From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [1]

Among the rivers of west Asia, the Euphrates was the largest. It was often referred to as ‘the great river’ or simply ‘the River’ ( Genesis 15:18;  Deuteronomy 1:7;  Ezra 8:36;  Nehemiah 2:9;  Nehemiah 3:7;  Isaiah 7:20). The territory of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers was known as Mesopotamia, and formed part of the ancient land of Babylon. This was the region where the garden of Eden was located ( Genesis 2:10-14). The ancient city of Ur was on the Euphrates ( Genesis 11:28; see Ur ).

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [2]

Εu , Sanskrit Su , denotes "good"; the second syllable denotes "abundant." Hebrew Ρrath , now Frat. Eden, wherein it is mentioned as one of the four, rivers. (See Eden .) The bound to which God promised the land given to Abraham's seed should extend. Called "the river," "the great river," as being the largest with which Israel was acquainted, in contrast to the soon drying up torrents of Palestine ( Isaiah 8:7;  Genesis 15:18;  Deuteronomy 1:7). The largest and longest of the rivers of western Asia. It has two sources in the Armenian mountains, one at Domli, 25 miles N.E. of Erzeroum, the other N. of the mountain range Ala Tagh, not far from Ararat; the two branches meet at Kebban Maden, the one having run 400 the other 270 miles. The united river runs S.W. and S. through the Taurus and Antitaurus ranges toward the Mediterranean; but the ranges N. of Lebanon preventing its reaching that sea, it turns S.E. 1,000 miles to the Persian gulf. N. of Sumeisat (Samosata) the stream runs in a narrow valley between mountains.

From Sumeisat to Hit it runs amidst a more open but hilly country. From Hit downwards it runs through a low, flat, alluvial plain. The whole course is 1,750 miles, 650 more than the Tigris and only 200 short of the Indus; for 1,200 it is navigable for boats and small steamers. Its greatest width is 700 or 800 miles from the mouth, namely, 400 yards across, from its junction with the Khabour (Chebar) at Carchemish, to Werai, a village. Below the Khabour it has no tributaries, and so its depth and width decrease. At Babylon its width has decreased to 200 yards, with a depth of 15 ft. Farther down 120 wide, 12 deep. Moreover, its water here and lower down is much employed in irrigation; and it has a tendency to expend itself in vast marshes. But 40 miles below Lamlum it increases to 200 yards wide, and when joined by the Tigris it is half a mile wide The yearly inundation in May is clue to the melting of the snows in the Armenian mountains.

Nebuchadnezzar (Abyden., Fr. 8) controlled the inundation by turning the water through sluices into channels for distribution over the whole country. Boats of wicker work, coated with bitumen and covered with skins, are still to be seen on the river, as more than two thousand years ago in Herodotus' time. By this river the East and West carried on mutual commerce during the successive periods of Babylonian and Persian rule. As Babylon represents mystically the apostate church, so the waters of Euphrates, "where the whore sitteth" (in impious parody of Jehovah who "sitteth upon the flood"), represent the "peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues," which were her main support ( Revelation 17:15-16). The drying up of Babylon's waters answers to the ten kings' stripping, eating, and burning the whore, which is now being enacted in many European countries ( Revelation 16:12).

"The kings of the Euphrates" (compare  Revelation 1:6) are the saints of Israel and the Gentiles accompanying the king of Israel in "glory returning from the way of the East" ( Ezekiel 43:2;  Matthew 24:27). The obstacles which stood in the way of Israel and her king returning, namely, the apostate church (both Rome and the Greek apostasy) and her multitudinous peoples, shall be dried up, her resources being drained off, just as Cyrus marched into Babylon through the dry channel of the Euphrates.

The promise to Abraham that his seed's inheritance should reach the Euphrates ( Genesis 15:18;  Deuteronomy 1:7;  Joshua 1:4) received a very partial fulfillment in Reuben's pastoral possessions ( 1 Chronicles 5:9-10) (the Hagarites here encountered them, the inscriptions confirming scripture as to their appearance upon the middle Euphrates in the later empire); a fuller accomplishment under David and Solomon, when an annual tribute was paid from subject petty kingdoms in that quarter, as Hadadezer king of Zobah, etc. ( 1 Chronicles 18:3;  2 Samuel 8:3-8;  1 Kings 4:21;  2 Chronicles 9:26.) The full accomplishment awaits Messiah's coming again. (See Canaan .) The Euphrates was the boundary between Assyria and the Hittite country, after Solomon's times, according to inscriptions. But Assyria at last drove back the Hittites from the right bank. (See Carchemish .)

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [3]

A famous river of Asia, which has its source in the mountains of America, runs along the frontiers of Cappadocia, Syria, Arabia Deserta, Chaldea, and Mesopotamia, and falls into the Persian Gulf. According to the recent researches of Chesney, it receives the Tigris at a place called Shat-el-Arab. Five miles below the junction of these two mighty rivers, the Shat-el-Arab receives from the northeast the Kerkhah, which has a course of upwards of five hundred miles. Sixty-two miles below the mouth of the Kerkhah, another large river, the Kuran, comes in from the east. At present it enters the Shat-el-Arab forty miles above its mouth; but formerly it flowed channel, east of the main stream. According to that view which places the Garden of Eden near the junction of the Tigris with the Euphrates, these might be regarded as the four rivers of Paradise. We might well suppose that the Kuran, in very ancient times, as now, entered the Shat-el-Arab; and perhaps still farther from its mouth. Scripture often calls the Euphrates simply "the river,"  Exodus 23:31   Isaiah 7:20   8:7   Jeremiah 2:18; or "the great river," and assigns it for the eastern boundary of that land which God promised to the Hebrews,  Deuteronomy 1:7   Joshua 1:4 . It overflows in summer like the Nile, when the snow on the mountains of Armenia, the nearest springs of both are but a few miles apart.

