Jordan River aerial from west
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Genesis 13:10 Lot lifted up his eyes, and saw all the plain of the Jordan, that it was well-watered everywhere, before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, like the garden of Yahweh, like the land of Egypt, as you go to Zoar.
Numbers 22:1 The children of Israel traveled, and encamped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho.
Deuteronomy 1:1 These are the words which Moses spoke to all Israel beyond the Jordan in the wilderness, in the Arabah over against Suph, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab.
Joshua 1:2 "Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you, and all this people, to the land which I give to them, even to the children of Israel.
Judges 3:28 He said to them, "Follow me; for Yahweh has delivered your enemies the Moabites into your hand." They followed him, and took the fords of the Jordan against the Moabites, and didn't allow any man to pass over.
1 Samuel 13:7 Now some of the Hebrews had gone over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead; but as for Saul, he was yet in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.
2 Samuel 2:29 Abner and his men went all that night through the Arabah; and they passed over the Jordan, and went through all Bithron, and came to Mahanaim.
1 Kings 2:8 "Behold, there is with you Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjamite, of Bahurim, who cursed me with a grievous curse in the day when I went to Mahanaim; but he came down to meet me at the Jordan, and I swore to him by Yahweh, saying,'I will not put you to death with the sword.'
2 Kings 2:6 Elijah said to him, "Please wait here, for Yahweh has sent me to the Jordan." He said, "As Yahweh lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you." They both went on.
1 Chronicles 6:78 and beyond the Jordan at Jericho, on the east side of the Jordan, were given them, out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer in the wilderness with its suburbs, and Jahzah with its suburbs,
2 Chronicles 4:17 In the plain of the Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay ground between Succoth and Zeredah.
Job 40:23 Behold, if a river overflows, he doesn't tremble. He is confident, though the Jordan swells even to his mouth.
Isaiah 9:1 But there shall be no more gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time, he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali; but in the latter time he has made it glorious, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.
Jeremiah 12:5 If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? and though in a land of peace you are secure, yet how will you do in the pride of the Jordan?
Ezekiel 47:18 The east side, between Hauran and Damascus and Gilead, and the land of Israel, shall be the Jordan; from the north border to the east sea you shall measure. This is the east side.
Zechariah 11:3 A voice of the wailing of the shepherds! For their glory is destroyed: a voice of the roaring of young lions! For the pride of the Jordan is ruined.
Matthew 3:5 Then people from Jerusalem, all of Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him.
Matthew 3:6 They were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
Matthew 3:13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.
Matthew 4:15 "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles,
Matthew 4:25 Great multitudes from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and from beyond the Jordan followed him.
Matthew 19:1 It happened when Jesus had finished these words, he departed from Galilee, and came into the borders of Judea beyond the Jordan.
Mark 1:5 All the country of Judea and all those of Jerusalem went out to him. They were baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins.
Mark 1:9 It happened in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Mark 3:8 from Jerusalem, from Idumaea, beyond the Jordan, and those from around Tyre and Sidon. A great multitude, hearing what great things he did, came to him.
Mark 10:1 He arose from there and came into the borders of Judea and beyond the Jordan. Multitudes came together to him again. As he usually did, he was again teaching them.
Luke 3:1 Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene,
Luke 3:3 He came into all the region around the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for remission of sins.
Luke 4:1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:28 These things were done in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John 3:26 They came to John, and said to him, "Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, the same baptizes, and everyone is coming to him."
