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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
pal´es - tı̄n ( פּלשׁת , pelesheth ; Φυλιστιείμ , Phulistieı́m , Ἀλλόφυλοι , Allóphuloi ; the King James Version Joel 3:4 (the Revised Version (British and American) "Philistia"), "Palestina"; the King James Version Exodus 15:14; Isaiah 14:29 , Isaiah 14:31; compare Psalm 60:8; Psalm 83:7; Psalm 87:4; Psalm 108:9 ):
I. PHYSICAL CONDITIONS
1. General Geographical Features
3. Geological Conditions
4. Fauna and Flora
7. Drought and Famine
II. PALESTINE IN THE PENTATEUCH
1. Places Visited by Abraham
2. Places Visited by Isaac
3. Places Visited by Jacob
4. Mentioned in Connection with Judah
5. Review of Geography of Genesis
6. Exodus and Leviticus
III. PALESTINE IN THE HISTORIC BOOKS OF THE O LD TESTAMENT
1. Book of Joshua
2. Book of Judges
3. Book of Ruth
4. Books of Samuel
5. Books of Kings
6. Post-exilic Historical Books
IV. PALESTINE IN THE POETIC BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. Book of Job
2. Book of Psalms
3. Book of Proverbs
4. Song of Songs
V. PALESTINE IN THE PROPHETS
4. Minor Prophets
VI. PALESTINE IN THE APOCRYPHA
1. Book of Judith
2. Book of Wisdom
3. 1 Maccabees
4. 2 Maccabees
VII. PALESTINE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. Synoptic Gospels
2. Fourth Gospel
3. Book of Acts
The word properly means "Philistia," but appears to be first used in the extended sense, as meaning all the "Land of Israel" or "Holy Land" (Zechariah 2:12 ), by Philo and by Ovid and later Roman authors (Reland, Palestine Illustr ., I, 38-42).
I. Physical Conditions.
The Bible in general may be said to breathe air of Palestine; and it is here intended to show how important for sound criticism is the consideration of its geography, and of the numerous incidental allusions to the natural features, fauna, flora, cultivation, and climate of the land in which most of the Bible books were written. With the later history and topography of Palestine, after 70 AD, we are not here concerned, but a short account of its present physical and geological conditions is needed for our purpose.
1. General Geographical Features:
Palestine West of the Jordan, between Dan and Beersheba, has an area of about 6,000 square miles, the length from Hermon southward being nearly 150 miles, and the width gradually increasing from 20 miles on the North to 60 miles on the South. It is thus about the size of Wales, and the height of the Palestinian mountains is about the same as that of the Welsh. East of the Jordan an area of about 4,000 square miles was included in the land of Israel. The general geographical features are familiar to all.
(1) The land is divided by the deep chasm of the Jordan valley - an ancient geological fault continuing in the Dead Sea, where its depth (at the bottom of the lake) Isaiah 2,600 ft. below the Mediterranean.
(2) West of the valley the mountain ridge, which is a continuation of Lebanon, has very steep slopes on the East and long spurs on the West, on which side the foothills (Hebrew shephēlāh or "lowland") form a distinct district, widening gradually southward, while between this region and the sea the plains of Sharon and Philistia stretch to the sandhills and low cliffs of a harborless coast.
(3) In Upper Galilee, on the North, the mountain ridge rises to 4,000 ft. above the Mediterranean. Lower Galilee, to the South, includes rounded hills less than 1,000 ft. above the sea, and the triangular plain of Esdraelon drained by the River Kishon between the Gilboa watershed on the East and the long spur of Carmel on the West.
(4) In Samaria the mountains are extremely rugged, but a small plain near Dothan adjoins that of Esdraelon, and another stretches East of Shechem, 2,500 ft. above the level of the Jordan valley. In Judea the main ridge rises toward Hebron and then sinks to the level of the Beersheba plains about 1,000 ft. above the sea. The desert of Judah forms a plateau (500 ft. above sea-level), between this ridge and the Dead Sea, and is throughout barren and waterless; but the mountains - which average about 3,000 ft. above the sea - are full of good springs and suitable for the cultivation of the vine, fig and olive. The richest lands are found in the shephēlāh region - especially in Judea - and in the corn plains of Esdraelon, Sharon, and Philistia.
(5) East of the Jordan the plateau of Bashan (averaging 1,500 ft. above the sea) is also a fine corn country. South of this, Gilead presents a mountain region rising to 3,600 ft. above sea-level at Jebel Osha' , and sloping gently on the East to the desert. The steep western slopes are watered by the Jabbok River, and by many perennial brooks. In North Gilead especially the wooded hills present some of the most picturesque scenery of the Holy Land. South of Gilead, the Moab plateau (about 2,700 ft. above sea-level) is now a desert, but is fitted for raising grain, and, in places, for vines. A lower shelf or plateau (about 500 to 1,000 ft. above sea-level) intervenes between the main plateau and the Dead Sea cliffs, and answers to the Desert of Judah West of the lake.
