|Arabah - |
(Joshua 18:18) ("the plain", is akin to "Arabia".) The article in Hebrew marks it as some definite spot, namely, the deep sunken gorge extending from mount Hermon to the Elanitic gulf of the Red Sea; the most extraordinary depression on the earth. The Jordan rushes for 150 miles through its northern part (el Ghor) by lakes Huleh and Gennesareth, to the deep abyss of the Dead Sea. The Ghor extends to precipitous cliffs, 10 miles S. of the Dead Sea. Thence to the gulf of Akaba it resumes its old name, wady el Arabah. In Joshua 11:16; Joshua 12:8, the Arabah takes its place among the natural divisions of the country, and in Deuteronomy 3:17 in connection with the sea of Chinnereth (Gennesareth) and the Dead Sea.
In the plural it is connected with either Jericho or Moab; the Arabah being in Jericho's case W. of Jordan, in Moab's case E. of Jordan, bore and parched as contrasted with the rich fields of the upper level. The S. Arabah was the scene of Israel's wanderings in the wilderness, N. of which stood Hormah and Kadesh. They went down the Arabah southwards (after Edom's refusal to let them pass), from mount Hor, toward the head of the gulf, then up one of the left wadies, by the back of mount Seir to Moab. Remains of a Roman road are traceable along this route. From the absence of the Jordan in S. Arabah circles of verdure are scarce, such as are met in the Ghor. Its length is 100 miles, its breadth narrowing from 14 at its broadest to about three miles at its entrance into the gulf. The limestone ranges of The in long white lines stand on the W. crowned with the table land of "the wilderness of the wanderings" (et Tih), and rise 1500 feet above the Arabah.
The pass En Nukb is that of the Mecca pilgrims, between the Akabah and Suez mounts. The other pass, Es Sufah, is probably that at which Israel was defeated by the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 1:44; Numbers 14:48-45). It goes not, as En, Nukb, from the Arabah to the plateau, but from it to a level 1000 feet higher. The Ghor stands nearly due N. and S.; the Arabah N.N.E. by S.S.W. On the E. dark porphyry is the body of the mountain; above it sandstone ridges, and highest of all limestone. But Hor is 5000 feet high. According to Isaac's promise to Esau, the dwelling of his descendants is "the fatness of the earth, with grain and wine" (Genesis 27:37-39). A line of chalk cliffs six miles S.W. of the Dead Sea is the bound between the Ghor on the N. and the Arabah on the S. The Ghor ends with the marsh beneath them. The Arabah begins level with their summit.
The wady el Jeib is the drain of the Arabah, and the route for entering the valley from the N. Heat, desolation, and barrenness characterize this desert. The sirocco blows almost continually, and the ghudah, the arta, the Anthia variegata, the coloquinta, and the tamarisk, almost the only traces of vegetation. The supposition that the Jordan once flowed through the Arabah into the Red Sea is not likely; for the Red Sea and the Mediterranean are nearly on one level. The depression of the surface of the sea of Galilee is 652 feet, that of the Dead Sea 1316 feet, below the surface of the Mediterranean, and so of the Red Sea. The Jordan therefore could not have flowed into the gulf of Akabah. The northern part of the Arabah drains into the Dead Sea, the land rising from the N. to the S. The southern part drains into the gulf of Akabah, the land rising from it to the N.