As streams were few in Palestine, water was generally stored up in winter in reservoirs, and distributed through gardens in numerous rills, which could easily be turned or diverted by the foot ( Deuteronomy 11:10 ).
For purposes of irrigation, water was raised from streams or pools by water-wheels, or by a shaduf, commonly used on the banks of the Nile to the present day.
No equivalent for this word is found in Biblical writings, although the use of irrigation for maintaining vegetable life is frequently implied (Ecclesiastes 2:5,6; Isaiah 58:11). To one familiar with the methods of irrigation practiced in Palestine, Syria and Egypt, the passage, "where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs" (Deuteronomy 11:10), is easily explained. The water is brought in channels to the gardens, where it is distributed in turn to the different square plots bounded by banks of earth, or along the rows of growing vegetables planted on the sides of the trenches. In stony soil the breach in the canal leading to a particular plot is opened and closed with a hoe. Any obstruction in the trench is similarly removed, while in the soft, loamy soil of the coastal plain or in the Nile valley these operations can be done with the foot; a practice still commonly seen.
The remains of the great irrigation works of the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians leave no doubt as to the extent to which they used water to redeem the deserts. In Palestine and Syria there was less need (Deuteronomy 10:7; 11:11) for irrigation. Here there is an annual fall of from 30 to 40 inches, coming principally during the winter. This is sufficient for the main crops. The summer supply of vegetables, as well as the fruit and mulberry trees, requires irrigation. Hardly a drop of many mountain streams is allowed to reach the sea, but is used to water the gardens of the mountain terraces and plains. This supply is now being supplemented by the introduction of thousands of pumps and oil engines for raising the water of the wells sufficiently to run it through the irrigation canals. Where a spring is small, its supply is gathered into a birket, or cistern, and then drawn off through a large outlet into the trenches, sometimes several days being required to fill the cistern. In Ecclesiastes 2:6, Solomon is made to say, "I made me pools of water, to water therefrom the forest." This passage helps to explain the uses of the so-called Pools of Solomon, South of Jerusalem. In this same district are traces of the ancient terraces which were probably watered from these pools.
See AGRICULTURE; GARDEN.
James A. Patch
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