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There are thousands of rivers on Earth and many more elsewhere. On Earth, the longest river is the Nile, although this is debated, and some say the Amazon is longer. The problem is in identifying “length,” because there are different ways of measuring from the source to the mouth of a river. A river may also have many subbranches and it depends on whether the center of edge of the river is measured. Rivers flow through lakes and reservoirs and seasonal changes alter the rivers and lakes, which add to the problem of measuring them.


However, in a chart and list of rivers (Wikipedia) over 1,000km in length, there were names for 188 of them, the last being the Flinders River in Australia, just making it with a length of 1,004km.


The Fly River in PNG came in at 175th and the Sepik River was 154th. The mighty Mississippi was 4th and the Yukon was 22nd. Wikipedia gives a list of countries according to their total waterways in length and the top dog is Russia with 317,595, followed by Brazil with 153,505 The U.S. is in fourth place with 40,230 and Papua New Guinea is in 12th place. Of the 109 listed Kiribati, not surprisingly, has only 5. Even Luxemburg (37) and Liechtenstein (28) have more.


I grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania and the nearest river to where I lived was the Susquehanna River. It is not long enough to make the list of long rivers, but it does have the distinction of being considered the oldest (by Riverkeeper) river system in the world. It is also the longest river on the East Coast, beginning near Cooperstown, New York and emptying into Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.


When it flooded, we would go 8 miles from home to the town of Shickshinny and see how far up the street the river had come. A highwater mark on the side of the bank showed that the bank had at least once been 5 feet deep in flood water. The river also has the negative distinction of being the largest source of nitrogen pollution—I don’t know if this is just Pennsylvania, or if it is of all the U.S.


In the Bible, the Nile and Euphrates Rivers are well documented. According to, “This river [Euphrates] is cited over 50 times throughout the Bible, a geographical reference that is part of the beginning and end of the world in scripture!”

In Genesis 2, it is one of the four rivers that flowed out of the Garden of Eden, and later God promised to give the Israelites the land from the Euphrates to the Mediterranean Sea. The prophet Isaiah uses the Euphrates as a symbol of the Assyrian Empire and in Revelation 16, the Euphrates is described as drying up in preparation for the Battle of Armageddon.


There is nothing more awesome than to see a river in flood. Just behind our house in Ukarumpa, Papuan New Guinea, there was a small river (the Ba’e), probably not more than 3 feet deep and 15 feet across in most places, but when it flooded, it would get very deep and come within 10 feet of our house. The main course of the river was still 50 feet or so away, but we would see logs, tree branches, banana leaves, and debris swiftly flowing by our house. We stayed away from it when it was in flood.


Revers flood and when they do people and animals are often drowned. We read in Exodus how God drowned the best of the Egyptian’s army in the Red Sea and this story is used often in the Bible to show God’s protection.


The word “drown” can also be used metaphorically, as when David said he was “drowning in the flood of my sins; they are a burden too heavy to bear” (Psalm 38.4).

We have idioms in English that utilize the power of drown, as in:

Wet as a drowned ratA drowning man will clutch at a strawTo drown one’s sorrows/troubles/self-pity


Have you heard the phrase “drown the shamrock,” which means to drink alcohol on St. Patrick’s Day, or “if you’re born to be hanged, then you’ll never be drowned”? In other words, if you are lucky enough to avoid a particular disaster, you won’t get a different one.


Rivers and drowning, but there is a better kind of river, and it is called the “River of Life.” We read about it in Revelation22.1, where “The angel also showed me [John] the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, and coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

I would not mind “drowning” in that river.

Karl Franklin


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