“You have not passed this way before.”

“And it came to pass
after three days,
that the officers went through the host;
And they commanded the people, saying:
“When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God,
and the priests the Levites bearing it,
then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it.
Yet there shall be a space between you and it,
about two thousand cubits by measure:
come not near unto it,
that ye may know the way by which ye must go:
for ye have not passed¬†this¬†way heretofore.”
And Joshua said unto the people,
“Sanctify yourselves:
for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.” ”
Joshua 3:2-5Joshua 3:2-5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

2 And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host; 3 And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. 4 Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore. heretofore: Heb. since yesterday, and the third day 5 And Joshua said unto the people, Sanctify yourselves: for to morrow the LORD will do wonders among you.  

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Joshua 3 represents an important concept: that of transition.

The people of God have the Exodus 40 years behind them. The children of rebellion have all died in the wilderness, and now God’s people stand at the banks of the Jordan, about to be given that which God promised their forefathers.

This does not mean they are ready to receive it.

One – Moses – has led them to the river,
now another – Joshua – must lead them across.

Let’s go to the Hebrew! (All reference numbers are for Strong’s Hebrew unless otherwise noted.)

 

We’ll break it into four sections.

The first is who’s giving orders and to whom:
“And it came to pass after” is “qatseh” (7097) and means “at the end, border, extremity.”
“Three days” is “shalosh yom” (7969, 3117) and means “three days.”
“the officers” is “shoter” (7860) and means “an officer, official.”
“went” is “‘abar” (5674) and means “to pass over, by or through.”
“through is “qereb” (7130) and means “midst, among, the inner part,” signifying which meaning we’re using for ” ‘abar.”
“the host” is “machaneh” (4264) and means “encampment, camp; a military camp.”

The next is what they’re told to do:
“And they commanded” is “tsavah” (6680) and means “to command, give orders, lay charge upon.” (Gen 2:16Gen 2:16
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: thou...: Heb. eating thou shalt eat  

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“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying”)
“The people” is ” ‘am” (5971) and means “nation, people.”
“saying” is ” ‘amar” (559) and means “to say, speak, utter.” (Gen 2:16Gen 2:16
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: thou...: Heb. eating thou shalt eat  

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: … saying “of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat.”)
“When ye see” is “ra’ah” (7200) and means “inspect, perceive, look upon, consider.”
“The ark” is ” ‘aron” (727) and means “chest, ark” – and also “coffin.” (Gen 50:26Gen 50:26
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.  

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: bones of Joseph)
“of the covenant” is “b’reyith” (1285) and means “covenant, alliance, treaty.”
“of the LORD” is “YHVH” (3068,) the proper name of God as stated in covenants and used here to signify the one speaking is that same covenant holder.
“your God” is “elohim” (430) and is a title meaning “rulers” (yes, it’s plural and in the masculine) – also spoken here as a reminder of God’s obligation to be the God of the Israelites.
“and the priests” is “kohen” (3548) and means “principal officer or chief ruler” It’s also singular, so it’s better translated as “Chief Priest.” (“Priests” would be “kohanim” in the Hebrew.)
“the Levites” is “Levi’i” (3881) and means “joined to the descendants of Levi.”
“Bearing” is “nasa'” (5375) and means “to lift up, carry, bear up.” (Ex 20:7Ex 20:7
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

7 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.  

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: “Thou shalt not bear the name of the LORD thy God in vain.”)
“Then ye shall remove” is “naca'” (5265) and means “pull out, set out, set forth.”
“From your place” is “maqom” (4725) and means “standing place, post, station.”
“and go” is “halak” (1980) and means “to go, depart, proceed.”
“after” is ” ‘achar” (310) and means “behind of, after (as in following a thing).”

