Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Heb. Panpar', פִרְפִּר, swift; Sept. Φαρφάρ v.r. Φαρφαρά, Ἀφαρφά ; Vulg. Pharpar), one of the two rivers of Damascus mentioned in the wellknown exclamation of Naaman, "Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?" (2 Kings 5:12). The name does not occur elsewhere in Scripture, nor is it found in ancient classic authors. Eusebius and Jerome merely state that it is a river of Damascus (Onomast. s.v. Farfar). Plinv savs that "Damascus was a place fertilized by the river Chrysorrhoas, which is drawn off into its meadows and eagerly imbibed" (5:16); and Strabo says of this river that "it commences from the city and territory of Damascus, and is almost entirely drained by watercourses; for it supplies with water a large tract of country" (16:755). But none of these writers speak of any second river.
Various opinions have been entertained regarding the Pharpar. Benjamin of Tudela states that, while the Abana runs through the city, the Pharpar runs between the gardens and the orchards in the outskirts (Early Travels, Bohn, page 90). He evidently refers to the two branches of the same river. The river Barada takes its rise in the upland plain of Zebdany, at the base ofthe loftiest peak of Anti-Lebanon. Its principal source is a fountain called Ain Barada. It cuts through the central chain in a sublime gorge, and flows in a deep wild glen down the eastern declivities. Its volume is more than doubled by a large fountain called Fijeh, which gushes from a cave in the side of the glen. The river leaves the mountains and enters the great plain of Damascus about three miles west of the city. The main stream flows though the city; but no fewer than seven large canals are taken from it at different elevations to irrigate the surrounding orchards and gardens. The largest of these is called Na(hr Taula, "the river Taura," and is probably that which Benjamin of Tudela identified with the Pharpar (1.c.). The Arabic version of the Bible reads Taura for Pharpar in 2 Kings 5:12; but the words of Naaman manifestly imply the existence of two distinct rivers. Some have supposed that because the Barada has two great fountains, Naaman alluded to these; and Dr. Wilson would identify the Barada with the Pharpar, and Ain Fijeh with the Abana (Lands of the Bible, 2:371, 373); but in reply we say that Naaman speaks of two "rivers," and not "fountains." (See ABANA)
A short distance south of the city of Damascus flows the river Awaj. It has two principal sources — one high up on the eastern side of Hermon, just beneath the central peak; the other in a wild glen a few miles southward, near the romantic village of Beit Jann. The streams unite near Sasa, and the river flows eastward in a deep rocky channel, and falls into a lake, or rather large marsh, called Bahret Hijftneh, about four miles south of the lake into which the Barada falls. Although the Awaj is eight miles distant from the city, yet it flows across the whole plain of Damascus; and large ancient canals drawn from it irrigate the fields and gardens almost up to the walls. The total length of the Awaj is nearly forty miles; and in volume it is about one fourth that of the Barada. The Barada and Awaj are the only rivers of any importance in the district of Damascus; and there can be little doubt that the former is the Abana, and the latter the Pharpar. The identity of the Awaj and Pharpar was suggested by Munro in 1833 (Summer Ramble, 2:54), and confirmed by Dr. Robinson (Bibliotheca Sacra. May 1849. page 371); but its sources, course, and the lake into which it falls, were first explored by Dr. Porter in the year 1852 (ibid. January 1854, and April 1854, page 329).
He then heard, for the first time, the name Barbar applied to a glen on the east side of Hermon, which sends a small tributary to the Awaj; and it seems highly probable that we have in this name a relic of the ancient Pharpar. The Arabic may be regarded as equivalent to the Hebrew (see Five Years in Damascus, 1:299; Biblioth. Sac. 1.c. page 54). The mountain region round the sources of the river was occupied in a remote age by the warlike Maachathites (1 Chronicles 19:6-7; Joshua 12:5). Subsequently it formed part of the tetrarchy of Abilene (Luke 3:1; Josephus, Ant. 19:5, 1). Farther down, the river Pharpar divided the territory of Damascus from Iturea (q.v.). The whole district through which the river flows is now called Wady el-Ajam, "the valley of the Persians; the scenery is bare and mountainous, but some parts of it are extremely fertile, and it contains upwards of fifty villages, with,a population of 18,000 souls (see Jour. of Sac. Lit. 1853; Ritter, Pal. und Syr. 4:132 sq.). (See DAMASCUS).
The tradition of the Jews of Damascus, as reported by Schwarz (Palest. page 54, also pages 20, 27), is curiously subversive of our ordinary ideas regarding these streams. They call the river Fijeh (that is, the Barada) the Pharpar, and give the name Amana or Karmion (an old Talmudic name) to a stream which Schwarz describes as running from a fountain called el- Barady, a mile and a half from Beth Djana (Beit Jenn), in a north-east. direction, to Damascus (see also the reference to the Nubian geographer by Gesenius, Thesaur. page 1132 a).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Pharpar'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/pharpar.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.