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IV. Israel in the Poetic Books of the Old Testament.
1. Book of Job:
In Job the scene is distinctively Edomite. Uz (Job 1:1; compare Gen 22:21 the English Revised Version; Jer 25:20; Lam 4:21) and Buz (Job 32:2; compare Gen 22:21) are the Assyrian Chazu and Bazu reached by Esarhaddon in 673 BC South of Edom. Tema and Sheba (Job 6:19) are noticed yet earlier, by Tiglath-pileser III, and Sargon, who conquered the Thamudites and Nabateans. We have also the conjunction of snowy mountains and ice (Job 6:16) with notice of the desert and the `Arabah valley (24:5), which could hardly apply to any region except Edom. Again, we have a nomad population dwelling close to a city (29:4-7)--perhaps Petra, or Ma`an in Edom. There were mines, not only in the Sinaitic desert, but at Punon in Northern Edom (compare 28:2-11). The white broom (30:4) is distinctive of the deserts of Moab and Edom. The wild donkey and the ostrich (39:5,13) are now known only in the desert East of Edom; while the stork (39:13 the Revised Version margin) could have been found only in the `Arabah, or in the Jordan valley. The wild ox (39:9 the Revised Version (British and American)), or Boa primi-genius, is now extinct Septuagint "unicorn," Nu 23:22; Dt 33:17), though its bones occur in Lebanon caves. It was hunted about 1130 BC in Syria by Tiglath-pileser I (compare Ps 29:6), and is mentioned as late as the time of Isaiah (34:7) in connection with Edom; its Hebrew name (re'em) is the Assyrian rimu, attached to a representation of the beast. As regards the crocodile ("leviathan," Job 41:1), it was evidently well known to the writer, who refers to its strong, musky smell (Job 41:31), and it existed not only in Egypt but in Israel, and is still found in the Crocodile River, North of Caesarea in Sharon. Behemoth (Job 40:15), though commonly supposed to be the hippopotamus, is more probably the elephant (on account of its long tail, its trunk, and its habit of feeding in mountains, Job 40:17,20,24); and the elephant was known to the Assyrians in the 9th century BC, and was found wild in herds on the Euphrates in the 16th century BC. The physical allusions in Job seem clearly, as a rule, to point to Edom, as do the geographical names; and though Christian tradition in the 4th century AD (St. Silvia, 47) placed Uz in Bashan, the Septuagint (Job 42:18) defines it as lying "on the boundary of Edom and Arabia." None of these allusions serves to fix dates, nor do the peculiarities of the language, though they suggest Aramaic and Arabic influences. The mention of Babylonians (Job 1:17) (Kasdim) as raiders may, however, point to about 600 BC, since they could not have reached Edom except from the North, and did not appear in Israel between the time of Amraphel (who only reached Kadesh-barnea), and of Nebuchadnezzar. It is at least clear (Job 24:1-12) that this great poem was written in a time of general anarchy, and of Arab lawlessness.
2. Book of Psalms:
In the Psalms there are many allusions to the natural phenomena of Israel, but there is very little detailed topography. "The mountain of Bashan" (Ps 68:15) rises East of the plateau to 5,700 ft. above sea-level; but Zalmon (Ps 68:14) is an unknown mountain (compare Zalmon, Jdg 9:48). This psalm might well refer to David's conquest of Damascus (2 Sam 8:6), as Ps 72 refers to the time of Solomon, being the last in the original collection of "prayers of David" (2 Sam 8:20). In Ps 83 (verses 6-8) we find a confederacy of Edom, Ishmael, Moab and the Hagarenes (or "wanderers" East of Israel; compare 1 Ch 5:18-22) with Gebal (in Lebanon), Ammon, Amalek, and Tyre, all in alliance with Assyria--a condition which first existed in 732 BC, when Tiglath-pileser III conquered Damascus. The reference to the "northern" ("hidden") tribes points to this date (Ps 83:3), since this conqueror made captives also in Galilee (2 Ki 15:29; 1 Ch 5:26; Isa 9:1).
3. Book of Proverbs:
In Proverbs the allusions are more peaceful, but not geographical. They refer to agriculture (3:10; 11:26; 12:11; 25:13), to trade (7:16; 31:14,24) and to flocks (27:23-27). The most remarkable passage (26:8) reads literally, "As he that packs a stone into the stone-heap, so is he that giveth honor to a fool." Jerome said that this referred to a superstitious custom; and the erection of stone heaps at graves, or round a pillar (Gen 31:45,46), is a widely spread and very ancient custom (still preserved by Arabs), each stone being the memorial of a visitor to the spot, who thus honors either a local ghost or demon, or a dead man--a rite which was foolish in the eyes of a Hebrew of the age in which this verse was written (see Expository Times, VIII, 399, 524).
