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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Nabathaeans

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(Ναβαταῖοι [but Αποταῖοι , Ptol. 6:7; see below], Nab(atsei), mentioned in Isaiah 60:7, under the name "Nebaioth," as a pastoral tribe of Arabia, in connection with Kedar (comp. Pliny, 5:12), but with no definite specification of locality. (See NEBAIOTH). In the period after the exile, the Maccabaean captains Judas and Jonathan found the Nabathseans after pressing forward beyond the Jordan three days' journey into the Arabian Desert (1 Maccabees 5:24; 1 Maccabees 9:35), and it seems clear that they were then in the district adjoiliing Gilead, near the cities of Bozrah and Carnaim. Josephus (Ant. 1:2, 4) and Ammianuls Marcellinus (1 Maccabees 14:8) calls the whole region between the Euphrates and the Red Sea Nabatene (Ναβατηνή); and the latter makes the Nabathaeans the immediate neighbors of Roman Arabia, i.e. of the district containing Bozrah and Philadelphia. Other writers, after the Christian sera, place this people on the AElanitic gulf of the Red Sea (Strabo, 16:777), but extend their territory far into Arabia Petraea, and make Petra, in Wady Musa, their capital city (Strabo, 16:779; 17:803; Pliny 5:12; 6:32; Diod. Sic. 2:48; 4:43; 19:94). The Nabathaeans were considered a rich people (Dionys. Perieg. 955); most of them lived a nomadic life, but many prosecuted a regular and important carrying trade through this region (Diod. Sic. 19:94; Apull. Flor. 1:6). They were governed by kings. Pompey, when in Syria, sent an army against them and subdued them (Joseph. Ant. 14:3,3; 6,4). They submitted formallv to the Romans in the time of Trajan (Dio. Cass. 78:14; Ammian. Marcel. 14:8).

The chief cities of the Nabathseans may have stood in the vicinity of Bozrah (q.v.), in Edom; and the accounts which Greek and Roman writers give respecting the Nabatheans do not perhaps refer exclusively to this particular tribe, but the name with them may include other Arabian tribes, as the Edomites; yet it is probable that a branch of the nomadic Nabathaeans at an early period wandered eastward as far as the Euphrates, in the neighborhood of which lie the Nabathaean morasses (Nabat, "paludes Nabantheorum;" Golius, cited by Forster, Geog. of Arabia, 1:214, note; comp. Strabo, 16:767). Ptolemy (6:7, 21) mentions Nabathaeans in Arabia Felix (comp. Steph. Byz. s.v. page 578), unless, with recent editions, we read in this place Ἀποταῖοι , which, however, some suppose to be simply another form of the name (but comp. Reland, Palaest. page 90 sq.; Cless, in Pauly's Realencykl. 377 sq.). In Genesis (25:13; 28:9; 36:3; comp. 1 Chronicles 1:29) the Nabathaeans are mentioned in genealogical connection with Nebaioth (q.v.), the first-born son of Ishmael and brother of Kedar; and a son of Ishmael named Nabat appears in Arabian tradition (Abulfed. Annal. 1:22), but not as the ancestor of this tribe, who are said to be descended from another Nabat, a son of Mash, and a descendant of Shem. On these traditions the supposition has been based that the Nabathaeans were not Arabians. but Aramaeans; and Beer believed that remnants of their Aramaean language were concealed in the inscriptions at Sinai (Robinson, Bibl. Research. 1:544; comp. Quatremere, Memoires sur les Nabateens, Par. 1835; Ritter, Erdk. 12:111 sq.), but the unbroken Biblical genealogy cannot be set aside on behalf of the fragmentary and uncertain traditions of Arabia (Winer, 2:129). The name of the Nabathseans occurs on the cuneiform inscriptions (q.v.). See Smith, Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Geog. s.v. Nabataei; the duke of Luynes, in the Revue Numismatique (new series, Par. 1858, volume 3); the count de Voguf, in the Mlanges d'A rchiologie Orientale (Par. 1868); Vincent, Commerce of the Ancients in the Indian Ocean (Lond. 1807), 2:275 sq.; Noldeke, in the Zeitschir. der deutsch. morgenl. Gesellschaft, 25:113 sq. (See PETRA).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Nabathaeans'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/n/nabathaeans.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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