The Euphrates is a river of consequence in Scripture geography, being the utmost limit, east, of the territory of the Israelites. It was indeed only occasionally that the dominion of the Hebrews extended so far; but it would appear that even Egypt, under Pharaoh Necho, made conquests to the western bank of the Euphrates. The river is about eighteen hundred miles long. Its general direction is southeast; but in a part of its course it runs westerly, and approaches the Mediterranean near Cilicia. It is accompanied in its general course by the Tigris. There are many towns on its banks, which are in general rather level than mountainous. The river does not appear to be of very great breadth, varying, however, from sixty to six hundred yards. Its current, after reaching the plains of Mesopotamia, is somewhat sluggish, and in this part of its course many canals, etc., were dug, to prevent injury and secure benefit from the yearly overflows. At Seleucia, and Hilleh the ancient Babylon, it approaches near the Tigris, and some of its waters are drawn off by canals to the latter river. Again, however, they diverge, and only unite in the same channel about one hundred and twenty miles from the Persian Gulf. It is not well adapted for navigation, yet light vessels go up about one thousand miles, and the modern steam-boat which now ascends from the ocean, meets the same kind of goat-skin floats on which produce was rafted down the river thousands of years ago.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

This river is first mentioned in connection with the garden of Eden, but cannot be thereby traced.  Genesis 2:14 . It was the N.E. boundary of the land promised to Abraham, as the river of Egypt was the S.W.  Genesis 15:18 . It is called the great river, the river Euphrates,  Deuteronomy 1:7 , and at times is merely called 'the river.'  Genesis 31:21 . David was able to possess the land to the Euphrates,  2 Samuel 8:3 , which also Solomon maintained.  1 Kings 4:24 .

In one of Jeremiah's typical actions he hid his girdle by the Euphrates then found it spoiled and useless; so should the pride of Judah and Jerusalem be marred ( Jeremiah 13:4-11 ) — a figure of the carrying away to Babylon of those who should have cleaved to the Lord for His praise, as a girdle to the loins of a man. The prophecy against Babylon was written by Jeremiah in a book, and given to Seraiah, who was to read the same when he arrived at Babylon, then tie a stone to the book and cast it into the Euphrates, and. say "Thus shall Babylon sink."  Jeremiah 51:59-64 . The book was thus placed in the river in which the Babylonians trusted for safety, but which was the channel of their destruction.  Isaiah 45:1 .

The Euphrates is mentioned in the Revelation as the place where four angels are or will be bound, who will be loosed at the sixth trumpet, letting loose the Eastern forms of Satanic wickedness hitherto held in check.  Revelation 9:14 . Viewing Palestine as the centre of God's dealings with the earth, the Euphrates was the barrier between East and West. The sixth vial will be poured upon the great river Euphrates, that it may be dried up and a way be made for the kings from the East to come unto the great battle of Armageddon.  Revelation 16:12 .

There are two sources of the river; one in the Armenian mountains, about 40 N, 41 30' E, and the other in the mountain range of Ararat, about 39 30' N, 43 E. When the streams join they run nearly south and then south east for 1000 miles. After being joined by the Tigris it falls into the Persian Gulf. It is generally supposed that the river has not always in all parts run in the same channel; that after overflowing its banks it has not always returned to its former course, though it ran into it again farther south. A glance at a map will show that the possessions of David could have embraced but a very small part of the Euphrates, about Lat. 35 to 36 N. The great Syrian desert of Arabia separated the southern part of the river from Palestine.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [5]

The Euphrates was a famous river of Mesopotamia. Its chief interest for us in the Apostolic Age is its adoption as a term in the allegorical apparatus of Christian polemic and apologetic. In  Revelation 9:14 the sixth angel is ordered to release the four angels who were bound at the river Euphrates, and in  Revelation 16:12 the sixth angel dries up the Euphrates for the coming of the kings of the East. We have here an allusion to the Nero-legend which told that Nero had fled to the East, to the Medes and Persians, beyond the river Euphrates, and would again cross the river accompanied by myriads of soldiers and make war on Rome ( Sib. Or. iv. 119-122, 137-139). In accordance with this legend, a second pseudo-Nero appeared on the Euphrates under Titus in a.d. 80 (cf. R. H. Charles, The Ascension, of Isaiah , 1900, pp. lviii-lxi). In both the Apocalyptic verses, however, we have more than an allusion to a Parthian incursion. In the allegorical language of the period, as Egypt was the type of bodily life, so was Mesopotamia of spiritual (cf. Hippol. Ref . v. 3: ‘Mesopotamia is the current of the great ocean flowing from the midst of the Perfect Man’). On the other hand, by another symbol the Euphrates stood for the power of the earthly kingdom and the waves of persecutors ( e.g. in Bede, Explan. Apoc. ii. 9 [Migne, Patr . Lat . xciii. 159]), or for the human as opposing the Divine.

Thus, interpreting the wind of the apostolic period by its legacy to subsequent ages, Rupertus understands the waters of Euphrates in the Apocalypse as the foolish reasonings of men dried up by the judgment of God in order that the saints of Him who is the ‘East’ may destroy ‘the deceits of the magi, the vain inventions of philosophers and the fictions of the poets’ ( Com. in. Apoc. ix. 16 [ Milne, Patr. Lat . clxix. 1123]). Also, as the Euphrates was the boundary of Paradise and of the realm of Solomon, it came to signify the reason of man as the boundary to be passed by the spiritual man before he could see the light of the eternal day. In this way the evil condition of Euphrates passed easily into the conception of it as the water of baptism. Philo has yet another interpretation ( de Somn . ii. 255). Referring to  Genesis 15:18 he says that the river of Egypt represents the body and the river Euphrates the soul, and that the spiritual man’s jurisdiction extends from the world of change and destruction to the world of interruption, the two terms ‘river of Egypt’ and ‘river Euphrates’ being thus opposed as blame and praise are opposed, so that man may choose the one and eschew the other.