4. Song of Songs:
The geography of Canticles is specially important to a right understanding of this bridal ode of the Syrian princess who was Solomon's first bride. It is not confined, as some critics say it is, to the north, but includes the whole of Israel and Syria. The writer names Kedar in North Arabia (Song 1:5) and Egypt, whence horses came in Solomon's time (Song 1:9; 1 Ki 10:28,29). He knows the henna (the King James Version "camphire") and the vineyards of En-gedi (Song 1:14), where vineyards still existed in the 12th century AD. He speaks of the "rose" of Sharon (Song 2:1), as well as of Lebanon, with Shenir (Assyrian Saniru) and Hermon (Song 4:8) above Damascus (Song 7:4). He notices the pastoral slopes of Gilead. (Song 6:5), and the brown pool, full of small fish, in the brook below Heshbon (Song 7:4), in Moab. The locks of the "peaceful one" (Song 6:13, Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) pacifica) are like the thick copses of Carmel; `the king is caught in the tangles' (Song 7:5). See GALLERY. She is "beautiful as Tirzah (in Samaria), comely as Jerusalem, terrible to look at" (Song 6:4 the King James Version). She is a garden and a "paradise" ("orchard") of spices in Lebanon, some of which spices (calamus, cinnamon, frankincense and myrrh) have come from far lands (Song 4:12-15). Solomon's vineyard--another emblem of the bride--(Song 1:6; 8:11) was in Baal-hamon, which some suppose to be Baal-hermon, still famous for its vineyards. He comes to fetch her from the wilderness (Song 3:6); and the dust raised by his followers is like that of the whirlwind pillars which stalk over the dry plains of Bashan in summer. The single word "paradise" (Song 4:13 margin) is hardly evidence enough to establish late date, since--though used in Persian--its etymology and origin are unknown. The word for "nuts" (Hebrew 'eghoz) is also not Persian (Song 6:11), for the Arabic word jauz, is Semitic, and means a "pair," applying to the walnut which abounds in Shechem. The "rose of Sharon" (Song 2:1), according to the Targum, was the white "narcisus; and the Hebrew word occurs also in Assyrian (chabacillatu), as noted by Delitzsch (quoting WAI, V, 32, number 4), referring to a white bulbous plant. Sharon in spring is covered still with wild narcissi, Arabic buceil (compare Isa 35:1,2). There is perhaps no period when such a poem is more likely to have been written than in the time of Solomon, when Israel "dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree" (1 Ki 4:25); when the roe and the fallow deer (Song 2:17; 1 Ki 4:23) abounded; and when merchants (Song 3:6) brought "powders" from afar; when also the dominion included Damascus and Southern Lebanon, as well as Western Israel with Gilead and Moab.
See also SONG OF SONGS.
V. Israel in the Prophets.
Isaiah (1:8) likens Zion, when the Assyrian armies were holding Samaria, Moab and Philistia, to "a booth in a vineyard, a lodge in a garden of cucumbers." He refers no doubt to a "tower" (Mt 21:33), or platform, such as is to be found beside the rock-cut wine press in the deserted vineyards of Israel; and such as is still built, for the watchman to stand on, in vineyards and vegetable gardens.
The chief topographical question (Isa 10:28-32) refers to the Assyrian advance from the north, when the outposts covered the march through Samaria (whether in 732, 722, or 702 BC) to Philistia. They extended on the left wing to Ai (Chayan), Michmash (Mukhmas), and Geba, South of the Michmash valley (Jeba`), leading to the flight of the villagers, from Ramah (er-Ram) and the region of Gibeah--which included Ramah, with Geba (1 Sam 22:6) and Migron (1 Sam 14:2) or the precipice. They were alarmed also at Gallim (Beit Jala), and Anathoth (`Anata), near Jerusalem; yet the advance ceased at Nob (compare Neh 11:32) where, as before noted, the first glimpse of Zion would be caught if Nob was at or near Mizpah (Tell en Nacbeh), on the main north road leading West of Ramah.
