James Silk Buckingham.

Travels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 7 of 26)
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nassis ; et Gilead se extendit usque ad Dan. — Reland. 1. i.
c. 21. de Moabitis, p. 104.

* Terra Gilead ssepe omnem regionem trans Jordanem de-
notat. — Reland. 1. i. c. 1. p. 4.

f St. Matt. iv. 25. Mark, y. 26. and vii. 3.

X Ab urbe T71J Golan regio vicina dicitur Gaulanitis, quam
Josephus videtur exlendere a Peraea juxta ripam Jordanis
orientalem usque ad Libanum. Scribit enim Ant. viii. 2. in
Galaaditide ac Gaulonitide usque ad Libanum sitas fuisse
urbes 60 munitas, quae *V{$i /"HI"! 1 ^ e S- * v - U$* nuncupan-
tur. — Reland. 1. 1 . c. 33. p. 1 99.



time of her great wealth and naval splendour, the
Prophet says, " Of the oaks of Bashan have they
made thine oars." * Some learned commenta-
tors, indeed, believing that no oaks grew in these
supposed desert regions, have translated this
word by alders, to prevent the appearance of
inaccuracy in the inspired writer. The expres-
sion of the fat bulls of Bashan, which occurs
more than once in the Scriptures, seemed
to us equally inconsistent, as applied to the
beasts of a country generally thought to be a
desert, in common with the whole tract which
is laid down in our modern maps as such, be-
tween the Jordan and the Euphrates t ; but we
could now fully comprehend, not only that the
bulls of this luxuriant country might be pro-
verbially fat, but that its possessors too might be
a race renowned for strength and comeliness of
person. X

* Ezekiel, xxvii. 6.

j It was because the tribes of Reuben and Gad possessed a
multitude of cattle that they intreated Moses to give them this
land for their portion, as it was a land of rich pastures, and not
to take them over Jordan. See Numbers, xxxii. 1 — 5. and
Joseph. Ant. Jud. 1. iv. c. 7 . s. 3.

J It was called the Land of Giants, probably from the great
strength of its people. (Deut. iii. 13.) It contained three-
score great cities, with walls and brazen bars, (1 Kings, iv. 13.)
" And Og, the king of Bashan, pre-eminent above his subjects,
slept on a bedstead of iron which was nine cubits long, and four
broad, after the cubit of a man." (Deut. iii. 11.)


In our way, just as we came out from a thick
wood and opened on an extensive view, we were
surprised by a party of peasants on foot, to the
number of thirty at least, all armed with muskets
slung across their shoulders. These were Arabs,
though they possessed scarely any thing but the
language in common with the Arabs whom we
had been accustomed to see. The great fea-
tures of difference observable in them were, that
they were generally taller, more robust, and of
finer forms and fairer complexions. Some of them
had even light eyes, and many of them brown
and auburn hair, which they wore in tresses
hanging over their shoulders. The dress of
these men differed also both from that of the
desert Arabs, and of the Syrian peasants. They
wore long white shirts girded round the loins,
but neither turbans nor other coverings for their
heads. From retaining the beard while the hair
was suffered to hang in long and curling locks
over the neck, they resembled the figures which
appear in the Scriptural pieces of the great mas-
ters, and many of them reminded us of the
representation of Christ himself in the princi-
pal scenes of his life.

These men were cultivators of the earth, and
had been occupied in the tillage of their lands,
from which labour they were now returning.
As they live in a state of complete independence


of Pashas or other governors, there are no boun-
daries that mark any peculiar portion of the
earth as private property. Rich land is so abun-
dant in every direction near them, that the only
claim to the possession of any particular spot,
is that of having ploughed and sown it, which
entitled the person so doing to the harvest of
his toils for the present season. In all their oc-
cupations they continue to be armed, partly
because their country is sometimes scoured by
horse Arabs from the eastern deserts, against
whom they are then called to defend themselves j
and partly because it is the fashion of the
country to be armed, insomuch, that the being
without weapons of some kind or other, is
always imputed to great poverty or to
cowardice. *

They seemed to suspect our party of having
come among them with some views of plunder,
and therefore at first approached us with great
caution, and even after we had prevailed on

* Diodorus Siculus, after describing the manners of the
Nabatheans, or Arabs of the desert, says, " There are, likewise,
other kind of Arabians, some of whom employ themselves in
husbandry, selling of corn, with other provisions, and agree
with the Syrians in all other things except dwelling in houses.
These were an intermediate race between the Arabs of the
desert, and the Arabs of towns, and resembled, in the general
features of their lives, the people we met with here. — Diod.
Sic. b. xix. c. 6.


them to answer our enquiries, and persuaded
them into a belief of our story, that we had
chosen this route to Damascus rather than the
western one, from believing it to be, at the
present moment, less dangerous, they still hung
together, and had their arms in readiness to
repel any treacherous attack. They informed
us of their being the inhabitants of a village
near, and offered to conduct us to their Sheikh,
to which, as it lay directly in our way, we made
no objections, and accordingly followed them.