The water-supply of Palestine is abundant, except in the desert regions above noticed, which include only a small part of its area. The Jordan runs into the Dead Sea, which has no outlet and which maintains its level solely by evaporation, being consequently very salt; the surface is nearly 1,300 ft. below the Mediterranean, whereas the Sea of Galilee (680 ft. below sea-level) is sweet and full of fish. The Jordan is fed, not only by the snows of Hermon, but by many affluent streams from both sides. There are several streams also in Sharon, including the Crocodile River under Carmel. In the mountains, where the hard dolomite limestone is on the surface, perennial springs are numerous. In the lower hills, where this limestone is covered by a softer chalky stone, the supply depends on wells and cisterns. In the Beersheba plains the water, running under the surface, is reached by scooping shallow pits - especially those near Gerar, to be noticed later.
3. Geological Conditions:
The fertility and cultivation of any country depends mainly on its geological conditions. These are comparatively simple in Palestine, and have undergone no change since the age when man first appeared, or since the days of the Hebrew patriarchs. The country was first upheaved from the ocean in the Eocene age; and, in the subsequent Miocene age, the great crack in the earth's surface occurred, which formed a narrow gulf stretching from that of the ‛A qabah on the South almost to the foot of Hermon. Further upheaval, accompanied by volcanic outbreaks which covered the plateaus of Golan, Bashan, and Lower Galilee with lava, cut off the Jordan valley from the Red Sea, and formed a long lake, the bottom of which continued to sink on the South to its present level during the Pleiocene and Pluvial periods, after which - its peculiar fauna having developed meanwhile - the lake gradually dried up, till it was represented only, as it now is, by the swampy Ḥûleh , the pear-shaped Sea of Galilee, and the Dead Sea. These changes all occurred long ages before the appearance of man. The beds upheaved include: (1) the Nubian Sandstone (of the Greensand period), which was sheared along the line of the Jordan fault East of the river, and which only appears on the western slopes of Hermon, Gilead, and Moab; (2) the limestones of the Cretaceous age, including the hard dolomite, and softer beds full of characteristic fossils; (3) the soft Eocene limestone, which appears chiefly on the western spurs and in the foothills, the angle of upheaval being less steep than that of the older main formation. On the shores of the Mediterranean a yet later sandy limestone forms the low cliffs of Sharon. See GEOLOGY OF PALESTINE .
4. Fauna and Flora:
As regards fauna, flora and cultivation, it is sufficient here to say that they are still practically the same as described throughout the Bible. The lion and the wild bull ( Bos primigenius ) were exterminated within historic times, but have left their bones in the Jordan gravels, and in caves. The bear has gradually retreated to Hermon and Lebanon. The buffalo has been introduced since the Moslem conquest. Among trees the apple has fallen out of cultivation since the Middle Ages, and the cactus has been introduced; but Palestine is still a land of grain, wine and oil, and famous for its fruits. Its trees, shrubs and plants are those noticed in the Bible. Its woods have been thinned in Lower Galilee and Northern Sharon, but on the other hand the copse has often grown over the site of former vineyards and villages, and there is no reason to think that any general desiccation has occurred within the last 40 centuries, such as would affect the rainfall.
The climate of Palestine is similar to that of other Mediterranean lands, such as Cyprus, Sicily or Southern Italy; and, in spite of the fevers of mosquito districts in the plains, it is much better than that of the Delta in Egypt, or of Mesopotamia. The summer heat is oppressive only for a few days at a time, when (espescially in May) the dry wind - deficient in ozone - blows from the eastern desert. For most of the season a moisture-laden sea breeze, rising about 10 AM, blows till the evening, and fertilizes all the western slopes of the mountains. In the bare deserts the difference between 90ø F. by day and 40ø F. by night gives a refreshing cold. With the east wind the temperature rises to 105ø F., and the nights are oppressive. In the Jordan valley, in autumn, the shade temperature reaches 120ø F. In this season mists cover the mountains and swell the grapes. In winter the snow sometimes lies for several days on the watershed ridge and on the Edomite mountains, but in summer even Hermon is sometimes quite snowless at 9,000 ft. above the sea. There is perhaps no country in which such a range of climate can be found, from the Alpine to the tropical, and none in which the range of fauna and flora is consequently so large, from the European to the African.
The rainfall of Palestine is between 20,30 inches annually, and the rainy season is the same as in other Mediterranean countries. The "former rains" begin with the thunderstorms of November, and the "latter rains" cease with April showers. From December to February - except in years of drought - the rains are heavy. In most years the supply is quite sufficient for purposes of cultivation. The plowing begins in autumn, and the corn is rarely spoiled by storms in summer. The fruits ripen in autumn and suffer only from the occasional appearance of locust swarms. There appears to be no reason to suppose that climate or rainfall have undergone any change since the times of the Bible; and a consideration of Bible allusions confirms this view.
