From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

( 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.

Holman Bible Dictionary [2]

 Deuteronomy 2:8 1 Kings 9:26-27 2 1 Samuel 23:24-25 3 Deuteronomy 3:17  Joshua 8:14  Joshua 11:2 Joshua 11:16 Joshua 12:8  2 Samuel 2:29  Jeremiah 39:4  Ezekiel 47:8  Zechariah 14:10

4. Sea of the Arabah is the Dead Sea. See Nas, Niv, Rsv of  Deuteronomy 3:17;  Deuteronomy 4:49;  Joshua 3:16;  2 Kings 14:25 .  5 . The Araboth of Moab or plains of Moab includes the eastern shore of the Dead Sea south of the wadi Nimrim. Notice NEB translation as “lowlands of Moab.” See  Numbers 22:1;  Numbers 31:12;  Numbers 36:13;  Deuteronomy 34:1;  Joshua 13:32 .  6 . The desert area or the eastern border of the Jordan River from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea. See  Joshua 12:1 (Nas, Niv, Rsv ) 7. The Araboth of Jericho or plains of Jericho represent the area near the Jordan once dominated by the city state of Jericho. (  Joshua 4:13;  Joshua 5:10;  2 Kings 25:5;  Jeremiah 39:5 ).  8 . The brook of the Arabah represents the southern border of Israel ( Amos 6:14 ), possibly the River Zered, the wadi el-Qelt, or the wadi Hefren.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [3]

This occurs as a proper name only once in the A.V. where it should read 'the Arabah,'  Joshua 18:18; but it occurs in many other passages where it is translated 'a plain' or 'the plain,' and is also translated 'desert,' 'wilderness,' etc. It refers to the plain situated between two series of hills that run from the slopes of Hermon in the north to the Gulf of Akaba in the far south. It is in this plain that the Jordan runs, and in which is the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, also called 'the Sea of the Plain.' About 7 miles south of the Dead Sea the plain is crossed by some hills: all north of this is now called el-Ghor, but the plain south of it retains the name of the Wady-el-Arabah. This latter part is about 100 miles in length, and the northern part about 150, so that for nearly 250 miles this wonderful plain or valley extends.

It might naturally be thought that the Jordan had at some time, after running into the Dead Sea, continued to run south until it poured itself into the Gulf of Akaba. But this is not probable, for the Dead Sea is nearly 1,300 feet below the sea, and the southern part is from end to end higher than the Ghor, The width of the Arabah is in some parts about 15 miles, but further south not more than 3 or 4. The southern end is also called the Wilderness of Zin, and it was in this part of the Arabah that a good deal of the wanderings of the people of Israel took place, before they turned to the east and left the plain on their left.

There can be no doubt that scripture uses the name 'Arabah' for the whole of the plain, both north and south. The northern part is referred to in  Deuteronomy 3:17;  Deuteronomy 4:49;  Joshua 3:16;  Joshua 12:3;  Joshua 18:18 : and the southern part in  Deuteronomy 1:1;  Deuteronomy 2:8 . In other passages, especially in the prophetic books, the plain in general may be alluded to. It extends nearly due north and south, but bears toward the west before it reaches the Gulf.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]

ARABAH . The name given by the Hebrews to the whole of the great depression from the Sea of Galilee to the Gulf of Akabah. (For the part N. of the Dead Sea, see Jordan.) The name is now applied only to the southern part, extending from a line of white cliffs that cross the valley a few miles S. of the Dead Sea. The floor of the valley, about 10 miles broad at the N. end, gradually rises towards the S., and grows narrower, until, at a height of 2000 feet above the Dead Sea, nearly opposite Mt. Hor, the width is only about 1 / 2 mile. The average width thence to Akabah is about 5 miles. The surface is formed of loose gravel, stones, sand, with patches of mud. Up to the level of the Red Sea everything indicates that we are traversing an old sea-bottom. Apart from stunted desert shrub and an occasional acacia, the only greenery to be seen is around the springs on the edges of the valley, and in the wadys which carry the water from the adjoining mountains into the Wâdy el-Jaib , down which it flows to the Dead Sea. The great limestone plateau, et-Tîh , the Wilderness of Paran, forms the western boundary, and the naked crags of Edom the eastern. Israel traversed the Arabah when they went to Kadesh-barnea, and again when they returned to the south to avoid passing through the land of Edom (  Numbers 20:21;   Numbers 21:4 ,   Deuteronomy 2:6 ).

