Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
AENON (Αἰνών, probably from Aramaic עֵינָוָן ‘springs’).—Mentioned only in John 3:23 ‘And John also was baptizing in aenon near to Salim, because there were many waters there’ ((Revised Version margin)). The place cannot be identified with certainty. Four sites have been proposed, two in Samaria and two in Judaea.
1. Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast.2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] 229. 91, 99, 25) place aenon in the Jordan Valley, 8 miles south of Scythopolis (Beisân), ‘juxta Salem et Jordanem.’ About 7 miles south of Beisân and 2 miles west of the Jordan there are seven springs, all lying within a radius of a quarter of a mile, and numerous rivulets. Three-quarters of a mile to the north of these springs van de Velde found a tomb bearing the name of Sheikh Salim. But the fact that a modern sheikh bore the name Salim is far from satisfactory proof that the Salim of our narrative was at tins place. If we are to find Salim in Samaria at all, does not the mention of it as a well-known place suggest the well-known Salim 4 miles east of Shechem? And would it not be gratuitous for the Evangelist to say of a place so near the Jordan that there was much water there? But, in spite of these objections, Sanday (Sacred Sites of the Gospels, p. 36) and others still think this site has the best claim.
2. Tristram (Bible Places, p. 234) and Conder (Tent Work in Palestine, i. pp. 91–93) place aenon at ‘Ainun on a hill near the head of the great Fârʿah valley, the open highway from the Damieh ford of the Jordan to Shechem. Four miles southwest of the village of ‛Ainun, in the Wady Fârʿah, is a succession of springs, yielding a copious perennial stream, with flat meadows on either side, where great crowds might gather. Three miles south of the valley (7 miles from ‛Ainun) stands Salim. Conder says: ‘The site of Wady Fârʿah is the only one where all the requisites are met—the two names, the fine water supply, the proximity of the desert, and the open character of the ground.’ The situation is a central one also, accessible by roads from all quarters, and it agrees well with the new identification of Bethabara. But (a) ‛Ainun is not ‘near to Salim,’ the two places being 7 miles apart, and separated by the great Wady Fârʿah. (b) There is not a drop of water at ‛Ainun (Robinson, Bib. Res. iii. 305). (c) It is not likely that John the Baptist was labouring among the Samaritans, with whom the Jews had no dealings (cf. Matthew 3:5; Matthew 10:5). (d) It appears that both Jesus and John were baptizing in Judaea (John 3:22-23), and their proximity gave occasion to the remarks referred to in John 3:25, and that Jesus left Judaea for Galilee with the intention of getting out of the neighbourhood of John and removing the appearance of rivalry (John 4:1). But if aenon was in Samaria, Jesus was nearer John than before.
3. Ewald and Hengstenberg prefer Shilhim (LXX Septuagint Σελεείμ) in the extreme south of Judaea, mentioned (Joshua 15:32) in connexion with Ain. Godet says the reason given for John’s baptizing in aenon would have greater force as applied to a generally waterless region like the southern extremity of Judah than if the reference were to a well-watered district like Samaria. But elsewhere (Joshua 19:7, 1 Chronicles 4:32, Nehemiah 11:29) Ain is connected with Rimmon and not with Shilhim.
4. More probable as a Judaean site for aenon is Wady Fârʿah, a secluded valley with copious springs about 6 miles north-east of Jerusalem (quite different, of course, from the great Wady Fârʿah of Samaria). This is the view adopted by Professor Konrad Furrer in his article on the geographical allusions in the Gospel of St. John in the ZNTW [Note: NTW Zeitschrift für die Neutest. Wissen. schaft.] , 1902, Heft 4, p. 258. The suggestion is not new. It was put forward nearly fifty years ago by Barclay (City of the Great King, pp. 558–570), but has never received the attention it deserves. Barclay says that ‘of all the fountains in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, the most copious and interesting by far are those that burst forth within a short distance of each other in Wady Fârʿah.’ He quotes the following description from The History of the Jerusalem Mission:—
‘From the brow at Wady Fârʿah we descended with some difficulty into that “Valley of Delight,”—for such is the literal signification of its name,—and truly I have seen nothing so delightful in the way of natural scenery, nor inviting in point of resources, etc., in all Palestine. Ascending its bold stream from this point, we passed some half-dozen expansions of the stream, constituting the most beautiful natural natatoria i have ever seen; the water, rivaling the atmosphere itself in transparency, of depth varying from a few inches to a fathom or more, shaded on one or both sides by umbrageous Fig-trees, and sometimes contained in naturally excavated basins of red mottled marble—an occasional variegation of the common limestone of the country. These pools are supplied by some half-dozen springs of the purest and coldest water, bursting from rocky crevices at various intervals. Verily, thought i, we have stumbled upon Enon!… Portions of aqueducts, both of pottery and stone, and in a tolerable state of preservation, too, in many places, are still found remaining on each side of the valley, indicating the extent to which the valley was at one time irrigated; and richer land i have never seen than is much of this charming valley.… Several herds of cattle were voraciously feeding on the rich herbage near the stream; and thousands of sheep and goats were seen approaching the stream, or “resting at noonday” in the shadow of the great rock composing the overhanging cliff here and there.… Rank grasses, luxuriant reeds, tall weeds, and shrubbery and trees of various kinds, entirely conceal the stream from view in many places.… Higher up, the valley becomes very narrow, and the rocky precipices tower to a sublime height.’
The name aenon does not seem to have survived in connexion with these springs, but within 2 miles of them there is another valley called by the Arabs Wady Saleim. It is at least possible that this name was once borne by one of the towns whose ruins still crown the neighbouring heights. A town thus placed would have been a conspicuous object from many parts of Judaea, and would have been naturally referred to by the Evangelist when describing the location of aenon.
Literature.—In addition to writers cited above, see artt. ‘aenon’ in Smith’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , and ‘Salim’ in Encyc. Biblica.
W. W. Moore.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Aenon'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/a/aenon.html. 1906-1918.