7. Drought and Famine:
Thus, the occurrence of drought, and of consequent famine, is mentioned in the Old Testament as occasional in all times (Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:2; Genesis 41:50; Leviticus 26:20; 2 Samuel 21:1; 1 Kings 8:35; Isaiah 5:6; Jeremiah 14:1; Joel 1:10-12; Haggai 1:11; Zechariah 14:17 ), and droughts are also noticed in the Mishna ( Ta‛ănı̄th , i. 4-7) as occurring in autumn, and even lasting throughout the rainy season till spring. Good rains were a blessing from God, and drought was a sign of His displeasure, in Hebrew belief (Deuteronomy 11:14; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23 ). A thunderstorm in harvest time (May) was most unusual (1 Samuel 12:17 , 1 Samuel 12:18 ), yet such a storm does still occur as a very exceptional phenomenon. By "snow in harvest" (Proverbs 25:13 ) we are not to understand a snowstorm, for it is likened to a "faithful messenger," and the reference is to the use of snow for cooling wine, which is still usual at Damascus. The notice of fever on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (Matthew 8:14 ) shows that this region was as unhealthy as it still is in summer. The decay of irrigation in Sharon may have rendered the plain more malarious than of old, but the identity of the Palestinian flora with that of the Bible indicates that the climate, generally speaking, is unchanged.
II. Palestine in the Pentateuch.
1. Places Visited by Abraham:
The Book of Genesis is full of allusions to sites sacred to the memory of the Hebrew patriarchs. In the time of Abraham the population consisted of tribes, mainly Semitic, who came originally from Babylonia, including Canaanites ("lowlanders") between Sidon and Gaza, and in the Jordan valley, and Amorites ("highlanders") in the mountains (Genesis 10:15-19; Numbers 13:29 ). Their language was akin to Hebrew, and it is only in Egypt that we read of an interpreter being needed (Genesis 42:23 ), while excavated remains of seal-cylinders, and other objects, show that the civilization of Palestine was similar to that of Babylonia.
The first place noticed is the shrine or "station" ( māḳōm ) of Shechem, with the Elon Moreh, the Septuagint "high oak"), where Jacob afterward buried the idols of his wives, and where Joshua set up a stone by the "holy place" ( Genesis 12:6; Genesis 35:4; Joshua 24:26 ). Samaritan tradition showed the site near Balâṭa ("the oak") at the foot of Mt. Gerizim. The "Canaanite was then in the land" (in Abraham's time), but was exterminated (Genesis 34:25 ) by Jacob's sons. From Shechem Abraham journeyed southward and raised an altar between Bethel (Beitı̂n ) and Hal (Ḥayân ), East of the town of Luz, the name of which still survives hard-by at the spring of Lôzeh (Genesis 12:8; Genesis 13:3; Genesis 28:11 , Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:2 ).
(2) The Negeb.
But, on his return from Egypt with large flocks (Genesis 12:16 ), he settled in the pastoral region, between Beersheba and the western Kadesh (Genesis 13:1; Genesis 20:1 ), called in Hebrew the neghebh , "dry" country, on the edge of the cultivated lands. From East of Bethel there is a fine view of the lower Jordan valley, and here Lot "lifted up his eyes" (Genesis 13:10 ), and chose the rich grass lands of that valley for his flocks. The "cities of the Plain" (kikkār ) were clearly in this valley, and Sodom must have been near the river, since Lot's journey to Zoar (Genesis 19:22 ) occupied only an hour or two (Genesis 19:15 , Genesis 19:23 ) through the plain to the foot of the Moab mountains. These cities are not said to have been visible from near Hebron; but, from the hilltop East of the city, Abraham could have seen "the smoke of the land" (Genesis 19:28 ) rising up. The first land owned by him was the garden of Mamre (Genesis 13:18; Genesis 18:1; Genesis 23:19 ), with the cave-tomb which tradition still points out under the floor of the Hebron mosque. His tent was spread under the "oaks of Mamre" (Genesis 18:1 ), where his mysterious guests rested "under the tree" (Genesis 18:8 ). One aged oak still survives in the flat ground West of the city, but this tree is very uncommon in the mountains of Judah. In all these incidental touches we have evidence of the exact knowledge of Palestine which distinguishes the story of the patriarchs.
(3) Campaign of Amraphel.
Palestine appears to have been an outlying province of the empire of. Hammurabi, king of Babylon in Abraham's time; and the campaign of Amraphel resembled those of later Assyrian overlords exacting tribute of petty kings. The route (Genesis 14:5-8 ) lay through Bashan, Gilead and Moab to Kadesh (probably at Petra), and the return through the desert of Judah to the plains of Jericho. Thus Hebron was not attacked (see Genesis 14:13 ), and the pursuit by Abraham and his Amorite allies led up the Jordan valley to Dan, and thence North of Damascus (Genesis 14:15 ). The Salem whose king blessed Abraham on his return was thought by the Samaritans, and by Jerome, to be the city near the Jordan valley afterward visited by Jacob (Genesis 14:18; Genesis 33:18 ). See JERUSALEM .
Abraham returned to the southern plains, and "sojourned in Gerar" (Genesis 20:1 ), now Umm Jerrâr , 7 miles South of Gaza. The wells which he dug in this valley (Genesis 26:15 ) were no doubt shallow excavations like those from which the Arabs still obtain the water flowing under the surface in the same vicinity (SWP , III, 390), though that at Beersheba (Genesis 21:25-32 ), to which Isaac added another (Genesis 26:23-25 ), may have been more permanent. Three masonry wells now exist at Bı̂r es Seba‛ , but the masonry is modern. The planting of a "tamarisk" at this place (Genesis 21:33 ) is an interesting touch, since the tree is distinctive of the dry lowlands. From Beersheba Abraham journeyed to "the land of Moriah" Septuagint "the high land") to sacrifice Isaac (Genesis 22:2 ); and the mountain, according to Hebrew tradition (2 Chronicles 3:1 ), was at Jerusalem, but according to the Samaritans was Gerizim near the Elon Moreh - a summit which could certainly have been seen "afar off" (2 Chronicles 3:4 ) on "the third day."
