How Many Times Was the Jordan River Parted in the Bible?

The parting of the Jordan River is one of the most iconic miracles in the Bible. God parted the waters of the Jordan River on two separate occasions to allow the Israelites to cross over on dry ground. These miraculous events demonstrated God’s power and fulfilled His promises to deliver His people.


The Jordan River played an important role in the history of the Israelites. Flowing from the Sea of Galilee in the north to the Dead Sea in the south, it marked the eastern boundary of the Promised Land (Numbers 34:12). When the Israelites approached Canaan after their Exodus from Egypt, God parted the Jordan River so they could cross over and begin taking possession of the land He had promised them.

The Jordan River was parted miraculously on two occasions:

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  • When Joshua led the Israelites into Canaan after the death of Moses
  • When the prophet Elijah crossed the river with Elisha

In both instances, God demonstrated His divine power over nature and fulfilled His covenant promises to Abraham to give his descendants the land of Canaan. The partings reinforced the Israelites’ faith that God was with them and would give them victory over their enemies.

Key Takeaways:

  • The Jordan River marked the eastern boundary of the Promised Land
  • God parted the Jordan River twice in the Old Testament
  • The partings allowed the Israelites to cross over on dry ground
  • They demonstrated God’s power over nature and fulfillment of His covenant promises
  • The miracles reinforced the Israelites’ faith in God’s presence and deliverance
How Many Times Was the Jordan River Parted in the Bible?

Joshua Parts the Jordan River

The first miraculous parting of the Jordan River occurred when Joshua led the Israelites across after the death of Moses. This took place around 1406 BC when the Israelites were camped along the eastern bank ready to enter Canaan:

So it was, when the people set out from their camp to cross over the Jordan, with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped in the edge of the water (for the Jordan overflows all its banks during the whole time of harvest), that the waters which came down from upstream stood still, and rose in a heap very far away at Adam, the city that is beside Zaretan. So the waters that went down into the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, failed, and were cut off; and the people crossed over opposite Jericho. Then the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan; and all Israel crossed over on dry ground, until all the people had crossed completely over the Jordan. (Joshua 3:14-17 NKJV)

This miraculous event parallels the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus. Just as God parted the Red Sea for Moses, He parted the Jordan River for Joshua. After being held back, the waters returned to normal once the crossing was complete:

And it came to pass, when all the people had completely crossed over, that the ark of the LORD and the priests crossed over in the presence of the people. Then the waters of the Jordan returned to their place and overflowed all its banks as before. (Joshua 4:18-19 NKJV)

By stopping the flow of the Jordan River, God demonstrated His supreme power over nature. He controlled the timing perfectly so the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stood in the middle of the dry riverbed while all Israel passed over. The parting enabled the fulfillment of God’s promise to give Abram’s descendants the land of Canaan. It was a public display of His favor toward Israel to demoralize their enemies.

Why God Parted the Jordan River for Joshua

There are several key reasons why God parted the waters of the Jordan River miraculously when Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land:

1. To fulfill His covenant promises – God had promised Abraham his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan (Genesis 15:18-21). The parting of the Jordan demonstrated God keeping His covenant commitment.

2. To establish Joshua’s leadership – Joshua assumed leadership after Moses’ death. The Jordan parting validated Joshua as Israel’s new leader approved by God.

3. To motivate Israel’s faith – Crossing a flooded river seemed impossible. God wanted to motivate the Israelites’ faith in His power.

4. To frighten Israel’s enemies – Reports of Israel’s miraculous crossing demoralized Canaanites. It displayed God’s power to give them victory.

The Jordan parting served multiple divine purposes. God used it powerfully to bring His people into the Promised Land and set the stage for conquest.

The Memorial Stones

After the miraculous crossing, God commanded Joshua to have 12 men take stones from the Jordan River bed to construct a memorial:

Then Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the children of Israel, one man from every tribe; and Joshua said to them: “Cross over before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and each one of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the children of Israel, that this may be a sign among you when your children ask in time to come, saying, ‘What do these stones mean to you?’ Then you shall answer them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD; when it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. And these stones shall be for a memorial to the children of Israel forever.” (Joshua 4:4-7 NKJV)

The memorial served as a permanent reminder of God’s miraculous power. The 12 stones corresponded to the 12 tribes of Israel, signifying God’s provision for all His people. Fathers could use the monument to teach their children about God’s faithfulness and build their trust in Him. It testified to future generations of God’s mighty acts on Israel’s behalf.