W. Ewing.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Ar'abah. (Burnt Up). Although this word appears in the Authorized Version in its original shape only in  Joshua 18:18, yet in the Hebrew text it is of frequent occurrence. It indicates more particularly the deep-sunken valley or trench which forms the most striking among the many striking natural features of Palestine, and which extends with great uniformity of formation from the slopes of Hermon to the Elanitic Gulf ( Gulf Of Akabah ) of the Red Sea; the most remarkable depression known to exist on the surface of the globe.

Through the northern portion of this extraordinary fissure, the Jordan rushes through the lakes of Huleh and Gennesaret down its tortuous course to the deep chasm of the Dead Sea. This portion, about 150 miles in length, is known amongst the Arabs by the name of El-Ghor .

The southern boundary of the Ghor is the wall of cliffs which crosses the valley about 10 miles south of the Dead Sea. From their summits, southward to the Gulf of Akabah, the valley changes its name, or, it would be more accurate to say, retains old name of Wady El-Arabah .

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [6]

The Hebrews used the word arabah to denote semi-desert land. In particular they used the word as a name for that deep, hot and dry valley that ran north-south from the Sea of Galilee to the Gulf of Aqabah (the north-eastern arm of the Red Sea) ( Deuteronomy 1:1;  Deuteronomy 2:8;  Deuteronomy 4:49;  Joshua 11:2;  Joshua 18:18-19). The Dead Sea, which was the deepest part of this long valley, was known as the Sea of the Arabah ( Deuteronomy 3:17). (For details see Palestine sub-heading Arabah’.)

Easton's Bible Dictionary [7]

 2 Kings 14:25 Joshua 3:16 8:14 2 Samuel 2:29 4:7  Amos 6:14  Joshua 18:18

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [8]

(Heb. Arabah', עֲרָבָה , Desert; Sept. Ἔρεμος , also Ἄβατος , Ἄπειρος , and Γῆ Διψῶσα , but in  Joshua 18:18, Βαιθάραβα ; Auth. Vers. elsewhere "plain"), the name of a region or tract and of a town.

1. This word, with the article ( הָעֲרָבָה , The Arabah), is applied directly ( Deuteronomy 1:1;  Deuteronomy 2:8;  Deuteronomy 3:17;  Deuteronomy 4:49;  Joshua 3:16;  Joshua 12:1;  Joshua 12:3;  2 Kings 14:25;  Amos 6:14) as the proper name of the great valley in its whole extent lying between the Dead Sea and the gulf of Akabah. Indeed it may be said to reach, with a partial interruption, or rather contraction, from Banias, at the foot of Mount Hermon, to the Red Sea. It thus includes toward the north the lake of Tiberias; and the Arboth (plains) of Jericho and Moab form parts of it. The surface of the Arabah proper is said to be almost uninterruptedly a frightful desert. The northern continuation is watered by the Jordan, which, during its course, expands into the lakes el-Huleh and Tiberias, and is at length lost in the bitter waters of the Dead Sea; this latter occupying the middle point of the great valley nearly equidistant from its two extremities. The Scriptures distinctly connect the Arabah with the Red Sea and Elath; the Dead Sea itself is called the sea of the Arabah. In the Auth. Vers. it is rendered "plain." The Greek name of this tract was Αὐλών , Aulon, described by Eusebius (Onomast. s.v.) as extending from Lebanon to the desert of Paran. Abulfeda speaks of it under the name El- Ghor, and says correctly that it stretches between the lake of Tiberias and Ailah or Akabah (Tab. Sqyr. p. 8, 9). At the present day the name El-Ghor is applied to the northern part from the lake of Tiberias to an offset or line of cliffs just south of the Dead Sea; while the southern part, quite to the Red Sea, is called Wady El-Arabah, the ancient Hebrew name. The extension of this valley to the Dead Sea appears to have been unknown to ancient geographers, and in modern times was first discovered by Burckhardt (Travels In Syria, p. 441; Robinson's Palest. 2, 594-600). The importance of this great medial valley to the topography and natural features of Palestine (q.v.), as well as in the history of the Exode (q.v.), requires a full discussion of its peculiar designation and characteristics. (See Topographical Terms).

I. Name.

1. If the derivation of Gesenius (Thes. p. 1066) is to be accepted, the fundamental meaning of the term is "and" or "waste," and thence "sterile," and in accordance with this idea it is employed in various poetical parts of Scripture to designate generally a barren, uninhabitable district, "a desolation, a dry land, and a desert, a land wherein no man dwelleth, neither doth any son of man pass thereby" ( Jeremiah 51:43; see a striking remark in Martineau, p. 395; and, among other passages,  Job 24:5;  Job 39:6;  Isaiah 33:9;  Isaiah 35:1). (See Desert).