W. F. Cobb.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [6]

a river of Asiatic Turkey, which rises from the mountains of Armenia, as some have said, in two streams, a few miles to the north- east of Erzeron, the streams uniting to the south-west near that city; and chiefly pursuing a south-west direction to Semisat, where it would fall into the Mediterranean, if not prevented by a high range of mountains. In this part of its course the Euphrates is joined by the Morad, a stream almost doubling in length that of the Euphrates, so that the latter river might more justly be said to spring from Mount Ararat, about one hundred and sixty British miles to the east of the imputed source. At Semisat, the ancient Samosata, this noble river assumes a southerly direction, then runs an extensive course to the southeast, and after receiving the Tigris, falls by two or three mouths into the gulf of Persia, about fifty miles south-east of Bassora; north latitude 29 50'; east longitude 66 55'. The comparative course of the Euphrates may be estimated at about one thousand four hundred British miles. This river is navigable for a considerable distance from the sea. In its course it separates Aladulia from Armenia, Syria from Diarbekir, and Diarbekir from Arabia, and passing through the Arabian Irak, joins the Tigris. The Euphrates and Tigris, the most considerable as well as the most renowned rivers of western Asia, are remarkable for their rising within a few miles of each other, running the same course, never being more than one hundred and fifty miles asunder, and sometimes, before their final junction, approaching within fifteen miles of each other, as in the latitude of Bagdad. The space included between the two is the ancient country of Mesopotamia. But the Euphrates is by far the more noble river of the two. Sir R. K. Porter, describing this river in its course through the ruins of Babylon, observes, "The whole view was particularly solemn. The majestic stream of the Euphrates wandering in solitude, like a pilgrim monarch through the silent ruins of his devastated kingdom, still appeared a noble river, even under all the disadvantages of its desert- tracked course. Its banks were hoary with reeds; and the grey osier willows were yet there, on which the captives of Israel hung up their harps, and, while Jerusalem was not, refused to be comforted." The Scripture calls it "the great river," and assigns it for the eastern boundary of that land which God promised to the Israelites,  Deuteronomy 1:7;  Joshua 1:4 .

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Euphra'tes. Euphrates is probably a word of Aryan origin, signifying "The Good And Abounding River". It is most frequently denoted in the Bible by the term "the river."

The Euphrates is the largest, the longest and, by far, the most important of the rivers of western Asia. It rises from two chief sources in the Armenian mountains, and flows into the Persian Gulf. The entire course is 1780 miles, and of this distance more than two-thirds (1200 miles) is navigable for boats. The width of the river is greatest at the distance of 700 or 800 miles from its mouth - that is to say, from it junction with the Khabour to the village of Werai . It there averages 400 yards.

The annual inundation of the Euphrates is caused by the melting of the snows in the Armenian highlands. It occurs in the month of May. The great hydraulic works ascribed to Nebuchadnezzar had for their chief object to control the inundation.

The Euphrates is first mentioned in Scripture as one of the four rivers of Eden.  Genesis 2:14. We next hear of it in the covenant made with Abraham.  Genesis 15:18. During the reigns of David and Solomon, it formed the boundary of the Promised Land to the northeast.  Deuteronomy 11:24;  Joshua 1:4.

Prophetical reference to the Euphrates is found in  Jeremiah 13:4-7;  Jeremiah 46:2-10;  Jeremiah 51:63;  Revelation 9:14;  Revelation 16:12.

"The Euphrates is linked with the most important events in ancient history. On its banks, stood the city of Babylon; the army of Necho was defeated on its banks by Nebuchadnezzar; Cyrus the Younger and Crassus perished after crossing it; Alexander crossed it, and Trajan and Severus descended it." - Appleton's Cyclopedia.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [8]

 Exodus 23:31 Deuteronomy 1:7

The Euphrates is first mentioned in  Genesis 2:14 as one of the rivers of Paradise. It is next mentioned in connection with the covenant which God entered into with Abraham (15:18), when he promised to his descendants the land from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates (Compare   Deuteronomy 11:24;  Joshua 1:4 ), a covenant promise afterwards fulfilled in the extended conquests of David ( 2 Samuel 8:2-14;  1 Chronicles 18:3;  1 Kings 4:24 ). It was then the boundary of the kingdom to the north-east. In the ancient history of Assyria, and Babylon, and Egypt many events are recorded in which mention is made of the "great river." Just as the Nile represented in prophecy the power of Egypt, so the Euphrates represented the Assyrian power ( Isaiah 8:7;  Jeremiah 2:18 ).

It is by far the largest and most important of all the rivers of Western Asia. From its source in the Armenian mountains to the Persian Gulf, into which it empties itself, it has a course of about 1,700 miles. It has two sources, (1) the Frat or Kara-su (i.e., "the black river"), which rises 25 miles north-east of Erzeroum; and (2) the Muradchai (i.e., "the river of desire"), which rises near Ararat, on the northern slope of Ala-tagh. At Kebban Maden, 400 miles from the source of the former, and 270 from that of the latter, they meet and form the majestic stream, which is at length joined by the Tigris at Koornah, after which it is called Shat-el-Arab, which runs in a deep and broad stream for above 140 miles to the sea. It is estimated that the alluvium brought down by these rivers encroaches on the sea at the rate of about one mile in thirty years.

People's Dictionary of the Bible [9]

Euphrates ( Eû-Frâ'Tçz ), The Abounding. A noted river, the largest in western Asia; rises in Armenia in two sources. Its whole length is 1780 miles. It is navigable for large ships to Bassora, 70 miles above its mouth; a steamer drawing four feet of water has ascended to Bir, 1197 miles. It flows in a broad, deep current, filled to the level of its banks, and at Babylon is considerably less than a mile in width. For the last 800 miles of its course it does not receive a single tributary. The Tigris flows in a narrower channel, with deeper banks and a less rapid current. The country between the two rivers slopes toward the Tigris, and thus greatly favors the draining off of the superfluous waters of the Euphrates. In Scripture the Euphrates is named as one of the rivers of Eden,  Genesis 2:14; called "the great river,"  Genesis 15:18;  Deuteronomy 1:7; noted as the eastern boundary of the Promised Land,  Deuteronomy 11:24;  Joshua 1:4;  1 Chronicles 5:9; and of David's conquests,  2 Samuel 8:3;  1 Chronicles 18:3; of those of Babylon from Egypt,  2 Kings 24:7; is referred to in prophecy,  Jeremiah 13:4-7;  Jeremiah 46:2-10;  Jeremiah 51:63; and in  Revelation 9:14;  Revelation 16:12. In upward of 26 other passages it is spoken of as "the river." By this stream the captive Jews wept.  Psalms 137:1. It is now called the Frat by the natives.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [10]

