From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

From Yarad "to descend," Arab. "the watering place." Always with the Hebrew article "the Jordan," except  Job 40:23;  Psalms 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:  Genesis 12:10-20), chose that district as his home, in spite of the notorious wickedness of the people ( Genesis 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,  Matthew 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 ( 2 Kings 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 ( Genesis 32:10;  Genesis 32:22). 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 ( Joshua 3:15-16;  Joshua 4:12-13;  Joshua 5:10-12). The men of Jericho had pursued the spies to the fords there ( Joshua 2:7), the same as those "toward Moab" where the Moabites were slain ( Judges 3:28).

Higher up were the fords Bethbarah or Bethabara (house of passage), where Gideon intercepted the fleeing Midianites ( Judges 7:24) and the Gileadites slew the Ephraimites ( Judges 12:6), probably the place also of Jacob's crossing. Near was "the clay ground between Succoth and Zarthan" used for Solomon's foundry ( 1 Kings 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 ( 1 Chronicles 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 ( Joshua 4:3;  Joshua 4:6-7;  Joshua 4:9;  Joshua 4:20). By this lower ford David passed to fight Syria ( 2 Samuel 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 ( 2 Samuel 17:22;  2 Samuel 19:15;  2 Samuel 19:18). Here Elijah and Elisha divided the waters with the prophet's mantle ( 2 Kings 2:4;  2 Kings 2:8;  2 Kings 2:14).

At the upper fords Naaman washed off his leprosy. Here too the Syrians fled, when panic struck by the Lord ( 2 Kings 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 ( John 10:39-40;  John 11:1). John's next baptisms were ( John 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. ( Luke 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 ( John 2:13-23), for there was no ford there ( John 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 ( Jeremiah 49:19); in  Jeremiah 12:5 some translated "the pride of Jordan," (compare  2 Kings 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?" ( Proverbs 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 ( Joshua 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 valley and the Esdraelon plain as artificial, and probably the site of the stronghold of ancient towns; the slopes are steep; good water is always near; they are often where no natural elevation afforded a site for a fortress. There are no bridges earlier than the Roman. The Saracens added or restored some. The Roman bridge of 10 arches, Jisr Semakh, was on the route from Tiberias to Gadara. In coincidence with Scripture, the American survey sets down three fords: that at Tarichaea, the second at the Jabbok's confluence with' Jordan, and that at Jericho. The Jordan seldom now overflows its banks; but Lieutenant Lynch noticed sedge and driftwood high up in the overhanging trees on the banks, showing it still at times overflows the plain.

Anciently, when forests abounded more than now, Mount Hermon had more snow and rain falling on it, and Jordan was therefore flooded to overflow. It is plain from  Joshua 3:15;  Joshua 4:18 compare with  Isaiah 8:7, that Jordan was not merely full to the brim, but overflowed its banks. The flood never reaches beyond the lower line of the Ghor, which is covered with vegetation. The plain of the Jordan between the sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea is generally eight miles broad, but at the N. end of the Dead Sea the hills recede so that the width is 12 miles, of which the W. part is named "the plains of Jericho." The upper terrace immediately under the hills is covered with vegetation; under that is the Arabah or desert plain, barren in its southern part except where springs fertilize it, but fertile in its northern part and cultivated by irrigation.

Grove remarks of the Jordan: "so rapid that its course is one continued cataract, so crooked that in its whole lower and main course it has hardly a half mile straight, so broken with rapids that no boat can swim any distance continuously, so deep below the adjacent country that it is invisible and can only be with difficulty approached; refusing all communication with the ocean, and ending in a lake where navigation is impossible useless for irrigation, it is in fact what its Arabic name signifies, nothing but a 'great watering place,' Sheriat el Khebir." Geologists find that the Jordan valley was caused by a sudden violent depression after the late cretaceous period, having a chain of lakes at three levels. The level is gradually lowering, and the area of the lakes diminishing by denudation and evaporation.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

JORDAN. The longest and most important river in Palestine.

