ARABAH (Hebrew `araba). In the AV the word is used only once in its original form (Joshua 18:18), although it is of frequent occurrence in the Hebrew text.
1. The root rb, meaning 'dry', 'burnt up' and therefore 'waste land', is used to describe the desert steppe (Job 24:5; 39:6; Isaiah 33:9; 35:1,6; Jeremiah 51:43; RSV usually translates it as 'wilderness' or 'desert').
2. Used with the article (ha-`araba), the name is applied generally to the rift valley which runs from the Sea of Tiberias to the Gulf of Aqabah.
Although the topographical significance of this word was ignored by the earlier commentators, it has a precise connotahon in many Old Testament references. Its location is connected with the lake of Tiberias (Deuteronomy 3:17; Joshua 11:2; 12:3) and as far south as the Red Sea and Elath (Deuteronomy 1:1; 2:8).
The Dead Sea is called the Sea of Arabah (Joshua 3:16; 12:3; Deuteronomy 4:49; 2 Kings 14:25). Today, the valley of the Jordan downstream to the Dead Sea is called the Ghor, the 'depression', and the Arabah more properly begins south of the Scorpion cliffs and terminates in the Gulf of Aqabah.
For its physical features see *JORDAN.
3. The plural of the same word, `Araboth, without the article, is used in its primary meaning to describe certain waste areas within the Arabah, especially around Jericho (Joshua 5:10, RSV 'plains'; 2 Kings 25:5; Jeremiah 39:5, RSV 'plains'), and the wilderness of Moab.
The Araboth Moab ('plains of Moab', RSV) iS plainly distinguished from the pastoral and cultivated lands of the plateaux above the Rift Valley, the Sede-Moab (see Numbers 22:1; 26:3,63; 31:12; 33:48-50; Deuteronomy 34:1,8; Joshua 4:13; 5:10, etc.).
4. Beth-arabah (the house of Arabah) refers to a settlement situated near Ain el-Gharba (Joshua 15:6,61; 18:22).
J. M. Houston
D. Baly, Geography of the Bible, 2nd edition, 1974, pp.191-209.
("Baker Encyclopedia of Bible Places: Towns & Cities, Countries & States, Archaeology & Topography", Consulting Editor John J. Bimson, © Inter-Varsity Press, 1995, Published in the USA by Baker Books. ISBN 0-85110-657-9.)
Answering Islam Home Page