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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

("bitterness".) A fountain in the desert of Shur, between the Red Sea and Sinai; Israel reached Marah three days after crossing to the Arabian side ( Exodus 15:23;  Numbers 33:8). Now Ain Huwarah, 47 miles from Ayun Muss, near the place of crossing the Red Sea. The beneficial effect of the tree cast into the bitter water by God's direction is probably the cause why now this fountain is less bitter than others in the neighborhood. The fountain rises from a large mound, a whitish petrifaction, deposited by the water, which seldom flows now; but there are traces of a formerly running stream. The Arabic Ηuwara means "destruction", analogous to the Hebrew "bitter". The cross is spiritually the tree which, when cast into life's bitterest waters, sweetens and heals them ( Philippians 3:8;  Acts 20:24;  Acts 16:23-25;  Acts 5:41;  Romans 5:3).

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [2]

Bitterness, a well near the Red Sea, three days' journey from the point where the Israelites crossed it. The well was sweetened for the use of the distressed Hebrews by the miraculous efficacy imparted to the branches of a certain tree which Moses threw in,  Exodus 15:23-25 . No plant is now known possessed of such a quality. The name Amarah now marks the dry bed of a wintry torrent, a little south of which is a well called Hawara, which answers well to the description. Its water, after remaining a few seconds in the mouth, becomes exceedingly nauseous. The Arabs do not drink it though their camels will. See also  Ruth 1:20 .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [3]

Ma'rah. (Bitterness). A place which lay in the wilderness of Shur or Etham, three days journey distant,  Exodus 15:23;  Numbers 33:8, from the place at which the Israelites crossed the Red Sea, and where was a spring of bitter water, sweetened, subsequently, by the casting in of a tree which "the Lord showed" to Moses.

Howarah , distant 16 1/2 hours (47 miles) from Ayoun Mousa , the Israelites' first encampment, has been by many identified with it, apparently because it is the bitterest water in the neighborhood.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [4]

Marah ( Mâ'Rah ), Bitterness. A place in the wilderness of Shur or Etham, three days' journey,  Numbers 33:8-9, from the place at which the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. There was at Marah a spring of bitter water, sweetened subsequently by the casting in of a tree which "the Lord showed" to Moses.  Exodus 15:23-24;  Numbers 33:8-9. Probably ʾAin Hawarah, 47 miles from Ayun Mousa, where is a spring.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [5]

or MARA, a word which signifies bitterness. When the Israelites came out of Egypt, and had arrived at the desert of Etham, they found the water so bitter that neither themselves nor their cattle could drink of it,   Exodus 15:23 . On this account they gave the name of Marah to that encampment. And here their murmurings began against Moses; for they asked, "What shall we drink?" Moses prayed to the Lord, who instructed him to take a particular kind of wood, and cast it into the water, which he did; and immediately the water became palatable. According to the orientals, this wood was called Alnah.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [6]

A memorable spot, so rendered from the murmurings of Israel. The word signifies bitter or bitterness. No doubt, but that beside the history, there was much of a spiritual instruction in this event. All creature-comforts are in themselves disposed to produce bitterness: until Christ is seen and enjoyed in them, even our most common comforts will always prove unsatisfying, and never produce what they propose. But if Christ be in our appointments, whatever they are, like the tree the Lord shewed to Moses, which when cast into the waters of Marah made them sweet, then will all be sanctified and sweetened to our use, and the divine glory.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [7]

One of the early stations of the Israelites, so called because the waters there were bitter, but which were made sweet by casting in a tree.  Exodus 15:23;  Numbers 33:8,9 . It is typical of the Christian's acceptance of death ( Romans 6:11;  John 6:53 , etc.), in order to live unto God. It is the love of Christ, expressed in His going into death to make a way out for us, that sweetens the bitterness.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [8]

MARAH. The first ‘station’ of the Israelites after crossing the sea (  Exodus 15:23 ,   Numbers 33:8-9 ). If the passage was in the neighbourhood of Suez, Wâdy Hawarah , about 15 to 16 hours’ camel-ride from ‘the Wells of Moses’ (nearly opposite Suez on the E. side of the Gulf of Suez) on the route to the convent of St. Katherine (the traditional Sinai), is a suitable identification.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 Exodus 15:23,24 Numbers 33:8

Holman Bible Dictionary [10]

 Exodus 15:23

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]

Ma´rah (bitterness). The Israelites, in departing from Egypt, made some stay on the shores of the Red Sea, at the place where it had been crossed by them. From this spot they proceeded southward for three days without finding any water, and then came to a well, the waters of which were so bitter, that, thirsty as they were, they could not drink them. The well was called Marah from the quality of its waters. This name, in the form of Amarah, is now borne by the barren bed of a winter torrent, a little beyond which is still found a well called Howara, the bitter waters of which answer to this description. Camels will drink it; but the thirsty Arabs never partake of it themselves; and it is said to be the only water on the shore of the Red Sea which they cannot drink. The water of this well, when first taken into the mouth, seems insipid rather than bitter, but when held in the mouth a few seconds it becomes exceedingly nauseous. The well rises within an elevated mound surrounded by sand-hills, and two small date-trees grow near it.

The Hebrews, unaccustomed as yet to the hardships of the desert, and having been in the habit of drinking their full of the best water in the world, were much distressed by its scarcity in the region wherein they now wandered; and in their disappointment of the relief expected from this well, they murmured greatly against Moses for having brought them into such a dry wilderness, and asked him, 'What shall we drink?' On this Moses cried to Jehovah, who indicated to him 'a certain tree,' on throwing the branches of which into the well, its waters became sweet and fit for use. The view which has been taken of this transaction by Dr. Kitto, in the Pictorial Hist. of Palestine, ii. 209-210, is here introduced, as it has been judged satisfactory, and as no new information on the subject has since been obtained.

