el Barada modern [cold] Barady, Chrysorrhoas Greek [gold stream] (1), Abana biblical Amana 2 Kings 5:12; Song 4:8 el-Barada, Abana, “river of Damascus” 2 Kings 5:12
Abanah 2 Kings 5:12 NASB Abbannah LXX, Vulgate Amana Qere Peshitta Targum
“Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? ” 2 Kings 5:12. There was then something about the waters of Israel that were “cleaner” than the fresh, gushing, free-running waters of Abana and Pharpar.
There is some dispute over which river is the Abana. It is generally considered to be the Barada, the only other significant body of water is the Awaj. Some consider the opposite, with the Pharpar becoming a corruption of Varatha hence Barada.
The Barada river arises from a body of water called the Barada lake, 8km from Zabadani. A few miles southeast of Suk Wady Barada (the ancient Abila) the volume of the stream is more than doubled by a torrent of clear, cold water from the beautifully situated spring `Ain Fijeh (Greek pege, “fountain”), after which it flows through a picturesque gorge till it reaches Damascus, where it passes through the capital in narrow concrete canals, and then out into the ghouta, the well watered oasis famous for its fruit trees and other fertile agricultural produce, particularly making ancient Damascus famous for its fruit products. One of the branches of the river called Banias may today carry traces of its biblical name Abana. The waters then sink into the final marshes of (Lake) Bahret-el-Kibliyeh [lake of the meadows] around 29km east of the capital, with no waters ending in the sands and shale of the eastern wilderness. It’s full course will see a length of around 80km. “The water of the Barada, though not perfectly wholesome in the city itself, is for the most part clear and cool; its course is picturesque, and its value to Damascus, as the source alike of fertility and of charm, is inestimable.”
The river closely follows the northern wall of the ancient city of Damascus, and clearly formed part of the natural defenses against siege.
Abana, or Amana may be named after Mt Amana or a ridge of the Anitlebanese range from where the water springs. A-ma-na-a-a was the Assyrian name for a district in the southern antilebanese (2) standing against Shalmaneser III. Amana is mentioned with Senir and Hermon in Song 4:8: “Come with me from Lebanon, my spouse, with me from Lebanon: look from the top of Amana, from the top of Shenir and Hermon, from the lions’ dens, from the mountains of the leopards.” Amana was a place for looking, [Heb tshuri, to go about for inspection: translated as I see, but I shall behold him Num 24:17] and the prospects of the river’s end in the marshes of Damascus could be seen, as well as the general panorama from the ridges. The word Amana comes from a root aman meaning to support or foster as a parent or nurse, and is translated as believe 24 times, including Gen 15:6 when Abraham believed in Yahweh, and it was counted to him for righteousness, and is the equivalent to the english Amen. The summit of Amana then was a place where a man could see the horizon, and hence the future and be convinced he could be part of it. [Others interpret Mt Amana as or Mount Beilan(4) or Mount Amanas, Jebel Archus of which we wrote a previous blog, but this makes no sense in relation to the testimony of Song 4:8] Abana appears to come from a root word eben meaning stone used to build houses, a physical concept similar to building houses with sons, (heb ben).
Considered a significant river by Naaman in juxtaposition to the Jordan river, 2 Kings 5:12. His servant convince him the value of submission to the commands of Elisha and his God with the view to cleansing and removal of his leprosy.
The Abana was considered by Naaman as a suitable (better 2 Kings 5:12 heb tob meaning good pleasant, agreeable, with a moral implication; eg Gen 24:50) river for the cleaning of person(s) clothe(s), whereas the Jordan with all its filth would not be. There is probably an element of national pride contained within the mind of the captain of Syria and implied in the value of Syrian hydrology. But to be cleaned by water has a fuller meaning. Whereas cleaning under the mosaic system was purging by fire or by water, Num 31:23 [practical examples: Leprous Lev 14:8; Participant with red heifer Num 19:12] moral cleaning requires regeneration of thinking and aspiration. So Christ would clean the ecclesia by; ” with the washing of water by the word” Eph 5:26 or in the words of John: “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” John 17:17 “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” John 15:3 The words of deity then become an energy capable of moral cleaning, and so can purify hearts, a force greater than cleaning physical materials. This process is styled faith Acts 15:9 or obedience to the truth 1 Peter 1:22.
So what was the moral force then demonstrated in the Jordan that could not be seen in Syria? The valuable nature of atonement that was outlined within the interaction with Elisha:
- Purification was not through constitution or national connection. There were many lepers in Israel, (but they were not cleansed) Luke 4:17.
- Everything was going for him, he was mighty, powerful, honourable but he was not saved without the God of Elisha 2 Kings 5:1.
- Needed a change of mindset. He went away in a rage, but a handmaiden changed his sentiments 2 Kings 5:11,12
- Atonement did not need gifts, 2Kings 5:15,6 (but the change of sentiment led to willingness of spirit) a contrast to Gehazi seeking gifts.
- The king of Israel was not involved in the process, and was apparently ignorant of the power of the process 2 Kings 5:6,7
- Real atonement was offered only at the door of the house 2 Kings 5:9 it needed the travel of the great king from the courts of Damascus to stand at the threshold of Elisha.
- There was a need to accept the message from God, and his terms before acting 2 Kings 5:10 So men need to believe and be baptised to be saved Mark 16:16.
- Only Yahweh was able to restore, according to the revelation by the man of God 2 Kings 5:14.
- It was a result of servants drawing near 2 Kings 5:13 a contrast to Gehazi who turned away from his master 5:21,26.
- Pliny: Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 18.
- Kurkh monolith II, 95: RIMA III, text. 1.102.2 pg 23 line 95
- Edward Lipinski, The Arameans their ancient history, culture and religion pg 343,350
- George Robinson: Travels in Palestine and Syria vol 2 pg 323
- John Murray (Firm), Josias Leslie Porter: A handbook for travellers in Syria and Palestine intro xix
- William Smith: Bible dictionary pg 79