As a historical document, the Bible mentions bodies of water to identify locations where events took place.
Information in the Bible spans a large geographic area from Egypt to Ethiopia, and from Israel through Mesopotamia and Greece to Rome over a 1,500-year period. Often, bodies of water have multiple names because different writers used common names of the day for water sources, while others may appear differently in various biblical translations.
Garden of Eden
The location of the Garden of Eden is identified in Genesis 2:10-14 by its proximity to four rivers: the Pishon, Gihon, Tigres and Euphrates. Today the Tigres and Euphrates maintain the same names and locations. However, there is much speculation as to the location of the Pishon and Gihon rivers. Even with satellite imagery revealing topography of flowing and dry river beds near the Tigres and Euphrates, it’s difficult to identify the two lost rivers. Names of rivers change over time as they dry up and are forgotten.
Boundaries of Israel
The Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, the Red Sea and Mediterranean Sea are mentioned a number of times in both the Old and New Testaments. Each the the three bodies of water serves as geographical boundary markers in Numbers 34:1-12. This is one set of verses where God names the Jordan and the three seas as the boundaries of the “land that will be allotted to you as an inheritance” when speaking to Moses.
The Mediterranean Sea is also referred to as the Great Sea and the Sea of the Philistines in Exodus 23:31. Another prominent sea in Israel is the Dead Sea, sometimes called the Salt Sea. Water from the Jordan River flows in, but there’s no outlet, so minerals, including salt, gather and remain in the dense water, making it unsuitable to support life.
A number of events during Jesus’ ministry happened at the Sea of Galilee, including the feeding of the multitudes and walking on water. The Sea of Galilee has multiple names, including the Sea of Tiberias. In the King James version, it is called the Sea of Chinneroth in Joshua 12:3 and the Sea of Chinnereth in both Joshua 13:27 and Numbers 34:11.
Rivers and Pools
A number of pools are mentioned in the Bible, including Shelah, Gibeon, Samaria and Siloah. It was at the Pool of Siloam where Jesus healed a man of blindness after putting mud over his eyes as recorded in John 9:11.
Bible-History.com notes additional rivers of Israel: Abana, Arnon, Chebar, Cherith, River of Egypt, Euphrates, Gihon, Hiddekel, Jabbok, Kanah, Kidron, Kishon, Pharpar, Pison and the Zared.
Exodus from Egypt
The second plague to hit Egypt when Pharaoh failed to set the Israelites free was for the waters in Egypt to turn to blood. Of all the Egyptian bodies of water, Exodus 7:15-18 only mentions the Nile River, as this is where Moses struck his staff against the water.
The Red Sea is mentioned in Exodus 13:18 as a destination for escape, with the generic “sea” used other times detailing events of the journey. The Sea of the Arabah is mentioned in Joshua 12:3 as being the Red Sea and is identified as the Egyptian Sea in Isaiah 11:15.
The first body of water encountered after the Israelites crossed the dry sea bed on foot was the Marah River. This water was bitter and undrinkable until Moses threw in a particular piece of wood (Exodus 13:23-25). After years of wandering in the desert, Joshua 1:2 records that it was Joshua who led the children of Israel across the Jordan River into the land that God had promised to Moses.