2. Places Visited by Isaac:
Isaac, living in the same pastoral wilderness, at the western Kadesh (Genesis 25:11 ) and at Gerar (Genesis 26:2 ), suffered like his father in a year of drought, and had similar difficulties with the Philistines. At Gerar he sowed grain (Genesis 26:12 ), and the vicinity is still capable of such cultivation. Thence he retreated Southeast to Rehoboth ( Ruḥeibeh ), North of Kadesh, where ancient wells like those at Beersheba still exist (Genesis 26:22 ). To Beersheba he finally returned (Genesis 26:23 ).
3. Places Visited by Jacob:
When Jacob fled to Haran from Beersheba (Genesis 28:10 ) he slept at the "place" (or shrine) consecrated by Abraham's altar near Bethel, and like any modern Arab visitor to a shrine - erected a memorial stone (Genesis 28:18 ), which he renewed twenty years later (Genesis 35:14 ) when God appeared to him "again" (Genesis 35:9 ).
(1) Haran to Succoth.
His return journey from Haran to Gilead raises an interesting question. The distance is about 350 miles from Haran to the Galeed or "witness heap" (Genesis 31:48 ) at Mizpah - probably Sûf in North Gilead. This distance Laban is said to have covered in 7 days (Genesis 31:23 ), which would be possible for a force mounted on riding camels. But the news of Jacob's flight reached Laban on the 3rd day (Genesis 31:22 ), and some time would elapse before he could gather his "brethren." Jacob with his flocks and herds must have needed 3 weeks for the journey. It is remarkable that the vicinity of Mizpah still presents ancient monuments like the "pillar" (Genesis 31:45 ) round which the "memorial cairn" (yeghar -sāhădhūthā ) was formed. From this place Jacob journeyed to Mahanaim (probably Maḥmah ), South of the Jabbok river - a place which afterward became the capital of South Gilead (Genesis 32:1 f; 1 Kings 4:14 ); but, on hearing of the advance of Esau from Edom, he retreated across the river (Genesis 32:22 ) and then reached Succoth (Genesis 33:17 ), believed to be Tell Der‛ala , North of the stream.
(2) From the Jordan to Hebron.
Crossing the Jordan by one of several fords in this vicinity, Jacob approached Shechem by the perennial stream of Wâdy Fâr‛ah , and camped at Shalem ( Sâlim ) on the east side of the fertile plain which stretches thence to Shechem, and here he bought land of the Hivites ( Genesis 33:18-20 ). We are not told that he dug a well, but the necessity for digging one in a region full of springs can only be explained by Hivite jealousy of water rights, and the well still exists East of Shechem (compare John 4:5 f), not far from the Elon Moreh where were buried the terāphı̄m (Genesis 35:4 ) or "spirits" (Assyrian, tarpu ) from Haran (Genesis 31:30 ) under the oak of Abraham. These no doubt were small images, such as are so often unearthed in Palestine. The further progress of Jacob led by Bethel and Bethlehem to Hebron (Genesis 35:6 , Genesis 35:19 , Genesis 35:27 ), but some of his elder sons seem to have remained at Shechem. Thus, Joseph was sent later from Hebron (Genesis 37:14 ) to visit his brethren there, but found them at Dothan.
Dothan (Genesis 37:17 ) lay in a plain on the main trade route from Egypt to Damascus, which crossed the low watershed at this point and led down the valley to Jezreel and over Jordan to Bashan. The "well of the pit" (SWP , II, 169) is still shown at Tell Dothân , and the Ishmaelites, from Midian and Gilead, chose this easy caravan route (Genesis 37:25 , Genesis 37:28 ) for camels laden with the Gilead balm and spices. The plain was fitted for feeding Jacob's flocks. The products of Palestine then included also honey, pistachio nuts, and almonds (Genesis 43:11 ); and a few centuries later we find notice in a text of Thothmes III of honey and balsam, with oil, wine, wheat, spelt, barley and fruits, as rations of the Egyptian troops in Canaan (Brugsch, Hist Egypt , I, 332).
4. Mentioned in Connection with Judah:
The episode of Judah and Tamar is connected with a region in the Shephēlāh , or low hills of Judea. Adullam ( ‛Aı̂d - el - ma ), Chezib ( ‛Ain Kezbeh ), and Timnath ( Tibneh ) are not far apart ( Genesis 38:1 , Genesis 38:5 , Genesis 38:12 ), the latter being in a pastoral valley where Judah met his "sheep shearers." Tamar sat at "the entrance of Enaim" (compare Genesis 38:14 , Genesis 38:22 the English Revised Version) or Enam ( Joshua 15:34 ), perhaps at Kefr ‛Ana , 6 miles Northwest of Timnath. She was mistaken for a ḳedhēshāh , or votary (sacred prostitute) of Ashtoreth (Genesis 38:15 , Genesis 38:21 ), and we know from Hammurabi's laws that such votaries were already recognized. The mention of Judah's signet and staff (Genesis 38:18 ) also reminds us of Babylonian customs as described by Herodotus (i. 195), and signet-cylinders of Babylonian style, and of early date, have been unearthed in Palestine at Gezer and elsewhere (compare the "Babylonian garment," Joshua 7:21 ).
