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arabia Summary and Overview

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arabia in Easton's Bible Dictionary

arid, an extensive region in the south-west of Asia. It is bounded on the west by the Isthmus of Suez and the Red Sea, on the south by the Indian Ocean, and on the east by the Persian Gulf and the Euphrates. It extends far into the north in barren deserts, meeting those of Syria and Mesopotamia. It is one of the few countries of the world from which the original inhabitants have never been expelled. It was anciently divided into three parts:, (1.) Arabia Felix (Happy Arabia), so called from its fertility. It embraced a large portion of the country now known by the name of Arabia. The Arabs call it Yemen. It lies between the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf. (2.) Arabia Deserta, the el-Badieh or "Great Wilderness" of the Arabs. From this name is derived that which is usually given to the nomadic tribes which wander over this region, the "Bedaween," or, more generally, "Bedouin," (3.) Arabia Petraea, i.e., the Rocky Arabia, so called from its rocky mountains and stony plains. It comprehended all the north-west portion of the country, and is much better known to travellers than any other portion. This country is, however, divided by modern geographers into (1) Arabia Proper, or the Arabian Peninsula; (2) Northern Arabia, or the Arabian Desert; and (3) Western Arabia, which includes the peninsula of Sinai and the Desert of Petra, originally inhabited by the Horites (Gen. 14:6, etc.), but in later times by the descendants of Esau, and known as the Land of Edom or Idumea, also as the Desert of Seir or Mount Seir. The whole land appears (Gen. 10) to have been inhabited by a variety of tribes of different lineage, Ishmaelites, Arabians, Idumeans, Horites, and Edomites; but at length becoming amalgamated, they came to be known by the general designation of Arabs. The modern nation of Arabs is predominantly Ishmaelite. Their language is the most developed and the richest of all the Semitic languages, and is of great value to the student of Hebrew. The Israelites wandered for forty years in Arabia. In the days of Solomon, and subsequently, commercial intercourse was to a considerable extent kept up with this country (1 Kings 10:15; 2 Chr. 9:14; 17:11). Arabians were present in Jerusalem at Pentecost (Acts 2:11). Paul retired for a season into Arabia after his conversion (Gal. 1:17). This country is frequently referred to by the prophets (Isa. 21:11; 42:11; Jer. 25:24, etc.)

arabia in Smith's Bible Dictionary

(desert, barren), a country known in the Old Testament under two designations:-- 1. The East Country, #Ge 25:6| or perhaps the East, (#Ge 10:30; Nu 23:7; Isa 2:6| and Land of the Sons of the East, #Ge 29:1| Gentile name, Sons of the East, #Jud 6:3; 7:12; 1Ki 4:30; Job 1:3; Isa 11:14; Jer 49:28; Eze 25:4| From these passages it appears that Land of the East and Sons of the East indicate, primarily, the country east of Israel, and the tribes descended from Ishmael and from Keturah; and that this original signification may have become gradually extended to Arabia and its inhabitants generally, though without any strict limitation. 2. 'Arab and 'Arab, whence Arabia. #2Ch 9:14; Isa 21:13; Jer 26:24; Eze 27:21| (Arabia is a triangular peninsula, included between the Mediterranean and Red seas, the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf. Its extreme length, north and south, is about 1300 miles, and its greatest breadth 1500 miles. -Encyc. Brit.) Divisions.--Arabia may be divided into Arabia Proper, containing the whole peninsula as far as the limits of the northern deserts; Northern Arabia (Arabia Deserta), constituting the great desert of Arabia; and Western Arabia, the desert of Petra and the peninsula of Sinai, or the country that has been called Arabia Petraea, I. Arabia Proper, or the Arabian penninsula consists of high tableland, declining towards the north. Most of it is well peopled, watered by wells and streams, and enjoys periodical rains. The moist fertile tracts are those on the southwest and south. II. Northern Arabia, or the Arabian Desert, is a high, undulating, parched plain, of which the Euphrates forms the natural boundary from the Persian Gulf to the frontier of Syria, whence it is bounded by the latter country and the desert of Petra on the northwest and west, the peninsula of Arabia forming its southern limit. It has few oases, the water of the wells is generally either brackish or unpotable and it is visited by the sand-wind called Samoom. The inhabitants principally descended from Ishmael and from Keturah, have always led a wandering and pastoral life. They conducted a considerable trade of merchandise of Arabia and India from the shore of the Persian Gulf. #Eze 27:20-24| III. Western Arabia includes the peninsula of Sinai [SINAI] and the desert of Petra; corresponding generally with the limits of Arabia Petraea. The latter name is probably derived from that of its chief city, not from its stony character. It was mostly peopled by descendants of Esau, and was generally known as the land of Edom or Idumea [EDOM], as well as by its older appellation, the desert of Seir or Mount Seir. [SEIR] Inhabitants.-- (Arabia, which once ruled from India to the Atlantic, now has eight or nine millions of inhabitants, about one-fifth of whom are Bedouin or wandering tribes, and the other four-fifths settled Arabs.--Encyc. Brit.) 1. The descendants of JOKTAN occupied the principal portions of the south and southwest of the peninsula, with colonies in the interior. The principal Joktanite kingdom, and the chief state of ancient Arabia, was that of the Yemen. 2. The ISHMAELITES appear to have entered the peninsula from the northwest. That they have spread over the whole of it (with the exception of one or two districts on the south coast), and that the modern nation is predominantly Ishmaelite, is asserted by the Arabs. 3. Of the descendants of KETURAH the Arabs say little. They appear to have settled chiefly north of the peninsula in Desert Arabia, from Israel to the Persian Gulf. 4. In northern and western Arabia are other peoples, which, from their geographical position and mode of life are sometimes classed with the Arabs, of these are AMALEK, the descendants of ESAU, etc. (Productions-- The productions are varied. The most noted animal is the horse. Camels, sheep, cattle, asses, mules and cats are common. Agricultural products are coffee, wheat, barley, millet, beans, pulse, dates and the common garden plants. In pasture lands Arabia is peculiarly fortunate. In mineral products it is singularly poor, lead being most abundant.--Encyc. Brit.) Religion.-- The most ancient idolatry of the Arabs we must conclude to have been fetishism. Magianism, an importation from Chaldaea and Persia, must be reckoned among the religions of the pagan Arabs; but it never had very numerous followers. Christianity was introduced into southern Arabia toward the close of the second century, and about a century later it had made great progress. It flourished chiefly in the Yemen, where many churches were built. Judaism was propagated in Arabia, principally by Karaites, at the captivity. They are now nominally Mohammedans. Language.-- Arabic the language of Arabia, is the most developed and the richest of Shemitic languages, and the only one of which we have an extensive literature; it is, therefore, of great importance to the study of Hebrew. Government.-- Arabia is now under the government of the Ottoman empire.

