JORAM.—Son of Jehoshaphat, named in our Lord’s genealogy (Matthew 1:6
1. Name.—The name of this river is in the OT נדְדֵּן; LXX Septuagint Ἰορδάνης, Ἰόρδανος, Ἰορδάννης; NT always Ἰορδάνης; Josepheus. Ἰορδάνης, Ἰόρδανος.
The form of the word Yardçn is difficult to explain. To say, with Ewald (Ausf. Lehrbuch der heb. Sprache8
, p. 426), or with Olshausen (Lehrbuch der heb. Sprache, p. 405), that the primitive form is Yardân or Yardǎn, does not help us much; and we can hardly suppose, like Stade (Lehrbuch der heb. Grammatik, p. 176) or Winckler (Altorient. Forsch. i. p. 422 f.), that it is a word borrowed from another language, seeing that it is accompanied by the article. It might be better to hold, with Seybold (MNDPV
, 1896, p. 10 f.), that the LXX Septuagint has preserved the real vocalization, Yordan, formed on the analogy of korban, shuthan. The name of the Jordan has not yet been found in the cuneiform inscriptions; but it figures in an Egyptian text (Anast. i. xxiii. 1) in the form of Y-ira-du-na (W. M. Müller, As. u. Eur. pp. 97f., 196).
The word יַרִדֵּן is a common noun, and is therefore always accompanied by the article (הַיַרִדֵּן), with a few exceptions, which will he pointed out below. Yet it is worthy of note that we have not a single passage in which çn is treated with certainty as a common noun.
From the point of view of etymology, it is most natural to connect this word with the verb יָרַד ‘to descend,’ and this is how it is treated by the prevalent opinion, found, however, more frequently among geographers than among philologists, according to which the Jordan is ‘the descending,’ ‘the flowing,’ a name which might, of course, be applicable to any stream of water, and which, in a single particular case, would have become a proper name, just as the Hebrews called the Euphrates הַנֶּהָד, ‘river.’ But it is more probable that, while retaining the root יִרַד as our starting-point, we should interpret çn as the place to which one goes down, . to drink, .e. ‘the watering-place.’ Two authors, Seybold (V
, 1896, l.e.) and Cheyne (Encye. Bibl. ii. col. 2575), have, independently of each other, suggested this explanation. If this derivation is correct, the modern Arabic name of the Jordan would be a literal translation of the old name, for they call it esh-Sherî’a, ‘the watering-place,’ and more fully esh-Sherî’a el-Kebireh, ‘the great watering-place, to distinguish it from another stream, its tributary, the Sherî’at el-Manaḍireh (Yarmuk). However, there is found also among the Arabs the name el-Urdunn, an approximate transcription of the Hebrew name (cf. Kampffmeyer, in ZDPV
p. 27; Ed. König, Lehrgebäude der heb. Spraehe, 1f. i. p. 461).
We must mention one other way of explaining the name of the Jordan, which used to be in great favour with the Fathers of the Church as well as the Jewish teachers. According to this interpretation, the name Jordan may be divided into Jor and Dan, and these two monosyllables denote the two sources of the river. Dan, that is to say, is the name of the city of Dan, formerly Laïsh or Leshem (Joshua 18; Joshua 1 Jos 9:47
), and consequently that of the branch of the river issuing from it; Jor is the name of the other stream, and Jordan is the final name of the river from the point where the two branches unite. This explanation was given by St. Jerome, and accepted by many writers after him. An attempt has been made to support it by interpreting Jor as a contraction of Yĕʾôr (יִאֹד), a Heb. word meaning ‘watercourse,’ and used especially in reference to the Nile. This strange etymology has now no interest except that of curiosity, and is not upheld by anybody, any more than another found in the Talmud (, 55), which takes çn to be a contraction of dan or dan, and thus brings in both the verb ‘to descend’ and the name of the city of Dan.
