Sir William Smith William Latham Bevan.

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this, therefore, was its earheat designation in Scripture (Qen. id. 31).
It did not, however, apply to the Trans-Joi'dauic region, this being
styled in contradistinction Qilead (Josh. xxii. 9-11). Before the
Exodus it was styled the "land of the Hebi-ews" (Gbn. xl. 15). and
after the Exodus the " land of Israel " (Judg. xix. 29), and occa-
sionally the "land of Jehovah" (Hog. ix. 3-, compare Lev. xxv. 23;
Pa. Ixxxv. 1). The expression "Holy Land *' which we have adopted
occurs but once in Scripture (Zech. ii. 12). Palestine is derived from
the Greeks, who described this portion of Syria under the specific title
of "Syria Palaestina," i. e. " Syria of the Philistines"* (Herod, i. 105).
After the return irom. the Babylonian captivity, the name of Judah,
wMch had previously applied only to the tribe of that name and after-
wards to the kingdom, was extended over the whole country, and the
people were named Judseans or Jews.

§ 2. The geographical position and physical character of Palestine
adapted it in many respects for its special office in the world's
history. (1.) Its boundaries were well defined: the wilderness
encompassed it on the E. and S., while on the N. the mountainous
district of Lebanon, and on the W. the Mediterranean Sea closed it



1 The present condition of Palestine presents in this respect a most melancholy
contrast. The change may be traced to various causes : — the destruction of the
terraces and water-channels — the cxtiriwtion of the forests — and the constant
wars that have desolated the country.
* This was the name by which it was Icnown to the Romans :

Alba Palnstino sancta oolumba Syro. — ^Tibvix. J?/, i. 7, 18.

I 3



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178 PALESTINE. Book II.

in. Thus the Jews were distinctly separated from all other nations.
(2.) It was well situated with regard to the early seats of empire
and civilization, having Egypt on the one side and Mesopotamia on
the other. All intercourse between these countries was necessarily
conducted through Palestine : in a military point of view especially
Palestine was the gate of Egypt. From these causes both the
£g3rptians and Assyrians must have become well acquainted ^lith ita
institutions and religion. (3). It i)06sessed no facilities for extended
commerce ; the coast-line is regular, and offers no harbourage, except
at the small port of Joppa ; the country was not gifted with any
peculiar productions which called forth a spirit of inventive genius.
(4.) The varied character of its soil yielded all the productions
requisite for the necessities and even the luxuries of its inhabit-
ants, and made them comparatively independent of other countries.
§ 3. The mountain system of Palestine is connected with the
great range of Taurus by the intervening chains of Amanus,
Bargylus, and Libanus or Lebanon. From the latter of these a
high mountainous district emanates which runs parallel to, but at
some distance from the Mediterranean coast through the whole
length of the land, broken only at one point by the plain of Esdraelon,
and the valley of the river Kishon. The mountains S. of Esdraelon
are subdivided into two sections by a depression, which occurs in
the neighbourhood of Jenisalem : the southern of these sections
comprised the " hill country of Judaea," the northern the " moun-
tains of Ephraim :" the elevation of this district gradually increases
towards the S., and attains a height of 3250 feet above the level of
the sea in the neighbourhood of Hebron. The regularity of the
coast-line is broken' by the protrusion of a lofty spur that boimds
the plain of Esdraelon on the S., terminating in the promontory of
CamisL The district on the eastern side of Jordan may be regarded
as a prolongation of the range of Antilibanus, which is continued in
the ranges of el-ffeish and el* Faros to the head of the Sea of Galilee,
and then subsides into the table-land of Hauran. On the southern
side of the Uieroroax the ground rises again, and attains its greatest
elevation in Mount Oilead S. of the Jabbok. The plateau which
succeeds towards the S. rises abniptly from the valley of the
Jordan, and falls off gradually eastward to tlie desert of Arabia.
The most remarkable height in the whole of Palestine is the northern
peak of Hflnnon at the extremity of Antilibanus : it received various
names, Sirion, Senir, and occasionally Sion (Deut. iv. 48), the two
former signifying "breastplate," and suggested by the glittering
appearance of the summit under the influence of the sun's rays : it
is now called Jebel-esh-Sheikh, ** the old man's mountain," or
•*the chief mountain;" its height is about 10,000 feet, and its
siunmit is streaked with snow even in the middle of summer.



