Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine
By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850
Palestine Beyond Jordan.
Nature Of The Country In General.
I have already stated in the second chapter that the Djebl Heish was the most northeasterly point of the tribes to the west of Jordan, as it is the most northwestern for those on the east side of the same river. From the foot of this mountain there extends to the eastward a large elevated plain to the district of Hauran. On this table land, south of the Jarmuch, ירמוך which falls into the Jordan in an eastern direction from Mount Tabor, commence the mountains of Gilead. South of this range there is another elevated plain, which touches to the west on the valley of the Jordan, to the east on the desert of Arabia, and to the south on the Arnon or Wady el Modjeb. This plateau, however, extends yet farther south to Al Kerak (Kir Moab); but here begins a high mountainous country, extending to the Wady Ahsa, which falls into the southeast point of the Dead Sea. There commences the Djebl* Seïr (Mount Seir הר שעיר), also called Sarra, which extends to the Red Sea at Akabé, situated on the eastern termination of the same.
Josephus calls the territory east of Jordan by the general name of Perma.
The following are the countries situated east of Jordan and on the borders of Palestine:
Edom; Moab; Ammon; Median And Keni; Bashan; Geshur; Maachah, Argob, And Amalek.
Is situated south and southeast of Palestine, and extended to the Red Sea.* In the times of the Romans it was called Petraea, because the capital, the large city of Sela (i.e. Rock), was also called Petra (Stone).
I will now mention the names of the yet known remains and vestiges of the former towns of this country:
Sela סלע or the Jokteel of 2 Kings 14:7, is situated about 3 English miles east from Mount Hor, the so-called Djebl Hauran, in a narrow valley called Wady Musa, 2½ miles in circumference, and enclosed between uncommonly high rocky cliffs. A narrow pass, a mile in length, but scarcely wide enough for a loaded camel to get through, brings us from the Arabah (see chapter second, article District of Jordan) into this valley. This rocky gorge, consisting of immense masses of rock, seems to have been formed by the hands of nature, and not by means of human labour. A little stream comes down from the cliffs, and passing through this gorge, enters the Arabah. Within these rocky walls, which are 500 to 600 feet in height, are found ruins of houses, palaces, temples, theatres, which are as old as the time of the Edumeans themselves or that of the Romans; and there are discovered in every direction heaps of stone, marble columns, uprooted pillars, &c.; and in the walls also there are found houses, columns, graves, and temples, hewn out of the rock, and though they have existed already in all probability far more than a thousand years, everything looks as bright and clear as though it had been only the work of modern times.
The prophet Obadiah no doubt alluded to the strong position and the security of Edom, when he said, "The pride of thy heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high," &c. (verse 3)
The Arabs call this country Gabal, which some suppose is derived from Obal (Gen. 10:28), who is said to have settled here, and first corrupted into Abal, and then Gabal.
Buz בוז (Jer. 25:23). There is a village south of Petra, called Basta, which is supposed to be the ancient Buz.
Bozrah בצרה (Gen. 34:33; Isaiah 34:6; Jer. 49:13; Amos 1:12), was anciently one of the principal cities of Edom. At present there is left but an old castle, called Bezeira, about 30 miles north from Petra, situated on a mountain; near it are some large ruins. A town of the same name was also to be met with in the district of Hauran.
Teman תימן (Gen. 34:11, 15; Jer. 49:7, 20; Amos 1:12; Obad. 1:9 ; Job 2:11), is said to be the present large village Maan, situated about 5 miles east-southeast from Petra, on the road which the pilgrims follow from Damascus to Mekka. In its environs are many handsome fields and gardens. (See also Toseplitah Sanhedrin, chap. 12., and Taanith, iii., § 7, Rabbi Shimon of Teman.) But to me it appears more probable that Maän is the
Maön מעון of 1 Chron. 4:41, and 2 Chron. 24:7; "the Meünim" (English version Mehunims, incorrect), since this town or district appears to have been in Al Gor. (See above, "The Valley of Jordan.")
Tophel תפל of Deut. 1:1, is probably the small town Tafila, 6 English miles north of Bezeira.
Dedan דדן of Ezek. 25:43, is the village Dehana, 5 miles south-southwest from Bezeira.
Ezion Gabor עציון גבר of Deut. 2:8, is the modern small town of Akaba, on the eastern termination of the Red Sea.* It has a small castle. Josephus (Antiq., book 8., § 2), calls the place Birinzi.
Elath אילת (ibid.) East of Akaba are found some ruins, which are called Eila. In the times of the Romans, the Red Sea was called the Elanitic Gulf.
Hor Hahar, the Mount Hor הר ההר (Num. 20:25), is the high mount Djebl Harun,† i. e. Aaron's Mount, about 8 English miles west from Maän; there is a convent on it. In a cave of this mount is the supposed grave of Aaron. The walls of the cave are covered with inscriptions, which appear to be Hebrew, but written so indistinctly and unintelligibly that their contents cannot be guessed at or deciphered.
About 6 English miles north-northwest of Tafila is a small town called Chanziri, celebrated for the battle which Abraim Pacha fought there in the year 5594 (1834), with the Bedouins of that vicinity, and where he was defeated by them, although he conquered them at a later period.
I wish in this place to explain several names which occur in the itinerary of the Israelites through the desert, which will be the more interesting, as I have succeeded in discovering several things which remained unknown to other travellers.
Etham איתם (Exod. 13:20), is that part of the desert which lies north of the Red Sea, near Suez, and is called at the present day Ethia = Etham.
Baal-Zephon בעל צפון (ibid. 14:2). Not far from Suweis (Suez), at a distance of 1 mile to the north thereof, is the village Tell Kalsum (the Red Sea being called in Arabic Bachr al Kalsum), near which is a place called Bir Zufis, which evidently has a strong resemblance to Zephon.
Marah מרה (Exod. 15:23). At a distance of two days' caravan journey, about 25 English miles, south of Suez, on the shore of the Red Sea, is found a spring, the water of which is bright and clear, but exceedingly bitter. It is called En Chavara, and supposed identical with Marah, i. e. "bitter."
