🔼The name Jordan: Summary
- Descender, Descending
- From the verb ירד (yarad), to descend.
🔼The name Jordan in the Bible
The Jordan is the famous river of Canaan, which flows from the Sea of Galilee south to the Salt Sea (Genesis 13:10). The Jordan is rather shallow and relatively easy to cross. The Oxford Companion of the Bible states that the principle source of the Jordan is the precipitation on Mount Hermon and three springs, while it also receives water from two tributaries (of which only the Jabbok is mentioned by name in the Bible).
The Jordan region was first settled by Lot (Genesis 13:10) and later Lot's descendants the Ammonites and Moabites took control over the region east of the Jordan (Numbers 22:1, Judges 10:9). This brought them in perpetual conflict with the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, which settled there after the conquest (Joshua 22:21), even though YHWH had specifically told them not to (Deuteronomy 2:9, 2:19).
The Jordan was famously crossed by Joshua as the inaugurative act of Israel's conquest of the Promised Land (Joshua 3:17). In order to facilitate this crossing, the Lord held back the water of the Jordan by means of the Ark of the Covenant (Joshua 3:16) and much later, the mantle of Elijah achieved the same thing, twice (2 Kings 2:8 and 2:14). The splitting of the Jordan is comparable to that of the Sea of Reeds, which was achieved by the staff of Moses (Exodus 14:16) and ultimately to the second creation day, when the primordial waters were divided by means of the expanse (Genesis 1:6).
Although in certain times of the year the Jordan could be a formidable natural barrier for advancing armies, the Aramean general Naaman thought it a ridiculous trickle compared to Abanah and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus (2 Kings 10:12). Though relatively small, the Jordan was still somewhat of a natural barrier, and the inheritance of Judah was the most protected of all the tribes. The northern and Transjordanian tribes were picked off by the Assyrians, while the kingdom of Judah lasted a good century and a half longer, until the Babylonians conquered it in 586 BC. Ezekiel's ideal and restored Israel, consisting of all twelve tribes, was situated entirely west of the Jordan (Ezekiel 47:18).
The Jordan is also frequently mentioned in the Greek New Testament (spelled Ιορδανης, Iordanes), but mostly in relation to the ministry of John the Baptist, who was (portentously) working on the east bank of the Jordan, and his subsequent baptizing of Jesus (John 1:28, 10:40). Altogether, the name Jordan occurs 15 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
🔼Etymology of the name Jordan
The name Jordan comes from the common verb ירד (yarad) meaning to go down:
The verb ירד (yarad) means to go down or descend, either literally down a mountain or figuratively away from a place of prominence. The noun מורד (morad) means descent or refers to something that hangs.
The final letter nun upon which this name ends may be a remnant of the common waw-nun extension that personalizes or localizes a root.
For a meaning of the name Jordan NOBSE Study Bible Name List reads The Descender. BDB Theological Dictionary and Jones' Dictionary of Old Testament Proper Names both propose Descending.