Another passage refers to the towns of Moab (Isa 15:1-6), and to Nimrim (Tell Nimrin) and Zoar (Tell esh Shaghur) in the valley of Shittim. The ascent of Luhith (Isa 15:5) is the present Tal`at el Cheith, on the southern slope of Nebo (Jebel Neba). The curious term "a heifer of three years old" (compare Jer 48:34 margin) is taken from Septuagint, but might better be rendered "a round place with a group of three" (see EGLATH-SHELISHIYAH). It is noticed with the "high places" of Moab (Isa 15:2; Jer 48:35), and probably refers to one of those large and ancient stone circles, surrounding a central group of three rude pillars, which still remain in Moab (SEP, I, 187, 203,233) near Nobo and Zoar. Sibmah--probably Sumieh, 2 miles Southwest of Heshbon (Chesban)--is said to have had vines reaching to Jazer (Sa`aur, 6 miles to the North); and rock-cut wine presses still remain at Sibmah (Isa 16:8; Jer 48:32). The Bozrah mentioned with Edom (Isa 34:6; 63:1; Jer 49:13,22; Mic 2:12) is probably Buceirah, near the southern border of Moab. In the last-cited passage there is a play on the words batsrah ("fortress") and botscah for "sheepfold."
In Jer 1:1, Anathoth (`Anata) is mentioned as a priests' city (compare 1 Ki 2:26). The "place" or shrine of Shiloh was deserted (Jer 7:12), but the town seems still to have been inhabited (Jer 41:5). The "pit" at Mizpah (Jer 41:6-9) may have been the great rock reservoir South of Tell en-Nacbeh. The Moabite towns noticed (Jer 48:1-5,20-24,31-45; 49:3) with Rabbah (`Amman) have been mentioned as occurring in the parallel passages of Isaiah. The numerous petty kings in Edom, Moab, Philistia, Phoenicia, and Arabia (Jer 25:20-24) recall those named in Assyrian lists of the same age. Lam 4:3 recalls Job 39:14 in attributing to the ostrich want of care for her young, because she endeavors (like other birds) to escape, and thus draws away the hunter from the nest. This verse should not be regarded as showing that the author knew that whales were mammals, since the word "sea-monsters" (the King James Version) is more correctly rendered "jackals" (Revised Version) or "wild beasts."
In Ezekiel (chapter 27), Tyre appears as a city with a very widespread trade extending from Asia Minor to Arabia and Egypt, and from Assyria to the isles (or "coasts") of the Mediterranean. The "oaks of Bashan" (27:6; Isa 2:13; Zec 11:2) are still found in the Southwest of that region near Gilead. Judah and Israel then provided wheat, honey, oil and balm for export as in the time of Jacob. Damascus sent white wool and the wine of Helbon (Chelbon), 13 miles North, where fine vineyards still exist. The northern border described (47:15-18) is the same that marked that of the dominions of David, running along the Eleutherus River toward Zedad (Cudud). It is described also in Nu 34:8-11 as passing Riblah (Riblah) and including Ain (el `Ain), a village on the western slopes of the Anti-Lebanon, East of Riblah. In this passage (as in Ezek 47:18) the Hauran (or Bashan plain) is excluded from the land of Israel, the border following the Jordan valley, which seems to point to a date earlier than the time when the Havvoth-jair (Nu 32:41; Dt 3:14; Josh 13:30; Jdg 10:4; 1 Ki 4:13; 1 Ch 2:23), in Gilead and Bashan were conquered or built--possibly after the death of Joshua. The southern border of the land is described by Ezekiel (47:19) as reaching from Kadesh (-barnea)--probably Petra--to Tamar, which seems to be Tamrah, 6 miles Northeast of Gaza.
4. Minor Prophets:
In the Minor Prophets there are fewer topographical notices. Hosea (12:11) speaks of the altars of Gilead and Gilgal as being "as heaps in the furrows of the fields." He perhaps alludes to the large dolmen fields of this region, which still characterize the country East of the Jordan. He also perhaps speaks of human sacrifice at Bethel (13:2). In Joel (1:12) the apple tree (Hebrew tappuach, Arabic tuffach) is noticed (compare Song 2:3,5; 8:5), and there seems to be no reason to doubt that the apple was cultivated, since el Muqaddasi mentions "excellent apples" at Jerusalem in the 10th century AD, though it is not now common in Israel. The sycamore fig (Am 7:14), which was common in the plains and in the shephelah (1 Ki 10:27), grew also near Jericho (Lk 19:4), where it is still to be found. In Mic (1:10-15), a passage which appears to refer to Hezekiah's reconquest of the shephelah towns and attack on Gaza before 702 BC (2 Ki 18:8; 2 Ch 28:18) gives a list of places and a play on the name of each. They include Gath (Tell es Cafi), Saphir (es Safir), Lachish (Tell el-Chesy), Achzib (`Ain Kezbeh), and Mareshah (Mer`ash): "the glory of Israel shall come even unto Adullam" (`Aid-el-ma) perhaps refers to Hezekiah himself (Mic 1:15). After the captivity Philistia (Zec 9:5) was still independent. See PHILISTINES. The meaning of the "mourning of Hadadrimmon in the Valley of Megiddon" (Zec 12:11) is disputed. Jerome (see Reland, Israel Illustr., II, 891) says that the former of these names referred to a town near Jezreel (Maximianopolis, now Rummaneh, on the western side of the plain of Esdraelon), but the mourning "for an only son" was probably a rite of the Syrian god called Hadad, or otherwise Rimmon, like the mourning for Tammuz (Ezek 8:14).
