: Eth. Παλαιστινός
), the most commonly received and classical name for the country, otherwise called the Land of Canaan, Judaea, the Holy Land, &c.
This name has the authority of the prophet Isaiah, among the sacred writers; and was received by the earliest secular historians. Herodotus calls the Hebrews Syrians of Palestine; and states that the sea-border of Syria, inhabited, according to him, by Phoenicians from the Red Sea, was called Palaestina, as far as Egypt (7.89).
He elsewhere places Syria Palaestina between Phoenice and Egypt; Tyre and Sidon in Phoenice; Ascalon, Cadytis, Ienysus in Palaestina Syriae; elsewhere he places Cadytis and Azotus simply in Syria (4.39, 3.5, 2.116, 157, 1.105, 3.5).
The name, as derived from the old inhabitants of the land, originally described only the sea-border south of Mount Carmel, occupied by the Philistines from the very earliest period, and during the time of the Israelite kingdom (Exod.
13.17); although it would appear that this district was partially occupied by the cognate branches of the Canaanites. (Gen. x.
It afterwards came to be used of the inland parts likewise, and that not only on the west of the Jordan, but also to the east, as far as the limits of the children of Israel; and in this wider acceptation it will be convenient here to adopt it; although it deserves to be noted that even so late as Josephus the name Palaestina was occasionally used in its more restricted and proper sense, viz. of that part of the coast inhabited of old by the Philistines. (See the passages referred to in Relaud, p. 41, who devotes the nine first chapters of his work to the names of Palestine, pp. 1--51.)
I. GENERAL BOUNDARIES, SOIL, CLIMATE.
The general boundaries of Palestine, in this wider acceptation of the name, are clearly defined by the Mediterranean on the west, and the great desert, now called the Hauran,
on the east. [HAURAN
] The country, however, on the east of Jordan was not originally designed to form part of the land of Israel; which was to have been bounded by the Jordan and its inland lakes. (Numb.
34.6, 10--12; comp. xxxii.)
The northern and southern boundaries are not so clearly defined; but it is probable that a more careful investigation and a more accurate survey of the country than has hitherto been attempted might lead to the recovery of many of the sites mentioned in the sacred books, and of natural divisions which might help to the elucidation of the geography of Palestine. On the south, indeed, recent investigations have led to the discovery of a well-defined mountain barrier, forming a natural wall along the south of Palestine, from the southern bay of the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean, along the line of which, at intervals, may be found traces of the names mentioned in the borders in the books of Moses and Joshua, terminating on the west with the river of Egypt (Wady-el-Arish
) at Rhinocorura. (Numb.
34.3--5 ; comp. Josh.
15.1--4; Williams, Holy City, vol.
i., appendix i., note 1, p. 463--468.) On the northern border the mention of Mount Hor is perplexing; the point on the coast of “the great sea” is not fixed; nor are the sites of Hamath or Zedad determined. (Numb.
34.7, 8; comp. Ezek.
But whatever account may be given of the name Hor in the northern borders of Palestine, the mention of Hermon as the northern extremity of the Israelites' conquests in Deuteronomy (3.9, 5.48) would point to that rather than to Lebanon, which Reland conjectures, as the mountain in question: while the fact that Sidon is assigned to the tribe of Asher (Judges,
1.21) would prove that the point on the coast must be fixed north of that border town of the Canaanites. (Gen.
The present Hamah,
near to Homs
(Emesa), is much too far north to fall in with the boundary of Palestine, and it must be conceded that we have not at present sufficient data to enable us to determine its northern limits. (Reland, lib. i. cap. 25, pp. 113--123.) To this it must be added that the limits of Palestine varied at different periods of its history, and according to the views of different writers (ib. cap. 26, pp. 124--127), and that the common error of confounding the limits of the possessions of the Israelites with those assigned to their conquests has still further embarrassed the question. Assuming, however, [p. 2.517]
those boundaries, as do the sacred writers and Josephus, we may now take a general view of its physical features which have always so much to do with the formation of the character of the inhabitants.
It is well described in its principal features, in the book of Deuteronomy, as “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 wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness; thou shalt not lack anything in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass” (8.7--9; comp. 11.11, 12).
The great variety of its natural productions must be ascribed to the diversified character of its surface and the natural richness of its soil, which was obviously taxed to the utmost by the industry of its numerous inhabitants; for there is no part of the hill country, however at present desolate and depopulated, which does not bear evidences of ancient agricultural labour in its scarped rocks and ruined terrace-walls; while in the vicinity of its modern villages, the rude traditionary style of husbandry, unimproved and unvaried for 3000 years, enables the traveller to realise the ancient fertility of this highly favoured land, and the occupations of its inhabitants, as well as the genius of their poetry, all whose images are borrowed from agricultural and pastoral pursuits.
As the peculiar characteristic feature in the geography of Greece is the vast proportion of its sea-border to its superficial area, so the peculiarity of the geography of Palestine may be said to be the undue proportion of mountain, or rather hill country, to its extent.
In the districts of Tripoli, Akka,
and Damascus, three descriptions of soil prevail.
In general that of the mountainous parts of Palestine and central Syria is dry and stony, being formed in a great measure from the debris of rocks, of which a large portion of the surface of the districts of Lebanon, the Hauran,
with the mountainous countries of Judaea, are composed; it is mixed, however, with the alluvium constantly brought down by the irrigating streams.
The second and richest district are the plains of Esdraelon, Zabulon, Baalbek, part of the Decapolis, and Damascusi as well as the valleys of the Jordan and Orontes, which for the most part consist of a fat loamy soil. Being almost without a pebble, it becomes, when dry, a fine brown earth, like garden mould, which, when saturated by the rains, is almost a quagmire, and in the early part of the summer becomes a marsh: when cultivated, most abundant crops of tobacco, cotton, and grain are obtained.
The remainder of the territory chiefly consists of the plains called Barr
by the Arabs, and Midbar by the Hebrews, both words signifying simply a tract of land left entirely to nature, and being applied to the pasture tracts about almost every town in Syria, as well as to those spots where vegetation almost entirely fails. Such spots prevail in the tracts towards the eastern side of the country, where the soil is mostly an indurated clay, with irregular ridges of limestone hills separating different parts of the surface.
The better description of soil is occasionally diversified by hill and dale, and has Very much the appearance of some of our downs, but is covered with the liquorice plant, mixed with aromatic shrubs, and occasionally some dwarf trees, such as the tamarisk and acacia. Many of the tracts eastward of the Jordan (Peraea) are of this description, particularly those near the Hauran,
which, under the name of Roman Arabia, had Bozra for its capital.
The inferior tracts are frequently coated with pebbles and black flints, having little, and sometimes no vegetation. Such are the greater portions of the tracts southward of Gaza and Hebron, and that part of the pashalick which borders upon Arabia Deserta, where scarcity of water has produced a wilderness, which at best is only capable of nourishing a limited number of sheep, goats, and camels its condition is the worst in summer, at which season little or no rain falls throughout the eastern parts of Syria.
Owing to the inequality of its surface, Palestine has a great variety of temperature and climate, which have been distributed as follows.--(1) The cold; (2) warm and humid; (3) warm and dry.
The first belongs principally to the Lebanon range and to Mount Hermon, in the extreme north of the country, but is shared in some measure by the mountain districts of Nablûe,
Jerusalem, and Hebron, where the winters are often very severe, the springs mild, and a refreshing breeze tempers the summer heat.
The second embraces the slopes adjoining the coast of the Mediterranean, together with the adjacent plains of Akka, Jaffa,
and Gaza; also those in the interior, such as Esdraelon, the valley of the Jordan, and part of Peraea.
The third prevails in the south-eastern parts of Syria, the contiguity of which to the arid deserts of burning sand, exposes them to the furnace-blasts of the sirocco untempered by the humid winds which prevail to the west of the central highlands, while the depression of the southern part of the Jordan valley and the Dead Sea gives to the plain of Jericho and the districts in the vicinity of that sea an Egyptian climate. (Col. Chesney, Expedition to the Euphrates, &c.
vol. i. pp. 533--537.)
II. GEOLOGY, NATURAL DIVISIONS, AND PRODUCTIONS.
The general geographical position of Palestine is well described in the following extract:--“That great mountain chain known to the ancients under the various names of Imaus, Caucasus, and Taurus, which extends due east and west from China to Asia Minor; this chain, at the point where it enters Asia Minor, throws off to the southward a subordinate ridge of hills, which forms the barrier between the Western Sea and the plains of Syria and Assyria.
After pursuing a tortuous course for some time, and breaking into the parallel ridges of Libanus and Antilibanus, it runs with many breaks and divergencies through Palestine and the Arabian peninsula to the Indian Ocean. One of the most remarkable of these breaks is the great plain of Esdraelon, the battle-field of the East. From this point . . . the ridge or mountainous tract extends, without interruption, to the south end of the Dead Sea, or further.
This whole tract rises gradually towards the south, forming the hill country of Ephraim and Judah, until, in the vicinity of Hebron, it attains an altitude of 3250 feet above the level of the Mediterranean.
At a point exactly opposite to the extreme north of the Dead Sea, i. e. due west from it, where the entire ridge has an elevation of about 2710 feet, and close to the saddle of the ridge, a very remarkable feature of this rocky pro. cess, so to call it, occurs.
The appearance is as if a single, but vast wave of this sea of rock, rising and swelling gradually from north to south, had been suddenly checked in its advance, and, after a [p. 2.518]
considerable subsidence below the general level, left standing perfectly isolated from the surrounding mass, both as to its front and sides. Add, that, about the middle of this wave there is a slight depression, channelling it from north-west to south-east, and you have before you the natural limestone rock which forms the site of Jerusalem.” Christian Remembrancer,
No. lxvi. N. S., vol. xviii. pp. 425, 426.
A few additions to this graphic sketch of the general geography of Palestine will suffice to complete the description of its main features, and to furnish a nomenclature for the more detailed notices which must follow.
This addition will be best supplied by the naturalist Russegger, whose travels have furnished a desideratum in the geography of Palestine.
It will, however, be more convenient to consider below his third division of the country, comprehending the river Jordan and the Dead Sea, with its volcanic phaenomena, as those articles have been reserved for this place, and the historical importance of them demands a fuller account than is given in his necessarily brief summary.
He divides the country as follows:--
The fruitful plain extending along the coast from Gaza to Juny, north-east of Beirût.
The mountain range separating this plain from the valley of the Jordan, which, commencing with Jebel Khalil, forms the rocky land of Judaea, Samaria, and Galilee, and ends with the knot of mountains from which Libanus and Antilibanus extend towards the north.
The valley of the Jordan, with the basins of the lake of Tiberias and the Dead Sea, as far as Wady-el-Ghor, the northern end of Wady-el-Araba.
The country on the east of the Jordan, as far as the parallel of Damascus.
The part of the coast plain extending from the isthmus of Suez
between the sea and the mountains of Judaea and Samaria, and bounded by the ridge of Carmel, belongs, in regard to its fertility, to the most beautiful regions of Syria.
The vegetation in all its forms is that of the warmer parts of the shores of the Mediterranean; in the southern districts the palm flourishes,
The mountains of Judaea and Samaria, which rise to the height of 2000 feet above the sea, follow the line of the plain until they meet the ridge of Carmel.
