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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament


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Mesopotamia is referred to in Acts 2:9, where it is evidently the well-known district between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris with which the name is generally associated, and also in Acts 7:2, where it is roughly parallel with ‘the land of the Chaldaeans’ in v. 4. The name ‘Mesopotamia’ represents the Hebrew Aram-Naharaim in the OT, which is usually rendered ‘Aram of the two rivers,’ but is more correctly Aram Naharim or Naharin, i.e. ‘Aram of the river-lands’ (Encyclopaedia Biblica i. 287). Mesopotamia reached, on the north, to the plains beneath the Masius range of hills. To the south its limits were about where Babylonia begins, at the so-called Median Wall, which runs from a little below Is (Hit), on the Euphrates, to a point just above Opis (Kadisiya), on the Tigris. It thus formed a deep triangle with the apex to the south and the base along the foot of the northern mountains. The country fell steadily from 1,100 ft. in the north to 65 ft. at its southern extremity, and consisted for the most part of a single open stretch of steppe-land.

The river Chaboras (Khabur), entering the Euphrates from the east near Circesium, marks off the three divisions of Mesopotamia-(a) the northern tracts on its west side, (b) the similar tracts to east of it, and (c) the steppe-land stretching away south to the Median Wall. As to (a), the north-western tracts bore the name of Osrhœne, or Orrhœne, in Seleucid times, and the chief city of the district was Urfa, the Edessa of the Greeks and Romans. To the south of Urfa lie the ruins of Harran, and along the western bank of the Habor stretched Gauzanitis, the Hebrew Gozan, to which Israelites were deported by the king of Assyria (2 Kings 17:6). As to (b), the principal city of the north-eastern region was Nisibis, a busy trading centre and a place of frequent conflict between Roman and Persian armies. As to (c), the southern region of Mesopotamia contained several cities of importance. Among these may be mentioned Corsothe, Anatho, and Is (on the Euphrates), and Atrae and Caenae (on the Tigris). Along the banks of the two rivers, in this southern country, was a belt of cultivated land, outside of which the conditions were (for the most part) those of the Syrian Desert.

Mesopotamia was constantly being crossed and traversed by armies and caravans in ancient times, and was repeatedly a scene of conflict between the nations of the West and of the Farther East. In the earliest times, its history was closely bound up with that of Babylonia on the south. The Babylonians held predominance for long periods, influencing the civilization to a very considerable extent. At the same time, the land lay open to Syria and Arabia, whose tribes were constantly breaking across its borders. From the Tel-el-Amarna tablets and certain Egyptian tribute-lists, it appears that a non-Semitic people, called Mitani, occupied the district of Naharin between 1700 and 1400 b.c. Harran was probably their capital city. After the Mitani supremacy, the country fell under the rule of the Assyrian kings, and in the 10th cent. b.c. seems to have become part of Assyria proper. When the Assyrian power declined, Mesopotamia was overrun (as it had been more or less all along) by Aramaean hordes from the west and south.

Literature.-Encyclopaedia Biblica iii. 3050-3057; H. Winckler, History of Babylonia and Assyria, Eng. translation , 1907.

A. W. Cooke.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Mesopotamia'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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