Tag Archives: Nelson Glueck

Rivers in the Desert – Wadi Zin

Rivers in the Desert is the title of Nelson Glueck’s 1959 history of the Negev. These rivers also may be seen in the Judean wilderness and in the Sinai. Thomas Levy followed up on some of Glueck’s research in a Biblical Archaeology Review article in 1990.

If one travels in the desert during the summer months he will see a dry, desolate bad land with only an isolated tamarisk tree or shrub where the last water of the winter rain flowed. In the winter it can be different. Israel has two dominant seasons: winter and summer. The summer is dry and the winter is wet. The early rains begin about mid-October and continue till the late rains of early April. See Deuteronomy 11:14 and Joel 2:23.

Levy reminds us that “Nahal, incidentally, is Hebrew for a dry river bed or valley that flows at most a few times a year. In Arabic, the word is wadi. The two words are used interchangeably in Israel today.” The wadi is similar to the arroyo of the American southwest.

While traveling south of Beersheba, yesterday and today, we crossed the Wadi Zin (Joshua 13:21ff.) at least three times in each direction we traveled.

Here is what the Wadi looks like when it is dry.

Wadi Zin near Avedat in the Negev of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Wadi Zin near Avedat in the Negev of Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

And this marker on the highway shows travelers the depth of the water when the wadi is flooded. The person in the photo is six feet tall. The marker goes to 1.5 meters (about 5 feet), and the pole is higher.

Marker to let travelers know the depth of the water in the Wadi Zin.

Marker to let travelers know the depth of the water in the Wadi Zin. Photo by Dan Kingsley.

For more pictures, including rivers in the desert during the rain season, see here.

Peeking into the Great Rift Valley

The natural depression that runs from northern Syria, through Lebanon, Israel/Jordan, continuing into the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba, into eastern Africa, is known as the Great Rift. This rift has an important effect on travel and the life of the people of the area — perhaps more in ancient times than now.

This aerial view was made south of Lake Huleh, looking south toward the Sea of Galilee. You can see the Jordan River descending from north to south. Glueck calls this the Jordan Rift.

Jordan Valley north of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Jordan Valley north of the Sea of Galilee. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The elevation at Lake Huleh is 230 feet above sea level. By the time the Jordan River flows into the Sea of Galilee, ten miles south, the elevation of about 700 feet below sea level. This is the area of most rapid descent.

Nelson Glueck describes this portion of the Jordan River.

…it tears out on a run that, for some distance, brooks no restraint. It tumbles and cascades almost continuously through a forbidding, black basalt gorge. Foaming and muddy, it bursts out of the ravine. Then, collecting itself somewhat, it wriggles its way for about another mile through a small plain and a delta of its own making into the clear waters of the Lake of Galilee. (The Jordan River, 35)