VI. Israel in the Apocrypha.
1. Book of Judith:
The Book of Judith is regarded by Renan (Evangiles, 1877, 29) as a Haggadha' (legend), written in Hebrew in 74 AD. It is remarkable, however, that its geographical allusions are very correct. Judith was apparently of the tribe of Manasseh (8:2,3); and her husband, who bore this name, was buried between Dothaim (Tell Dothan) and Balamon (in Wady Belameh), East of Dothan. Her home at Bethulia was thus probably at Mithilieh, on a high hill (6:11,12), 5 miles Southeast of Dothan (SWP, II, 156), in the territory of Manasseh. The requirements of the narrative are well met; for this village is supplied only by wells (7:13,10), though there are springs at the foot of the hill to the South (7:7,12), while there is a good view over the valley to the North (10:10), and over the plain of Esdraelon to Nazareth and Tabor. Other mountains surround the village (15:3). The camp of the invaders reached from Dothart to Belmaim (Balamon) from West to East, and their rear was at Cyamon (Tell Qeimun), at the foot of Carmel. The Babylonians were allied with tribes from Carmel, Gilead and Galilee on the North with the Samaritans, and with others from Betane (probably Beth-anoth, now Belt `Ainun, North of Hebron), Chellus (Klalach--the later Elusa--8 miles Southwest of Beersheba), and Kades (`Ain Qadis) on the way to Egypt. Among Samaritan towns South of Shechem, Ekrebel (`Aqrabeh) and Chusi (Kuzah) are mentioned, with "the brook Mochmur" (Wady el Chumr) rising North of Ekrebel and running East into the Jordan.
2. Book of Wisdom:
The philosophical Book of Wisdom has no references to Israel; and in Ecclesiasticus the only allusions are to the palm of En-gaddi (24:14), where palms still exist, and to the "rose plant in Jericho" (24:14; compare 39:13; 50:8); the description of the rose as "growing by the brook in the field" suggests the rhododendron (Tristram, NHB, 477), which flourishes near the Jordan and grows to great size beside the brooks of Gilead.
3. 1 Maccabees:
Judas Maccabeus.--The first Book of Maccabees is a valuable history going down to 135 BC, and its geographical allusions are sometimes important. Modin, the home of Judas-Maccabaeus (1 Macc 2:15), where his brother Simon erected seven monuments visible from the sea (1 Macc 9:19; 13:25-30), was above the plain in which Cedron (Qatrah, 5 miles East of Jamnia) stood (1 Macc 15:40,41; 16:4,9), and is clearly the present village el Midieh on the low hills with a sea view, 17 miles from Jerusalem and 6 miles East of Lydda, near which latter Eusebius (Onom under the word "Modeim") places Modin. The first victory of Judas (1 Macc 3:24) was won at Beth-horon, and the second at Emmaus (`Amwas) by the Valley of Aijalon--the scenes of Joshua's victories also.
