Take a map of the Middle East and place your finger on the northwest corner of the Persian Gulf. Then slide generally northwest, in a curving motion, stopping when you have finished approximately one-half of an arc, somewhat convex toward the northeast. Stop at about 23°51' N _ 39°02' E, just over the border of Turkey. You will notice that your finger has traversed the large land area through which the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers flow southward, joining at last to descend into the Persian Gulf. Because these two massive rivers and their dozens of tributaries dominate this extensive region, the Greeks called it Mesopotamia, translated loosely as “the land in the middle of the rivers.”
Your finger will also have discovered a city, which was founded about 2000 B.C., during the Third Dynasty of Ur. Thus, it was just over 200 years old when Abraham arrived there in the eighteenth century before Christ (Gen. 11:31; Acts 7:4). The name of that city is Haran (modern spelling, Harran), and we will come back to it presently.
Next, starting there at Haran, drag your finger down toward the southwest, tracing the arc’s other half, brushing the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, and ending in Egypt. You will observe that this second area, too, is dominated by river systems: the Orontes, the Barada, the Bekaa, the Jordan, and the Nile.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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