Officials are investigating a river running through the arid Karak region of Jordan which, normally pristine and clear, turned inexplicably red last week.
The river has its source in the water springs at the top of the mountains in Ghor Al-Hadeetha
Omar Salama, a spokesman for the Jordanian Ministry of Water, said that the red pool that appeared in the Dead Sea area is isolated from the sea, and does not drain into it, a claim that has been contested online by geologists. Salama said that teams from the Ministry of Water took samples of the red-tinted water which are being analyzed.
Professor Ahmed Moalabeh suggested that the change in color was caused by algae called “Donaliella salina” which prefers saltwater and high temperatures. The algae secrete a pink-tinted substance.
The region was an important Moabite stronghold in Biblical times called Qer Harreseth or Kir of Moab.
The king of Assyria responded to his request; the king of Assyria marched against Damascus and captured it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death. II Kings 16:9
The image of a blood-red river has biblical connotations for the Biblically-minded but is also significant to the Muslims of Jordan. In Islam, there are five plagues, i.e. floods, locusts, lice, toads, and turning of drinking water into blood, while in the Bible there are ten plagues i.e. water in to blood, frogs, lice, wild animals, diseased livestock boils, storms of fire, locusts, darkness and death of firstborn. According to the Koran, the plagues were brought by Moses (Musa), one of the five most prominent prophets in Islam.
Rivers turning red, no matter the cause, are reminiscent of the first plague that God sent to strike Egypt before the Exodus:
And the LORD said unto Moshe: ‘Say unto Aharon: Take thy rod, and stretch out thy hand over the waters of Egypt, over their rivers, over their streams, and over their pools, and over all their ponds of water, that they may become blood; and there shall be blood throughout all the land of Egypt, both in vessels of wood and in vessels of stone.’ And Moshe and Aharon did so, as the LORD commanded; and he lifted up the rod, and smote the waters that were in the river, in the sight of Pharaoh, and in the sight of his servants; and all the waters that were in the river were turned to blood. Exodus 7:19-20
Jewish sources predict that all of the plagues will reappear in the final Redemption but in even more powerful forms. It is written in Midrash Tanchuma, homiletic teachings collected around the fifth century, that “just as God struck the Egyptians with 10 plagues, so too He will strike the enemies of the Jewish people at the time of the Redemption.”
Nahmanides, a prominent 12th century Torah scholar from Spain, wrote in his commentary on the plagues that the primary reason God punished the Egyptians was not for enslaving the Israelite people, but for dismissing God and his influence in their life.
This concept was explained by Rabbi Bahya ben Asher, a 13th-century Spanish commentator, who wrote, “In Egypt, God used only part of His strength. When the final redemption comes, God will show much, much more of His power.”