EUPHRATES , one of the rivers of Eden (  Genesis 2:14 ), derives its name from the Assyr. [Note: Assyrian.] Purat , which is itself taken from the Sumerian Pura , ‘water,’ or Pura-nun , ‘the great water.’ Purat became Ufrâtu in Persian, where the prosthetic vowel was supposed by the Greeks to be the word u , ‘good.’ In the OT the Euphrates is generally known as ‘ the river .’ It rises in the Armenian mountains from two sources, the northern branch being called the Frat or Kara-su, and the southern and larger branch the Murad-su (the Arsanias of ancient geography). The present length of the river is 1780 miles, but in ancient times it fell into the sea many miles to the north of its existing outlet, and through a separate mouth from that of the Tigris. The salt marshes through which it passed before entering the sea were called Marratu ( Merathaim in   Jeremiah 50:21 ), where the Aramæan Kalda or Chaldæans lived. The alluvial plain between the Euphrates and the Tigris constituted Babylonia, the water of the annual inundation (which took place in May, and was caused by the melting of the snows in Armenia) being regulated by means of canals and barrages. The Hittite city of Carchemish stood at the point where the Euphrates touched Northern Syria, and commanded one of the chief fords over the river; south of it came the Belikh and Khabur, the last affluents of the Euphrates. The promise made to the Israelites that their territory should extend to ‘the great river’ (  Genesis 15:18 etc.) was fulfilled through the conquests of David ( 2Sa 8:3;   2 Samuel 10:16-19 ,   1 Kings 4:24 ).

A. H. Sayce.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]


is the Greek form ( Εὐφράτης ) of the river designated in Hebrews by the name PHRATH or Perath' ( פְּרָת , which Gesenius regards as i.q. "sweet water," referring to the present Arabic name Frah as having that signify; but Furst refers to an obsolete root indicating the impetuous character of the stream), and is probably a word of Arian origin, the initial element being u, which is in Sanscrit su, in Zend ha, and in Greek Ε῏Υ ; and the second element being fra, the particle of abundance. The Euphrates is thus "the good and abounding river." It is not improbable that in common parlance the name was soon shortened to its modern form of Frat, which is almost exactly what the Hebrew Uiteration expresses. But it is most frequently denoted in the Bible by the tearn הִנָּהָר , han-nahar', i.e., "the river," the river of Asia, in grand contrast with the shortlived torrents of Palestine, being by far the most considerable stream in that part of the continent. Thus, in  Exodus 23:3, we read, "from the desert unto the river" (comp.  Isaiah 8:7). In like manner, it is termed in  Deuteronomy 1:7 "the great river." The Euphrates is named in the cuneiform inscriptions (q.v.).

1. It is first mentioned in  Genesis 2:14, where the Euphrates is stated to be the fourth of the riflers which flowed from a common stream in the garden of Eden. Its celebrity is there sufficiently indicated by the absence of any explanatory phrase, such as accompanies the names of the other streams. (See Eden).

We next hear of it in the covenant made with Abraham ( Genesis 15:18), where the whole country from "the great river, the river Euphrates," to the river of Egypt is promised to the chosen race. In Deuteronomy and Joshua we find that this promise was borne in mind at the time of the settlement in Canaan ( Deuteronomy 1:7;  Deuteronomy 11:24;  Joshua 1:4); and from an important passage in the first book of Chronicles it appears that the tribe of Reuben did actually extend itself to the Euphrates in the times anterior to Saul ( 1 Chronicles 5:9). Here they came in contact with the Hagarites, who appear upon the Middle Euphrates in the Assyrian inscriptions of the later empire. It is David, however, who seems for the first time to have entered on the full enjoyment of the promise by the victories which he gained over Headadezer, king of Zobab, and his allies, the Syrians of Damascus ( 2 Samuel 8:3-8;  1 Chronicles 18:3). The object of his expedition was "to recover his border," and "to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrateas;" and in this object he appears to have been altogether successful, in so much that Solomon, his son, who was not a man of war, but only inherited his father's dominions, is said to have "reigned over all kingdoms from the river (i.e., the Euphrates) unto the land of the Philistines and unto the border of Egypt" ( 1 Kings 4:21; comp.  2 Chronicles 9:26). Thus, during the reigns of David and Solomon, the dominion of Israel actually attained to the full extent both ways of the original promise, the Euphrates forming the boundary of their empire to the northeast, and the river of Egypt to the south-west. This wide-spread dominion was lost, upon the disruption of the empire under Rehoboam; and no more is heard in Scripture of the Euphrates until the expedition of Necho against the Babylonians in the reign of Josiah. The "Great River" had meanwhile served for some time as a boundary between Assyria and the country of the Hittites, (See Assyria), but had repeatedly been crossed by the armies of the Ninevite kings, who gradually established their sway over the countries upon its right bank. The crossing of the river, was always difficult, and at the point where certain natural facilities fixed the ordinary passage the strong fort of Carchemish had been built, probably in very early times, to command the position. (See Carchemish).

Hence, when Necho determined to attempt the permanent conquest of Syria, his march was directed upon "Carchencish by Euphrates" ( 2 Chronicles 35:20), which he captured and held, thus extending the dominion of Egypt to the Euphrates, and renewing the old glories of the Ramesside kings. His triumph, however, was short-lived. Three years afterwards the Babylonians who had inherited the Assyrian dominion in these parts made an expedition under Nebuchadnezzar against Necho, defeated his army, "which was by the river Euphrates in Carchemish" ( Jeremiah 46:2), and recovered all Syria and Palestine. Then "the king of Egypt came no mire out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt" ( 2 Kings 24:7).