As we continued to advance, going always
on a general course of north-east, with trifling
variations on the right and the left, we came
into cultivated land, sown with corn, the young
blades of which were already appearing above
the earth, from their having had gentle showers
on the mountains, while all the country west of
the Jordan was parched with drought. The
general face of this region improved as we ad-
vanced farther in it, and every new direction of
our path opened upon us views which surprised
and charmed us by their grandeur and their
beauty. Lofty mountains gave an outline of the
most magnificent character; flowing beds of
secondary hills, softened the romantic wildness
of the picture ; gentle slopes, clothed with wood,
gave a rich variety of tints, hardly to be imitated
by the pencil ; deep valleys, filled with mur-

1 3


muring streams and vetdant meadows, offered
all the luxuriance of cultivation ; and herds
and flocks gave life and animation to scenes as
grand, as beautiful, and as highly picturesque,
as the genius or taste of a Claude could either
invent or desire.

It was about four o'clock when we approached
the village of Boorza, on entering which, we
passed two grottoes excavated in the solid rock,
of a size only just sufficient to admit of the se-
pulture of a single corpse ; and near to these,
we saw also, on the outside, a sarcophagus of
stone, which was sufficient to mark them as
sepulchral caves, and to prove the place to be the
site of some more ancient settlement. We were
desirous of alighting at the town, and of passing
the night there ; but our guides, who were quite
as unwilling to trust themselves in the hands of
these cultivators, as they themselves were to
confide implicitly in the faith of desert Arabs,
raised a thousand objections to our making even
a temporary halt. These objections were urged
with so much force, and the propriety of obeying
their directions was illustrated by so many tales
of treachery, that we felt ourselves obliged,
however reluctantly, to submit to them, and
continue our way. The magic of the picture
around us was such, however, as frequently to
arrest our steps, in order to prolong the enjoy-


ment of what we regretted to be so hastily torn
away from beholding.

The village of Boorza, is seated on the brow
of a hill facing towards the south-east, and com-
mands before it, in that direction, a prospect
which no language can adequately describe. It
appeared to contain from forty to fifty dwellings
of stone, and we learnt that the whole of the in-
habitants were nominally Mohammedans, though
they have among them neither a mosque nor a
priest, nor do they trouble themselves about re-
ligion, any farther than maintaining the public
profession of it. On an eminence to the right
of the town, we noticed the ruins of an old
castle, which occupied a commanding position,
and proved this place to have been anciently a
post of defence. We regretted our not being
permitted by the guides to go up and examine
this edifice; but as it would no doubt have col-
lected all the people of the town about us, it
was necessary to make this sacrifice of our
wishes to secure our passing in tranquillity. The
architecture of this citadel presented no peculiar
features, except that it was strongly constructed
of stone, and was of a square form.

In the enumeration of the cities of refuge

which Moses set apart on the east side of Jordan

toward the sun-rising, mention is made of Bezer

in the wilderness ; but this was in the plain

i 4


country of the Reubenites, while Ramoth was
in Gilead of the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan
of the Manassites * ; and Josephus further adds,
that it was at the borders of Arabia, t There
was, however, another city called Bosor, which
was in the land of Gilead, near to the brook of
Jabbok, and not far from the plain which is
opposite to Scythopolis, on the west of Jordan,
though this city itself was less than three days'
journey east of it.

The relative position of this village of Boorza
in the land of Gilead, and its vicinity to the
brook of Jabbok, not far from being opposite to
Scythopolis, and less than three days' journey
east of the Jordan, are circumstances which ren-
der it highly probable that it marks the site of
the last Bosor spoken of; and if the local resem-
blance of its being seated on a hill, and pos-
sessing a citadel, as well as the similarity of
its present name to that of the ancient town,
be considered, its claims will be numerous
and well founded. This, however, will be
best understood by an examination of the

In the history of the exploits of the Maccabees,
in their wars against the enemies of the Jews, it
is said, —

" As for Judas Maccabeus, and his brother

* Deut. iv. 43.

f Joseph. Ant. Jud. 1. iv. c. 7. s. 4.


