Glossary of Terms



Harper’s Bible Dictionary

edited by Paul J. Achtemier (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1985)

You are strongly recommended to add to your library the excellent revised edition of Harper's Bible Dictionary titled, The Harper Collins Bible Dictionary, Revised Edition [book review], edited by Paul J. Achtemeier, with the Society of Biblical Literature (NY: Harper Collins, 1996). It is currently the best one-volume Bible dictionary in English, and it is available at Border's Books, Christian Science Reading Rooms,, or

Euphrates River, the largest river in western Asia. It was one of four rivers flowing from Eden (Gen. 2:14) in biblical tradition. It served as the northern boundary of Israelite territory under David (2 Sam. 8:3) but was terrain usually under Aramaean control.

The headwaters of the system are two branches that originate in Armenia in eastern Turkey. The western branch (Kara Su) runs first westward from its source in a pond. The eastern branch (Murat Suyu) similarly runs westward, then both join north of Malatiya from which the course runs southeast and southwest into the Syrian plain. The Hellenistic city of Somasata was built near an important ford. Running south, the Euphrates passed Carchemish where Nebuchadrezzar decisively beat the Egyptian-Assyrian alliance in which Neco of Egypt participated (Jer. 46; 2 Kings 24:7). Main tributaries from the north are the Belikh and the Khabur. Farther downstream were Dura-Europos, famous for a synagogue with Hellenistic painted scenes, and Mari, notable for its palace and library of texts. Continuing its southeast course the river divides just above Babylon. It reunites and then joins the Tigris for the last hundred miles before emptying into the Persian Gulf.

The bed of the river ran somewhat higher than that of the Tigris, and this allowed ancient irrigation canals to carry Euphrates water across the land between the two rivers for agriculture and transport. The lower reaches provided some ten thousand square miles of land for such reclamation, allowing the foundations of cities and city-states in what we know as one of the earliest centers of civilization, Sumer.


All glossary terms
Edited for by Robert Nguyen Cramer
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