These are the chief events which Scripture distinctly connects with the "Great River." The prophets made use of the Euphrates as a figurative description of the Assyrian power, as the Nile with them represented the power of Egypt; thus, in  Isaiah 8:7, "The Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria" ( Jeremiah 2:18; comp.  Revelation 9:14;  Revelation 16:12). It is probably included among the "rivers of Babylon," by the side of which the Jewish captives "remembered Zion" and "wept" ( Psalms 137:1); and no doubt is glanced at in the threats of Jeremiah against the Chaldaean "waters" and "springs," upon which there was to be a "drought" that should "dry them up" (Jeremiah 1:38; 513:26). The fulfillment of these prophecies has been noticed under the head of Chaldaea The river still brings down as much water as of old, but the precious element is wasted by the neglect of man; the various water-courses along which it was in former times conveyed are dry, the main channel has shrunk, and the Water stagnates in unwholesome marshes.

It is remarkable that Scripture contains no clear and distinct reference to that striking occasion when, according to profane historians (Herod. 1:191; Xenoph. Caqrop. 7:5), the Euphrates was turned against its mistress, and used to effect the ruin of Babylon. The brevity of Daniel (5:30, 31) is perhaps sufficient to account for his silence on the point; but it might have been expected from the fullness of Jeremiah (chapter 1 and 51) that so remarkable a feature of the siege would not have escaped mention. We must, however, remember, in the first place, that a clear prophecy may have been purposely withheld, in order that the Babylonians might not be put upon their guard. And, secondly, we may notice that there does seem to be at least one reference to the circumstance, though it is covert, as it was necessary that it should be. In immediate conjunction with the passage which most clearly declares the taking of the city by a surprise is found an expression which reads very obscurely in our version "the passages are stopped" ( Jeremiah 51:32). Here the Hebrew term used ( מִעְבָּרוֹת ) applies most properly to "fords or ferries over rivers" (comp.  Judges 3:28); and the whole passage may best be translated, "the ferries are seized" or "occupied;" which agrees very well with the entrance of the Persians by the rivers and with the ordinary mode of transit in the place, where there was but one bridge (Herod. 1:186). The fords were at Thapsacus (Xenoph. Asab. 1:4, 11).

2. The Euphrates is the largest, the longest, and by far the most important of the rivers of Western Asia. It rises from two chief sources in the Armenian mountains, one of them at Domli. 25 miles N.E. of Erzeroum, and little more than a degree from the Black Sea; the other on the northern slope of the mountain range called Ala-Tagh, near the village of Diyadin, and not far from Mount Ararat. The former, or Northern Euphrates, has the name Frat from the first, but is known also as the Kara-Su (Black River); the latter, or Southern Euphrates, is not called the Frat, but the Murad Chai, yet it is in reality the main river. Both branches flow at the first towards the west or south-west, passing through the wildest mountain districts of Armenia; they meet at Kebban-Maden, nearly in long. 390 E. from Greenwich, having run respectively 400 and 270 miles. Here the stream formed by their combined waters is 120 yards wide, rapid, and very deep; it now flows nearly southward, but in a tortuous course, forcing a way through the ranges of Taurus and and-Taurus, and still seeming as if it would empty itself in the Mediterranean, but prevented from so doing by the longitudinal ranges of Amanus and Lebanon, which here run parallel to the Syrian coast, and at no great distance from it; the river at last desists from its endeavor, and in about lat. 360 turns towards the south-east, and proceeds in this direction for above 1000 miles to its embouchure in the Persian Gulf (Herod. 1:180; Strabo, 2:521; Ptolem. 5:13; Pliny, Hist. Nat. 5:20; Q. Curt. 1:13; Orbis Terrarum, C.. Kaercher Auct.). In conjunction with the Tigris, it forms the rich alluvial lands of Mesopotamia (q.v.), over which it flows or is carried by canals, and thus diffuses abroad fertility and beauty. At Bagdad and Hillah (Babylon), the Euphrates and Tigris approach comparatively near to each other, but separate again, forming a kind of ample basin, till they finally become one at Koorma. Under the Caesars the Euphrates was the eastern boundary of the Roman empire, as under David it was the natural limit of the Hebrew monarchy. (See Tigris).

The last part of its course, from Hit downwards, is through a low, flat, and alluvial plain, over which it has a tendency to spread and stagnate; above Hit, and from thence to Sumeisat (Samosata), the country along its banks is for the most part open, but hilly; north of Sumeisat the stream runs in a narrow valley among high mountains, and is interrupted by numerous rapids. The entire course is calculated at 1780 miles, nearly 650 more than that of the Tigris, and only 200 short of that of the Indus; and of this distance more than two thirds (1200 miles) is navigable for boats, and even, as the expedition of colonel Chesney proved for small steamers. The width of the river is greatest at the distance of 700 or 800 miles from its mouth that is to say, from its junction with the Khabour to the village of Werai. It there averages 400 yards, awhile lower down, from Werai to Lamlun, it continually decreases, until at the last-named place its width is not more than 120 yards, its depth having at the same time diminished from an average of 18 to one of 12 feet. The causes of this singular phenomenon are the entire lack of tributaries below the Khabour, and the employment of the water in irrigation. The river has also in this part of its course the tendency already noted, to run off and waste itself in vast marshes, which every year more and more cover the alluvial tract west and south of the stream. From this cause its lower course is continually varying, and it is doubted whether at present, except in the season of the inundation, any portion of the Euphrates water is poured into the Shat-el-Arab.

