The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers

Genesis 15:18 - In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.

Map of The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers (in Ancient Times)

The Tigris. The Tigris River was known by the Hebrews as "Hiddekel" and is one of the two large rivers of Mesopotamia, which the Bible says, flowed from the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:14). It is formed by the confluence of two rivers that flow from the mountains of Armenia. In ancient times the courses of the Tigris and Euphrates were separate. Their confluence before they flow into the Persian Gulf is very recent. The Tigris has a greater volume of water than the Euphrates and flows faster, making upstream navigating impossible. The powerful and prosperous cities of Nineveh, Calah and Ashur flourished along its shores.

The Euphrates. The Euphrates River is one of the largest rivers of western Asia, about 1700 miles long. In the Bible it is referred to by several names such as the "great river" or just "the river" and is among the four rivers, which flowed from the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:14). It formed the northeastern limit of the Promised Land (Gen 15:18). The river, which receives its waters from the mountains of Armenia, flows through a deep and narrow gorge, but as it descends toward Babylon, the Euphrates and the Tigris take different routes, which form the great broad plain of Mesopotamia. The Euphrates has a very strong current and therefore is navigable only in its lower parts. Along its shores flourished some of the important cities of Mesopotamia. The greatest was Babylon.

Between the Rivers. The word Mesopotamia means the land "between the rivers" which were the Tigris and Euphrates. Although the courses have changed dramatically since ancient times we know the area was nearly 700 - 1000 miles long and nearly 300 miles across. The rivers were so large that the land was considered an "island" that was between them. But the heart of ancient Mesopotamia was in the northwest where the Euphrates made a huge bend at the northern portion of the Tigris as shown in the map above. The Bible records Mesopotamia as the city of Nahor, Abraham's brother (Genesis 24:10).

Genesis 11:31 - "They went from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan..."