The Greeks next attempted to reach Jerusalem from the South and were again defeated at Beth-zur (1 Macc 4:29), now Beit-cur, on the watershed, 15 miles South of Jerusalem, where the road runs through a pass. Judas next (after cleansing the temple in 165 BC) marched South of the Dead Sea, attacking the Edomites at Arabattine (perhaps Akrabbim) and penetrating to the Moab plateau as far North as Jazar (1 Macc 5:3-8). On his return to Judea the heathen of Gilead and Bashan rose against the Israelites of Tubias (1 Macc 5:13) or Tobit (Taiyibeh), and the Phoenicians against the Galilean Hebrews who were, for a time, withdrawn to Jerusalem until the Hasmoneans won complete independence (1 Macc 11:7,59). In the regions of Northern Gilead and Southern Bashan (1 Macc 5:26,36,37) Judas conquered Bosor (Bucr), Alema (Kerr el-ma), Caphon (Khisfin), Maged (perhaps el Mejd, North of `Amman), and Carnaim (Ashteroth-karnaim), now Tell Ashterah. The notice of a "brook" at the last-named place (1 Macc 5:42) is an interesting touch, as a fine stream runs South from the west side of the town. In 162 BC Judas was defeated at Bathzacharias (1 Macc 6:32), now Beit Skaria 9 miles South of Jerusalem, but the cause was saved by a revolt in Antioch; and in the next year he defeated Nicanor near Caphar-salama (perhaps Selmeh, near Joppa), and slew him at Adasah (`Adaseh), 8 miles Southeast of Beth-horon (1 Macc 7:31,40,45). The fatal battle in which Judas was killed (1 Macc 9:5,15) was fought also near Beth-horon. He camped at Eleasa (Il`asa), close by, and defeated the Greeks on his right, driving them to Mt. Azotus (or Beth-zetho, according to Josephus (Ant., XII, xi, 2)), apparently near Bir-ez-Zeit, 4 miles Northwest of Bethel; but the Greeks on his left surrounded him during this rash pursuit.
On the death of Judas, Bacchides occupied Judea and fortified the frontier towns (1 Macc 9:50,51) on all sides. Simon and Jonathan were driven to the marshes near the Jordan, but in 159 BC the Greeks made peace with Jonathan who returned to Michmash (1 Macc 9:73) and 7 years later to Jerns (1 Macc 10:1,7). Three districts on the southern border of Samaria were then added to Judea (1 Macc 10:30; 11:34), namely Lydda, Apherema (or Ephraim) now Taiyibeh, and Ramathem (er-Ram); and Jonathan defeated the Greeks in Philistia (1 Macc 10:69; 11:6). Simon was "captain" from the "Ladder of Tyre" (Ras en Naqurah), or the pass North of Accho, to the borders of Egypt (1 Macc 11:59); and the Greeks in Upper Galilee were again defeated by Jonathan, who advanced from Gennesaret to the plateau of Hazor (Chazzur), and pursued them even to Kedesh Naphtali (Qedes), northward (1 Macc 11:63,73). He was victorious even to the borders of Hamath, and the Eleutherus River (Nahr el Kebir), North of Tripoils, and defeated the Arabs, called Zabadeans (probably at Zebdany in Anti-Lebanon), on his way to Damascus (1 Macc 12:25,30,32). He fortified Adida (Chadditheh) in the shephelah (1 Macc 12:38), West of Jerusalem, where Simon awaited the Greek usurper Tryphon (1 Macc 13:13,20), who attempted to reach Jerusalem by a long detour to the South near Adoraim (Dura), but failed on account of the snow in the mountains. After the treacherous capture of Jonathan at Accho, and his death in Gilead (1 Macc 12:48; 13:23), Simon became the ruler of all Israel to Gaza (1 Macc 13:43), fortifying Joppa, Gezer and Ashdod (1 Macc 14:34) in 140 BC. Five years later he won a final victory at Cedron (Qatrah), near Jamnia (Yebnah), but was murdered at Dok (1 Macc 16:15), near Jericho, which site was a small fort at `Ain Duk, a spring North of the city.
4. 2 Maccabees:
The second Book of Maccabees presents a contrast to the first in which, as we have seen, the geography is easily understood. Thus the site of Caspis with its lake (2 Macc 12:13,16) is doubtful. It seems to be placed in Idumaea, and Charax may be the fortress of Kerak in Moab (2 Macc 12:17). Ephron, West of Ashteroth-karnaim (2 Macc 12:26,27), is unknown; and Beth-shean is called by its later name Scythopolis (2 Macc 12:29), as in the Septuagint (Jdg 1:27) and in Josephus (Ant., XII, viii, 5; vi, 1). A curious passage (1 Macc 13:4-6) seems to refer to the Persian burial towers (still used by Parsees), one of which appears to have existed at Berea (Aleppo), though this was not a Greek custom.