The coast district belongs partly to the older and newer pliocene of the marine deposits, and partly to the chalk and Jura formations of the neighbouring mountainous country.
To the north of Carmel the hilly arable land occurs again.
Still further north, with the exception of a few strips of land about Acre, Sur, Seida, Beirût,
&c., the coast plain becomes more and more narrowed by the mountains, which extend towards the sea, until there only remains here and there a very small strip of coast.
Several mountain streams, swollen in the rainy season to torrents, flow through deep narrow valleys into the plain, in part fertilising it; in part, where there are no barriers to oppose their force, spreading devastation far and wide. Of these the principal are Nahr-el-Kelb, Nahr-ed-Damur,
the Sahararneh, Nahr-el-Kasimieh, Nahr Mukutta,
The mountain sides of Lebanon, from Seida
are cultivated in terraces; the principal product of this kind of cultivation is the vine and mulberry; the secondary, figs, oranges, pomegranates, and, in general, the so-called tropical fruits.
The want of grass begins to show itself in Syria, and especially on the sides of the promontory, owing to the long continued droughts. The Syrian mountains along the coast north of Carmel, and especially the sides of Lebanon, are, with the exception of the garden-trees, and a few scattered pines, entirely devoid of wood.
The land immediately towards the east, which follows the line of coast from south to north, at a distance now greater now less, rises in the form of a lofty mountain chain, the summits of which are for the most part rounded, and rarely peaked; forming numerous plateaux, and including the whole space between the coast on the west, and the valley of the Jordan, with the Dead Sea and the lake of Tiberias, on the east, having an average breadth of from 8 to 10 German miles.
This mountain chain commences in the south with Jebel Khalil,
which, towards the west and south-west, stretches to the plain of Gaza and the sandy deserts of the isthmus, and towards the south and south-east joins the mountain country of Arabia Petraea, and towards the east sinks suddenly into the basin of the Dead Sea. Immediately joined to Jebel Khalil
and the mountains of Ephraim, sinking on the east into the valley of the Jordan, and on the west into the plain at Jaffa.
Further north follows Jebel Nblûs,
with the other mountains of Samaria, bounded on the east by the valley of the Jordan, on the west by the coast district; and towards the north-west extending to the sea, and forming the promontory of Carmel. North of Mesj Ibn‘ Amir
are the mountains of Galilee, Hermon, Tabor, Jebel Safed,
This group sinks into the basin of the lake of Tiberias and the upper valley of the Jordan, on the east, on the west into the coast district of Acre
extends into the sea in several promontories, and is united to the chain of Lebanon at Seida,
and by the mountains of the Upper Jordan and of Hasbeia
and thus to the chain of Antilibanus.
The whole mountain chain in the district just described belongs to the Jura and chalk formation. Crystalline and plutonic rocks there are none, and volcanic formations are to be found only in the mountains surrounding the basin of the lake of Tiberias.
The highest points are situated in the northern part of the range, in the neighbourhood of Jebel-es-Sheich,
and in the eastern and southeastern part of Galilee. (Jebel-es-Sheich
is 9500 feet above the sea.) Further south the mountains become perceptibly lower, and the highest of the mountains of Judaea are scarcely 4000 feet above the sea.
The character of the southern part of this range is very different from that of the northern.
The plateaux and slopes of the central chain of Judaea are wild, rocky, and devoid of vegetation; the valleys numerous, deep, and narrow.
In the lowlands, wherever productive soil is collected, and there is a supply of water, there springs up a rich vegetation. All the plants of the temperate region of Europe flourish together with tropical fruits in perfection, especially the vine and olive.
In Samaria the character of the land is more genial; vegetation flourishes on all sides, and several of the mountains are clothed with wood to their summits.
With still greater beauty and grandeur does nature exhibit herself in Galilee.
The mountains become higher, their form bolder and sharper. [p. 2.519]
The great; Hermon (Jebel-es-Sheich
) rises hign above the other mountains.
The valleys are no longer inhospitable ravines; they become long and broad, and partly form plains of large extent, as Esdraelon.
A beautiful pasture land extends to the heights of the mountains. Considerable mountain streams water the valleys.
To the east of this mountain chain lies the valley of the Jordan, the most remarkable of all known depressions of the earth, as well on account of its great length as of its almost incredible depth. [See below, III. and IV.]
On the east of the Dead Sea and the Jordan valley, with the sea of Tiberias, rises like a wall a steep mountain range of Jura limestone. On the top of this lies a broad plateau inhabited by nomadic Arabs and stationary tribes.
The southern part of these highlands is known by the name of Jebel Belka;
further north, beyond the Zerka,
in the neighbourhood of the lofty Ajlûn,
it meets the highlands of Ez-Zoueit;
and still further north begins the well-known plateau El-Hauran,
which, inhabited chiefly by Arabs and Druses, is bounded by Antilibanus and the Syrian desert, joins the plateau of Damascus, and there reaches a height of 2304 Paris feet above the sea.
III. THE JORDAN.
The most celebrated river of Judaea, and the only stream of any considerable size in the country. Its etymology has not been successfully investigated by the ancients, who propose a compound of Yor
and imagine two fountains bearing these names, from which the river derived its origin and appellation. S. Jerome (Onomast. s. v.
Dan) derives it from Jor,
which lie says is equivalent to ῥεῖθρον, fluvius,
the city, where one of its principal fountains was situated.
But there are serious objections to both parts of this derivation. For in the first place HEBREW is the Hebrew form of the equivalent for fluvius,
while the proper name is always HEBREW, and never HEBREW, as the proposed etymology would require; while the name Dan, as applied to the city Laish, is five centuries later than the first mention of the river in the book of Genesis; and the theory of anticipation in the numerous passages of the Pentateuch in which it occurs is scarcely admissible (See Judges,
13.10, 32.10; Job,
40.23), although Dan is certainly so used in at least one passage. (Gen.
14.14.) Besides which, Reland has remarked that the vowel always written with the second syllable of the river is different from that of the monosyllabic city, HEBREW, and not HEBREW.
He suggests another derivation from the root HEBREW, descendit, labitur,
so denoting a river,
as this, in common with other rivers which he instances, might be called κατ᾽ ἐξοχήν
: and as Josephus does call it τὸν ποταμόν,
without any distinctive name (Ant.
5.1.22), in describing the borders of Issachar.
This is also adopted by Gesenius, Lee, and other moderns. (Lee, Lexicon, s. v.
The source of this river is a question involved in much obscurity in the ancient records; and there is a perplexing notice of Josephus, which has added considerably to the difficulty.
The subject was fully investigated by the writer in 1842, and the results are stated below.
The Jordan has three principal sources:
- 1. at Banias, the ancient Caesarea Philippi;
- 2. at Tell-el-Kadi, the site of the ancient Dan, about two miles to the west of Banias;
- 3. at Hasbeia, some distance to the north of Tell-el-Kadi.
These several sources require distinct notice.
The fountain at Banias is regarded by Josephus and others as the proper source of the Jordan, but not with sufficient reason.
It is indeed a copious fountain, springing out from the earth in a wide and rapid but shallow stream, in front of a cave formerly dedicated to Pan; but not at all in the manner described by Josephus, who speaks of a yawning chasm in the cave itself, and an unfathomable depth of still water, of which there is neither appearance nor tradition at present, the cave itself being perfectly dry. (Bell. Jud. 1.21.3.)
He states, however, that it is a popular error to consider this as the source of the Jordan. Its true source, he subsequently says (3.9.7), was ascertained to be at Phiala, which he describes as a circular pool, 120 stadia distant from Caesareia, not far from, the road that led to Trachonitis, i. e. to the east.
This pool, he says (named from its form), was always full to the brim, but never overflowed, and its connection with the fountain at Paneas was discovered by Herod Philip the tetrarch in the following manner:--He threw chaff into the lake Phiala, which made its appearance again at the fountain of Paneas.
This circular, goblet-shaped pool, about a mile in diameter, is now called Birket-er-Ram. It is situated high in a bare mountain region, and strongly resembles the crater of an extinct volcano.
It is a curious error of Irby and Mangles to represent; the surrounding hills as “richly wooded” (Travels, p. 287).
The water is stagnant, nor is there any appearance or report among the natives of. any stream issuing from the lake, or of any subterranean communication with the fountain of Paneas.
The above-named travellers correctly represent it as having “no apparent supply or discharge.” The experiment of Philip is therefore utterly unintelligible, as there is no stream to carry off the chaff. (For a view of Phiala, see Traill's Josephus, vol. ii. p. 46, and lxxx. &c.)
The second fountain of the Jordan is at Tell-el-Kadi. [DAN] This is almost equally copious with the first-named; and issues from the earth in a rapid stream on the western side of the woody hill, on which traces of the city may still be discovered.
The stream bears the ancient name of the town, and is called Nahr Ledân, “the river Ledân,” sometimes misunderstood by travellers as the ancient name of the river, which certainly no longer exists among the natives.
This is plainly the Daphne of Josephus, “having fountains, which, feeding what is called the little Jordan, under the temple of the golden calf, discharge it into the great Jordan.” (Bell. Jud. 4.1.1, conf. Ant. 8.8.4; and see leland, Palaestina, p. 263.)
A mile to the west of Tell-el-Kadi, runs the Nahr Hasbâny, the Hasbeia river, little inferior to either of the former. it rises 6 or 8 miles to the north, near the large village of Hasbeia, and being joined in its course by a stream from Mount Hermon, contributes considerably to the bulk of the Jordan.
It is therefore somewhat remarkable that this tributary has been unnoticed until comparatively modern times. (Robinson, Bib. Res. vol. iii. p. 354, note 2.)
These three principal sources of the Jordan, as the natives affirm, do not intermingle their waters until they meet in the small lake now called Bahr-el-Huleh, [p. 2.520]
“the waters of Merom” of Scripture (Josh.
11.5, 7), the SEMECHONITIS PALUS of Josephus (J. AJ 5.5.1
, Bell. Jud.
3.12.7, 4.1.1); but the plain between this lake and Paneas is hard to be explored, in consequence of numerous fountains and the rivulets into which the main streams are here divided. (Robinson, l.c.
pp. 353, 354; Bibliotheca Sacra,
1843, pp. 12, 13.)
This point was investigated by Dr. Robinson in 1852, and he found that both the Ledân
and the Hasbâny
unite their waters with the stream from Banias,
some distance above the lake, to which they run in one stream. (Journal R. Geog. Soc.
vol. xxiv. p. 25, 1855.)
This region, now called Merj-el-Huleh,
might well be designated ἕλος
or ἕλη τοῦ Ἰορδάνου,
“the marshes of Jordan,” by which name, however, the author of the first book of Maccabees (1 Macc.
9.42) and Josephus (J. AJ 13.1.3
) would seem to signify the marshy plain to the south of the Dead Sea.
The waters from the three sources above-mentioned being collected into the small lake, and further augmented by the numerous land springs in the Bahr
run off towards the south in one current towards the sea of Tiberias [TIBERIAS MARE
], a distance, according to Josephus, of 120 stadia. They flow off at the south-western extremity of this lake, and passing through a district well described by Josephus as a great desert (πολλὴν ἐρηυίαν, B. J.
3.9.7), now called by the natives El-Ghor,
lose themselves in the Dead Sea.
