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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Tiphsah

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(Heb. Tiphscch', תַּפְסִח , from פָּסִח, to ford, this being the usual crossing- place of the ELuphrates [Strabo, 16:1, 21]; Sept. θαψσά v.r. θερσά ; Vulg. Thaphsa, Thapsa) is mentioned in 1 Kings 4:24 as the limit. of Solomon's empire towards the Euphrates, and in 2 Kings 15:16 it is said to have been attacked by Menahem, king of Israel, who "smote Tiphsah and all that were therein, and all the coasts thereof." It is generally admitted that the town intended, at any rate in the former passage, is that which the Greeks and Romans knew under the name of Thapsacus (θάψακος ), situated in Northern Syria, on the western bank of the Euphrates, not far above Carchemish. Thapsacus was a town of considerable importance in the ancient world. Xenophon, who saw it in the time of Cyrus the younger, calls it "great and prosperous" (μεγάλη καὶ εὐδαίμων, Anab. 1; 4, 11). It must have been a place of considerable trade, the land traffic between East and West passing through it, first on account of its ford-way (which was the lowest upon the Euphrates), and then on account of its bridge (Strabo, 16:1, 23); while it was likewise the point where goods were both embarked for transport down the stream (Q. Curt. 10:1), and also disembarked from boats which had come up it, to be conveyed on to their final destination by land (Strabo, 16:3, 4). It is a fair conjecture that Solomon's occupation of the place was connected with his efforts to establish a line of trade with Central Asia directly across the continent, and that Tadmor was intended as a resting-place on the journey to Thapsacus. Thapsacus was the place at which armies marching east or west usually crossed the "Great River." It was there that the Ten Thousand first learned the real intentions of Cyrus, and, consenting to aid him in his enterprise, passed the stream (Xenoph. Anab. 1, 4, 11). There, too, Darius Codomannus crossed on his flight from Issus (Arrian, Exp. A l. 2, 13); and Alexander, following at his leisure, made his passage at the same point (ibid. 3 7). A bridge of boats was usually maintained at the place by the Persian kings, which of course was broken up when danger threatened. Even then, however, the stream could in general be forded, unless in the flood season. This is clear from the very name of the place, and is confirmed by modern researches. When the natives told Cyrus that the stream had acknowledged him as its king, having never been forded until his army waded through it, they calculated on his ignorance, or thought he would not examine too strictly into the groundwork of a compliment (see Xenoph. Anab. 1, 4, 11). When Greek ascendancy and enterprise succeeded to Persian rule, Thapsacus rose into still greater importance, and embraced both sides of the river-whence it received the name of Amphipolis (Pliny, 5, 21).

It has generally been supposed that the site of Thapsacus was the modern Deir (D'Anville, Rennell, Vaux, etc.). But the Euphrates expedition proved that there is no ford at Deir, and, indeed, showed that the only ford in this part of the course of the Euphrates is at Suriyeh, 45 miles below Balls, and 165 above Deir (Ainsworth, Travels in the Track of the Ten Thousand, p. 70). This, then, must have been the position of Thapsacus. Here the river is exactly of the width mentioned by Xenophon (four stades, or eight hundred yards), and here for four months in the winter of 1841-42 the river had but twenty inches of water (ibid. p. 72). "The Euphrates is at this spot full of beauty and majesty. Its stream is wide and its waters generally clear and blue. Its banks are low and level to the left, but undulate gently to the right. Previous to arriving at this point, the course of the river is southerly, but here it turns to the east, expanding more like an inland lake than a river, and quitting (as Pliny has described it) the Palmyrean solitudes for the fertile Mygdonia" (ibid.). A paved causeway is visible on either side of the Euphrates at Suriyeh, and a long line of mounds may be traced, disposed, something like those of Nineveh, in the form of an irregular parallelogram. These mounds probably mark the site of the ancient city.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Tiphsah'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/t/tiphsah.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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