VII. Israel in the New Testament.
1. Synoptic Gospels:
We are told that our Lord was born in "Bethlehem of Judea"; and theory of Neubauer, adopted by Gratz, that Bethlehem of Zebulun (Josh 19:15)--which was the present Beit-Lachm, 7 miles Northwest of Nazareth--is to be understood, is based on a mistake. The Jews expected the Messiah to appear in the home of David (Mic 5:2); and the Northern Bethlehem was not called "of Nazareth," as asserted by Rix (Tent and Testament, 258); this was a conjectural reading by Neubauer (Geog. du Talmud, 189), but the Talmud (Talm Jerusalem, Meghillah 1 1) calls the place Bethlechem-ceridh (or "of balm"), no doubt from the storax bush (Styrax officinalis) or stacte (Ex 30:34), the Arabic `abhar, which still abounds in the oak wood close by.
(1) Galilean Scenery.
The greater part of the life of Jesus was spent at Nazareth in Zebulun, and the ministry at Capernaum in Naphtali (compare Mt 4:13-15; Isa 9:1), with yearly visits to Jerusalem. The Gospel narratives and the symbolism of the parables constantly recall the characteristic features of Galilean scenery and nature, as they remain unchanged today. The "city set on a hill" (Mt 5:14) may be seen in any part of Israel; the lilies of the field grow in all its plains; the "foxes have holes" and the sparrows are still eaten; the vineyard with its tower; the good plowland, amid stony and thorny places, are all still found throughout the Holy Land. But the deep lake surrounded by precipitous cliffs and subject to sudden storms, with its shoals of fish and its naked fishers; the cast nets and drag nets and small heavy boats of the Sea of Galilee, are more distinctive of the Gospels, since the lake is but briefly noticed in the Old Testament.
Nazareth was a little village in a hill plateau North of the plain of Esdraelon, and l,000 ft. above it. The name (Hebrew natsarah) may mean "verdant," and it had a fine spring, but it is connected (Mt 2:23) in the Gospels with the prophecy of the "branch" (netser, Isa 11:1) of the house of David. Its population was Hebrew, for it possessed a synagogue (Lk 4:16). The "brow of the hill whereon their city was built" (Lk 4:29) is traditionally the "hill of the leap" (Jebel Qafsi), 2 miles to the South--a cliff overlooking the plain. Nazareth was not on any great highway; and so obscure was this village that it is unnoticed in the Old Testament, or by Josephus, while even a Galilean (Jn 1:46) could hardly believe that a prophet could come thence. Jerome (Onomasticon, under the word) calls it a "village"; but today it is a town with 4,000 Christians and 2,000 Moslems, the former taking their Arabic name (Nacarah) from the home of their Master.
Capernaum (Mt 4:13; 9:1) lay on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, apparently (Mr 14:34; Jn 6:17) in the little plain of Gennesaret, which stretches for 3 miles on the northwest side of the lake, and which has a breadth of 2 miles. It may have stood on a low cliff (though this is rendered doubtful by the Sinaiticus manuscript rendering of Mt 11:23--"Shalt thou be exalted unto heaven?"), and it was a military station where taxes were levied (Mt 9:9), and possessed a synagogue (Mk 1:21; Lk 4:33; Jn 6:59). Christian tradition, since the 4th century AD, has placed the site at Tell Chum, where ruins of a synagogue (probably, however, not older than the 2nd century AD) exist; but this site is not in the plain of Gennesaret, and is more probably Kephar 'Achim (Babylonian Talmud, Menachoth 85a). Jewish tradition (Midrash, Qoheleth, vii.20) connects Capernaum with minim or "heretics"--that is to say Christians--whose name may yet linger at `Ain Minyeh at the north end of the plain of Gennesaret. Josephus states (BJ, III, x, 8) that the spring of Capernaum watered this plain, and contained the catfish (coracinus) which is still found in `Ain el Mudawwerah ("the round spring"), which is the principal source of water in the Gennesaret oasis.
The site of Chorazin (Kerazeh) has never been lost. The ruined village lies about 2 1/4 miles North of Tell Chum and possesses a synagogue of similar character. Bethsaida ("the house of fishing") is once said to have been in Galilee (Jn 12:21), and Reland (Israel Illustr., II, 553-55) thought that there were two towns of the name. It is certain that the other notices refer to Bethsaida, called Julias by Herod Philip, which Josephus (Ant., XVIII, ii, 1; iv, 6; BJ, III, x, 7) and Pliny (NH, v.15) place East of the Jordan, near the place where it enters the Sea of Galilee. The site may be at the ruin edition Dikkeh ("the platform"), now 2 miles North of the lake, but probably nearer of old, as the river deposit has increased southward. There are remains of a synagogue here also. The two miracles of feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000 are both described as occurring' East of the Jordan, the former (Lk 9:10) in the desert (of Golan) "belonging to the city called Bethsaida" (the King James Version). The words (Mk 6:45 the King James Version), "to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida," may be rendered without any straining of grammar, "to go to the side opposite to Bethsaida." For the disciples are not said to have reached that city; but, after a voyage of at least 3 or 4 miles (Jn 6:17,19), they arrived near Capernaum, and landed in Gennesaret (Mk 6:53), about 5 miles Southwest of the Jordan.