1. Name . The name ‘Jordan’ is best derived from Heb. yârad ‘to descend,’ the noun Yardçn formed from it signifying ‘the descender’; it is used almost invariably with the article. In Arabic the name is esh-Sheri‘ah , or ‘the watering-place,’ though Arabic writers before the Crusades called it el-Urdun . Quite fanciful is Jerome’s derivation of the name from Jor and Dan , the two main sources of the river, as no source by the name of Jor is known.

2. Geology . The geology of the Jordan is unique. Rising high up among the foothills of Mt. Hermon, it flows almost due south by a most tortuous course, through the two lakes of Huleh and Galilee, following the bottom of a rapidly descending and most remarkable geological fissure, and finally emptying itself into the Dead Sea, which is 1292 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. In its short course of a little more than 100 miles it falls about 3000 feet, and for the greater portion of the journey runs below the level of the ocean. No other part of the earth’s surface, uncovered by water, sinks to a depth of even 300 feet below sea-level, except the great Sahara. Professor Hull, the eminent Irish geologist, accounts for this great natural cleft by supposing that towards the end of the Eocene period a great ‘fault’ or fracture was caused by the contraction from east to west of the limestone crust of the earth. Later, during the Pliocene period, the whole Jordan valley probably formed an inland lake more than 200 miles long, but at the close of the Glacial period the waters decreased until they reached their present state. Traces of water, at heights 1180 feet above the Dead Sea’s present level, are found on the lateral slopes of the Jordan valley.

3. Sources . The principal sources of the Jordan are three: (1) the river Hasbani , which rises in a large fountain on the western slopes of Mt. Hermon, near Hasbeiya , at an altitude of 1700 feet; (2) the Leddan , which gushes forth from the celebrated fountain under Tell el-Qadl, or Dan, at an altitude of 1500 feet the most copious source of the Jordan; and (3) the river Banias , which issues from an immense cavern below Banias or Cæsarea Philippi, having an altitude of 1200 feet. These last two meet about five miles below their fountain-heads at an altitude of 148 feet, and are joined about a half-mile farther on by the Hasbani. Their commingled waters flow on across a dismal marsh of papyrus, and, after seven miles, empty into Lake Huleh, which is identified by some with ‘the waters of Merom’ (  Joshua 11:5;   Joshua 11:7 ). The lake is four miles long, its surface being but 7 feet above sea-level.

4. The Upper Jordan is a convenient designation for that portion of the river between Lake Huleh and the Sea of Galilee. Emerging from Lake Huleh, the river flows placidly for a space of two miles, and then dashes down over a rocky and tortuous bed until it enters the Sea of Galilee, whose altitude is 682 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. It falls, in this short stretch of 10 1 / 2 miles, 689 feet. At certain seasons its turbid waters can be traced for quite a considerable distance into the sea, which is 12 1 /2 miles long.

5. The Lower Jordan is an appropriate designation for that portion of the river between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. The distance in a straight line between these two seas is but 65 miles, yet it is estimated that the river’s actual course covers not less than 200, due to its sinuosity. In this stretch it falls 610 feet, the rate at first being 40 feet per mile. Its width varies from 90 to 200 feet. Along its banks grow thickets of tamarisks, poplars, oleanders, and bushes of different varieties, which are described by the prophets of the OT as ‘the pride of Jordan’ (  Jeremiah 12:5;   Jeremiah 49:19;   Jeremiah 50:44 ,   Zechariah 11:3 ). Numerous rapids, whirlpools, and islets characterize this portion of the Jordan. The river’s entire length from Banias to the Dead Sea is 104 miles, measured in a straight line.

6. Tributaries . Its most important tributaries flow into the Lower Jordan and from the East. The largest is the Yarmuk of the Rabbis, the Hieromax of the Greeks, and the Sheri‘at el-Manadireh of the Arabs, which drains Gilead and Bashan in part. It enters the Jordan 5 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. The Bible never mentions it. The only other tributary of considerable importance is the Jabbok of the OT, called by the natives Nahr ez-Zerka or Wady el-‘Arab . It rises near ‘Amman (Philadelphia), describes a semicircle, and flows into the Jordan at a point about equidistant from the two seas. On the west are the Nahr el-Jatûd , which rises in the spring of Harod at the base of Mt. Gilboa and drains the valley of Jezreel; Wady Fârah , which rises near Mt. Ebal and drains the district east of Shechem; and the Wady el-Kelt , by Jericho, which is sometimes identified with the brook Cherith.

