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Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

The Territory of Benjamin.

The boundary of Benjamin is clearly laid down in Joshua 18:11-21. The northern line of Judah will answer to determine that of Benjamin with regard to it; and there is only this addition, that the line ran from Beth-El Luz to Atharoth-Adar, that is, the village Adara, 1 English mile south of Biri, then not far from Beth-Horon (Choron), to Kirjath-Jearim. In reading this passage of the Bible, there is an apparent contradiction. Kirjath-Jearim is described as the most western point of this territory (5:14), and still it is said (5:15) that the boundary extended still farther to the west (ימה). To reconcile this, our learned men have alleged that they understand this word ימה not as usual, "westward," but to "the sea;" but this is evidently not a correct view of the question, because in the whole circumjacent country of Kirjath-Jearim there is neither sea nor lake to be found (see Yarchi). Another difficulty presents itself in this manner: If it has represented, in 5:14, that Beth-Horon and Kirjath-Jearim formed the two terminating points of the western boundary of Benjamin, how does it happen that the towns of Mob, Chadid, Lod, and Ono, in the valley of Charashim, which lie 15 to 18 English miles west of Kirjath-Jearim, belonged to this tribe? (See Neh. 11:31, and 1 Chron. 8:12, to which the Chaldea Paraphrast addsדצדיאו בני ישראל ואוקדינון בנורא כד אגרו קרבא בגבעתא עם שבטא דבנימן "Which the children captured and burnt with fire when they made war at Gibeah with the tribe of Benjamin." See Megillah 4a, and compare with Joshua 8:26, and Neh. 6:2.) The correct explanation of both the verses quoted (Joshua 18:14, 15), however, is as follows: In verse 14 it is not intended to define absolutely the western boundary, but only so far as the same ran in a direct line from north to south, and this is from Beth-Horon to Kirjath-Jearim. This was indeed the utmost boundary to the south, but the line did not immediately turn eastward, but went still farther westward ימה, and embraced the neighbourhood of Ono and Lod, &c.; and only from this extreme west did it bend again eastward to the spring of the waters of Nephtoach. This exposition will remove all the difficulties noticed.