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The Kiver Arnon 



Director of the American School in Palestine^ 2904-2905 

DURING the year 1905 I twice visited Wadi el 
Mo jib C^^^yJ^ ,^4>ip. On the 22d and 23d of Feb- 
ruary I had an opportunity of exploring the mouth of the 
river and its lower course for about one third of a mile, 
as far as to the second waterfall. On the 14th of July I 
reached the river at the Muhatet el Hajj (^i^f v:;oL^uo), 

coming up from the Lisan (^jL^JUl) and Wadi Suweil 
(Jo^-ww <5t>U) ^y way of Wadi Jerrah (ji^ iS^^y^ ^^^ Jebel 

Sihan (^jLsCut^ Ju^). 

The streams that unite to form the Mojib have been well 
described by Briinnow,^ who also gives extracts from the 
literature on the subject. My only serious doubts concern 
the names of the two main tributaries immediately above the 
junction. Briinnow calls them Sfoyy and Enheli. These are 
evidently the Szefye and Enkheyle of Burckhardt.^ Tris- 
tram,3 Hamilton,* and Bliss ^ seem to have been told that 
these rivers just above the junction were called Wadi el 
Sa'ideh (» JuuuJI ^^^t^) and Wadi Muharras (^y^Sjo ^*>U) ; 

and this is in harmony with the information I obtained.. It 
is not quite clear whether Briinnow bases his statement upon 
that of Burckhardt, or received independent confirmation. 

lA. E. Brtinnow and A. v. Domaszewski, Die Frovincia Arabia^ 1904, 
pp. 6 ff. 

2 Travels hi Syria and the Holy Land, 1822, p. 373. 

8 The Land of Moah, 1874, p. 131. 

* Oriental Zigzag, 1875, p. 77. 

5 Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement, 1895, p. 216. 


Fig. 2. — Southern Wall below the Bend of the Arnon 

YiG. 3.— First Bend of the Arnon to the South 

Fig. 4. — Mouth of the Arnon from the East 

EiG. 5. — The First Waterfall from the West 





' ' ' -i"^ c^^P^^i^' 




?ir^- ^^ 


Fig. 8. — Milkstone on the Southern Side of the Crossing 

■ ■■■ik-^p:^:'^: - 

Fig. 9. — Milestones on the Northern Side of the Crossing 











According to one of his own notes,^ Enheli is the name of 
a part of the main stream above the part named Wadi el 

The interests of Briinnow and Domaszewski centered 
upon the Roman road that led over the highlands. Their 
otherwise so invaluable maps, therefore, throw no new light 
upon the regions adjoining the Arabah and the Dead Sea. 
A systematic examination of the Mojib has never been 
undertaken. But each explorer has added something to our 
knowledge, whether he has approached the river from the 
sea or from the mountains. 

U. J. Seetzen^ arrived at the mouth of the Mojib Jan- 
uary 27, 1807, in time to see the sun set and to be impressed 
with the beauty of the delta. He had descended from the 
table-land to the shore of the sea a short distance south of 
the river. He learned that the peninsula was called El 
Hoshgera*, and that there was a ruin on the cliff on one side 
of the entrance to the chasm which was called El Riadschy.^ 
On the same evening he waded across the river in the delta 
near the gorge, and found that it was about sixty feet across, 
the stream being forty feet wide and nowhere deeper than 
to his knee. He found a grotto at the foot of the northera 
wall, and left by a path that led to the high plateau the 
following morning. 

Lieutenant W. F. Lynch ^ and his party landed on the shore 
of the delta in front of Wadi el Mojib May 3, 1848, at 5.25 
P.M., having sailed from the Lis&n in three and one half 
hours without stopping to examine any part of the coast. 
Just before sunset they went up the gorge. Lynch states 

* Die Provinda Arabia^ p. 6. 

7 Beisen, 1854, ii. p. 364. 

8 Burckhardt learned on July 14, 1812, in crossing the WMeli that D^r el 
Ri^seh (JUwL) J| J J) is near the entrance of the Sail Heid^n in the Mdjib, 
two hours E. of the Dead Sea (TraueZs in Syria, 1822, p. 371). Otto Kersten, 
on the 24th of April, 1874, looked down into the Wadi el Riyasi, a short dis- 
tance above its entrance into the MOjib (Zeitschrift des Deutschen Paldstina 
Vereins, 1879, p. 226). 

