper who was captain of the armies of Syria dipped seven times in the Jordan River and "his flesh came again likened to the flesh of a little child, and he was clean" (II Kings 5:14). John the Baptist prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah when he baptized them in the waters of the Jordan River (Matt 3:5 ff; Mk 1:5 ff). Jesus Himself was also baptized by John in the Jordan River near Bethabarah (John 1:28-33).
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