(Joshua 22:34), i.e. witness (compare Joshua 24:27). It is remarkable that not one of the famous towns of Israel owes its originate Israel. The rock cut cemeteries, and ancient cultivation, are almost the only Israelite remains in the country. The great altar of Ed also was an Israelite work, founded by Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh, to be a witness of their having a share in the national covenant and sanctuary of Jehovah. In Joshua 22:11 the Hebrew expresses, "Reuben, ... Gad, and ... half Manasseh built an altar at the boundary of (literally, in the fore part of, not as KJV over against) Canaan, by the gelilot (circles, i.e. the portion of the Ghor on the W. side of Jordan) of Jordan, at the passage of ... Israel," namely, where Reuben, etc., crossed Jordan to return to their eastern possessions; not the ford near Jericho, but the Damieh ford the highway from the eastern uplands to central Israel (identified with the "city Adam"), opposite to the opening of the broad wady Far'ah, the route from Shiloh the national sanctuary to Gilead and Bashan.
The altar was erected on the W. side of and above (so Hebrew for "by," Joshua 22:10) Jordan, the pledge that the two and a half tribes held possession still with the remaining tribes on the W. The altar was "a great altar to see to," i.e. visible from afar. Gelilot is transled in the Vulgate as "mounds," probably the round islands with flat tops, formed by broad water channels and salt springs on the level of the Ghor or upper plain. The high cone of Kurn Surtabeh realizes the description of the altar of witness; it crowns an almost isolated block of hill, closing in the broader part of the Jordan valley on the N. The ancient road, cut in steps, arrives at the summit on the S., but on every side the valleys are deep, and the only natural ascent is from the N., by which the watershed is reached and followed along its winding course to the summit. The cone has sides sloping at 35 degrees, and 270 ft. high on the W. where it joins a narrow plateau.
On the other sides the slope is sheer to the mountain's base. Human skill evidently has in part given the cone its peculiar shape. On it is an oblong area, 30 yards by 100 yards, enclosed by a ruined wall of fine hewn blocks; within this is a platform, 18 ft. high, consisting of ten courses of beautifully cut stones, each three or four feet long, with a broad marginal draft. The stones were brought probably from caves in the S.E. side of the hill. An aqueduct runs round the whole mountain block. The cone stands above the Damieh ford, on the W. side of Jordan, and beside the direct route to the ford from Seilun, or Shiloh. It is conspicuous from afar. The gelilot or insulated mounds of the upper plain lie at the foot of the hill.
The monument on the top is such as the Bible describes the altar to have been. On the N. side lies a valley, Tal'at abu 'Ayd, "the ascent of the father of 'Ayd," i.e. the going up which leads to Ayd equates to Ed (Conder, Israel Exploration). The altar of Ed was 11 miles from the national sanctuary at Shiloh, and separated from it by a range of mountains. It was not in sight of Phinehas when addressing the leaders of the two and a half tribes on mount Gilead. In the phrase, "in the fore part," or "front of Canaan," the Ghor or sunken land along the Jordan on its W. side may be meant by "Canaan," as the Arabs there still call themselves Ghawarni (Conder). Or else "Canaan" may be used of the whole country of the nine and a half tribes, the Jordan valley being excepted; the altar Ed being in front of the country of the nine and a half tribes (Keil and Delitzsch).
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