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Chap. XI. PLAINS — BIVER JORDAN. 1 79

§ 4. Next to the mountains, the plaujs demand our notice, from
the strong contrast which they present in point of elevation and cha-
racter. ITiese plains extend on each side of the hill-country of
Western Palestine : on the W. a rich district stretches from Garmel
along the coast of the Mediterranean to the borders of the desert,
divided into two portions, Sharon, ** the smooth,** forming the northern
division, and ghepheU, " the low," the southern, while N. of Carmel
follows the beautiful plain that surrounds Acre. On the E. lies the
plain of the Jordan, deeply sunk below the level of 'the sea, and
presenting in almost every respect a remarkable contrast to the hill-
country : it was described by the Hebrews as ** the desert," by the
Greeks as Anloo, " the channel," and by the modem Arabs as
d'Ghor, " the sunken plain.** The difference in point of elevation of
these closely contiguous districts is best shown by a reference to
the accompanying diagram. Jerusalem stands about 3500 feet
above the Dead Sea, about the same elevation at which a spec-
tator overlooks the sea at Carnarvon from the top of Snowdon.*







1. Jeraialem. 3. Dead Sea. 3. MounUlnt of Moab.



§ 5. The only river of importance in Palestine is the Jordan,
which rises at the base of Hermon, and flows with a rapid stream
(whence its name, meaning ** the swiftly descending **) through the
lakes of Merom and Galilee into the Dead Sea, its valley sinking far
below the level of the Mediterranean. The Arabs name it Sheriat-
el'Khebir, " the watering place.**

Its early course lies along a level and swampy plain to the Lake of
Merom : at this point the depression of it« bed commences, and it
descends 300 feet to the Sea of Gklilee. Emerging from this it descends
again 1000 feet by a series of rapids to the Dead Sea, receiving on its
left bank the tributary streams of the Hieromaz and the Jabbok. This
last stage of its course lies along a deep valley, about eight miles broad,
enclosed between two parallel mountam walls. As the river flows in
the lowest part of this valley, it is incapable of finictifying it, and hence
it was specially termed " the desert " {Horarahah) by the Hebrews. In
the midst of this barrenness, the uanks of the river are fringed with a
prolific growth of trees and grass. It is crossed by fords at four points,

* TbU contrast of mountain and plain exeroiaes an infloenoe on the politieal
arrangements, and eren on the language of the country. From it arises the brtnd
division of the population into the Amorites, " dwellers in the mountains,** and
the Canaanitcs, " dwellers in the plain.** Hence also the expressions so frequent
in Scripture, "going down,'* e.ff. to Jericho, " going up*' to Jerusalem. To the
same feature we may also attribute the extensire views which are to be obtained
from various poinU of the hill-country.



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180 PALESTINE. Book II.

viz. below the Sea of Galilee, below the confluence of the Jabbok, and
at two points opposite Jericho. In the latter part of its course the
bed of the river is depressed about 50 to 80 feet oelow the level of the
plain: its breadth varies from 80 to 100 feet, and its depth from 10 to
1 2 feet. At the time the Israelites crossed it, it was full up to its banks
— an occurrence still occasionally witnessed in the beginning of May.
The Jordan with its singularly depressed valley formed a natiural divi-
sion of Palestine into two portions, described in Scripture as '* this
side " and " the other side Jordan."

