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cate its nature. The walls, too, were of massive
blocks of stone, but only standing to a height of
two or three feet that is, there was seldom more
than one stone left upon another. I did not observe
any of the usual excavations. Our direction, so far,
had been as nearly as possible due east. We now
turned over the hills slightly to the southwards,
rising about 500 feet, and finding ourselves upon a
rolling somewhat stony plateau, thickly dotted with
pollarded old trees, and presenting somewhat the
appearance of an English park. These, we were
told, gave a peculiar ash, useful for soap-making, and
the branches are lopped off and burnt by the Arabs

P



226 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

for the purpose of selling the alkali, but I am ig-
norant of their botanical name. They were about
the size and presented the appearance of stunted
oak-trees. The temperature here was delightful,
and there was a bracing freshness about the air
which was most invigorating. After traversing this
elevated region for about four miles we suddenly
came upon a fertile valley, in the centre of which,
near a spring, was a ruin, where we stopped to lunch,
and which we found full of interest. The founda-
tions were perfect of what had formerly been appa-
rently a Roman temple. The length of the edifice
was seventy-five yards and its breadth twenty-five.
It had been divided in the middle, and in each
compartment were the remains of a chamber. One
of these was thirty-five feet by twenty. The walls,
composed of massive stone, were still standing to
a height of from ten to fifteen feet, but in neither
case were the roofs existing. The other chamber
was smaller, but the walls were more perfect ; over-
shadowing them was a group of magnificent oak-
trees. Ruins in these countries, as a rule, stand in
such barren localities, that it was quite a new experi-
ence to come across any thus delightfully embowered.
All round, the grass was growing knee-deep, and our
animals revelled in the luxuriant pasture.

Besides the spring, which was situated a hundred
yards or so from the ruin, there was a well in its
immediate neighbourhood ; this, however, had been



JAJUS. 227

blocked with huge stones by the Arabs, but near it
stood an ancient stone trough which may originally
have been a sarcophagus. The name of this in-
teresting spot is Jajtls, and I think it has a strong
claim to be considered identical either with the an-
cient Jahaz or Jahaza or Jahazah, or else with Jazer.
Jahaz is mentioned as one of the cities forming the
frontier of the tribe of Reuben, and the difficulty
of identifying Jajtis with it is, that in that case it
would slightly seem to overlap the frontier of Gad.
The south-eastern town of Gad, as I have before
shown, was Aroer which faces Rabbath - Ammon.
Now Rabbath-Ammon, as nearly as I could calcu-
late, lies about eight miles due south of Jaj^is, while
Aroer, according to the description in the Bible,
ought to have been if anything to the north of
Jajfts. Still it is quite possible that Aroer may
have been seven or eight miles to the north of
Rabbath-Ammon, and yet be near enough to be
defined as ** before (or facing) it." In that case the
difficulty is to some extent removed ; ^ under any
circumstances the frontier of Reuben in the Biblical
maps seems to have been placed too far south. It
certainly ran on the easterly side from Aroer on
the Arnon to Aroer that is before Rabbath-Ammon.
And if the latter Aroer was to the north-west of that

^ There is a ruin, to which I have already alluded, called Arjun,
between Jajus and Rabbath-Ammon, which may be the Aroer of Gad ;
but this requires verification.



228 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

city beyond it, the northern frontier probably ran
from Beth Nimrah on the plain of the Jordan op-
posite Jericho in a north-easterly direction to Rab-
bath-Ammon, or possibly to the north of it, instead
of due east to a point ten miles to the south of that
city, as it is at present delineated in the maps.

Ewald places Jahaz a little to the south of Am-
mon, but his assumption is merely based upon con-
jecture. Eusebius places it between Medeba and
Dibon, which brings it down almost to the southern
frontier of Reuben instead of the northern. Dr
Porter does not seem to admit the existence of
two Aroers, but considers that the Aroer which
faces Rabbath-Ammon is identical with Aroer on
the Arnon, which was the most southern town in
Reuben, and which, being at least forty miles from
Rabbath-Ammon, cannot possibly be considered as
" before " or " facing " it ; but here, again, we have a
difficulty, for we are told that " the children of Gad
built Dibon, and Ataroth, and Aroer." These three
towns are all situated in the south of the territory of
Reuben, Dibon and Aroer being only about three
miles apart. There can be no doubt about their
identity; but why the Gadites should have rebuilt
towns forty miles away from their own frontier, at
the southern extremity of Reuben's territory, can
only be explained upon the hypothesis that it was
done before the land to the east of the Jordan was
divided, but after the three tribes had decided to



JAHAZ. 229

occupy it, and that in the subsequent division Reu-
ben obtained some of the towns built by the Gad-
ites, though it would not seem that the Gadites
obtained in compensation any of the cities built
by the Reubenites.

