(מִיַם, ὕδωρ), universally one of the chief necessaries of life. No one can read far in the Sacred Scriptures without being reminded of the vast importance of water to the Hebrews in Palestine, and, indeed, in every country ton which, their history introduces us; but more particularly in the deserts in which they wandered on leaving Egypt, as well as those into which they before or afterwards sent their flocks for pasture.
I. Supply. — In our temperate climate, surrounded as we are with perpetual verdure and never-failing streams, we can scarcely conceive the value of water in Palestine and other regions of the East. During summer and autumn, when the small streams are dried up through want of rain, the inhabitants are entirely dependent upon the water derived from wells, or preserved in cisterns or reservoirs, which sometimes becomes unpleasant. SEE CISTERN. Hence the water of running streams and fountains, as opposed to that of stagnant cisterns, pools, or marshes, is called living water (Ge 26:19; Zec 14:8; Joh 4:10-11; Joh 7:38; Re 7:17). SEE POOL. Water is commonly drawn out of the wells or cisterns by females, and carried, upon the shoulder or head; large leathern or earthen vessels (Ge 24:45). SEE WELL.
In the hot countries of the East, the assuaging of thirst is one of the first delightful sensations that can be felt (Ps 143:6; Pr 25:25); and every attention which humanity and hospitality can suggest is paid to furnish travelers with water; and public reservoirs or pools are opened in several parts of Egypt and Arabia (Mt 10:42). SEE FOUNTAIN. Water was sometimes paid for, and is now occasionally in the East (Nu 20:17,19; La 5:4). SEE DRAWER OF WATER.
II. Peculiar Usages. — Among the optical illusions which the deserts of the East have furnished is the mirage. This phenomenon of "waters that fail," or "are not sure," was called by the Hebrews sharâb, i.e. heat, and is rendered "the parched ground" (Isa 35:7); properly, "And the mirage — shall become a pool," i.e. the desert which presents the appearance of a lake shall be changed into real water. SEE MIRAGE.
Throughout the East it is customary to irrigate their fields and gardens by means of small canals or rivulets, which distribute the water in every direction (Ps 1:3). Allusion is probably made to this custom in Eze 31:3-4. Sometimes the channels are bordered with stone, and accompanied with troughs; at other times they are mere ridges of earth, to regulate the flow (Pr 21:1). Thus, in De 11:10, it is said the land of Canaan is not like Egypt, "where thou sowest thy seed, and waterest it with thy foot." Palestine is a country which has rains, plentiful dews, springs, rivulets, and brooks, which supply the earth with the moisture necessary to its fruitfulness; whereas Egypt has no river but the Nile; and, as it seldom rains, the lands which are not within reach of the inundation continue parched and barren (see Hackett, Illustur. of Script. p. 151 sq.). SEE IRRIGATION.
III. Metaphorical and Symbolical Phrases. Water sometimes signifies literally the element of water (Ge 1:10), and occasionally its parallel in tears (Jer 9:1,7); hence, figuratively, trouble (Ps 56:1) and misfortune (La 3:54; Ps 69:1; Ps 117:2; Ps 124:4-5). Water is put for children or posterity (Nu 24:7; Isa 48:1); for the clouds (Ps 104:3); for the ordinances of the Gospel (Isa 12:3; Isa 35:6-7; Isa 55:1; Joh 7:37-38). "Stolen waters" denote unlawful pleasures with strange women (Pr 9:17). The Israelites are reproached with having forsaken the fountain of living water to quench their thirst at broken cisterns (Jer 2:13); that is, with having quitted the worship of the all-sufficient God for the worship of vain and senseless idols.
Water is used in the sense of purification, as the "washing away of sin." SEE BAPTISM. When clear, cool, and pleasant, it is the symbol of great good; and, when muddy and thick, it denotes disease and affliction (as above). Hence, the torments of wicked men after this life were by the ancients represented under the symbol of a lake whose waters were full of mud and filth (Isa 57:20).
Many waters, on account of their noise, number, disorder, and the confusion of the waves, are the symbols of peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues (Re 17:15; Jer 47:2); waters signifying an army or multitude (Isa 17:12-13).
As in Scripture bread is put for all sorts of food or solid nourishment, so water is used for all sorts of drink. The Moabites and Ammonites are reproached for not meeting the Israelites with bread and water; that is, with proper refreshments (De 23:4). Nabal says, insulting David's messengers, "Shall I then take my bread and my water, and my flesh that I have killed for my shearers, and give it unto men whom I know not whence they be?" (1Sa 25:11).