4260 rivers and streams
Dictionary of Bible Themes

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The term river is used to refer to all kinds of watercourses, including wadis (dried-up desert river beds) and permanent rivers. It is also used symbolically to refer to things which threaten or overwhelm people and nations, such as invading nations, the peace of God and the Holy Spirit.

Different kinds of rivers and streams


1 Kings 17:7 Wadis were dry river beds in summer but became raging torrents in the rainy season. See also Genesis 32:22 The Jabbok was a wadi, here in full flow; Numbers 21:13-15; Job 6:15-17; Jeremiah 15:18


Psalm 104:10 See also Genesis 16:7; Exodus 15:27; Judges 1:14-15; 2 Kings 2:19-22

Permanent rivers

Genesis 2:10-14 See also Genesis 41:1-3; Numbers 22:1; Deuteronomy 1:7; Isaiah 18:1


Daniel 8:2 See also Exodus 7:19; Ezra 8:21; Ezekiel 1:1 Although called a river here, the Kebar was a canal of the Euphrates.

Some significant rivers and streams in Scripture

River Arnon

The Arnon flowed through Moab to the mid point of the Dead Sea:

Numbers 21:13-15; Judges 11:18; Isaiah 16:2; Jeremiah 48:20

Rivers of Damascus

2 Kings 5:12 The Abana flowed through the city of Damascus and the Pharpar just to the south of it.

River Euphrates

The Euphrates flowed through Mesopotamia for some 1,700 miles (2,700 km) from its source in eastern Turkey to the Persian Gulf:

Deuteronomy 1:7; 2 Kings 23:29 pp 2 Chronicles 35:20; Isaiah 11:15; Jeremiah 51:63-64; Revelation 16:12

River Habor

2 Kings 17:6 pp 2 Kings 18:11 The Habor was a tributary of the Euphrates.

River Jabbok

The Jabbok flowed westward through Gilead into the Jordan about 20 miles (32 km) north of the Dead Sea:

Genesis 32:22; Numbers 21:23-24; Deuteronomy 3:16; Judges 11:13

River Jordan

The Jordan flowed from the slopes of Mount Hermon through Lake Huleh and the Sea of Galilee, and on into the Dead Sea, providing a fertile basin on either side of the river:

Genesis 13:10-11; Genesis 32:9-10; Numbers 22:1; Joshua 3:14-4:9; 2 Kings 5:8-14; Mark 1:4-5 pp Matthew 3:5-6

River Kebar

The Kebar was a canal of the Euphrates in Babylon where the exiles gathered to pray:

Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 3:15; Ezekiel 43:1-3

River Kerith

1 Kings 17:2-7 The exact location of this wadi is uncertain, but it ran from the east into the Jordan or one of its tributaries.

River Kishon

The Kishon flowed north-west across the Plain of Megiddo and could quickly flood as a result of storms:

Judges 4:6-7,13; Judges 5:21; 1 Kings 18:40; Psalm 83:9

River Nile

The Nile flowed north some 3,500 miles (5,600 km) from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean, providing a natural irrigation system in the desert through its annual floodings:

Exodus 1:22-2:10; Exodus 7:17-21; Isaiah 19:5-8; Ezekiel 29:3-5

River Tigris

The Tigris flowed from the Armenian mountains through Mesopotamia to join the Euphrates some 40 miles (65 km) north of the Persian Gulf:

Genesis 2:14; Daniel 10:4-5; Nahum 2:6-8

The crossing of rivers and streams

Rivers crossed by fords

Joshua 2:7; Judges 3:28; Judges 12:5-6; 2 Samuel 17:16

Rivers crossed by miraculous intervention from God

Joshua 3:14-17; 2 Kings 2:7-8,13-14

Human uses of rivers and streams

As boundaries

Genesis 15:18 See also Joshua 1:2; Joshua 12:2; 1 Kings 4:21

For irrigation

Deuteronomy 11:10 The reference may be to a machine operated by foot, or to the foot breaking through the mud walls of the irrigation channel to let the water flow into the fields. See also Ezekiel 17:5-8; Ezekiel 19:10

As places of prayer

Acts 16:13 See also Psalm 137:1-3; Ezekiel 3:15

For ritual washing and baptism

2 Kings 5:10 See also Mark 1:5 pp Matthew 3:6; Acts 8:36-38

God as sovereign Creator is ruler and judge over all rivers and streams

Psalm 74:15 See also Psalm 78:13-16; Psalm 107:33-35; Isaiah 19:5-8; Revelation 8:10-11; Revelation 16:12

The symbolic use of rivers and streams

A symbol of threatening circumstances

Psalm 124:1-5 See also Psalm 32:6; Psalm 88:16-17

A symbol of invading nations

Jeremiah 47:2 See also Isaiah 8:7-8; Jeremiah 46:7-8

A symbol of God's judgment on his enemies

2 Samuel 5:20 “Baal Perazim” means “the lord who breaks out”. The picture is of a river bursting its banks. See also Job 20:28-29; Isaiah 59:19; Nahum 1:7-8

A symbol of God's peace

Isaiah 48:18 See also Isaiah 66:12

A symbol of God's sustaining power

Psalm 46:4-5 See also Isaiah 8:6

A symbol of God's provision and blessing

Joel 3:18 See also Psalm 1:3; Psalm 36:8-9; Isaiah 30:25

A symbol of renewal and life

Isaiah 41:18 See also Ezekiel 47:1-12; Revelation 22:1-2

A symbol of the Holy Spirit

John 7:37-39 See also Isaiah 44:3; John 4:13-14

See also

3215  Holy Spirit & peace
4236  fountain
4266  sea
4293  water
4296  wells
4844  rain
4849  snow
5580  thirst

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