The only acceptable way the people can safely move forward:
“Yet there shall be a space” is “rachoq” (7350) and means “remote, far, distant, a distance.”
“About two thousand” is “eleph” (505) and means “a thousand.” It gets its plural from the following noun.
“cubits” is ” ‘ammah” (520) and means “a measure of distance (the forearm.)”
“by measure” is “middah” (4060) and means “a measurement, to measure.”
“come not near” is “qarab” (7126) and means “approach, draw near.”
“that ye may know” is “yada” (3045) and means “know, perceive, distinguish, know by experience.”
“the way” is “derek” (1870) and means “road, way, path.”
“by which ye must go” is “yalak” (3212) and means “to go, walk, come.”
“For ye have not passed” is ” ‘abar” (5674) as in the earlier verse (“the officers went”)
“this way” is “derek” again
“heretofore” is “timol shilshom” (8543 and 8032) and means “before” “The day before yesterday” (Used as an idiom.)

And the orders from the leader: (This part is great.)
“Joshua” is “Y’shua” (3091) and means “YHVH is salvation.” It’s also the proper name of Jesus.
“said” is ” ‘amar,” as before
“unto the people” is ” ‘am” (nation) as above.
“Sanctify” is “qadash” (or kodesh: 6942) and means “set apart, consecrate.”
“for tomorrow” is “machar” (4279) and means “tomorrow, in time to come, future.”
“The LORD” is “YHVH” as above
“will do” is ” ‘asah” (6213) and means “to make, produce, do, accomplish.”
“wonders” is “pala” (6381) and means “marvelous, surpassing, beyond one’s power, difficult.”
“Among (you)” is “qereb” again (went through, in the midst.) (It also means “entrails, as in a sacrificial animal.”)

So what is it really saying?

“At the end of the three days, (Mark 8:31Mark 8:31
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.  

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the officials went though the middle of the camp (John 1:23John 1:23
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.  

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and they gave orders to the nation, saying: (Is 45:23Is 45:23
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.  

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‘When you perceive the chest of the covenant of YHVH your God (John 1:29John 1:29
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29 The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. taketh away: or, beareth  

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And the Chief Priest joined with the Levites in carrying it, (Matthew 16:24Matthew 16:24
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24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  

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) (1 Peter 2:91 Peter 2:9
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: peculiar: or, purchased praises: or, virtues  

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Then pull out from your station (John 5:8John 5:8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.  

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and proceed after. (John 1:43John 1:43
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

43 The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me.  

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” ‘But measure a distance of two thousand cubits – (Eph 2:12-13Eph 2:12-13
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12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.  

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Do not approach! – (Isaiah 6:5Isaiah 6:5
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. undone: Heb. cut off  

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So you can know the path you are to walk (Prov 3:5-6Prov 3:5-6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

5 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.  

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Because you have not walked (Mt 15:14Mt 15:14
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

14 Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.  

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in this way (Is 55:8Is 55:8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.  

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in all the days before you’ve gotten here.’ (John 14:5John 14:5
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5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?  

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) (Prov 16:25Prov 16:25
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25 There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.  

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“And Y’shua said to the people: (John 6:37John 6:37
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.  

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‘Consecrate yourselves, (John 17:19John 17:19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. sanctified...: or, truly sanctified  

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) (2 Cor 6:172 Cor 6:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,  

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because in the time to come, (Mark 10:29-30Mark 10:29-30
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29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.  

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YHVH will accomplish marvelous things (1 Peter 1:121 Peter 1:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.  

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inside you (Ez 36:26-27Ez 36:26-27
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.  

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that you can not do for yourself.” (Romans 8:3-4Romans 8:3-4
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3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: for sin: or, by a sacrifice for sin 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.  

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When seekers and sinners,
having had their eyes and hearts opened by God to receive the message of the Gospel,
find themselves at the border of their wilderness
led there by the Law of Moses,
staring over an impassable river
at that which God promises His people

they hear those orders to get up! Prepare to walk in a new way!
Follow the mercy seat of God;
That coffin – that symbol of death which, for us, holds life!
But stay behind and keep your eye on it
And your path will be made straight.

And Jesus says:
Be ye separate
Because God will do inside of your heart
What you can never do for yourself.

And that river will be stopped by that coffin,
that holder and fulfiller of the covenant of God
Led by Y’shua
so that we may pass on dry ground
as we are escorted
past that mercy seat which opens the way
into that glorious land of the Father’s promise.

Praise God for His glory in laying the foundations of grace and salvation as He fulfills His promise of deliverance to His people Israel!