This word answers in our Bible to various Hebrew terms, of which the principal are the following:
2. Nahar, applied, like our word river, to constantly flowing streams, such as the Euphrates. In our version this word is sometimes rendered "flood," Jos 24:2-3, etc.
3. Nahal, a torrent-bed, or valley through which water flows in the rainy season only, Nu 34:5, etc; frequently rendered "brook," Nu 13:28; Job 6:15, etc. Such streams are to the orientals striking emblems of inconstancy and faithlessness. Flowing only in the rainy season, and drying up when the summer heat sets in-and some of them in desert places failing prematurely-they sadly disappoint the thirsty and perhaps perishing traveller who has looked forward to them with longing and with hope, Job 6:15-20; Jer 15:18.
In some passages in our Bible the word "rivers" seems to denote rivulets or canals, to conduct hither and thither small streams of water from a tank or fountain, Eze 31:4. Such conduits were easily turned by moulding the soil with the foot; and some think this is the idea in De 11:10; "where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs." See also Pr 21:1.
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." (Comp. Mt 7:27; Lu 6:49.)
(7.) Yubhal, "a river" (Jer 17:8), a full flowing stream.
(8.) 'Ubhal, "a river" (Da 8:2).
A river in our sense is seen by few in Palestine.
(1) Nahar, "a continuous and full river", as Jordan, and especially "the river" Euphrates. The streams are dried up wholly in summer, or hid by dense shrubs covering a deeply sunk streamlet. When the country was wooded the evaporation was less.
(2) Nahal, "a winter torrent," flowing with force during the rainy season, but leaving only a dry channel or bed in the wady in summer. "Brook" in the KJV has too much the idea of placidity. "Valley" or wady (Nu 32:9), e.g. "the bed" (or, in winter, "the torrent") of Arnon, Jabbok, Kishon. Some of these are abrupt chasms in the rocky hills, rugged and gloomy, unlike our English "brook." Translated Job 6:15, "deceitfully as a winter torrent and as the stream in ravines which passes away," namely, in the summer drought, and which disappoint the caravan hoping to find water there. The Arab proverb for a treacherous friend is "I trust not in thy torrent." The fullness and noise of those temporary streams answer to the past large and loud professions; their dryness when wanted answers to the failure of friends to make good their professions in time of need (compare Isa 58:11; margin Jer 15:18).
(4) Yeor, "the river Nile" (Ge 41:1-2; Ex 1:22; 2:3,5). In Jer 46:7-8; Am 8:8; 9:5, translated "the river of Egypt" for "flood." The word is Egyptian, "great river" or "canal." The Nile's sacred name was Hapi, i.e. Apis. The profane name was Aur with the epithet act "great." Zec 10:11, "all the deeps of the river shall dry up," namely, the Nile or else the Euphrates. Thus the Red "sea" and the Euphrates "river" in the former part of the verse answer to "Assyria." and "Egypt" in the latter.
(5) Peleg (compare Greek pelagos), from a root "divide," "waters divided", i.e. streams distributed through a land. Ps 1:3, "a tree planted by the divisions of water," namely, the water from the well or cistern divided into rivulets running along the rows of trees (See REUBEN on Jg 5:15-16, where "divisions" mean "waters divided for irrigation"); but Gesenius from the root to flow out or bubble up.
(6) Yubal, "a full flowing stream" (Jer 17:8).
(7) "A conduit" or "watercourse" (2Ki 18:17); tealah.
For the meaning and use of '
The three principal rivers referred to in scripture are the Nile, the Jordan, and the Euphrates. The word employed for the Nile is yeor, 'a fosse or channel'; for the Jordan and the Euphrates the word used is nahar, 'a river' always supplied with water. The other streams in Palestine, though called 'rivers,' as the Arnon, are torrents running in valleys; for the most part they have water only in the winter, and are then often impassable: these are described by the word nachal. For the symbolical river that Ezekiel saw issuing from the house this latter word is used. Eze 47:5-12.
God will make His people drink of the river of His pleasures, Ps 36:8; here the word is nachal. In Ps 46:4 it is nahar. "There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God." It will never run dry.
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.
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.
RIVER. The Hebrews give the name of "the river," without any addition, sometimes to the Nile, sometimes to the Euphrates, and sometimes to Jordan. It is the tenor of the discourse that must determine the sense of this vague and uncertain way of speaking. They give also the name of river to brooks and rivulets that are not considerable. The name of river is sometimes given to the sea, Hab 3:8; Ps 78:16. It is also used as a symbol for plenty, Job 29:6; Ps 36:8.