In point of current it is for the most part a sluggish stream; for, except in the height of the flooded season, when it approaches 5 miles an hour, it varies from 24 to 3 ½ , with a much larger portion of its course,under 3 than above. Its general description for some distance below Erzingan is that of a river of the first order, struggling through high hills, or rather low mountains, making an exceedingly tortuous course as it forces its way over a pebbly or rocky bed from one natural barrier to another. As it winds round its numerous barriers, it carries occasionally towards each of the cardinal points a considerable body of water, and is shallow enough in some places for loaded camels to pass in autumn, the water rising to their bellies, or about 4 ½ feet. The upper portion of the river is enclosed between two parallel ranges of hills, covered for the most part with high brushwood and timber of moderate size, having a succession of long, narrow islands, on several of which are moderate-sized towns; the borders of this ancient stream being still well inhabited, not only by Bedouins, but by permanent residents. The following towns may be named: Sumeisat, Haorum, Romkala, Bir, Giaber, Deir, Rava, Anna, Hadisa, El-Us, Jibba, Hit, Hillah, Lemlun, Korna, and Bussora. The scenery above Hit, in itself very picturesque, is greatly heightened by the frequent re-currence of ancient irrigating aqueducts, beautiful specimens of art, which are attributed by the Arabs to the Persians when fire-worshippers: they literally cover both banks, and prove that the borders of the Euphrates were once thickly inhabited by a highly-civilized people. They are of stone.

Ten miles below Hit is. the last of these. The country now becomes flatter, with few hills; the river winds less; and the banks are covered with Arab villages of mats or tents, with beautiful mares, cattle, and numerous flocks of goats and sheep. From Hit to Babylon the black tent of the Bedouin is almost the only kind of habitation to be seen. This distance is cultivated only in part; the rest is desert, with the date-tree showing in occasional clusters. In descending, the irrigating cuts and canals become more frequent. Babylon is encircled by two streams, one above, the other below the principal ruin, beyond which they unite and produce abundance. For about thirty miles below Hillah both banks, have numerous mud villages, imbedded in date- trees: to these succeed huts formed of bundles of reeds. The country lower down towards Lemlun is level, and little elevated above the river; irrigation is therefore easy: in consequence, both banks are covered with productive cultivation, and fringed with a double and nearly continuous belt of luxuriant date-trees, extending down to the Persian Gulf. At one mile and a half above the town of Dewania is the first considerable deviation from this hitherto majestic river; another takes place 22 miles lower; and nine miles farther at Lemlun it again separates into two branches, forming a delta not unlike that of Damietta, and, when the river is swollen, inundating the country for a space of about 60 miles in width with a shallow sheet of water, forming the Lemlun marshes, nearly the whole of which is covered with rice and other grain the moment the river recedes (in June). Here mud villages are swept away by the water every year. Below Lemlun the Tigris sends a branch to the Euphrates, which is thus increased in its volume, and, turning to the east, receives the chief branch of the Tigris, thence running in one united stream, under the name of the Shat-el-Arab, as far as the sea (the Persian Gulf). In this last reach the river has a depth of from 3 to 5 fathoms, varies in breadth from 500 to 900 yards, and presents banks covered with villages and cultivation, having an appearance at once imposing and majestic. The length of that part of the river, reckoning from Bir to Bussora, navigable for large vessels at all times of the year, is 143 miles. It is very abundant in fish. The water is somewhat turbid, but, -when purified, is pleasant and salubrious. The Arabians set a high value on it, and name it Morad-Su that is, Water of desire, or longing.

The annual inundation of the Euphrates occurs in the month of May. The river begins to rise in March, and continues rising till the latter end of May. The consequent increase of its volume and rapidity is attributable to the early rains, which, falling in the Armenian mountains, swell its mountain tributaries; and also, in the main, to the melting of the winter snows in these lofty regions. About the middle of November the Euphrates has reached its lowest ebb, and, ceasing to decrease, becomes tranquil and sluggish. The greatest rise of the Tigris is earlier, since it drains the southern flank of the great Armenian chain. The Tigris scarcely ever overflows, (See Hiddekel), but the Euphrates inundates large tracts on both sides of its course from Hit downwards. The great hydraulic works ascribed to Nebuchadnezzar (Abyden. Fr. 8) had for their great object to control the inundation by turning the waters through sluices into canals prepared for them, and distributing them in channels over a wide extent of country. "When the Euphrates," says Rich, "reaches its greatest elevation, it overflows the surrounding country, fills up, without the necessity of any human labor, the canals which are dug for the reception of its waters, and thus amazingly facilitates the operations of husbandry. The ruins of Babylon are then inundated, so as to render many parts inaccessible, the intermediate hollows being converted into marshes" (Babylon And Persepolis, page 54). Rauwolf observes, "The water of the Euphrates, being always troubled, and consequently unfit for drinking, is placed in earthen jars or pitchers for an hour or two, until the sand and other impurities sink to the bottom, where they are soon found lying to the thickness of a man's finger" (comp.  Jeremiah 2:18;  Jeremiah 13:4-7). Mr. Ainsworth says, "The period at which the waters of the Euphrates are most loaded with mud, are in the first floods of January; the gradual melting of the snows in early summer, which preserves the high level of the waters, does not at the same time contribute much sedimentary matter. From numerous experiments made at Bir in December and January, 1836, I found the maximum of sediment mechanically suspended in the waters to be equal to one eightieth part of the bulk of fluid, or every cubic inch of water contained one eightieth part of its bulk of suspended matters; and from similar experiments, instituted in the month of October of the same year, at the issue of the waters from the Lemlum marshes, I only obtained a maximum of one two hundredth part of a cubic inch of water (mean temp. 740). The sediments of the river Euphrates, which are not deposited in the upper part of the river's course, are finally deposited in the Lemlum marshes. In navigating the river in May, 1836, the water flowing into the marshes was colored deeply by mud, but left the marshes in a state of comparative purity" (Researches, pages 110, 111).