7. Fords . The fords of the Jordan are numerous. The most celebrated is that opposite Jericho known as Makhadet el-Hajlah , where modern pilgrims are accustomed to bathe. There is another called el-Ghôranïyeh near the mouth of Wady Nimrin . North of the Jabbok there are at least a score. In ancient times the Jordan seems to have been crossed almost exclusively by fords (  1 Samuel 13:7 ,   2 Samuel 10:17 ); but David and his household were possibly conveyed across in a ‘ferry-boat’ (  2 Samuel 19:18; the rendering is doubtful).

8. Bridges are not mentioned in the Bible. Those which once spanned the Jordan were built by the Romans, or by their successors. The ruins of one, with a single arch, may be seen at Jisr ed-Damieh near the mouth of the Jabbok. Since its construction the river bed has changed so that it no longer spans the real channel. This bridge is on the direct route from Shechem to Ramoth-gilead. There is another called Jisr el-Mujamîyeh , close by that of the new railroad from Haifa to Damascus, or about 7 miles south of the Sea of Galilee. A third, built of black basalt and having three arches, is known as the Jisr ‘Benat-Yâ‘gub , or ‘bridge of the daughters of Jacob,’ situated about two miles south of Lake Huleh on the direct caravan route from Acre to Damascus. A temporary wooden bridge, erected by the Arabs, stands opposite Jericho.

9. The Jordan valley . The broad and ever-descending valley through which the Jordan flows is called by the Arabs the Ghôr or ‘bottom’; to the Hebrews it was known as the ‘ Arabah. It is a long plain, sloping uniformly at the rate of 9 feet to the mile, being at the northern end 3, and at the southern end 12 miles broad. For the most part the valley is fertile, especially in the vicinity of Beisan, where the grass and grain grow freely. Near the Dead Sea, however, the soil is saline and barren. The ruins of ancient aqueducts here and there all over the plain give evidence of its having been at one time highly cultivated. By irrigation the entire region could easily be brought under cultivation once more and converted into a veritable garden. In the vicinity of Jericho, once the ‘city of palms,’ a large variety of fruits, vegetables, and other products is grown. The most fertile portion under cultivation at the present time is the comparatively narrow floor-bed of the river known as the Zôr , varying from a quarter to two miles in width, and from 20 to 200 feet in depth below the Ghôr proper. This is the area which was overflowed every year ‘all the time of harvest’ (  Joshua 3:15 ). It has been formed, doubtless, by the changing of the river bed from one side of the valley to the other.

10. The climate of the Jordan valley is hot. The Lower Jordan in particular, being shut in by two great walls of mountain, the one on the east, and the other on the west, is decidedly tropical. Even in winter the days are uncomfortably warm, though the nights are cool; in summer both days and nights are torrid, especially at Jericho, where the thermometer has been known to register 130 Fahr. by day, and 110 after sunset. This accounts largely for the unpeopled condition of the Lower Jordan valley both to-day and in former times.

11. Flora and fauna . The trees and shrubs of the Jordan valley are both numerous and varied. The retem or broom plant, thorns, oleanders, flowering bamboos, castor-oil plants, tamarisks, poplars, acacias, Dead Sea ‘apples of Sodom,’ and many other species of bush, all grow in the valley. The papyrus is especially luxuriant about Lake Huleh.

Animals such as the leopard, jackal, boar, hyæna, ibex, porcupine, and fox live in the thickets which border the banks. The lion has completely disappeared. The river abounds in fish of numerous species, many of them resembling those found in the Nile and the lakes of tropical Africa. Of the 35 species, however, known to exist, 16 are peculiar to the Jordan.