Elim אלים (Exod. 15:27). One day's caravan journey south of En Chavara, on the sea-shore, is a valley called Wady Taibé, whence a rocky headland runs into the sea, which bears the name Ras Zelima, in which I think to discover a strong resemblance to Elima, or Elim; wherefore we may assume it to have been situated in Wady Taibé.
Sinai, Choreb סיני חורב (Exod. 19:11). Three days' journey southeast from Wady Taibé is the large mountain range of Djebl Tor. Here are found two mounts, of which one is about 6000, the other about 7000 feet above the level of the sea. At the foot of the latter, to the south, is a large and broad plain. One of these mounts is supposed to be the celebrated Sinai or Horeb; and the probability is in favour of the latter, because it must have been in the large plain "where Israel encamped opposite to the mount." (Exod. 19:2.)
Paran פרן (Num. 10:12), is no doubt the Wady Phiran, where formerly the town of Pharan stood; this valley is to the west of Elath, opposite to Djebl Serbal. Nevertheless it is certain that the wilderness of Paran must have extended much farther than this in a northern direction, since we read in Numbers 12:16, "They removed from Hazeroth (Chazeroth), and encamped in the wilderness of Paran;" and ibid. 33:18 it says: "They removed from Hazeroth and encamped at Rithmah," which consequently must have been in the wilderness of Paran, which then must leave extended as far as Wady Rithimath (see farther, article Rithmah). Joseplius, Bell. Jud., book iv. chap. 9., even asserts that the desert of Paran extended to the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea.
Di-Zahab די זהב (Deut. 1:1), is undoubtedly the village Djab, the Hebrew Zahab, not far from the shore of the eastern arm of the Red Sea, in an eastern direction, opposite to the Djebl Tor.
Rithmah רתמה (Num. 33:18). About a half day's journey south from Wady Kiseima (see Azmon, chap. i.), is found a valley called Wady Rithimath. Rothem literally means a Broom-bush; hence, Rithmah, the country of the Broom-shrub; and there actually grow many broombushes near the Wady Rithimath. It appears probable, as Rashi already said, that Rithmah is identical with Kadesh-Barnea, and the distance between Wady Gaian (Kadesh-Barnea) and Wady Rithimath is actually quite small.
Chazeroth חצרות (ibid. 17), is undoubtedly identical with the spring called En al Chuteroth, about a half day's journey distant from Wady Rithimath, in an eastern direction. The change of Z and T is easily accounted for.
Kibroth-Hataavah קברות התאוה (ibid. 16). The celebrated Saadiah Gaon translates this name in his Arabic version with Kabur al Shahava "the grave of desire." One day's journey to the south-southeast from the En al Chuteroth, is another spring named En al Shahava, "the spring of desire;" which leaves no doubt of the identity of the place.
Moseroth or Moserah מסרות מסרה (ibid. 30, and Deut. 10:6), undoubtedly identical with the Wady Aluzera, one day's journey south from Wady Rithimath.
Luz לוז of Judges 1:26. One mile south from Wady Muzera, and almost connected with it, is the Wady Luzan. It is possible that this was the Luz in the land of the Hittites; and it appears from Zohar to Terumah, fol. 269, that this town of Luz was situated beyond Palestine proper.
Béné-Jaakon בני יעקן (Num. 33:31). 10 English miles south from Wady Muzera is the Wady Anaka, and in its vicinity a mount of the same name, which bears an evident similarity to Jaakan, by transposition of the n and k.
Chor-Hagiddgad or Gudgodah חר הגדגד (ibid. 32) and גדגדה (Deut. 10:7) is undoubtedly the Wady al Gudhagid, one day's journey from the former Wady Anaka.
Jotbathah or Jotbath יטבתה יטבת (Num. 33:32) is very probably the Wady Taibé, which is on the western shore of the northern point of the Red Sea, opposite to Akaba.
Abron עברון (ibid. 34). I am inclined to believe that this name signifies "ferry," being derived from עבר, "to pass over," or the place of passing from the western shore of the Red Sea to the eastern, since Jotbath was on the former and Ezion-Gaber on the latter side of the Gulf of Elath. It is possible that the people either actually crossed this arm of the sea, or that it was a station whence the passage was usually made by other travellers.
Kadesh, En-Mishpat קדש עין משפט (ibid. 30, Gen. 14:7). About 10 English miles south from Petra, is found a large and important spring, which the Bedouins call En al Sedaka = Zedakah, i. e. the Spring of Justice, and is unquestionably the ancient En-Mishpat, since Zedakah and Mishpat are often synonymous, meaning justice, equity, rectitude. This Kadesh is also called Rekem, as in Onkelos to Genesis 14:7, and Numbers 20:1; so also in Mishna Gittin, chap. 1, § 2, "From Rekem in the east." Now this Rekem cannot be the same stated by Rabbi Gamliel in § 1, " From Rekem and Chagra," which is Kadesh-Barnea in Rekam-Gaia, since this is in the south of Palestine, and not in the east, wherefore "Rekem in the east" must be Kadesh, En-Mishpat. This name of Rekem, as given to this Arab town, called by the Greeks Petra, is derived, as Josephus states in his Antiquities, book 4. chap. 7., from Rekem, the prince of Midiam (Num. 31:8). And it is actually the case that this spring is but 10 miles distant from Petra, whence it is then clear that the environs thereof were called Rekem.*
The above is all which I could trace out of the names mentioned in the route of the Israelites through the desert; but it is at present impossible to explain the actual relation of these encampments, since some of the distances are but from seven to ten miles, whereas others are from twenty to thirty. Of ten encampments from Rithmah to Moseroth (Num. 33: 19-30), I could not find the least trace; but I believe that they must have been in the large, very stony, and mountainous desert of Azazimath, which extends eastward from Wady Rithimath and Wady Mazura, to the vicinity of Mount Madura, and is actually the most naked and impassable desert of the whole surrounding country.
