Pi'son (Heb. Pishon', פַּישׁוֹן, streaming; Sept. Φισῶν). the second of the four great rivers which watered the garden of Eden, the identification of which has hitherto been attempted variously. It is described in the sacred text (Ge 2:11-12) as "compassing (סוֹבֵב, rather, perhaps, traversing) the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; and the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium (bedo'lach) and the onyx-stone (sho'hamn)." With regard to this river, the most ancient and most universally received opinion identifies it with the Ganges. Josephus (Ant. 1, 1, 3), Eusebius (Onomast. s.v.), Ambrosins (De Parad. c. 3), Epiphanius (Ancor. c. 58), Ephr. Syr.

(Op. Syr. 1, 23), Jerome (Ep. 4 ad Rust. and Quiaest. Heb. in Genesis), and Augustine (De Genesis ad lit. 8:7) held this. But Jarchi (on Ge 2; Ge 11), Saadiah Gaon, R. Moses ben-Nachman, and Abr. Peritsol (Ugolino, Thesnotr . vol. vii) maintained that the Pison was the Nile. The first of these writers derives the word from a root which signifies "to increase," "to overflow" (comp. Hab 1:8), but at the same time quotes an etymology given in Bereshith Rabba, § 16, in which it is asserted that the river is called Pison "because it makes the flax (פשׁתן) to grow." Josephus explains it by πληθύς, Scaliger by πλήμμυρα. The theory that the Pison is the Ganges is thought to receive some confirmation from the author of the book of Ecclesiasticus, who mentions (24:25, 27) in order the Pison, the Tigris, the Euphrates, Jordan, and Gihon, and is supposed to have commenced his enumeration in the east and to have terminated it in the west. That the Pison was the Indus was an opinion current long before it was revived by Ewald (Gesch. d. Volkes Isr. 1, 331, note 2) and adopted by Kalisch (Genesis, p. 96). Philostorgius, quoted by Huet (Ugolino, vol vii), conjectured that it was the Hydaspes; and Wilford (As. Res. vol. 6), following the Hindu tradition with regard to the origin of mankind, discovers the Pison in the Landi-Sindh, the Ganges of Isidorus, called also Nilab from the color of its waters, and known to the Hindus by the name of Nila-Ganga, or Ganga simply. Severianus (De Mundi Creat.) and Ephraem Syrus (Comni. on Genesis) agree with Caesarius in identifying the Pison with the Danube. The last-mentioned father seems to have held, in common with others, some singular notions with regard to the course of this river. He believed that it was also the Ganges and Indus, and that, after traversing Ethiopia and Elymais, which he identified with Havilah, it fell into the ocean near Cadiz. Such is also the opinion of Epiphanius with regard to the course of the Pison, which he says is the Ganges of the Ethiopians and Indians and the Indus of the Greeks (Ancor. c. 58). Some, as Hopkinson (Ugolino, vol.7), have found the Pison in the Naharmalca, one of the artificial canals which formerly joined the Euphrates with the Tigris. This canal is the flumen regium of Amm. Marc. (23, 6, § 25, and 24:6, § 1), and the Ar-malchar of Pliny (V. H. 6, 30). Grotius, on the contrary, considered it to be the Gihon. Even those commentators who agree in placing the terrestrial Paradise on the Shat el-Arab, the stream formed by the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates, between Ctesiphon and Apamea, are by no means unanimous as to which of the branches, into which this stream is again divided, the names Pison and Gihon are to be applied. Calvin (Comm. in Genesis) was the first to conjecture that the Pison was the most easterly of these channels, and in this opinion he is followed by Scaliger and many others. Huet, on the other hand, conceivea that he proved beyond doubt that Calvin was in error, and that the Pison was the westernmost of the two channels by which the united stream of the Euphrates and Tigris falls into the Persian (Gulf. He was confirmed by the authority of Bochart (Hieroz. pt. 2, 1. 5, c. 5). Junius (Prael. in Genesis) and HaTask discovered a relic of the name Pison in the Pasitigris. The advocates of the theory that the true position of Eden is to be sought for in the mountains of Armenia have been induced, from a certain resemblance in the two names, to identify the Pison with the Phasis, which rises in the elevated plateau at the foot of Mount Ararat, near the sources of the Tigris and Euphrates. Reland (de Situ parad. terr. Ugolino, vol. vii), Calmet (Dict. s.v.), Link (Urwelt, 1, 307), Rosenmuller (Handb. der bibl. AIt.), and Hartmann have given their suffrages in favor of this opinion. Raumer (quoted by Delitzsch, Genesis) endeavored to prove that the Pison was the Phasis of Xenophon (Anab. 4, 6), that is, the Aras or Araxes, which flows into the Caspian Sea. There remain yet to be noticed the theories of Leclerc (Comm. in Genesis) that the Pison was the Chrysorrhoas, the modern Barada, which takes its rise near Damascus; and that of Buttmann (Aelt. Erdk. p. 32), who identified it with the Besvnga or Irabatti, a river of Ava. Mendelssohn (Comm. on Genesis) mentions that some affirm the Pison to be the Gozan of 2Ki 17:6 and 1Ch 5:26, which is supposed to be a river, and the same with the Kizil-Uzen in Hyrcania. Colonel Chesney, from the results of extensive observations in Armenia, was "led to infer that the rivers known by the comparatively modern names of Halys and Araxes are those which, in the book of Genesis, have the names of Pison and Gihon; and that the country within the former is the land of Havilah, while that which borders upon the latter is the still more remarkable country of Cush" (Exped. to Euphr. and Tigris, 1, 267). — Smith. Faber inclines to make it the Absarus of Pliny, or Batim of modern geographers, which rises in Armenia and flows into the Black Sea; but Dr. Hales considers the Araxes to have a better claim; and this last speculation (for nothing better can any of the assigned positions be called) seems to derive support from the author of the apocryphal book of Ecclesiasticus, who, speaking of a wise man, says that "he filleth all things with his wisdom," or spreads it on every side, "as Phison and Tigris" spread their waters "in the time of the new fruits," that is, when they are swollen by the melting of the winter snows, thus seeming to indicate a river rising in a cold and mountainous region. The mention of gold as the special product of the vicinity inclines to the view which regards the Pishon as identical with the Phasis of antiquity; and the resemblance of names confirms this. SEE EDEN.

Bible concordance for PISON.

See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.

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