Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
JUDaeA.—1. In its earlier signification the term ‘Judaea’ (Ἰουδαία) was applied to a limited district, of which Jerusalem was the centre, occupied by the captives who returned from Babylon after the decree of Cyrus. The scattered remnants of the Israelites who availed themselves of this opportunity, representing most, if not all, of the several tribes, joined forces with the men of Judah in rebuilding the Temple and its defences; and from this date, except on the lists of the genealogical and tribal records, they were not distinguished from them. Hence the tribe of Judah, which, according to Josephus, arrived first in those parts, gave name both to the inhabitants and the territory, the former being designated as Jews and the latter as ‘Judaea’ or ‘Jewry’ (Ant. xi. v. 7). At a later date both names were used in a wider sense, including all the Israelites who returned, and also their settlements or possessions in other sections of the land. Under Persian rule the land of Judah was designated as a province of the Empire, and was administered by a governor, who resided at Jerusalem (Ezra 5:8; Ezra 5:14, Nehemiah 11:3, Haggai 1:1; Haggai 1:14). During the period of the Roman occupation the term was sometimes used as a general expression for Palestine as a whole (BJ i. viii. 2; Strabo, xvi. 2. 21; Tacitus, Hist. v. 6; Luke 1:5, Acts 28:21), also to include a portion, apparently, of the trans-Jordanic country (Ant. xii. iv. 11; Matthew 19:1, Mark 10:1; Ptol. v. 16. 9). Apart from this exceptional usage, the name ordinarily—as we find it in the NT and the writings of Josephus—is applied to the southernmost of the three districts—Galilee, Samaria, Judaea—into which Western Palestine was divided in the time of Christ. With some variations on the north and west borders at different periods, Judaea covered all of the territory south of the Wady Ishar and the village of Akrabbeh (PEFSt [Note: EFSt Quarterly Statement of the same.] , 1881, p. 48), from the Mediterranean to the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. According to Josephus, its limits extended from a village on the north called Annath, or Borkeos, identified with Aina Berkit, to Iardas (possibly Tell Arad), on the edge of the desert, to the south. Its breadth he defines, in general terms, as extending from the river Jordan to Joppa (BJ iii. iii. 5). In other words, its area practically corresponded with the area of the kingdom of Judah in the period of its greatest enlargement. As thus defined it included the tribal possessions of Simeon, Judah, Benjamin, Dan, and, to some extent at least, of Ephraim.
A distinction should be noted here between the use of the word Judaea to designate strictly Jewish territory, from which the outlying Hellenistic or Gentile towns were excluded, and the Roman usage of the word to designate a political division, which for administrative purposes included all the coast towns south of Mt. Carmel, the chief of which in the time of Christ was Caesarea, the residence of its Procurator. In the one case its northern limit was Antipatris, on the plain of Sharon; in the other it extended to Acre (Ptolemais) beyond Mt. Carmel. The S.E. portion of Judaea has sometimes been designated as a separate district under the name Idumaea, but this term properly describes a settlement of the Edomites in Judaea, and not a separate division of the country. Idumaea, according to Josephus, was one of the eleven toparchies into which Judaea proper was divided for administrative purposes under Roman rule (BJ iii. iii. 5). See Idumaea.
2. When our Lord was born, Judaea constituted a part of the dominion of Herod the Great, who accordingly is called by the Evangelists ‘king of Judaea’ (Luke 1:5, cf. Matthew 2:1). After the death of Herod, the Roman emperor assumed the right to settle the dispute which had arisen among his sons concerning the division of the kingdom, and by his decree Judaea and Samaria were in the partition assigned to Archelaus. The sovereignty of Rome was more fully asserted also at this time in refusing to any of Herod’s sons the title ‘king.’ When by the same authority Archelaus was deposed (a.d. 6), the territory over which he held rule was attached to the province of Syria, and thus for the first time came under immediate Roman rule. From this date it was administered by a governor or procurator, who was chosen from the equestrian order. Following Archelaus the province was administered by five procurators during the life and ministry of Jesus, viz. Coponius (circa (about) a.d. 6–9), Marcus Ambivius (circa (about) 9–12), Annius Rufus (circa (about) 12–15), Valerius Gratus (15–25), Pontius Pilate (26–36). It was during Pilate’s rule that the word of God came to John the Baptist in the wilderness, and some years later this Roman procurator made his name for ever infamous by giving sentence that the Christ, whom he had openly declared to be innocent of crime, should be led away to be crucified.
3. The physical features of Judaea are sharply outlined and singularly diversified. Its distinctive characteristics fall naturally into five subdivisions, originally suggested by the OT writers, viz. the ‘Plain of the Coast,’ the ‘Shephelah’ or region of the low hills, the ‘Hill country,’ the ‘Negeb’ or dry country, and the ‘Wilderness.’
