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WATERCOURSE. The many words used in the Biblical text and thus tr. may be grouped simply into three classes. (1) Words denoting a fountain or spring, e.g. מוֹצָא, H4604, lit. a going forth. In arid climates, flowing water may be rapidly lost through evaporation or seepage, so that the source is of great importance.

(2) Words indicating the natural flow of a river, esp. יָבָל, H3298. In Biblical contexts these are often used to symbolize either joy, as represented by the contrast between desert aridity and fertility beside the river, or the flood of divine judgment. The latter picture recalls the flash floods which follow storm showers in arid climates and fill the watercourses, or wadis, to destructive depths; hence, the parable of the man who built his house on the sands (i.e., within the wadi) and lost all in the flash flood.

(3) Words denoting an artificial channel, e.g. תְּעָלָה, H9498, often tr. conduit (cf. 2 Kings 18:17), and representing watercourses constructed by man either for water supply to towns, or for irrigating fields. See M. and J. L. Miller, Encyclopedia of Bible Life (1944), Section 21, “Water Supply.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)


(1) ’aphiq (Eze 6:3; 31:12; 32:6; 34:13; 35:8; 36:4,6), the King James Version "river," elsewhere "stream," "channel," or "brook."

(2) pelegh (Pr 21:1). "The king’s heart is in the hand of Yahweh as the watercourses," the King James Version "rivers," elsewhere "streams" or "rivers."

(3) yabhal, yibheley mayim, "watercourses" (English Versions of the Bible) (Isa 44:4); in Isa 30:25, English Versions of the Bible has "streams of water"; compare yubhal, "rivers" (Jer 17:8); yubhal, "Jubal" (Ge 4:21); ’ubhal, "the river Ulai" (Da 8:2,3,6).

(4) te`alah, "channel," the King James Version "watercourse" (Job 38:25); elsewhere "conduit," "the conduit of the upper pool" (2Ki 18:17; Isa 7:3; 36:2).

(5) tsinnor, "watercourse," the King James Version "gutter" (2Sa 5:8).

See Brook; River; STREAM; WATERFALL.

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