(Arʹa·bah) [desert plains; from a root word meaning dry, burnt up].
That part of the extraordinary depression or rift valley that extends toward the S from the slopes of Mount Hermon, cradles the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River, drops far below sea level to form the basin of the Dead Sea, and then continues on southward to the Gulf of Aqabah at the Red Sea.—Deut. 3:17; Josh. 3:16; 11:16; Jer. 52:7.
This long, narrow, N-S valley, often dry, and containing few cities, is limited on each side by a long row of mountains. From a half-mile to ten miles (.8 kilometers to 16.1 kilometers) wide, and some 270 miles (434 kilometers) long, the valley owes its existence to a “fault” line, or long fracture in the earth’s crust. The Jordan winds through the northern part of this straight valley, and its steady flow waters a green belt down the center of the valley’s floor. South of the Dead Sea, however, the Arabah is fed only by seasonal torrent streams that are insufficient to bring life to the dry soil.
Some commentators limit the word “Arabah” to the part of this great rift valley S of the Dead Sea, but it also refers to the region at least as far N as the Sea of Galilee, or Chinnereth. (Josh. 12:3; 2 Sam. 2:29) The part of this valley N of the Dead Sea is now called the Ghor, meaning “depression,” while the word “Arabah” is more particularly applied to the far drier region to the S.
The Dead Sea is called the “sea of the Arabah.” (Deut. 3:17; 4:49; 2 Ki. 14:25) Without the definite article the word ʽara·vahʹ is also used in a general sense and may be properly translated as “desert plain.” The plural (ʽara·vohthʹ) is frequently applied to the desert plains of Jericho and Moab, the part of the Jordan valley just N of the Dead Sea.—Num. 22:1; 26:3, 63; 31:12; Josh. 4:13; 5:10; Jer. 39:5.