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71 A.D.:  The Mythical (oops, apparently not!) Sabbatic River

  Josephus, a first century Jewish historian (among other things) was asked by the Romans in his old age to write for them a history of the Jews.  Though the Romans had decimated that nation because they grew to hate it's constant rebellions so intensely, yet so very many curious stories about the nation and its people were brought back to Italy by returning Roman soldiers that the Romans became very interested about Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Jerusalem, and the Jews.  Also, Christians from that area of the world were becoming common in Rome and other parts of Italy, and they also had their stories to tell of the nation that God had chosen as His own.  Christians were sometimes seen as being a sect of the Jews at that time, and I suppose they were, in a sense. 

  So, Josephus wrote a history for them.  You can find a translation of it in just about any modern book store.  He started at Adam and Eve and wrote all that he had been taught of Jewish history right down to the time of his writing (approx. 85 A.D.) and it can be very surprising reading in certain places.  He also wrote a book called The Wars of the Jews which further described the more recent history of the Jews and their wars with Rome.

At one point, in The Wars of the Jews, Josephus writes about a certain river in the region north of Israel which is certainly a hydrological curiosity.  But, surprisingly, it was pretty well known of in its area and in that time.  Even some famous figures from history were able to see it, like Titus, son of Vespasian, who generaled the Roman war against the Jews, and with God's permission (for the Jews had grown very wicked, according to the words of the prophets and Jesus) Titus defeated the people of God and their nation with extensive and severe finality.  It took about 1850 years for these Jewish people's descendents to be allowed back to their land by God.

  Both Titus and his father had their turn being the Emperor of Rome during their lives.  Some ancient writings even say that they happened to die, by sheer coincidence (is there such a thing?) at the same farm house as they were traveling - years apart, of course.  I'd certainly be curious where that farmhouse is exactly. 

  But concerning the Sabbatic River, Josephus wrote this, about the occasion when Titus, the General but not yet the Emperor of Rome, saw it for himself:

From Book 7, Chapter 5 of Josephus's "Wars of the Jews" 

"NOW Titus Caesar tarried some time at Berytus, as we told you before. He thence removed, and exhibited magnificent shows in all those cities of Syria through which he went, and made use of the captive Jews as public instances of the destruction of that nation. He then saw a river as he went along, of such a nature as deserves to be recorded in history; it runs in the middle between Arcea {this town in the present day is Arqa/Arca, in Northern Lebanon - Deeds of God author}, belonging to Agrippa's kingdom, and Raphanea {a town whose name was later replaced by the name Barinum, which was the name of a castle later built in its vicinity.  Deeds of God author} It hath somewhat very peculiar in it; for when it runs, its current is strong, and has plenty of water; after which its springs fail for six days together, and leave its channel dry, as any one may see; after which days it runs on the seventh day as it did before, and as though it had undergone no change at all; it hath also been observed to keep this order perpetually and exactly; whence it is that they call it the Sabbatic River that name being taken from the sacred seventh day among the Jews."

  So, according to Josephus about 1950 years ago, the Sabbatic River was a dry riverbed for 6 days, then ran well on the 7th day. 

  Pliny, another famous ancient historian, knew of the river, but said that it ran for 6 days and rested on the seventh.  This would be more in keeping with what an outsider might expect of a mysterious Jewish river, since the Jews famously rested every seventh day, on the Sabbath.  But he likely just got the story confused, or presumed to 'unconfuse' it.

  A fairly modern explorer named Rev. W. Thomson, in the 1840's,  also wrote of finding an intermittant spring in that area, which he felt was in exactly the right place to be this Sabbatic River spoken of by Josephus and others who lived anciently.  He located it a bit south of Raphanea, near a monestary called Mar Jarjir.  In the 1840's when he spoke of it, he said it ran for part of every third day...that it no longer followed the Sabbath pattern.

  A writer named Sir C.W. Wilson said that the river existed in northern Lebanon (in the 1800's) but that the local Muslims (he called them Muhammadens) called it Fauwar ed-Deir.  Others called the river Nahr-al-Arus.  He said the Muhammadens believed it ran for 6 days then rested on Friday, the Muslim Sabbath.

  But all of the actual western eye-witnesses whose writings I managed to find say that the river now runs for a while every third day.  Locals say that this can change with the weather and whether there is a drought going on or not.

  This river, also called the Sambatyon, is not mentioned in scripture, and even Josephus never said that it kept the Sabbath, only that every seventh day it ran.  He doesn't say which day it ran on, so far as I discovered, anyway.  But, it certainly might have been a wonder in it's day, if indeed it did run every seventh day.  Do you suppose?  Maybe with the weather conditions that predominated at that ancient time, it really did run reliably on every seventh day. 

©2017 Daniel Curry & 'Deeds of God' Website