2. But within this general signification it is plain, from even a casual examination of the topographical records in the earlier books of the Bible, that the word has also a more special and local force. In these cases it is found with the definite article ( הָעֲרָבָה , Ha-Arabah), "the Arabah," and is also so mentioned as clearly to refer to some spot or district familiar to the then inhabitants of Palestine. This district, although nowhere expressly so defined in the Bible, and although the peculiar force of the word "Arabah" appears to have been disregarded by even the earliest commentators and interpreters of the Sacred Books, has within our own times been identified with the deep-sunken valley or trench which forms the most striking among the many striking natural features of Palestine, and which extends with great uniformity of formation from the slopes of Hermon to the Elanitic Gulf of the Red Sea; the most remarkable depression known to exist on the surface of the globe (Humboldt, Cosmos, 1:150, ed. Bohn; also p. 301). Through the northern portion of this extraordinary fissure the Jordan rushes through the lakes of Huleh and Gennesareth down its tortuous course to the deep chasm of the Dead Sea. This portion, about 150 miles in length, is known among the Arabs by the name of el-Ghor (the depression), an appellation which it has borne certainly since the days of Abulfeda. The southern boundary of the Ghor has been fixed by Robinson to be the wall of cliffs which crosses the valley about 10 miles south of the Dead Sea. Down to the foot of these cliffs the Ghor extends; from their summits, southward to the gulf of Akabah, the valley changes its name, or, it would be more accurate to say, retains its old name of Wady el-Arabah.

Looking to the indications of the Sacred Text, there can be no doubt that in the times of the conquest and the monarchy the name "Arabah" was applied to the valley in the entire length of both its southern and northern portions. Thus in  Deuteronomy 1:1, probably, and in  Deuteronomy 2:8, certainly (Auth. Vers. "plain" in both cases), the allusion is to the southern portion, while the other passages in which the name occurs point with certainty now that the identification has been suggested to the northern portion. In  Deuteronomy 3:17;  Deuteronomy 4:49;  Joshua 3:16;  Joshua 11:2;  Joshua 12:3; and  2 Kings 14:25, both the Dead Sea and the sea of Cinneroth (Gennesareth) are named in close connection with the Arabah. The allusions in  Deuteronomy 11:30;  Joshua 8:14;  Joshua 12:1;  Joshua 18:18;  2 Samuel 2:29;  2 Samuel 4:7;  2 Kings 25:4;  Jeremiah 39:4;  Jeremiah 52:7, become at once intelligible when the meaning of the Arabah is known, however puzzling they may have been to former commentators. In  Joshua 11:16;  Joshua 12:8, the Arabah takes its place with "the mountain," "the lowland" plains of Philistia and Esdraelon, "the south" and "the valley" of Coele- Syria, as one of the great natural divisions of the conquered country. (See Plain).

3. But farther, the word is found in the plural and without the article ( עֲרְבּוֹת , Arboth), always in connection with either Jericho or Moab, and therefore doubtless denoting the portion of the Arabah near Jericho; in the former case on the west, and in the latter on the east side of the Jordan; the ArbothMoab being always distinguished from the Sedeh-Moab the bare and burnt-up soil of the sunken valley from the cultivated pasture or corn- fields of the clowns on the upper level with all the precision which would naturally follow from the essential difference of the two spots. (See  Numbers 22:1;  Numbers 26:3;  Numbers 26:63;  Numbers 31:12;  Numbers 33:48-50;  Numbers 35:1;  Numbers 36:13;  Deuteronomy 34:1;  Deuteronomy 34:8;  Joshua 4:13;  Joshua 5:10;  Joshua 13:32;  2 Samuel 15:28;  2 Samuel 17:16;  2 Kings 25:5;  Jeremiah 39:5;  Jeremiah 52:8.) (See Jericho).

4. The word Arabah does not appear in the Bible until the book of Numbers. In the allusions to the valley of the Jordan in  Genesis 13:10, etc., the curious term Ciccar is employed. This word and the other words used in reference to the Jordan valley, as well as the peculiarities; and topography of that region in fact, of the whole of the Ghor will be more appropriately considered under the word JORDAN (See Jordan) . At present our attention may be confined to the southern division, to that portion of this singular valley which has from the most remote date borne, as it still continues to bear, the name of "Arabah." (See Champaign). For a map of the region, (See Exode).

