(blue, dark), the great river of Egypt. The word Nile nowhere occurs in the Authorized Version but it is spoken of under the names of Sihor and the "river of Egypt." (Genesis 15:18) We cannot as yet determine the length of the Nile, although recent discoveries have narrowed the question. There is scarcely a doubt that its largest confluent is fed by the great lakes on and south of the equator. It has been traced upward for about 2700 miles, measured by its course, not in a direct line, and its extent is probably over 1000 miles more. (The course of the river has been traced for 3300 miles. For the first 1800 miles (McClintock and Strong say 2300) from its mouth it receives no tributary; but at Kartoom, the capital of Nubia, is the junction of the two great branches, the White Nile and the Blue Nile, so called from the color of the clay which tinges their waters. The Blue Nile rises in the mountains of Abyssinia and is the chief source of the deposit which the Nile brings to Egypt. The White Nile is the larger branch. Late travellers have found its source in Lake Victoria Nyanza, three degrees south of the equator. From this lake to the mouth of the Nile the distance is 2300 miles in a straight line--one eleventh the circumference of the globe. From the First Cataract, at Syene, the river flows smoothly at the rate of two or three miles an hour with a width of half a mile to Cairo, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. A little north of Cairo it divides into two branches, one flowing to Rosetta and the other to Damietta, from which place the mouths are named. See Bartlett's "Egypt and Palestine," 1879. The great peculiarity of the river is its annual overflow, caused by the periodical tropical rains. "With wonderful clock-like regularity the river begins to swell about the end of June, rises 24 feet at Cairo between the 20th and 30th of September and falls as much by the middle of May. Six feet higher than this is devastation; six feet lower is destitution."--Bartlett. So that the Nile increases one hundred days and decreases one hundred days, and the culmination scarcely varies three days from September 25 the autumnal equinox. Thus "Egypt is the gift of the Nile." As to the cause of the years of plenty and of famine in the time of Joseph, Mr. Osburn, in his "Monumental History of Egypt," thinks that the cause of the seven years of plenty was the bursting of the barriers (and gradually wearing them away) of "the great lake of Ethiopia," which once existed on the upper Nile, thus bringing more water and more sediment to lower Egypt for those years. And he shows how this same destruction of this immense sea would cause the absorption of the waters of the Nile over its dry bed for several years after thus causing the famine. There is another instance of a seven-years famine-A.D. 1064-1071: ED.) The great difference between the Nile of Egypt in the present day and in ancient times is caused by the failure of some of its branches and the ceasing of some of its chief vegetable products; and the chief change in the aspect of the cultivable land, as dependent on the Nile, is the result of the ruin of the fish-pools and their conduits and the consequent decline of the fisheries. The river was famous for its seven branches, and under the Roman dominion eleven were counted, of which, however, there were but seven principal ones. The monuments and the narratives of ancient writers show us in the Nile of Egypt in old times a stream bordered By flags and reeds, the covert of abundant wild fowl, and bearing on its waters the fragrant flowers of the various-colored lotus. Now in Egypt scarcely any reeds or waterplants--the famous papyrus being nearly, if not quite extinct, and the lotus almost unknown--are to he seen, excepting in the marshes near the Mediterranean. of old the great river must have shown a more fair and busy scene than now. Boats of many kinds were ever passing along it, by the painted walls of temples and the gardens that extended around the light summer pavilions, from the pleasure,valley, with one great square sail in pattern and many oars, to the little papyrus skiff dancing on the water and carrying the seekers of pleasure where they could shoot with arrows or knock down with the throw-stick the wild fowl that abounded among the reeds, or engage in the dangerous chase of the hippopotamus or the crocodile. The Nile is constantly before us in the history of Israel in Egypt.
Main reference: Smith's Bible Dictionary (1860s)
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