The only passages in which Yardçn is used without the article are: (a) Job 40:23,
where it may be equally well translated by ‘the Jordan’ or ‘a river’; but several commentators doubt whether the text is reliable; Budde suggests deleting this word as a gloss; Gunkel and Winckler change it into Yĕ’ôr (יְאד) because in the same passage reference is made to the Nile; Cheyne into îhôn (נִיחוֹן) for the same reason. () Psalms 42:7,
where ‘hay-Yardçn (אֶדֶץ הַיַדְדֵּן) seems to denote ‘the country of the Jordan,’ .e. probably the region round about the sources of the river, which is confirmed by the mention of Hermon or rather the Hermons (in the plural) in the same verse. It must be observed, however, that, according to the Talmud, the river bore the name of Jordan only between the Lake of Tiberias and the Dead Sea, a statement which is neither confirmed nor contradicted by the Bible, and cannot be proved in any way; we may add that, according to some writers, the present custom is exactly the opposite, for it is alleged—has the claim any foundation?—that at the present day only the part of the river above the lake is called , and the part below, îa.
The word Jordan in the rôle of common noun is further proved by the expression ‘Jordan of Jericho’ (יַדְדֵּן יְדֵחוֹ), in the construct state. The meaning of this will be examined below, in connexion with the lower course of the river near where it falls into the Dead Sea.
2. General geography and geology.—The total length of the valley of the Jordan, from its source to its mouth at the Dead Sea, is about 120 miles. It stretches from north to south in a practically straight line. It begins as a continuation of the Bekaʽa (Cœle-Syria), that valley which stretches between the Lebanon on the west and the Anti-Lebanon on the east, but whose waters run towards the north. Almost immediately after leaving Lake Huleh, which is 7 feet above the level of the Mediterranean, the Jordan begins to fall below the level of the sea; the Lake of Tiberias is 682 feet, the Dead Sea 1292 feet, below it. There is not another example of such a marked depression on the surface of our globe, except with tracts covered by the seas; the other cases which may be cited attain much less depths; the greatest is about 300 feet in the Sahara, while, taking into account the depth of the Dead Sea (1300 feet), we get a total of almost 2600 feet. G. A. Smith has well said (HGHL
p. 407): ‘Among the rivers of the world the Jordan is unique by a twofold distinction of Nature and History.… The Nile and the Jordan, otherwise so different, are alike in this, that the historical singularity of each has behind it as remarkable a singularity of physical formation.… Every one knows the incomparableness of the Nile.… In its own way the Jordan is as solitary and extreme an effect of natural forces. There may be something on the surface of another planet to match the Jordan Valley; there is nothing in this.’
As regards the geological explanation of this remarkable phenomenon, we may say that it was supplied in the 19th cent, in a very satisfactory manner by the experts who made a study of Palestine, and the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea in particular: Fraas, Hull, Lartet, and Blanckenhorn. The following is briefly the result of their labours. When, during the Eocene period, and even before it, during the Cretaceous period, successive strata of limestone had been deposited, there was produced towards the end of the Eocene epoch, by the action of lateral (east and west) pressure, a falling away, i.e. a ‘fault’ or fracture was formed in the earth’s crust. This movement, however, was not of a convulsive nature, it was not a sudden cataclysm, but a slow and gradual process, extending over a long period of time. The result of it was the formation of the parallel chains of Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, and further south that of the two ranges of hills which skirt the Jordan valley. The southern end of this depression is, from the point of view of the flow of water, a transverse ridge reaching 650 feet above the Red Sea and the Mediterranean, and situated about 46 miles from Akabah and more than 73 miles from the Dead Sea.
At the end of the Miocene and the beginning of the Pliocene period, the waters in the Jordan valley must have been just about at their present level. But the pluvial period (Pliocene) brought about a considerable raising of the aqueous surface enclosed; the Jordan valley became a lake which must have been about 200 miles long and more than 2000 feet deep. The glacial period (post-Pliocene), during which the temperature sank considerably and the rainfall increased, only served to accentuate this state of affairs still more. Then, at the close of this period, the streams of water diminished, and also the lake, until things once more arrived at their present state. On the lateral slopes of the valley traces of the heights to which the waters rose are still distinguishable; some of the most notable of these traces are 1180, others 347, feet above the present level of the Dead Sea.
