WHAT IS A “CHAMPAIGN?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
Here is the solitary occasion in which the term appears in the King James Bible: “Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh?” (Deuteronomy 11:30). The key is to note the context is geography, and we have here a feature of the landscape of Palestine.
In Hebrew, “champaign” is “’araba,” usually rendered “plain” (42 times), but sometimes translated “desert” (nine times) or “wilderness” (five times), and twice transliterated (“Arabah”) in Joshua 18:18. Basically, “champaign” is an archaic word that means “a plain or field, flat open land.” The word comes to us through the Old French “champagne” (“open country”), related to the Latin “campus” (“level ground”). A similar word is campaign, which, in a military sense, is an army confining its activities to a particular region.
The verse in Deuteronomy refers to two mountains—Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal (verse 29)—west of the Jordan River. (Moses and Israel are standing on the eastern bank of the Jordan.) The Canaanites live in the “champaign,” or “level country,” situated between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
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