Jonathan, they passed over the river of Jordan,
and when they had gone three days' journey,
they lit upon the Nabatheans, who came to meet
them peace'ably, and told them how the affairs of
those in the land of Gilead stood, and how many
of them were in distress, and driven into garri-
sons, and into the cities of Galilee, and exhorted
him to make haste to go against the foreigners,
and to endeavour to save his own countrymen out
of their hands. To this exhortation Judas heark-
ened, and returned into the wilderness ; and in
the first place fell upon the inhabitants of Bosor,
and took the city, and beat the inhabitants, and
destroyed all the males, and all that were able to
fight ; and burnt the city. Nor did he stop
even when night came on, but journeyed in it
to the garrison, where the Jews happened to be
then shut up, and where Timotheus lay round
the place with his army. Judas came upon the
city in the morning ; and when he found that
the enemy were making an assault upon the
walls, and that some of them brought ladders,
on which they might get upon those walls, and
that others brought engines (to batter them), he
had the trumpeter to sound his trumpet, and
encouraged his soldiers cheerfully to undergo
dangers for the sake of their brethren and kin-
dred ; he also parted his army into three bodies,
and fell upon the backs of their enemies. But
when Timotheus's men perceived that it was


Maccabeus that was upon them, of whose cou-
rage and good success in war they had formerly
had sufficient experience, they were put to flight.
But Judas followed them with his army, and
slew about eight thousand of them. He then
turned aside to a city of the foreigners, called
Malle *, and took it, and slew all the males, and
burnt the city itself. He then removed from
thence, and overthrew Casphom, and Bosorf,
and many other cities of the land of Gilead.

" But not long after this, Timotheus prepared
a great army, and took many others as auxilia-
ries, and induced some of the Arabians, by the
promise of rewards, to go with him in this ex-
pedition, and came with his army beyond the
brook, over against the city Raphon. And he
encouraged his soldiers, if they came to a battle
with the Jews, to fight courageously, and to
hinder their passing over the brook ; for he
told them beforehand, « if they come over it,
we shall be beaten.' And when Judas heard
that Timotheus prepared himself to fight, he
took all his own army and went in haste against
Timotheus, his enemy, and when he had passed
over the brook, he fell upon his enemy, and

* Maspha is the name given to this place in the Apocrypha,
(1 Mace. v. 35.)

f Casphom, Maged, and Bosor, are the names in the Apo-
crypha, (1 Mace. v. 36.)


some of them opposed him, whom he slew ;
and others of them he so terrified, that he com-
pelled them to throw down their arms and fly.
Some of these escaped, but others fled to what
was called the Temple, at Carnaim, and hoped
thereby to preserve themselves. But Judas took
the city, and slew them, and burnt the Temple ;
and so used several ways of destroying his

" When he had done this, he gathered the
Jews together, with their children and wives,
and the substance that belonged to them, and
was going to bring them back into Judea. But
as soon as he was come to a city whose name
was Ephron, that lay upon the road (and as it
was not possible for him to go any other way,
so he was not willing to go back again), he sent
to the inhabitants, and desired that they would
open their gates, and permit them to go on
their way through the city ; for they had
stopped up the gates with stones, and cut off
their passage through it. And when the inhabi-
tants of Ephron would not agree to this pro-
posal, he encouraged those that were with him,
and encompassed the city around, and besieged
it ; and lying round it by day and by night,
took the city, and slew every male in it, and
burnt it down, and so obtained a way through
it. And the multitude of those that were slain


was so great, that they went over the dead
bodies. So they came over Jordan, and arrived
at the great plain, over against which is situate
the city Bethshan, whicli is called by the
Greeks Scythopolis. * And departing hastily
from thence, they came into Judea, singing
psalms and hymns as they went, and indulging
such tokens of mirth as are usual in triumphs
upon victory. They also offered thank-offer-
ings, both for their good success, and for the
preservation of their army ; for not one of the
Jews were slain in these battles." t

The country of the Nabatheans was in
Arabia Petrea, to the southward of the Lake
Asphaltitis, and the name of Nabatheans was
given generally to all the Arabs living between
the heads of the Arabian and the Persian Gulf.
But it is here said, that after they had gone
three days' journey on , the other side of Jordan,
they met the Nabatheans, who came to meet
them peaceably, and told them how the affairs
of the land of Gilead stood, in which land,
therefore, they probably were. Yet, from this