The Euphrates has at all times been of some importance as furnishing a line of traffic between the East and the West. Herodotus speaks of persons, probably merchants, using it regularly on their passage from the Mediterranean to Babylon (Her. 1:185). He also describes the boats which were in use upon the stream (1:194), and mentions that their principal freight was wine, which he seems to have thought was furnished by Armenia. It was, however, more probably Syrian, as Armenia is too cold for the vine. Boats such as he describes, of wicker-work, and coated with bitumen, or sometimes covered with skins, still abound on the river (Chesney, Euphrates, 2:639-651). Men wishing to swim across or along the stream simply throw themselves upon an inflated skin and thus float, precisely in the manner described by ancient writers, and depicted of the Assyrian sculptures (Botta, Nineveh, page 238 sq.). Alexander appears to have brought to Babylon by the Euphrates route vessels of some considerable size, which he had had made in Cyprus and Phoenicia. They were so constructed that they could be taken to pieces, and were thus carried piecemeal to Thapsacus, where they were put together and launched (Aristobul. ap. Strab. 16:1, 11). The disadvantage of the route was the difficulty of conveying return cargoes against the current. According to Herodotus, the boats which descended the river were broken to pieces and sold at Babylon, and the owners returned on foot to Armenia, taking with them only the skins (1:194). Aristobulus, however, related (ap. Strab. 16:3, 3) that the Gerrhaeans ascended the river in their rafts not only to Babylon, but to Thapsacus, whence they carried their wares on foot in all directions. The spices and other products of Arabia formed their principal merchandise. On the whole, there are sufficient grounds for believing that throughout the Babylonian and Persian periods this route was made use of by the merchants of various nations, and that by it the east and west continually interchanged their most important products (see Layard's Nineveh and Babylon, pages 456, 457). Caravans were employed above Thapsacus (Haeren, Asiatic Nations, 1:429, 430). The emperor Trajan constructed a fleet in the mountains of Nisibis, and floated it down the Euphrates. The emperor Julian also came down the river from the same mountains with a fleet of not fewer than 1100 vessels. A great deal of navigation is still carried on from Bagdad to Hillah, the ancient Babylon, but the disturbed state of the country prevents any above the latter place. In the time of queen Elizabeth merchants from England went by this river; which was then the high road to India. There were anciently many canals which connected the Tigris with the Euphrates; many of them are still in being. The Euphrates steamer passed from the Euphrates to the Tigris by the Iva canal, which leaves the former a few miles above Felugo, and enters the latter a short way below Bagdad. The steam navigation of the Euphrates must be a question of considerable importance, and colonel Chesney has proved that it may be navigated as high as Bir by steamers drawing four feet of water; yet it can hardly be expected that it can ever be made available as an ordinary channel between Europe and India. Its navigation would undoubtedly confer the greatest advantages on the inhabitants of the vast and fertile countries through which it flows, should they once more be emancipated from the barbarism under which they have so long been oppressed.

3. See, for a general account of the Euphrates, colonel Chesney's Euphrates Expedition, volume 1; and, for the lower course of the stream, compare Loftus's Chaldma And Susiana. See also Rawlinson's Herodofus, volume 1, Essay 9; and Layard's Nineveh And Babylon, chapters 21 and 22; Wahl's Asien, page 700; Ritter's Erdk. 2:120; Traite Element. G ographique (Bruxelles, 1832), volume 2; Mannert's Geogr. 2:142; Reichard's Kl. Geogr. Schrif. page 210; Parliam. Rep. of Steans Navigation to India (1834); M'Culloch's Geograph. Dict. s.v.; Ainsworth's Travels in Asia Minor, etc. (1842); Ker Porter, Travels, 2:403; Forbiger, Alte Geographie, 2:69 sq.; Rosenmuller, Alterth. 1, 1:188 sq. (See Babylon).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [12]

ū̇ - frā´tēz ( פרת , perāth  ; Εὐφράτης , Euphrátēs , "the good and abounding river"): The longest (1,780 miles) and most important stream of Western Asia, generally spoken of in the Old Testament as "the river" ( Exodus 23:31;  Deuteronomy 11:24 ). Its description naturally falls into 3 divisions - the upper, middle and lower. The upper division traverses the mountainous plateau of Armenia, and is formed by the junction of 2 branches, the Frat and the Murad. The Frat rises 25 miles Northeast of Erzerum, and only 60 miles from the Black Sea. The Murad, which, though the shorter, is the larger of the two, rises in the vicinity of Mt. Ararat. After running respectively 400 and 270 miles in a westerly direction, they unite near Keban Maaden, whence in a tortuous channel of about 300 miles, bearing still in a southwesterly direction, the current descends in a succession of rapids and cataracts to the Syrian plain, some distance above the ancient city of Carchemish, where it is only about 200 miles from the Northeast corner of the Mediterranean. In its course through the Armenian plateau, the stream has gathered the sediment which gives fertility to the soil in the lower part of the valley. It is the melting snows from this region which produce the annual floods from April to June.

The middle division, extending for about 700 miles to the bitumen wells of Hit, runs Southeast "through a valley of a few miles in width, which it has eroded in the rocky surface, and which, being more or less covered with alluvial soil, is pretty generally cultivated by artificial irrigation.... Beyond the rocky banks on both sides is the open desert, covered in spring with a luxuriant verdure, and dotted here and there with the black tent of the Bedouin" (Sir Henry Rawlinson). Throughout this portion the river formed the ancient boundary between the Assyrians and Hittites whose capital was at Carchemish, where there are the remains of an old bridge. The ruins of another ancient bridge occur 200 miles lower down at the ancient Thapsacus, where the Greeks forded it under Cyrus the younger. Throughout the middle section the stream is too rapid to permit of successful navigation except by small boats going downstream, and has few and insignificant tributaries. It here has, however, its greatest width (400 yds.) and depth. Lower down the water is drawn off by irrigating canals and into lagoons.

The fertile plain of Babylonia begins at Hit, about 100 miles above Babylon; 50 miles below Hit the Tigris and Euphrates approach to within 25 miles of each other, and together have in a late geological period deposited the plain of Shinar or of Chaldea, more definitely referred to as Babylonia. This plain is about 250 miles long, and in its broadest place 100 miles wide. From Hit an artificial canal conducts water along the western edge of the alluvial plain to the Persian Gulf, a distance of about 500 miles. But the main irrigating canals put off from the East side of the Euphrates, and can be traced all over the plain past the ruins of Accad, Babylon, Nippur, Bismya, Telloh, Erech, Ur and numerous other ancient cities.

