wo'-ter (mayim; hudor):
(1) The Greek philosophers believed water to be the original substance and that all things were made from it. The Koran states, "From water we have made all things." In the story of the creation (Genesis 1:2) water plays an elemental part.
(2) Because of the scarcity of water in Palestine it is especially appreciated by the people there. They love to go and sit by a stream of running water. Men long for a taste of the water of their native village (1 Chronicles 11:17). A town or village is known throughout the country for the quality of its water, which is described by many adjectives, such as "light," "heavy," etc.
(3) The rainfall is the only source of supply of water for Palestine. The moisture is carried up from the sea in clouds and falls on the hills as rain or snow. This supplies the springs and fountains. The rivers are mostly small and have little or no water in summer. For the most part springs supply the villages, but in case this is not sufficient, cisterns are used. Most of the rain falls on the western slopes of the mountains, and most of the springs are found there. The limestone in many places does not hold the water, so wells are not very common, though there are many references to them in the Bible.
(4) Cisterns are usually on the surface of the ground and vary greatly in size. Jerusalem has always had to depend for the most part on water stored in this way, and carried to the city in aqueducts. A large number of cisterns have been found and partially explored under the temple-area itself. The water stored in the cisterns is surface water, and is a great menace to the health of the people. During the long, dry summer the water gets less and less, and becomes so stagnant and filthy that it is not fit to drink. In a few instances the cisterns or pools are sufficiently large to supply water for limited irrigation.
(5) During the summer when there is no rain, vegetation is greatly helped by the heavy dews. A considerable amount of irrigation is carried on in the country where there is sufficient water in the fountains and springs for the purpose. There was doubtless much more of it in the Roman period. Most of the fruit trees require water during the summer.
(6) Many particular wells or pools are mentioned in the Bible, as:
(7) Washing with water held a considerable place in the Jewish temple-ceremony (Leviticus 11:32; 16:4; 17:15; 22:6; Numbers 19:7; Exodus 30:18; 40:7). Sacrifices were washed (Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 1:9; 6:28; 14:5).
See also FOUNTAIN; PIT; POOL; SPRING; WELL.
Alfred H. Joy
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