John 10:40 He went away again beyond the Jordan into the place where John was baptizing at first, and there he stayed.
jor'-dan (yarden, "flowing downward"; 'Iordanes):
The Jordan river proper begins at the junction of four streams (the Bareighit, the Hasbany, the Leddan, and the Banias), in the upper part of the plain of Lake Huleh. The Bareighit receives its supply of water from the hills on the West, which separate the valley from the river Litany, and is the least important of the four. The Hasbany is the longest of the four (40 miles), issuing from a great fountain at the western foot of Mt. Hermon near Hasbeiya, 1,700 ft. above the sea, and descends 1,500 ft. in its course to the plain. The Leddan is the largest of the four streams, issuing in several fountains at the foot of the mound Tell el-kady (Dan, or Laish) at an elevation of 505 ft. above the sea. The Banias issues from a celebrated fountain near the town of Banias, which is identified as the Caesarea Philippi associated with the transfiguration. The ancient name was Paneas, originating from a grotto consecrated to the god Pan. At this place Herod erected a temple of white marble dedicated to Augustus Caesar. This is probably the Baal-gad of Joshua 11:17 and 12:7. Its altitude is 1,100 ft. above tide, and the stream falls about 600 ft. in the 5 miles of its course to the head of the Jordan.
2. Lake Huleh:
The valley of Lake Huleh, through which the Jordan wends its way, is about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide, bordered on either side by hills and mountains attaining elevations of 3,000 ft. After flowing 4 or 5 miles through a fertile plain, the Jordan enters a morass of marshy land which nearly fills the valley, with the exception of 1 or 2 miles between it and the base of the mountains upon the western side. This morass is almost impenetrable by reason of bushes and papyrus reeds, which in places also render navigation of the channel difficult even with a canoe. Lake Huleh, into which the river here expands, is but 7 ft. above tide, and is slowly contracting its size by reason of the accumulation of the decaying vegetation of the surrounding morass, and of the sediment brought in by the river and three tributary mountain torrents. Its continued existence is evidence of the limited period through which present conditions have been maintained. It will not be many thousand years before it will be entirely filled and the morass be changed into a fertile plain. When the spies visited the region, the lake must have been much larger than it is now.
At the southern end of Lake Huleh, the valley narrows up to a width of a few hundred yards, and the river begins its descent into levels below the Mediterranean. The river is here only about 60 ft. broad, and in less than 9 miles descends 689 ft. through a narrow rocky gorge, where it meets the delta which it has deposited at the head of the Sea of Galilee, and slowly winds its way to meet its waters. Throughout this delta the river is easily fordable during a great part of the year.
3. Sea of Galilee:
The Sea of Galilee occupies an expansion of the Jordan valley 12 miles long and from 3 to 6 miles wide. The hills, reaching, in general, 1,200 or 1,500 ft. above the lake, come down close to its margin on every side. On the East and South they are mainly of volcanic origin, and to some extent of the same character on the Northwest side above Tiberias. In the time of Christ the mouth of the river may have been a half-mile or more farther up the delta than now.
4. The Yarmuk:
As all the sediment of the upper Jordan settles in the vicinity of the delta near Capernaum, a stream of pellucid water issues from the southern end of the lake, at the modern town of Kerak. Before it reaches the Dead Sea, however, it becomes overloaded with sediment. From Kerak the opening of the valley is grand in the extreme. A great plain on the East stretches to the hills of Decapolis, and to the South, as far as the eye can reach, through the Ghor which descends to the Dead Sea, bordered by mountain walls on either side. Four or five miles below, it is joined on the East by the Yarmuk, the ancient Hieromax the largest of all its tributaries. The debris brought down by this stream has formed a fertile delta terrace 3 or 4 miles in diameter, which now, as in ancient times, is an attractive place for herdsmen and agriculturists. The valley of the Yarmuk now furnishes a natural grade for the Acre and Damascus Railroad, as it did for the caravan routes of early times. The town of Gadara lies upon an elevation just South of the Yarmuk and 4 or 5 miles East of the Jordan.
Ten miles below the lake, the river is joined on the West by Wddy el-Bireh, which descends from the vicinity of Nazareth, between Mt. Tabor and Endor, and furnishes a natural entrance from the Jordan to Central Galilee. An aqueduct here still furnishes water for the upper terrace of the Ghor. Wddy el-Arab, with a small perennial stream, comes in here also from the East.