Originally the Euphrates and Tigris entered into the Persian Gulf by separate channels. At that time the Gulf extended up as far as Ur, the home of Abraham, and it was a seaport. The sediment from these rivers has filled up the head of the Persian Gulf for nearly 100 miles since the earliest monumental records. Loftus estimates that since the Christian era the encroachment has proceeded at the rate of 1 mile in 70 years. In early times Babylonia was rendered fertile by immense irrigating schemes which diverted the water from the Euphrates, which at Babylon is running at a higher level than the Tigris. A large canal left the Euphrates just above Babylon and ran due East to the Tigris, irrigating all the intervening region and sending a branch down as far South as Nippur. Lower down a canal crosses the plain in an opposite direction. This ancient system of irrigation can be traced along the lines of the principal canals "by the winding curves of layers of alluvium in the bed," while the lateral channels "are hedged in by high banks of mud, heaped up during centuries of dredging. Not a hundredth part of the old irrigation system is now in working order. A few of the mouths of the smaller canals are kept open so as to receive a limited supply of water at the rise of the river in May, which then distributes itself over the lower lying lands in the interior, almost without labor on the part of the cultivators, giving birth in such localities to the most abundant crops; but by far the larger portion of the region between the rivers is at present an arid, howling wilderness, strewed in the most part with broken pottery, the evidence of former human habitation, and bearing nothing but the camel thorn, the wild caper, the colocynth-apple, wormwood and the other weeds of the desert" (Rawlinson). According to Sir W. Willcocks, the eminent English engineer, the whole region is capable of being restored to its original productiveness by simply reproducing the ancient system of irrigation. There are, however, in the lower part of the region, vast marshes overgrown with reeds, which have continued since the time of Alexander who came near losing his army in passing through them. These areas are probably too much depressed to be capable of drainage. Below the junction of the Euphrates and the Tigris, the stream is called Shat el Arab , and is deep enough to float war vessels.

Fried. Delitzsch, Wo lag das Paradies? 169 f; Chesney, Narrative of the Euphrates Exped ., I; Loftus, Travels , etc. , in Chaldoea and Susiana  ; Layard, Nineveh and Babylon , chapters xxi, xxii; Rawlinson, Herodotus , I, essay ix; Ellsworth Huntington, "Valley of the Upper Euphrates River," Bull. Amer. Geog. Soc ., Xxxiv , 1902.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [13]

Euphrates, termed in , 'the great river,' where it is mentioned as the eastern boundary of the land which God gave to the descendants of Abraham. In , the Euphrates is stated to be the fourth of the rivers which flowed from a common stream in the Garden of Eden. Divines and geographers have taken much trouble in order to learn the position of Eden from the geographical particulars given in the Bible, without remembering that probably nothing more than a popular description was intended.

In consequence of its magnitude and importance, the Euphrates was designated and known as 'the river,' being by far the most considerable stream in Western Asia. Thus in , we read, 'from the desert unto the river' (comp. ).

It has two sources and two arms—a western and an eastern—which rise in the mountains of Armenia. Of these streams the western is the shorter, and is called Kara Sou or Melas; the eastern is itself made up of several streams, the longest of which bears the name of Murad, or Phrat. The two arms unite about three days' journey from Erzeroom, near which rise two of the tributaries that concur in forming the Phrat. Thus uniting, they give rise to the Euphrates strictly so called, which, flowing to the south, divides Armenia from Cappadocia; but, being driven westward by the Anti-Taurus and Taurus mountains, it works its circuitous way through narrow passes and over cataracts, until, breaking through a defile formed by the eastern extremity of Mons Amanus (Alma Dagh), and the north-western extremity of Mons Taurus, it reaches the plain country not far from Samosata (Schemisat), then winds south and south-east, passing the north of Syria, and the north-east of Arabia Deserta, and at length, after many windings, unites with the Tigris, and thus united finds its termination in the Persian Gulf. In conjunction with the Tigris, it forms the rich alluvial lands of Mesopotamia, over which it flows or is carried by canals, and thus diffuses abroad fertility and beauty. At Bagdad and Hillah (Babylon), the Euphrates and Tigris approach comparatively near to each other, but separate again, forming a kind of ample basin, till they finally become one at Koorma. Under the Caesars the Euphrates was the eastern boundary of the Roman Empire, as under David it was the natural limit of the Hebrew monarchy.

Although occasionally much more, the breadth of the Euphrates varies between 200 and 400 yards; but for a distance of 60 miles through the Lemlun marshes the main stream narrows to about 80 yards. The general depth of the Upper Euphrates exceeds 8 feet, but is shallow enough in some places for laden camels to pass in autumn, the water rising to their bellies, or about 4½ feet. In point of current it is for the most part a sluggish stream; for, except in the height of the flooded season, when it approaches 5 miles an hour, it varies from 2¼ to 3½, with a much larger portion of its course under 3 than above. The length of the navigable part of the river, reckoning from Bir to Bussora, is 143 miles; the length of the entire stream, 1400 miles. It is very abundant in fish. The water is somewhat turbid; but, when purified, is pleasant and salubrious.

The river begins to rise in March, and continues rising till the latter end of May. The consequent increase of its volume and rapidity is attributable to the early rains, which, falling in the Armenian mountains, swell its mountain tributaries; and also in the main to the melting of the winter snows in these lofty regions. About the middle of November the Euphrates has reached its lowest ebb, and ceasing to decrease, becomes tranquil and sluggish.

In ancient as well as in modern times the Euphrates was used for navigation. Herodotus states that boats—either coracles or rafts, floated by inflated skins—brought the produce of Armenia down to Babylon. The trade thus carried on was considerable. A great deal of navigation is still carried on from Bagdad to Hillah, the ancient Babylon; but the disturbed state of the country prevents any above the latter place. The prophets made use of the Euphrates as a figurative description of the Assyrian power, as the Nile with them represented the power of Egypt; thus in , 'The Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria' .

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [14]

A river in West Asia, formed by the junction of two Armenian streams; flows SE. to Kurnah, where it is joined by the Tigris. The combined waters—named the Shat-el-Arab—flow into the Persian Gulf; is 1700 m. long, and navigable for 1100 m.