The Symbolism of the Jordan River

The Jordan River is deeply symbolic to both Jews and Christians. It is the location where many events in the Torah as well as the New Testament occurred. As a geographic point, it has functioned as a boundary and a place to cross. In terms of the spiritual, it is a place of spiritual rebirth, of new life and also a source of holy water.

Beginning with Jacob’s crossing of the Jordan in Genesis 32, the Jordan River began to fulfill a prominent place of significance in Jewish history. Battles were fought along its banks. Jericho was conquered. Later, it became the boundary between the two and a half tribes of Israel to the east and the nine and a half tribes which settled to the west.                                                                    Among these events came miracles. The water parted on two occasions, one to allow the tribes to pass through and the second for Elijah and Elisha. Naaman’s leprosy was healed when he bathed in the Jordan River.

Christians hold the Jordan River dear to them as well, primarily because the baptism of Jesus and announcement of his earthly ministry happened there. But, the Jordan River also represents the idea of “living water” in Christianity and has become a place that symbolizes new life.

Today, many people of both Jewish and Christian faith make their way to the Jordan River to set their eyes on the waters which hold such value to their respective traditions. For both faiths, the Jordan River represents freedom and rebirth. To them, the waters of the Jordan are holy and set apart, having been used by God to fulfill His work. For the people of Israel, the Jordan River reminds them of the promises of God to bring them into the land and to build a great nation. For Christians, it represents the freedom found in Jesus Christ and the new life he offers.