Twenty miles below Lake Galilee the river is joined by the important Wady el-Jalud, which descends through the valley of Jezreel between Mt. Gilboa and the range of the Little Hermon (the hill Moreh of Judges 7:1). This valley leads up from the Jordan to the valley of Esdrelon and thence to Nazareth, and furnished the usual route for Jews going from Jerusalem to Nazareth when they wished to avoid the Samaritans. This route naturally takes one past Beisan (Bethshean), where the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were exposed by the Philistines, and past Shunem and Nain. There is a marked expansion of the Ghor opposite Beisan, constituting an important agricultural district. The town of Pella, to which the Christians fled at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, lies upon the East side of the Ghor; while Jabesh-gilead, where the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were finally taken by their friends and cremated, is a little farther up the slope of Gilead. Twenty miles farther down, the Ghor, on the East, is joined by Wady Zerka (the brook Jabbok), the second largest tributary, separating Ammon from Gilead, its upper tributaries flowing past Ammon, Mizpeh, and Ramoth-gilead. It was down this valley that Jacob descended to Succoth.
A few miles below, the Wady Farah, whose head is at Sychar between Mts. Ebal and Gerizim, descends from the West, furnishing the natural route for Jacob's entrance to the promised land.
At Damieh (probably the Adam of Joshua 3:16), the Ghor is narrowed up by the projection, from the West, of the mountain ridge terminating in Kurn Surtubeh, which rises abruptly to a height of 2,000 ft. above the river.
The section of the Ghor between Damieh and the Dead Sea is of a pretty uniform width of 10 to 12 miles and is of a much more uniform level than the upper portions, but its fertility is interfered with by the lack of water and the difficulty of irrigation. From the vicinity of Jericho, an old Roman road follows up the Wady Nawaimeh, which furnished Joshua a natural line of approach to Ai, while through the Wady el-Kelt is opened the natural road to Jerusalem. Both Ai and the Mount of Olives are visible from this point of the Ghor.
6. The Zor:
In a direct line it is only 70 miles from Lake Galilee to the Dead Sea, and this is the total length of the lower plain (the Zor); but so numerous are the windings of the river across the flood plain from one bluff to the other that the length of the river is fully 200 miles. Col. Lynch reported the occurrence of 27 rapids, which wholly interrupted navigation, and many others which rendered it difficult. The major part of the descent below Lake Galilee takes place before reaching Damieh, 1,140 ft. below the Mediterranean. While the bluffs of the Ghor upon either side of the Zor, are nearly continuous and uniform below Damieh, above this point they are much dissected by the erosion of tributary streams. Still, nearly everywhere, an extended view brings to light the original uniform level of the sedimentary deposits formed when the valley was filled with water to a height of 650 ft. (see ARABAH; DEAD SEA).
The river itself averages about 100 ft. in width when confined strictly within its channel, but in the early spring months the flood plain of the Zor is completely overflowed, bringing into its thickets a great amount of driftwood which increases the difficulty of penetrating it, and temporarily drives out ferocious animals to infest the neighboring country.
7. The Fords of Jordan:
According to Conder, there are no less than 60 fording-places between Lake Galilee and the Dead Sea. For the most part it will be seen that these occur at rapids, or over bars deposited by the streams which descend from one side or the other, as, for example, below the mouths of the Yarmuk, Jabbok, Jalud and Kelt. These fords are, however, impassable during the high water of the winter and spring months. Until the occupation by the Romans, no bridges were built; but they and their successors erected them at various places, notably below the mouth of the Yarmuk, and the Jabbok, and nearly opposite Jericho.