Attention has been lately called to a peculiar phenomenon exhibited by this river, the problems relating to which have been solved twice within the last few years by the enterprise of English and American sailors.
In the spring of the year 1838 a series of barometrical observations by M. Bertou gave to the Dead Sea a depression of 1374 feet below the level of the Mediterranean, and to the sea of Tiberias a depression of 755 feet, thus establishing a fall of 619 feet between the two lakes.
At the close of the same year the observations were repeated by Russegger, with somewhat different results; the depression of the Dead Sea being given as 1429 feet, the sea of Tiberias 666 feet, and the consequent fall of the Jordan between the two, 763 feet. Herr von Wildenbruch repeated the observations by barometer in 1845, with the following results:--Depression of the Dead Sea 1446 feet, of the sea of Tiberias 845 feet, difference 600 feet.
He carried his observations further north, even to the source at Tell-el-Kadi,
with the following results:--At Jacob's bridge, about 2 1/2 miles from the southern extremity of Bahr Huleh,
he found the Jordan 899 feet above the Mediterranean; at the Bahr Huleh
100 feet; and at the source at Tell-el-Kadi
537 feet; thus giving a fall of 1983 feet in a direct course of 117 miles.:--the most rapid fall being between the bridge of Jacob and the sea of Tiberias, a distance of only 8 miles, in which the river falls 845 feet, or 116 feet per mile. Results so remarkable did not find easy credence, although they were further tested by a trigonometrical survey, conducted by Lieut. Symonds of the Royal Engineers, in 1841, which confirmed the barometrical observations for the Dead Sea, but were remarkably at variance with the statement for the sea of Tiberias, giving to the former a depression of 1312 feet, and to the latter of 328 feet, and a difference of level between the two of 984 feet.
The whole subject is ably treated by Mr. Petermann, in a paper read before the Geographical Society, chiefly in answer to the strictures of Dr. Robinson, in a communication made to the same society,--both of which papers were subsequently published in the journal of the society (vol. xviii. part 2, 1848).
In consequence of the observations of Dr. Robinson (Bib. Res.
vol. ii. p. 595, n. 4, and vol. iii. p. 311, n. 3), the writer in 1842 followed the course of the Jordan from the sea of Tiberias to the sea of Huleh,
and found it to be a continuous torrent, rushing down in a narrow rocky channel between almost precipitous mountains.
It is well described by Herr von Wildenbruch, who explored it in 1845, as a “continuous waterfall” (cited by Petermann, l.c.
The lower Jordan, between the sea of Tiberias and the Dead Sea, was subsequently explored by Lieut. Molyneux in 1847, and by an American expedition under Lieut. Lynch in the following year.
The following extracts from the very graphic account of Lieut. Molyneux, also contained in the number of the Royal Geographical Society's Journal (pp. 104--123) already referred to, will give the best idea of the character of this interesting river, hitherto so little known. Immediately on leaving the sea of Tiberias they found the river upwards of 100 feet broad and 4 or 5 deep; but on reaching the ruins of a bridge, about 2 miles down the stream, they found the passage obstructed by the ruins, and their difficulties commenced; for seven hours they scarcely ever had sufficient water to swim the boat for 100 yards together.
In many places the river is split into a number of small streams, and consequently without much water in any of them. Occasionally the boat had to be carried upwards of 100 yards over rocks and through thorny bushes; and in some places they had high, steep, sandy cliffs all along the banks of the river.
In other places the boat had to be carried on the backs of the camels, the stream being quite impracticable. The Ghor,
or great valley of the Jordan, is about 8 or 9 miles broad at its upper end; and this space is anything but flat--nothing but a continuation of bare hills, with yellow dried--up weeds, which look when distant like corn stubbles.
These hills, however, sink into insignificance when compared to the ranges of the mountains which enclose the Ghor;
and it is therefore only by comparison that this part of the Ghor
is entitled to be called a valley. Within this broader valley is a smaller one on a lower level, through which the river runs; and its winding course, which is marked by luxurious vegetation, resembles a gigantic serpent twisting down the valley. So tortuous is its course, that it would be quite impossible to give any account of its various turnings in its way from the lake of Tiberias to the Dead Sea.
A little above Beisan
the stream is spanned by an old curiously formed bridge of three arches, still in use, and here the Ghor
begins to wear a much better and more fertile aspect.
It appears to be composed of two different platforms; the upper one on either side projects from the foot of the hills, which form the great valley, and is tolerably level, but barren and uncultivated.
It then falls away in the form of rounded sand-hills, or whitish perpendicular cliffs, varying from 150 to 200 feet in height, to the lower plain, which should more properly be called the valley of the Jordan.
The river here and there washes the foot of the cliffs which enclose this smaller valley, but generally it winds in the most [p. 2.521]
tortuous manner between them.
In many places these cliffs are like walls. About this part of the Jordan the lower plain might be perhaps 1 1/2 or 2 miles broad, and so full of the most rank and luxuriant vegetation, like a jungle, that in a few spots only can anything approach its banks. Below Beisan
the higher terraces on either side begin to close in, and to narrow the fertile space below; the hills become irregular and only partly cultivated ; and by degrees the whole Ghor
resumes its original form.
The zigzag course of the river is still prettily marked by lines of green foliage on its banks, as it veers from the cliffs on one side to those on the other.
This general character of the river and of the Ghor
is continued to the Dead Sea, the mountains on either side of the upper valley approaching or receding, and the river winding in the lower valley between bare cliffs of soft limestone, in some places not less than 300 or 400 feet high, having many shallows and some large falls. The American expedition added little to the information contained in the paper of our enterprising countryman, who only survived his exploit one month. Lieut. Lynch's report, however, fully confirms all Lieut. Molyneux's observations; and he sums up the results of the survey in the following sentence:--“The great secret of the depression between lake Tiberias and the Dead Sea is solved by the tortuous course of the Jordan.
In a space of 60 miles of latitude and 4 or 5 miles of longitude, the Jordan traverses at least 200 miles. . . . We have plunged down twenty-seven threatening rapids, besides a great many of lesser magnitude.” (Lynch, Narrative of the United States' Expedition to the Jordan, &c.,
It is satisfactory also to find that the trigonometrical survey of the officers attached to the American expedition confirms the results arrived at by Lieut. Symonds. (Dr. Robinson, Theological Review
for 1848, pp. 764--768.)
It is obvious that these phaenomena have an important bearing on the historical notices of the river; and it is curious to observe (as Mr. Petermann has remarked), in examining the results of De Bertou, Russegger, and Von Wildenbruch, that the depression both of the Dead Sea and of the lake of Tiberias increases in a chronological order (with only one exception); which may perhaps indicate that a continual change is going on in the level of the entire Ghor,
especially as it is well proved that the whole Jordan valley, with its lakes, not only has been but still is subject to volcanic action; as Russegger has remarked that the mountains between Jerusalem and the Jordan, in the valley of the Jordan itself, and those around the Dead Sea, bear unequivocal evidence of volcanic agency, such as disruptions, upheaving, faults, &c. &c.,--proofs of which agency are still notorious in continual earthquakes, hotsprings, and formations of asphalt.
One of the earliest historical facts connected with this river is its periodical overflow during the season of barley-harvest (Josh.
3.15; 1 Chron.
12.5; see Blunt's Undesigned Coincidences,
pp. 113, 114); and allusion is made to this fact after the captivity. (Ecclus.
24.26; Aristeus, Epist. ad Philocratem.
) The river in the vicinity of Jericho was visited by the writer at all seasons of the year, but he never witnessed an overflow, nor were the Bedouins who inhabit its banks acquainted with the phaenomenon. The American expedition went down the river in the month of April, and were off Jericho at Easter, yet they witnessed nothing of the kind, though Lieut. Lynch remarks, “the river is in the latter stage of a freshet; a few weeks earlier or later, and passage would have been impracticable.” Considerably further north, however, not far below Beisan,
Lieut. Molyneux remarked “a quantity of deposit in the plain of the Jordan, and the marks of water in various places at a distance from the river, from which it was evident that the Jordan widely overflows its banks; and the sheikh informed him that in winter it is occasionally half a mile across; which accounts for the luxuriant vegetation in this part of the Ghor
It would appear from this that the subsidence of the basin of the Dead Sea and the more rapid fall of the Jordan consequent upon it, which has also cut out for it a deeper channel, has prevented the overflow except in those parts where the fall is not so rapid.
Another change may also be accounted for in the same manner. “The fords of the Jordan” were once few and far between, as is evident from the historical notices. (Josh.
3.28, 7.24, 12.5.) But Lieut. Molyneux says of the upper part of its course, “I am within the mark when I say that there are many hundreds of places where we might have walked across, without wetting our feet, on the large rocks and stones” (p. 115).
The thick jungle on the banks of the river was formerly a covert for wild beasts, from which they were dislodged by the periodical overflow of the river; and “the lion coming up from the swelling of Jordan” is a familiar figure in the prophet Jeremiah (49.19, 1. 44).
It was supposed until very recently that not only the lion but all other wild beasts were extinct in Palestine, or that the wild boar was the sole occupant of the jungle ; but the seamen in company with Lieut. Molyneux reported having seen “two tigers and a boar” in their passage down the stream (p. 118).
The principal tributaries of the Jordan join it from the east; the most considerable are the Yarmuk
] and the Zerka
This river is principally noted in sacred history for the miraculous passage of the children of Israel under Joshua (iii.),--the miracle was repeated twice afterwards in the passage of Elijall and Elisha (2 Kings,
2.8, 14),--and for the baptism of our Lord (St. Matt.
It is honoured with scanty notice by the classical geographers. Strabo reckons it the largest river of Syria (xvi. p. 755). Pliny is somewhat more communicative.
He speaks of Paneas as its source, consistently with Josephus. “Jordanis amnis oritur è fonte Paneade, qui nomen dedit Caesareae : amnis amoenus, et quatenus locorum situs patitur ambitiosus, accolisque se praebens, velut invitus. Asphaltiden lacum dirum natura petit, a quo postremo ebibitur, aquasque laudatas perdit pestilentibus mistas. Ergo ubi prima convallium fait occasio in lacum se fundit, quem plures Genesaram vocant, etc.” (Hist. Nat.
5.15.) Tacitus, though more brief, is still more accurate, as he notices the Bahr. Huleh
as well as the sea of Tiberias. “Nec Jordanes pelago accipitur: sed unum atque alterum lacum, integer perfluit: tertio retinetur.” (Hist.
The ancient name for El-Ghor
and the modern native name of the Jordan is Es-Shiriah.
(Karl von Raumer, Palästina,
2nd ed., 1850, pp. 48--54, 449--452; Ritter, Erdkunde, &c. West Asien,
vol. 15, pp. 181--556, A.D. Der [p. 2.522] Jordan und die Beschiffung des Todten Meeres, ein Vortrag, &c.
The original documents, from which these are chiefly compiled, are:—Comte de Bertou, in the Bulletin de la Soc. Géog. de Paris,
tom. 12.1839, pp. 166, &c., with chart; Russegger, Reisen in Europa, Asien, Afrika,
&c., vol. iii. Stuttgart, 1847, pp. 102–109, 132–134; Herr von Wildenbruch, Monatsberichte de Gesellschaft für Erdkunde zu Berlin,
IV. THE DEAD SEA.
Of all the natural phaenomena of Palestine, the Dead Sea is that which has most attracted the notice of geographers and naturalists both in ancient and modern times, as exhibiting peculiarities and suggesting questions of great interest in a geological point of view.
