PLAIN. 1. Hebrew ’āvēl, “meadow” (Judg.11.33kjv; rendered by niv as a place name: see ABEL KERAMIN).

2. Hebrew ’ēlôn, “terebinth” (Gen.13.18kjv; asv “oaks,” niv “great trees”).

3. Hebrew biq‘âh, “broad valley, plain” (Gen.11.2; Ezek.3.22).

4. Hebrew kikkār, “a round thing”; the Plain of Jordan (Gen.13.10-Gen.13.12; rsv “valley”); the Valley of Jericho (Deut.34.3); the plain around Jerusalem (Neh.12.28kjv; rsv “circuit,” niv “region”).

6. Hebrew ‘ărāvāh,“desert-plain, steppe”; of Moab (Num.22.1); of Jordan near Jericho (Num.31.12); the Arabah, the deep valley from the upper Jordan to the Persian Gulf (Deut.1.1). By another reading of the text, ASV, NIV, and RSV have “fords” twice (2Sam.15.28; 2Sam.17.16) where JB and KJV have “plain.”

7. Hebrew shephēlâh, “lowland”; usually the strip west of the mountains of Judea (1Chr.27.28kjv; niv “western foothills”).

8. Greek topos pedinos, “a level, flat place” (Luke.6.17), which may have been on a mountain (Matt.5.1) or elsewhere.

10. As verb, Hebrew bā‘ar (Hab.2.2); Hebrew shavâh (Isa.28.25kjv; niv “leveled”); Hebrew sālal (Prov.15.19, kjv; niv “highway,” rsv “level highway”).

PLAIN. Numerous Heb. words are so tr., but in their original context they refer to a specific area of plain; i.e. they possessed a topographic meaning to the users. Most modern trs. pick these out and render them as topographic references so that they have become regional names to the geographer. Thus we have, e.g., עֲרָבָה, H6858, and שְׁפֵלָה, H9169, tr. by KJV simply as “plain,” but in fact identifying specific areas.

The mountains of southern Pal. are surrounded by plains on the E, W and N—on the E by the valley of the Jordan and the Arabah leading down to the Gulf of Aqaba; on the W by the Shephelah and the coastal plain; and on the N by the Plain of Esdraelon. Although there was no special designation of the last of these, the first and second can be identified in the Heb. text.


(“sterile” or “desert”), used either alone, as in Deuteronomy 1:1; 2:8, etc. or in compound terms, e.g., the Arabah (plains) of Moab (Num 22:1), or Arabah (plains) of Jericho (Josh 5:10), refers to the great Rift Valley, from the point where its floor becomes dry and barren S of Lake Galilee to its exit into the Gulf of Aqaba. In this case, the feature described does not have the characteristics of a plain in the usual sense, but rather is a broad, flat valley floor.


(“sunken”), is tr. by KJV in 1 Chronicles 27:28 as “low plains.” As it happens, the Shephelah forms a feature for which it is very difficult to provide a descriptive term, and RSV and others, prob. wisely, prefer to use the Heb. word as a proper name. The Shephelah (see Palestine) consists of low hills intermediate between the mountains of Judea and the true coastal plain; however, as G. Adam Smith pointed out (1966), one must always bear in mind that the essentially Israelite viewpoint was one in the mountains looking downward, and from this angle the Shephelah appears as a fairly level and low-lying surface, if only by force of contrast. (For other references to the Shephelah, see Jer 17:26; Obad 19; Zech 7:7.)

Other Hebrew terms

The Syrian view, expressed in 1 Kings 20:23, that Israel’s God was a God of the hills and not of the plains may well serve as a commentary on the fact that, throughout the nation’s history, her people seldom, and only after great efforts, secured a firm grip on the lowland areas of Pal., although these formed part of the land of promise: Israel remained a hill people, the plains around their home more often than not occupied by their enemies.


G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (ed. of 1966), 52-62.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) kikkar, "circle" "talent," or "round loaf";

(2) mishor, from yashar, "to be level"; compare Arabic maisur, "that which is easy";

(3) biqah; compare Arabic baq`at, "a plot of ground" or "a wet meadow";

(4) `arabhah;

(5) shephelah;

(6) topos pedinos (Lu 6:17);

(7) ’elon; compare elah, and ’allon "oak" (Ge 35:4,8, etc.); also ’elah, "Elah" (1Sa 17:2);

(8) ’abhel):

See Natural Features.

See Ciccar; Circle.

(2) Mishor, English Versions of the Bible "plain," the Revised Version margin usually "table-land," clearly refers in most places to the highlands of Gilead and Moab, East of the Jordan and the Dead Sea; e.g. Jos 13:9, "the plain (the Revised Version margin "table-land") of Medeba."

(3) Biq`ah is more often translated "valley" (which see).

See Arabah.

(5) Shephelah is by the Revised Version (British and American) throughout translated "lowland" (which see), and includes the western slopes of the Judean hills and the maritime plain.

(6) Topos pedinos occurs only in Lu 6:17.

(8) [’Abhel keramim] (Jud 11:33) is in the King James Version "the plain of the vineyards," the Revised Version (British and American) "Abel-cheramim," the Revised Version margin "the meadow of vineyards." Elsewhere in English Versions of the Bible ’abhel is "Abel" or "Abel."

See Abel-cheramim; Meadow.

plan, plan’-li: In Ge 25:27, the King James Version "plain" represents tam. If a contrast between the vocations of Jacob and Esau is meant, the Revised Version (British and American) ("quiet," margin "harmless") may be right. But elsewhere (Job 1:1; Ps 37:37, etc.) the word means "perfect," and so probably here; the failings of the great patriarch did not detract from the general estimate of him (Mt 8:11). In Ezr 4:18 "translated" (Revised Version margin) is better than "plainly read."