Nebajoth נביות (Gen. 25:13). Josephus calls the inhabitants of the land of Nebajoth "Arabs," and says their territory extended from the Red Sea to the Euphrates. In I Macc. 5:24, 25, and 9:35, they are styled "the inhabitants of the east side of Jordan." But, as a rule, it is impossible to give with any certainty an accurate description, or to assign the true position of the territories of nomadic nations, since they never have any settled home, and move about at pleasure within a wide range.
Kedar קדר (ibid. and Jer. 49:28). It is also impossible to state the exact position of the country of this nomadic tribe. It is mentioned in connexion with Nebajoth, and the kingdom of Hazor. It must therefore have been in the eastern desert of Arabia, and extended, like the former, from the Red Sea up to the Babylonian territory.
Jishbak ישבק (Gen. 25:2). It is probable that this tribe inhabited the country around the mount and village of Shobek, which are about 6 miles to the north of Petra.
Masrekah משרקה (Gen. 36:26). There is, 8 miles south from Petra, a town called En Masrak, which is possibly the Masrekah of Scripture.
Was situated to the northeast of Edom, and extended from the modern Wady Ahsa, which has a northwestern course, and falls into the southeastern point of the Dead Sea, to the Wady Modjeb (the Arnon of the Bible). The present name of the country is Belad al Kerak, and is even now a fruitful country (Isa. 14:9, 10). Especially the wheat produced here is very excellent, and is carried in considerable quantities to Jerusalem for sale. The names of the localities of Moab known at present are the following:
Ar Moäb ער מואב (Num. 21:28, and Deut. 2:29), was also called Rabbath Moab, that is, Rabbah belonging to Moab, and in the time of the Greek and Roman supremacy Areopolis, is at present the village Rabba, 15 miles north from Al Kerak (which see). There are found close to it ruins, which measure more than a mile in circumference.
Kir Moab קיר מואב (Jerai. 15:1), is the present town Al Kerak, which is situated opposite to the southeast termination of the Dead Sea. It is the largest town in the whole vicinity, and is well fortified, and built on high rocks, in front of a deep and narrow valley, which some suppose to be the valley of the stream Zered, which falls into the Dead Sea. It is connected with a very strong fort, which I suppose to be the Mizpeh Moab of 1 Sam. 22:3. In the year 5594 (1834), when the Arabs and Bedouins of this neighbourhood had rebelled against Abraim Pacha, they took the fort through treachery and deception, and slaughtered many of the garrison; but some time after, the rebellion was quelled, and the Arabs were sufficiently punished and humbled. The Pacha was even determined to demolish and destroy the fort; but he could not succeed, since it is, so to say, a large boulder of rock, a solid mass of stone. It can be seen, by means of a spy-glass, even at Jerusalem, on a clear day. It would appear that Kerak was formerly inhabited by Jews, since one can observe Hebrew inscriptions on the stones of several houses.
One and a half miles north from Kerak, the Wady Sufsaf, a small river, falls into the Dead Sea. I have scarcely a doubt but that this is the "Willow River" נחל הערבה of Isa. 15:7, and Amos 6:14, since Sufsaf in Arabic signifies willow; hence it is literally the same as Nachal Ha'arabah, Willow River. (See Sukkah, chap. 3, § 3.)
Sela סלע (Isa. 16:1). North of the Wady al Ahsa is a village called Al Pietra, a name probably of Roman derivation. It is unquestionably the just-named Sela (rock, Petra), of Moäb.
Eglaim אגלים (ibid. 15:8), is the village Agala, 7 miles south of Ar.
Ham הם (Gen. 14:5). We may perhaps trace this name in that of the village Humeimath, situated 1 mile north of Ar.
Besides the above, I shall speak of other names in the territory of Moab when treating of the towns of Reuben and Gad.
Extended from Arnon to Jabbok, the Wady Zurka of modern times. In Deut. 2:37, we read: "Only unto the land of the children of Ammon thou camest not, unto any place on the river Jabbok, nor unto the cities of the mountains," &c. I suppose this mountain of Ammon to be the one which extends to the south of Hauran, and I shall speak at length of it when discussing the latter range. We can find but extremely few vestiges of the ancient names of places in the land of the Ammonites, and I shall describe
Rabbah or Rabbath Ammon, the largest town of the country, when discussing the cities of Gad.
It is difficult to designate exactly the land of the Midianites, since we find traces of this people in many places. Josephus says, that Moses came, in his flight from Egypt, to the city of Midian, on the shores of the Red Sea, which was so called front Medan, the son of Abraham. And even at the present day there is a village to the south of Akaba called Median. We find the hordes of Midian came as far as Gaza (Judges 6:4), into the land of Moab (Gen. 34:35, and Num. 25:6); in the land of the Amorites (Joshua 13:21), and in Edom, to wit, Rekem near Petra. See Kadesh, En-Mishpat, page 214.
Descendants from the Midianites were:
The Kenites קני
Of Judges 4:11; 2 Kings 1:9 ; and 1 Chron. 2:55. They were all descendants of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses (see further, art. "Children of Rachab"). We find also Kenites who did not belong to the house of Israel, who, to distinguish them from the former, are called Shalmai, as it is given in Onkelos and Jonathan to Num. 24:21, and Gen. 15:19). The Kenites spoken of in 1 Sam. 27:10, and 30:29, belonged probably to the first class, that is, to those adopted among the Israelites.
