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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

Mediterranean Sea

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med - i - te - rā´nḗ - an ( ἡ θάλασσα , hē thálassa ): To the Hebrews the Mediterranean was the sea , as was natural from their situation.

Hence, they speak of it simply as "the sea" ( היּם , ha - yām ), e.g. Genesis 49:13; Numbers 13:29; Numbers 34:5; Judges 5:17; or, again, it is "the great sea" (הגּדול היּם , ha -yām ha -gādhōl , e.g. Numbers 34:6 , Numbers 34:7; Joshua 9:1; Joshua 15:12 , Joshua 15:47; Ezekiel 47:10 , Ezekiel 47:15 , Ezekiel 47:19 , Ezekiel 47:20; Ezekiel 48:28 ); or, because it lay to the West of Palestine, as "the great sea toward the going down or the sun" (Joshua 1:4; Joshua 23:4 ), and, since the west was regarded as the "back," in contrast to the east as the "front," as "hinder (or "western" the Revised Version (British and American), "uttermost" or "utmost" the King James Version) sea" (האהרון היּם , ha -yām ha -'aḥărōn ), Deuteronomy 11:24; Deuteronomy 34:2; Zechariah 14:8; Joel 2:20 , in the last two passages contrasted with "the former (King James Version, "eastern" the Revised Version (British and American)) sea" הקּרמני היּם , ha -yām ha -ḳadhmōnı̄ ), i.e. the Dead Sea. See FORMER . That portion of the Mediterranean directly West of Palestine is once (Exodus 23:31 ) referred to as "the sea of the Philis" פּלשׁתּים ים , yām pelishtı̄m ). the King James Version has "sea of Joppa" (Ezra 3:7 ) where the Revised Version (British and American) correctly renders "to the sea, unto Joppa" (compare 2 Chronicles 2:16 ). Similarly, the King James Version "the sea of Cilicia and Pamphylia" (Acts 27:5 ) is better rendered "the sea which is off Cilicia and Pamphylia" (Revised Version).

In the New Testament, references to the Mediterranean are common, especially in the accounts of Paul's voyages, for which see PAUL . Jesus once (Mark 7:24 ff) came to or near the sea.

The Mediterranean basin was the scene of most ancient civilizations which have greatly influenced that of the western world, except those whose home was in the valleys of the Tigris and the Euphrates; and even these continually thrust themselves into it, so far as they could. As its name implies, it is an inland area, united to the Atlantic only by the narrow Straits of Gibraltar. In comparatively recent geological time it was also joined to the Red Sea, the alluvial deposits of the Nile, which have extended the line of the Delta, having with the aid of drifting desert sands subsequently closed the passage and joined the continents of Asia and Africa. The total length of the Mediterranean is about 2,300 miles, its greatest breadth about 1,080 miles, and its area about 1,000,000 square miles. It falls naturally into the western and eastern (Levant) halves, dividing at the line running from Tunis to Sicily, where it is comparatively shallow; the western end is generally the deeper, reaching depths of nearly 6,000 ft. On the North it is intersected by the Italian and Balkan peninsulas, forming the Gulf of Lyons, the Adriatic and the Aegean. In ancient times these and other divisions of the Mediterranean bore specific names given by the Greeks and Romans, but from the nature of the case their limits were ill defined. The temperature of the Mediterranean is in summer warmer, in winter about the same as that of the Atlantic. Its water has a slightly greater specific gravity, probably because of a larger proportionate evaporation.

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Mediterranean Sea'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/m/mediterranean-sea.html. 1915.

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