—The earliest allusion to this sea, which, according to the prevailing theory, refers to its original formation, is found in the book of Genesis (14.3), where it is identified with the vale “of Siddim,” and denominated “the Salt Sea” (ἡ θάλασσα τῶν ἁλῶν,
LXX.); comp. Numb. 34.3, 12); which Salt Sea is elsewhere identified with “the sea of the plain” (Deut.
3.17, 4.49; Josh.
qqiii. 16, 12.3), θάλασσα ῎αραβα,
LXX.; called by the prophets Joel (2.20), Zachariah (14.8), and Ezekiel (47.18), the “former,” or “eastern sea.” Its common name among the classical authors, first found in Diodorus Siculus (inf. cit.
), and adopted by Josephus, is “Asphaltitis Lacus” (ἀσφαλτῖτις λίμνη
), or simply ἡ ᾿ασφαλτ̂τις.
The name by which it is best known among Europeans has the authority of Justin (36.3.6
) and Pausanias (5.7.4
), who call it θάλασσα ἡ νεκρά,
“Mortuum Mare.” Its modern native name is Bahr Lût, “the Sea of Lot,”—therein perpetuating the memorial of the catastrophe to which it may owe its formation, or by which it is certain that its features were considerably altered and modified.
The name assigned it by Strabo must be referred to a slip of the author; for it is too much to assume with Falconer that the geographer had written σοδόμης λίμνη
when all the copies read σερβωνὶς λ.
So copious are the modern notices of this remarkable inland sea, that it would be vain to attempt even an abridgment of them; and the necessity for doing so is in great measure superseded by the late successful surveying expedition, conducted by Lieut. Lynch of the American navy, whose published narrative has set at rest many questions connected with its physical formation.
The principal ancient writers will be quoted in detail and in chronological order, that it may appear how far they have borrowed one from another, or may be regarded as independent witnesses. Their notices will then be substantiated or controverted by modern writers.
The questions relating to the formation of the sea, its volcanic origin, and the other igneous phaenomena in the country, will be reserved for another chapter.
The earliest extant writer who has noticed at any length the marvels of the Dead Sea, is Diodorus Siculus (B. C. 45), who has twice described it; first in his geographical survey of the country (2.48), and subsequently in his account of the expedition of Demetrius against the Nabataei (19.98), to which last account a few particulars are added, which were omitted in the earlier book.
"We ought not to pass over the character of this lake (Asphaltites) unmentioned.
It is situated in the midst of the satrapy of Idumaea, in length ex- tending about 500 stadia, and in breadth about 60. Its water is very salt, and of an extremely noxious smell, so that neither fish nor any of the other ordinary marine animals can live in it: and although great rivers remarkable for their sweetness flow into it, yet by its smell it counteracts their effect. From the centre of it there rises every year a large mass of solid bitumen, sometimes more than 3 plethra in size, sometimes a little less than one plethrum.1
For this reason the neighbouring barbarians usually call the greater, bull, and the lesser, calf.
The bitumen floating on the surface of the water appears at a distance like an island.
The time of the rising of the bitumen is known about twenty days before it takes place; for around the lake to the distance of several stadia the smell of the bitumen spreads with a noxious air, and all the silver, gold, and brass in the neighbourhood loses its proper colour; which, however, returns again as soon as all the bitumen is ejected.
The fire which burns beneath the ground and the stench render the inhabitants of the neighbouring country sickly and very short-lived.
It is nevertheless well fitted for the cultivation of palms, wherever it is traversed by serviceable rivers or fountains available for the purposes of irrigation.
In a neighbouring valley grows the plant called balsam, which yields an abundant income, as the plant grows in no other part of the world, and it is much used by physicians as a medicine.
“The bitumen which rises to the surface is carried off by the inhabitants of both sides of the lake, who are hostilely inclined towards each other. They carry away the bitumen in a singular manner without boats: they construct large rafts of reeds, which they launch into the lake. Upon each of these not more than three can sit, two of whom row with oars attached to the raft, and the third, armed with a bow, drives off those who are sailing up from the opposite side, or who venture to use violence; but when they come near to the bitumen they leap on it with axes in their hands, and, cutting it like soft stone, they lade their raft, and then return. If the raft break and any one fall off, even though he may be unable to swim, he does not sink as in other water, but floats as well as one who could swim; for this water naturally supports any weight capable of expansion, or which contains air, but not solid substances, which have a density like that of gold, silver, and lead, and the like: but even these sink much more slowly in this water than they would if they were thrown into any other lake.
This source of wealth the barbarians possess, and they transport it into Egypt and there sell it for the purposes of embalming the dead; for unless this bitumen is mixed with the other spices, the bodies will not long remain undecayed.”
It has been mentioned that Strabo (cir. A. D. 14) describes it under the name of Sirbonis Lacus, a palpable confusion, as regards the name, with the salt lake on the eastern confines of Egypt [SIRBONIS LACUS], as is evident from his statement that it stretched along the sea-coast, as well as from the length which he assigns it, corresponding as it does with the 200 stadia given by Diodorus Siculus as the length of the true Sirbonis Lacus, which that author properly places between Coelesyria and [p. 2.523]
The mistake is the more unaccountable, as he not only describes the Dead Sea in a manner which shows that he was thoroughly acquainted with its peculiarities, but also cites the opinions of more ancient authors, who had described and attempted to explain its phaenomena. His notice is peculiarly interesting from the accounts which he gives of the formation of the bitumen, and the other indications which he mentions in the vicinity of the operation of volcanic agency, of which more will be said in the following chapter.
The native traditions of the catastrophe of the cities of the plain, and the still existing monuments of their overthrow, are facts not mentioned by the earlier historian.
“The lake Sirbonis is of great extent: some have stated its circumference at 1000 stadia; it stretches along near the sea-coast, in length a little more than 200 stadia, deep, and with exceedingly heavy water, so that it is not necessary to swim, but one who advances into it up to his waist is immediately borne up.
It is full of asphalt. which it vomits up at uncertain seasons from the midst of the depth, together with bubbles like those of boiling water, and the surface, curving itself, assumes the appearance of a crest. Together with the asphalt there rises much soot, smoky, and invisible to the sight, by which brass, silver, and everything shining, even gold, is tarnished; and by the tarnishing of their vessels the inhabitants of the neighbourhood know the time when the asphalt begins to rise, and make preparations for collecting it by constructing rafts of reeds. Now the asphalt is the soil of the earth melted by heat, and bubbling up, and again changed into a solid mass by cold water, such as that of the lake, so that it requires to be cut; it then floats on the surface by reason of the nature of the water, which, as I have said, is such that a person who goes into it need not swim, and indeed cannot sink, but is supported by the water.
The people then sail up on the rafts, and cut and carry off as much as they can of the asphalt: this is what takes place. But Posidonius states that they being sorcerers use certain incantations, and consolidate the asphalt by pouring over it urine and other foul liquids, and then pressing them out.
After this they cut it; unless perhaps urine has the same properties as in the bladder of those who suffer from stone. For gold-solder (χρυσοκόλλα,
borax) is made with the urine of boys.
In the midst of the lake the phaenomenon may reasonably take place, because the source of the fire, and that of the asphalt, as well as the principal quantities of it, are in the middle; and the eruption is uncertain, because the movements of fire have no order known to us, as is that of many other gases (πνεύματα
This also takes place in Apollonia of Epeirus.
There are many other evidences also of the existence of fire beneath the ground; for several rough burnt rocks are shown near Moasas [MASADA], and caves in several places, and earth formed of ashes, and drops of pitch distilling from tire rocks, and boiling streams, with an unpleasant odour perceptible from a distance, and houses overthrown in every direction, so as to give probability to the legends of the natives, that formerly thirteen cities stood on this spot, of the principal of which, namely, Sodoma, ruins still remain about 60 stadia in circumference; that the lake was formed by earthquakes and the ebullition of fire, and hot water impregnated with bitumen and sulphur; that the rocks took fire; and that some of the cities were swallowed up, and others were de- serted by those of their inhabitants who could escape. Eratosthenes gives a different account, namely, that the country being marshy, the greater part of it was covered like the sea by the bursting out of the waters. Moreover, in the territory of Gadara, there is some pernicious lake-water, which when the cattle drink, they lose their hair, hoofs, and horns.
At the place named Tarichiae the lake affords excellent salt fish; it also produces fruit-trees, resembling apple-trees. The Egyptians use the asphalt for embalming the dead.” (Lib. xvi. pp. 763, 764.)
Another confusion must be remarked at the close of this passage, where Strabo evidently places Tarichiae on the Dead Sea, whereas it is situated on the shores of the sea of Tiberias.
The next writer is the Jewish historian, who adds indeed little to the accurate information conveyed by his predecessors; but his account is evidently independent of the former, and states a few facts which will be of service in the sequel. Josephus wrote about A. D. 71.
“It is worth while to describe the character of the lake Asphaltites, which is salt and unproductive, as I mentioned, and of such buoyancy that it sustains even the heaviest substances thrown into it, and that even one who endeavours to sink in it cannot easily do so. For Vespasian, having come to examine it, ordered some persons who could not swim to be bound with their hands behind their backs, and to be cast into the deep; and it happened that all of them floated on the surface as if they were borne up by the force of a blast.
The changes of its colour also are remarkable; for thrice every day it changes its appearance, and reflects different colours from the rays of the sun It also emits in many places black masses of bitumen, which float on the surface, somewhat resembling headless bulls in appearance and size The workmen who live by the lake row out, and, laying hold of the solid masses, drag them into their boats; but when they have filled them they do not find it easy to cut the bitumen, for, by reason of its tenacity, the boat adheres to the mass until it is detached by means of the menstruous blood of women or urine, to which alone it yields.
It is used not only for shipbuilding but also for medicinal purposes: it is mixed with several drugs.
The length of this lake is 580 stadia, as it extends as far as Zoara of Arabia: its breadth is 150 stadia. On the borders of the lake lies the territory of Sodom, formerly a flourishing country, both on account of the abundance of its produce and the number of its cities; now it is all an arid waste.
It is said that it was destroyed by lightning, on account of the wickedness of its inhabitants.
The traces of the heavenly fire and the ruins of five cities may still be seen; and ashes are found even in the fruits, which are of an appearance resembling the edible kinds, but which, when plucked, turn into smoke and ashes. Such confirmation do the legends concerning the land of Sodom receive from actual observation.” (Joseph. B. J.
The Dead Sea and its marvels was a subject suited to the inquiring spirit of the naturalist; and Pliny's account, though brief, is remarkably clear and accurate, except that, in common with all writers, he greatly overstates its size.
He wrote probably too soon (A. D. 74) after Josephus to avail himself of his account and may, therefore, be regarded as an independent authority.
“This lake produces nothing but bitumen, from [p. 2.524]
which circumstance its name is derived.
It receives no animal body; bulls and camels float in it; and this is the origin of the report that nothing sinks in it.
In length it exceeds 100 miles; its greatest breadth is 25 miles, its least 6. On the east of it lies Arabia Nomadum, on the south Macherûs, formerly the second fortress of Judaea after Jerusalem. On the same side there is situated a hot-spring, possessing medicinal properties, named Callirrhoë, indicating by its name the virtues of its waters.” (Hist Nat.
