(Mes·o·po·taʹmi·a) [from Gr., meaning “[Land] Between Rivers”].
The Greek term for the stretch of land located between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It apparently corresponds to the Hebrew designation of related meaning, Aram-naharaim. (Ps 60:Sup) In fact, the translators of the Greek Septuagint usually rendered “Aram-naharaim” as “Mesopotamia.”—See ARAM No. 5.
The application of the term “Mesopotamia” varies both in ancient and modern usage. Basically, in a broad sense, it embraces the entire region that lies between the Tigris and the Euphrates and stretches from the Persian Gulf in the S to the mountains of Turkey and Iran in the N. This would include the alluvial plain of ancient Babylonia extending some 400 km (250 mi) to the S of Baghdad. (See BABYLON No. 2.) In a narrower sense, however, Babylonia is excluded, only the region to the N being termed Mesopotamia. This northern region consists of a low undulating plateau having numerous enclosed basins. It is also a rocky area.
Evidence for the broad usage of the designation in the first century C.E. is found at Acts 7:2, where Stephen spoke of Abraham as residing in “Mesopotamia” while yet at Ur, a city of Babylonia. But it is not possible to establish with certainty whether the Hebrew “Aram-naharaim” likewise included Babylonia. Whenever there is a basis for determining the general geographic location mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, the northern area around Haran (Ge 24:2-4, 10) or the northern mountainous region around Pethor (De 23:4; compare Nu 23:7) is included under the designation “Aram-naharaim” (Mesopotamia). Although the extent of the area under the control of Mesopotamian King Cushan-rishathaim (the oppressor of Israel in the time of Judge Othniel) is uncertain, the seat of his government may also have been in the N. (Jg 3:8-10; see CUSHAN-RISHATHAIM.) It was probably from northern Mesopotamia that Ammonite King Hanun hired chariots and horsemen for his fight against King David.—1Ch 19:6, 7.
Among the Jews and proselytes present at Jerusalem for the Festival of Pentecost in 33 C.E., there were inhabitants of Mesopotamia. (Ac 2:1, 2, 9) These could have included residents from the southern part of that land, namely, Babylonia. In this regard it is noteworthy that the historian Josephus reports that “a great number of Jews” were in Babylonia in the first century B.C.E.—Jewish Antiquities, XV, 14 (ii, 2).