Alongside of this theory, held in common by those who have studied this question, we must mention, as worthy of attention, the one which W. Libbey, Professor of Physical Geography in the University of Princeton, has recently published (Libbey and Hoskins, The Jordan Valley and Petra, ii. pp. 251–260).
The ancients were completely ignorant of the fact that the bottom of the Jordan valley lay below the level of the Mediterranean Sea. Nor were they aware at that time that the depression between the Dead Sea and the Gulf of Akabah was intersected by a sort of natural barrier, forming two anticlinal slopes and making a dividing line for the waters. And even in the first part of the 19th cent, it was held by Carl Ritter, W. M. Leake, de Hoff, Léon de Laborde, etc., that formerly—perhaps even in historical times before the catastrophe of Sodom and Gomorrah—the Jordan passed through the Dead Sea, continued its southward course, and flowed into the Red Sea. Those are ideas which have had to be given up. It was in 1836–37 that two German scholars, von Schubert and Roth, and at the same time two Englishmen, G. H. Moore and W. G. Beke, discovered that the Jordan valley sank far down below the level of the sea. The Austrian Russegger, the Frenchman Jules de Berton, and the Englishman Symonds soon confirmed this sensational discovery, as a consequence of explorations carried on in quite an independent way. Before them, famous travellers, such as Seetzen (1806–07), Burckhardt (1810–12), Irby and Mangles (1817–18), had visited those same parts without any suspicion of the strange phenomenon regarding the altitude.
The course of the Jordan is interrupted twice—first by the Lake of Huleh, a description of which occurs later in the course of the present article, then by the Lake of Tiberias or Sea of Galilee (which see); we have not to examine this here. These interruptions quite naturally cause us to divide the next part of this article into three sections: (a) the sources of the Jordan, (b) the Upper Jordan as far as Lake Tiberias, (c) the Lower Jordan from the Lake of Tiberias to the Dead Sea.
3. The sources of the Jordan.—Just as in the Alps the traditional opinion of mountaineers does not always show as the principal source of a river the one which tourists or even geographers would denote as such, so is it with the Jordan. The most northerly of its sources, the one which gives rise to the stream which covers the longest distance, is found near Hasbeya, at 1846 feet above the sea, at the foot of the Great Hermon. The name Hasbani is given to the river which starts there and flows towards the south, following a course parallel at first to that of the Litani; between these twin valleys there is only a short distance and a ridge of mountains of moderate height; so that one might quite well imagine the Hasbani rejoining the Litani, and falling along with it into the Mediterranean. But, on the contrary, it remains faithful to its course from north to south, and is joined by a tributary, which some modern scholars would include among the sources of the Jordan—the Nahr-Bareighit (Flea River), ‘the smallest of the four sources of the Jordan’ (Libbey and Hoskins, i. p. 89), but which is usually left aside, so that attention may be given I only to the three other more important ones. These are, besides the Hasbani, the one which springs forth at Tell el-Kadi, and the one which emerges from the grotto of Banias. The Tell el-Kadi source is called the Leddan. This unexplained name is interpreted by some as containing an allusion to the city of Dan, situated in this region, and generally (G. A. Smith, however, is an exception, HGHL
pp. 480, 678) identified with Tell el-Kadi, Kadi, ‘judge,’ being considered the exact equivalent of the Heb. Dan. The source of Tell el-Kadi is double, in the sense that it streams forth, at 500 feet above the sea, in two places close together under a hillock which is about 300 feet broad and covered with tall trees, and rises in a very striking manner from the plain, over which it towers about 60 feet. The stream which flows from it is the shortest but most copious of the sources of the Jordan; it is not, therefore, on account of its abundance, but because of its short length, that Josephus calls it ‘the little Jordan’ (BJ iv. i. 1; Ant. viii. viii. 4), or ‘the lesser Jordan’ (Ant. v. iii. 1). Lastly, we find the ‘river of Banias,’ Nahr-Banias, which starts at 1200 feet above the sea from a grotto, the ancient shrine of the Semitic, and then of the Graeco-Roman, gods, well known under the name of Paneion, and round which arose the city known under the names of Caesarea Philippi and Paneas, and now called Banias, a corruption of the latter name. Josephus mentions, under the name of Paneas, both the town and the district of which it was the centre; he also mentions the Paneion, and speaks of ‘the famous fountain’ (cf. BJ i. xxi. 3, iii. x. 7; Ant. xv. x. 3, xviii. ii. 1). He adds that the water of the source comes from Lake Phiala, situated 120 stades from Caesarea; this is, undoubtedly, the small lake nowadays called Birket-Ram (cf. Schumacher in ZDPV
0 p. 256f.), but it is only 60 stades distant. There is, however, no subterranean communication between this lake, an ancient volcanic crater, and the Paneion source.