^ Narrative of the United States Expedition to the Biver Jordan and the 
Dead Sea, 1849, pp. 367 ff. 


that the chasm was ninety-seven feet wide and the stream 
eighty-two feet wide, and that the depth was four feet at 
the entrance to the chasm and ten feet at the beginning of 
the delta. In spite of its appearance of accuracy, the width 
seems to have been only estimated. There probably was 
fifteen feet of a beach on the southern side, and the stream, 
which was not crossed in boat or waded, appears to have 
been supposed to be a little more than five times as wide. 
The distance to the first bend was estimated at one hundred 
and fifty yards. Lynch declares that the chasm " turns with 
a slow and graceful curve to the southeast," and that they 
"walked and waded up some distance, and found the pas- 
sage of the same uniform width, turning every one hundred 
and fifty or two hundred yards gradually to the south- 
east." lo 

On the ground of this statement. Rev. Putnam Cady has 
ventured to affirm that Lieutenant Lynch "never went up 
the river one hundred and fifty yards." " As I have shown," 
he remarks, " at that point it makes a sharp turn to the south 
and immediately narrows to fourteen feet. Within fifteen 
yards beyond this turn it narrows to four feet, and grad- 
ually turns again to the east. Twenty yards more and 
progress is stopped." ^^ 

Our photograph of the bend will show that it is, indeed, 
very sharp and not slow, though quite graceful. The 
"turning every one hundred and fifty or two hundred 
yards" seems to me a loose and unwarranted generaliza- 
tion. But Lynch evidently did not mean that the pas- 
sage after the turn was uniform in width with the chasm 
below. He seems to have used his boat, as we did, until 
he was beyond the deep water, and walked and waded 
farther up, gaining the impression that the chasm did not 
vary materially in width and that it turned to the south- 
east some distance away. I can see no reason to doubt 
that Lieutenant Lynch went beyond the first sharp turn. 

10 Narrative, p. 368. 

11 ** Exploration of the W^dy Mdjib from the Dead Sea," in Palestine 
Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement, 1901, p. 47. 


He did not go so far as to see the first waterfall. Arriving 
as late in the day as he did, he evidently could not have 
examined the chasm very carefully. He left early the fol- 
lowing morning. 

On March 30, 1864, the Due de Luynes^ arrived early in 
the morning at the mouth of the Mojib, having passed Point 
Costigan during the night. He crossed the river below the 
entrance to the chasm and apparently spent the whole day 
i^esting in the grotto on the northern side and examining 
the luxuriant vegetation of the delta. Lartet went up the 
chasm some distance, but has left no description. He found 
the antlers of a chamois (beden^ (jJ^)' which he supposed had 
been shed by this animal. The Due de Luynes estimated the 
height of the rocks on both sides of the entrance at thirty to 
fifty meters. This accords with our own estimate. On the 
5th of April at 5 p.m. he arrived again at the Mojib, coming 
from the north, but left at 5 the following morning, without 
having explored the chasm. 

At noon, April 23, 1874, H. Rothe ^^ came to the mouth of 
the MSjib. He evidently waded across the river, as he 
climbed the rocks on the other side the next morning. 
Whether he counted his steps is uncertain. He declares 
that " the Arnon fills a slit in the rock forty steps wide, and 
is at the mouth about twice as wide, before it divides itself 
into several arms, of which the largest is ten to fifteen steps 
wide and one and one-half feet deep." The exact statement 
of the depth of the water in the largest arm may indicate 
that the crossing took place at that point. The width at the 
entrance of the gorge may then have been estimated. It is 
the lowest of all estimates. Apparently, the entire river-bed 
between the cliffs was filled with water, as on our visit, and 
the river, for some distance below the chasm, was considera- 
bly wider, as on the occasion when the accompanying photo- 
graph was taken. 

^2 Voyage d^ exploration a la Mer Morte, a Petra^ et sur la rive gauche du 
Jourdain, 1874, pp. 114 ff., 123. 

13 Otto Kersten, " Umwanderung des Todten Meeres," in Zeitschrift des 
Deutschen Paldstina Vereins^ 1879, p. 222. 


On February 28, 1897, Sir Gray Hilli* landed at the 
mouth of the river at noon, having left the Jordan in a boat 
the preceding day. He was in search of an inscription and 
was led to a grotto some distance to the south without find- 
ing it. Returning, he crossed the river in the delta, the 
water reaching up to the armpits. The entrance to the 
gorge seemed to him "as narrow as the s'ik at Petra." He 
evidently did not go close to it. Yet he thought he could 
hear the sound of the waterfall. 

