Q. I heard a pastor I respect very much say that Jordan means death & judgement. I have not been able to verify this and looking it up in Strong’s numbers it means “descender”. Can you help?
A. The Hebrew word Yarden is translated Jordan in English. It’s used 182 times in the Old Testament and always refers to the River by that name. It means descender, as you know, and comes from a root meaning “to go down” The Jordan River was given its name because it originates on Mt. Hermon, (+9230 ft.) and over its 200 mile length descends into the Dead Sea (-1300 ft.) a loss of over 10,500 feet in altitude.
There is a parable of sorts that compares the Israelites entering the promised land with the life and death of the believer. As the Israelites came to the Promised land they faced the Jordan River, an impassable barrier between their old and new lives. There was nothing they could have done in their own strength to cross. But at God’s command the High priest carried the Ark of the Covenant on his shoulders into the Jordan and it parted, letting them cross into Canaan on dry ground.
As the believer comes to the end of his life he confronts the awful chasm between heaven and earth called death, an impassable barrier. There’s nothing he can do in his own strength to cross. But Jesus, our High Priest, steps into the chasm with the new covenant on His shoulders and the chasm is bridged, allowing the believer entrance into the Kingdom.
In the parable, the Jordan River represents death, and is sometimes called the Jordan of death. Perhaps this is where the Pastor came up with his meaning.