* "The reason why Bethshan was called Scythopolis, is
well known from Herodotus, b. i. p. 105. and Syncellus,
p. 214. That the Scythians, when they over-ran Asia in the
days of Josiah, seized on this city, and kept it as long as they
continued in Asia, from which time it retained the name of
Scythopolis, or the city of Scythians." — Note on Josephus.

f Joseph. Ant. Jud. l.xii. c. 8. s. 3. 4. 5.


distance of three days, where he met these
Nabatheans, Judas is said to have returned into
the wilderness. * The writer of the Book of
Maccabees says, Judas Maccabeus also, and
his brother Jonathan, went over Jordan, and
travelled three days. They then turned sud-
denly by the way of the wilderness unto Bosora,
which they took and burnt. It was after this
that Bosor was taken, and this is expressly said
to have been one of the cities of the land of
Gilead. t What Josephus calls the garrison,
in which the Jews were shut up, the writer
of the Apocrypha calls the fortress, evidently of
the town itself, and most probably this identical
ruined citadel now seen here on the adjoining
hill, and still retaining so appropriate a name. }

* Joseph. Ant. Jud. 1. xii. c. 8. s. 3. 4. 5.
t 1 Mace. v. 24. 28. and 36.

% The name is evidently a corruption of the original
Hebrew one, Bosor, *")V3 munitio, vel vendemia, sive ablatio

prohibitio : aut in angustia, vel tribulatione. Filius Suphafilii
Heleni, 1 Par. vii. 28. Nomen item civitatis Moabitarum
trans Jordanem orientem versus, ad solitudinem non nihil
versentis. 1 Mac. v. 26. ; Deut. iv. 43. ; Jos. xx. 8. 1 Par.
vi. 78. de tribu Ruben Levitis data. — Onomasticum Sacrum,
p. 74.

]\ji the present pronunciation of its name, signifies, in Ara-
bic, a " wide open plain, without trees ;" and this is a feature
so perfectly at variance with that of the country in which this
town and castle of Boorza is seated, as to prove that the name
is not of Arabic origin, but a corruption of the Hebrew


I can find no very determinate position assigned
by the ancient geographers, either to Raphon
or to Ephron. * If these were clearly ascer-
tained, it might be more satisfactorily decided,
whether the brook spoken of be the Jabbok or
not. But the circumstance of this army of Judas
Maccabeus arriving at the great plain, over
against which is situate the city Bethshan, which
is called by the Greeks Scythopolis, when they
came over Jordan in their way to Mount Sion
at Jerusalem, is unequivocal, and places it be-
yond doubt, that the place here spoken of is
neither the Bezer on the border of Arabia, nor
the Bozra of the Hainan, with which that has
been sometimes confounded, but a Bosor here in
Gilead, and, probably, on the spot where the
present Boorza stands.

As we pursued our way from this village
towards the north-east, going first up a gentle

* 'Vafuv. Nomen loci non longa a Carnaim, ad torrentem.
— 'Papa, Josepho, urbs trans Jordanem sita. Reland. 1. iii.
p. 968. — ^Sy Urbs in Benjamin, 2 Chron. xiii. 19. erat in
regione trans Jordanica e regione Scythopolis, 1 Mac. v. 46. 52.
— Reland. 1. iii. p. 765.

Raphon, papmv, medicina vel relaxatio aut gigas. D. civitas
1 Mac. v. 37." — Onomast. p. 260.

Ephron, \"HD3f Ifpoov, pulvis, sive hinnulus, aut plumbeus.
Filius Seor. Gen. xxiii. 8. a quo civitas in tribu Juda, 2 Par.
xiii. 19.; 1 Mac. v. 6. — Onomasticum Sacrum, p. 1 18.


ascent beyond the town, and then descending
toward a second valley, we overtook a small
party of Bedouin Arabs, on foot. They were
themselves returning to their emcampment ; and
as their tents were near, they invited us to follow
them, and partake of their hospitality for the
night, to which we readily assented.