12. The Jordan as a boundary . In view of what has been said, it is obvious that the Jordan forms a natural boundary to Palestine proper. In the earlier books of the OT we frequently meet with the expressions ‘on this side Jordan,’ and ‘on the other side of the Jordan,’ which suggest that the Jordan was a dividing line and a natural boundary. In   Numbers 34:12 , indeed, it is treated as the original eastern boundary of the Promised Land (cf.   Joshua 22:25 ). Yet, as Lucien Gautier suggests (art. ‘Jordan’ in Hastings’ DCG [Note: CG Dictionary of Christ and the Gospels.] ), it was not so much the Jordan that constituted the boundary as the depressed Ghôr valley as a whole.

13. Scripture references . The Jordan is frequently mentioned in both the OT and the NT. Lot, for example, is said to have chosen ‘all the circle of the Jordan’ because ‘it was well watered everywhere’ (  Genesis 13:10 ); Joshua and all Israel crossed over the Jordan on dry ground (  Joshua 3:17 ); Ehud seized the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, cutting off their retreat (  Judges 3:28 ); Gideon, Jephthah, David, Elijah, and Elisha were all well acquainted with the Jordan; Naaman the Syrian was directed to go wash in the Jordan seven times, that his leprosy might depart from him (  2 Kings 5:10 ). And it was at the Jordan that John the Baptist preached and baptized, our Lord being among those who were here sacramentally consecrated (  Matthew 3:1-17 and parallels). To-day thousands of pilgrims from all parts of the civilized world visit the Jordan; so that, as G. A. Smith ( HGHL [Note: GHL Historical Geography of Holy Land.] , p. 496) reminds us, ‘what was never a great Jewish river has become a very great Christian one.’

George L. Robinson.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

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,"  Joshua 3:15 . This happens in the first month of the Jewish year, which corresponds with March,  1 Chronicles 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,"  Jeremiah 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:—then they took him, and slew him at the passages of Jordan."  Judges 12:6 . The people of Israel, under the command of Ehud, availed themselves of the same advantage in the war with Moab: "And they went down after him, and took the fords of Jordan toward Moab, and suffered not a man to pass over,"  Judges 3:28 . But although the state of this river in modern times completely justifies the incidental remarks of the sacred writers, it is evident that Maundrell was disconcerted by the shallowness of the stream, at the time of the year when he expected to see it overflowing all its banks; and his embarrassment seems to have increased when he contemplated the double margin within which it flowed. This difficulty, which has perhaps occurred to some others, may be explained by a remark which Dr. Pococke has made on the river Euphrates: The bed of the Euphrates, says that writer, was measured by some English gentlemen at Beer, and found to be six hundred and thirty yards broad; but the river only two hundred and fourteen yards over; then they thought it to be nine or ten feet deep in the middle; and were informed that it sometimes rises twelve feet perpendicularly. He observed that it had an inner and outer bank; but says, it rarely overflows the inner bank; that when it does, they sow water mellons and other fruits of that kind, as soon as the water retires, and have a great produce. From this passage, Mr. Harmer argues: "Might not the over-flowings of the Jordan be like those of the Euphrates, not annual, but much more rare?" The difficulty, therefore, will be completely removed by supposing, that it does not, like the Nile, overflow every year, as some authors, by mistake, had supposed, but, like the Euphrates, only in some particular years; but when it does it is in the time of harvest. If it did not in ancient times annually overflow its banks, the majesty of God in dividing its waters to make way for Joshua and the armies of Israel, was certainly the more striking to the Canaanites; who, when they looked upon themselves as defended in an extraordinary manner by the casual swelling of the river, its breadth and rapidity being both so extremely increased, yet, found it in these circumstances part asunder, and leave a way on dry land for the people of Jehovah. The common receptacle into which the Jordan empties his waters, is the lake Asphaltites, from whence they are continually drained off by evaporation. Some writers, unable to find a discharge for the large body of water which is continually rushing into the lake, have been inclined to suspect it had some communication with the Mediterranean; but, beside that we know of no such gulf, it has been demonstrated by accurate calculations, that evaporation is more than sufficient to carry off the waters of the river. It is, in fact, very considerable, and frequently becomes sensible to the eye, by the fogs with which the lake is covered at the rising of the sun, and which are afterward dispersed by the heat.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [4]

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 Tellel-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,  2 Kings 25:4   2 Chronicles 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,"  Jeremiah 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,  1 Chronicles 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  Isaiah 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   Judges 3:28   12:5   2 Samuel 17:22-24 . Ferryboats were also used,  2 Samuel 19:17,18,39 . See Sea 4.

