Question: What was the normal way to cross the Jordan River during first century in Israel?

Reading John 1:28 it says that John was baptizing on the East side of the Jordan River and I've wondered how the people would get to him. And not just him but any travel that may require crossing the river. I'm sure that it could probably be crossed by swimming but it seems that hauling goods and possessions, families, or even the upper class like the priests this wouldn't have been the case. No where in scripture do I find mention of a bridge. Through different google searches the earliest bridge I could find was circa 700CE.

Information on the river itself:

The baptismal site of Bethany Beyond the Jordan (John 1:28) is near the southern end of the Jordan River, across from Jericho and 8 kilometres south of the King Hussein (or Allenby) Bridge. It is 40 minutes by car from the Jordanian capital of Amman.

El-Ghor: "Twenty miles below Lake Galilee the river is joined by the important Wady el-Jalud, which descends through the valley of Jezreel between Mt. Gilboa and the range of the Little Hermon (the hill Moreh of Jdg 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."

Deep and turbulent during the rainy season, the Jordan is reduced to a sluggish, shallow stream during the summer.

The Jordan River only reaches 20 yards across in some places, and its deepest point is around 17 feet.

From the Sea of Galilee, at the level of 682 feet below the Mediterranean, the river flows through a long, low plain called “the region of Jordan” (Matt. 3:5), and by the modern Arabs the Ghor, or “sunken plain.” This section is properly the Jordan of Scripture. Down through the midst of the “plain of Jordan” there winds a ravine varying in breadth from 200 yards to half a mile, and in depth from 40 to 150 feet. Through it the Jordan flows in a rapid, rugged, tortuous course down to the Dead Sea.

  • 1
    This question may be better asked on Hermeneutics SE.
    – BYE
    Apr 14 '16 at 14:21
  • 1
    @BYE what does this question have to with hermaneutics?
    – Andrew
    Apr 16 '16 at 18:07
  • @Andrew The ways and customs of those days were very different from today. Time was not of the essence as it is today, they thought nothing of having to wait days or even longer for the water to subside. They simply understood that there were things over which they had no control as opposed to today where we find a way to overcome our difficulties. The attitude that we can overcome nature is an attitude not spawned until the twentieth Century. All climate control has been developed since the 1900's. (continued)
    – BYE
    Apr 18 '16 at 0:44
  • @Andrew (continued) Even I can remember a time when there was no TV and we were in awe od the new electric fan that could cool you down like a Summer evening breeze, but now I'm telling my age. Things were much different than what we take for advantage today. Had someone tried to explain how we could get on a computer and talk to someone in another Country in real time, when I was a teenager they would have been laughed at. Many things such as travel in a machine would be laughed at in that society. Hermeneutics take those things into account.
    – BYE
    Apr 18 '16 at 0:53
  • A boat or raft Or a rope ferry biblearchaeology.org/post/2007/06/06/…
    – Kris
    Apr 19 '16 at 22:39

The first thing I want to do is define this word ford. It is a shallow place with good footing where a river or stream may be crossed by wading. A ford is mostly a natural phenomenon, in contrast to a low water crossing, which is an artificial bridge that allows the crossing of a river or stream when water is low. So with lack of a better term it would be a ford Crossing.

Although there were no bridges until the time of the Romans, there were some 54 fords which were used as a place to cross the Jordan river in ancient times. I will give a couple of examples from scripture of where a ford is used to describe a place of a river crossing, Genesis 32:22 Jacob crossed the ford of Jabbok and Deuteronomy 3:20 where David crossed the fords of the wilderness.

Additionally there is at lest one example from scripture that a ferry boat was used. This should not surprise us because they date back as far as ancient Egypt as a mode of transportation. All through-out history and scripture we see the use of boats and or ferries. Israel in the first century would not be any different.

2 Samuel 19 17-23

There were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, (David) and Ziba the servant of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him;and they went over the Jordan before the King. 18 Then a ferry boat went across to ferry over the kings household, and do what he thought was right.(NKJV)

In some instances it was just a miracle.

joshua 3:15-16

It was the harvest season and the banks of the Jordan were over flowing its banks.But as soon as feet of the priest who were carrying the Ark touched the water at the river's edge (16) the water above that point begin backing up at a town called Adam (NLT)

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