River of Egypt
River Of Egypt.
This term occurs eight times in the Old Test. (Ge 15:18; Nu 34:5; Jos 15:4,47; 1Ki 8:65; 2Ki 24:7; Isa 27:12, in the last passage translated "the stream of Egypt"). In the first of these the word translated river is נָהָר, nahar, while in all the others it is נִחִל, nachal. The preceding remarks on these two terms, and the clear distinction drawn between them by the sacred writers, will show that in the above passages they can scarcely be regarded as identical in meaning, and that in all probability Nehar Mitzrayim is to be regarded as distinct from Nachal Mitzrayim. To determine this point, it will be necessary to examine critically the several passages in which the words occur, and the light that may be thrown upon them by parallels. Geographically, the question is of importance, as determining the southern border of "the land of promise" and of "the land of possession."
1. Nehar Mitzrayim (נהִר מַצרִיַם, "The river of Egypt"). The land which the Lord gave in covenant promise to Abraham is thus described in Ge 15:18: "Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates." The Sept. renders the phrase, ἀπὸ τοῦ ποταμοῦ Αἰγύπτου; and the Vulg., a fluvio AEgypti. The word נהר, as has been stated, like ποταμός and fluvius, means river. But the Nile is the only river of Egypt, and hence it is natural to conclude that the Nile is meant, and here — as the western border of the promised land, of which the eastern border was the Euphrates — the Pelusiac or easternmost branch. So it is understood by most commentators (Kalisch, Delitzsch, etc., ad loc.). It is true the extent of territory thus defined was never actually occupied by the seed of Abraham; nor was it possessed except, perhaps, during the reigns of David and Solomon. SEE PALESTINE.
2. Nachal Mitzrayim (נִחִל מ8 8) occurs seven times in the Bible. In six of these the A.V. translates "river," and in one "stream" (Isa 27:12). The Sept. has χειμάῤῥοος in Nu 34:5; Jos 15:47; 2Ki 24:7; and 2Ch 7:8; φάραγξ in Jos 15:4; ποταμός in 1Ki 8:65; and ῾Ρινοκορούρων in Isa 27:12. The Vulg. has rivus in 1Ki 8:65 and 2Ki 24:7, but torrens in the others. The proper meaning of nachal is "valley," though it is sometimes, as has been stated (see above), applied to the winter streams of Palestine. It could not with any propriety be applied to a large permanent river like the Nile. What, therefore, do the sacred writers mean by Nachal Mitzrayim?
In describing to Moses the land of Canaan, which the Israelites were about to enter and possess, the Lord stated that the southern boundary should extend from Kadesh-Barnea to "the river of Egypt," or more correctly "the wady (valley) of Egypt" (Nu 34:5). After the conquest, the southern border of Judah extended to the same points (Jos 15:4,47). The country over which the Israelites had spread in the time of Solomon was "from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt" (1Ki 8:65; 2Ch 7:8). In all these passages it will be observed that the country described is much smaller than that given in covenant promise to Abraham, extending only on the north as far as the entrance of Hamath. This has already been explained in the article PALESTINE.
Two other passages in which the term is employed are more difficult. In 2 Kings 24 "the river of Egypt" is mentioned as the proper boundary of that country; and it is said of the king of Babylon, that he had taken "from the river of Egypt to the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt." The expression nearly resembles that in Ge 15:18, where the river Nile is meant (see above). A similar form is used by Isaiah (Isa 27:12); and there the Sept. has rendered Nachal Mitzrayim by Rhinocorura, which was the name of a town now called el-Arish. If this be correct, then Nachal Mitzrayim must be identified with Wady el-Arish, a valley and small winter stream which falls into the Mediterranean near this town. This is the view adopted by most of the old commentators (see in Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 872; Reland, Palest. p. 969, and authorities there cited). Jerome states that Rhinocorura was situated on the borders of Palestine and Egypt, and that the "river (torrens) of Egypt" was near it (Comment. ad Jes. xix et xxvii; ad Amos vi). Ancient geographers and historians describe Egypt as extending to this city (Eusebius, Onomast. s.v.; Diod. Sic. 1, 60; Strabo, 16, p. 780; Reland, p. 286). This torrent, or valley, derived its notoriety from being the boundary of two great countries; and hence in Eze 47:19; Eze 48:28 it is called emphatically "the valley" (A.V. "the river").
There is nothing, therefore, in any of the passages of Scripture in which this term occurs, nor in the geographical notices in other passages, nor is there anything in the old geographers or historians tending to identify Nachal Mitzrayim with the Nile. This appears more clearly when the proper distinction is drawn between the country given in covenant promise to Abraham, and that actually allotted to the Israelites (Bochart, Opera, 1, 62).
It may be inferred that the first term, Nehar Mitzrayim, ought to be translated "the river of Egypt;" and that it was the designation of the Nile in Abraham's time, before the Egyptian word yeor became known. The other term, Nachal Mitzrayim, might be rendered "torrent, or wady, of Egypt." It was applied to Wady el-Arish, which acquired its importance and notoriety from the fact of its marking the boundary between Palestine and Egypt. SEE EGYPT, BROOK OF.