II. Description. The direction of the Ghor is nearly due north and south. The Arabah, however, slightly changes its direction to about N.N.E. and SS.W. (Robinson, 1:240). But it preserves the straightness of its course, and the general character of the region is not dissimilar to that of the Ghor (Irby, p. 134) except that the soil is more sandy, and that, from the absence of the central river and the absolutely desert character of the highland on its western side (owing to which the wadys bring down no fertilizing streams in summer, and nothing but raging torrents in winter), there are very few of those lines and "circles" of verdure which form so great a relief to the torrid climate of the Ghor. The whole length of the Arabah proper, from the cliffs south of the Dead Sea to the head of the gulf of Akabah, appears to be rather more than 100 miles (Kiepert's Map). In breadth it varies. North of Petra that is, about 60 miles from the gulf of Akabah it is at its widest, being perhaps from 10 to 12 miles across; but it contracts gradually to the south till at the gulf the opening to the sea is but 4, or, according to some travelers, 2 miles wide (Robinson, 1:240; Martineau, p. 392).

The mountains which form the walls of this vast valley or trench are the legitimate successors of those which shut in the Ghor, only in every way grander and more desert-like. On the west are the long horizontal lines of the limestone ranges of the Tih, "always faithful to their tabular outline and blanched desolation" (Stanley, p. 7; and see Laborde, p. 262), mounting up from the valley by huge steps with level barren tracts on the top of each (Robinson, 2:508), and crowned by the vast plateau of the "Wilderness of the Wanderings." This western wall ranges in height from 1500 to 1800 feet above the floor of the Arabah (Robinson, 1:240), and through it break in the wadys and passes from the desert above unimportant toward the south, but farther north larger and of a more permanent character. The chief of these wadys is the W. el-Jerafeh, which emerges about sixty miles from Akabah, and leads its waters, when any are flowing, into the W. el-

Jeib (Robinson, 2:500, 508), and through it to the marshy ground under the cliffs south of the Dead Sea. Two principal passes occur in this range. First, the very steep and difficult ascent close to the Akabah, by which the road of the Mecca pilgrims between the Akabah and Suez mounts from the valley to the level of the plateau of the Tih. It bears apparently no other name than en-Nukb, "the Pass" (Robinson, 1:257). The second es-Sufah has a more direct connection with the Bible history, being probably that at which the Israelites were repulsed by the Canaanites ( Deuteronomy 1:44;  Numbers 14:43-45). It is on the road from Petra to Hebron, above Ain el-Weibeh, and is not, like the former, from the Arabah to the plateau, but from the plateau itself to a higher level 1000 feet above it. See the descriptions of Robinson (ii. 587), Lindsay (ii. 46), Stanley (p. 113). The eastern wall is formed by the granite and basaltic (Schubert, in Ritter, Erdk. 14, 1013) mountains of Edom, which are in every respect a contrast to the range opposite to them. At the base are low hills of limestone and argillaceous rock like promontories jutting into the sea, in some places thickly strewed with blocks of porphyry; then the lofty masses of dark porphyry constituting the body of the mountain; above these sandstone broken into irregular ridges and grotesque groups or cliffs, and farther back and higher than all long elevated ridges of limestone without precipices (Robinson, 2:505, 551; Laborde, p. 209, 210, 262; Lindsay, 2:43), rising to a height of 2000 to 2300 feet, and in Mount Hor reaching an elevation of not less than 5000 feet (Ritter, Erdk. 14, 1139,1140). Unlike the sterile and desolate ranges of the Tih, these mountains are covered with vegetation, in many parts extensively cultivated and yielding good crops; abounding in "the fatness of the earth" and the "plenty of corn and wine" which were promised to the forefather of the Edomites as a compensation for the loss of his birthright (Robinson, 2:552; Laborde, p. 203, 263). In these mountains there is a plateau of great elevation, from which again rise the mountains or rather the downs (Stanley, p. 87) of es-Sherah.