5. Review of the Geography of Genesis:
Generally speaking, the geography of Gen presents no difficulties, and shows an intimate knowledge of the country, while the allusions to natural products and to customs are in accord with the results of scientific discovery. Only one difficulty needs notice, where Atad (Genesis 50:10 ) on the way from Egypt to Hebron is described as "beyond the Jordan." In this case the Assyrian language perhaps helps us, for in that tongue Yaur -danu means "the great river," and the reference may be to the Nile itself, which is called Yaur in Hebrew (ye'ōr ) and Assyrian alike.
6. Exodus and Leviticus:
Exodus is concerned with Egypt and the Sinaitic desert, though it may be observed that its simple agricultural laws (Exodus 21 through 23), which so often recall those of Hammurabi, would have been needed at once on the conquest of Gilead and Bashan, before crossing the Jordan. In Leviticus 11 we have a list of animals most of which belong to the desert - as for instance the "coney" or hyrax ( Leviticus 11:5; Psalm 104:18; Proverbs 30:26 ), but others - such as the swine (Leviticus 11:7 ), the stork and the heron (Leviticus 11:19 ) - to the ‛A rabah and the Jordan valley, while the hoopoe (the King James Version "lapwing," Leviticus 11:19 ) lives in Gilead and in Western Palestine. In Deuteronomy 14 the fallow deer and the roe (Deuteronomy 14:5 ) are now inhabitants of Tabor and Gilead, but the "wild goat" (ibex), "wild ox" (buball), "pygarg" (addax) and "chamois" (wild sheep), are found in the ‛Arabah and in the deserts.
In Numbers, the conquest of Eastern Palestine is described, and most of the towns mentioned are known (21:18-33); the notice of vineyards in Moab (Numbers 21:22 ) agrees with the discovery of ancient rock-cut wine presses near Heshbon ( SEP , I, 221). The view of Israel, in camp at Shittim by Balaam (Numbers 22:41 ), standing on the top of Pisgah or Mt. Nebo, has been shown to be possible by the discovery of Jebel Neba, where also rude dolmens recalling Balak's altars have been found (SEP , I, 202). The plateau of Moab (Numbers 32:3 ) is described as a "land for cattle," and still supports Arab flocks. The camps in which Israel left their cattle, women and children during the wars, for 6 months, stretched (Numbers 33:49 ) from Beth-jeshimoth (Suweimeh ), near the northeastern corner of the Dead Sea over Abel-shittim ("the acacia meadow" - a name it still bears) in a plain watered by several brooks, and having good herbage in spring.
(1) Physical Allusions.
The description of the "good land" in Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 8:7 ) applies in some details with special force to Mt. Gilead, which possesses more perennial streams than Western Palestine throughout - "a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills"; a land also "of wheat and barley, and vines and fig-trees and pomegranates, a land of olive-trees and honey" is found in Gilead and Bashan. Palestine itself is not a mining country, but the words (Matthew 8:9 ), "a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig copper," may be explained by the facts that iron mines existed near Beirut in the 10th century AD, and copper mines at Punon North of Petra in the 4th century AD, as described by Jerome ( Onomasticon , under the word "Phinon"). In Deuteronomy also (Deuteronomy 11:29; compare Deuteronomy 27:4; Joshua 8:30 ) Ebal and Gerizim are first noticed, as beside the "oaks of Moreh." Ebal the mountain of curses (3, 077 ft. above sea-level) and Gerizim the mountain of blessings (2, 850 ft.) are the two highest tops in Samaria, and Shechem lies in a rich valley between them. The first sacred center of Israel was thus established at the place where Abraham built his first altar and Jacob dug his well, where Joseph was buried and where Joshua recognized a holy place at the foot of Gerizim (Joshua 24:26 ). The last chapters of Deuteronomy record the famous Pisgah view from Mt. Nebo (34:1-3), which answers in all respects to that from Jebel Neba , except as to Dan, and the utmost (or "western") sea, neither of which is visible. Here we should probably read "toward" rather than "to," and there is no other hill above the plains of Shittim whence a better view can be obtained of the Jordan valley, from Zoar to Jericho, of the watershed mountains as far North as Gilboa and Tabor, and of the slopes of Gilead.
But besides these physical allusions, the progress of exploration serves to illustrate the archaeology of Deuteronomy. Israel was commanded (Deuteronomy 12:3 ) to overthrow the Canaanite altars, to break the standing stones which were emblems of superstition, to burn the 'ăshērāh poles (or artificial trees), and to hew down the graven images. That these commands were obeyed is clear. The rude altars and standing stones are now found only in Moab, and in remote parts of Gilead, Bashan, and Galilee, not reached by the power of reforming kings of Judah. The 'ăshērāh poles have disappeared, the images are found, only deep under the surface. The carved tablets which remain at Damascus, and in Phoenicia and Syria, representing the gods of Canaan or of the Hittites, have no counterpart in the Holy Land. Again when we read of ancient "landmarks" (Deuteronomy 19:14; Proverbs 22:28; Proverbs 23:10 ), we are not to understand a mere boundary stone, but rather one of those monuments common in Babylonia - as early at least as the 12th century BC - on which the boundaries of a field are minutely described, the history of its grant by the king detailed, and a curse (compare Deuteronomy 27:17 ) pronounced against the man who should dare to remove the stone. See illustration under NEBUCHADNEZZAR .