The Jordan was connected with a system of lakes, which were
fed by it ; they were named — the first Menm, now Ard-el-Huleh ;
the second, by the several names of the Sea of Ghinnereth or Chinnd-
roth, perhaps from its oval, " harp-like " form, the Sea of OalilM from
the province in which it lay, and the Lake of G«imef«reth or TiberiM
from places on its coast : the third, the ^ great *' or ** salt " sea of the
Hebrews, the Laons Asphaltftas of the Romans, the Bahr Lut^ " IjOt's
Sea,** of the Arabs, and the *' Dead Sea *' of some classical writers
.and of modern geography.

Merom is about 4^ miles long by .3^ broad, and is surrounded by an
impenetrable mass of jungle : on the plain in its neighbourhood was
fought the last battle between Joshua and the Canaanites. The Sea of
Oal&M is about 1 3 miles long by 6 wide ; it lies in a deeply sunk basin,
8un*ounded by hills of great elevation. On the eastern shore these
hills rise almost immediately from the edge of the lake t on the western
shoi'e a fertile strip of land intervenes, and at one point, about midway
from the ends of the lake, there is a considerable plain about 5 miles
wide by 6 broad, formed by the receding mountains. The lake still
abounds with fish as in our Saviour's time. The Dead Sea is 40 miles
long by 8 J broad, and lies at a depression of above 1300 feet below the
level of the sea. The lower part of the sea is narrowed by the projec-
tion of a broad promontory : a great alteration in the depth occurs at
this point, the northern portion being deep, the southern quite shallow.
The whole is enclosed by a double mountoin wall, the continuation of
that which bounds the 6hor. The saltness of the water is remarkable,
the perH}entage of salt being 26i , while that of the ocean is only 4. This
arises from a barrier of fossil salt at the southern eAd of the lake,
aided by the effects of evaporation. Masses of asphaltum are sometimes
thrown up from the bottom. Along the shore are numerous salt
marshes, on which pure sulphur is often found, and near the southern
end are salt-pits. A number of springs pour into the lake, of which the
most fiEunous wei*e En-eglaim, probably the Callirhoe in which Herod
bathed, at the N.E. end, and En-gedi on the western coast, surrounded
by a small oasis of verdure. The lake receives a further supply from
some tributary streams on its eastern shore, of which the Amon is the
most important. Changes have probably occurred in the condition of
the lake within historical times: the description of Lot (Gen. xiii. 10)
is now inappropriate, and the &ct of a Pentapolis, or confederacy of
five cities, viz., Sodom, Qomorrah, Admah, Zeboim, and Lasha, having
existed near the southern part of the lake renders it likely that the
shallow part of the lake has oeen recently submerged, and was formerly
a rich plain. The opinion formerly entertained, that the Jordan may
formerly have found a channel by the Arabah into the Red Sea, has



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Chap. XI. INHABITANTS. 181

been proved inoorreot by the discovery that the ground rUes S. of the
hike.

§ 6. The population of Palestine was composed of numerous
races, which succeeded one another in the possession of the country.

i. Its earliest inhabitants probably belonged to those "Giant'*
races, of which but a few isolated communities remained in his-
torical times, lliey were most numerous in the Trans-Jordanio
district, where we have notice of the Rephaims in Ashteroth-
Kamaim, the Zuzims or Zamzummim in Ham, and the £mim
in Shaveh Kiriathaim (Gen. xiv. 5). Og, the King of Bashan, was
the last survivor of the race in that district (Deut. iii. 11). They
were also found W. of Jordan, viz. the Anakim about Hebron
(Num. xiii. 22; Josh. xiv. 15); the Rephaim, who gave name to a
valley to the S.W. of Jerusalem (2 Sam. v. 18) ; and perhaps the
A vim in Philistia (Deut. ii, 23). The origin and history of these
races is a matter of conjecture.