The Leddan and the river of Banias meet at an altitude of 148 feet, after the Leddan has flowed 5 miles. A little farther down, the Hasbani, in its turn, becomes united with them: whence the Jordan is formed.
4. The Upper Jordan.—From the confluence, which we have just mentioned, to the Lake of Tiberias the course of the Jordan is unimportant from a historical point of view. The books of the Bible do not speak of it, and later writers very seldom. Nor, from a specifically geographical point of view, has this part of the river any great importance. Its chief interest lies in the fact that at 10 miles distance from the confluence it forms a lake or lagoon, the Bahr or Buheirat (lake or small lake) Huleh, triangular in shape, the level of which is 7 feet above the Mediterranean, and which is rich in papyrus plants. The size of this sheet of water varies very much according to the seasons: at one time it is a considerable limpid stretch, at another it is simply a kind of huge morass. Its traditional identification with ‘the waters of Merom’ (Joshua 11:5
; Joshua 11:7
) must be regarded with caution (cf. ZDPV
0 p. 252); the evidence of Josephus is not favourable. He gives this lake another name, that of ‘the lake of the Semechonites’ (BJ iv. i. 1; cf. ZDPV
l.e. and p. 348 f.). As regards the modern name Huleh, it is perhaps derived from the word Ulatha, by which Josephus denotes a district near Banias. For the description of the whole upper course of the Jordan from its sources to the Lake of Tiberias, including Lake Huleh, see Macgregor, The Rob Roy on the Jordan, 1869, 5th ed. 1880.
As soon as it leaves Lake Huleh, the Jordan begins to flow below the level of the sea, and falls almost 700 feet in a distance of 10 miles. We must here notice a bridge, the Jisr Benât-Yaʽkub, ‘bridge of Jacob’s Daughters,’ sometimes wrongly called ‘bridge of Jacob’ or ‘bridge of Jacob’s Sons’; the name itself is really difficult to explain; see on this subject an ingenious solution suggested in PEFSt
, 1898, p. 29f., by B. Z. Friedmann.
5. The Lower Jordan.—The Jordan issues from the Lake of Tiberias at a place called Bab et-Tum, leaving on the east the little modern village of Semakh, which has no bridge connecting it with the right bank, and as the river is not fordable at this place, the passage, naturally of frequent occurrence, is accomplished by means of boats. A little farther down there are the remains of an ancient bridge called at the present day Umm el-Kanatir, and again at a short distance below, the ruins of another bridge, Umm es-Sidd. There the Jordan begins to assume a very sinuous course, describing endless meanders; Pliny spoke of it as an amnis ambitiosus, i.e. a winding river. The distance in a straight line from the Lake of Tiberias to the Dead Sea is about 65 miles, but if we take into account all the sinuosities of the river it reaches a total of 200 miles.
