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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Gichon', גַּיחוֹן, in 1 Kings גַּחוֹן, a stream, as breaking forth from a fountain; Sept. in Genesis 2:13 Γεῶν v.r. Γηῶν, in 1 Kings 1:33; 1 Kings 1:38 Γιῶν, in 2 Chronicles 32:30 Γειῶν, undistinguishable in 2 Chronicles 33:14; Vulg. Gileon), the name of two water-courses. Gesesius compare's Job 40:23, and the Arabic jayhauna and jayunu, spoken of several larger Asiatic streams, as the Ganges, Araxes, etc.
1. The second of the four rivers of Eden, said to flow around the land of Cush or Ethiopia (1 Genesis 2:13). What river is actually denoted here is a matter of great dispute and uncertainty; perhaps the face of the country in question has been so greatly changed since that time (although the present tense is used by Moses in the description) as to efface the distinctive marks given. (See PARADISE). We may here remark, however, that the usual interpretation, and the one adopted by Gesenius, is that of Josephus (Γηών, Ant. 1:1 3a), which identifies the Gihon with the NILE (See NILE); so also the Sept., which in Jeremiah 2:18, for Smeioia or the Nile, has Γηών, and in Sirach 24:27 puts Γηών (A.V. "Geon") for the Nile. The Mohammedans likewise reckon the Nile as one of the rivers of Paradise (Fundgrab. des Orients, 1:304). Others regard the Oxus as meant (Rosensmü ller, Altesth. 1:1, page 184; Ritter, Erdk. 2:480), others the Araxes (Reland); others still the Ganges (Ewald, Isr. Gesch. 1:333). — Winer, 1:428.
The second river of Paradise presents difficulties not less insurmountable than the first, or Pison. Those who maintained that the Pison is the Ganges held also that the Gihon was the Nile. One great objection to this theory is, that although in the books of the Old Testament frequent allusion is made to this river, it nowhere appears to have been known to thee Hebrews by the name Gihon. The idea seems to have originated with the Sept. rendering of שַׁיחוֹר by Γηῶν in Jeremiah 2:18, but it in clear, from the manner in which the translators have given the latter clause of the same passage, that they had no conception of the true meaning Among modern writers, Bertheau (quoted by Deaitzsch, Genesis) and Kalisch (Genesis) heave not hesitated to support this interpretation, in accordance with the principle they adopt, that the description of the garden of Eden is to be explained according to the most ancient notions of the earth's surface, without reference to the advances made in later times in geographical knowledge. If this hypothesis be adopted, it certainly explains some features of the narrative; but, so far from removing the difficulty, it introduces another equally great. It has yet to be proved that the opinions of the Hebrews on these points were as contradictory to the now well- known relations of land and water as the recorded impressions of other nations at a much later period. At present we have nothing but categorical assertion. Pausanias (2:5), indeed, records a legend that the Euphrates, after disappearing in a marsh, rises again beyond Ethiopia, and flows through Egypt as the Nile. Arrian (Esp. Alex. 6:1) relates that Alexander, on finding crocodiles in the Indus, and beans like those of Egypt on the banks of the Acaninas, imagined that he had discovered the sources of the Nile; but he adds, what those who make use of this passage do not find it convenient to quote, that on receiving more accurate information Alexander abandoned his theory, and canceled the letter he had written to his mother Olympias on the subject. It is but fair to say that there was at one time a theory afloat that the Nile rose in a mountain of Lower Mauretania (Pliny, H.N. 5:10).
The etymology of Gihon (גַּיח , to burst forth) seems to indicate that it emas a swiftly-flowing, impetuous stream. According to Golius (Lex. Arab.), Jichun is the name given to the Oxus, which has, on this account, been assumed by Rosenmü ller, Hartmann, and Michaelis to be the Gihon of Scripture. But the Araxes, too, is called by the Persians Jichun ar-Ras, and from this circumstance it has been adopted by Reland, Calmet, and colonel Chesney as the modern representation of the Gihon. It is clear, therefore, that the question is not to be decided lay etymology alone, as the name might be appropriately applied to many rivers. That the Gihon should be one of the channels by which the united stream of the Tigris and Euphrates falls into the Persian Gulf, was essential to the theory which places the garden of Eden on the Shat el-Arab. Boch-Amit and Huet contended that it was the easternmost of these channels, while Calvin considered it to be the most westerly. Hopkinson and Junius, conceiving that Eden was to be found in the region of Auranitis (= Audanitis, quasi Edenitis), on the Euphrates, were compelled to make the Gihon coincide with the Naharsar, the Marses of Amm. Marc. (23:6, § 25). That it should be the Orontes (Leclerc), the Ganges (Buttmann and Ewald), the Kur, or Cyrus, which rises from the side of the Saghanlou mountain, a few miles northward of the sources of the Araxes (Link), necessarily followed from the exigencies of the several theories. Rask and Verbrugge are in favor of the Gyndes of the ancients (Herod. 1:189), now called the Diyalah, one of the tributaries of the Tigris. Abraham Peritsol (Ugolino, volume 7) was of opinion that the garden of Eden was situated in the region of the Mountains of the Moon. Identifying the Pisoan with the Nile, and the Gihon with a river which his editor, Hyde, explains to be the Niger, he avoids the difficulty which is presented by the fact that the Hiddekel and P'rath are rivers of Asia, by conceiving it possible that these rivers actually take their rise in the Mountains of the Moon, and then run under ground till they make their appearance in Assyria. Equally unsatisfactory is the explanation of Ephraem Syrus that the four rivers have their source In Paradise, which is situated in a very lofty place, but are swallowed up by the surrounding districts, and, after passing underneath the sea, come to light again in different quarters of the globe.