(5) Country of the Gerasenes.
The place where the swine rushed down a steep place into the lake (Mt 8:32; Mk 5:1; Lk 8:26) was in the country of the Gerasenes (see Codex Vaticanus MS), probably at Qersa on the eastern shore opposite Tiberias, where there is a steep slope to the water. It should be noted that this was in Decapolis (Mk 5:20), a region of "ten cities" which lay (except Scythopolis) in Southwest Bashan, where a large number of early Greek inscriptions have been found, some of which (e.g. Vogue-Waddington, numbers 2412, 2413) are as old as the 1st century AD. There was evidently a Greek population in this region in the time of our Lord; and this accounts for the feeding of swine, otherwise distinctive of "a far country" (Lk 15:13,15); for, while no Hebrew would have tended the unclean beast in Israel, the Greeks were swine-herds from the time at least of Homer.
The site of Magadan-Magdala (Mejdel) was on the west shore at the Southwest end of the Gennesaret plain (Mt 15:39). In Mk 8:10 we find Dalmanutha instead. Magdala was the Hebrew mighdol ("tower"), and Dalmanutha may be regarded as the Aramaic equivalent (De'almanutha) meaning "the place of high buildings"; so that there is no necessary discrepancy between the two accounts. From this place Jesus again departed by ship to "the other side," and reached Bethsaida (Mt 16:5; Mk 8:13,22), traveling thence up the Jordan valley to Caesarea Philippi (Mt 16:13; Mk 8:27), or Banias, at the Jordan springs. There can be little doubt that the "high mountain apart" (Mt 17:1) was Hermon. The very name signifies "separate," applying to its solitary dome; and the sudden formation of cloud on the summit seems to explain the allusion in Lk 9:34.
(7) Other Allusions in the Synoptic Gospels.
Other allusions in the Synoptic Gospels, referring to natural history and customs, include the notice of domestic fowls (Mt 23:37; 26:34), which are never mentioned in the Old Testament. They came from Persia, and were introduced probably after 400 BC. The use of manure (Lk 13:8) is also unnoticed in the Old Testament, but is mentioned in the Mishna (Shebi`ith, ii.2), as is the custom of annually whitening sepulchers (Mt 23:27; Sheqalim, i.1). The removal of a roof (Mk 2:4; compare Lk 5:19) at Capernaum was not difficult, if it resembled those of modern Galilean mud houses, though the Third Gospel speaks of "tiles" which are not now used. Finally, the presence of shepherds with their flocks (Lk 2:8) is not an indication of the season of the nativity, since they remain with them "in the field" at all times of the year; and the "manger" (Lk 2:7) may have been (as tradition affirmed even in the 2nd century AD) in a cave like those which have been found in ruins North and South of Hebron (SWP, III, 349, 369) and elsewhere in Israel
2. Fourth Gospel:
(1) The topography of the Fourth Gospel is important as indicating the writer's personal knowledge of Israel; for he mentions several places not otherwise noticed in the New Testament. Beth-abarah (Jn 1:28, the Revised Version (British and American) "Bethany"; 10:40), or "the house of the crossing," was "beyond the Jordan." Origen rejected the reading "Bethania," instead of Beth-abarah, common in his time, and still found in the three oldest uncial manuscripts in the 4th and 5th centuries AD. The place was a day's journey from Cana (compare Jn 1:29,35,43; 2:1), which may have been at `Ain Qana, a mile North of Nazareth. It was two or three days' distance from Bethany near Jerusalem (Jn 10:40; 11:3,6,17), and would thus lie in the upper part of the Jordan valley where, in 1874, the surveyors found a ford well known by the name `Abarah, North of Beisan, in the required situation. John, we are told, baptized in "all the region round about the Jordan" (Mt 3:5), including the waters of "AEnon near to Salim" (Jn 3:23). There is only one stream which answers to this description, namely that of Wady Far`ah, Northeast of Shechem, on the boundary of Judea and Samaria, where there is "much water." AEnon would be `Ainun, 4 miles North, and Salim is Salim, 4 miles South of this perennial affluent of the Jordan.