The Jordan valley at this part is now called the Ghôr, i.e. ‘depression,’ ‘valley.’ Even in the OT it was designated (Joshua 13:19
; Joshua 13:27
) by the name ha-’çmek, ‘the valley,’ in opposition to the neighbouring heights. But a name much more frequent in the OT is ‘Arabah, which was applied to the valley to the north as well as that to the south of the Dead Sea; nowadays the name ‘Arabah, which has been preserved, is applied only to the valley to the south of the Dead Sea. In Greek, not in the LXX Septuagint, but in Josephus, Eusebius, etc., ‘Arabah is rendered Αὐλών. Josephus also uses the expressions ‘wide wilderness’ and ‘the great plain’ (BJ iii. x. 7, iv. viii. 2; Ant. iv. vi. 1).
The Ghôr is hemmed in on either side by chains of mountains, or at least hills, of variable height, but sometimes rising 1500 or even 1800 feet above the bed of the river. The slopes are generally somewhat steep, but not to such an extent as to prevent their being scaled. Especially at the spots where the wadis come down from one of the side mountains, means of access are opened up. The soil of the valley is fertile, especially in the northern and middle parts. As to the river itself, it flows in a bed which it has hollowed out for itself, called the Zôr. This bed is somewhat variable in breadth, and it may be easily seen that the river has frequently changed its course. Thus at Damieh, of which we shall speak below, and where we find the half-ruined arches of a bridge of the Middle Ages, the Jordan actually no longer passes under the bridge, but at some distance from it. The ground bordering either side of the river is covered with very thick brushwood; this is undoubtedly what is called in Jeremiah 12:5
; Jeremiah 49:19
; Jeremiah 50:44, Zechariah 11:3
the נִּאוֹן הַיַרִדּן, i.e. ‘the majesty ( Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘pride’) of Jordan’ (Authorized Version ‘the swelling of Jordan’
3 arises from a wrong interpretation, as if the reference here was to the floods of Jordan; these do exist; they are sometimes sudden and very violent, rendering the fords impassable; cf. Joshua 3:15, Sirach 24:26
The vegetation, especially as we go further south, becomes very nearly tropical, and the fauna resembles that of Africa. The lion, which abounded in ancient times, and continued to be encountered even in the Middle Ages, has completely disappeared. But other carnivorous animals are found here, leopards and hyaenas, as well as wild boars, porcupines, etc. In Palestine 58 species of birds are met with, which are also N. African: nearly all of them belong to the Ghôr. The flora has the same character, it recalls that of Nubia, Abyssinia, the Sahara, and the region of the great African lakes. Great heat prevails throughout this whole region, a fact which is quite naturally explained when we remember that it is a valley shut in between high walls, at its highest point 682 and at its lowest 1292 feet below the sea-level. The temperature varies from 77° to 130° Fahr. This circumstance undoubtedly accounts largely for the fact that there are not and never have been any towns on the banks of the Jordan. But another reason for the latter important fact may be found in the danger to which the inhabitants would be exposed, owing to the impossibility of effectually fortifying themselves against attacks. The few towns of the Ghôr at one time populated, e.g. Phasaël and Jericho, are on the height at some distance from the river, near protecting mountains. The other inhabited places are only wretched villages.
The Jordan forms a very large number of rapids; about thirty may be counted, apart from the whirlpools, which are numerous. There is also a considerable number of fords; the majority of them—22—are in the northern part, to the north of Karn Sartabeh; there are 5 more in the south. A little to the north of Beisan there is a bridge, which dates from the Middle Ages, the Jisr el-Mujamieh, on the way—an ancient Roman road—leading from the plain of Jezreel to Gadara and Damascus. Further south is the ruined bridge of Damieh; and lastly, near Jericho, a modern bridge, the Jisr el-Ghoranich, at the place where the mosaic map of Madaba indicates a ferry-boat. For information regarding the fords of the Jordan, see G. A. Smith, HGHL
p. 336 f.
