Jordan (Heb. ha-Yarden, the descender, now called by the Arabians of Palestine esh-Sheriah, or Sheriat el-Kebir, the great watering place), the only large river in Palestine, and one of the few perennial streams in that country. Its sources are on the southern declivities of the Libanus and Anti-Libanus. The highest rises* in the S. part of Mt. Hermon, near the village of Hasbeiya, 1,700 ft. above the level of the sea, formed by about 20 springs, which bubble up within a small circuit and form a pool 15 ft. deep. The united waters, under the name of the Hasbany, flow W. and then S., receiving small tributaries on either side till the river enters the marshy plain of Huleh, where it is joined by the united streams of the Leddan, Dan, or Daphne, and the Banias, the two larger and principal sources of the Jordan. The former of these streams, one of the largest single sources in the world, originates in a large pool, 12 m. below the source of the Hasbany, at the southern prolongation of Hermon, about 650 ft. above the sea; and 4 m. E. of it rises the other, near Banias, about 1,150 ft. above the sea level.
Struggling through the morass, which is thickly overgrown with papyrus, the Jordan enters Lake Merom, now called Huleh, also El Mallaha and Bahr Banias or Bahr Khait, 150 ft. above the sea. On leaving the lake the river is sluggish and turbid, but is soon purified, and becomes a torrent rushing between small islands and rocks thickly set with oleanders.
Source of the Jordan.
About 2 m. below the lake is the so-called Jacob's bridge, where Jacob on his return from Mesopotamia is said to have crossed; it was built after the crusades, probably in connection with the caravan route from Egypt to Damascus. The breadth of the river at this place has been variously stated from 64 to 80 ft. About 13 m. below it enters the lake of Tiberias or Gennesaret, which is between 600 and 700 ft. below the Mediterranean, and about as much above the Dead sea. Issuing from the S. extremity of this lake, the river enters a broad valley, or ghor, by which name the natives designate a depressed tract or plain between the mountains; the Bible calls it "the plain;" its width varies from 5 to 10 m. The river at first winds very much, and flows first near the W. hills, then turns E., and continues to the district called Kurn el-Hemar, then again returning toward the W. side. Lower down it rather follows the middle of the great valley. Its course is so tortuous that within a space of only 60 m. long and 4 or 5 m. broad it traverses at least 200 m. and plunges over 27 formidable rapids. It enters the Dead sea at its N. extremity, 1,316 ft. below the Mediterranean, after a total direct course of 120 m. Its mouth is 180 yards wide.
Its principal affluents are the Zurka (Jabbok) and Sheriat el-Mandhur, or Yarmuk. Its breadth and depth greatly vary, which circumstance explains the great discrepancies in the reports of travellers. Its entire descent from Hasbeiya to its mouth is about 3,000 ft., from Banias about 2,450 ft. The Jordan flows through a deep chasm or fissure in the earth's crust, caused by the rending and falling in of the aqueous strata, upheaved by the eruption of the basalt which forms its bed, and belonging to the prehistoric age of the present configuration of the earth's surface. At the surface of the sea of Galilee it is 653 ft. below the Mediterranean; at the surface of the Dead sea it is 1,316 ft., and at the greatest depth of that sea 2,624 ft., below the ocean level. The sources and the course of the Jordan were partially explored in 1847 by the English Lieut. Molyneaux, and very thoroughly in 1848 by an American expedition under Lieut. Lynch, and again in 1868-'9 by Mr. Macgreg-or (see "The Rob Roy on the Jordan," London, 1869). As Christ was baptized by John in the Jordan, Christians have often regarded it as a special privilege to receive baptism in its waters, and water is even now occasionally procured from the Jordan for the baptism of princes. (See Dead Sea, and Gennesaret.)