The chief residence of this tribe must have been on the mountain of Seïr, as is plainly told in 1 Chron. 4:42; as also in Gen. 14:7,* consequently not far from Petra. It is likewise said in 1 Sam. 15:7, "And Saul smote the Amalekites from Havilah till thou comest to Shur, that is over against Egypt," and also in 1 Kings 11:16 (see Baba Bathra, fol. 21b), that Amalek† was embraced in the territory of Edom. Nevertheless we can trace it in a more northerly direction; for instance, the Mount Amalek in the land of Ephraim (Judges 12:15). West of Kirja, Kirjath-Jearim, is even to this day a district called Bne Amlek; and even a Mount Seïr is spoken of in Joshua 15:10. Not far from Djifni (see עפני Ophni or Benjamin), north of Ramla, is the village Amalek. The Armenians are usually called by the Eastern Jews Amalekim, perhaps owing to a tradition that they settled in the north, where the present Armenians are found. Nay, we find Amalekites even in Persia, since Haman was an Agagite, which means a descendant from Amalek; and according to the Second Targum to the Book of Esther, Haman was a native of India, but an Amalekite by descent; for it says to chap. 8:13 המן בר המדתא מהנדיא הוה ומן זרעי' דבית עמלק הוה "Haman the son of Hamdatha was from India, and was also from the descendants of the house of Amalek." Josephus says, the possessions of Amalek were on the mountain of Seïr, and in the vicinity of the Arabian Petra.
We understand under the general term Bashan, the following districts: Geshur, Maachah, Argob, Salchah, Golan, as appears from Deut. 3:8-14, and 1 Kings 4:13.
Onkelos and Jonathan render Bashan with Mathnan מתנן (see Joshua 12:4), and the Arabic version of Rabbenu Saadiah has instead of this Al Bathni.
Argob is rendered by Onkelos with פלך טרכונא "the District of Tarchona;" by Jonathan with טרגונא Targona; by Targum Yerushalmi with אטרכונא Atarchuna; and by Saadiah with Al Chut Modjeb.
Maachah is rendered by Onkelos and Jonathan with אפקירוס Aphkeros, and Geshur and Maachach with Korve and Antikeros by Jonathan.
Salcliah is given by Jonathan with סלווקיא Salwakia.
Josephus, in his Ant. b. 13. chap. 15., and in his Bell. Jud., b. i., chap. 4., says that Golan and Seleucia are in the vicinity of Lake Semechonitis; in another place he styles Og, King of Bashan, "King of Gaulonitis and Gilead." He also says, in Bell. Jud., b. 2., chap. 6., that the Emperor Augustus gave to one of Herod's sons, Antipas, the land of Perea and Galilee, and to the other, Philip, Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis. He also says that Batanea was next to Trachonitis.
I will therefore now proceed to explain the nature and position of this district, and divide it into five parts.
1. Golan גולן the modern Djulun, extends from the southern shore of the Lake Chinnereth to Banias; in this district lay the canton of Argob חבל הארגב in which were sixty cities fortified with high walls, &c. (Deut. 3:4, 5) . Even up to the present time there are found here uncommonly many, near three hundred, ruins of former towns, forts, towers, villages, theatres, and temples, both from the most ancient period when the Israelites yet dwelt there, and that of the dominion of the Greeks and Romans. No wood is found in the whole district; everything is built of hard basaltic rocks, the cutting of which is exceedingly difficult.* You scarcely find a trace of wood anywhere; even the bolts of the houses and the nails are made of basaltic stone. It is at present but little inhabited, and the inhabitants that are there, live in the ruins. Here were the villages of Jaïr the possessions of Judah which bordered on Naphtali (Joshua 19:34). Here also was the city of refuge, Golan (Deut. iv. 43). According to Talmud Makkoth, 9a, it was situated just opposite Kedesh in the mountain of Naphtali, likewise a city of refuge, in a due eastern direction. But on the spot thus indicated, now called Tell Hara, I could find no trace whatever of the city of Golan.
2. Jetur, at present called Djedur, and formerly Ituraea, lies to the east of Djulun, and extends northwardly up to the district of Damascus, and to the northwest to the mountain of Hermon. The name of Jetur was probably derived from the son of Ishmael, mentioned in Genesis 25:15. I think also that the Arabic name Djedur bears a strong resemblance to Geshur גשור, since it and Maachah were comprised in this district. In the eastern portion of it is the village Machadj, which is very much like Maachah; not far from it is another village, called Sekara, also one called Kerath, and another named Kiria; it may be thought perhaps that these words have a trace of Aphkeros, as Maachah is given by Onkelos, and Korvé and Antikeros as Geshur and Maachah have been called by Jonathan.
3. Uz (Utz) is at present called Al Ledja. It lies south of Damascus, and extends to the mountains of Hauran. The Romans called it Trachonitis, which proves that the canton of Argob extended thus far, since Argob is explained by calling it Trachonitis. In the eastern part of this district, not far from Mount Hauran, is the town of Djuba, which, perhaps, was the cause that Saadiah translates Argob with "Mudjeb."
In this district a severe battle was fought in the year 5593 (1833) between Abraim Pacha and the Arabs and Bedouins of the vicinity, who caused a great slaughter in the army of the Pacha; since they were thoroughly acquainted with the country, its defiles and caverns, which knowledge they duly employed to deceive the Pacha's army, who were entirely unacquainted with the same.
4. The mountains of Hauran, at present called Djebl Hauran. The name appears to me to be derived from the Chaldean חור Chur, "hole, cavern," since there are many caves in this neighbourhood. It is already mentioned in Ezekiel 47:17, חורן Chavran, English version, Hauran, as also in Rosh Hashanah, 22 b, and Yerushalmi Abodah Zarah, chap. 3.—Josephus calls this mountain Batanea. This district has but few inhabitants, and these are Druses, whom I have already mentioned in the description of Lebanon. This mountain district has in part a productive soil; but to the east thereof commences a great desert, which extends to the Euphrates.
5. The plain of Hauran, is called at present Sachl Hauran. It is the Auranitis of Josephus, and lies to the southwest of the mountain of Hauran; it is a fruitful country, produces corn, vegetables, and an abundance of cotton wool. It is this place which is mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:10, as "all the cities of the plain, and the whole of Gilead and the whole of Bashan to Salehah and Edreï."
I will next explain the names of the towns which are yet discoverable.