'The question connected with this operation is—whether the effect proceeded from the inherent virtue of the tree in sweetening bad water; or that it had no such virtue, and that the effect was purely miraculous. In support of the former alternative, it may be asked why the tree should have been pointed out and used at all, unless it had a curative virtue? And to this the answer may be found in the numerous instances in which God manifests a purpose of working even his miracles in accordance with the general laws by which he governs the world, and for that purpose disguising the naked exhibition of supernatural power, by the interposition of an apparent cause; while yet the true character of the event is left indisputable, by the utter inadequacy of the apparent cause to produce, by itself, the resulting effect. This tends to show that the tree, or portion of it, need not be supposed, from the mere fact of its being employed, to have had an inherent curative virtue. It had not necessarily any such virtue; and that it positively had not such virtue seems to follow, or, at least, to be rendered more than probable by the consideration that, in the scanty and little diversified vegetation of this district, any such very desirable virtues in a tree, or part of a tree, could scarcely have been undiscovered before the time of the history, and if they had been discovered, could not but have been known to Moses; and the Divine indication of the tree would not have been needful. And, again, if the corrective qualities were inherent, but were at this time first made known, it is incredible that so valuable a discovery would ever have been forgotten; and yet it is manifest that in after-times the Hebrews had not the knowledge of any tree which could render bad water drinkable; and the inhabitants of the desert have not only not preserved the knowledge of a fact which would have been so important to them, but have not discovered it in the thirty-five centuries which have since passed. This is shown by the inquiries of travelers, some of whom were actuated by the wish of finding a plant which might supersede the miracle. No such plant, however, can be found; and whatever the tree was, it can have had no more inherent virtue in sweetening the bitter well of Marah, than the salt had, which produced the same effect, when thrown by Elisha into the well of Jericho.'

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

(Hebrew Marah', מָרָה ,: Bitterness, from the taste of the water; Sept. Μεῤῥᾶ , Πικρία , Vulg. Mara), a brackish fountain, forming the sixth station of the Israelites, three days distant from their passage across the Red Sea (Exodus 15:33;  Numbers 23:8). Finding here a well so bitter that, thirsty as they were, they could not drink its water, they murmured against Moses, who at the divine direction cast in "a certain tree," by which means it was made palatable. "It has been suggested (Burckhardt, Syria, p. 474) that Moses made use of the berries of the plant Ghurkud (Robinson says [i. 26] the Peganum retusum of Forskal, Flora Egy. Arab. p. lxvi; more correctly, the Nitraria tridentata of Desfontaines, Flora Atlant. 1:372), and which still, it is implied, would be found to operate similarly. Robinson, however (1:67), could not find that this or any tree was now known by the Arabs to possess such properties; nor would those berries, he says, have been found so early in the season as the time when the Israelites reached the region. It may be added that, had any such resource ever existed, its eminent usefulness to the supply of human wants would hardly have let it perish from the traditions of the desert. Further, the expression the Lord showed' seems surely to imply the miraculous character of the transaction." With regard to the cure of the water, it has been well argued (Kitto, Pictorial History of Palestine, p. 209) that no explanation of the phenomena on natural grounds has proved consistent or satisfactory; neither is there any tree in that region or elsewhere now known which possesses such virtue in itself, or which is used for a similar purpose by the Arabs. We are therefore compelled to conclude, as, indeed, the narrative spontaneously suggests, that the shrub selected was indifferent, being one nearest at hand, and that the restorative property ceased with the special occasion which had called for its exercise, leaving the well to resume its acrid taste as at present found.

The name Marah, in the form of Anmarah, is now borne by the barren bed of a winter torrent, a little beyond which is still found a well called Howarah, the bitter waters of which answer to this description. Camels will drink it, but the thirsty Arabs never partake of it themselves and it is said to be the only water on the shore of the Red Sea which they cannot drink. The water of this well, when first taken into the mouth, seems insipid rather than bitter, but when held in the mouth a few seconds it becomes exceedingly nauseous. The well rises within an elevated mound surrounded by sand-hills, and two small date-trees grow near it. The basin is six or eight feet in diameter, and the water about two feet deep. (See Burckhardt, Trav. in Syria, p. 472, Robinson, Researches, 1:96 sq.; Bartlett, Forty Days in the Desert, p. 30; and other travelers.) "Winer says (Handwb. s.v.) that a still bitterer well lies east of Marah, the claims of which Tischendorf, it appears, has supported. Lepsius prefers wady Gh Ü Rundel. Prof. Stanley thinks that the claim may be left between this and Howarah, but adds in a note a mention of a spring south of Howarah so bitter that neither men nor camels could drink it,' of which Dr. Graul (2:254) was told.' The Ayouni Motlsal, wells of Moses,' which local tradition assigns to Marah, are manifestly too close to the head of the gulf, and probable spot of crossing it, to suit the distance of three days' journey.' The soil of this region is described as being alternately gravelly, stony, and sandy; under the range of the Gebel Wardan chalk and flints are plentiful, and on the direct line of route between Ayoun Mousa and Howarah no water is found (Robinson, 1:67)." (See Exode).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [13]

mā´ra , mar´a ( מרה , mārāh , "bitter"): The first camp of the Israelites after the passage of the Red Sea (  Exodus 15:23;  Numbers 33:8 f). The name is derived from the bitterness of the brackish water. Moses cast a tree into the waters which were thus made sweet (  Exodus 15:23 ). See Wanderings Of Israel .