What is the Jordan River?:
The name Jordan comes from the Hebrew word descender because of the way it descends from its sources. The Jordan is the worlds lowest river, flowing well below sea level for most of its course: although it starts at more than 1,000 feet above sea level, it ends at 1,300 feet below after traveling 104 miles (straight line the winding course is closer to 200 miles).
Where is the Jordan River?:
The Jordan River begins with several smaller sources north in what is currently Lebanon (primarily at Mt. Hermon), flows south through the Sea of Galilee, and ends at the Dead Sea. It is in a crack where two of the earths tectonic plates meet. This crack extends from Turkey all the way to Kenya in eastern Africa where it is known as the Rift Valley.
Why is the Jordan River important?:
Because the river is lined by steep slopes, crossing could be very difficult and only accomplished at a few spots. This also made the Jordan unsuitable as a source for irrigation. Because of the shallow, winding course, it was not navigable or suitable for trade. It was, then, usually regarded as a border. As the only flowing water in Palestine, was also a vital source of fresh water for settlements throughout what is modern Israel. The Bible mentions the Jordan River well over 200 times as a defining geographical feature in the region, this is understandable.