The Maritime Plain varies in width from 10 to 16 miles. It is for the most part flat or rolling, and rises gradually toward the base of the mountains. The upper portion (Sharon) is noted for its rich pasturage; the lower (Philistia) for its vast grain-fields, which have yielded enormous crops without the use of fertilizers, except such as nature has distributed over its surface from the wash and waste of the mountains, for forty centuries. The international highway which follows the line of the coast inside the region of the sand-dunes is one of the oldest caravan and military roads in the world. Most of the noted towns of the Plain are on or near this ancient highway. This section of Judaea has no associations with the life or ministry of Jesus, but in the Acts there are several references to visits which were made, or events which took place, in its towns, in connexion with the work of the Apostles or their associates (chs. 8–10 and 18–21).
The ‘Shephelah’ belongs to the plain rather than to the central ridge of the mountains, from which it is distinctly separated by a series of almost continuous breaks or depressions. It has been aptly described as ‘a loose gathering of chalk and limestone hills, round, bare, and featureless, but with an occasional bastion flung well out in front of them.’ There are several noted valleys, which begin their courses as wadis in the central range, and cut their way through the Shephelah to the plain. Each of these affords a passage-way into the heart of the mountain stronghold of Judaea, and each has its distinct characteristics and historical associations. Apostles and evangelists entered this region soon after the dispersion of the believers at Jerusalem, and in its limestone grottoes, in the days of the persecutions, multitudes of hunted and outlawed Christians found refuges and hiding-places (HGHL [Note: GHL Historical Geog. of Holy Land.] , ch. 11.).
The ‘Hill country’ or highland region fills most of the space between the Jordan Valley and the sea, and gives character to the district as a whole. In its present condition it is the most rugged and desolate section of the Lebanon range. In former times its hillsides were terraced, and every available break in its table-lands was carefully cultivated; and yet in every period of its history it has been regarded as a rough, stony land, more suitable for pastoral than for agricultural pursuits. Its watershed is an irregular, undulating plateau, which varies in width from 12 to 18 miles. The general direction of the numerous ravines or torrent-beds which diversify, and in some sections deeply corrugate, its sides, is east and west. On the east side they are short, direct, and deeply cleft; on the west, comparatively long and shallow, reaching the coast often by circuitous routes. The highest elevation (3564 ft.) is er-Ramah, a short distance north of Hebron. The general average of the plateau on which Jerusalem is located is about 2500 ft. South of Hebron there is a gradual descent by steps or terraced slopes to the region which for many centuries has borne the distinctive name ‘Negeb’ or dry country.
The ‘Wilderness’ includes the whole of the eastern slope or declivity of the Judaean mountains. It is a barren, uncultivated region, unique in its setting, and notable above all other sections of the land for its desolation, its loneliness, and its scenes of wild and savage grandeur. The variation in levels from the edge of the plateau to the surface of the Dead Sea is but little short of 4000 ft., nearly one half of which is a precipitous descent from sea-level to the margin of the deeply depressed basin amid the silent hills. In this ‘land not inhabited’ John the Baptist sought seclusion while preparing for his ministry as the forerunner of the Messiah; and here the Holy One, concerning whom he bore record, abode ‘forty days tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him’ (Matthew 3:1-6 || Luke 3:2, Matthew 4:1-11 || Mark 1:12-13).
4. The sacred memories and thronging events which have been, and for ever shall be, associated with these holy hills cannot be fittingly expressed by voice or pen. In the long ages past the highways of this Judaean plateau have been trodden by the feet of patriarchs, prophets, priests, and kings, and for centuries its sanctuary on Mt. Zion was the dwelling-place of Jehovah; but, more than all else in its wonderful history, it was the place of the incarnation, the self-denying ministry, the agony, the death, the resurrection, and the ascension of the Son of God, the Saviour of the world.
Literature.—Stanley, SP [Note: P Sinai and Palestine.] pp. 227–233; Conder, Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] ch. 1. p. 221; Schürer, HJP [Note: JP History of the Jewish People.] , index; G. A. Smith, HGHL [Note: GHL Historical Geog. of Holy Land.] , chs. 12.–15.; Neubauer, Géog. du Talm. p. 52 ff.; PEF [Note: EF Palestine Exploration Fund.] Memoirs, vol. iii.; C. W. Wilson in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, vol. ii. p. 791; Smith, DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] 2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , vol. ii. p. 1488; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible, art. ‘Palestine’; Baedeker, Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] and Syria, lvi.
Robert L. Stewart.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Judaea'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/j/judaea.html. 1906-1918.