It was during the annual "swelling of the Jordan" that Joshua and the Israelites crossed it,  Joshua 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,  2 Kings 5:14   6:6 . Here, too, our Savior was baptized,  Matthew 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  Genesis 19:17-28,30 . See Sea 3.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [5]

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.  Genesis 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.   Joshua 3:8-17;  Joshua 4:1-24 . (The waters being piled up 'at Adam' [  Joshua 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  Colossians 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.  Ephesians 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.  Jeremiah 12:5;  Jeremiah 49:19;  Jeremiah 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

Smith's Bible Dictionary [6]

Jor'dan. (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 the Jordan against Jericho, to which point the men of Jericho pursued the spies.  Joshua 2:7. Compare  Judges 3:28.

Higher up, were the fords or passages of Bethbarah, where Gideon lay in wait for the Midianites,  Judges 7:24 and where the men of Gilead slew the Ephraimites.  Judges 12:6. These fords, undoubtedly, witnessed the first recorded passage, of the Jordan in the Old Testament.  Genesis 32:10.

Jordan was next crossed, over against Jericho, by Joshua.  Joshua 4:12-13. 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.  2 Samuel 10:17;  2 Samuel 17:22.

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."  Joshua 3:15. 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." - Editor).

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.  Numbers 34:12.

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 .

People's Dictionary of the Bible [7]

Jordan ( Jôr'Dan ), The Descender, called "the river,"  Genesis 31:21;  Joshua 1:11, has a course of little more than 200 miles, from the foot of Anti-Lebanon to the head of the Dead sea—136 miles in a straight line. It is the river of the great depressed valley of Palestine—the "descender," if not "the river of God" in the book of Psalms. There were fords opposite Jericho, to which the men of Jericho pursued the spies.  Joshua 2:7; compare  Judges 3:28. Higher up were the fords or passages of Bethbarah, where Gideon lay in wait for the Midianites,  Judges 7:24, and where the men of Gilead slew the Ephraimites.  Judges 12:6. At one of these fords was made the first recorded passage of the Jordan in the Old Testament.  Genesis 32:10. Jordan was next crossed, over against Jericho, by Joshua.  Joshua 4:12-13. From their nearness to Jerusalem the lower fords were much used. David, it is probable, passed over them in one instance to fight the Syrians.  2 Samuel 10:17;  2 Samuel 17:22. Thus there were two or more places at which the Jordan was usually forded; and it must have been at one of these, if not at both, that baptism was afterwards administered by John the Baptist, and by the disciples of our Lord. Our Lord was baptized probably at the ford near Bethabara or Bethany. The rains and the melting of the snows on Lebanon caused it to rise and flood the valley. "The Jordan overflowed all his banks all the time of harvest."  Joshua 3:15. The channel or bed of the river became brimful, so that the level of the water and of the banks was then the same. The bridges over the river did not exist in early times, although there are evidences of one near the lake of Galilee in the Roman period, and perhaps in the time of Christ. See Galilee, by S. Merrill. In the scriptural accounts of the Jordan it is frequently mentioned as a boundary: "over Jordan," "this" and "the other side," or "beyond Jordan," were expressions familiar to the Israelites. 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.  Numbers 34:12. The Jordan rises from several sources near Panium ( Bâniâs), and passes through the lakes of Merom ( Hûleh) 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 from 45 to 180 feet, and it is from 3 to 12 feet deep.— Schaff. The only tributaries to the Jordan below Gennesaret are the Yarmûk (Hieromax) and the Zerka (Jabbok).

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [8]

That sacred river where the Lord Jesus Christ was baptized. It takes its name from Jor, a spring, and Dan, a small town near the source of Jor. Some have called it Jordan: and they say it means the river of judgment, from Dun, judgment. Every thing tends to endear this river to the believer. Numberless are the meditations it affords to the regenerate, in the many sacred events which have taken place at and on the banks of Jordan. (See  Genesis 13:11;  Numbers 34:12;  Joshua 3:8; Jos 3:11; Jos 4:3; Jos 4:17; Jos 4:23;  1 Kings 17:3;  2 Kings 2:6-7; 2Ki 5:10; 2Ki 5:14;  Matthew 3:6; Mat 3:17. etc.)