Rev. Putnam Cady^^ arrived at the Mojib in a boat on 
February 10, 1898, at noon. He accepted Lieutenant 
Lynch's estimate of the width of the chasm (about one 
hundred feet) and of the distance to the first bend (four 
hundred and fifty feet). The stream appeared to him to 
be forty feet wide and one foot deep. As it went close 
to the northern wall, sixty feet of dry ground extended 
on the southern side. It would be interesting to know 
whether this land was actually measured from the moun- 
tain wall to the stream. Just above the mouth of the 
chasm there was a "swift rapid, with the water tum- 
bling over the rocks." This shows that the water must 
have been very low at the time. Another indication of this 
is the appearance of a pool around the bend. The width of 
the passage was found to be fourteen feet. About fifteen 
yards beyond the turn the walls seemed to come within 
four feet of each other, and about twenty yards farther up 
all progress was stopped. The waterfall of which Mr. Cady 
just caught a glimpse cannot have been the one shown in 
the photograph accompanying this article, as that is much 
higher up. Possibly water tumbling over rocks farther 
down may have seemed more impressive when the stream 
was less swollen. The reconnoissance seems to have occu- 
pied the entire afternoon. 

In the course of our circumnavigation of the Dead Sea, of 
which a preliminary account has been given in my Director's 

14 it Tjjg Dea(j Sea,'' in Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement, 
1900, pp. 273 ff. 

1^ Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Statement, 1901, pp. 44 ff. 


Report,^^ I and my three students, A. T. Olmstead, B. B. 
Charles, and J. E. Wrench, arrived at the mouth of the 
Mo jib on the 22d of February at 4.20 p.m. We found 
the river bed filled with water from cliiBf to cliff. Hence 
the rocks mentioned by Mr. Cady were not seen. As the 
middle of the stream was about two boat lengths from the 
southern wall, and our boat was sixteen feet long, we judged 
that the width of the chasm at the entrance was not less 
than sixty nor more than seventy-five feet. We rowed up 
the river, but attempted in vain to get our boat so far as to 
the sharp turn, and returned to our camp in the delta. The 
next morning at 6 we began to examine the delta, and at 7.25 
started up the stream with two cameras. After about two 
hundred feet we landed on a sandy beach on the southern side 
of the river. On the opposite side there was a similar cove 
with a beach in front. We rowed across and having climbed 
up the little ravine secured the accompanying photograph of 
the southern cove and beach. One hundred and fifty feet 
farther east we landed on the rocks. Mr. Charles and Mr. 
Wrench climbed along the cliffs and saw the narrow and 
deep gorge beyond the bend. After their return to the boat, 
we rowed one hundred and fifty feet farther and then 
fastened the boat to the rocks. Mr. Olmstead, Mr. Charles, 
and I climbed up to the high plateau, whence the accom- 
panying photograph of the mouth of the river from the east 
was taken. The prow of the boat is visible. Another pho- 
tograph of the river between the first bend to the south and 
the next turn to the east did not come out so well. We saw 
no signs of ruins on the mountains south of the entrance to 
the chasm. 

Returning to the boat, we worked our way up along the 
cliffs by rowing on one side and holding on to the wall on 
the other side. After strenuous efforts we succeeded in 
getting around the curve to the south, but did not reach 
shallow water until we had gone about five hundred feet 
from the last stopping place. We pulled the boat up twenty- 

16 Fifth Annual Beport of the Director of the American School for Orien- 
tal Study and Besearch in Palestine, 1905. 


five feet farther, and then, having fastened it to a rock, 
waded for four hundred feet through water, varying from a 
few inches to three feet. Here we came upon the small 
waterfall represented in the photograph. It was six feet 
high in one part, three feet in another. The roar of the 
falling water had given an impression of something far 
greater. The water was very swift, and it was with great 
difficulty we 'could pass through the fall on the southern 
side. By wading and jumping from rock to rock we reached 
a point three hundred feet up stream from the first fall. 
Here a somewhat larger fall made progress difficult. Anxiety 
about our boat and the supplies led us to return. We were 
under the impression that it would not be impossible to 
ascend the river. In all this distance we did not find any 
place where the passage narrowed down to anything like 
four feet, but in some places the cliffs at the top seemed to 
come very close together. We returned to the delta at 
1.05 P.M. 