Though this district is now deserted, yet the ruins of towns and villages with which it abounds show that at one time it must have been densely inhabited (Burckhardt, p. 435, 436). The numerous wadys which at once drain and give access to the interior of these mountains are in strong contrast with those on the west, partaking of the fertile character of the mountains from which they descend. In almost all cases they contain streams which, although in the heat of summer small, and losing themselves in their own beds or in the sand of the Arabah "in a few paces" after they forsake the shadow of their native ravines (Laborde, p. 141), are yet sufficient to keep alive a certain amount of vegetation, rushes, tamarisks, palms, and even oleanders, lilies, and anemones, while they form the resort of the numerous tribes of the children of Esail, who still "dwell (Stanley, p. 87; Laborde, p. 141; Martineau, p. 396) in Mount Seir, which is Edom" ( Genesis 36:8). The most important of these wadys are the W. Ithm and the W. Abui Kusheibeh. The former enters the mountains close above Akabah, and leads by the back of the range to Petra, and thence by Shobek and Tufileh to the country east of the Dead Sea. Traces of a Roman road exist along this route (Laborde, p. 203; Robinson, 2:161); by it Laborde returned from Petra, and there can be little doubt that it was the route by which the Israelites took their leave of the Arabah when they went to "compass the land of Edom" ( Numbers 21:4). The second, the W. Abu Kusheibeh, is the most direct access from the Arabah to Petra, and is that up which Laborde and Stanley appear to have gone to the city. Besides these are Wady Tubal, in which the traveler from the south gains his first glimpse of the red sandstone of Edom, and W. Ghurundel, not to be confounded with those of the same name north of Petra and west of Sinai.

To Dr. Robinson is due the credit of having first ascertained the spot which forms at once the southern limit of the Ghor and the northern limit of the Arabah. This boundary is the line of chalk cliffs which sweep across the valley at about six miles below the south-west corner of the Dead Sea. They are from 50 to 150 feet in height; the Ghor ends with the marshy ground at their feet, and level with their tops the Arabah begins (Robinson, 2:494, 498, 501). Thus the cliffs act as a retaining wall or buttress supporting the higher level of the Arabah, and the whole forms what in geological language might be called a "fault" in the floor of the great valley. Through this wall breaks in the embouchure of the great main drain of the Arabah the Wady el-Jeib in itself a very large and deep water- course, which collects and transmits to their outlet at this point the torrents which the numerous wadys from both sides of the Arabab pour along it in the winter season (Robinson, 2:497, 500, 507). The farthest point south to which this drainage is known to reach is the southern Wady Ghurundel (Robinson, 2:508), which debouches from the eastern mountains about 40 miles from Akabah and 60 from the cliffs just spoken of. The Wady el-Jeib also forms the most direct road for penetrating into the valley from the north. On its west bank, and crossed by the road from Wady Musa (Petra) to Hebron, are the springs of Ain el-Weibeh, maintained by Robinson to be Kadesh (Res. 2, 582; but see Stanley, p. 94). Of the substructure of the floor of the Arabah very little is known. In his progress southward along the Wady el-Jeib, which is, during part of its course, over 100 feet in depth, Dr. Robinson (ii. 498) notes that the sides are "of chalky earth or marl," but beyond this there is no information. The surface is dreary and desolate in the extreme. According to Dr. Robinson (2, 502), "A lone shrub of the ghudah is almost the only trace of vegetation." This was at the ascent from the Wady el-Jeio to the floor of the great valley itself. Farther south, near Ain el-Weibeh, it is a rolling gravelly desert, with round naked hills of considerable elevation (ii. 580). At Wady Ghurundel it is "an expanse of shifting sands, broken by innumerable undulations and low hills" (Burckhardt, p. 442), and "countersected by a hundred water- courses" (Stanley, p. 87). The southern portion has a considerable general slope from east to west quite apart from the undulations of the surface (Stanley, p. 85), a slope which extends as far north as Petra (Ritter, 14:1097). Nor is the heat less terrible than the desolation, and travelers, almost without exception, bear testimony to the difficulties of journeying in a region where the sirocco appears to blow almost without intermission (Ritter, 14:1016; Burckh. p. 444; Martineau, p. 394; Robinson, 2:505). However, in spite of this heat and desolation, there is a certain amount of vegetation, even in the open Arabah, in the dryest parts of the year. Schubert in March found the Arta (Calligonum com.), the Anthia variegata, and the Coloquinta (Ritter, 14:1014), also tamarisk-bushes (tarfa) lying thick in a torrent bed (p. 1016); and on Stanley's road "the shrubs at times had almost the appearance of a jungle," though it is true that they were so thin as to disappear when the "waste of sand" was overlooked from an elevation (p. 85; and see Robinson, 1:240, 258). (See Arabia).