III. Palestine in the Historic Books of the Old Testament.
1. Book of Joshua:
Joshua is the great geographical book of the Old Testament; and the large majority of the 600 names of places, rivers and mountains in Palestine mentioned in the Bible are to be found in this book.
(1) Topographical Accuracy.
About half of this total of names were known, or were fixed by Dr. Robinson, between 1838,1852, and about 150 new sites were discovered (1872-1878,1881-1882) in consequence of the 1-in. trigonometrical survey of the country, and were identified by the present writer during this period; a few interesting sites have been added by M. Clermont-Ganneau (Adullam and Gezer), by A. Henderson (Kiriathjearim), by W.F. Birch (Zoar at Tell esh Shâghûr ), and by others. Thus more than three-quarters of the sites have been fixed with more or less certainty, most of them preserving their ancient names. It is impossible to study this topography without seeing that the Bible writers had personal knowledge of the country; and it is incredible that a Hebrew priest, writing in Babylonia, could have possessed that intimate acquaintance with all parts of the land which is manifest in the geographical chapters of Joshua. The towns are enumerated in due order by districts; the tribal boundaries follow natural lines - valleys and mountain ridges - and the character of various regions is correctly indicated. Nor can we suppose that this topography refers to conditions subsequent to the return from captivity, for these were quite different. Simeon had ceased to inhabit the south by the time of David ( 1 Chronicles 4:24 ), and the lot of Dan was colonized by men of Benjamin after the captivity (1 Chronicles 8:12 , 1 Chronicles 8:13; Nehemiah 11:34 , Nehemiah 11:35 ). Tirzah is mentioned (Joshua 12:24 ) in Samaria, whereas the future capital of Omri is not. Ai is said to have been made "a heap forever" (Joshua 8:28 ), but was inhabited apparently in Isaiah's time (Isaiah 10:28 = Aiath) and certainly after the captivity ( Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32; Nehemiah 11:31 = Aija). At latest, the topography seems to be that of Solomon's age, though it is remarkable that very few places in Samaria are noticed in the Book of Joshua.
(2) The Passage of the Jordan.
Israel crossed Jordan at the lowest ford East of Jericho. The river was in flood, swollen by the melting snows of Hermon (Joshua 3:15 ); the stoppage occurred 20 miles farther up at Adam (ed -Dâmieh ), the chalky cliffs at a narrow place being probably undermined and falling in, thus damming the stream. A M oslem writer asserts that a similar stoppage occurred in the 13th century AD, near the same point. (See JORDAN RIVER .) The first camp was established at Gilgal (Jilgûlieh ), 3 miles East of Jericho, and a "circle" of 12 stones was erected. Jericho was not at the medieval site (er Rı̂ḥa ) South of Gilgal, or at the Herodian site farther West, but at the great spring ‛Ain es Sulṭân , close to the mountains to which the spies escaped (Joshua 2:16 ). The great mounds were found by Sir C. Warren to consist of sun-dried bricks, and further excavations (see Mitteil . der deutschen Orient-Gesell ., December, 1909, No. 41) have revealed little but the remains of houses of various dates.
(3) Joshua's First Campaign.
The first city in the mountains attacked by Israel was Ai, near Chayan, 2 miles Southeast of Bethel. It has a deep valley to the North, as described (Joshua 8:22 ). The fall of Ai and Bethel (Joshua 8:17 ) seems to have resulted in the peaceful occupation of the region between Gibeon and Shechem (Josh 8:30 through 9:27); but while the Hivites submitted the Amorites of Jerusalem and of the South attacked Gibeon (el Jı̂b ) and were driven down the steep pass of Beth-horon (Beit ‛Aûr ) to the plains (Joshua 10:1-11 ). Joshua's great raid, after this victory, proceeded through the plain to Makkedah, now called el Mughâr , from the "cave" (compare Joshua 10:17 ), and by Libnah to Lachish (Tell el Ḥesy ), whence he went up to Hebron, and "turned" South to Debir (edh Dhâherı̂yeh ), thus subduing the shephēlāh of Judah and the southern mountains, though the capital at Jerusalem was not taken. It is now very generally admitted that the six letters of the Amorite king of Jerusalem included in Tell el -Amarna Letters may refer to this war. The ‛Abı̂ri or Ḥabiri are therein noticed as a fierce people from Seir, who "destroyed all the rulers," and who attacked Ajalon, Lachish, Ashkelon, Keilah (on the main road to Hebron) and other places. See EXODUS , THE .
(4) The Second Campaign.