On my trip from Kerak to Ghor el Mezra'ah (aLCsy^l ^•i) 
and Wadi Suweil, I was accompanied by Mr. Wrench, Mr, 
John Whiting, and two soldiers. Partly on the way back 
from Abu'l Felus to Wadi Beni Hammideh, and partly at 
Jebel Sihan, where we spent the night of the 13th of July, I 
gathered some information concerning the tributaries to the 
Mojib below the Muhatet el Hajj. There are three streams 
emptying into the Mojib from the south below Wadi Jedei- 
rah (5w5jL!:^ (5^^)' Briinnow^'' is not right in his suspicion 

that this Wadi Jedeirah is identical with Burckhardt's Sell 
Jerrah. Wadi Jerrah is, indeed, incorrectly located on the 
maps just south of the Mojib. In reality the only Wadi 
Jerrah known to the Arabs of the region is the river bed 
bearing that name which runs parallel with Wadi Beni 
Hammideh, a short distance to the north of it. While Wadi 
Beni Hammideh is a perennial stream sending a considerable 
amount of water constantly into the Dead Sea, Wadi Jerrah 
is dry at least in the summer, but has some springs in it. 

1^ Die Provincia Arabia^ p. 6. 


Wadi Jedeirah is no doubt the same as Seetzen's El Schder.^^ 
The tributary nearest to the sea entering tlie Mojib from 
the south is called Wadi Bediyeh (j^jJo (^oI.).^^ Above 

this flows the Wadi Defaleh (2JU4> (^i^'^)? and, between 
this and Wadi Jedeirah, a stream called Wadi Deraifeh 
(xijx4> (^c>U)- From the north there is a tributary near 
the sea called Wlidi Bertah (iu*-i (^^'0 I above it another 
named Wadi El Rammim (ajuoJI ^^U^^ and still higher 
up Wadi El Birfatas (jiJCi -^1 ;^4>l;). The greatest 

tributary is, of course. Sell Heidan ((jIcXa:5»» J^S**')- 

It seems to me probable that the real name of the wadi 
figuring on our maps as Wadi Jerrah is Wadi Sekeik 
(l^jjJui (^^'^), and that this is, in some way, connected 
with the 'Ain Sgek which Seetzen*^^ visited south of the 
Mojib. This is probably the wadi whose delta is the most 
striking feature of the coast betw^een the Mojib and the 
Lisan, bordered on the south by a long line of hills so even 
in height as to present the picture of the ramparts of a for- 
tress. It is possible that between Wadi Sekeik and Wadi 
Suweil, there is a Wadi Mirrah (six) /5OI5), also called Sell 
Sebaieh (xjulw Juuw)? but this is uncertain. 

The Mojib is undoubtedly identical with the Arnon of the 
Old Testament (pn«) and of the Mesa inscription (P^K). 
The name is probably derived from the root p*l and charac- 
terizes the river as a " roaring " stream. Jerome still knew 
this name in its Aramaized form i^3131i^, Arnonas. El Mojib 
seems to be a translation. It probably comes from the root 
^„^^ which means to " fall with a great noise." The differ- 
ence in vocalization seems to go back to a difference in 
actual pronunciation. Seetzen heard it pronounced Maujeb 
(v^Ms*.^), Burckhardt, Mojeb (v^:^«-«), others have heard 
it Mujab (,,^^yo) and Mujib (^^f^Jo), The unnatural 

18 Beisen^ ii. p. 347. 

19 Seetzen's Ain Bediyeh (Beisen, p. 347). 

20 Beisen, ii. pp. 349, 362. Sekeik is, of course, pronounced Sgeig. 


lengthening of the second vowel and the vacillation in the 
case of the first may be due to attempts to avoid such a pro- 
nunciation of the name as would suggest El Mujib (s.j>j>-.^|) 
= "the first cause," " God." It is perhaps permissible to infer 
that the new name goes back to a period when the philo- 
sophical term was not yet in use, so that there could be no 
suggestion of a blasphemy, and to a people familiar with the 
lower course of the river, where alone the water falls with 
a wild crash. In earliest times Arnon may have been the 
name of the river god.