It is not surprising that after the discovery by Burckhardt in 1812 of the prolongation of the Jordan valley in the Arabah, it should have been assumed that this had in former times formed the outlet for the Jordan to the Red Sea. Lately, however, the levels of the Jordan and the Dead Sea have been taken, imperfectly, but still with sufficient accuracy to disprove the possibility of such a theory; and in addition there is the universal testimony of the Arabs that at least half of the district drains northward to the Dead Sea a testimony fully confirmed by all the recorded observations of the conformation of the ground. A series of accurate levels from the Akabah to the Dead Sea, up the Arabah, are necessary before the question can be set at rest, but in the mean time the following may be taken as an approximation to the real state of the case. (See the profiles on Petermann's Map.)

1. The waters of the Red Sea and of the Mediterranean are very nearly at one level (See Dead Sea).

2. The depression of the surface of the Sea of Galilee is 652 feet, and of the Dead Sea 1316 feet, below the level of the Mediterranean, and therefore of the Red Sea. Therefore the waters of the Jordan can never in historical times have flowed into the gulf of Akabah, even if the formation of the ground between the Dead Sea and the gulf would admit of it. But,

3. All testimony goes to show that the drainage of the northern portion of the Arabah is toward the Dead Sea, and therefore that the land rises southward from the latter. Also that the south portion drains to the gulf, and therefore that the land rises northward from the gulf to some point between it and the Dead Sea. The water-shed is said by the Arabs to be a long ridge of hills running across the valley at two and a half days, or say forty miles, from Akabah (Stanley, p. 85), and it is probable that this is not far wrong. By M. de Bertou it is fixed as opposite the entrance to the Wady Talh, apparently the same spot.

2. A city of Benjamin ( Joshua 18:18), elsewhere ( Joshua 15:61;  Joshua 18:22) called more fully BETH-ARABAH (See Beth-Arabah) (q.v.).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

ar´a - ba , a - rā´ba הערבה , - ‛ărābhāh , "the Arabah"): This word indicates in general a barren district, but is specifically applied in whole or in part to the depression of the Jordan valley, extending from Mount Hermon to the Gulf of Akabah. In the King James Version it is transliterated only once ( Joshua 18:18 ) describing the border of Benjamin. Elsewhere it is rendered "plain." But in the Revised Version (British and American) it is everywhere transliterated. South of the Dead Sea the name is still retained in Wady el-Arabah. In  Deuteronomy 1:1;  Deuteronomy 2:8 (the King James Version "plain") the southern portion is referred to; in   Deuteronomy 3:17;  Deuteronomy 4:49;  Joshua 3:16;  Joshua 11:2;  Joshua 12:3 and   2 Kings 14:25 the name is closely connected with the Dead Sea and the Sea of Chinnereth (Gennesaret). The allusions to the Arabah in   Deuteronomy 11:30;  Joshua 8:14;  Joshua 12:1;  Joshua 18:18;  2 Samuel 2:29;  2 Samuel 4:7;  2 Kings 25:4;  Jeremiah 39:4;  Jeremiah 52:7 indicate that the word was generally used in its most extended sense, while in   Joshua 11:16 , and  Joshua 12:8 it is represented as one of the great natural divisions of the country.

The southern portion, which still retains the name of Arabah, is included in the wilderness of Zin ( Numbers 34:3 ). According to the survey of Lord Kitchener and George Armstrong made in 1883, under the auspices of the Palestine Exploration Fund , its length from the head of the Gulf of Akabah to the Dead Sea is 112 miles. The lowest point of the watershed is 45 miles from Akabah, and 660 feet above tide (1,952 above the Dead Sea). The average width of the valley up to this point is about 6 miles, but here a series of low limestone ridges (called Er Risheh) rising 150 feet above the plain runs obliquely across it for a distance of 10 miles, narrowing it up to a breadth of about one-half mile. North of this point, opposite Mount Hor, the valley widens out to 13 miles and then gradually narrows to 6 miles at the south end of the Dead Sea. At Ain Abu Werideh, 29 miles north of the watershed, the valley is at the sea-level - 1,292 feet above that of the Dead Sea. North of the watershed, the main line of drainage is the Wady el-Jeib, which everywhere keeps pretty close to the west side of the valley. At Ain Abu Werideh it is joined by numerous wadies descending from the Edomite mountains on the east, which altogether water an oasis of considerable extent, covered with a thicket of young palms, tamarisks, willows and reeds. Twenty-four miles farther north the Arabah breaks down suddenly into the valley of the Dead Sea, or the Ghôr, as it is technically called. Lord Kitchener's report is here so vivid as to be worthy of literal reproduction. "The descent to the Ghôr was down a sandy slope of 300 feet, and the change of climate was most marked, from the sandy desert to masses of tangled vegetation with streams of water running in all directions, birds fluttering from every tree, the whole country alive with life; nowhere have I seen so great and sudden a contrast" ( Mount Seir , 214). The descent here described was on the eastern side of the semicircular line of cliffs formed of sand, gravel, and marl which enclose the Ghôr at the south end, and which are probably what are referred to in  Joshua 15:3 as the "ascent of Akrabbim." The ordinary route, however, leading to the plain of the Arabah from the Dead Sea is up the trough worn by the Wady el-Jeib along the west side of the valley. But this route would be impracticable during the rainy season after the cloudbursts which occasionally visit this region, when torrents of water pour down it, sufficient to roll boulders of considerable size and to transport an immense amount of coarse sediment.

