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Charles Foster Kent
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 125 pages of information about The Making of a Nation.

Certain writers hold that variant accounts of the most important facts in early Hebrew history have here been preserved.  Traces of three different versions of the crossing of the Jordan may still, in their judgment, be found in the third and fourth chapters of the book of Joshua.  The latest and most familiar narrative represents the crossing as a superlative miracle and the waters of the rushing river as piled up like a wall on either side.  The Northern Israelite version appears to have stated that the waters of the Jordan were dried up, implying that the Hebrews crossed during the late summer when the river was easily fordable.  The earliest narrative, the Judean prophetic, states that “the waters rose up in a heap, a great way off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarathan, and those that went down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were wholly cut off” (Josh. 3:16b).  From other references in the Old Testament it would appear that the city of Adam, which means red earth, is to-day represented by the ruins of Ed-Damieh, which stands near the famous Damieh ford at the point where the river Jabbok enters the Jordan.

It is interesting to note in this connection that a reliable Moslem historian states that in the year 1257 A.D. the retreating Moslems found it neccessary to repair the foundations of an important bridge which stood at this point.  When the workmen arrived on the scene they were amazed to find the riverbed empty and were able by working rapidly to complete the repairs before the waters came rushing down.  This remarkable phenomenon seemed to them to be due to the direct intervention of Allah; but the historian fortunately records the cause:  it was a huge landslide a little further up the river which temporarily dammed its waters.  The oldest Biblical account of the crossing of the Jordan may point to a like natural cause.  If this be true, does it imply that Jehovah had no part in preparing the way for the future conquests of his people?  Would a miracle, such as that recorded in the late-priestly tradition, be any stronger proof of God’s presence and activity in human history than are the provisions which we to-day call natural?

II.

THE CANAANITE CIVILIZATION.

Contemporary inscriptions and recent excavations make it possible to form a very definite conception of conditions in Canaan when the Hebrews crossed the Jordan.  The dominant civilization was that of the Canaanites, the descendants of the Semitic invaders from the desert who entered Palestine centuries before the ancestors of the Hebrews.  Naturally they settled first along the fertile coast plains that skirt the western Mediterranean.  In later times these were known as the Phoenicians.  As the population increased, the Canaanites pushed their outposts along the broad valleys that penetrated the uplands of Palestine.  These valleys were especially fertile and attractive in the territory later known

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