Salchah סלכה (Deut. 3:10, Vayikra Rabbah, 4.) At the foot of the eastern portion of the Hauran Mountains, is the town Zalchath, with a fort; it is, however, now destroyed, and is entirely without inhabitants. It appears that these ruins must date from the Jewish period, since the style of architecture of the ruined edifices is nowise of the Roman and much less of a later time.
Edreï אדרעי (ibid.) is probably to be sought for in the very large ruins called Draä, which are found in the plain of Hauran, not far from the strong fort of Mizrib. (In Yerushalmi Berachoth, v., is mentioned Rabbi Tanchun of Edreï.)
Kenath or Nobach קנת נבח (Num. 32:42), is probably to be discovered in the village Kunath, situated in the mountain of Hauran, one day's journey north from Kelb Hauran (for which, see end of chap. 2.), near which are found the large ruins of many buildings of Roman architecture.
Karkar קרקר (Judges 8:10); I suppose this to be the village Al Kerak, situated 5 miles south from Al Churak (see next article).
Ashteroth-Karnaim (i. e. Ashtaroth of the Horns or mountain peaks) עשתרות קרנים (Gen. 14:5, and Joshua 12:4.) It appears from Sukkah, fol. 2a., that this place was situated between two high mountain peaks. Astori supposes that Al Churak, which is 8 miles northeast from the ruins of Draä, is identical with Ashteroth-Karnaim; others, however, think it to be the old and strong castle of Al Mizrib, situated on the route of the pilgrims from Damascus to Mekka. Near it is the source of the Jarmuch (which see). More will be given when speaking of the cities of Menasseh.
Bozrah בצרה (Abodah Zarah, 59a; Yerushalmi Shebiith, 6; Yerushalmi Bikkurim, 3.; Midrash Shemuel, 25.; Vayikra Rabbah, 8.) I believe that the Basar mentioned in 1 Maccabees 5:26, is identical with this Bozrah, and that it is the present Buzrah, which is on the plain of Hauran, and almost the last inhabited place in the district, for here commences the great desert which extends to the Euphrates. Near it are very large and numerous ruins, and it has but few inhabitants. Astori says in his work Caphtor Vapherach, fol. 71a, "Bezer, in the wilderness (Deut. 4:43), is half a day's journey east from Edreï; people call it Bozrah." But this view is entirely wrong, since this Bozrah belonged to the tribe of Menasseh, as will be shown farther down, in the territories of the trans-Jordanic tribes, whereas Bezer belonged to Reuben. This city of refuge is said, in Talmud Makkoth, 9a, to have been situated just opposite Hebron, in an eastern direction, whilst Bozrah lies opposite to Djinin (En-Gannim), which is to the north of Shechem. (See Bezer.)
Zohar צהר This name occurs in Hilchoth Terumoth, of Maimonides 1. § 9. Josephus, Ant., book 13., chap. 15., makes mention of Zahara; and we should conclude that formerly it must have been a very large city. It may be the modern Al Zahara, situated one day's journey north of Salchah; it has but 200 inhabitants, though the ruins there are several miles in circumference.
Possessions Of The Tribes Of Reuben, Gad, And Half Menasseh.
Before entering on the division of the territories of these tribes, I must first explain the land of
We often find that this term designates all the territory of Palestine situated on the east side of Jordan; and in point of fact the mountain of Gilead ramifies throughout the whole of this territory. This mountain extends on the east as far as the plain of Hauran, on the west to the Jordan valley, on the north to the Jarmuch, and on the south to the country of Balka, which lies to the south of the Jabbok, through which cause all the trans-Jordanic tribes had possession in Gilead. This also will explain Deut. 3:12: "And I gave to the Reubenites and the Gadites the half of the Mount Gilead, with its cities; but the remainder of Gilead, and all Bashan, the kingdom of Og, I gave to the half tribe of Menasseh." The highest points of this mountain are the Djebl Djelad,* which is south of the Jabbok, and the Djebl Osha, which is about 1½ miles north of Tsalt (for which see in the tribe of Gad). The Arabs point out on the latter the grave of Hoshea, whence its name. But this legend is not authentic. The mountain of Gilead is very productive; there are found on it good pine and oak forests, and many varieties of fruit trees.
The mountains of Jazer and Machvar, the mountains of Abarim (יעזר מכור הרי העברים) which lie in the southern part of Belka, appear even higher than the mountains of Gilead,—not that they actually are so, but because Belka is an elevated plain, and is consequently higher than the land of Gilead; wherefore even the lower elevations of the higher plateau appear higher than the most lofty of the lower plain of Gilead. The Djebl Atara, situated about 9 miles to the south of Cheshbon, is the highest point of this Jazer range. (See also article Nebo.)
The territory of this tribe was entirely in the south, as appears quite plainly from Joshua 13:16, and that Arnon was its southern boundary,* which separated it from Moab, of the possessions of which the Israelites were prohibited to touch the least (Deut. 2:24). To the east Reuben was contiguous to the territory of Ammon (ibid. 37); and I believe that the mountain chain extending from Rabbath-Ammon to Kerak, over which the general route of the pilgrims to Mekka leads, was the eastern boundary of the territory of Reuben. To the west it bordered on the Dead Sea (Salt Sea); and to the north it appears to me to have extended to the little mountain which lies in the plain of Cheshbon, to the northwest of that place (properly speaking, to the Wady Cheshbon), which was not far from Nebo, as will be explained hereafter.
The names of towns still to be traced out are—
Aroer ערער On the northern bank of the Modjeb, at a distance of about 15 miles from the Dead Sea, are found some ruins called Arar; they lie nearly opposite to Hebron, only a little more to the south.
Medeba מדבא no doubt identical with the ruins Madeba, which are more than a mile in circumference, and are situated about 5 miles south-southeast from Cheshbon.