Notwithstanding the great number of fords where it is possible to cross at low water, those which were so related to the lines of travel as to be of much avail were few. Beginning near the mouth of the Jordan and proceeding northward, there was a ford at el-Henu leading directly from Jericho to the highlands Northeast of the Dead Sea. Two or three miles farther to the North is the ford of the pilgrims, best known of all, at the mouth of Wady Kelt. A few miles farther up the river on the road leading from Jericho to es-Salt, near the mouth of the Wady Nimrin, there is now a bridge where the dependence was formerly upon the ford. Just below the mouth of the Wady Zerka (Jabbok) is the ford of Damieh, where the road from Shechem comes down to the river. A bridge was at one time built over the river at this point; but owing to a change in the course of the stream this is now over a dry water-course. The next important crossing-place is at the opening of the valley of Jezreel coming in from the West, where probably the Bethabara of the New Testament should be located. Upon this ford a number of caravan routes from East to West converge. The next important crossing-place is at el-Mujamia, 2 or 3 miles below the mouth of the Yarmuk. Here, also, there was a Roman bridge. There are also some traces of an ancient bridge remaining just below the exit of the river from Lake Galilee, where there was a ford of special importance to the people residing on the shores of this lake who could not afford to cross in boats. Between Lake Galilee and Lake Huleh, an easy ford leads across the delta of the stream a little above its junction with the lake; while 2 or 3 miles below Lake Huleh is found "the bridge of Jacob's daughters" on the line of one of the principal routes between Damascus and Galilee. Above Lake Huleh the various tributaries are easily crossed at several places, though a bridge is required to cross the Bareighit near its mouth, and another on the Hasbany on the main road from Caesarea Philippi to Sidon, at el-Ghagar.
George Frederick Wright
1. Physical Peculiarities:
As more fully detailed elsewhere (see ARABAH; DEAD SEA; GEOLOGY OF PALESTINE), the Jordan valley in its lower portion occupies a remarkable depression in the earth's surface, reaching its greatest depth in the Dead Sea, the surface of which is 1,300 ft., the bottom 2,600 ft. below tide level, the portion of the basin below the level of the sea being about 100 miles in length and from 10 to 15 miles in breadth at base, and from two to three times that distance between the bordering summits of the mountains and plateaus on either side. In the early prehistoric period, corresponding with the Glacial epoch, this depression was filled with water to a height of 1,400 ft. (see references above) which gradually disappeared by evaporation as present climatic conditions came on. At an elevation of approximately 650 ft. above the Dead Sea, very extensive sedimentary deposits were made, which, while appearing only in fragments along the shores of the Dead Sea, are continuous over the bottom of the valley (the so-called Ghor), farther North. These deposits are from 100 to 200 ft. thick, consisting of material which was brought down into the valley by the tributary mountain streams descending from each side, while the water stood at this higher level. Naturally these deposits slope gradually from the sides of the valley toward the center, the coarser material of the deposits being nearer the sides, and the amount of sediment being much increased opposite the mouths of the larger streams. The deposit was at first continuous over the entire Ghor, or valley, but has since been much dissected by the Jordan river and its tributaries. The Jordan itself has eroded a channel through the soft sediment, 100 ft. more or less deep, from Lake Galilee to the Dead Sea, a distance in a straight line of about 70 miles. At first this channel was narrow, but it has been constantly enlarged by the stream as it has meandered from side to side, undercutting the banks so that they cave into the river and are washed down to fill up the Dead Sea, a process which is especially familiar to residents upon the banks of the Mississippi and Missouri rivers. This narrow gorge is called the Zor, and will hereafter be referred to under this name. The Zor at present averages about 1/2 mile wide, the most of which is occupied by a flood plain extending from the banks of the river to the foot of the sedimentary bluffs on either side. This flood plain is so overgrown with brush and reeds that it is practically impenetrable, except by wild beasts, which, according to Scriptural references, have infested it from earliest times, among which may be mentioned the lion, the tiger, the wild boar. During the spring months, when the snows are melting from Mt. Hermon and cloudbursts are sending sudden torrents of water down the river courses from the plateau of Gilead and the mountains of Samaria, the Jordan "overflows all its banks," i.e. covers this flood plain and drives out the beasts to infest the neighborhood for a short time.