The configuration of the Jordan valley is remarkable for its formation into terraces (in Arabic tabakât), the river flowing between the lowermost of these. There is no comparatively equal and continuous incline from the mountain to the river, but a succession of horizontal platforms, with sudden and very steep slopes, which form what are called the steep banks or cliffs of Jordan. They are marly, and have a tendency to become worn, and even to give way. The Zôr itself is bordered by them, and the Jordan often flows, at least at one side, along the foot of a declivity impossible of ascent. This is the case, e.g., in front of the so-called place of the Baptism at the latitude of Jericho. These terraces correspond to the different levels attained by the waters of the great lake which at one time filled the whole valley, and which first increased and then sank down again.
The Jordan is fed by numerous tributaries. The most important of these are on the left bank. One of them, the Hieromax of the Greeks, the Yarmuk of the Rabbis, the Sherî‘at el-Manaḍireh of the Arabs, already mentioned above, flows down from the high plateau on the east of Lake Tiberias, and passes between the warm springs of el-Hammah and the ancient Gadara (modern Umm Keis). Further south, also on the eastern bank, the Jordan receives the Zerka (blue river), the Yabbok of ancient times, which, after passing ‘Amman (Rabbath-Ammon, Philadelphia), describes an immense semi-circle towards the east, resumes its westward course, passes to the south of Jerash (Gerasa), and at last empties itself into the Jordan; the position of its mouth has considerably changed in the course of the centuries. On the right bank, we must mention the Nahr-Jalud, which springs from the fountain of Harod at the foot of Mt. Gilboa and passes to Beisan; then, close to Jericho, the Wadi el-Kelt, which tradition, probably wrongly, identifies with the Cherith of the Bible.
It is scarcely necessary to say that the Jordan is not navigable. Yet on three occasions the attempt has been made to sail down its course from the Lake of Tiberias to the Dead Sea. The first time it was an Irishman, Costigan, who, in 1835, accomplished this daring feat alone in a boat for one oarsman; the second time it was Lieutenant Molyneux, of the British Navy, in 1847. Both succeeded in reaching the Dead Sea, but both died soon after from the strain which they had undergone. Lastly, in 1848, an American expedition, under Lieutenant Lynch, sailed all the way down in two boats specially built for the purpose, reached the Dead Sea, and were able to record a whole series of very useful observations. Other travellers have also made a careful study of the Jordan valley, but from the land; besides those whom we have already mentioned, we may recall the names of Robinson, Guérin, and Conder. Long before there was any question of scientific explorations, pilgrims had followed the course of the Jordan through the whole of the Ghôr, e.g. Antonius Martyr in the 6th cent., Willibald in the 8th; we may add to these the name of King Baldwin i., who passed up from Jericho to the Lake of Tiberias.
While the northern part of the Ghôr is fertile, and more especially the environs of Beisan, it is very different in the south, near Jericho. This town, it is true, and its immediate neighbourhood, form a kind of oasis; but the rest of this region is not nearly so rich, the soil being impregnated with salt substances; one is reminded of the nearness of the Dead Sea.
It is this district that is referred to in the passages of the OT where the ‘Jordan of Jericho’ is spoken of. This does not mean a particular branch of the river, far less another stream of the same name (as, e.g., they say in Valais, ‘the Visp of Saas’ and ‘the Visp of Zermatt’). It is simply ‘the Jordan in the district of Jericho.’ See Numbers 22:1
; Numbers 26:3
; Numbers 26:63
; Numbers 31:12
; Numbers 33:48
; Numbers 33:50
; Numbers 34:15
; Numbers 35:1
; Numbers 36:13, Joshua 13:32
; Joshua 16:1
; Joshua 20:8, 1 Chronicles 6:63
(78). We must correct the Authorized Version and Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 in this respect, and remember that Jordan is originally a common noun.
Another Biblical expression referring to this particular region is Kikkar hay-Yardçn (כִּכִּר הַיַרְדֵּן), Genesis 13:10
f., or hak-Kikkâr (Genesis 13:12
; Genesis 19:17
; Genesis 19:25
; Genesis 19:28
f., Nehemiah 3:22
; Nehemiah 12:28
), lit. ‘the circle’ (.e. the basin) of the Jordan, or, more briefly, ‘the circle’; in Greek ἠ τερίχωρις τοῦ