Cheshbon חשבון is the modern village Chasban, nearly opposite to the northern extremity of the Dead Sea, at the distance of 14 miles. On a high hill near it are found large ruins, and one discovers yet the traces of ancient pools (see Song of Solomon 7:4). The environs of Heshbon are, properly speaking, an elevated plain, situated between the mountains of Jazer and the Djebl Atara, through which the Wady Zirka (Jabbok) flows; and the passage of Joshua 8:16, "Cheshbon and its towns, which are in the plain," refers probably to this plateau. Nevertheless, one has a high point of view, with a wide prospect, when standing near the ruins on the above-mentioned hill; to the west there is seen the valley through which the Wady Chasban flows, the Jordan, the Dead Sea, even Jerusalem, and especially Bethlehem, can be distinctly observed; to the north the view rests on the ancient Ramoth-Mizpah (which see), and to the south the whole country of Moab.
Dibon דיבון. Two miles north from the ruins of Arar are found the ruins of Dhiban, which is possibly the same with the Dimon דימון of Isaiah 15:9.
Beth-Baal-Meon בית בעל מעון is the village Main 2 miles south-southwest from Chasban. Hieronymus says; "Medba lies opposite to Hesban, and the town of Baal Maus (probably Beth Meon), is in the district not far from Hesban." This agrees with my statement.
Jahzah יחצה is probably the village Jazaza, to the southwest of Dhiban.
Kedemoth קדמות is at present unknown. Jonathan says to Deut. 2:26, "The wilderness of Kedemoth," מנהרדעא דסמוך למדבר קדמות "from Nehardea which is near the wilderness of Kedemoth," which is a most singular statement, since Nehardea is in Babylonia, to the east of Euphrates. Perhaps we may suppose here a slight error in transcribing: 5 miles east from Mount Arapun (see end of second chapter), which is situated in the district of Wady Adjlun, is a little stream called the Wady Nahady נאהאדי; and I suppose that we should read in the passage quoted from Jonathan מנהאדעא, and that Kedemoth might have lain near it; but this would bring this town into the territory of Gad, whereas it is stated to be in Reuben.
Kirjataim or Shavay-Kirjataim שוה קריתים קריתים (Gen. 14:5); no doubt the ruins of Kiriat, 1½ miles southwest from Mount Atara.
Sibmah שבמה is at present unknown. Astori, fol. 70b, says: "One day's journey east from Jazer is Sibmah, which is called Shahbah." But this appears to me incorrect, since Shahbah is in the territory of Gad, and Sibmah was in Reuben.
Zereth-Hashachar צרת השחר is at present also unknown. In Yerushalmi Berachoth, 8., is mentioned Rabbi Jochanan of Kirzejon: he may have been perhaps a native of Zereth-Hashachar, since the Chaldean Kirzea is synonymous with the Hebrew Shachar, and means the early morning, or morning dawn.
Beth-Hajeshimoth בית הישימות is probably identical with the ruins of Bteh-Jisimuth, situated on the northeasternmost point of the Dead Sea, half a mile from the Jordan.
There belonged to Reuben in addition the following:
Lesha לשע (Gen. 10:19), is translated by Jonathan with Kaldeha קלדהא, which is unquestionably an error of the transcriber, and should be קלרהא Kalraha (or Kalirha); the same is said in Bereshith Rabbah to this passage, and Yerushalmi Megillah, i. Josephus, however, says that Herod rebuilt the town of Lesha and called it Kalirrhoe, (contracted Kalrah, or Kalirha); it was situated at the foot of Pisgah, and had hot springs, which fall into the Dead Sea. And now at this day there are found on Wady Zirka, where it falls into the Dead Sea, ruins of this place, as also the hot springs.
Mattanah מתנה (Num. 21:19), was, according to Eusebius, 12 mill east from Medba. It is at present unknown.
Abel אבל (ibid. 25:1) . Josephus says that Abela is 60 stadia (7½ English miles) from Jordan. The same is said in Yoma, 75b, "from Beth-Hajeshimoth to Abel-Hashittim is 3 paras;" and Beth-Hajeshimoth is, as said above, near Jordan, which therefore makes the Talmud and Josephus agree in respect to the distance of Abel from Jordan. Hieronymus says, "Abel is in the mountains of Phagor (Peor פעור, the ע given with g) which lies north of Livias." But it is at present unknown.
Elala אלעלא (ibid. 32:37), is identical with the ruins El Al, 1 mile north from Hesban.
Bezer בצר (Deut. 4:43). Jonathan explains this with כותירין Kevathirin, which is very obscure. But to the southeast of Arar, not far from Wady Modjeb, is an isolated high mount called Djebl Kuwetta, which evidently resembles the Kevathirin of Jonathan; and it would therefore appear that Bezer must have stood here formerly, as this mount is also just opposite Hebron, to the east, and agrees with the position of this city of refuge as given in Makkoth, 9a.
Nebo נבו (Deut. 32:19). This is the mount whence Moses overlooked Palestine, wherefore it appears to have been a high mount whence there is a wide prospect. It is not possible at present to identify it with certainty. Generally Mount Atara is taken for Nebo: it forms indeed to the west, fronting the Dead Sea, a very high mount; but on the east it appears and is by no means as high. I however cannot doubt that the assumption is incorrect, and that the true Nebo must be looked for farther to the north. It appears from Sotah, 13b, that it was situated 4 mill = 3 English miles, within the borders of Gad, although the town of Nebo is reckoned as belonging to Reuben; whilst at the same time the grave of Moses was in the portion of Gad, as we may assume from Deut. 33:21 כי שם חלקת מחקק ספון "For there is the burial-place of the Lawgiver hidden." (See also Onkelos and Rashi to the passage.) I therefore believe that the same is certainly to be sought for among the mountains which lie northwest of Hesban, and between which the Wady Hesban flows, and falls into the Jordan to the northwest of Jisimut, at a distance of about 6 miles from Hesban. Eusebius says, "Nebo is 6 mill west (probably meaning northwest) from Hesban;" which agrees exactly with my hypothesis.
Minith מינית (Judges 11:33) is probably the village Mindja, 5 miles east from Hesban. In 1 Maccabees 5:26, there is mentioned "Mageth Chasban." I doubt not that an error was committed here in copying from the original text, which was to a certainty in Hebrew language and characters, by substituting the a ג G for נ N, and that Mageth is nothing else than Maneth, an easy corruption from Minith.