That there were two Aroers is, I think, clearly
implied by the way they are described. In the case
of Reuben it is said, " And their coast was from
Aroer, that is on the bank of the river Arnon, and
the city that is in the midst of the plain, and all the
plain by Medeba" (Josh. xiii. 16). While the fron-
tier of Gad is thus defined, " And their coast was
Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land
of the children of Ammon, unto Aroer that is before
Rabbah " (ver. 25). Mention is also repeatedly made
elsewhere of Aroer as a town in Gad, apparently
to distinguish it from Aroer on the Arnon. The
latter town being forty miles distant from the fron-
tier of Gad settles the question of there having been
two Aroers.

Jahaz is chiefly interesting from the circumstance
that it was at this point that Sihon king of the
Amorites resisted the passage of Moses and the
Israelites, when permission was requested of him
that they should be allowed to pass peaceably
through his territory on their way across the Jor-
dan to take possession of Palestine. It may be
objected that the position of the ruins is too far to
the north and east ; but it must be remembered that



230 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

Moses had skirted Moab in order to avoid a col-
lison, and '* sent messengers out of the wilderness of
Kedemoth unto Sihon king of the Amorites with
words of peace " (Deut. ii. 26). And it is further
stated that " Sihon gathered all his people together,
and went out against Israel into the wilderness : and
he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel" (Num.
xxi. 23); thus showing that the scene of the whole
transaction was in the extreme eastern part of the
country, and on the verge of the desert. The position
of Jajiis corresponds to this, for we reached the
desert in the evening of the same day. It is true
there is a discrepancy in the narrative, and that in
the account given in Numbers the messengers are
said to have been sent from the top of Pisgah, which
is generally supposed to be Nebo ; but, under any
circumstances, it is clear that Moses could not con-
tinue his march with an enemy advancing from the
desert upon his flank ; and his subsequent operations
rather go to prove that the scene of the battle was
far to the east, for it resulted in the possession of the
land " from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the chil-
dren of Ammon." The Jabbok, on which was situ-
ated Rabbath-Ammon, being, as I have said, about
eight miles distant, would answer this description.
After possessing the land they advance upon Og the
king of Bashan, attacking and defeating him at
Edrei. Their line of march from Jahaz would be
north for about fifty miles along the present Hadj



SITE OF JAZER. 23 1

road, from which Jaj^is is about twelve miles dis-
tant. They would thus skirt, by keeping along the
edge of the desert, the strong places of the children
of Ammon in Eastern Gilead, into which we are told
" they did not come." Jahaz was one of the cities
given with its suburbs to the Merarite Levites (i
Chron. vi. 78), and is denounced in Isaiah (Isa.
XV. 4) in these terms, " And Heshbon shall cry,
and Elealeh : their voice shall be heard even unto
Jahaz." Elealeh is between Jajiis and Heshbon, and
distant from the former about fifteen miles. Iden-
tically the same expression occurs in Jeremiah
(xlviii. 34).

There is another town, the site of which has never
been properly identified, while its name seems to
have a certain similarity to Jaj<is, and the claims
of which it may be worth while considering. This
is Jazer or Jaazer, or, in its extended form, Jaezzeir
(see Smith's Diet) It was a city of the Amorites,
of some importance, as may be gathered from its
giving its name to the surrounding district. When
the children of Reuben and of Gad " saw the land of
Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place
was a place for cattle," they decided upon remaining
there. It is afterwards called Jazer of Gilead (i
Chron. xxvi. 31). After the battle with Sihon at
Jahaz, it was taken by the Israelites on their way to
Bashan by the route I have already described. It
is one of the towns mentioned in connection with



