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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature
(Hebrews Merom', מֵרוֹם,height; Sept. Μερώμ ), a lake (מִיַם, "waters") among the hills (hence the name, Burckhardt, Trav. 2:553) of northern Palestine, whose shores were the scene of the great victory of the Hebrews over the northern Canaanites (Joshua 11:5-7); doubtless the same with that through which the Jordan flows three miles from its source, called by Josephus Samechonitis (Σαμοχωνῖτις or Σεμεχωνῖτις , Ant. v. 5, 1; War, 3:10, 7; 4:1, 1). In his account of the battle (Ant. v. 1. 18), the confederate kings encamp " near Beroth, a city of upper Galilee, not far from Kedes;" nor is there any mention of water. In the Onomasticon of Eusebius the name is given as "Merran" (Μερράν ), and it is stated to be "a village twelve miles distant from Sebaste'(Samaria), and near Dothaim." Abulfeda (Tab. Syr. p. 155) calls it the Sea of Banias, but its usual modern name is Bakrat el-Hlekh (Burckhardt, Trav. 1:87). It was visited by Lieut. Lynch (Expedition, p. 471), and is most fully described by Thomson (in the Bibliotheca Sacra, 1846,p. 185; see also 1843, p. 12, and map; 1854, p. 56; Robinson's Res. new ed. p. 395; comp. Reland, Palaest. p. 261 sq.; Hamelsveld, 1:482 sq. Schwarz, Palaest. p. 47). As regards the modern name of Huleh, by which the native inhabitants of the district commonly designate the lake, there are some grounds for tracing it also to a very ancient source. Josephus (Ant. 15:10, 3) speaks of Herod as having obtained from Caesar the territory of a troublesome prince named Zenodorus-a territory that lay between Trachon and Galilee, and which "contained Ulatha (Οὐλάθαν ) and Paneas." The country so described is the very region in which Lake Meromis situated; and Οὐλάθα has every appearance. of being the Greek form of Huleh. It is also conjectured that this Ulatha of Josephus and Huleh of modern times may derive their common origin from a period so remote as that of Hul, the son of Aram, mentioned in the book of Genesis (Genesis 10:23), a personage whom Josephus calls ῎Ουλος (Ant. 1:6, 4). Hence, not improbably, the name (see Ritter, Palest. und Syr. 2:234; Stanley, Sin. and Pal. p. 283). The word, both in Hebrew and Arabic, seems to have the force of depression-the low land (see Michaelis, Suppl. Nos. 687,720); and Michaelis most ingeniously suggests that it is the root of the name Κοιλησυρία, although in its present form it may have been sufficiently modified to transform it into an intelligible Greek word (Spicilegium, 2:137,138). The name Samechonitis may perhaps he derived from the. Arabic root samak, "to be high," and would thus be identical in meaning with the Hebrew Merom (Gesenius, Thesaur. p. 1276; Reland, Palaest. p. 262). Perhaps the phrase מי מרום might be rendered "the upper waters;" that is, the upper lake or collection of waters formed by the river Jordan (see Reland, p. 262). Several other explanations of the Greek name as found in Josephus have been given:
1. It is derived from the Chaldee סמק, "red," because of the ruddy color of its water.
2. From סב,ִ "a thorn," because its shores abound with thorn-bushes (Lightfoot, Opp, 2:172). 3. From the Arabic samk, " a fish" (Reland, p. 262). These explanations appear to be all too fanciful (Stanley, Sin. and Pal. p. 383, note). Josephus mentions a city called Meroth (Μηρώθ or Μηρώ , Life, p. 37; War, 2:20, 6), which Ritter connects with the Hebrews name of the lake (Pal. und Syr. 2:235). This interesting lake-Merom, Samechonitis, or Hileh lies embedded in the midst of one of the finest scenes in Palestine. The Ard el-Huleh, the centre of which the lake occupies, is a nearly level plain of sixteen miles in length, from north-to south; and its breadth, from east to west, is from seven to eight miles. On the west it is walled in by the steep and lofty range of the hills of Kedesh-Naphtali; on the east it is bounded by the lower and more gradually ascending slopes of Bashan; on the north it is shut in by a line of hills hummocky and irregular in shape, and of no great height, and stretching across from the mountains of Naphtali to the roots of Mount Hermon, which towers up, at the north-eastern angle of the plain, to a height' of 10,000 feet. At its southern extremity the plain is similarly traversed by elevated and broken ground, through which, by deep and narrow clefts, the Jordan, after passing through Lake Huleh, makes its rapid descent to the Sea of Galilee, the level of which is from 600 to 700 feet lower than that of the waters of Merom (Van de Velde, Memoir, p. 181). This noble landscape, when seen, for the first time and suddenly, from the lofty brow of the mountains of Naphtali, can never fail to excite the liveliest admiration: the intense greenness, so unusual in Palestine, of the abundantly-watered plain — the bright blue lake reflecting from its bosom the yet brighter and bluer sky-the singularly-picturesque ranges-of the surrounding hills; and, rising far above them all, the Jebel esh-Sheikb, the monarch of the mountains, the mighty Hermon, dark and shaggy to its shoulders with the forests that clothe its sides, and with its double summit covered with perpetual snow. The lake itself in form is not far from a triangle, the base being at the north and the apex at the south; and, though lo exact measurement of it seems ever to have been made, it is about four and a half miles in length by about three miles in breadth. According to Josephus (War, 4:1, 1) it is sixty stadia long and thirty wide, and full of fish (Burckhardt, Trav. 2:554). Robinson states (Researches, 3:339 sq.) that its size varies somewhat according to the season, being when he saw it (in summer) about two miles long, but in the northern part bounded by an extensive marsh, which explains the length sometimes assigned of eight or ten miles (Seetzen, in Zach's Monatl. Corresp. 18:344).
It is surrounded on all sides, and especially on the south, west, and north, by broad morasses, and by such impervious brakes of tall sedges, reeds, and canes, as to be all but unapproachable. It is the receptacle for the drainage of the highlands on each side, but more especially for the waters of the Merj Ayftn, an elevated plateau which lies above it among the roots of the great northern mountains of Palestine. On the north-western side of the lake the morasses extend almost to the very base of the Kedesh-Naphtali hills. The Hasbany river, which falls almost due south from its source in the great Wady et-Teim, is joined at the north-east corner of the Ard el-Hfileh by the streams from Banias and Tell el-Kady, and the united stream then flows on through the morass, rather nearer its eastern than its western side,-until it enters the lake close to the eastern end of its upper side. From the apex of the triangle at the lower end the Jordan. flows out. In addition to the Hasbany, and the innumerable smaller watercourses which filter into it the waters of the swamp above, the lake is fed by independent springs on the slope of its enclosing mountains. Of these the most considerable is the Ain el-Mellahah, near the upper end of its western side, which sends down a stream of forty or fifty feet in width. Though this name signifies "the fountain of salt," neither is the water brackish, nor is there any saline incrustation in its neighborhood, to account for such a designation. This spring gives to the lake one of its names. William of Tyre calls it Lacus Meleha (Hist. 18:13); and the name now frequently given to it by the neighboring Arabs is Bahret el-Melalhah. The water of the lake is clear and sweet; it is covered in parts by a broad-leaved plant, and abounds in water-fowl. The only inhabitants of the plain are a few tribes of Arabs who dwell in tents. There is -not a single village or house in any part of it. Its soil is singularly fertile, and where cultivated, as it is partially to the south and east of the lake, yields luxuriant crops. Its rich, swampy pastures: are covered with large herds of buffaloes. This cultivated district is called the Ard el-Khait, perhaps "the undulating land" (otherwise "the land of wheat," from its fertility), el-Khait being also the name which the Arabs sometimes call the lake (Thomson, in the Bibl. Sacra, 3:199; Robinson, Bib. Res. iii, App. p. 135,136). In fact the name Huleh appears to belong rather to the district, and only to the lake as occupying a portion of it. It is not restricted to this spot, but is applied to another very fertile district in northern Syria lying below Hamah. A town of the same name is also found south of and close to the Kasimiyeh river, a few miles from the castle of Hunin. (See PALESTINE).
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McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Merom'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/m/merom.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.