arabia in Schaff's Bible Dictionary

ARA'BIA (arid, sterile), a large peninsula in the south-western part of Asia, between the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Persian Gulf. Its extreme length from north to south is about 1300 miles, its greatest breadth about 1500 miles, though from the northern point of the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf is only about 900 miles. It has the sea on all sides except the north. Its area is estimated at 1,030,000 square miles; and of the three ancient divisions of the country, that known as Arabia Felix was by far the largest and most important, though it is less frequently mentioned by the sacred writers than either of the smaller and northern divisions. Sketch-Map of Arabia. Physical Features -- Its main features are a coast-range of low mountains or table-land, seldom rising over 2000 feet, broken on the eastern coast by sandy plains; this plateau is backed up by a second loftier range of mountains in the east and south. The mountains are generally barren on their sea side; their outlines are rugged and precipitous; behind the mountains encircling the sea-coast lies a ring of sterile desert, broadest in the east and south, where it is a waste of burning sand, narrower in the west and north, where it is rocky. Within this belt of desert rise tablelands broken by fertile valleys. This central plateau includes about one-third of the Arabian peninsula, the desert another third, and the coast-ranges the remaining portion. The Sinaitic peninsula is a small triangular region in the north-western part, or corner, of Arabia. See Sinai. Divisions of Arabia. -- The ancients divided it into Petroea, Deserta, and Felix; or the Stony, the Desert, and the Happy or Fertile. Modern geographers divide Arabia into a number of large districts, the chief of these being Yemen, which is the most fertile, and Hadramaut in the south, Oman in the east, Shomer and Sinai, or Negeb, in the north, Hedjaz, containing the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, in the west, and Nej'd in the central district. These districts are subdivided into upward of 35 smaller provinces. Some are thickly peopled with an agricultural population or those living in villages, while others are held by tribes of wandering Bedouins, each governed by the sheik. Productions. -- The principal animals are the horse, famed for its form, beauty, and endurance, camels, sheep, asses, dogs, the gazelle, tiger, lynx, and monkey, quails, peacocks, parrots, ostriches, vipers, scorpions, and locusts. Of fruits and grains, dates, wheat, millet, rice, beans, and pulse are common. It is also rich in minerals, especially in lead. Biblical History. -- Arabia in early Israelitish history meant a small tract of country south and east of Palestine, probably the same as that called Kedar, or "the east." Gen 10:30; Gen 26:6; Gen 29:1. Arabia in New Testament times appears to have been scarcely more extensive.Gal 1:17; Gal 4:25. The chief inhabitants were known as Ishmaelites, Arabians, Idumeans, Horites, and Edomites. The allusions in the Scripture to the country and its people are very numerous. Job is supposed to have dwelt in Arabia. The forty years of wandering by the Israelites under Moses was in this land. See Sinai. Solomon received gold from it, 1 Kgs 10:15; 2 Chr 9:14; Jehoshaphat, flocks, 2 Chr 17:11; some of its people were at Jerusalem at the Pentecost, Acts 2:11; Paul visited it.Gal 1:17; the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah frequently refer to it. Isa 21:11-13; Isa 42:11; Isa 60:7; Jer 25:24; Jer 49:28,1 Chr 2:29. See Kedar. Secular History. -- Arabia in earliest history was divided into several kingdoms, of which Yemen was the chief. In the fifth century the northern Arabs overran Yemen; later, in A. D. 529, came the great Abyssinian invasion; then the era of Mohammed, 622-632, followed by the conquests of his followers, who swept over Arabia, Palestine, Syria, and the whole of Western Asia, Northern Africa, and into Europe. In the next century their power in Arabia was broken and lost by dissensions, Arabia was disorganized, but rearranged in 929; furnished rulers for Egypt until 1171, in the time of Saladin; in 1517 the Turkish sultan, Selim I., was invested with the Mohammedan caliphate, and Arabia became subject to, and has since continued under, the Ottoman rule.