ii. The Canaanites were, like the Phoenicians, a Semitic race.
There is certainly some difficulty in reconciling the Biblical state-
ment (according to which Canaan was a son of Ham, Gen. x. 6)
with* the conclusions to be derived from language and other ethno-
logical indications. It is clear that when Abraham first entered
Canaan the language spoken by the inhabitants was the same as
the later Hebrew : not only did Abraham converse with the Hittites
without an interpreter (Gen. xxiii.), but the names Melchizedek,
Salem, and others, are clearly of a Semitic origin.

iii. The Philistines were a Hamitic race ; according to Gen. x.
14, they were connected with the Casluhim, and according to Jer.
xlvii. 4, and Am. ix. 7, with the Caphthorim. As these two tribes
wore closely allied, it is possible that the Caphthorim immigrated
into the country of the Casluhim at a later period. The Philistines
were intimately connected with Egypt : the-name Caphthor survived
in Coptos, and Philistine perhaps in Pelusium ; the name Philistine
is supposed to be of Coptic origin, betokening " strangers " (hence,
in the LXX. they are termed aXXd</>vXoi), indicating their immi-
gration from Upper to Lower Egypt. '"

iv. The Hebrews were also a Semitic race, who immigrated at
a later period from the northern port of Mesopotamia, When they
first appear, in history they were a nomadic tribe, who merely fed
their flocks and herds by the permission of the older occupants.
Their growth as a people took place in Egypt, whence they issued
as an invading host and took forcible possession of the land of the
Canaanites, in many instances exterminating the inhabitants, in
others reducing them to the position of bondsmen. It is dear,
however, that the Hebrews were at no period possessors of the
whole of the country. The Philistines in the S. and the Phceni-



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182 PALESTINE. Book II.

oians in the N. held their ground permanently; and for a long
period the Canaanites occupied strongholds in the midst of the
Hebrews (1 Sam. vii. 14 ; 2 Sam. xxK 2, xxiv. 7). The population
was thus of a nixed character, foreign races holding the extremities
of the land, while in the central districts Canaanites were found
even to the latest times of tlie monarchy (Ezr. ix. 12), much in the
relative positions of the Speurtans and Helots of Laconia (1 Kings,
ix. 20, 21).

V. The Samaritans were a mixed race of Hebrews and Baby*
lonians. Their existence, as a people, dates from the period of the
Israelitish captivity, when Shalmaneser introduced colonies of Baby-
lonians into Samaria to supply the place of the inhabitants whom he
had carried off. A certain portion of the latter appear to have
remained behind, or perhaps they returned gradually from the place
of their captivity. Religious teachers were supplied at their own
request, and thus both the people and their religion assumed a hybrid
character, which led to extreme jealousy on the part of the pure Jews,
and ultimately to the estrangement indicated in John iv. 9.

(vi.) We have, lastly, to notice some tribes which wei-e connected
with the Israelites by ties of relationship ; such as the Moabites and
Ammonites, who were descended from Lot, and the Kenites, to
whom Hobab, the father-in-law of Moses, belonged.

§ 7, ITie divisions of Palestine varied in the different ijeriods of
its history.

i. The earliest of these periods may be termed the Canaanitisb,
and lasted from the time when the country is first known to us
down to the entrance of the Hebrews. During this it was occupied
mainly by the Canaanitish tribes, and partly by the Philistines and
the descendants of Abraham and Lot.

The Canaanitish Period,-^The Canaanites were divided into the follow-
ing tribes: — 1. Hivitea in the northern districts about the roots of
Lebanon (Josh. xi. 3), and at one period about Shechem (Gen. xxxiv. 2).

2. Qirgashites, whose abode is not specified 19 the few passages in
which the name occurs (Deut. \'ii. 1; Josh. xxiv. 11; Neh. ix: 8).

