« AnteriorContinuar »
the south of that province, received its name from Jetur, a son of Ishmael, whose descendants peopled it.* It was called Auranitis, from Haouran, its chief city. The Itureans, who were skilful archers and infamous robbers, were invaded in the reign of Joshua by a confederate army of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, who, probably provoked by the frequent raids of these marauding neighbours, took reprisals in men and cattle, dispossessed almost the whole of the original inhabitants, and colonized the district themselves. Haouran, the modern name of this province, is subject to the Pacha of Damascus, who derives from it an ample revenue, as it is distinguished both for the abundance and the quality of its produce, especially in the article of wheat. Its population is estimated by Burckhardt at more than 50,000 inhabitants.
[Gaulonitis, according to Josephus, comprised the district that lay along the banks of the Jordan, from the fountains of that river to the point where it enters the sea of Tiberias.
[Batanea formed the southern part of the ancient kingdom of Bashan. Neither of these two latter provinces are mentioned in the New Testament.
[Perea proper, anciently Gilead, now El-Belka, 'the country beyond Jordan,'$ was a district of country equal in extent to Galilee, and, with the exception of a few bleak and barren tracts, was generally fertile, well watered, and well stocked with the natural productions which grow in Palestine. Its boundaries are described by Josephus in the following terms : northern parts are bounded by Pella and the Jabbok ; its western by the Jordan; the land of Moab and the Arnon form its southern border, while in the east it extends to Arabia.ll Its chief towns were, Gadara,
* Gen. xxv. 15; 1 Chron. i. 31.
§ Matt. iv. 25.
I 1 Chron. y. 19.
which, in the time of Josephus, was the capital of the province. The Jews who inhabited it, both perhaps from the influence of a heathen government and their intercourse with idolatrous neighbours, had carried on, from notions of cupidity, and contrary to the divine law, an extensive trade in the breeding and sale of swine. On one occasion, a very signal rebuke was given to them by Christ ; but instead of evincing any disposition to put an end to their forbidden traffic, they peremptorily insisted on his immediate departure from their territories.* Gergesa was within a short distance of Gadara, the walls of the latter extending close to the former, making it difficult to tell exactly where the limits of the one town terminated, and the suburbs of the other began,-a circumstance which, in the account given by the evangelists of our Lord's landing on this coast, suggests a very natural and obvious explanation of their discrepancy; Matthew calling it the country of the Gergesenes, while Mark and Luke say that he came into that of the Gadarenes. It was not till 1806 that the site of Gergesa was explored ; since then, it has been frequently visited,—its ruins affording a variety and interest not inferior to those of Palmyra. Pella, the place of refuge chosen by the Christians who fled, by the admonition of Christ, when the Roman army sat down to invest Jerusalem. Machærus, a fortified town, in the castle of which Herod was giving his customary annual fete on the anniversary of his birth-day, when Salome, having charmed the king and all his court by the gracefulness of her dancing, was instigated, through the artful address of her mother, to solicit the head of the Baptist, who lay imprisoned in the dungeon of the same fortress.
* Luke viii. 26. + Matt. viii. 28; Mark v. 1; Luke viii. 26.
# Matt. xiv. Gadara, Gergesa, Pella, together with Hippos, Dios, Damascus, Otopos, Philadelphia, Raphana, and Scythopolis, formed that group of ten cities which were called the district of Decapolis. Matt. iv. 25; Mark v. 20; vii. 31.
[5. Idumea comprehended the region lying between the lake Asphaltites and the Red Sea, which, in modern times, is known by the name of Arabia Petræa, from Petra, its capital. A schism having taken place amongst the people who inhabited Judea in the time of the Babylonish captivity, a considerable body withdrew to the south-west, and settled in that part of the country which had been in the possession of the tribe of Simeon, and the adjoining half of the tribe of Judah, which, together with the northern portion of Arabia that lay contiguous, was thenceforth denominated Idumea. During the wars of the Maccabees, these Idumeans were conquered by John Hyrcanus, who gave them the alternative of either conforming to the Jewish religion, or quitting their possessions. Having submitted to the institutions of Moses, they were received into the bosom of the Jewish church, and eventually blended with the Jewish nation. This district, as well as the whole neighbourhood, poured out its population to wait upon the ministry of our Lord.*
THE BORDERS OF PALESTINE.