Inasmuch as the sacred narrative makes it evident that all the rivers in question took their origin from the head waters of the Euphrates and the Tigris, we must refer the Gihon to one of the streasms of the same region, namely, the lake system of Central Armenia, in the vicinity of Lake Van. As the Euphrates and Tigris flow southerly, so we may naturally conclude that by the Pison and Gihon are intended rivers flowing northerly, probably one towards the Caspian, and the other towards the Eusxine. No better representative of the Gihon can be found in this region: than the Araxes (Ἀράξης ) of antiquity, which, as we have seen, to this day bears the same name among the Arabs. This is a large river in Armenia Major, which takes its rise from a member of sources in Mount Abus (the present Bin-Gol), nearly in the center of the space between the east and west branches of the Euphrates (Strabo, page 531; Pliny, 6:10; Ptolemy, 6:13; § 3, 6, 9). The general course may be described as east, then south-east, and, after flowing in a north-easterly direction, it resumes its south-east course, and, after its junction with the Cyrus (Kur), it discharges itself into the Caspian Sea (Col. Monteith, in the London Geogr. Journ. volume 3). It is the modern Arras (Smith, Dict. of Class. Geogr. s.v.). (See EDEN).
2. A fountain near Jerusalem, to which the young Solomon was taken to be anointed kin" (1 Kings 1:3; 1 Kings 1:38), out of sight, but within hearing of a En- rogel, with the city between (1 Kings 1:9; 1 Kings 1:41), but its direction is not indicated. Subsequently Hezekiah "stopped the upper water-course [or upper outflow of thee waters] of Gihon, and brought it straight down to the west side of the city of David" (2 Chronicles 22:30). This was, perhaps, on occasion of the approach of the Assyrian army under Sennacherilb, when, to prevent the besiegers from finding water, great numbers of the people labored with much diligence in stopping the water of the fountains without the city, and in particular of "the brook that ran through the midst of the land" (2 Chronicles 32:3-4). The author of the book of Sirach (48:17) also states that "Hezekiah brought water into the midst of the city; he dug with iron into the rock, and built fountains for the waters." The fountain of Gihon is also mentioned lay Josephus as living outside the city (Γιών, Ant. 7:14, 5). From a comparison of these passages, the editor of the Pictorial Bible (on 2 Chronicles 32) arrived at the conclusion, since confirmed by Dr. Robinson (Researches, 1:313), that there existed anciently a fountain of Gihon on the west side of the city, Which was "stopped" or covered over by Hezekiah, and its waters brought by subterrateeous channels into the city. Before that time it would naturally have flowed own through the valley of the Gihon, and probably formed the brook which was stopped at the same time. "The fountain may have been stopped, and its waters thus secured very easily by digging deep and erecting over it one or more vaulted subterranean chambers. Something of the very same kind is still seen in the fountains near Solomon's Pools beyond Bethlehem, where the water rises in subterranean chambers, to which there is no access except down a narrow shaft like a well. In this was the waters of Gihon would be withdrawn from the enemy and preserved in the city, in which they would seem to have been distributed among various reservoirs and fountains." From all these circumstances there seems little room to doubt that an open fountain, called "the fountain of Gihon," did anciently exist on the west side of the city, the waters of which may still continue to flow by subterranean channels down to the ancient Temple, and perhaps to Siloam. This fountain was probably near the present Upper Pool, in the valley west of Jerusalem. This Upper Pool is a large tank, which is dry in summer, but in the rainy season becomes full, when its waters are conducted by a small, rude aqueduct or channel to the vicinity of the Jaffa Gate and so to the Pool of Hezekiah within the city (Robinson's Researches, 1:352, 512-514).
