The Kishon

The River in the Bible - Fourth in a series

The Kishon was a seasonable river for ancient Israel: it gave at opportune moments, just when needed. What did it give? Assistance in battle and victory.

Pronounced "key SHONE", it is today one of Israel's largest and most important rivers, flowing through the Jezreel Valley and Carmel hills on its way to Haifa Bay. Its name, "bent like a bow" or "tortuous," describes a winding route. In commentaries we read that a portion of it is perennial but some of its path can dry up and then swell very suddenly and dangerously to overflow its banks in early spring, after rain or the melting of snow.

Around the turn of the 12th century BC in the days of the Judges, the Kishon gave help to Israel to reestablish their claim to the Promised Land. Again, in the mid-eighth century BC, it assisted Elijah in his quest to restore the faith of God's people in the Northern Kingdom. Perhaps it helped the people at other times since it was near the Esdraelon, a great battlefield of Israel (ref)

We first read of Kishon as a town of Issachar given to the Levites by Joshua as their portion in serving the people as priests. (Joshua 21:28) The town and river are associated. If we reflect on this, the Kishon reminds us of the importance of — and command to — worship God.

Next we read of the Kishon River in Deborah's prophecy shared with Barak, "And I will draw unto thee to the river Kishon Sisera, the captain of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his multitude; and I will deliver him into thine hand." (Jdg 4:7)

The Lord planned to use the river to confound the enemy even though they had 900 iron chariots and Israel had none. Barak agreed to go and fight, but only if Deborah would accompany him. He had lost confidence in his own capacity to hear from the Lord and in God's promise: When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots, and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the LORD thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. (Deut 20:1)

At Deborah's word, Barak followed the Lord, pursuing the enemy down the mountain toward the Kishon (Jdg 4:14-16), and Jabin's army could not ford the raging torrent. Deborah saw the triumph and later sang, "The river of Kishon swept them away, that ancient river, the river Kishon. O my soul, thou hast trodden down strength." (Jdg 5:21) Her "thou" was the river, and the Lord.

Deborah's song ended with this prayer: "So let all thine enemies perish, O LORD: but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." It is then noted, And the land had rest forty years. (Jdg 5:31)

Again, in Elijah's day when he challenged the Israelites to make a decision to serve God (1 Kings 18:21), after defeating the 450 prophets of Baal in a contest that proved God's power, he and the people brought them to the Kishon and Elijah killed them there.

Though it was dried up after three years of drought, as Elijah prophesied, a small cloud on the horizon portended a great rain (1 Ki 18:44, 45). Thus did the Kishon once again wash away corpses to the sea, ridding the land of the enemies who bowed to idols and persecuted the children of God.

Any in Elijah's time who knew God's Word would have recalled Barak's triumph at the Kishon, but if they did not, they could not glorify God as exuberantly as those who did. The faithful are to remember all of God's works over history, and to thank him (Ps 105:1, 2).

The Kishon was a river of God's help to warriors. How greatly we need that help in times of overpowering discouragement and defeat! Let us look to the River for a surge of power from on high — seasonable lifting to replenish grace and mercy in our hearts — all that we need to accomplish his purposes.

Note: For an explanation of how there was water to drench the sacrifice on Mt. Carmel but no water in the Kishon until the rain came, see here.

The Nile

The River in the Bible - Third in a series

We will not find the word Nile in the King James version of the Bible, but rather, simply river. Only river is used in Young's Literal Translation and Webster's Bible as well. Most other translations do use Nile.

The first mention of the word river in the Bible is in Genesis 2 and it speaks of a flowing stream, nahar, the perennial river, as noted in the last post. The "yeor" or Nile, was a "fosse" or trench, and formed a definite channel through the land. In the Old Testament, "yeor" is used most often for the Nile.

The Nile is believed to be the longest river in the world at more than 4,000 miles, and runs through 11 African countries, emptying into the Mediterranean, from its basin in Egypt. Some infer it was the Edenic river Gihon (Gen 2:13) that flowed around the whole land of Cush, but that is not possible to determine.

We first encounter the Nile in Genesis 41 when Pharaoh dreamed, and behold, he stood by the river. (Gen 41:1)

In his dream, seven healthy cows came up out of the Nile and fed in a meadow; then seven lean ones came from the river and stood by the other seven along the river's edge. Then, the lean ones ate the fat ones, and Pharaoh awoke.

He fell asleep again and dreamed that seven good ears of corn came up on one stalk, and then seven thin ones budded out, and the thin ears devoured the full ones. Again, he awoke and understood he had been dreaming.

In the morning his spirit was troubled and he sent for magicians and wise men, but none could interpret his dreams. His butler then recalled Joseph from his time in prison, a man who had accurately interpreted his and the chief baker's dreams. In a moment Joseph was freed from 13 years of unjust imprisonment, and, crediting the Lord, he was able to explain Pharaoh's dreams.