The second campaign (Joshua 11:1-14 ) was against the nations of Galilee; and the Hebrew victory was gained at "the waters of Merom" (Joshua 11:5 ). There is no sound reason for placing these at the Ḥûleh lake; and the swampy Jordan valley was a very unlikely field of battle for the Canaanite chariots (Joshua 11:6 ). The kings noticed are those of Madon (Madı̂n ), Shimron (Semmunieh ), Dor (possibly Tell Thorah ), "on the west," and of Hazor (Ḥazzûr ), all in Lower Galilee. The pursuit was along the coast toward Sidon (Joshua 11:8 ); and Merom may be identical with Shimron-meron (Joshua 12:20 ), now Semmunieh , in which case the "waters" were those of the perennial stream in Wâdy el Melek , 3 miles to the North, which flow West to join the lower part of the Kishon. Shimron-meron was one of the 31 royal cities of Palestine West of the Jordan (Josh 12:9-24).
The regions left unconquered by Joshua (Joshua 13:2-6 ) were those afterward conquered by David and Solomon, including the Philistine plains, and the Sidonian coast from Mearah (el Mogheirı̂yeh ) northward to Aphek (Afḳa ) in Lebanon, on the border of the Amorite country which lay South of the "land of the Hittites" (Joshua 1:4 ). Southern Lebanon, from Gebal (Jubeil ) and the "entering into Hamath" (the Eleutherus Valley) on the West, to Baal-gad (probably at ‛Ain Judeideh on the northwestern slope of Hermon) was also included in the "land" by David (2 Samuel 8:6-10 ). But the whole of Eastern Palestine (Josh 13:7-32), and of Western Palestine, except the shore plains, was allotted to the 12 tribes. Judah and Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), being the strongest, appear to have occupied the mountains and the shephēlāh , as far North as Lower Galilee, before the final allotment.
Thus, the lot of Simeon was within that inherited by Judah (Joshua 19:1 ), and that of Dan seems to have been partly taken from Ephraim, since Joseph's lot originally reached to Gezer (Joshua 16:3 ); but Benjamin appears to have received its portion early (compare Joshua 15:5-11; Joshua 16:1 , Joshua 16:2; 18:11-28). This lot was larger than that of Ephraim, and Benjamin was not then the "smallest of the tribes of Israel" (1 Samuel 9:21 ), since the destruction of the tribe did not occur till after the death of Joshua and Eleazar (Judges 20:28 ).
The twelve tribes were distributed in various regions which may here briefly be described. Reuben held the Moab plateau to the Arnon ( Wâdy Môjub ) on the South, and to the "river of Gad" ( Wâdy Nā'aûr ) on the North, thus including part of the Jordan valley close to the Dead Sea. Gad held all the West of Gilead, being separated from the Ammonites by the upper course of the Jabbok. All the rest of the Jordan valley East of the river was included in this lot. Manasseh held Bashan, but the conquest was not completed till later. Simeon had the neghebh plateau South of Beersheba. Judah occupied the mountains South of Jerusalem, with the shephēlāh to their West, and claimed Philistia South of Ekron. Benjamin had the Jericho plains and the mountains between Jerusalem and Bethel. The border ran South of Jerusalem to Rachel's tomb ( 1 Samuel 10:2 ), and thence West to Kiriath-jearim ('Erma) and Ekron. Dan occupied the lower hills West of Benjamin and Ephraim, and claimed the plain from Ekron to Rakkon (Tell er Raḳḳeit ) North of Joppa. Manasseh had a large region, corresponding to Samaria, and including Carmel, Sharon and half the Jordan valley, with the mountains North of Shechem; but this tribe occupied only the hills, and was unable to drive the Cannanites out of the plains (Joshua 17:11 , Joshua 17:16 ) Ephraim also complained of the smallness of its lot (Joshua 17:15 ), which lay in rugged mountains between Bethel and Shechem, including however, the grain plateau East of the latter city. Issachar held the plains of Esdraelon and Dothan, with the Jordan valley to the East, but soon became subject to the Canaanites. Zebulun had the hills of Lower Galilee, and the coast from Carmel to Accho. Naphtali owned the mountains of Upper Galilee, and the rich plateau between Tabor and the Sea of Galilee. Asher had the low hills West of Naphtali, and the narrow shore plains from Accho to Tyre. Thus each tribe possessed a proportion of mountain land fit for cultivation of figs, olives and vines, and of arable land fit for corn. The areas allotted appear to correspond to the density of population that the various regions were fitted to support.
The Levitical cities were fixed in the various tribes as centers for the teaching of Israel (Deuteronomy 33:10 ), but a Levite was not obliged to live in such a city, and was expected to go with his course annually to the sacred center, before they retreated to Jerusalem on the disruption of the kingdom (2 Chronicles 11:14 ). The 48 cities (Josh 21:13-42) include 13 in Judah and Benjamin for the priests, among which Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6:13 , 1 Samuel 6:15 ) and Anathoth (1 Kings 2:26 ) are early noticed as Levitical. The other tribes had 3 or 4 such cities each, divided among Kohathites (10), Gershonites (13), and Merarites (12). The six Cities of Refuge were included in the total, and were placed 3 each side of the Jordan in the South, in the center, and in the North, namely Hebron, Shechem and Kedesh on the West, and Bezer (unknown), Ramoth (Reimûn ) and Golan (probably Saḥem el Jaulân ) East of the river. Another less perfect list of these cities, with 4 omissions and 11 minor differences, mostly clerical, is given in 1 Ch 6:57-81. Each of these cities had "suburbs," or open spaces, extending (Numbers 35:4 ) about a quarter-mile beyond the wall, while the fields, to about half a mile distant, also belonged to the Levites (Leviticus 25:34 ).