The last author who will be here cited is Tacitus, whose account may be given in the original.
He appears in this, as in other passages, to have drawn largely on Josephus, but had certainly consulted other writers.
He wrote A. D. 97.
“Lacus immense ambitu, specie maris, sapore corruptior, gravitate odoris accolis pestifer, neque vento impellitur, neque piscesaut suetas aquis volucres patitur. Incertae undae: superjacta, ut solido, ferunt: periti imperitique nandi perinde attolluntur. Certo anni, bitumen egerit: cujus legendi usum, ut ceteras artes, experientia docuit. Ater suapte natureâ liquor, et sparsoaceto concretus, innatat: hunc manu captum, quibus ea cura, in summa navis trahunt. Inde, nullo juvante, influit, oneratque, donec abscindas: nec abscindere aere ferrove possis: fugit cruorem vestemque infectam sanguine, quo feminae per menses exsolvuntur: sic veteres auctores. Sed gnari locorum tradunt, undantes bitumine moles pelli, manuque trahi ad littus: mox, ubi vapore terrae, solis inaruerint securibus cuneisque, ut trabes aut saxa, discindi. Haud procul inde campi, quos ferunt olim uberes, magnisque urbibus habitatos, fulminum jactu arsisse: et manere vestigia, terramque ipsam specie torridam, vim frugiferam perdidisse. Nam cuncta sponte edita, aut manu sata, sive herba tenus aut flore, seu solitam in speciem adolevere, atra et inania velut in cinerem vanescunt. Ego sicut inclytas quondam urbes igne coelesti flagrasse concesserim, ita halitu lacus infici terram, corrumpi superfusum spiritum, eoque foetus segetum et autumni putrescere reor, solo coeloque juxta gravi.
” Hist. 5.6.
This sea is subsequently noticed by Galen (A. D. 164) and Pausanias (cir. A. D. 174), but their accounts are evidently borrowed from some of those above cited from Greek, Jewish, and Latin writers; in illustration of whose statements reference will now be made to modern travellers, who have had better opportunities of testing the truth than were presented to them; and it will appear that those statements, even in their most marvellous particulars, are wonderfully trustworthy; and that the hypotheses by which they endeavoured to account for the phenomena of this extraordinary lake are confirmed by the investigations of modern science.
1. General Remarks.
It is deeply to be regretted that the results arrived at by the American exploring expedition, under Lieut. Lynch, have been given to the world only in the loose, unsystematic and thoroughly unsatisfactory notes scattered through the personal narrative published by that officer; and that his official report to his government has not been made available for scientific purposes.
The few meagre facts worth chronicling have been extracted in a number of the Bibliotheca Sacra, from which they are here copied. (Vol. v. p. 767, and vol. vii. p. 396.)
The distance in a straight line from the fountain 'Ain-el-Feshkhah, on the west, directly across to the eastern shore, was nearly 8 statute .miles.
The soundings gave 696 feet as the greatest depth. Another line was run diagonally from the same point to the south-east, to a chasm forming the outlet of the hot springs of Callirrhoë.
The bottom of the northern half of the sea is almost an entire plain. Its meridional lines at a short distance from the shore scarce vary in depth.
The deepest soundings thus far are 188 fathoms, or 1128 feet. Near the shore the bottom is generally an incrustation of salt; but the intermediate one is soft, with many rectangular crystals, mostly cubes, of pure salt.
The southern half of the sea is as shallow as the northern one is deep, and for about one-fourth of its entire length the depth does not exceed 3 fathoms or 18 feet. Its southern bed presented no crystals, but the shores are lined with incrustations of salt. Thus, then, the bottom of the Dead Sea forms two submerged plains, an elevated and a depressed one.
The first, its southern part, of slimy mud covered by a shallow bay: the last, its northern and largest portion, of mud with incrustations and rectangular crystals of salt, at a great depth, with a narrow ravine running through it, corresponding with the bed of the river Jordan at one extremity and the Wady-el-Jeib at the other.
The opposite shores of the peninsula and the west coast present evident marks of disruption.
It will have been seen that the ancient authorities differ widely as to the size of the sea: Diodorus stating it at 500 stadia by 60; Pliny at 100 miles in length, by 25 miles in its widest, and 6 miles in its narrowest part; Josepbus at 280 stadia by 150. Strabo's measure evidently belongs to the Sirbonis Lacus, with which he confounded the Dead Sea, and is copied from Diodorus's description of that lake. Of these measures the earliest, viz. that of Diodorus, comes nearest to modern measurement. We have seen that a straight line from 'Ain-el-Feshkhah to the east shore measured nearly 8 statute miles: from 'Ain Jidy directly across to the mouth of the Arnon the distance was about 9 statute miles.
The length of the sea does not seem to have been measured by the Americans, but the near agreement of their actual measurement of the width with the computation of Dr. Robinson may give credit to his estimate of the length also. His observations resulted in fixing the breadth of the sea at 'Ain Jidy at about 9 geographical miles, and the length about 39,—'Ain Jidy being situated nearly at the middle point of the western coast. (Bib. Res.
vol. ii. p. 217.)
3. Saltness and Specific Gravity.
Its excessive saltness, noticed by Josephus, is attested by all travellers; and is indicated by the presence of crystals of salt in profusion over the bed of the sea,—“at one time Stellwagen's lead brought up nothing but crystals,”—as well as by the district of rock—salt at the south-west quarter of the sea, where the American officers discovered “a lofty, round pillar, standing detached from the general mass, composed of solid salt, capped with carbonate of lime, cylindrical in front and pyramidal behind, about 40 feet high, resting on a kind of oval pedestal from 40 to 60 feet above the level of the sea.” (Lynch, Expedition,
In the southern bay of the sea, where the water encroaches more or less according to the season, it dries off into shallows and small pools, which in the end deposit a salt as fine and as well bleached, in some instances, as that in regular salt-pans.
In this part, where the salt water stagnates and evaporates, Irby and Mangles “found several persons engaged in [p. 2.525]
peeling off a solid surface of salt, several inches in thickness; they were collecting it and loading it on asses.” (Travels,
It has been sometimes asserted that the water is so saturated with salt that salt cannot be dissolved in it.
The experi- ment was tried by Lieut. Lynch with the following result:—“Tried the relative density of the water of this sea and of the Atlantic—distilled water being as 1.
The water of the Atlantic was 1.02, that of this sea 1.13; the last dissolved 1/11, the water of the Atlantic 1/6, and distilled water 5/17, of its weight of salt.
The boats were found to draw 1 inch less water when afloat upon this sea than in the river.” (Lynch, p. 377.)
The experiment tried by Vespasian has been repeated by nearly all tra- vellers, of course with the same result.
The density and buoyancy of the waters is such that it is im- possible to sink in it. “A muscular man floated nearly breast high, without the least exertion.” Several analyses of the waters have been made with various results, to be accounted for, as Dr. Robinson supposes, by the various states of the sea at dif- ferent seasons; for its body of water is increased to the height of 7 feet or more in the rainy season (Lynch, p. 289), or, according to Dr. Robinson, 10 or 15 feet; for lie found traces of its high-water mark, at the south end, in the month of May, more than an hour south of its limit at that time.
The following are the results of the analyses, the standard of comparison for the specific gravity being distilled water at 1000:—
||Dr. Marset, 1807.
||Pf. Gmelin, l826.
|Chloride of Calcium
|Bromide of Magnesium
|Chloride of Potassium
|Sulphate of Lime
(Robinson, Bib. Res.
ii. pp. 224,225.)
Russegger says:—“The excessive saltness of the Dead Sea is easily accounted for by the washing down of the numerous and extensive salt-beds, which are peculiar to the formation of the basin, in which also are found bituminous rocks in sufficient quantity to enable us, without doing violence to science, to explain several chemical and physical peculiarities of this lake-water by the continual contact of these rocks with water strongly impregnated with salt.” (Reisen,
The enormous quantity of water brought down by the Jordan, particularly in the rainy season, and by the other streams around the Dead Sea, some of which are very considerable, —as e. g. the Arnon was found to be 82 feet wide and 4 feet deep at its mouth,—is all carried off by evaporation; and, when the small extent of the sea is considered, it is clear that the decomposition of its waters must be very rapid.
The ancient writers speak of a noxious smell, of bubbles like those of boiling water, of much soot, and an invisible vapour, tarnishing all metals, and deleterious to the inhabitants; and its change of aspect thrice a day may also be ascribed to the same cause. Now it is remarkable that nearly all these phaenomena have been noticed by recent explorers, and the single one which is not confirmed is accounted for in a manner which must exempt the ancient geographers from the charge of misrepresentation or exaggeration; and it may well be believed that the enormous chemical processes, perpetually going forward in the depths of the sea, may occasionally produce effects upon the surface which have not been chronicled by any modern traveller. Lieut. Lynch, while encamped near Engedi, remarked, “a strong smell of sulphuretted hydrogen,” though there are no thermal springs in this vicinity; and again,“a foetid sulphureous odour in the night;”—“the north wind, quite fresh, and accompanied with a smell of sulphur.” Lieut. Molyneux detected the same disagreeable smell the night he spent upon the sea, which he ascribed to the water (Journal of the R. Geog. Soc.
vol. xviii. p. 127, 1848.) But Lieut. Lynch states that, “although the water was greasy, acrid, and disagreeable, it was perfectly inodorous.” He is therefore inclined to attribute the noxious smell to the foetid springs and marshes along the shores of the sea, increased, perhaps, by exhalations from stagnant pools in the flat plain which bounds it to the north. (Expedition,
pp. 292, 294, 296, 300.) The “pale-blue misty appearance over the sea.” “the air over the sea, very misty,” and “the two extremities of the sea misty, with constant evaporation” (p. 294), are other notes indicating the unnatural state of the atmosphere surcharged with the gases disengaged by the process. On a stormy night “the surface of the sea was one wide sheet of phosphorescent foam, so that a dark object could have been discerned at a great distance” (p. 281; comp. Molyneux, l.c.
A kind of mirage, noticed by many travellers, may be attributed to the same cause. “A thin haze-like vapour over the southern sea:—appearance of an island between the two shores” (p. 288).
This phaenomenon is more fully noticed by Irby and Mangles: “This evening, at sunset, we were deceived by a dark shade on the sea, which assumed so exactly the appearance of an island that we entertained no doubt regarding it, even after looking through a telescope.
It is not the only time that such a phaenomenon has presented itself to us; in two instances, looking up the sea from its southern extremity, we saw it apparently closed by a low, dark line, like a bar of sand to the northward; and, on a third occasion, two small islands seemed to present themselves between a long sharp promontory and the western shore. We were unable to account for these appearances, but felt little doubt that they are the same that deceived Mr. Seetzen into the supposition that he had discovered an island of some extent, which we have had opportunity of ascertaining, beyond all doubt, does not exist.