The surface of this old lake bed has also been much dissected by the tributary streams which come in from either side, they having cut channels across the Ghor down to a depth corresponding to that of the Zor. As a consequence the roads leading up the valley find it necessary to hug the base of the mountains on either side to avoid the abrupt descent into the channels of the tributary streams, which are deepest near their mouths. Another natural consequence of these physical peculiarities is that agriculture cannot be carried on except as water to irrigate the level surfaces of the Ghor is carried out from the higher levels of the perennial streams. There are many remains of such aqueducts for irrigation constructed in early times. These are now almost all in ruins and unused. Merrill, however, estimates that 200 square miles of the Jordan valley, over which the surface is as level as a prairie, and as free from stones, could be irrigated at the present time and made as fruitful as the valley of the Nile. But from time immemorial settled agriculture in the Ghor has been rendered precarious by the incursions of the nomadic tribes, who periodically come down from the desert regions on the East.
Two descriptions (the first from my own journal) of the general views obtained of the Jordan valley from adjoining elevated points will give vividness to our conceptions of this remarkable depression.
"It was the middle of December when, after wading all day across the southern flanks of Mt. Hermon, through snow knee-deep for our horses, we descended below the clouds and the snow to the brink of the eastern mountain wall overlooking the upper valley of the Jordan. It was a sight ever to be remembered, with the glistering peak of Mt. Hermon to our right, and the jagged walls of the borders of Naphtali stretching across the horizon on the West, only a few miles away, while between and at our feet were the green fields of the upper Jordan valley, through which ran the silver thread of the river, broadening out into the expanded waters of Lake Merom. Over the plain could dimly be seen the black tents of the Arabs, and the husbandmen plowing the fields for an early harvest. No wonder the spies were impressed with the attractiveness and fertility of the region." This of the upper Jordan valley.
Dr. Merrill gives the following description of the view of the lower Jordan valley from the summit of Kurn Surtabeh, March 23: "Jebel esh Sheikh (Mt. Hermon) was covered with snow, and so was the Lebanon range farther to the West and North. Lake Merom and the volcanic peaks on the plain to the East of it and South of Hermon were distinctly seen, likewise the Sea of Galilee, the hills about Safed, the hills West of Tiberias and the slope from their summit, which inclines toward Mt. Tabor; also Gamala and Gadara, all the range of Jebel `Ajlun or hills of Gilead, Kulat er Rubad, Jebel Meisera and Jebel Osha, the mountains of Moab, and the Dead Sea. But the mere naming of different points that can be seen gives no adequate idea of the extent and magnificence of the prospect which one enjoys from the top of this strange landmark. Hills to the West obstruct the view in that direction, and to the East nothing can be seen beyond the highest part of the Moab and Gilead ranges, but it is the north-and-south sweep which makes the prospect a glorious one. No language can picture correctly the Jordan valley, the winding stream, the jungles on its banks, the strange Ghor with its white, ragged sides, the vast plain of the valley, through and in the middle of which the lower Ghor (the Zor) is sunk, the dense green oases formed here and there by some mountain stream, and the still, lifeless sea, as bright and motionless as molten lead, lying far to the South, ending the great valley and touching the mountains on either side! This is an outline merely, but I cannot summon to my aid words which will describe it more accurately. The Jordan valley or Ghor, in front of Surtabeh, is about 8 miles wide, and looks like a vast plain. The lower Ghor (Zor) is the ragged channel cut down along the middle of the large one. This distinction of the upper and lower Ghor is by no means so strikingly defined above the mouth of the Zerka as it is below that point, and all the way thence to the Dead Sea."
3. Division into Eight Sections:
Considered in detail the valley may be divided, as Conder suggests, into 8 sections. "First the portion between Banias and the Huleh, where it is some 5 miles broad, with steep cliffs some 2,000 ft. high on either side and a broad marsh between. Secondly, from the Huleh to the Sea of Galilee, where the stream runs close to the eastern hills, and about 4 miles from the base of those on the West, which rise toward the high Safed mountains, more than 3,500 ft. above the lake. Thirdly, for 13 miles from the South end of the Sea of Galilee to the neighborhood of Beisan. Here the valley is only 1 1/2 miles broad West of the river, and about 3 on the East, the steep cliffs of the plateau of Kaukab el Hawa on the West reaching an altitude of 1,800 ft. above the stream.
