Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Abana.—So Hebrew text; Hebrew margin, Amana; and so many MSS., Complut., LXX., Targum, Syriac. (Comp. Amana, Song of Solomon 4:8, as name of a peak of the Lebanon, which is common in the Assyrian inscriptions also.) The river is identified with the present Burâda, or Barady (“the cold”), which descends from the Anti-Lebanon, and flows through Damascus in seven streams. (The Arabic version has Bardâ.)
Pharpar.—Parpar (“the swift”), the present Nahr el-Awâj, which comes down from the great Hermon, and flows by Damascus on the south. Both rivers have clear water, as being mountain streams, whereas the Jordan is turbid and discoloured.
Rivers of Damascus.—Add the. Damascus is still famous for its wholesome water.
May I not wash in them, and be clean?—If mere washing in a river be enough, it were easy to do that at home, and to much better advantage.2 Kings 5:12. Are not Abana and Pharpar — better than all the waters of Israel — How magnificently doth he speak of these two rivers, which watered Damascus, and how scornfully of all the waters of Israel! May I not wash in them and be clean? — Is there not as great virtue in them to this purpose? But he should have considered that the cure was not to be wrought by the water, but by the power of God, who might use what means and method of cure he pleased.Is there not as great a virtue in them to this purpose? But he should have considered that the cure was not to be wrought by the water, but by the power of God, who might use what means and methods of cure he pleased.
may I not wash in them, and be clean? as well as in Jordan; or rather, since they are better waters, and so not have been at this trouble and expense to come hither; or have I not washed in them every day? I have, and am I clean? I am not; which is the sense the several Jewish writers give (n):
so he turned, and went away in a rage; in a great passion, swearing and cursing perhaps, ordering his chariot driver to turn and be gone at once.
(g) Tacit. Annal. l. 2. c. 83. (h) Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 18. (i) Journey from Aleppo, p. 122, 123. (k) Cartwright's Preacher's Travels, p. 7, 8. Hiller. Onomast. Sacr. p. 908. (l) Itinerar. p. 55. (m) Servius in Virgil. Aeneid. l. 7. p. 1243. (n) Ben Gersom in loc. & R. Joseph Kimchi, & R. Jonah in Ben Melech in. loc.Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)12. Are not Abana [R.V. Abanah] and Pharpar, rivers [R.V. the rivers] of Damascus] There is a marginal reading Amanah in the Hebrew, but it is not well supported. The Abanah has been identified with the larger of the two rivers which now water Damascus. Its present name is ‘Barada’, and the Arabic version of this verse writes ‘Barda’ for Abanah. The second river is now named ‘Awaj’ and does not flow so close to the city, but one branch of it is still called ‘Wady Barbar’ in which we may probably trace the remnant of the ancient name ‘Pharpar’. Compared with the Jordan, these, especially the Abanah, must have appeared far superior, both in waters, for the Jordan is often muddy, and in the beauty of the scenery through which they flowed. Robinson (11. 255) describes the Jordan as a ‘deep, sluggish, discoloured stream’.
Bp Hall observes here: ‘Nowhere shall we find a truer pattern of the disposition of nature: how she is altogether led by sense and reason: how she fondly judges of all objects by the appearance: how she acquaints herself only with the common road of God’s proceedings: how she sticks to her own principles: how she misconstrues the intentions of God: how she over-conceits her own: how she disdains the mean conditions of others: how she upbraids her opposites with the proud comparison of her own privileges. Nature is never but like herself. No marvel if carnal minds despise the foolishness of preaching, the simplicity of sacraments, the homeliness of ceremonies, the seeming inefficacy of censures. These men look upon Jordan with Syrian eyes: one drop of whose water, set apart by divine ordination, hath more virtue than all the streams of Abanah and Pharpar.’Verse 12. - Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? The "rivers of Damascus" are streams of great freshness and beauty. The principal one is the Barada, probably the Abaua of the present passage, which, rising in the Antilibanus range, and flowing through a series of romantic glens, bursts finally from the mountains through a deep gorge and scatters itself over the plain. One branch passes right through the city of Damascus, cutting it in half. Others flow past the city both on the north and on the south, irrigating the gardens and orchards, and spreading fertility far and wide over the Merj. A small stream, the Fidjeh, flows into the Barada from the north. Another quite independent river, the Awaaj. waters the southern portion of the Damascene plain, but does not approach within several miles of the city. Most geographers regard this as the "Pharpar;" but the identification is uncertain, since the name may very possibly have attached to one of the branches of the Barada. The Barada is limpid, cool, gushing, the perfection of a river: It was known to the Greeks and Romans as the Chrysorrhoas, or "river of gold." We can well understand that Naaman would esteem the streams of his own city as infinitely superior to the turbid, often sluggish, sometimes "clay-colored" (Robinson, ' Researches,' ver. 2. p. 256) Jordan. If leprosy was to be trashed away, it might naturally have appeared to him that the pure Barada would have more cleansing power than the muddy river recommended to him by the prophet. So he turned and went away in a rage. Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:6); "for he sends to me to cure a man of his leprosy." The words of the letter ואספתּו, "so cure him," were certainly not so insolent in their meaning as Joram supposed, but simply meant: have him cured, as thou hast a wonder-working prophet; the Syrian king imagining, according to his heathen notions of priests and gotes, that Joram could do what he liked with his prophets and their miraculous powers. There was no ground, therefore, for the suspicion which Joram expressed: "for only observe and see, that he seeks occasion against me." התאנּה to seek occasion, sc. for a quarrel (cf. Judges 14:4).
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