The second dream confirmed the first: Seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine. He advised Pharaoh to appoint a man to oversee the land and conserve a fifth of the produce of the plenteous years, and became that man.

The predicted famine arrived, and Israel traveled to Egypt for bread. They would move there and remain about 400 years.

The cattle came up out of the river, an emergence of the plans of the Lord.

In God's providence we are given plenty and poverty. In this instance, the purpose was to enrich Egypt and humble the other nations, so that Israel in particular would move to Egypt in fulfillment of Abraham's dream (Gen 15:13). The Lord prophesied that his descendants would be in a strange land 400 years as servants, but would return to the promised land.

That Joseph was made viceroy of Egypt fulfilled his own dreams for which his brothers had sold him to slavery (Gen 37:5-10). His dreams revealed they would bow to him, and it turned out that way. Their deed was punished in their sons' circumstance as slaves, but then out of the Nile, the river, a man was lifted, Moses, to save them and lead them home. But before he could, the Nile would be turned to blood and vomit frogs to plague the Egyptians, to convince the Pharaoh "who knew not Joseph" (Exodus 1:8) that the Exodus was imminent. How much nicer when he turns water into wine!

Despite their years of hard labor in Egypt, the Israelites would at times look back and want to return there for protection. To end this delusion, the Lord prophesied through Ezekiel,

Behold, I am against thee, Pharaoh king of Egypt, the great dragon that lieth in the midst of his rivers, which hath said, My river is mine own, and I have made it for myself. But I will put hooks in thy jaws, and I will cause the fish of thy rivers to stick unto thy scales, and I will bring thee up out of the midst of thy rivers, and all the fish of thy rivers shall stick unto thy scales. And I will leave thee thrown into the wilderness, thee and all the fish of thy rivers: thou shalt fall upon the open fields; thou shalt not be brought together, nor gathered: I have given thee for meat to the beasts of the field and to the fowls of the heaven.

And it came to pass that the Pharaoh who claimed to own the Nile and be its creator was defeated in battle and put to flight (see a commentary on Eze 29). His subjects who attached to him as scales on a dragon suffered the same fate. They had no respect for Him who fashioned the river long ago. (Isa 22:11)

In another instance we find: ... the king of Egypt came not again any more 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)

Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? …who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell? (Proverbs 30:4)

Let us tell.

A glimpse of the River

The River in the Bible - Second in a series

English lacks many of the inflections of Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament. So crucial was Hebrew to God's Word that writings not found in the Hebrew Bible were not accepted as canonical (OT) by Protestants. The Jews were the stewards of Scripture by God's divine appointment. (Romans 3:2)

Though we cherish Hebrew as Scripture's original casing, most of us read our Bibles trusting that the translator knew well enough how to present its truth. This is a safe assumption with many versions, nevertheless, there is room for word study.

Take the word river. In Hebrew it is a masculine noun. Many who study grammar state that gender associations in languages are accidental, but do you believe that? Such assignments may partially be explained as occuring when cultures joined and languages merged and evolved, but that is not the full explanation. Gender is a way of animating and personifying words.

There are different sorts of men and different types of rivers. In addition to its figurative uses, a river in the Bible may mean: a canal (Dan 8:2), a stream or channel of water (Joel 1:20), a river stream (Ex 1:22), a perennial river (that does not wane nor dry up) (Gen 2:10), the "wady" that can be either a dry valley or flood or stream in season (Josh 12:1; Ecc 1:7), and even an artificial watercourse (Ps 1:3).

The Smith Bible Dictionary ( states:

The perennial river is called nahar by the Hebrews. With the definite article, "the river," it signifies invariably the Euphrates. ( Gen 31:21 ; Exo 23:31 ; Num 24:6 ; 2 Sam 10:16 ) etc. It is never applied to the fleeting fugitive torrents of Palestine. The term for these is nachal, for which our translators have used promiscuously, and sometimes almost alternately, "valley" "brook" and "river." No one of these words expresses the thing intended…

Likewise in the New Testament, a river may denote a stream or flood (Luke 6:48), the Jordan (Mat 3:6), and figuratively, the abundant life in Christ (John 7:38), among other things.

The river in the Bible is personified as floods clapping their hands to rejoice in the Lord (Ps 98:8), as modeling peace (Isa 48:18) and God's abundance (Ps 36:8); and it reflects his loving care for life (Ps 65:9).

In all these images we can see the works and purposes of the Lord, and in a moment of wonder we may see the almighty God in his glory: pouring forth, driving or gentle, refreshing, cleansing, shining, beckoning, sustaining, dividing, conducting. Flow, River!

Attention Readers

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