What is Bashan?
(light soil), a district reaching from Hermon to Gilead at the river Arnon, and from the Jordan valley eastward to Salcah. It is referred to about 60 times in the Bible. Physical Features.---There are two ranges of mountains, one along the Jordan valley, about 3000 feet high, another irregular range on the east side of Bashan; between them are plains or undulating table-land watered by springs. The rock of basalt on the west is broken into deep chasms and jagged projections; the hills are covered with oak-forests, as in former times. Isa 2:13; Eze 27:6; Zech 11:2. The plain of the Jaulan (Golan of Scripture) is a vast field of powdered lava and basalt, a fertile pasture to this day. The north-eastern portion of Bashan, including the Argob of Scripture, is a wild mass of basaltic rock, 22 miles long by 14 wide, resembling a "cyclopean wall in ruins." Fissures and chasms cut it like a network and it abounds in caves, yet has much fertile land. The centre of Bashan was mostly a fertile plain, and was regarded as the richest in Syria. History.---Its early people were the giants Rephaim. Gen 14:5. Og, its king, was defeated and slain by Israel, Num 21:33; Num 32:33, and the country divided; its pastures, cattle, sheep, oaks, and forests were famous. Deut 32:14; Ps 22:12; Isa 2:13; Jer 50:19; Eze 39:18. After the Captivity it was divided into four provinces: (1) Gaulanitis, or modern Jaulan; (2) Argob, or Trachonitis, now Lejah; (3) Auranitis, now Haurau; (4) Batanaea. Ituraea was not strictly a part of Bashan, though taken by Israel. Under the Roman rule the division was but slightly changed. The country is now nominally under Turkish rule, but is really held by tribes of Arabs, dangerous, warlike, and unsubdued. Ruins.---Bashan is almost literally crowded with cities and villages, now deserted and in ruins, corroborating the account in Scripture. Josh 13:30. There are four classes of dwellings:(1) the natural cavern fitted up for residence. (2) Long tunnels descending obliquely, sometimes 150 feet, at the bottom of which run out a number of passages or underground streets, 16 to 23 feet wide, lined on either side by subterranean dwellings furnished with air-holes in the ceilings, each generally having only one outlet, and that in a rocky, precipitous slope. (3) Dwellings cut in the rock and covered over with stone vaulting; not all of these, however, belong to early biblical times. Deut 3:4-13. (4) The villages in the Hauran consist chiefly of dwellings built of handsome well-hewn stone, closely jointed without cement. Wood was nowhere used. The gates, doors, and window-shutters are of stone, turning on stone hinges; the roofs are also of stone, resting on supports and arches of the same material. Some of the gateways are ornamented with sculptured vines and bear numerous inscriptions yet undeciphered, while within are stone cupboards, benches, and candlesticks. Many of these dwellings belong to an age since the beginning of the Christian era, but, though deserted for centuries, seem almost as if the occupants had gone out only for a few hours. Porter's views on their antiquity are not accepted. Among its cities mentioned in Scripture are Golan, Ashteroth, Karnaim, Edrei, Salcah, Kerioth, and Bozrah. See these titles, and Porter's Giant Cities (1865-6), Merrill's East of Jordan (1881), and Baedeker's Handbook of Syria and Palestine (1876).