The towns of this tribe were as follows:
Jazer יעצר Eusebius says that this place is 15 mill north from Hesban: it existed even still at the time of Astori; but at present there are ruins, called Seir, on the spot indicated, which leaves no doubt the Seir is derived from Jazer. Near it there rises the spring called Wady Seïr, and I believe that Jeremiah alludes, in chap. 48:32, where he speaks of the sea of Jazer, to water pools which were probably supplied from this spring. A collection of water is often called a sea in Hebrew, as the brazen sea which Solomon made, 1 Kings 7:44.
Rabbah or Rabbath, of the sons of Ammon רבה and רבת בני מעון (Deut. 3:11) was called Philadelphia in the time of the Roman supremacy. Eusebius says: "It lies 10 mill northeast from Jazer." At present it is a small village called Aman, near which are very large ruins.
About 8 miles northwest from Aman are found the ruins of Zafit; Josephus says that Jephtha (Yiptach) was buried in the town of Zaphea, or, as other readings have it, Zibia. Perhaps this is the ruined Zafit; or it may be the place called the wine-press of Zeëb, spoken of in Judges 7:25.
Aroër ערער is the village Ira, situated near Aman. So we also read in Joshua 13:25, "Aroër, which lies before Rabbah."
Ramath-Mizpah, also called Mizpeh-Gilead (Judges 11:29),רמת מצפה מצפה גלעד is the present Tzalt, and is a moderately-sized town with a strong fort. The town is situated on a high mount, and its houses and public buildings are erected in the form of terraces on the same. In the town is a considerable spring, the water of which can be conducted under ground into the fort. The environs of Tzalt furnish much and excellent wheat, which is some of the best of all brought to Jerusalem. Many insist that this town is the city of refuge Ramoth-Gilead; but this was somewhat farther to the north, opposite to Shechem. (See also farther, article Ramoth-Gilead.)
Machanaim מחנים Astori says, "A half day's journey from Beth-Shean, in a direction just opposite, is the town of Machna, which is Machanaim;" but it is now unknown.
Beth-Harim בית הרים Yerushalmi Shebiith, 6., says, "Beth-Ramtha is Beth-Harim." In Sabbath, 26a, is mentioned, "From En-Gedi to Ramtha." Josephus, Bell. Jud., book i. chap. 3, calls it Beth-Ramtha, and says, "Herod called it Livias." Some suppose it to have been near where the Wady Seir falls into the Jordan; others where the Jabbok joins the same river.
Beth-Nimrah בית נמרה From the mountains which are near Tzalt, descends a small river which is called Wady Nimrin, and joins the Jordan opposite to Beth-El (Beitun). About 1 mile east from the Jordan, alongside of this Wady, are found the ruins of Nimrin. According to Astori, Beth-Nimrah was called at his day Namr, and was about 2½ miles south of Jazer. At present there are found some ruins called Naur, which are 5 miles to the south of Seir: are we to assume that Namr is the same with Naur ? But as Astori's account stands, it appears incorrect; for Beth-Nimrah was in the plain (Joshua 13:27) without doubt, in the valley of the Jordan, and his statement would bring it in the mountains. In Peah, chap. 4, § 5, is mentioned Beth-Namr, i. e. Beth-Nimrin.
Sukkoth סכות. At the time of Astori, there remained yet some traces of this town to the east of the Jordan, near its bank, in a southeast direction from Beth-Shean. Extremely curious, however, is the fact, that the Bedouins call certain ruins to the west of Jordan, 1 mile south from Beth-Shean, by the name of Sukkoth; since the town mentioned under this name in Scripture, was on the east side of Jordan. It is, therefore, evident that we cannot trust all the traditions of the Bedouins.
Zaphon צפון In Yerushalmi Shebiith, 6, it is said that Zaphon is identical with Amatha, which is probably the Omatho often mentioned by Josephus, which was in the vicinity of Ramoth-Gilead, not far from Jordan. At present the Bedouins call a certain spot near where the Wady Redjib joins the Jordan by the name of Amathéh, and it appears to me to mark the site of Zaphon correctly.
Botnim בטנים Eusebius simply says that Bathnia is in the portion of Gad, but gives us no farther account of its position. It is, therefore, entirely unknown.
There belonged also to the tribe of Gad the following:
Ramoth-Gilead רמות גלעד (Deut. 4:43); it is also called Ramah (2 Kings, 8:29). I take it to be identical with the modern Kallat al Rabat, which is situated on one of the highest points of the mountain of Gilead, not far from the Wady Redjib, and west of Adjlun. It is even at this day a strongly fortified place, which can be seen at a great distance, and it can be perceived even as far as Mount Taibi (see Ophrah, in Benjamin), in a northeastern direction.
Kamon קמון (Judges 10:5), is the village Kumima, 7 miles east-southeast from Beth-Shean.
Abel-Keramin (of the vineyards) אבל כרמים (ibid. 11:33). Eusebius says that 6 mill from Philadelphia is a village, in the vicinity of which there are many vineyards, whence its name; but at present it is unknown. Some suppose, erroneously, that this is Abel al Krum in Lebanon, as I have stated already. The whole district of the Jordan was formerly often called Arabah (Arabia), whence I believe that Abel Arab of Pesachim, 72a, is the same with the town in question.
Tob טוב (ibid. 11:3). I have already above, in mentioning Susita, proved that Tob, Susita, and Chefus are all names of the same place. The inhabitants are called by Josephus Tubanians. (See also l Macc. 5:13.) I have stated before that the town of Susita was situated on the southeastern shore of Lake Chinnereth. It belonged to the Decapolis (i. e. the Ten Towns).*
Jabesh-Gilead יבש גלעד (ibid. 21:8), is the modern village Jabes, on the Wady Jabes, which falls into the Jordan. It is 10 miles east from Jordan, in a direction opposite to Beth-Shean.
