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FORD (Heb. ma‘avar, mavarah). A shallow place in a stream where men and animals can cross on foot. In the small streams of Palestine and Syria, fording places are quite frequent and can easily be found simply by following the main roads, which in many cases are mere bridle paths. Such probably were the fords of the Jabbok (Gen.32.22) where Jacob halted, and of the Arnon (Isa.16.2). The Jordan, however, is a strong and rapid stream, and its fording places are few and far between. When Israel crossed, God miraculously stopped the waters upstream by a landslide. John the Baptist baptized at Bethabara (John.1.28; niv “Bethany”), the name indicating that a ford was there. Joshua’s spies (Josh.2.7) evidently forded the Jordan, and Ehud (Judg.3.28) took the same place to prevent Moabites from crossing there. Farther up the river and about two hundred years after Ehud, Jephthah (Judg.12.5-Judg.12.6) made his famous “Shibboleth test” at a ford of the Jordan.

The crossing of the Jordan is mentioned in connection with Jacob (Gen 32:10), Gideon (Judg 8:4), David (2 Sam 10:17; 17:22), Absalom (2 Sam 17:24), and others. Under the leadership of Joshua the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry land, not by fording it since it was then in flood, but by a tremendous miraculous act of God. Jesus crossed the Jordan on numerous occasions when He journeyed between Galilee and Jerusalem by way of Perea instead of passing through Samaria.

Mention is also made in Scripture of the ford of the river Jabbok (Gen 32:22) and the fords of the river Arnon (Num 21:13; Deut 2:24; Isa 16:2).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

In the journeyings of the children of Israel, in addition to the miraculous passages of the Red Sea and the Jordan, they had other streams to pass over, especially the Zered (Chisa’) and the Arnon (Maujib) (Nu 21:12,13; De 2:24). The Jabbok (Zarqa) is frequently referred to, particularly in connection with Jacob (Ge 32:22). The most frequent references are to the Jordan which, in time of flood, was impassable (Jos 3:15).

See Jordan.