We had not yet been an hour from Boorza,
before we passed a large ruined building, called
Deer el Ramjah, or the Convent of Ramza ;
but whether it has been a Christian establish-
ment, a castle, caravansera, or some portion of
a deserted settlement, we could not learn.
Near it stood a stately and wide-spreading oak,
which, like the rest of the oaks we had seen,
was not an evergreen one, but had its leaves
withered, and its boughs almost bare, while the
greater portion of the other trees found here,
were fresh in verdure. On the left of our road
were said to be other ruins, on a hill there, called
Jehaz, or Jejaz ; but, strong as our desire was
to visit these, it was thought to be risking too
much to do so, and we were obliged to content
ourselves with obtaining information of the
existence only of such places as we could
not ourselves examine, and of taking a hasty
glance at those which lay immediately in our

From the want of an actual survey of the local


features of the two places, which could not be
obtained at the distance at which we passed
them, no details can be offered regarding them,
except that the appearance of Ramza * was that
of a large castellated enclosure built of stone,
and standing on the side of a hill ; and Jehaz
was described to us as standing on somewhat
higher ground, and being more like the ruins of
a town than of a single building. These were,
respectively, about a mile and a half on each side
of us, as we passed ; Ramza on the east, and
Jejaz on the west, and the distance between
them was, therefore, about three miles, being
separated from each other by a sloping valley.

The place of Ramoth in Gilead is to be sought
for here ; and such details as we have regarding
its position and local features, added to the
resemblance of the name, afford great reason to
believe, that the ruins at Ramza may be a por-
tion of those belonging to that city, or, at least,
mark the site on which it stood. This city was
one of the chief in Gilead, and is called Ramoth
Gilead, to distinguish it from other towns of
the same name. It is first mentioned as one of
the cities of refuge set apart by Moses on the
east of the Jordan, " unto which the slayer
might flee who should kill his neighbour

* Pronounced indifferently \\*j Ramza, and \j*(j Ramtha.


unawares, and hated him not in times past ; and
that, fleeing unto one of these cities, he might
live." * It is there called, Ramoth, in Gilead,
of the Gadites, and this distinction is repeated
in another place. It is again mentioned in the
history of the early wars, when it was the scene
oi' a battle between the kings of Judah and Israel
on the one side, and the king of Syria on the
other, for the recovery of Ramoth Gilead, where
Ahab the ruler of Israel was slain, t Joseph us
details the story of this battle more at large, but
nothing can be collected from him regarding the
actual site or relative position of this place, with
regard to other known places, in bearing or
distance, t

These deficiencies are supplied, but I know
not on what authority, by St. Jerome, who
fixes it at fifteen miles west of Philadelphia, or
Ammon, and near to the Jabbok, in both of
which particulars this place of Ramza agrees. §

* Deut. iv. 42. t 1 Kings, xxii. throughout.

J Joseph. Ant. Jud. 1. viii. c. 15. s. 5, 6.

§ n'iOttl In Gilead, quae etiam Ramoth, dnXui. Urbs

tribus Gad, Deut. iv. 43. Jos. xx. 8. Vicus fuit 15 miliaribus
a Philadelphia, versus occidentem. Euseb. in Onom. Apud
Hieronymum male legitur orientem. Fuisset enim extra fines
terrae Israeliticae, quae ultra Philadelphiam orientem versus
non protenditur. Idem mox scribit Ramoth Gileaditidis esse
in Peraea juxta flumenJaboe. — Reland, Pakestina Illustrata,
1. iii. p. 966.

VOL. If. K


From its being placed in the tribe of Gad,
D'Anville has given it a position more to the
southward, though within about the distance
specified from Amnion ; but Cellarius, in whose
map the course of the Jabbok is much more ac-
curately delineated, has placed it in Gilead, just
to the north of this stream, about the distance
assigned to it from Ammon, and just in the spot
on which the present Ramza stands. Whether
the epithet of Deer, which means any large
house, as well as a convent, was given to the
large castellated ruin here, as a modern affix to
it, or not, we could not learn ; neither could
we decide whether this large fortress-like edifice
was itself a vestige of the old city of refuge,
within the enclosure of which the man-slayer
was safe from the vengeance of his pursuers, or
the remains of any more modern building. *

What ancient city the ruins of Jejaz may
mark, is not so easily determined. There was
a Jahaz, at which the children of Israel fought
against Sihon, king of the Amorites, because he
would not let them pass through his border ;
but this was in the wilderness, or on the borders
of the Arabian Desert, to the southward of the

* Ramoth, niDK% Deut - iv - 43 - Jos - xx - 8. 1 Reg. 22, 3.
1 Par. vi. 73., videas montem, vel intuitis montis, vel altitudines.
Eadem civitas quae et Ramoth prior. - — Onomasticum Sacrum,

Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 7 of 26)