Location of the Memorial

The Bible specifies that they took the 12 stones from the middle of the Jordan River bed where the priests stood with the Ark of the Covenant (Joshua 4:3,9). Joshua ordered them to construct the memorial at their first lodging place after crossing over, which was at Gilgal near Jericho (Joshua 4:19-20).

Archaeologists have not yet conclusively identified the location of these original memorial stones, though several candidates have been proposed. The monument likely did not survive permanently due to the Israelites’ tendency toward idolatry. But its symbolic value remained as a declaration of God’s miraculous intervention for His people.

Elijah Parts the Jordan River

The second biblical account of the Jordan River parting miraculously occurred around 850 BC when the prophet Elijah crossed the river with his successor Elisha shortly before being taken to heaven. This episode is recounted in 2 Kings 2:

And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” Elisha said, “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.” So he said, “You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.” Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried out, “My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!” So he saw him no more. And he took hold of his own clothes and tore them into two pieces. He also took up the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and went back and stood by the bank of the Jordan. Then he took the mantle of Elijah that had fallen from him, and struck the water, and said, “Where is the LORD God of Elijah?” And when he also had struck the water, it was divided this way and that; and Elisha crossed over. (2 Kings 2:9-14 NKJV)

In this account, Elijah struck the waters with his mantle, causing the river to part so he and Elisha could walk across. As Elijah was taken up to heaven, Elisha tore his clothes in grief. But he took up Elijah’s fallen mantle and returned to the Jordan, striking the waters to part them just as Elijah had done. This demonstrated that God’s power was now with Elisha as the new prophetic leader of Israel.

Why God Parted the Jordan River for Elijah

There are several reasons why God may have parted the Jordan River miraculously for Elijah before his departure:

1. To honor Elijah – As one of the most powerful prophets, God provided a miraculous exit to honor Elijah’s life of service.

2. To validate Elisha’s calling – By parting the waters for Elisha also, it showed he was Elijah’s authorized successor.

3. To show God’s power remains – It demonstrated that though Elijah was gone, God’s power continued through Elisha.

4. To strengthen Elisha’s courage – The miracle helped give Elisha courage to take up Elijah’s prophetic mantle.

Though different in purpose from Joshua’s crossing, this Jordan parting carried important symbolism for the passing of the prophetic torch to Elisha.

Comparing the Two Crossings

While there are many similarities between the partings of the Jordan River under Joshua and Elijah, some key differences stand out:


  • Joshua: The priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stopped the river’s flow.
  • Elijah: Elijah and Elisha struck the waters with Elijah’s mantle.


  • Joshua: The whole nation crossed over on dry ground.
  • Elijah: Only Elijah and Elisha crossed over.


  • Joshua: The river was at flood stage after the harvest.
  • Elijah: The river was crossed before Elijah’s departure.


  • Joshua: Stones were taken to make a memorial.
  • Elijah: Elisha tore his clothes and took up Elijah’s mantle.

Yet both events share the key element of miraculously overcoming an obstacle that was impossible to pass naturally. They reveal God’s love and power to deliver His people and point to Christ who also conquered the ultimate obstacle of death.

Spiritual Applications for Believers Today

For modern day Christians, the partings of the Jordan River provide important spiritual encouragement and instruction. Here are some key lessons to take away:

Trust God to overcome obstacles – No barrier is too great for God’s power when we trust in Him. He makes a way through impossible situations.

Step out in faith – God requires us to obey in faith before seeing the solution. The priests had to step into the flooded Jordan before it parted.

Remember past deliverance – God wants us to commemorate His mighty works as memorials to strengthen faith like the stones from the Jordan.

Pass the mantle to the next generation – We should invest in others to carry on God’s work after we’re gone, like Elijah and Elisha.

Jesus provides ultimate deliverance – The Jordan partings foreshadowed Christ’s work to save us from sin and death. Our faith is ultimately in Him.

As we reflect on God’s miraculous power, we can have confidence that He will continue to make a way for us just as He did at the Jordan River.


In summary, the Jordan River was parted miraculously on two occasions in Old Testament times. God held back the floodwaters for Joshua and the Israelites to cross over into the Promised Land. Around 250 years later, Elijah and Elisha crossed the parted river just before Elijah’s departure to heaven.

Both events demonstrated God’s power and care for His people. He made a way forward through obstacles, progressing His redemptive plan. The partings prefigured Christ’s victory over the grave to provide our ultimate deliverance.

As believers today, we can have assurance that God still parts rivers to carry us through difficult situations. By trusting Him completely, we’ll be able to walk through on dry ground to reach the destiny He has prepared for us. The God who parted the Jordan remains powerful and faithful.

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