What is Arabia?
(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.