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The Plain of the Jordan, then and now

I love the old photos of the Holy Lands. Here we have a approximately 117 year old stereoscopic photo of a shepherd and a boy overlooking the plain of the Jordan. (Stereoscopic Images of the Middle East).

plain of the jordan

The caption from the book says,

‎We are looking southeast, across the northern end of the Dead Sea, six miles to the south, over the mountains east of the Jordan.

‎Yonder on the right we can see the head of the Dead Sea, and beyond it the long line of the hills of Moab. There is the Jordan, after its long wandering, finding rest in the sea. See the once fruitful plain of the Jordan with only stunted trees and bushes growing upon it. Do you notice where the plain rises, nearer us, into a higher plateau, over which a path runs? There stood the Old Testament city of Jericho. All that is left of it now are those ruined heaps, and those are later than the Jericho of the Old Testament. This part of an old aqueduct on which these men are resting was probably here in Christ’s time, as its foundation can be traced out over the plain to the site of the New Testament Jericho, on the extreme right of our view. To the left in the distance are the few buildings that make up modern Jericho.*

‎Vivid pictures of the past surge before our mental vision as we look out over this site of once proud cities. We see Old Jericho defying the attack of Joshua (Joshua 6:1); we see the collapse of those sturdy walls under the strongest assault history records (Joshua 6:3–20). We see Elijah and Elisha walking down yonder path toward the river, while by the banks of Jordan waits the fiery chariot that shall part them. Centuries later we see Jesus coming up to the gate of another Jericho, while blind Bartimeus cries out to him from the wayside, and eager Zaccheus looks down upon him from the sycamore tree.

‎*See “Traveling in the Holy Land through the Stereoscope,” by J.L. Hurlbut, D.D.

The plain of the Jordan figures is in several passages. Here is one,

Lot looked around and saw that the whole plain of the Jordan toward Zoar was well watered, like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.)So Lot chose for himself the whole plain of the Jordan and set out toward the east. The two men parted company: (Genesis 13:10-11 NIV).

That area was home to five cities of the plain, not just Sodom and Gomorrah. Admah and Zeboiim, and also of course Zoar (AKA Bela) to which Lot and his daughters fled when the brimstone came down on Sodom.

Though the plain is a sulfurous wasteland now, once it was grassy and watered like Eden’s garden. And once again it will be!

And wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish. For this water goes there, that the waters of the sea may become fresh; so everything will live where the river goes. Fishermen will stand beside the sea. From Engedi to Eneglaim it will be a place for the spreading of nets. Its fish will be of very many kinds, like the fish of the Great Sea. (Ezekiel 47:9-10).

Praise the Lord that what was once fresh and vibrant and living and beautiful, that now has become salty, dead, and barren, will once again be renewed. It will become “very good” again. (Genesis 1:31; 2:10-14)