2. Book of Judges:
(1) Early Wars.
In Judges, the stories of the heroes who successively arose to save Israel from the heathen carry us to every part of the country. "After the death of Joshua" (Judges 1:1 ) the Canaanites appear to have recovered power, and to have rebuilt some of the cities which he had ruined. Judah fought the Perizzites ("villagers") at Berek ( Berḳah ) in the lower hills West of Jerusalem, and even set fire to that city. Caleb attacked Debir (Jsg Joshua 1:12-15 ), which is described (compare Joshua 15:15-19 ) as lying in a "dry" (the King James Version "south") region, yet with springs not far away. The actual site (edh Dhâherı̂yeh ) is a village with ancient tombs 12 miles Southwest of Hebron; it has no springs, but about 7 miles to the Northeast there is a perennial stream with "upper and lower springs." As regards the Philistine cities (Judges 1:18 ), the Septuagint reading seems preferable; for the Greek says that Judah "did not take Gaza" nor Ashkelon nor Ekron, which agrees with the failure in conquering the "valley" (Judges 1:19 ) due to the Canaanites having "chariots of iron." The Canaanite chariots are often mentioned about this time in the Tell el -Amarna Letters and Egyptian accounts speak of their being plated with metals. Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher and Naphtali, were equally powerless against cities in the plains (Judges 1:27-33 ); and Israel began to mingle with the Canaanites, while the tribe of Dan seems never to have really occupied its allotted region, and remained encamped in the borders of Judah till some, at least, of its warriors found a new home under Hermon (Judges 1:34; 18:1-30) in the time of Jonathan, the grandson of Moses.
(2) Defeat of Sisera.
The oppression of Israel by Jabin 2 of Hazor, in Lower Galilee, appears to have occurred in the time of Rameses II, who, in his 8th year, conquered Shalem ( Sâlim , North of Taanach), Anem ( ‛Anı̂n ), Dapur ( Debûrieh , at the foot of Tabor), with Bethanath ( ‛Ainitha ) in Upper Galilee (Brugsch, History of Egypt , II, 64). Sisera may have been an Egyptian resident at the court of Jabin ( Judges 4:2 ); his defeat occurred near the foot of Tabor (Judges 4:14 ) to which he advanced East from Harosheth (el Ḥarathı̂yeh ) on the edge of the sea plain. His host "perished at Endor" (Psalm 83:9 ) and in the swampy Kishon (Judges 5:21 ). The site of the Kedesh in "the plain of swamps" (Judges 4:11 ) to which he fled is doubtful. Perhaps Kedesh of Issachar (1 Chronicles 6:72 ) is intended at Tell Ḳadeis , 3 miles North of Taanach, for the plain is here swampy in parts. The Canaanite league of petty kings fought from Taanach to Megiddo (Judges 5:19 ), but the old identification of the latter city with the Roman town of Legio (Lejjûn ) was a mere guess which does not fit with Egyptian accounts placing Megiddo near the Jordan. The large site at Mugedd‛a , in the Valley of Jezreel seems to be more suitable for all the Old Testament as well as for the Egyptian accounts (SWP , II, 90-99).
(3) Gideon's Victory.
The subsequent oppression by Midianites and others would seem to have coincided with the troubles which occurred in the 5th, year of Minepthah (see EXODUS , THE ). Gideon's home (Judges 6:11 ) at Ophrah, in Manasseh, is placed by Samaritan tradition at Fer‛ata , 6 miles West of Shechem, but his victory was won in the Valley of Jezreel (Jdg 7:1-22); the sites of Beth-shittah (Shaṭṭa ) and Abel-meholah (‛Ain Ḥelweh ) show how Midian fled down this valley and South along the Jordan plain, crossing the river near Succoth (Tell Der‛ala ) and ascending the slopes of Gilead to Jogbehah (Jubeiḥah ) and Nobah (Judges 8:4-11 ). But Oreb ("the raven") and Zeeb ("the wolf") perished at "the raven's rock" and "the wolf's hollow" (compare Judges 7:25 ), West of the Jordan. It is remarkable (as pointed out by the present author in 1874) that, 3 miles North of Jericho, a sharp peak is now called "the raven's nest," and a ravine 4 miles farther North is named "the wolf's hollows." These sites are rather farther South than might be expected, unless the two chiefs were separated from the fugitives, who followed Zebah and Zalmunna to Gilead. In this episode "Mt. Gilead" (Judges 7:3 ) seems to be a clerical error for "Mt. Gilboa," unless the name survives in corrupt form at ‛Aı̂n Jâlûd ("Goliath's spring"), which is a large pool, usually supposed to be the spring of Harod (Judges 7:1 ), where Gideon camped, East of Jezreel.
The story of Abimelech takes us back to Shechem. He was made king by the "oak of the pillar" (Judges 9:6 ), which was no doubt Abraham's oak already noticed; it seems also to be called 'the enchant
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Palestine'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/isb/p/palestine.html. 1915.