232 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

Aroer and Jogbehah as having been rebuilt by the
Gadites (Num. xxxii. 35). It was one of the cities
of Gad whose " coast was Jazer, and all the cities of
Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon,
unto Aroer that is before Rabbah." Now Jogbehah
may, I think, be satisfactorily identified with Jubei-
hah, a ruin which we afterwards passed on our way
from Ammon (Rabbah) to Salt, and lies, as nearly as
I could judge, about four miles south-west of Jazer ;
it is very likely, therefore, to have been coupled with
it. When Joab passed over Jordan to number the
people, "he pitched in Aroer, on the right side of
the city that lieth in the midst of the valley of Gad,
and toward Jazer." It was given with its suburbs to
the Merarite Levites, and its doom is pronounced
both by Isaiah and Jeremiah, in terms implying
that it was celebrated for its vineyards : " For the
fields of Heshbon languish, and the vine of Sib-
mah." Sibmah was, according to Jerome, a suburb
of Heshbon. " The lords of the heathen have
broken down the principal plants thereof, they are
come even unto Jazer, they wandered through the
wilderness : her branches are stretched out, they are
gone over the sea. Therefore I will bewail with
the weeping of Jazer, the vine of Sibmah." In
Jeremiah there is the same allusion to the vine of
Sibmah and the weeping of Jazer, and he continues :
" Thy plants are gone over the sea, they reach
even to the sea of Jazer : the spoiler is fallen upon



SITE OF JAZER. 233

thy summer fruits and upon thy vintage." That the
surrounding country was, above all, adapted for vine-
culture, was a fact which forced itself specially upon
our notice; and our servants, who came from the
Lebanon, and were accustomed to the vineyards
there, never ceased pointing out to us the superior
excellence of the country round Jajtis. That a large
pond or reservoir might easily be formed in the
valley in which it was situated, and which in wet
weather was evidently marshy, might account for
the allusion to the sea. It is still more probable,
however, that the allusion was to the lake which
once covered the now depressed plain of the Bechda,
which must have been between forty and fifty miles
in circumference, and which from its proximity would
very naturally be called the sea of Jazer, the vines on
the hills round which would stretch their branches
over it.

Eusebius and Jerome, who are by no means ac-
curate generally in their definitions, lay down the
position of Jazer as eight or ten Roman miles west
of Rabbath - Ammon, and fifteen from Heshbon.
Had they added north, they would almost exactly
have hit Jaj{is, which is, however, considerably more
than fifteen miles from Heshbon. They further
place it at the source of a stream which flows into
the Jordan, whereas the wady in which Jajus is
situated falls into the Jabbok. There are two other
sites westward of Rabbath -Ammon, which are sev-



234 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

erally supposed by Burckhardt and Seetzen to be
those of Jazer ; but one is a great deal too far to
the west, and nothing definite so far has been dis-
covered. There is a Jazel near Heshbon, but this
would not be in the land of Gilead. Jahaz and
Jazer were evidently not far distant from each
other, and have so many points in common that
I must leave it to some one more competent than
myself to decide between the relative claims of the
two places. But that Jaj{is represents the site either
of one or the other I do not entertain much doubt.

While we were sitting at luncheon under the
shade of one of the fine old trees, an Arab came
up and reverently kissed a huge slab of stone which,
laid horizontally upon two upright blocks, formed
the entrance to an Arab burying-place. It was en-
closed by a circle of ancient stones almost druidical
in their arrangement, and, we were informed, con-
tained the tomb of a sheikh celebrated for his
sanctity. Several smaller circles of the stones, which
had been part of the ruins, formed other graveyards.
We followed down the valley for a quarter of a
mile, observing all the way traces of the ancient
city and scattered ruins, and then on a low hill on
the right came upon an extensive area of excava-
tions. The mound looked like a gigantic rabbit-
warren, so honeycombed was it with vaults, many
of the niches of which were still in an excellent state
of preservation, while the foundations of houses and



RUINS OF AN ANCIENT CITY. 235

their walls, to a height of three' or four feet, showed
that a populous part of the city had once been here.
Whether the vaults had been used as dwellings or
as granaries it was impossible to determine, but
probably the main street had led down the centre
of the valley from the temple to this spot, which
formed the mercantile quarter, with stores and ware-
houses. That it had been a place of considerable
importance in the time of the Romans there can be
little doubt. Indeed the whole of this neighbour-
hood would be well worthy a far more extended
examination than we were able to give it. We
followed down the wady for an hour and a half
from this point, the hillsides gradually changing
their appearance and becoming more barren, and
reached in the centre of the valley the Ain el Ghazal,
or spring of the gazelle. This is generally put in
the maps in the valley of the Zerka ; but all the
maps of this region are quite inaccurate, as it has
never been surveyed : and Dr Smith's excellent map,
usually so correct, is here quite at fault, for it puts
Kalat Zerka three or four miles to the east of the
Zerka or Jabbok, whereas it is actually upon it.
The wady which we had followed so far is called
the Wady Zorbi, and falls into the valley of the
Jabbok about two miles from the Ain el Ghazal.
The fountain itself is a very copious one, bursting
out of the side of a small narrow ravine or cleft in
the valley. The stream becomes almost immediately