3. Jebusitee, about Jeausalem (Josh. xv. 8 ; Judg. i. 21). 4. Hittitesi
more to the S., in the neighbourhood of Hebron (Qen. xxiil. 3). 5.
Amorites, about the western shores of the Dead Sea (Gen. xiv. 7," 13),
and across the valley of the Jordan to the opposite highlands! where',
at the time of the Expdus, they had two kingdoms, with Heshbon
for the southern (Num. xxi. 13, 26) and Ashtaroth for the northern
capital (Deut. i. 4 ; Josh. ix. 10). 6. Canaanites (properly so called),
on the sea-slwre N. of Philistia and in the plains of the Jordan
(Kum. xiii. 29), the two branches bemg described as the "Canaanite
on the east and on the west" (Josh. xi. 3). Whether the Perizzite8
were a Canaanitish tribe or not is imoertaiu: they are not enumerated
in Gen. x. 15-19. It has been surmised,, however, that the name is
significant, and that the Perizzitee were the "agriculturists" in oppo-
sition to the Canaanites, "the merchants," and that thus Canaanite



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Chap. XI. TERRITORIAL DIVISIONS— J UD^A. 183

and Perizzite formed the two great div^iBioiui of the people, aocording
to their occupations (Gen. xiii. 7, xxxiv. 30). Some of the above names
are applied m an extended sense to the whole of Palestine, as the
Hittites (Josh. i. 4) and the Amorites (Qen. xt. 16 ; Josh. xxiv. 18). .

At the time of the Exodus the Moabites, who had previously occu-
pied the district E. of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, had been expelled
from it by the Amorites and were living S. of the Amon (Num. xxi.
13, 2»>). The name "field" or "plains of Moab" was, nevertheless,
always applied to their former territory (Deut. i. 5; Josh. xiii. 32).
The Ammonites lived originally to the N., in the highlands adjacent
to the valley of the Jordan, between the Amon and Jabbok, but had
been driven to the borders of the vrildemess by the Amorites, east-
ward of the Jabbok in its upper course (Deut. iii. 16). The Kenites
roamed about the country, and are found at one period in the wilder-
ness of Judah (Judg. i. 16), at another in northern Palestine (Judg. iv.
11), and again among the Amalekites (1 Sam. xv. 6).

The Philistines were settled in Uie southern maritime plain of
Judaea, where thov had a confederacy of five cities — Ashdod, Qaza.
Ekron, Oath, and Ascalon.

ii. The second period may be termed the Israelitish, lasting
from the time of Joshua to the Babylonish captivity, when Palestine
was divided among the twelve tribes, the earlier nations occupying
certain positions. In the latter part of this period the whole country
was divided into the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel — the former
comprising the southern portion of western Palestine as far as the
boundary of Benjamin and Ephraim, and the latter the whole
remaining district.

iii. The third period may be termed the Roman, and is con-
temporaneous with the New Testament history. Western Palestine
was then divided into three portions — Judfea, Samaria, and Galilee
— while eastern Palestine was divided into several districts, of which
Penea was the most important, extending from the southern frontier
to the Sea of Galilee, the northern district being subdivided into
Itunea, Ganlonltis, Auranltis, and Tracbonltis. We shall adopt the
divisions of this third period in the following detailed description of
the country, retaining the tribes as subdivisions.

iv. Finally, at the commencement of the 5th century a.d., Pales-
tine was divided into three provinces ; Palaestina Prima, consisting
of the northern part of Judaea, Samaria, and Philistia ; P. Secunda,
Galilee and Northern Peraea ; and P. Tertia or Salutaris, the southern
parts of Judsea and Persea, with a part of Arabia Petrsea.

I. JUDAA.

§ 8. Judaea comprised the territories of the tribes of Simeon,
Judah, Dan, and Benjamin, together with the maritime district of
Philistia. Within these limits were included districts differing
widely from each other in physical character, climate, and produc-
tions. There was first the " south country,*' consisting of an undu-



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184 JUD^A. Book II.

Utiug plain between the mountains of Judah and the desert of
et'Tih : secondly, the " hill country," the central district, which was
highly elevated and richly cultivated ; thirdly, the " desert,** which



intervened lietween this and the Dead Sea ; and, lastly, the maritime
plain, named Shephela, which was remarkably fertile.

