JABBOK, TORRENT VALLEY OF
One of the main rivers, E of the Jordan, first mentioned in Scripture with reference to Jacob’s crossing “the ford of Jabbok” with his household. Also, near this ford Jacob grappled with an angel.—Gen. 32:22-30.
Though the Jabbok’s headwaters rise near Amman (ancient Rabbah), the river collects waters from several perennial streams and numerous winter torrents before flowing into the Jordan some twenty-four miles (c. 39 kilometers) N of the Dead Sea. Only about twenty-five air miles (c. 40 kilometers) separate the river’s source from its finish. But the Jabbok’s semicircular course covers some sixty miles (c. 97 kilometers). Its modern Arabic name, Nahr ez-Zerka, literally means “river of blue.” Perhaps this name is derived from the gray-blue color that the Jabbok exhibits when seen from a distance. Small fish abound in its shallow, easily fordable waters.
Oleander bushes and many kinds of small trees line the deep fertile valley through which the Jabbok flows. This valley, with its steep sides, served as a natural boundary. (Deut. 3:16) The first section of the torrent valley, running from S to N, once constituted a frontier between the Ammonites and the Amorites (Num. 21:24), whereas the section extending from W to E split Gilead in two and formed the boundary between the realms of Amorite Kings Sihon and Og. (Deut. 2:37; Josh. 12:2; Judg. 11:13, 22) Today this same valley is one of the best routes for crossing the Jordan from what was anciently called Gilead.