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5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About the Jordan River

We look into this historical site on the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ!

Originally celebrated on the same day as the Epiphany (January 6), the Feast of the Baptism of Jesus Christ is now commemorated on the first Sunday after the Epiphany. This year, that day falls on January 10. 

The Jordan River serves as the setting of this historical event mentioned in Matthew 3:13, Mark 1:9, and Luke 3:21. But what else is there to know about this sacred body of water where John the Baptist baptized Jesus and recognized him as the Son of God? (Read: Prayer for the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord)

Here are five interesting facts!

The Jordan River Flows Through Two Major Seas

Located in the Middle East and measuring 251 kilometers, the Jordan River runs north to south along the borders of Syria, Israel, and Jordan, flowing through not one but two seas: the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.

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Photo from Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)

The Jordan River Is the Lowest River in the World

Starting in Israel at an elevation of 2,814 meters, the Jordan River then flows into the Dead Sea, where its elevation drops significantly to 416 meters below sea level. (Read: Apo Reef’s Endangered Sea Turtles Increase in Numbers During Lockdown)

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Photo from Christopher-Sprake / iStockphoto / Gettyimages / Christianity Today

The Jordan River Is Mentioned in the Bible Over 185 Times

Though commonly associated with Jesus’s baptism, the Jordan River figured in a number of key events recorded in the Bible. (Read: The 500-Year History of Catholicism in the Philippines)

There’s Joshua and the Israelites crossing the Jordan River on dry ground to enter Canaan, the Promised Land (Joshua 3:14), Israeli prophet Elisha telling Namaan the Syrian to heal himself of leprosy by washing himself with water from the Jordan River (2 Kings 5:8-14), and Elisha using a piece of wood to retrieve an iron axe head that had sunk into the river (2 Kings 6:1-7).

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The Ark Passes Over the Jordan, 1902 canvas print by James Tissot. (Photo from Fine Art America)

Celebrities Have Been Baptized in the Jordan River

While Jesus is the biggest personality to be baptized in the Jordan River, He’s not the last. (Read: Belgium Catholic Church Reports Rise in Adult Baptisms)

American singer and actress Demi Lovato completed a spiritual trip to Israel in 2019 with a baptism in the Jordan River. So did TV host Mario Lopez in 2018. And Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis (children of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William, and Princess Catherine) were all baptized with water specially collected and flown in from the Jordan River. 

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Photos from Demi Lovato Instagram, Associated Press / The Sun, Mario Lopez Twitter

The Jordan River Is an Endangered Ecological Site

The Christian faith’s third holiest site after the Nativity Grotto in Bethlehem and Golgotha in Jerusalem is also on the list of 100 most endangered ecological sites. Sadly, Syria, Israel, and Jordan have not only been diverting nearly 100 percent of the river’s natural flow for their domestic and agricultural needs, but they’ve also been treating it as a dumping ground for their sewer. 

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Al-Maghtas ruins on the Jordanian side of the Jordan River are the putative location for the Baptism of Jesus and the ministry of John the Baptist (Photo from Wikipedia)

Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth Middle East have organized numerous campaigns and rehabilitation efforts to restore the Jordan River to its once pristine state. 

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