236 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

large enough to be used for irrigating purposes, and
the Arab cultivation begins from this point and
continues down to the Jabbok, where that stream
is used in like manner, diverted into numerous rivu-
lets, and irrigates the level bed of the valley, which
averages half a mile and sometimes more in breadth.
The whole of this area was an expanse of waving
spring crops, and looked like a broad river of the
brightest green winding between hillsides covered
with a low wormwood scrub, from amid which red
crags projected, forming here and there caves and
fissures. Near the Ain el Ghazal we met an Arab
sheikh armed with a spear and accompanied by two
attendants. With the exception of the Arab we had
seen at Jajus, we had met no other human beings
since leaving the Arab camp in the Bechda. We
rode for an hour and a half down the valley of the
Jabbok, the river itself was thickly fringed with
oleanders, when we came upon the ruined fort of
Er Rusaifa. The outside walls of which little
more than the foundations were visible were
about eighty yards by fifty ; in the centre were
the remains of a tower about twenty feet square,
eight or ten feet of the walls of which were still
standing. This was in all probability an outpost
built by the Jefnides or Ghassanides, Arabs who
immigrated here from Southern Arabia, and occu-
pied this country for about five centuries after the
Roman authority had declined. To them are due



MILITARY POST. 237

most of the massive stone forts on the Hadj road.
Soon after this we came upon some Arabs of the
Beni Adiyet tribe engaged in irrigating. Many of
the men at work were negroes, and are the slaves
of the Arabs. The principal encampment of the
tribe was distant a mile or so to the left, and we
sent one of them to tell the sheikh to come and
meet us at Kalat Zerka, as he was the man whose
assistance we hoped to obtain for our further pro-
gress. Half an hour afterwards we reached the
broad camping-ground of the Hadj on the banks
of the Zerka; and on the other side, on a hill
about 300 feet above the river, stood the square
fort of Kalat Zerka, surrounded by the white
bell-tents of some Turkish soldiery. We spurred
across the ford and up the steep slope, to the in-
tense astonishment of some soldiers who were lead-
ing down their mules to water, and who little ex-
pected to be suddenly confronted with Europeans
in this remote corner of the desert.

We soon found out the officer in command, who
turned out to be a captain whose life had been spent
in service against the Arabs, and who had not been
engaged in the late war. He received us most
kindly in his diminutive tent, and we were soon
joined by the lieutenant and assistant-surgeon, or
rather apothecary, who was the best educated of
the three, and spoke French fairly. He had been
through the late campaign in Bulgaria, and spoke in



238 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

high terms of the medical and hospital assistance
which had been rendered by England on that oc-
casion. The detachment consisted of 200 men of
the mounted mule infantry, the same regiment which
we had already met at Irbid, they had only arrived
here ten days before. Prior to that no garrison had
been established here for ten years, but Midhat
Pasha was determined to put a stop to the raids of
the Beni Sukhr and Anazeh across the desert fron-
tier into Eastern Palestine, and this detachment had
been moved down here to check them. They were
the most advanced post on the Hadj road south-
wards, but since then I hear that some troops have
been sent to Kerak.

Kalat Zerka is the extreme limit of vegetation
eastward from the Jordan. Here begins the desert,
which extends without a break, except an occasional
oasis, to the Euphrates. From here it is about ten
days' journey on a camel to Bagdad. The Hadj
takes a week to reach this station from Damas-
cus, from which it is about 120 miles distant due
south ; this does not include ten days' halt at
Mezarib. Standing on the edge of the hill, we
looked southward and eastward over the rolling
desert, while to the north-west were the high wood-
ed mountains of Eastern Gilead, and south-west the
valley of the Jabbok. The stream here, flowing from
its sources near Rabbath - Ammon, makes an im-
mense bend, this being its extreme eastern point.