Mr.Williams (Holy City, 2:480) suggests another route for the vater in question, namely, that the upper spring of Gibon once had its issue on the north side of the city, not far from the tombs of the kings, were its waters were originally received into a basin called the Serpent's Pool and thence flowed down the valley of Jehosheaphat. This upper outflow Hezekiah stopped, and brought the water by an aqueduct down the Tyropoeon to the Temple, whence the surplbs floweed off by an old channel to the fountain of the Virgin, and was continued through, a new bore to the Pool of Siloam, which Mr. Williams thinks was the Lower Pool of Isaiah 22:9; Isaiah 22:11. Schwarz (Palest. page 266) likewise confounds the lower spring of Gihon with Siloam. This latter, he says, has the same peculiar qualities as the water of a cistern found between the castle of David and the Temple Mount, showing the course of the now closed upper fount of Gihon. From the terms of the first passage in which Gillon is mentioned (1 Kings 1:33; 1 Kings 1:38; 1 Kings 1:45), it is evident it was at a lower level than the city — "Bring him down (הֹרִדְתֶּם ) upon (עִל ) Gihon""They are come up (יִעֲלוּ ) from thence." With this agrees a later, mention (2 Chronicles 33:14), where it is called "Gihon- in-the-valley," the word rendered valley being nachal (נִחִל). In this latter place Gihon is named to designate the direction of the wall built by Manasseh — "outside the city of David, on the west of [rather to לְ ] Gihon-in-the-valley to the entrance of the fish-gate." It is not stated in any of the above passages that Gihon was a spring; but the only remaining place in which it is mentioned suggests that idea, or at least that it had given its name to some water" Hezekiah also stopped the upper source or issue (מוֹצָא, from יָצָא, to rush forth; incorrectly 'water-course' in A.V.) of the waters of Gihon" (2 Chronicles 32:30). If the place to which Solomon was brought down on the king's mule was Gihon-in-the-valley and from the terms above noticed it seems probable that it was then the "upper source" would be some distance away, and at a higher level. Josephus also speaks of water brought to the tower of Hippicus (War, 5:7, 3), which could only have come from the west. The following are therefore the views propounded as to its real import and locality:
(1) Some affirm that Gihon was the ancient name of the valley of Jehoshaphat, and that it is compounded of the words גיא, "a valley," and חן , "beauty." The fountain of the Virgin, which rises at the bottom of the valley, had originally flowed into the brook Kidron, but was artificially carried by a conduit across the ridge of Sion (?) to the Pool of Siloam. This was the lower water-course of Gihon. More to the north was anciently another spring, called the upper water-course of Gihon, which was stopped or sealed in the time of Hezekiah, and conveyed to the west side of the city of David (Lewin, Jerusalem, p. 11 sq.). It will be seen that in this theory the "city of David" is identified with Moriah.
(2) Others think that Gihon was the old name of the Tyropeean valley; that the Pool of Siloam was the "lower Gihon;" and that the "upper Gihon" was only the table-land north of the Damascus gate (Williams, Holy City, 1:124, supplement).
(3) Others hold that Gihon was a name sometimes given to the valley of Hinnom, and that the '"upper outflow" was at the head of that valley west of the city (Robinson, B. R. 1:346).
(4) An English engineer, recently sent out to survey the waters of Jerusalem, has reported that there is not, and from the position of the city and the character of the strata there could not be, any perennial fountain in or around Jerusalem. The so-called Fountain of the Virgin, he says, is supplied by the leakage from the great cisterns under the Temple area; and the peculiar taste of its water is occasioned by stagnation and filth (MS. Re port). If this be so, then Gihon could neither be a fountain nor a perennial stream. The results of this examination of authorities may be thus stated. The upper fountain of Gihon was in the head of the valley of Hinnom, and a stream from it ran down through that valley. The fountain was covered by Hezekiah, and the water brought into the city of David by a concealed channel, partly hewn in the rock. There was an "upper" and a "lower" pool in this valley. A close examination of the place tends to confirm these views. No fountain has yet been discovered, nor could it be without extensive excavations; but a section of an old aqueduct was laid bare when sinking the foundations of the new church on the northern summit of Zion. It was twenty feet beneath the surface, in places excavated in the rock, and its direction was from west to east (Bartlett, Walks about Jerusalem, page 84). This may be a portion of Hezekiah's aqueduct from Gihon; and it may have carried the water to the Temple area as well as to Zion. In the valley of Hinnom are still two great, "pools;" one at its head, called Birket el-Mamnilla; another west of the present Sion gate in the bottom of the glen, called Birket es-Sultan. The fountain or rivulet in question is doubtless a part of the aqueduct system of Jerusalem, all of it probably traceable to the supply from the pools of Solomon at Bethlehem. (See JERUSALEM).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Gihon'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/g/gihon.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.