Monday, August 8, 2016

A Tale Of Two Seas

And Four Rivers

And Seven Oceans

And Water, Lots of Water

Jordan River
Let's get to the bottom of it...

The Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are both fed by the Jordan River, separated  by only 63 miles, yet these two "seas" couldn't be more different (technically, they're lakes). Galilee, also called Kinneret, Chinnereth, Gennesaret, or Tiberias,  is full of life, including 35 species of fish - Sacred Places In the World [1]. The Dead Sea is just that, dead. In Hebrew, it is known as the Salt Sea. It is so salty (35%) that nothing plant or animal lives in it.

One analogy likens water to the Holy Spirit - Bill Hogan [2], Rabbi Dov Greenberg [3]. When the Spirit flows through us like the Jordan flows through the Sea of Galilee, life is produced in abundance. In other words, Jesus must flow through us, producing fruit like love, joy peace, etc. When one keeps the Spirit for themselves, perhaps through selfishness, greed, or fear, it becomes stagnant, not producing fruit. The Dead Sea would be the extreme example of this. This works equally well if you substitute the word Blessings for Holy Spirit. "Freely you have received, freely give".

Endorheic Watersheds

Guelta de Tikoubaouine
But there is more to the story. The Jordan is an atypical river. The vast majority of rivers or watersheds flow to an ocean or an actual sea, like the Mediterranean. The Amazon and the Nile rivers are each more than 4000 miles long, vying for the title of longest river on Earth, but they both eventually reach the sea - Wikipedia [4]. But the Jordan is an Endorheic watershed, meaning it doesn't reach the ocean - UNEP [5]. The Dead Sea in this case is called a terminal lake. Some Endorheic watersheds are blocked from the ocean by mountain ranges, the Caspian Sea for example. In the US, Great Salt Lake, Utah, and Pyramid Lake, Nevada are terminal lakes, not as salty and not lifeless like the Dead Sea. Endorheic rivers can also flow into the desert and simply evaporate, rivers like Oued Iherir and Oued Imirhou that flow out of Tassili n'Ajjer (Plateau of rivers) mountains in Algeria - AGRIS [6]. These rivers dry up rather than flowing into a terminal lake. They do leave small lakes called Gueltas [7] in their paths, which may or may not persist through the dry season. Intermittent rivers are called wadis [8] in the Middle East and washes or arroyos [9] in English. National Geographic [10] highlights eight rivers like the Colorado River in the US that have gone from normal (reaching the ocean) to Endorheic because mankind has overused the rivers for irrigation and drinking water. One could liken the Tassili n'Ajjer rivers to a person like a caregiver who gives themselves up completely for others.

Undersea Rivers

Cenote Angelita
More unusual rivers exist. Under the sea. These are not simple ocean currents, but flowing water (often fresh) at the bottom of the oceans. One such river, complete with trees, in the Sea of Mexico is called Cenote Angelita - The Watchers [11]. Another is formed in the Black Sea as it empties into the Mediterranean. "Mediterranean water flows into the Black Sea as part of a two-way hydrological exchange. The Black Sea outflow is cooler and less saline, and floats over the warm, more saline Mediterranean inflow." - Black Sea [12]

Not-So-Dead Sea

Dead Sea Works

However, the Jordan is different in that the Dead Sea is below sea level so there can be no path to the ocean. Despite the spiritual analogy above, the Dead Sea is actually an interesting place, unique on Earth. It is the lowest elevation on the globe, its water is ten times saltier than the oceans. And the Dead Sea is now the site of big business. The Dead Sea Works extracts and exports 3.3 million tons of potash per year from the Dead Sea - the potash is used for fertilizer - Evolution [13]. Tourism to the Dead Sea draws more visitors than Tel Aviv beach resorts - Bloomberg [14]. The Dead Sea is not so dead, it generates billions of dollars every year.

Dead Sea Sinkhole
It is not quite dead biologically either. Divers have discovered large craters at the bottom with fresh water pouring out and microorganisms thriving - Breaking Israel News [15]. Not only that, in recent years, due to the Dead Sea level dropping, sinkholes are appearing near the shore of the sea. Some of these sinkholes are filling with fresh water and support fish - Youtube [16]. Samantha Siegel [17] sees this as a fulfillment of the prophecy in Ez 47:1-10. It may be a foreshadowing of fulfillment, but verse 8 says that a river will flow from the Temple in Jerusalem and heal the Sea. Taken literally, it hasn't happened yet.

Rivers Of Living Waters

So how well does the analogy hold?  Are people in general or Christians in particular like the Jordan River producing a Sea of Galilee or a Dead Sea? Are these the only two choices? Remember most rivers empty into an ocean, but the Jordan is an Endorheic river, and a unique one at that. Remember there are other kinds of rivers, even in the oceans. One other possible interpretation that occurs to me is the power of living water. Christians normally associate the phrase living water with Jesus words in John 7.

37 In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. 38 He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.

But the term Living Water was in use long before.

Literally, the mikveh is identified as a collection of water which has gathered by God’s design.
Literally, the mikveh is identified as a collection of water, a pool of sorts, which has gathered by God’s design. That is to say, there was no human intervention, no one dug a hole, no one collected water in jars to fill the pool. This collection of waters might be a river or a sea. The water source came about as part of the Almighty’s plan, which gives it the nomenclature: Living Water.
The Mayim Chayim (Living Water) has some important spiritual qualities. According to the Torah, a source of Living Waters cannot be defiled. Mayim Chayim overcomes defilement, but defilement can never overcome Mayim Chayim. When something becomes defiled, or ritually unclean as defined by the Biblical standard, whether a person or an object, it must be immersed in Living Water to be declared “clean.” - Pneuma Review [18]

Living Water can not be defiled. Does that mean the water from the Jordan River that flows into the Dead Sea is still Living Water? Thousands of people depend on the Dead Sea for their living. Ironic, huh?

From a certain point of view, the spiritual analogy of the two seas makes sense. But it isn't the whole story. I don't know what analogies there might be for other types of rivers, I invite you to share your thoughts.



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