arabia in Fausset's Bible Dictionary

(Arabia arid tract). The Arabah, originally restricted to one wady, came to be applied to all Arabia. (See ARABAH.) Bounded on the N. by Israel and Syria, E. by the Euphrates and the Persian Gulf, S. by the Arabian Sea and strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, W. by the Red Sea and Egypt. 1700 miles long by 1400 broad. Designated Genesis 25:6 "the east country," the people "children of the East" (Genesis 29:1; Judges 6:3), chiefly meaning the tribes E. of Jordan and N. of the Arabian peninsula. "All the mingled people" is in Hebrew ha ereb (Exodus 12:38; Jeremiah 25:20; Ezekiel 30:5), possibly the Arabs. The three divisions are Arabia Deserta, Felix, and Petraea. The term Kedem, "the East," with the Hebrew probably referred to ARABIA DESERTA, or N. Arabia, bounded E. by the Euphrates, W. by the mountains of Gilead. Jeremiah (Jeremiah 2:6) describes its features, "a land of deserts and pits, a land of drought and of the shadow of death, that no man passed through, and where no man dwelt." Tadmor or Palmyra "in the wilderness" was on its N.E. border (1 Kings 9:18). Moving sands, a few thorny shrubs, and an occasional palm and a spring of brackish water, constitute its general character. The sand wind, the simoom, visits it. Hither Paul resorted after conversion for that rest and reflection which are needed before great spiritual enterprises (Galatians 1:17). Moses' stay of 40 years in the same quarter served the same end of preparatory discipline. Its early inhabitants were the Rephaim, Emim, Zuzim, Zamzummim (Genesis 14:5); Ammon, Moab, Edom, the Hagarenes, the Nabathaeans, the people of Kedar, and many wandering tent-dwelling tribes, like the modern Bedouins, succeeded. The portion of it called the Hauran, or Syrian desert, abounds in ruins and inscriptions in Greek, Palmyrene, and an unknown tongue. ARABIA FELIX or happy, S. Arabia, bounded on the E. by the Persian Gulf, S. by the Arabian Sea, W. by the Red Sea. Yemen, famed for its fertility ("the right hand", so the south, compare Matthew 12:42); and Hadramaut (Hazarmaveth, Genesis 10:26) were parts of it. Sheba answers to Yemen (Psalm 72:10), whose queen visited Solomon (1 Kings 10:1). The dominant family was that of Himyer, son of Sava; one of this family founded the modern kingdom of the Himyerites, now called el Hedjaz, the land of pilgrimage, on account of the pilgrimages to Mecca the birthplace, and Medina the burial place, of Mahomet. The central province of the Nejd is famed for the Arab horses and camels, "the ships of the desert." Joktan, son of Eber (Genesis 10:25), was the original founder, Ishmael the subsequent head, of its population. The Hagarenes, originally the same as the Ishmaelites, subsequently are mentioned as distinct (1 Chronicles 5:10; 1 Chronicles 5:19; 1 Chronicles 5:22; Psalm 83:6). The people of Yemen have always lived in cities, and practiced commerce and agriculture. It was famed for gems and gold, spices, perfumes, and gums (1 Kings 10:10; Ezekiel 27:22). Many of the luxuries attributed to it, however, were products of further lands, which reached Israel and Egypt through Arabia. ARABIA PETRAEA, called from its city Petra, the rock, or Selah (2 Kings 14:7), now Hadjar, i.e. rock. Between the gulfs of Suez and Akabah; Israel and Egypt are its northern boundary. The desert of mount Sinai (Burr et tur Sinai), where Israel wandered, Kadesh Barnea, Pharan, Rephidim, Ezion Geber, Rithmah, Oboth, Arad, Heshbon, were in it. The wady Leja (perhaps the valley of Rephidim), near jebel Mousa, and the wady Feiran (Paran, Numbers 13:3), are most luxuriant. Hawarah (Marab, Exodus 15:23) is 33 miles S.E. of Ayoun Mousa (the fountain of Moses); 7 miles S. of this is wady Gurundel, perhaps the Elim of Exodus 15:27. Precipitous bore rocks, void of herbage, form the southern coast. Cush, son of Ham, originally peopled Arabia (the ruins of Marib, or Seba, and the inscriptions are Cushite; in Babylonia too there are Cushite traces); then Joktan, of Shem's race (Genesis 10:7; Genesis 10:20; Genesis 10:25; Genesis 10:30). The posterity of Nahor, of Abraham and Keturah (Genesis 25), of