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [9]

 Psalm 42:6 (c) This represents a beautiful Christian life in which the stream of GOD (the Holy Spirit). refreshes the soul and enriches the life.

 Jeremiah 12:5 (b) This verse is very appropriate in these days. The river probably refers to the time of death. It is usually taken as an emblem of the stream which separates us from the city of GOD. The argument evidently is that if in this life the people of this world are wearied with the realities of eternity, what would be their condition if they were transported across the river into Heaven, where there are none of the things that attract the unsaved. If, in the company of believers here, with their anemic and emaciated type of Christianity they are disgusted, what would these people do when brought face to face with death, and the realities that must be faced after death.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [10]

  • Jesus also "was baptized of John in Jordan" ( Mark 1:9 ).

    Copyright Statement These dictionary topics are from M.G. Easton M.A., DD Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897. Public Domain.

    Bibliography Information Easton, Matthew George. Entry for 'Jordan'. Easton's Bible Dictionary. 1897.

  • Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [11]

    The Jordan River, which formed the boundary along the eastern side of the land of Canaan, rose in the region of Mt Hermon in the north and finished in the Dead Sea in the south. It was an important feature of Palestine’s geography and was of much significance in the history of Israel. For details see PALESTINE, sub-headings ‘Upper Jordan and Sea of Galilee’ and ‘Jordan Valley and Dead Sea’.

    Webster's Dictionary [12]

    (n.) Alt. of Jorden

    International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

    jôr´dan ( ירדּן , yardēn , "flowing downward"; Ἰορδάνης , Iordánēs ):

    1. Source:

    The Jordan river proper begins at the junction of four streams (the Bareighit , the Hâsbâny , the Leddan , and the Banias ), in the upper part of the plain of Lake Hûleh . The Bareighit receives its supply of water from the hills on the West, which separate the valley from the river Lı̂tâny , and is the least important of the four. The Hâsbâny is the longest of the four (40 miles), issuing from a great fountain at the western foot of Mt. Hermon near Hasbeiya , 1,700 ft. above the sea, and descends 1,500 ft. in its course to the plain. The Leddan is the largest of the four streams, issuing in several fountains at the foot of the mound Tell el - kady (Dan, or Laish) at an elevation of 505 ft. above the sea. The Bânias issues from a celebrated fountain near the town of Bânias , which is identified as the Caesarea Philippi associated with the transfiguration. The ancient name was Paneas, originating from a grotto consecrated to the god Pan. At this place Herod erected a temple of white marble dedicated to Augustus Caesar. This is probably the Baal-gad of   Joshua 11:17 and   Joshua 12:7 . Its altitude is 1,100 ft. above tide, and the stream falls about 600 ft. in the 5 miles of its course to the head of the Jordan.

    2. Lake Huleh:

    The valley of Lake Hûleh , through which the Jordan wends its way, is about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide, bordered on either side by hills and mountains attaining elevations of 3,000 ft. After flowing 4 or 5 miles through a fertile plain, the Jordan enters a morass of marshy land which nearly fills the valley, with the exception of 1 or 2 miles between it and the base of the mountains upon the western side. This morass is almost impenetrable by reason of bushes and papyrus reeds, which in places also render navigation of the channel difficult even with a canoe. Lake Hûleh , into which the river here expands, is but 7 ft. above tide, and is slowly contracting its size by reason of the accumulation of the decaying vegetation of the surrounding morass, and of the sediment brought in by the river and three tributary mountain torrents. Its continued existence is evidence of the limited period through which present conditions have been maintained. It will not be many thousand years before it will be entirely filled and the morass be changed into a fertile plain. When the spies visited the region, the lake must have been much larger than it is now.

