The River Euphrates

By Ferrell Jenkins

Published in Biblical Insights - June, 2003

The Euphrates is the largest, longest and most important river of Western Asia. It is nearly 1800 miles long and was the northeastern boundary of the land promised to Abraham (Gen. 15:18). The empires of Assyria and Babylon, the greatest enemies of Israel, were east of the Euphrates. The Old Testament prophets often put the Euphrates by metonomy for these countries to designate the place from which the punishment of God would come (Isa. 7:20; 8:7; Jer. 46:10).

Sunset on River Euphrates at Nasiriyah, Iraq. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins in 1970.
Fishermen pull their nets in the River Euphrates in the glow of a golden sunset at Nasiriyah, Iraq, near the traditional Ur of Chaldees.

In the book of Revelation the Euphrates is dried up so that the kings of the east can gather at a place called Armageddon (16:12-16). When Revelation was written the Parthians, dreaded enemy of Rome, lived east of the Euphrates. The Assyrian king Shalmaneser III (858-824 B.C.) mentions frequently in his records that he had crossed the river Euphrates. In one of his annals he says he had crossed the Euphrates twenty-one times. That means war! For more details see my Studies in the Book of Revelation.

I have been privileged to visit the Euphrates in Turkey, Syria, and Iraq, the three modern countries through which it flows. The river begins in the mountains of Ararat (modern eastern Turkey) only a short distance west of the source of the Tigris River. The land between these rivers is called Aram Naharaim in Hebrew and Mesopotamia in Greek (Gen. 24:10; Acts 2:9; 7:2).

Each of the modern countries that share the banks of the River have built dams in an effort to utilize the water for electrical power and irrigation. Turkey has built 22 dams on the upper Euphrates. Last year in Syria I saw a large new dam that the government has built to harness the river. Lack of water is a big problem in the Middle East.

Euphrates River in Turkey. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.
The River Euphrates in southeastern Turkey. The girl leaves her buckets on the river bank to avoid having her photo made.

At one small village along the Euphrates in Turkey there were flocks of sheep and goats. While I was photographing the scene, a young woman came to the river with two buckets to get water for her house. As she walked out in the water I focused my camera on her. When she saw me she turned her back and then walked hurriedly toward her house leaving her buckets behind. We realize that life styles have changed little since patriarchal times.

Photos Ferrell Jenkins 2003.
The photos may be used by others in teaching, but may not be used commercially or on web sites without permission.

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