It is not absolutely impossible, however, that he may have seen one of those temporary islands of bitumen, which Pliny describes as being several acres in extent.” (Travels,
p. 141.) Two effects of the heavy atmosphere of the sea remain to be noticed: one, the irresistible feeling of drowsiness which it induced in all who navigated it; the other, confirming, in a remarkable manner, the ancient testimonies, above cited, that the water appeared to be destructive to everything it touched, particularly metals; viz. that “everything in the boat was covered with a nasty slimy substance, iron dreadfully corroded, and looked as if covered with coal-tar.” (Molyneux, l.c.
p. 128.) The “bubbles like those of boiling water,” mentioned by Strabo, may be identified with the curious broad strip of foam, lying in a straight line nearly north and south throughout the whole length of the sea, which [p. 2.526]
seemed to be constantly bubbling and in motion. (Molyneux, p. 129; Lynch, pp. 288, 289.) And even the marvellous fact mentioned by Josephus, of the sea changing its colour three times a day, may derive some countenance from testimonies already cited,, but more especially from the following notice of Lieut. Lynch:--“At one time, to-day, the sea assumed an aspect peculiarly sombre. . . .
The great evaporation enveloped it in a thin, transparent vapour, its purple tinge contrasting strangely with the extraordinary colour of the sea beneath, and, where they blended in the distance, giving it the appearance of smoke from burning sulphur.
It seemed a vast caldron of metal, fused but motionless” (p. 324): “in the forenoon it had looked like a sheet of foam.” In the afternoon, of the same day, it “verified the resemblance which it has been said to bear to molten lead;” “at night it had the exact hue of absinthe” (p. 276).
The earlier testimony of Prince Radzivil may also be adduced, who, after citing Josephus, adds, that he had had ocular proof of the fact: “Nam mane habebat aquam nigricantem; meridie, sole intenso (sunt enim calores hic maximi) instar panni fit caerulea: ante occasum, ubi vis caloris remittit, tanquam limo permixta, modice rubet, vel potius flavescit.” (Ierosolymitana Peregrinatio,
A familiarity acquired by three weeks' diligent examination did not remove the feeling of awe inspired by its marvels: “So sudden are the changes of the weather, and so different the aspects it presents, as at times to seem as if we were in a world of enchantments. We are alternately beside and upon the brink and the surface of a huge and sometimes seething caldron.” (Lieut. Lynch, Bib, Sacr.
vol. v. p. 768.)
It is to be regretted that the American expedition has thrown no new light on the production of the asphalt for which this sea was once so famous. Along almost the whole of the west coast numerous fragments of this substance are found among the pebbles, but there is no record of any considerable masses or fields of it being seen by any European travellers in modern times; unless, as is suggested by Irby and Mangles, the imaginary islands may be so regarded.
But it is curious that the traditions of the natives still confirm the notice of Strabo that drops of pitch are distilled from rocks on the eastern shore;--a story repeated by various Arab sheikhs to Seetzen, Burckhardt, and Robinson, the last of whom also mentions the fact of their belief that the large masses of bitumen appear only after earthquakes. Thus, after the earthquake of 1834, a large quantity was thrown upon the shore near the south-western part of the sea, of which one tribe brought about 60 kuntârs into market (each kuntâr == 98 lbs.); and that after the earthquake of Jan. 1st, 1837, a large mass of bitumen (one said like an island, another like a house) was discovered floating on the sea, and was driven aground on the west side, not far to the north of Usdum.
The Arabs swam off to it, and cut it up with axes so as to bring it ashore; as Tacitus tells us was done in his times, though he mentions what he considered the less probable account of its flowing as a black liquid into the ships in a perpetual stream. (Robinson, Bib. Res.
vol. ii. pp. 228--231.)
That the water of this sea is destructive of all animal life, as all the ancients held, seems sufficiently proved; for although shells have been found on the shore, they have been evidently washed down by the Jordan or other fresh water streams, and their inmates destroyed by the sea water ; while the birds that have been occasionally seen on its surface may be regarded as denizens of those same streams: and no animal life has been discovered in its waters.
V. VOLCANIC PHAENOMENA.
Something must now be said of the various theories by which it has been attempted to account for the wonderful phaenomena above recorded of the depression of the Ghor,
or Valley of the Jordan ; and of the formation and physical constitution of the Dead Sea. All theories suppose volcanic agency: and it is worthy of observation that, while the earliest historical and poetical records of the country bear witness to a familiarity with such phaenomena, the existing geological monuments confirm the testimony. Independently of the igneous agency by which the cities of the plain were destroyed, much of the descriptive imagery of the psalmists and prophets is borrowed from volcanos and earthquakes ; while there are evidences of an earthquake of very great and probably destructive violence during the reign of Uzziah, king of Judah, which formed a kind of era in the history of the country, being alluded to after an interval of 300 years. (Amos,
The existing phaenomena may be briefly mentioned, beginning with one recently discovered by the American explorers, of whom “Mr. Aulick reports a volcanic formation on the east shore, and brought specimens of lava” (p. 280).
The mountain known as Jebel Mûsa,
at the northeast of the Dead Sea, composed entirely of black bituminous limestone, which burns like coal, has not been investigated so fully as it deserves: but the basaltic columns in the vicinity of the sea of Tiberias have been frequently noticed by travellers.
The thermal fountains of Callirrhoë, Gadara, and Tiberias complete the chain of evidence, and render it highly probable that the extinct volcano noticed by Dr. Robinson at a short distance north-west of Safed,
the Frank Mountain, and others, may have been active during the historical period, and furnished the poets and prophets with the sublime imagery of the Bible. Having then discovered the agent of the geological changes that the country has passed through, it may be interesting to hear the opinion of two eminent and scientific writers on the great problem under consideration.
Russegger, who has himself carefully examined the phenomena of the country and tested the observations of preceding travellers, thus sums up the results (Reisen,
“From its exit from the lake of Tiberias to its entrance into the Dead Sea the Jordan has a fall of 716 Paris feet and thus lies at the latter place 1341 Paris feet below the level of the Mediterranean sea.
At the southern extremity of the Dead Sea lie the marshy lowlands of Wady-el-Ghor,
the commencement of Wady-el-Araba,
and apparently very little higher than the Dead Sea itself.
These lowlands join Wady-el-Araba,
the bed of which rises gently to the watershed which separates the water system of the Dead Sea from that of the Red Sea.
As the watershed of Wady-el-Araba
is apparently of no considerable height above the level of the sea, the length of this remarkable depression may be reckoned from the northern extremity of the plain El-Batiheh
(to the north of the sea of Tiberias) to this watershed, a distance of full three degrees. All the rock of this region consists of normal formations, amongst which those of the Jura and [p. 2.527]
chalk period prevail.
It is in the northern part of this country alone that volcanic formations are found in considerable quantities. Nevertheless much of the land in which volcanic rocks are not found bears evident marks of frequent volcanic action, such as hot-springs; the crater-like depressions, such as the basin of Tiberias, and that of the Dead Sea, with its basaltic rocks; the frequent and visible disturbances of the strata of the normal rocks, the numerous crevices, and especially the frequent and violent earth-quakes.
The line of earthquakes in Syria includes Hebron, Jerusalem, Nablûs,
Tiberias, Safed, Baalbek,
Aleppo, from thence takes a direction from south-west to north-east, follows the direction of the central chain of Syria, runs parallel to that of the valley of the Jordan, and has its termination northwards, in the volcanic country on the slope of Taurus (Giaur Dagh
), and southwards in the mountain land of Arabia Petraea.
At several places branches of this great volcanic crevice appear to stretch as far as the sea, and to touch Jaffa, Acre, Beirût,
Antioch,--unless,indeed, there be a second crevice, parallel to the first, running along the coast, and connecting the above places. I am of opinion that such is the case, and that there exists also a third crevice, coinciding with the direction of the valley of the Jordan, and united to the principal crevice above mentioned at its northern extremity.
This supposition will account for the depression of the valley of the Jordan.
At the time of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah the surface of the crevice opened, and the great depression of the ground from Jebel-es-Sheich
to the watershed in Wady-el-Araba
The difference of the resistance arising from local circumstances, the volcanic eruptions connected with this phaenomenon, the local form of the land, and the different depths of the chasm then formed, caused a more or less extensive depression, and created along the chasm crater-like hollows, some of extraordinary depth, as the basin of Tiberias and that of the Dead Sea.
These hollows, as is usual in such cases, became filled with water, and formed a system of lakes. Next the waters from the sides of Jebel-es-Sheich
formed the principal stream of Jordan connecting these lakes, having overflowed them successively.
This however was not the case with the Dead Sea.
The watershed of Wady-el-Araba
is probably much more ancient than the depression ; and as the Red Sea, judging by the geognostic nature of Wady-el-Araba,.
formerly seems to have extended so far inland, this barrier must have existed at the time of the depression, since otherwise the Red Sea would have burst into the hollow formed by the sinking of the land. If, however, there existed before the time of the depression a regular fall throughout the whole valley to the Red Sea, it is natural to suppose that at that time the Jordan flowed into the Red Sea, and that when the depression took place its course was interrupted. However this may have been, after the depression the filling of the basin of the Dead Sea continued until it became of such superficies, that the evaporation of the water was equal to the influx.
The appearance of its shores proves that, owing either to a greater influx of water during rainy seasons, or to a less copious evaporation caused by circumstances of temperature, the sea at one time was consideraby higher than at present.”
Professor Daubeny introduces his theory with other notices of volcanic agency collected from modern books of travel. (Dr. Daubeny, A Description of active and extinct Volcanos, &c.
2nd ed. pp. 350--363.)
“If we proceed southwards, from the part of Asia Minor we have just been considering, in the direction of Palestine, we shall meet with abundant evidences of igneous action to corroborate the accounts that have been handed down to us by ancient writers, whether sacred or profane, from both which it might be inferred that volcanos were in activity even so late as to admit of their being included within the limits of authentic history.” (Nahum,
1.5, 6; Micah,
1.3, 4; Isaiah,
“The destruction of the five cities on the borders of the lake Asphaltitis or Dead Sea, can be attributed, I conceive, to nothing else than a volcanic eruption, judging both from the description, given by Moses of the manner in which it took place (Gen.
19.24, 25, 28; Deut.
29.23), and from the present aspect of the country itself.”
Volney's description of the present state of this country fully coincides with this view. (Travels in Egypt and Syria,
vol. i. pp. 281, 282.)
“The south of Syria,” he remarks,
that is, the hollow through which the Jordan flows, is a country of volcanos: the bituminous, and sulphureous sources of the lake Asphaltitis, the lava, the pumice-stones thrown upon its banks, and the hot-baths of Tabaria, demonstrate that this valley has been the seat of a subterraneous fire, which is not yet extinguished. Clouds of smoke are often observed to issue from the lake, and new crevices to be formed upon its banks. If conjectures in such cases were not too liable to error we might suspect that the whole valley has been formed only by a violent sinking of a country which formerly poured the Jordan into the Mediterranean.
It appears certain, at least, that the catastrophe of five cities destroyed by fire must have been occasioned by the eruption of a volcano then burning.
The eruptions themselves have ceased long since, but the effects which usually succeed them still continue to be felt at intervals in this country.
The coast in general is subject to earthquakes; and history notices several which have changed the face of Antioch, Laodicea, Tripoli, Berytus, Tyre, and Sidon.
In our time, in the year 1759, there happened one which caused the greatest ravages.
It is said to have destroyed in the valley of Baalbec upwards of 20,000 persons; a loss which has never been repaired. For three months the shock of it terrified the inhabitants of Lebanon so much as to make them abandon their houses and dwell under tents.