    At the southern end of Lake Hûleh , the valley narrows up to a width of a few hundred yards, and the river begins its descent into levels below the Mediterranean. The river is here only about 60 ft. broad, and in less than 9 miles descends 689 ft. through a narrow rocky gorge, where it meets the delta which it has deposited at the head of the Sea of Galilee, and slowly winds its way to meet its waters. Throughout this delta the river is easily fordable during a great part of the year.

    3. Sea of Galilee:

    The Sea of Galilee occupies an expansion of the Jordan valley 12 miles long and from 3 to 6 miles wide. The hills, reaching, in general, 1,200 or 1,500 ft. above the lake, come down close to its margin on every side. On the East and South they are mainly of volcanic origin, and to some extent of the same character on the Northwest side above Tiberias. In the time of Christ the mouth of the river may have been a half-mile or more farther up the delta than now.

    4. The Yarmuk:

    As all the sediment of the upper Jordan settles in the vicinity of the delta near Capernaum, a stream of pellucid water issues from the southern end of the lake, at the modern town of Kerak . Before it reaches the Dead Sea, however, it becomes overloaded with sediment. From Kerak the opening of the valley is grand in the extreme. A great plain on the East stretches to the hills of Decapolis, and to the South, as far as the eye can reach, through the Ghôr which descends to the Dead Sea, bordered by mountain walls on either side. Four or five miles below, it is joined on the East by the Yarmûk , the ancient Hieromax the largest of all its tributaries. The debris brought down by this stream has formed a fertile delta terrace 3 or 4 miles in diameter, which now, as in ancient times, is an attractive place for herdsmen and agriculturists. The valley of the Yarmûk now furnishes a natural grade for the Acre and Damascus Railroad, as it did for the caravan routes of early times. The town of Gadara lies upon an elevation just South of the Yarmûk and 4 or 5 miles East of the Jordan.

    Ten miles below the lake, the river is joined on the West by Wādy el - Bireh , which descends from the vicinity of Nazareth, between Mt. Tabor and Endor, and furnishes a natural entrance from the Jordan to Central Galilee. An aqueduct here still furnishes water for the upper terrace of the Ghôr . Wādy el - Arab , with a small perennial stream, comes in here also from the East.

    5. El-Ghor:

    Twenty miles below Lake Galilee the river is joined by the important Wādy el - Jâlûd , which descends through the valley of Jezreel between Mt. Gilboa and the range of the Little Hermon (the hill Moreh of   Judges 7:1 ). This valley leads up from the Jordan to the valley of Esdrelon and thence to Nazareth, and furnished the usual route for Jews going from Jerusalem to Nazareth when they wished to avoid the Samaritans. This route naturally takes one past Beisān (Bethshean), where the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were exposed by the Philistines, and past Shunem and Nain. There is a marked expansion of the Ghôr opposite Beisan, constituting an important agricultural district. The town of Pella, to which the Christians fled at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, lies upon the East side of the Ghor; while Jabesh-gilead, where the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were finally taken by their friends and cremated, is a little farther up the slope of Gilead. Twenty miles farther down, the Ghôr , on the East, is joined by Wādy Zerka (the brook Jabbok), the second largest tributary, separating Ammon from Gilead, its upper tributaries flowing past Ammon, Mizpeh, and Ramoth-gilead. It was down this valley that Jacob descended to Succoth.

    A few miles below, the Wādy Farah , whose head is at Sychar between Mts. Ebal and Gerizim, descends from the West, furnishing the natural route for Jacob's entrance to the promised land.

    At Damieh (probably the Adam of   Joshua 3:16 ), the Ghôr is narrowed up by the projection, from the West, of the mountain ridge terminating in Kurn Sûrtûbeh , which rises abruptly to a height of 2,000 ft. above the river.

    The section of the Ghôr between Damieh and the Dead Sea is of a pretty uniform width of 10 to 12 miles and is of a much more uniform level than the upper portions, but its fertility is interfered with by the lack of water and the difficulty of irrigation. From the vicinity of Jericho, an old Roman road follows up the Wādy Nāwaimeh , which furnished Joshua a natural line of approach to Ai, while through the Wādy el - Kelt is opened the natural road to Jerusalem. Both Ai and the Mount of Olives are visible from this point of the Ghôr .