South of the Dead Sea a muddy plain, known as the Sebkah, extends 6 miles, filling about one-half of the width of the Ghôr. During most of the year the mud over this area is so thin and deep that it is impossible to cross it near its northern end. This whole area between the "ascent of Akrabbim" and the Dead Sea has evidently been greatly transformed by the sedimentary deposits which have been brought in by the numerous tributary wadies during the last 4,000 years, the coarser material having encroached upon it from either side, and the fine material having been deposited over the middle portion, furnishing the clay which is so embarrassing to travelers. (For further considerations upon this point see Dead Sea; Cities Of The Plain .)

1. Geology of the Region

The Arabah in its whole extent occupies a portion of the great geological fault or crevasse in the earth's crust which extends from Antioch near the mouth of the Orontes southward between the Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon Mountains to the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, and onward to the Gulf of Akabah, whence it can be traced with considerable probability through the Red Sea and the interior lakes of Africa. The most remarkable portion of this phenomenal crevasse is that which extends from the Waters of Merom to the springs of Ain Abu Werideh; for through this entire distance the Arabah is below sea-level, the depression at the Dead Sea being approximately 1,292 feet. See Dead Sea . Throughout the entire distance from the Waters of Merom to the watershed, 45 miles from Akabah, the western side of the Arabah is bordered by strata of Cretaceous (chalk) limestone rising pretty continuously to a height of from 2,000 to 3,000 feet above sea-level, no older rocks appearing upon that side. But upon the eastern side older sandstones (Nubian and lower Carboniferous) and granitic rocks border the plain, supporting, however, at a height of 2,000 or 3,000 feet Cretaceous limestones corresponding to those which descend to the level of the gorge on the western side. Throughout this entire distance, therefore, the strata have either slipped down upon the western side or risen upon the eastern side, or there has been a movement in both directions. The origin of this crevasse dates from the latter part of the Cretaceous or the early part of the Tertiary period.

But in post-Tertiary times an expanded lake filled the region, extending from the Waters of Merom to Ain Abu Werideh, a distance of about 200 miles, rising to an elevation of about 1,400 feet above the present level of the Dead Sea, but not sufficiently high to secure connection with the ocean either through the Arabah proper or across the valley of Esdraelon. This body of water was, on the average, 30 miles wide and over the northern part of the Dead Sea had an extreme depth of 2,700 feet. The most distinct evidence of the existence of this enlargement of the lake is to be found at Ain Abu Werideh, where Hull reports "banks of horizontally stratified materials ... sometimes of coarse material, such as gravel; at other times consisting of fine sand, loam, or white marl, with very even stratification, and containing blanched semi-fossil shells of at least two kinds of univalves, which Professor Haddon has determined to be Melania tuberculata Müll, and Melanopsis Saulcyi , Bourg" ( Mount Seir , 99, 100). These are shells which are now found, according to Tristram, in great numbers in semi-fossil condition in the marl deposits of the Dead Sea, and both of these genera are found in the fluvio-marine beds formed in the brackish or salt water of the Isle of Wight. The existence of the shells indicates the extent to which the saline waters of the Dead Sea were diluted at that time. It should be added, however, that species somewhat similar still exist around the borders of the Dead Sea in lagoons where fresh water is mingled in large quantities with that of the Dead Sea. This is especially true in eddies near the mouth of the Jordan. (See Merrill, East of the Jordan .) Huntington in 1909 confirms the fact that these high-level shore lines are found on both sides of the Dead Sea, though for some reason the have not been traced farther north.

