These winter torrents sometimes come down with great suddenness and with desolating force. A distinguished traveller thus describes his experience in this matter:, "I was encamped in Wady Feiran, near the base of Jebel Serbal, when a tremendous thunderstorm burst upon us. After little more than an hour's rain, the water rose so rapidly in the previously dry wady that I had to run for my life, and with great difficulty succeeded in saving my tent and goods; my boots, which I had not time to pick up, were washed away. In less than two hours a dry desert wady upwards of 300 yards broad was turned into a foaming torrent from 8 to 10 feet deep, roaring and tearing down and bearing everything upon it, tangled masses of tamarisks, hundreds of beautiful palmtrees, scores of sheep and goats, camels and donkeys, and even men, women, and children, for a whole encampment of Arabs was washed away a few miles above me. The storm commenced at five in the evening; at half-past nine the waters were rapidly subsiding, and it was evident that the flood had spent its force." (Compare Matthew 7:27 ; Luke 6:49 .)
In the sense in which we employ the word viz. for a perennial stream of considerable size, a river is a much rarer object in the East than in the West. With the exception of the Jordan and the Litany, the streams of the holy land are either entirely dried up in the summer months converted into hot lanes of glaring stones, or else reduced to very small streamlets, deeply sunk in a narrow bed, and concealed from view by a dense growth of shrubs. The perennial river is called nahar by the Hebrews. With the definite article, "the river," it signifies invariably the Euphrates. ( Genesis 31:21 ; Exodus 23:31 ; Numbers 24:6 ; 2 Samuel 10:16 ) etc. It is never applied to the fleeting fugitive torrents of Palestine. The term for these is nachal , for which our translators have used promiscuously, and sometimes almost alternately, "valley" "brook" and "river." No one of these words expresses the thing intended; but the term "brook" is peculiarly unhappy. Many of the wadys of Palestine are deep, abrupt chasms or rents in the solid rock of-the hills, and have a savage, gloomy aspect, far removed from that of an English brook. Unfortunately our language does not contain any single word which has both the meanings of the Hebrew nachal and its Arabic equivalent wady which can be used at once for a dry valley and for the stream which occasionally flows through it.
(1) The usual word is nahar (Aramaic nehar (Ezra 4:10, etc.)), used of the rivers of Eden (Genesis 2:10-14), often of the Euphrates (Genesis 15:18, etc.), of Abana and Pharpar (2 Kings 5:12), the river of Gozan (2 Kings 17:6), the river Chebar (Ezekiel 1:1), the rivers (canals?) of Babylon (Psalms 137:1), the rivers of Ethiopia (Isaiah 18:1; Zechariah 3:10). Compare nahr, the common Arabic word for "river."
(2) ye'or, according to BDB from Egyptian iotr, 'io'r, "watercourse," often of the Nile (Exodus 1:22, etc.). In Isaiah 19:6, for ye'ore matsor, the King James Version "brooks of defense," the Revised Version (British and American) has "streams of Egypt." In Isaiah 19:7,8, for ye'or, the King James Version "brooks," and Zechariah 10:11, the King James Version "river," the Revised Version (British and American) has "Nile." In Job 28:10, the King James Version "He cutteth out rivers among the rocks," the Revised Version (British and American) has "channels," the Revised Version margin "passages."
(3) There are nearly 100 references to nachal. In about half of these the King James Version has "brook" and in about half "river." the Revised Version (British and American) has more often "brook" or "valley." But the Revised Version (British and American) has river in "whatsoever hath fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers" (Leviticus 11:9); "the river Jabbok" (Deuteronomy 2:37; Joshua 12:2); the stream issuing from the temple (Ezekiel 47:5-12). the Revised Version (British and American) has "brook of Egypt," i.e. el-`Arish (Numbers 34:5; Joshua 15:47; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 24:7; 2 Chronicles 7:8; Amos 6:14, "of the Arabah"); "brook (the King James Version "river") of Kanah" (Joshua 16:8); "valley (the King James Version "river") of the Arnon" (Deuteronomy 2:24). English Versions of the Bible has "valley":
of Gerar (Genesis 26:17), of Zered (Numbers 21:12), but "brook Zered" (Deuteronomy 2:13), of Eschol (Numbers 32:9), of Sorek (Judges 16:4), of Shittim (Joel 3:18). English Versions of the Bible has "brook": Besor (1 Samuel 30:10), Kidron (2 Samuel 15:23), Gaash, (2 Samuel 23:30), Cherith (1 Kings 17:3); also the feminine nachalah, "brook (the King James Version "river") of Egypt" (Ezekiel 47:19; 48:28). The torrent-valley (wady) is often meant.
(4) pelegh, with feminine pelaggah, the King James Version "river," is in the Revised Version (British and American) translated "stream," except English Versions of the Bible "river of God" (Psalms 65:9); "streams of water" (Psalms 1:3; Proverbs 5:16; Isaiah 32:2; Lamentations 3:48); "streams of honey" (Job 20:17); "streams of oil" (Job 29:6).
(5) 'aphiq, the King James Version "river," except English Versions of the Bible "water brooks" (Psalms 42:1), is in the Revised Version (British and American) "watercourses" (Ezekiel 6:3; 31:12; 32:6; 34:13; 35:8; 36:4,6), "water-brooks" (Song of Solomon 5:12; Joel 1:20).
of the Jordan (Mark 1:5); Euphrates (Revelation 9:14); "rivers of living water" (John 7:38); "river of water of life" (Revelation 22:1). So always in Greek for "river" in the Revised Version (British and American) Apocrypha (1 Esdras 4:23, etc.).
See BROOK; STREAM; VALLEY.
Alfred Ely Day
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