Lot also, formed a part of the population, namely, in Arabia Deserta. Then Ishmael's, then Esau's descendants, for Esau identified himself with Ishmael by his marrying Ishmael's daughter (Genesis 28:9). The head of each tribe is the sheikh; the office is hereditary in his family, but elective as to the individual. The people are hospitable, eloquent, poetical, proud of ancestry, but predatory, superstitious, and revengeful. The wandering and wild Bedouins are purest in blood and preserve most the Arab characteristics foretold in Genesis 16:12; "He will be a wild" (Hebrew a wild donkey of a) "man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him" (marking their incessant feuds with one another or with their neighbors), "and he shall dwell tent in the presence of all his brethren." The image of a wild donkey untamable, roaming at its will in the desert (compare Job 39:5-8), portrays the Bedouin's boundless love of freedom as he rides in the desert spear in hand, despising town life. His dwelling in the presence of his brethren implies that Ishmael would maintain an independent nationality before all Abraham's descendants. They have never been completely subjugated by any neighboring power. Compare Job 1:15; Jeremiah 49:8; Jeremiah 3:2; 2 Chronicles 21:16. From their dwelling in tents they are called Scenitoe. Their tents are of goats' hair cloth, black or brown (Song of Solomon 1:5), arranged in a ring, enclosing their cattle, each about 25 feet long and 7 high. The town populations by intermarriages and intercourse with foreigners have lost much of Arab traits. Mecca, in their belief, is where Ishmael was saved and Hagar died and was buried. The Kaaba or Square was built by Seth, destroyed by the flood, and rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael. Sabeanism, or the worship of the hosts, the sun, moon, and stars, was the first lapse from original revelation (Job 31:26-27); but just before Mahomet they were divided between it, Judaism, Magianism, and corrupted Christianity. Mahometanism became the universal faith in A.D. 628. The Wahabees are one of the most powerful sects, named from Abd el Wahab, who in the beginning of last century undertook to reform abuses in Mahometanism. To the Arabs we owe our arithmetical figures. They took the lead of Europeans in astronomy, chemistry, algebra, and medicine. They spread their colonies from the Senegal to the indus, and from Madagascar to the Euphrates. The Joktanites of southern Arabia were seafaring; the Ishmaelites, more northward, the caravan merchants (Genesis 37:28). The Arabic language is the most developed of the Semitic languages. in the 14th or 13th century B.C. the Semitic languages differed much less than in later times. Compare Genesis 31:47; Judges 7:9-15; Phurah, Gideon's servant, evidently understood the Midianites. But in the 8th century B.C. only educated Jews understood Aramaic (2 Kings 18:26). In its classical form Arabic is more modern than Heb., in its ancient form probably sister to Hebrew and Aramaic. The Himyeritic is a mixture with an African language, as appears from the inscriptions; the Ekhili is its modern phase. Monuments with Himyeritic inscriptions are found in Hadramaut and the Yemen. There was a Cushite or Ethiopian Sheba, as well as a Shemitic Sheba (Genesis 10:7; Genesis 10:28). The Himyerites had a Cushite descent. The Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages. The Hebrew literature dates from the 15th century B.C, the Arabic only from the 5th century B.C. For this reason, and the greater simplicity of Hebrew modes of expression, it seems probable the Hebrew is the elder sister. A few Arabic forms are plainly older than the corresponding Hebrew The Book of Job in many of its difficult Hebrew roots receives much illustration from Arabic. The Arabic is more flexible and abounding in vowel sounds, as suits a people light hearted and impulsive; the Hebrew is weightier, and has more consonants, as suits a people graver and more earnest. The Arabic version of the Scriptures now extant was made after Mahomet's time. That in the London Polyglott was in part by R. Saadias Gaon (the Excellent).