    6. The Zor:

    In a direct line it is only 70 miles from Lake Galilee to the Dead Sea, and this is the total length of the lower plain (the Zôr ); but so numerous are the windings of the river across the flood plain from one bluff to the other that the length of the river is fully 200 miles. Col. Lynch reported the occurrence of 27 rapids, which wholly interrupted navigation, and many others which rendered it difficult. The major part of the descent below Lake Galilee takes place before reaching Damieh , 1,140 ft. below the Mediterranean. While the bluffs of the Ghôr upon either side of the Zôr , are nearly continuous and uniform below Damieh , above this point they are much dissected by the erosion of tributary streams. Still, nearly everywhere, an extended view brings to light the original uniform level of the sedimentary deposits formed when the valley was filled with water to a height of 650 ft. (see Arabah; Dead Sea ).

    The river itself averages about 100 ft. in width when confined strictly within its channel, but in the early spring months the flood plain of the Zôr is completely overflowed, bringing into its thickets a great amount of driftwood which increases the difficulty of penetrating it, and temporarily drives out ferocious animals to infest the neighboring country.

    7. The Fords of Jordan:

    According to Conder, there are no less than 60 fording-places between Lake Galilee and the Dead Sea. For the most part it will be seen that these occur at rapids, or over bars deposited by the streams which descend from one side or the other, as, for example, below the mouths of the Yarmûk , Jabbok , Jâlûd and Kelt . These fords are, however, impassable during the high water of the winter and spring months. Until the occupation by the Romans, no bridges were built; but they and their successors erected them at various places, notably below the mouth of the Yarmûk , and the Jabbok , and nearly opposite Jericho.

    Notwithstanding the great number of fords where it is possible to cross at low water, those which were so related to the lines of travel as to be of much avail were few. Beginning near the mouth of the Jordan and proceeding northward, there was a ford at el - Henu leading directly from Jericho to the highlands Northeast of the Dead Sea. Two or three miles farther to the North is the ford of the pilgrims, best known of all, at the mouth of Wādy Kelt . A few miles farther up the river on the road leading from Jericho to es - Salt , near the mouth of the Wādy Nimrin , there is now a bridge where the dependence was formerly upon the ford. Just below the mouth of the Wādy Zerka ( Jabbok ) is the ford of Damieh, where the road from Shechem comes down to the river. A bridge was at one time built over the river at this point; but owing to a change in the course of the stream this is now over a dry water-course. The next important crossing-place is at the opening of the valley of Jezreel coming in from the West, where probably the Bethabara of the New Testament should be located. Upon this ford a number of caravan routes from East to West converge. The next important crossing-place is at el - Mujamia , 2 or 3 miles below the mouth of the Yarmûk . Here, also, there was a Roman bridge. There are also some traces of an ancient bridge remaining just below the exit of the river from Lake Galilee, where there was a ford of special importance to the people residing on the shores of this lake who could not afford to cross in boats. Between Lake Galilee and Lake Hûleh , an easy ford leads across the delta of the stream a little above its junction with the lake; while 2 or 3 miles below Lake Hûleh is found "the bridge of Jacob's daughters" on the line of one of the principal routes between Damascus and Galilee. Above Lake Hûleh the various tributaries are easily crossed at several places, though a bridge is required to cross the Bareighit near its mouth, and another on the Hâsbâny on the main road from Caesarea Philippi to Sidon, at el - Ghagar .

    The Nuttall Encyclopedia [14]

    A river of Palestine, which rises on the western side of Mount Hermon, and flows S. below Cæsarea-Philippi within banks, after which it expands into lagoons that collect at length into a mass in Lake Merom (Huleh), 2 m. below which it plunges into a gorge and rushes on for 9 m. in a torrent, till it collects again in the Sea of Galilee to lose itself finally in the Dead Sea after winding along a distance of 65 m. as the crow flies; at its rise it is 1080 ft. above and at the Dead Sea 1300 ft. below the sea-level.

    Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [15]

    Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Jordan'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

    Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [16]

    Jor´dan, the principal river of Palestine [PALESTINE].