NILE, river in N.E. Africa. The Nile is the lifestream of the civilizations flourishing in the valley bordering it. If the river is too high or too low in one year, disaster and famine follow in the next. Indeed, the ancient Egyptians saw in the yearly inundation the annual renewal of the first act of creation, the rising of the primeval mound out of the primordial ocean. From the correct observation of this yearly flooding, which enriched the fields of the lower Nile Valley with the fertile black alluvial soil, developed much of the later civilization of the pharaohs, and particularly the 365-day calendar. Unquestionably, the Egypt of the pharaohs was "the gift of the Nile." The Hebrew word for the Nile, יְאוֹר, is a loan word from the Egyptian ʾitrw ("river") which by the period of the Middle Kingdom came to designate the Nile as the river par excellence.

Although the name Nile is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible, it is alluded to as "the river" (Gen. 41:1; Ex. 2:3), the "river of Egypt" (Gen. 15:8), the "flood of Egypt" (Amos 8:8), Shihor (Josh. 13:3), brook of Egypt (according to some, but see *Egypt, Brook of), river of Cush, and many more. The Nile plays a prominent part in the early stories of the Exodus (Moses, Ex. 2:3; the ten plagues, 7:15, 20; et al.), and is used by the prophets as the symbol of Egypt (Amos 8:8; 9:5; Jer. 46:8).

[Alan Richard Schulman]

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.