(2) The site of Sychar (Samaritan: Iskar, Arabic: `Askar) near Jacob's well (Jn 4:5,6) lay West of Salim, and just within the Samaritan border. The present village is only half a mile North of the well. Like the preceding sites, it is noticed only in the Fourth Gospel, as is Bethesda, while this Gospel also gives additional indications as to the position of Calvary. The town of Ephraim, "near to the wilderness" (Jn 11:54), is noticed earlier (2 Sam 13:23; compare Ephraim, 2 Ch 13:19 margin), and appears to be the same as Apherema (1 Macc 11:34), and as Ophrah of Benjamin (Josh 18:23; 1 Sam 13:17). Eusebius (Onom under the word) places it 20 Roman miles North of Jerusalem, where the village Taiyibeh looks down on the desert of Judah.
3. Book of Acts:
In the Book of Acts the only new site, unnoticed before, is that of Antipatris (23:31). This stood at the head of the stream (Me-jarkon) which runs thence to the sea North of Joppa, and it was thus the half-way station between Jerusalem and the seaside capital at Caesarea. The site is now called Ras el `Ain ("head of the spring"), and a castle, built in the 12th century, stands above the waters. The old Rom road runs close by (SWP, II, 258). Caesarea was a new town, founded by Herod the Great about 20 BC (SWP, II, 13-29). It was even larger than Jerusalem, and had an artificial harbor. Thence we may leave Israel with Paul in 60 AD. The reader must judge whether this study of the country does not serve to vindicate the sincerity and authenticity of Bible narratives in the Old Testament and the New Testament alike.
Though the literature connected with Israel is enormous, and constantly increasing, the number of really original and scientific sources of knowledge is (as in other cases) not large. Besides the Bible, and Josephus, the Mishna contains a great deal of valuable information as to the cultivation and civilization of Israel about the 1st and 2nd centuries AD. The following 20 works are of primary importance. The Onomasticon of Eusebius and Jerome shows intimate acquaintance with Israel in the 4th century AD, though the identification of Bible sites is as often wrong as right. The rabbinical geography is discussed by A. Neubauer (La geographie du Talmud, 1868), and the scattered notices by Greek and Roman writers were collected by H. Reland (Palaestina ex monumentis veteribus illustrata, 2 volumes, 1714). The first really scientific account of the country is that of Dr. E. Robinson (Biblical Researches, 1838, and Later Biblical Researches, 1852; in 3 volumes, 1856). The Survey of Western Israel (7 volumes, 1883) includes the present writer's account of the natural features, topography and surface remains of all ages, written while in command (1872-1878) of the 1-inch trigonometric survey. The Survey of Eastern Israel (1 vol, 1889) gives his account of Moab and Southern Gilead, as surveyed in 1881-1882. The natural history is to be studied in the same series, and in Canon Tristram's Natural History of the Bible, 1868. The geology is best given by L. Lartet (Essai sur la geologie de la Israel) and in Professor Hull's Memoir on the Geol. and Geog. of Arabia Petrea, etc., 1886. The Archaeological Researches of M. Clermont-Ganneau (2 volumes, 1896) include his discoveries of Gezer and Adullam. Much information is scattered through the PEFQ,(1864-1910) and in ZDPV. G. Schumacher's Across the Jordan, 1885, Pella, 1888, and Northern 'Ajlun, 1890, give detailed information for Northeast Israel; and Lachish, by Professor Flinders Petrie, is the memoir of the excavations which he began at Tell el-Chesy (identified in 1874 by the present writer), the full account being in A Mound of Many Cities by F.J. Bliss, 1894. Other excavations, at Gath, etc., are described in Excavations in Israel (1898-1900), by F.J. Bliss, R.A.S. Macalister, and Professor Wunsch; while the memoir of his excavations at Gezer (2 volumes) has recently been published by Professor Macalister. For those who have not access to these original sources, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land by Professor G.A. Smith, 1894, and the essay (300 pp.) by Professor D.F. Buhl (Geographie des alten Palastina, 1896) will be found useful. The best guide book to Israel is still that of Baedeker, written by Dr. A. Socin and published in 18765, 1912. This author had personal acquaintance with the principal routes of the country. Only standard works of reference have been herein mentioned, to which French, German, American, and British explorers and scholars have alike contributed.
C. R. Conder
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'palestine, 3'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE
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