This view to the Jordan River was taken in the vicinity of Al Maghtas or the "Baptism site." It is located about five miles from the termination point of the Jordan as it flows into the Dead Sea.
Most folks who see the Jordan (Hebrew Yarden, the "down-goer") for the first time are struck by its smallness. Having heard about the Jordan in scripture and song, their expectations for this watercourse are larger than life.
In defense of the river, it is not what it used to be, even a hundred years ago. Water management strategies in the region have arrested the runoff. A dam just south of the Sea of Galilee controls the flow. Deforestation and agricultural efforts in the areas around the Galilee Basin, the backbone mountains of central Israel/Palestine, and above, on the Jordanian highlands have affected rainfall patterns.
No doubt the river is physically diminished today. But its attraction for the Christian imagination is as real as ever. The Jordan is a symbol of freedom. Passing through its current is a powerful metaphor for rescue. On the near bank is tyranny, sin, and death. On the far bank is freedom, purity, and life.
Consider the words of this old hymn:
"I'll meet you in the morning
when you reach the promised land
on the other side of the Jordan
for I’m bound for the promised land."
Dr. Mark Ziese, Dean of the School of Bible and Theology at Johnson University, manages the website Bible Land Explorer and teaches regularly in the Biblical heartland. You are invited to join Mark and Vicki for a Mediterranean Cruise aboard the Celebrity Reflection in October, 2018. See the link here for details.