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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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an extensive province of Asia, the Greek name of which denotes "between the rivers," and on this account Strabo says, οτι κειται μεταξυ του Ευφρατου και του Τιγρος , that "it was situated between the Euphrates and the Tigris." In Scripture this country is called Aram, and Aramea. But as Aram also signifies Syria, it is denominated Aram Naharaim, or the Syria of the rivers. This province, which inclines from the southeast to the north-west, commenced at 33 20' N. lat., and terminated near 37 30' N. lat. Toward the south it extended as far as the bend formed by the Jordan at Cunaxa, and to the wall of Semiramis which separated it from Messene. Toward the north, it comprehended part of Taurus and the Mesius, which lay between the Euphrates and the Tigris. The modern name, given by the Arabs to this part, is of the same import with the ancient appellation; they call it "isle," or, in their language, Al- Dgezera. In this northern part is found Osrhoene, which seems to have been the same place with Anthemusir. The northern part of Mesopotamia is occupied by chains of mountains passing from north-west to south-east, in the situation of the rivers. The central parts of these mountains were called Singarae Montes. The principal rivers were Chaboras, (Al Kabour,) which commenced at Charrae, (Harran,) east of the mountains, and discharged itself into the Euphrates at Circesium (Kirkisieh;) the Mygdonius, (Hanali,) the source of which was near Nisibis, and its termination in the Chaboras. The principal towns in the eastern part along the Tigris and near it, are Nisibis, (Nisibin,) Bezabde, (Zabda,) Singora, (Sindja,) Labbana on the Tigris, (Mosul,) Hatru, (Harder,) and Apamea-Mesenes. At some distance to the south, upon the Tigris and on the borders of Mesopotamia, was the town of Antiochia, near which commenced the wall that passed from the Tigris to the Euphrates, under the name of Murus Mediae, or Semiramidis. In the western part were Edessa, called also Callin-Rhae, (Orfa,) Charrae, (Harran,) Nicephorium, (Racca,) Circesium at the mouth of the Chaboras, Anatho, (Anah,) Neharda, (Hadith Unnour,) upon the right of the Euphrates. There are several other towns of less importance. According to Strabo, this country was fertile in vines, and afforded abundance of good wine. According to Ptolemy, Mesopotamia had on the north a part of Armenia, on the west the Euphrates on the side of Syria, on the east the Tigris on the borders of Assyria, and on the south the Euphrates which joined the Tigris. Mesopotamia was a satrapy under the kings of Syria.

In the earliest accounts we have of this country, subsequent to the time of Abraham, it was subject to a king, called Cushan-Rishathaim, then perhaps the most powerful potentate of the east, and the first by whom the Israelites were made captive, which happened soon after the death of Joshua, and about B.C. 1400, Judges 3:8 . The name of this king bespeaks him a descendant of Nimrod; and it was probably of the Lower Mesopotamia only, or Babylonia, of which he was sovereign; the northern parts being in the possession of the Arameans. This is implied in the history of Abraham; who, when ordered to depart from his country, namely, Chaldea, in the southern part of Mesopotamia, removed to Charran, still in Mesopotamia, but beyond the boundary of the Chaldees, and in the territory of Aram. About four hundred years after Cushan-Rishathaim, we find the northern parts of Mesopotamia in the hands of the Syrians of Zobah; as we are told, in 2 Samuel x, that Hadarezer, king of Zobah, after his defeat by Joab, "sent and brought out the Syrians that were beyond the river" Euphrates. The whole country was afterward seized by the Assyrians; to whom it pertained till the dissolution of their empire, when it was divided between the Medes and the Babylonians. It subsequently formed a part of the Medo-Persian, second Syrian or Macedonian, and Parthian empires, as it does at the present day of the modern Persians. The southern part of Mesopotamia answers nearly to the country anciently called the land of Shinar; to which the Prophet Daniel 1:2 , refers, and Zechariah 5:11 .

"On the fifth or sixth day after leaving Aleppo," says Campbell in his Overland Journey to India, "we arrived at the city of Diarbeker, the capital of the province of that name; having passed over an extent of country of between three and four hundred miles, most of it blessed with the greatest fertility, and abounding with as rich pastures as I ever beheld, covered with numerous herds and flocks. The air was charmingly temperate in the day time, but, to my feeling, extremely cold at night. Yet notwithstanding the extreme fertility of this country, the bad administration of government, conspiring with the indolence of the inhabitants, leaves it unpeopled and uncultivated. Diarbeker Proper, called also Mesopotamia from its lying between two famous rivers, and by Moses called PADANARAM, that is, ‘the fruitful Syria,' abounds with corn, wine, oil, fruits, and all the necessaries of life. It is supposed to have been the seat of the earthly paradise; and all geographers agree that here the descendants of Noah settled immediately after the flood. To be treading that ground which Abraham trod, where Nahor the father of Rebecca lived, where holy Job breathed the pure air of piety and simplicity, and where Laban the father-in-law of Jacob resided, was to me a circumstance productive of delightful sensations. As I rode along, I have often mused upon the contemptible stratagems to which I

was reduced, in order to get through this country, for no other reason than because I was a Christian; and I could not avoid reflecting with sorrow on the melancholy effects of superstition, and regretting that this fine tract of country, which ought to be considered above all others as the universal inheritance of mankind, should now be cut off from all except a horde of senseless bigots, barbarous fanatics, and inflexible tyrants."

Map of Location

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Mesopotamia'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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