Bithron בתרון (II Sam. 2:29). Astori says that this place was called in his day Al Atrun, and was south of Machanaim. It is, however, now unknown.
In Talmud and Midrashim, the following places are mentioned:
Geder גדר (Rosh Hashanah, 23b, Erubin, 61a, Sanhedrin,108a, "the spring of Geder;" Yerushalmi Orlah, i., mentions improperly גדודה "Gedudah," i. e. to Gedud; it should be גדרה "to Geder;" likewise in Tosephtah Taharoth, 6, instead of בית גדי וחמתן Beth-Gedi and Chamthan, should read גדר "Geder"), is undoubtedly the place now known as the extensive ruins of Umcheis, which are 8 miles from the southeast shore of Lake Chinnereth, and 1½ miles from the southern bank of the Jarmuch. Close by it is a hot spring. At the time of Astori, Geder was yet in existence; and he paints it with its hot spring, pools, and extraordinarily remarkable buildings, which were unusually strong: he says, moreover, that according to tradition, Og, king of Bashan, had his residence here. At present there is scarcely the least trace of its former beauty and elegance.
Migdal-Geder מגדל גדר (Taanith, 20a, and Massecheth Derech Eretz, in which work it is always called מגדל עדר or גדוד, which should be גדר, since Migdal Eder, or Shepherd's Tower, is quite in a different direction, whereas the transaction spoken of must have taken place near Tiberias, not far from a sea, Chinnereth, and a river, (either Jarmuch or Jordan). It was probably near Geder, but is at present not known.
Regib רגב (Menachoth, 85b), is the village Redjib, 9 miles east from Jordan, on the Wady Redjib, which has its source in the mountain which lies to the northeast of Kallat al Rabat, and joins the Jordan opposite to Shechem. Eusebius says, "Regeb is 15 mill west from Garasas" (see above, note to Decapolis), which agrees with the village Radjib. I do not think that Regeb is derived from Argob, although in the Samaritan text it is for חבל הארגוב i. e. Regeb רגב.
Kefar Akabiah כפר עקביה (Yerushalmi Nazir, at end). Southeast from Lake Chinnereth, on the road to Damascus, is En-Akabi, also Chan-Akabi. (See Jos., Ant., book 13. chap. 24.) There is also, south of Zafed, a village called Akabi, where are shown the graves of Armon and Akabiah, son of Mahallalel.
Eglon עגלון was yet in the time of Astori inhabited by many Jews, and was even later, as I have learned from Jewish documents, a place of importance. It is the present village Adjlun, 1 mile east from Kallat al Rabbat; it is situated on the Wady Redjib, which is also called Wady Adjlun, and passes by this village.
The Position Of The Possessions Of Gad And Menasseh
From the above we learn that some of the towns of Gad were not far from the Lake Chinnereth. Consequently the territory of this tribe extended to that lake; and I presume that the Jarmuch formed the boundary line between Gad and Menasseh. In an eastern direction, all the land between Wady Chesban, the boundary line between Reuben and Gad, and the Wady Jarmuch, even as far east as the plain of Hauran, belonged to the latter tribe, as appears clearly from 1 Chron. 5:11: "The children of Gad dwelt opposite, in the land of Bashan, as far as Salchah."The Midrash Yalkut to Deut. 33:20, also says that the portion of Gad extended very far to the east.
To Menasseh, however, belonged all the remaining places from Jarmuch to the mountains of Hermon and the great desert, which extends to the Euphrates, that is, the greater part of Bashan. I must now notice the few names of places which have not yet been described, and which belonged to Menasseh.
Ashteroth-Karnaim I have already noticed it is true; I have, however, to cite the opinion and statement of the celebrated Saadiah Gaon, who translates Ashteroth-Karnaim with Al Znamin. Now at the present day even there is found a place called Zunamein, on the pilgrims' route to Damascus, 1½ days' journey south from the same, and half a day's journey east of Kaneitra. I suppose this also to be the fort in the land of Gilead, mentioned in 1 Macc. 5:26, since Gilead denotes also other portions to the east and north besides Gilead proper.
Chalamish חלמיש In Echa Rabbethi, to chap. 1:17, it is said, "Chalamish was always at enmity with Navéh." I learn from old books that Zanamin is identical with Chalamish; so that Zanamin, afterwards known as Salamin, was also called Chalmish [i. e. rock, which would well suit to the appellation of Karnaim, "rocky points, peaks"].
Navéh נוה of Echa Rabbethi, 1:17, Tosephtah Sukkoth, 4; Midrash Koheleth, fol. 88; "R. Palti of Navéh;" "Midrash Ruth, 49;" R. Shiloh of Navéh, is the village Nova, on the above-mentioned road, 1 day's journey south from Zunamein.
Shukmezi שוקמזי of Jonathan to Num. 34:11, is probably the village Ashmiskin, 9 English miles southeast from Nova.
Bashchar בשכר of Sabbath, 139a, I suppose to be identical with the Basgar in Arabia בסגר של ערבייא mentioned in Echa Rabbethi to 3:7. Josephus, Antiq. b. 36, 6, says that Jonathan the Maccabee was murdered in Basga, in the land of Gilead; in 1 Macc. 13:23, that place is called Basgame, all which names no doubt refer to the selfsame place.
In 1 Kings 4:9 are mentioned Makaz, Shaalbim, &c. The Septuagint translate Makaz with Michmas, which I suppose to be incorrect; since Shaalbim is near Samaria, consequently far from Michmash. Otherwise is the situation of Makaz unknown.
Aruboth (ibid. 10), I hold to be the town Rabitha, in the portion of Zebulun, the present village and Wady Rabutia.
"In Asher and Aloth" באשר ובעלות (ibid. 16), I think should be rendered in Asher and Bealoth, i. e. Baal-Gad or Laish, and that the ב (in) before Asher also is the preposition understood for Bealoth; I prefer this construction since we find nowhere any mention of a town called Aloth. Baloth is put without question for Baalath, which has been sufficiently described before.