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Bible Dictionaries

People's Dictionary of the Bible


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Palestine (păl'es-tîne), land of sojourners. Joel 3:4; comp. Exodus 15:14; Isaiah 14:29; Isaiah 14:31. A small country east of the Mediterranean Sea, sacred alike to Jew, Mohammedan, and Christian. In length it is about 140 miles, in average breadth not more than 40 between the Mediterranean westward, and the deep Jordan valley to the east, while to the north it is closed in by Lebanon and Anti-libanus, and bordered on the south by the desert. It lay on the direct route between the great ancient empires of Asia and northern Africa, and exposed to peril from both. The physical structure of Palestine is peculiar. It is mountainous, but among these mountains are plains and valleys and torrent-beds. The mountain mass which occupies the central part is bordered on each side east and west by a lowland belt. On the west the plains of Philistia and Sharon lie between the Mediterranean and the hills, interrupted by a ridge which, shooting out from the main highlands, terminates in the bold promontory of Carmel. To the north of this ridge the low plain widens and extends in one part its undulating surface quite across the country to the Jordan. And still farther to the north is Phœnicia with headlands down to the sea. The eastern depression is most remarkable. It is a deep cleft in which lie a chain of lakes connected by the Jordan. And the bottom of this cleft is, in its lower part, far below (1300 feet) the level of the Mediterranean Sea. Owing to this extraordinary depression, the slopes on the eastern side of the central elevated land are much more abrupt and rugged than on the west. The southern hill country is dry and bare. There is little wood; it is near upon the desert, and possesses few springs of water. The hill tops are rounded and monotonous—the eastern part of the tract being but an arid wilderness. And a noteworthy feature in these hills is the abundance of caverns, partly natural, partly, perhaps, artificial. Northward the country improves. There are more fertile plains winding among the lulls, more vegetation and more wood, till in the north the swelling hills are clothed with beautiful trees, and the scenery is pleasing, oftentimes romantic. In central and north Palestine, too, there are gushing fountains of water, imparting fertility to the valleys through which they pour their streams. The Philistine plain is one vast grainfield, yielding the most abundant increase. And dry and barren as are many of the hills at present, there is evidence enough that in earlier happier days they were terraced, wooded, and productive: "a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive and honey... a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass." Deuteronomy 8:7-9. Palestine was early inhabited by seven tribes—as, Hittites, Gergashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, Deuteronomy 7:1; and other tribes are also noted as occupying adjacent regions. Genesis 10:15-19; Genesis 15:18-21; Numbers 13:28-29. It became afterwards the land of Israel; but, when judgment fell upon the Hebrews for their sins, they were removed, and there was at different times a large influx of foreign population, eastern nations, 2 Kings 17:24; Ezra 4:9-10, Greeks, etc.; so that even in our Lord's time the inhabitants of Palestine were of a mixed character; and in later ages additional foreign elements were introduced. See Judæa, Galilee.

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Bibliography Information
Rice, Edwin Wilbur, DD. Entry for 'Palestine'. People's Dictionary of the Bible. 1893.

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