The southernmost of the two rivers that, along with the Tigris, define Mesopotamia. The Euphrates begins from two tributaries in mountainous eastern Turkey, crosses into Syria at Carchemish, and flows south roughly 160 km (100 mi) from the Mediterranean before turning east at Emar. It then proceeds southeast past Mari to Babylonia and into the Persian Gulf (see Map 6). This portion of the river served as an important trade route between Egypt, Syria‐Palestine, and southern Mesopotamia.
In the Bible, the Euphrates is treated as the farthest northern horizon of Israelite territory in the promise to Abraham (Gen 15.18; see Promised Land), in the conquest instructions to Moses and Joshua (Deut. 1.7; 11.24; Josh 1.4), and in the description of David's success in Syria (2 Sam. 8.3). Though Israelite territory never properly extended across Syria, the ambitious ideal suggests a sense of vocation to be the major inland power between Egypt and the Euphrates, as David and Solomon may briefly have been. The river boundary did not assume control of the northern coast, which belonged to the Phoenicians (2 Sam. 5.11; 1 Kings 5.1). The Euphrates boundary is also evident in the Persian province in Syria‐Palestine called “Beyond the River,” which included the district of Yehud, in earlier Judah (see Ezra 4.11; etc.).
Daniel E. Fleming