"South of Beisan is the 4th district, with a plain West of Jordan, 12 miles long and 6 miles broad, the line of hills on the East being straight, and the foot of the mountains on this side about 2 miles from the river. In the neighborhood of Beisan, the cross-section of the plain shows 3 levels: that of the shelf on which Beisan stands, about 300 ft. below sea-level; that of the Ghor itself, some 400 ft. lower, reached by an almost precipitous descent; and that of the Zor, or narrow trench, from a half to a quarter of a mile wide, and about 150 ft. lower still. The higher shelf extends westward to the foot of Gilboa; it dies away on the South, but on the North it gradually rises into the plateau of Kaukab and to the western table-land above the sea of Galilee, 1,800 ft. above Jordan.
"After leaving the Beisan plain, the river passes through a narrow valley 12 miles long and 2 or 3 miles wide, with a raised table-land to the West, having a level averaging about 500 ft. above the sea. The Beisan plain is full of springs of fresh water, some of which are thermal, but a large current of salt warm water flows down Wady Maleh, at the northern extremity of this 5th district.
"In the 6th district, the Damieh region, the valley again opens to a width of about 3 miles on the West, and 5 on the East of J. The great block of the Kurn Surtubeh here stands out like a bastion, on the West, 2,400 ft. above the river. Passing this mountain, the 7th district is entered-a broad valley extending from near Fusail to `Osh el Ghurab, North of Jericho. In this region the Ghor itself is 5 miles broad, West of the river, and rather more on the East. The lower trench or Zor is also wider here and more distinctly separated from the Ghor. A curious geographical feature of this region was also discovered by the Survey party. The great affluents of the Far'ah and `Aujeh do not flow straight to Jordan, but turn South about a mile West of it, and each runs, for about 6 miles, nearly parallel with the river; thus the mouth of the Far'ah is actually to be found just where that of the next valley is shown on most maps.
"The 8th and last district is that of the plain of Jericho, which, with the corresponding basin (Ghor-es-Seiseban) East of Jordan, measures over 8 miles North and South, and more than 14 across, with Jordan about in the middle. The Zor is here about a mile wide, and some 200 ft. below the broad plain of the Ghor."
4. Climate Fauna and Flora:
Owing to its depression below sea-level the climate of the lower Jordan valley is even more than tropical. In the summer months thermometer scarcely falls below 100 degrees F., even in the night; but during the winter months, though the days are hot, thermometer frequently goes down to 40 degrees in the night time.
The fauna of this part of the Jordan valley and about the Dead Sea is said by Tristram (SWP, "Fauna and Flora") to be identical with that now existing in Ethiopia. Of the mammalia characteristic of this general region, 34 are Ethiopian and 16 Indian, though there is now no possible connection with either Ethiopia or India. The fish of the Jordan show close affinity to many species of the Nile and of the lakes and rivers of tropical Africa. Many species of birds, also, now confined to the lower basin and the Dead Sea, are related to Ethiopian and Indian species.
The flora is equally interesting. Out of 162 species of plants found at the Southwest corner of the Dead Sea, 135 species are African in their affinity. In the marshes of Lake Huleh, many acres are covered with the papyrus plant, which became extinct in Egypt long ago, and is now found in Africa only in the Upper Nile beyond the 7th degree of North latitude. The most common trees and plants of the Jordan valley are the castor-oil plant and the oleander, flourishing especially about Jericho, several varieties of the acacia tree, the caper plant, the Dead Sea apple (Solanum Sodomaeum) the oser tree of the Arabs, tamarisks, Agnus casti (a flowering bamboo), Balanites Aegyptiaca (supposed to be the balm of Gilead), Populus Euphratica (a plant found all over Central Asia but not West of the Jordan), and many tropical plants, among which may be mentioned Zygophyllum coccineum, Boerhavia, Indigofera, several Astragali, Cassias, Gymnocarpum, and Nitraria.
George Frederick Wright
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