In addition to these remarks of Volney, a recent traveller, Mr. Legh (see his account of Syria, attached to Macmichael's Journey from Moscow to Constantinople
), states that, “on the south-east side of the Dead Sea, on the right of the road that leads to Kerak,
red and brown hornstone, porphyry, in the latter of which the felspar is much decomposed, syenite, breccia, and a heavy black amygdaloid, containing white specks, apparently of zeolite, are the prevailing rocks. Not far from Shobec,
where there were formerly copper mines, he observed portions of scoriae. Near the fortress of Shobec,
on the left, are two volcanic craters; on the right, one. The Roman road on the same side is formed of pieces of lava. Masses of volcanic rock also occur in the valley of Ellasar.
The western side of the valley of the Jordan, according to Russegger, is composed of Jura limestone, intersected, by numerous dykes and streams of basalt, [p. 2.528]
which, with its deep fissures, the earthquakes to which it is subject, and the saline sulphureous springs, which have a temperature of 46° cent., attest the volcanic origin of this depression.
The other substances met with in the neighbourhood are no less corroborative of the cause assigned. On the shore of the lake Mr. Maundrell found a kind of bituminous stone, which I infer from his description to be analogous to that of Radusa in Sicily.
It would appear that, even antecedently to the eruption mentioned in Scripture, bitumen-pits abounded in the plain of Siddim. Thus, in the account of the battle between the kings of Sodom and Gomnorrah and some of the neighbouring princes (Gen.
xiv.), it is said, “ And the vale of Siddim was full of slime-pits,” which a learned friend assures me ought to be translated fountains of bitumen.
But besides this volcanic eruption, which brought about the destruction of the cities, it would appear that the very plain itself in which they stood was obliterated, and that a lake was formed in its stead.
This is collected. not only from the apparent non-existence of the valley in which these cities were placed, but likewise from the express words of Scripture, where, in speaking of the wars which took place between the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah and certain adjoining tribes, it is added that the latter assembled in the vale of Siddim, which is the Salt (i. e. the Dead) Sea.
It is therefore supposed that the lake itself occupies the site of this once fertile valley, and that it was produced by the waters of the Jordan, which, being without an outlet, would fill the hollow until the surface over which they spread themselves proved sufficiently large to cause the loss arising from evaporation to be equivalent to the accessions it received from the rains and snows of the mountains in which it took its rise.
This hypothesis assumes that previously to the existence of the Dead Sea the Jordan must have had an outlet, either into the Mediterranean or into the Red Sea; and accordingly when it was discovered by Burckhardt, that there actually existed a longitudinal valley, parallel to the course which the Jordan took before it reached the Dead Sea, as well as to the larger axis of that expanse of waters, running from north to south, and extending from the southern termination of the Dead Sea to the extremity of the gulf of Akaba,
it was immediately concluded that this valley was in fact the former bed of the Jordan, which river, consequently, prior to the catastrophe by which the Dead Sea was produced, had flowed into this arm of the Red Sea.
Briefly, then, to recapitulate the train of phaenomena by which the destruction of the cities might have been brought about, I would suppose that the river Jordan, prior to that event, continued its course tranquilly through the great longitudinal valley called El-Arabah,
into the gulf of Akaba;
that a shower of stones and sand from some neighboring volcano first overwhelmed these places; and that its eruption was followed by a depression of the whole of the region, from some point apparently intermediate between the lake of Tiberias and the mountains of Lebanon, to the watershed in the parallel of 30°, which occurs in the valley of El-Arabah
above mentioned. I would thence infer that the waters of the Jordan, pent up within the valley by a range of mountains to the east and west, and a barrier of elevated table-land to the south, could find no outlet, and consequently by degrees formed a lake in its most depressed portion; which, however, did not occur at once, and therefore is not recorded by Scripture as a part of the catastrophe (see the passage in Ezekiel,
47.8, indicating, if it be interpreted literally, the gradual manner in which the Dead Sea was formed, and likewise perhaps the existence of a tradition that its waters once had their exit in the Red Sea), though reference is made in another passage to its existence in what was before the valley of Siddim.
If, as Robinson states, extensive beds of salt occur immediately round its margin, the solution of the contents of these by the waters of the lake would account for their present composition, its saltness increasing nearly to the point of saturation, owing to the gradual accession of waters from above, which, on evaporating, would leave their salt behind; whilst the bitumen might either have existed there previously as a consequence of antecedent volcanic eruptions, or have been produced by the very one to which reference is here made.
I do not, however, see what is gained by attributing the destruction of these cities, as some have preferred to do, to the combustion of these beds of bitumen, as the latter could have been inflamed by no natural agent with which we are acquainted. except the volcano itself, which therefore must in any case be supposed instrumental, and, being invoked, will alone enable us to explain all the facts recorded.
It must at the same time be confessed that much remains to be done before this or any other explanation can be received as established; and I am disappointed to find that amongst the crowds of travellers who have resorted to the Holy Land within the last twenty years, so few have paid that attention to the physical structure of the country which alone could place the subject beyond the limits of doubt and controversy.
The geologist, for instance, would still find it worth his while to search the rocks which bound the Dead Sea, in order to discover if possible whether there be any crater which might have been in a state of eruption at the period alluded to; he should ascertain whether there are any proofs of a sinking of the ground, from the existence of rapids anywhere along the course of the river, and whether south of the lake can be discovered traces of the ancient bed of the Jordan, as well as of a barrier of lava stretching across it, which latter hypothesis Von Buch, I perceive, is still inclined to support; nor should he omit to examine whether vestiges of these devoted cities can be found, as some have stated, submerged beneath the waters, and buried, like Pompeii, under heaps of the ejected materials.
VI. HISTORICAL GEOGRAPHY.
1. Earliest period.
The first notice we have of the inhabitants of Palestine is in the days of Abraham's immigration, when the Canaanite was in the land, from whom it received its earliest appellation, “the land of Canaan.” (Gen.
12.5, 6, 13.7, 12, &c.)
The limits of their country are plainly defined in the genealogy of Canaan; but its distribution among the various families of that patriarch is nowhere clearly stated. “Canaan begat Sidon his first-born, and Heth, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgasite, and the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Sinite, and the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite: and afterwards were the families of the Canaanites spread abroad. And [p. 2.529]
the border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza; as thou goest unto Sodom, and Gomorrah, and Admah, and Zeboim, even unto Lasha” (10.15--19).
As several of these names occur no more in the history of Palestine, we must suppose either that the places reappear under other names, or that these tribes, having originally settled within the limits here assigned, afterwards migrated to the north, where we certainly find the Arvadites and Hamathites in later times. Of the eleven families above named, the first six are found in the subsequent history of the country: the descendants of Sidon on the coast to the north; the children of Heth in Hebron, on the south; the Jebusites to the north of these, in the highlands about Jerusalem; the Amorites to the east of the Hittites, on the west of the. Dead Sea; the Girgashites, supposed to be a branch of the Hivites next named, who were situated north of the Jebusites in Shechem and its vicinity. (Gen.
The coast to the south was wrested from the Canaanites in very early times, if they ever possessed it; for throughout the records of history the Philistines, descendants of Mizraim, not of Canaan, were masters of the great western plain (10.14).
The distribution of the country among these tribes is involved in further confusion by the introduction of the Perizzites with the Canaanites as joint occupiers of the country (13.7), and by the fact of the Cauaanites appearing as a distinct tribe, where the Hittites, the Amorites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites, who were all alike Canaanites, are severally enumerated (15.19--21).
It would appear also that while the name Canaanites was used in a more restricted sense in the last cited passage, the names of the particular families were sometimes used in a wider acceptation; which may account for the Hittites, whose seats we have already fixed to the south of Jerusalem, being found to the north of that city, in the neighbourhood of Bethel. (Judges,
It may be, however, that the seats of the several tribes in those early times were not fixed, but fluctuated with the tide of conquest or with the necessities of a pastoral people: an example of the former may be found in the victories of Chedorlaomer (Gen.
xiv.), and of the latter in the many migrations of Abraham with his numerous dependents, and of his descendants, which finally transferred the whole of his posterity into Egypt for a period of four centuries (12.6--10, 13.1--4, 18, 20.1, 26.1, &c.). To attempt to trace these various migrations were a fruitless task with the very scanty notices which we possess ; but the number and general disposition of the Canaanitish tribes at the period of the Eisodus of the Israelites under Joshua may be approximately ascertained, and aid in the description of the distribution of the land among the latter.
The tribes then in occupation of the land are said to be seven (Deut.
7.1), and are thus enumerated:--“Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites,” only six (Exod.
3.8, 17, 33.2); but in Deuteronomy (l.c.
) and Joshua (3.10) the Girgashites are added, which completes the number. Of these the Amorites occupied the southern border, or probably shared it with the Amalekites, as it was with the latter that the Israelites were first brought into collision. (Exod.
17.8, 9; Numb.
This was therefore called “the Mount of the Amorites” (Deut.
1.19, 20); and their relative position with regard to the other tribes is thus clearly stated:--“The Amalekites dwell in the land of the south, and the Hittites, and the Jebusites, and the Amorites (Joshua,
11.3, adds the Perizzites), dwell in the mountains: and the. Canaanites dwell by the sea, and by the coast of Jordan.” (Numb.
The limits of the Amorite territory are further defined by the confederacy of the five sheikhs of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon, all of whom were Amorites (Josh.
10.5) ; while the hill-country immediately to the north and west of Jerusalem, comprising Gibeon, Chephirah, Beeroth, and Kirjath-jearim was held by the Hivites (9.3, 7, 17, 11.19), who are also found, at the same period, far to the north, “under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh” (11.3; Judges,
3.3), as two large and powerful kingdoms of the Amorites coexisted on the east of the Jordan [AMORITES
], the older inhabitants having been driven out.
It is worthy of remark that during the occupation of Palestine by these Canaanites it is already called “the land of the Hebrews” or Heberites, which can only be accounted for by an actual residence in it of Heber himself and his race, which goes far to prove that the Canaanitish tribes were only intruders in the Land of Promise. (Gen.
40.15; see Christian Remembrancer,
vol. xviii. p. 451.) For fuller details reference may be made to Reland (Palaestina,
cap. xxvii. pp. 135--141) and Bochart (Phaleg.
lib. iv. capp. 34--37).
2. Second period.
We have now to consider the division of Palestine among the twelve tribes of Israel, on the settlement of the land by Joshua the son of Nun; and the Scripture statement compared with Josephus will furnish numerous landmarks, which a more careful survey of the country than has yet been made would probably bring to light at the present day. To begin with the cis-Jordanic tribes:--
Judah, Simeon, Dan.
--The south border of Judah was bounded by the country of Edom and the wilderness of Zin; the frontier being plainly defined by a chain of hills, of considerable elevation, forming a natural barrier from the southern bay of the Dead Sea on the east to the Mediterranean on the west, in which line the following points are named, viz., the ascent or pass of Acrabbim, Zin, Kadesh-Barnea, Hezron, Adar, Karkaa, Azmon, the river of Egypt.
The east border extended along the whole length of the Dead Sea to the mouth of the Jordan, from which the north border was drawn to the Mediterranean along an irregular line, in which Jerusalem would be nearly the middle point.