§ 9. The tribe of Simeon occupied the ** south country," which was
unfavourably situated, being exposed to the attacks of the Amalek-
ites and other desert tribes : it consequently possessed no towns of
importance, but had several stations about wells, such as Beersheba,
Laharoi, and others.

Boenheba, "the well of the oath," is connected with many in-
cidents of intereflt: the well was onginally dug by Abraham, and
named after the treaty which he formed with Abimelecb: here the
patriarch planted a grove and received bis order to slay Isaac ; and
Jacob obtained the blessing from Esau, and offered up sacrifices before
leaving his native country. Samuel here appointed his sons Judges,
and it was visited by ElijaSi on his journey to Horeb : it was the most
southerly town of Palestine. There are still at this spot two wells
furnishing pure living water.



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Chap. XI. JUDAH — TOWNS. 185

§ 10. The " south country *' was succeeded by the " hill country,"
occupied by the tribe of Judah, a broad district of hill and vale
overlooking in one direction the Dead Sea, in the other the maritime
plain of Philistia. Its fertility was great : it was (and even still is
in spots) well covered with corn-fields and vineyards ; the ravines
were clothed with forests, and the various mountain-tops afforded
secure sites for fortified towns. The most elevated part is in the
neighbourhood of Hebron, which stands 3000 feet above the level of
the sea. The territory of Judah extended on each side of this
mountain district into the plain that lies adjacent to it on the W.,
and over the wide plateau which extends eastward to the precipitous
heights overhanging the Dead Sea, and which from its desolate cha-
racter well deserves the title of the " wilderness " of Judah.

The chief town in the hill coimtry was Hebron,** originally Kirjatb-
arba, situated on a hill OTerlooking the fertile vallev of Eshcol, which
is BtUl well clothed with orchards, oliveyards, and vineyards; it is first
noticed as the abode of Ephron the Hittite, and afterwards as the place
where Abraham settled; Caleb selected it as his portion at the con-
quest of Canaan, and drove out Arba and his sous; it was the central
spot to which the tribe of Judah rallied under David and Absalom.
Near it was the cave of Xaefapelali, where the patriarchs were buried,
now marked by. a building odled the Haram; and a little N. of the
town is Kamre, Ramehf beneath the shelter of whose grove ("plain"
in the English translation, Qen. xiv. 13, xxiii. 15) Abraham pitched
his tent. BethlehAm, ** the house of bread/' sumamed of Judah, to dis-
tinguish it from another in Zebulun, and also Ephratah, *' firuitftil,"
stands a short distance E. of the road leading from Hebron to Jeru-
salem, on a narrow ridge which protrudes eastward from the central
range, and which descends steeply into valleys on all sides but the W.
It was here that Jacob buried Rachel — ^that Ruth gleaned in the fields
of Boaz — ^that David spent his youth— and, above all, that the Saviour
of the world was bom, and in the adjacent fields the good news was first
told from heaven to the shepherds.

Of the other towns in this district we may notice — Maon, on the
summit of a coiiical hill, overlooking the desert of Judah — Oarmel,
somewhat westward, the scene of the story of Abigail and David —
Engedi, a spot on the western shore of the Dead Sea, which gave
name, to the surrounding \\dldeme8S — Ladhish, in the maritime plain
just at the foot of the lulls, an important military post commanding
the south country; it was fortified by Rehoboam, and was besieged by
Sennacherib — libxiah, to the N.W., also besieged by Sennacherib; it
was an old Canaaniti8h town, and sufficiently strong to revolt from
king Jehoram — Etham, Urtas, a little S. of fiethlehem, where are cer-
tain reservoirs, now named " Solomon's Pools," with which the Temple



Online LibrarySir William Smith William Latham BevanThe student's manual of ancient geography → online text (page 22 of 82)