The Tigris and Euphrates rivers (1 Chronicles 18)

Bilderesultat for tigris elva

The Tigris and Euphrates are the two principal rivers flowing through ancient Mesopotamia (modern Iraq), and it is to them that the region owes its viability. In fact, the name Mesopotamia means “the land between the rivers”. The Tigris and Euphrates cradle a fertile plain bordered by mountains to the east and north, desert to the west and southwest and the Persian Gulf to the south. This alluvial plain (its soil consists of clay, silt, sand, gravel or similar material deposited there by the running water) provided the necessary environment for the emergence of humanity’s first civilization, Sumer, and for the subsequent rise and flourishing of the Assyrian and Babylonian empires.

The Tigris and Euphrates trace their sources to the mountain ranges of Armenia and Turkey. The Tigris, to the east, runs 1,848 km before it joins the Euphrates from the west for nearly 110 km before emptying into the Persian Gulf. Capital cities of the ancient Assyrian empire, such as Nineveh, Calah and Asshur, once dotted the shores of the Tigris. The modern capital of Iraq, Baghdad, stands today on this river. The Euphrates, the largest river in the region, often referred to as simply “the River” in the Old Testament (e.g. Deuteronomy 11:24, the Hebrew does not contain the name “Euphrates”), runs for 2,871 km , most of its course is navigable by boats and ideal for trade and transport. The ancient cities of Carchemish, Mari, Babylon and Ur were situated on its banks.

The great rivers of Mesopotamia intersect with Biblical history as early as Genesis 2:14, which cites the Tigris and Euphrates as two branches of the river flowing from the Garden of Eden. The Euphrates additionally marks the eastern boundary of the territorial allotment promised to Abraham and to his descendants (Genesis 15:18, cf. Joshua 1:4). Yet it appears that for most of Israel’s history this border was unrealized. Only for a brief period during the reign of David and Solomon did Israelite control ever extend to the Euphrates (1 Chronicles 18:3).


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