KALAT ZERKA. 239

It now trends north-westward, and forces its way
through the gorges which cleave the mountains of
Gilead. There is no certainty that the Israelites
ever settled themselves so far to the east as this, as
it was some miles beyond the eastern frontier of Gad,
though there can be little doubt that the force sent
by Moses to conquer Bashan must have passed by
this spot after the battle of Jahaz Edrei, the capi-
tal of Og, and the scene of the victory of the Israel-
ites over him, being, as I have already said, about
fifty miles to the north. In the neighbourhood of
Kalat Zerka took place, in all probability, some of
those fierce fights against the Midianites, the nar-
rative of which is contained in Holy Writ. While
the land of Midian proper was on the east coast of
the Gulf of Akaba, it is evident that by the Midianites
were understood all the Abrahamic Arabs who wan-
dered over the desert as far north as the Lejah, and
whose range included Kalat Zerka; for the five princes
captured by Moses were " dukes of Sihon dwelling in
the country," evidently, therefore, tributary to the
Amorites, who, together with the Ammonites, occu-
pied this region. That they should have crossed East-
ern Palestine and given battle to Gideon so far north
as Jezreel, on the plain of Esdraelon, proves that their
predatory excursions were by no means limited to
the southern deserts. After their defeat by that
warrior they fled across Jordan and made a second
stand, apparently on the frontier of their own terri-



240 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

tory, at a place called Karkor. Hither Gideon fol-
lowed them, and " went up by the way of them that
dwelt in tents on the east of Nobah and Jogbehah,
and smote the host" (Judges viii. 1 1). Now Jogbe-
hah is, as I before said, identical with Jubeihah, a
ruin only a few miles distant : it is probable, therefore,
that as " the way of them that dwelt in tents " be-
gins here, Karkor was in this immediate neighbour-
hood, perhaps Kalat Zerka itself.

Again, when Moses attacked the Midianites, it
was evidently from this quarter ; for immediately
after the account of his campaign against them, and
the immense plunder which he obtained, the tribes
of Reuben and Gad, who took part in the operations,
" saw the land of Jazer, that it was a good place for
cattle."

There can be little doubt, moreover, that this
vicinity was the scene of Jephthah's triumph over
the Ammonites, to which I have previously alluded.
"He smote them from Aroer even until thou come
to Minnith, even twenty cities, and unto the plain
of the vineyards" (Abel-ceramim), on the Yarmuk.
Now two stations on the Hadj road north of Kalat
Zerka is a place called Mineh ; and among the ten
towns mentioned by El Makreezee, an Arabic
writer in the year 825 of the Hegira, as still
existing, and which had originally belonged to the
Midianites, in the direction of Palestine, are El
Minyeh and El Ma-eyn (see Smith's Diet.) El



KALAT ZERKA. 241

Ma-eyn is undoubtedly Ma'an, one of the stations to
the south of Kalat Zerka, and still a place of con-
siderable importance as an Arab station, and con-
taining a settled population ; it lies about twenty
miles to the e'ast of Petra. El Minyeh seems to
be identical with Mineh, which was in all prob-
ability the ancient Minnith : the pursuit of Jephthah
would in that case have commenced near Kalat
Zerka, and followed up the Hadj road to the
Yarmuk.

That Kalat Zerka must always have been a strong
military position there can be little doubt. On an
isolated hill immediately overhanging the most east-
ern point of the most eastern stream in Palestine,
with the desert behind and the fertile lands of Gilead
in front, it was the key to this part of the country ;
and though I did not observe any traces of ancient
ruins on the top of the hill, there are some near the
ford to the right, called Hadid. According to the
Peutinger Tables, Kalat Zerka as nearly as possible
occupies the site of the Roman town of Gadda,
which does not, however, play any prominent part
in the history of this region.

After the Turkish captain had regaled us with
coffee and cigarettes, he offered to show us over the
fort. This was in such an extremely filthy con-
dition, and in places so much out of repair, that the
soldiers preferred living in their tents ; but it was
quite capable of being made habitable, and in the

Q



242 THE LAND OF GILEAD.

event of the troops remaining during winter, would
be occupied by them. It consisted of an outer wall,
about seventy yards each way, enclosing a court-
yard, in the centre of which was a massive square
tower about fifty feet high, composed of immense
blocks of stone. It was entered by a pointed arch-
way, the interior was a single chamber about fifty
feet square, which was inhabited by an Arab sheikh



Online LibraryLaurence OliphantThe land of Gilead, with excursions in the Lebanon; → online text (page 16 of 35)