[Syria Proper included that region which lay between Mount Taurus, on the north, and Palestine and Arabia on the south, and between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates. It was anciently subdivided into a number of petty kingdoms, of which those mentioned in Scripture are the following :
[Arpad, supposed to be the Arphas of Josephus, situated on the north-east of the country of Bashan, though it cannot be accurately defined. It is mentioned in connexion with the adjoining kingdom of
[Hamath, which included the territory on the north frontier of Palestine, lying between the Mediterranean and the kingdom of Damascus. It was originally occupied by a nomadic tribe of Canaanites, but after
* Mark iii. 8.
wards rose into a separate kingdom, which in the time of David was ruled by Toi, an ally of that prince.*
[Beth-Rehob, or simply Rehob, was situated, according to some, eastward of Sidon, and, according to others, it is with greater probability supposed to be the same as El-Hule, an extensive and fertile champaigne country at the foot of Antilibanus, a few leagues below Paneas. The Ammonites engaged the subjects of this petty kingdom, along with some of their neighbours, as mercenaries to assist them in the war they provoked by their wanton and gratuitous insult of David's ambassadors.
[Damascus, which was conquered and made tributary by David.
• The land of Hadrach formed a part of it, or lay contiguous.'
[Geshur lay on the east side of Jordan, between Mount Hermon and the province of Bashan, stretching northward to Damascus. It fell within the territory assigned to the east half of Manasseh, as formerly mentioned.
[Haouran was situated on the north-east side of Jordan, extending from the sea of Tiberias northwards to Damascus. It still retains the name, and as described by Burckhardt, “it is bordered on the east by the rocky district El-Ledja, and by the Jibbel Haouran, both of which are sometimes comprised within the Haouran. To the south-east, where Bozra and El Remtha are the farthest inhabited villages, the Haouran borders upon the deserts. Its western limits are the chain of villages on the Hadjee or pilgrim's road from hebarib as far south as Remtha. The Haouran, therefore, comprises part of Trachonitis and Iturea, the whole of Auranitis and the north districts of Batanea.’s
* Gen. x. 18; Num. xiii. 21 ; Joshua xiii. 5; Judges iii. 3; 2 Sam. viii. 9; 2 Kings xvii. 24; xviii. 34; Zech. ix. 2. † 2 Sam. x. 6.
1 2 Sam. viii. 5. § 1 Sam. xiv. 47; 2 Sam. viii. 3; X. 15; Ezek. xlvii. 18.
[Zobah, the most ancient and the largest of these petty kingdoms, was conquered by Saul. Rehob, an enterprising chief of that country established himself subsequently as master of all Syria, in one great consolidated kingdom. His son Hadadezer was several times defeated by David, first with his own forces, and afterwards, when reinforced by auxiliaries from Da
The Zobahites furnished 20,000 foot soldiers to assist the Ammonites in the war of retaliation, which by their insolent behaviour they provoked David to proclaim against that people. The kingdom of Zobah became eventually tributary to Israel. But Rezon having fled from Zobah to Damascus, which he seized, and where he acquired a great accession of territory and power, threw off the yoke, and was the adversary of Israel all the days of Solomon.'*]
Rivers. The only rivers of Syria mentioned in the bible, are Abana, now Baneas, and Pharpar, now the Fidsheh, rivers of Damascus. The only stream, however, which, in modern times, waters that ancient capital of Syria, is called the Barrady. The water of this river, like the water of the Jordan, is of a white sulphureous hue and an unpleasant taste.t It is not twenty yards over; but rushes down from the mountain with great rapidity, and with so large a body of water, that it abundantly supplies the thirsty fields and gardens around, and the innumerable baths and fountains within the city.
The river, as soon as it issues from the disparted mountain into the plain, is divided into three streams, of which the one in the middle, which is the largest of the three, runs directly to Damascus through a large open field, called the Ager Damascenus, and is distributed to all the cisterns and fountains in the city. The other two, which Maundrell takes to be the work of art, are drawn round; one to the right hand, and the other to the left, on the borders of the gardens, into Kings xi. 25.
+ Richardson's Travels, vol. ii. r. 499.