Among the rivers of west Asia, the Euphrates was the largest. It was often referred to as ‘the great river’ or simply ‘the River’ (Gen 15:18; Deut 1:7; Ezra 8:36; Neh 2:9; 3:7; Isa 7:20). The territory of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers was known as Mesopotamia, and formed part of the ancient land of Babylon. This was the region where the garden of Eden was located (Gen 2:10-14). The ancient city of Ur was on the Euphrates (Gen 11:28; see UR). The Euphrates formed the eastern boundary of the territory that God promised to Abraham and his descendants (Gen 15:18; Deut 11:24).

Only at isolated times, however, did Israel extend its power that far (2 Sam 8:3). During the time of the Assyrian Empire, the Euphrates formed a line of defence for Assyria against attacks from the west, and its name became synonymous with Assyria (Isa 7:20; 8:7; Jer 2:18). When Babylon conquered Assyria in 612 BC, Egypt tried to prevent further Babylonian expansion by moving its army north through Judah to Carchemish on the western bank of the Euphrates (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Chron 35:20). But Babylon conquered Egypt at Carchemish and spread its rule west as far as the Mediterranean Sea and Egypt (2 Kings 24:7; Jer 46:2,6,10). The city of Babylon, capital of the Babylonian Empire, was situated on the river Euphrates (Dan 4:29-30; see BABYLON). In the Persian Empire, which came after the Babylonian, the Euphrates formed the boundary between the Empire’s eastern and western parts (Ezra 4:10; 5:3; Neh 2:9).

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