At lower levels, especially at that which is 650 feet above the Dead Sea, there is, however, a very persistent terrace of gravel, sand and clay marking a shore line all the way from the south end of the Dead Sea to Lake Galilee. This can be seen running up into all the wadies on either side, being very prominent opposite their mouths, but much eroded since its deposition. On the shores of the lake between the wadies the line is marked by a slight accumulation of coarse material. Below the 650-foot line there are several other minor strands marking periods when the subsiding waters were for a short time stationary.

This period of enlargement of the waters in the Arabah is now, with abundant reason, correlated with the Glacial epoch whose influence was so generally distributed over the northern hemisphere in early post-Tertiary times. There were, however, no living glaciers within the limits of the Arabah Valley - M ount Hermon not being sufficiently large to support any extensive ice-sheet. The nearest glacier of any extent was on the west side of the Lebanon Mountains, 40 to 50 miles north of Beirût, where according to my own observations one descended from the summit of the mountains (10,000 feet high) 12 miles down the valley of the Kadesha River to a level 5,500 feet above the sea, where it built up an immense terminal moraine several miles across the valley, and 5 miles up it from its front, upon which is now growing the celebrated grove of the Cedars of Lebanon. (See Records of the Past , Am. series, V, 195-204.) The existence of the moraine, however, had been noted by Sir Joseph Hooker forty years before. (See Nat. Hist. Rev ., January, 1862.)

But while there were no glaciers in the Arabah Valley itself, there, as elsewhere, semi-glacial conditions extended beyond the glacial limits a considerable distance into the lower latitudes, securing the increased precipitation and the diminished evaporation which would account for the enlargement of the bodies of water occupying enclosed basins within reach of these influences. The basin of Great Salt Lake in Utah presents conditions almost precisely like those of the Arabah, as do the Caspian and Aral seas, and lakes Urumiah, Van, and various others in central Asia. During the Glacial epoch the water level of Great Salt Lake rose more than 1,000 feet higher than now and covered ten times its present area. At the same time the Aral Sea discharged into the Caspian Sea through an outlet as large as Niagara. When the conditions of the Glacial epoch passed away the evaporation again prevailed, until the water areas of these enclosed basins were reduced to the existing dimensions and the present equilibrium was established between the precipitation and the evaporation.

While it is susceptible of proof that the close of this epoch was geologically recent, probably not more than 10,000 years ago (see Wright, Ice Age in North America , 5th edition, chapter xx),the present conditions had become established approximately long before the time of Abraham and the development of civilization in Babylonia and Egypt.

East of the Arabah between the Dead Sea and Akabah numerous mountain peaks rise to the height of more than 4,000 feet above tide level, the highest being Mount Hor, though back of it there is a limestone range reaching 5,000 feet. This mountainous region contains numerous fertile areas and furnishes through its numerous wadies a considerable amount of water to favor vegetation. The limestone floor of the Arabah south of the Dead Sea is deeply covered with sand and gravel, washed in from the granitic areas from the east. This greatly favors the accumulation of sediment at the mouths of the wadies emptying into the south end of the Ghôr.

2. History

At present the Egyptian government maintains a fort and harbor at Akabah, but its authority does not extend into the interior. The Arabah has, however, from time immemorial furnished a caravan route between northern Arabia and the Sinaitic Peninsula. It was this which supported the great emporium of Petra. The Israelites traversed its southern portion both on their way from Horeb to Kadesh-barnea and on their return, when the king of Edom refused passage through his land ( Numbers 20:21;  Deuteronomy 2:3 ). This opposition compelled them to turn up the forbidding Wady el-Ithem, which opens into the Arabah a few miles north of Akabah and leads to the Pilgrim route between Damascus and Mecca. The terrors of this passage are referred to in  Numbers 21:4 , where it is said "the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way." Around Akabah itself there are still groves of palms, the existence of which, at the time of the Exodus, is indicated by the name Elath ( Deuteronomy 2:8 ), "a grove of trees."


Burchkhardt, Travels in Syria and the Holy Land , 1822; De Laborde, Voyage en Orient , 1828; Hull, Mount Seir , Sinai , and Western Palestine , 1889; "The Physical Geol. and Geog. of Arabia Petrea," etc., in PEF , 1886; Lartet, Voyage d'exploration de la Mer Morte , t. 3me, 1880; Robinson, BR , 1855; Stanley, Sinai and Pal 5, 1860; Blankenkorn, "Entstehung u. Gesch. des Todten Meeres," in ZDPV , 1896; Ritter, " Comp. Geog. of Palestine and the Sinaitic Peninsula ," 1866, translation by Wm. L. Gage; Huntington, Palestine and Its Transformation , 1911.