The road from Jerusalem to Jericho passes immediately within the line, and ‘Ain-er-Ressûl, Wady Kelt, Kulaat-ed-Dammimn,
or Kusr Hajlak,
are easily identified with Enshemesh, the river, Adummim, and Beth-hogla.
It passed south of Jerusalem, from Enrogel up the valley of Hinnom, by Nephtoah, Mount Ephron, Kirjath-jearim, Bethshemesh, Timnah, Ekron, Shichron, and Jabneel. Their cities were, as stated in the summary, 29 in number, in the south division of the tribe, on the borders of Edom; but the names, as recounted in the English version, are 39.
The discrepancy is to be accounted for, as Reland remarks, by several of the words, regarded as proper, or separate names, being capable of translation as appellatives or as adjuncts to other names.
In the valley, including under that name the declivity of the western plain and the plain itself, there were 14 + 16 + 9 = 39 towns, with their villages, besides the cities of the Philistines [p. 2.530]
between Ekron and Gaza, which the Israelites did not occupy; in the mountains 11 + 9 + 10 + 6 + 2 = 38 cities, with their villages; and in the wilderness, i. e. the western side of the Dead Sea, 6 towns and their villages; in all, according to the Hebrew version, no less than 112 towns, exclusive of their future capital, of which the Jebusite still held possession.
But the Septuagint version inserts the names of 11 other cities in the mountain district, among which are the important towns Bethlehem and Tekoa, which would make the total 123 in the tribe of Judah alone, implying an enormous population, even if we admit that these towns were only large villages with scattered hamlets.
It must be remarked, however, that the tribe of Simeon was comprehended within the limits above assigned to the tribe of Judah; and that 17 cities in the south of Judah are referred to Simeon, as is expressly stated: “Out of the portion of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon: for the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them.” (Josh.
As Simeon possessed the southern part of the territory assigned to Judah, so did the tribe of Dan impinge upon its north-west border; and in the list of its seventeen cities are some before assigned to Judah (Josh.
19.41--46); a limited extent of territory on the confines of the plain of the Philistines, from which they early sent out a colony to the extreme north of the Holy Land, where their city, synonymous with their tribe, situated at the southern base of Mount Hermon, became proverbial in Israel for the worship of the golden calf. (Judges,
--The tribe of Benjamin was bounded by Judah on the south, by the Jordan on the east.
The northern line was drawn from Jericho westward through the mountains, by Bethel and Ataroth-adar, to a hill that lay to the south of the lower Beth-horon, from which point the boundary was drawn to Kirjath-jearim of the tribe of Judah. They possessed twenty-six cities, including Jerusalem. (Josh.
It is evident that Josephus is mistaken in stating that they extended in length from Jordan to the sea; for it is clear that the tribe of Dan and the plain of Philistia lay between them and the Mediterranean. His remark that the width of their territory was least of all, is more accurate, though his explanation of the fact may be doubted, when he ascribes it to the fruitfulness of the land, which, he adds, comprehended Jericho and Jerusalem.
--The tribe of Ephraim was conterminous on the south with the tribe of Benjamin, as far as the western extremity of the latter; from whence it passed by Tappuah and the river Kanah to the sea. On the east side are named Atarothaddar and Beth-horon the upper, and on the north, beginning at the sea and going east, Michmethah, Taanath-shiloh, Janohah, Ataroth, Naarath, Jericho, and the Jordan.
The cities of Ephraim are not catalogued; but it is remarked that “the separate cities for the children of Ephraim were among the inheritance of the children of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages” (16.5--9).
According to Josephus it extended in width from Bethel even to the great plain of Esdraelon.
--The portion of Manasseh on the west of Jordan was contiguous to that of Ephraim, and appears to have been allotted to the two tribes jointly, as the same boundaries are assigned to both (16.1--4, comp. 5--8 with 17.7--10), but in general the southern part was Ephraim, and the north Manasseh, which latter also possessed towns in the borders of Asher and Issachar, as Bethshean and Endor, on the east, in Issachar, and Taanach, Megiddo, and Dor, on the west, in Asher (ver. 11).
It will have been seen that these twin tribes did not extend as far as the Jordan eastward, but that their eastern boundary excluded the valley of the Jordan, and formed, with their northern boundary, a curved line from Jericho to the sea, south of Mount Carmel.
--This tribe covered the whole of the north-east frontier of Manasseh and Ephraim, and so comprehended the valley of the Jordan northward from Jericho to. Mount Tabor, and the eastern part of the plain of Esdraelon, in which Tabor is situated, containing sixteen cities, among which were Shunem and Jezreel of Scripture note, the latter for many years the capital of the kingdom of Israel.
--To the west of Issachar was Asher, occupying the remainder of the valley of Esdraelon, now the Plain of Acre,
and extending along the coast of the Mediterranean, from Mount Carmel to Sidon. Our ignorance of the modern geography of Upper Galilee does not allow us to assign its limits to the east; but there is little doubt that careful inquiry would still recover the sites at least of some of their twenty-two cities, and so restore the eastern boundary of their territory, which extended along the western borders of Zebulun and Naphtali, which, two tribes occupied the highlands of Galilee to the extremity of the Land of Promise.
--Of these two, Zebulun was to the south, contiguous to Issachar, having the sea of Tiberias for its eastern boundary, as far perhaps as the mouth of the northern Jordan. None of its twelve cities can now be identified with certainty; but Japhia is probably represented by the modern village of Yapha,
in the plain, not far to the south of Nazareth, which was certainly situated within the borders of this tribe; and Bethlehem may, with great probability, be placed at the modern village of Beitlahem,
not far from the ruins of Sepphouri
to the north-west. [CAESAREA-DIO.]
--The northernmost of the tribes was Naphtali, bounded by the Upper Jordan on the east, from its source to its mouth, near which was situated the city of Capernaum, expressly declared by St. Matthew to have been in the borders of Zebulun and Naphtali (4.13). On the south was Zebulun, on the west Asher, and on the north the roots of Libanus and the valley of Coelesyria, now called the Belkaa.
Of their nineteen cities Kedesh is the most noted in Scripture history; and its ruins, existing under the same name at this day, attest its ancient importance. Josephus absurdly extends their territory to Damascus, if the reading be not corrupt, as Reland suspects.
Having completed this survey of the tribes, it may be remarked in anticipation of the following section, that the subsequent divisions of the country followed very much the divisions of the tribes: thus the district of Judaea was formed by grouping together the tribes of Judah, Simeon, Dan, and Benjamin; Samaria was coextensive with Ephraim and the half of Manasseh; Issachar and Asher occupied Lower Galilee; Zebulun and Naphtali Upper Galilee.
--A few words must be [p. 2.531]
added concerning the two tribes and a half beyond Jordan, although their general disposition has been anticipated in the account of the nations whom they dispossessed. [AMORITES
Reuben, Gad, and half Manasseh.
--The southern part of the old Amorite conquests on the east of Jordan was assigned by Moses to the Reubenites, whose possessions seem to have been coextensive with the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites, whose capital was at Heshbon. [HESBON
] There is, however, some apparent confusion in the accounts; as while Reuben is said to have possessed “from Aroer by the river Arnon,...Heshbon,...and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites,” Gad is also said to have had “the rest of the kingdom of Sihon;” and while Gad is said to have held “all the cities of Gilead,” Manasseh is said to have had “half Gilead.” (Josh.
xiii. comp. ver. 21 with 27, and 25 with 31); while from Numbers (32.39--42) it would appear that Manasseh possessed the whole of Gilead.
As the Israelites were not permitted to occupy the country which they found still in possession of the Ammonites, but only so much of it as had been taken from them by Sihon king of the Amorites, the limits of the Israelite possessions towards the Ammonites are not clearly defined [AMMONITAE; BASHAN]; and it may be doubted whether the distribution of the country among the two tribes and a half was not regulated rather by convenience or the accident of conquest than by any distinct territorial limits: certain it is that it would be extremely difficult to draw a line which should include all the cities belonging to any one tribe, and whose sites are fixed with any degree of certainty, and yet exclude all other cities mentioned as belonging to one of the other tribes. Generally it may be said that the possessions of Gad and Reuben lay to the south and west of the trans-Jordanic provinces, while those of Manasseh lay in the mountains to the east of the Jordan valley and the lake of Gennesaret.
It is plain only that the Jordan was the border of the two former, and that of these the tribe of Gad held the northern part of the valley, to “the sea of Chinnereth.” (Josh.
13.23, 27.) When the Gadites are said to have built nine cities, the Reubenites six, it can only be understood to mean that they restored them after they had been dismantled by their old inhabitants, as in the case of Machir the son of Manasseh it is expressly said that he occupied the cities of the dispossessed Amorites. (Numb.
It may, perhaps, be concluded from Deut. 3.1--17 that, while the kingdom of Sihon was divided between the tribes of Gad and Reuben, the whole kingdom of Og was allotted to the half-tribe of Manasseh; as, indeed, it is highly probable that the division of the land on the west of Jordan also followed its ancient distribution among its former inhabitants.
It is remarked by Reland, that the division of the land by Solomon has been too commonly overlooked, for, although it had regard only to the provision of the king's table, it is calculated to throw considerable light on sacred geography.
The country was divided into twelve districts, under superior officers, several of whom were allied to the king by marriage, each of which districts was made chargeable with victualling the palace during one month in the year. Whether these divisions had any further political significancy does not appear, but it is difficult to imagine that any merely sumptuary exigences would have suggested such an elaborate arrangement.
The divisions agree for the most part with those of the tribes. (1 Kings,
3. Third Period.
We have no distinct account of the civil division of the country on the return of the Jews from the captivity, and during its subsequent history, until it was reduced to a Roman province. Under the Persians, the title of “governor on this side the river,” so frequent in the books of Nehemiah and Ezra, and the description of the strangers, colonists of Samaria, as “men on this side the river” (Euphrates), probably indicates the only designation by which Palestine was known, as a comparatively small and insignificant part of one of the satrapies of that enormous kingdom. (Ezra,
4.10, 17, 5.20, 6.6, &c.; Neh.
2.7, 3.8, &c.) Among the Jews, the ancient divisions were still recognised, but gradually the larger territorial divisions superseded the tribual, and the political geography assumed the more convenient form which we find in the New Testament and in the writings of Josephus, illustrated as they are by the classical geographers Pliny and Ptolemy.
The divisions most familiar to the readers of the New Testament are, Judaea, Galilee, Samaria, Decapolis, and Peraea, in which is comprehended the whole of Palestine, with the exception of the seaborder, the northern part of which is called “the coasts of Tyre and Sidon” by the evangelists, and comprehended under the name of Phoenice by Josephus and the classical geographers.
The three first named districts are very clearly described by Josephus; and his account is the more valuable as confirming the descriptions contained in the Bible of its extreme fertility and populousness, which will, however, present no difficulty to the traveller who has had the opportunity of observing the natural fertility of the soil in the parts still rudely cultivated, and the numerous traces of the agricultural industry of ancient times.
Galilee, Upper and Lower.
--There are two Galilees, one called Lower, the other Upper, which are surrounded by Phoenicia and Syria. On the side of the setting sun they are bounded by the frontiers of the territory of Ptolemais, and Carmel, a mountain formerly belonging to the Galileans, but at present to the Tyrians; which is joined by Gaba, called the “ city of knights,” because the knights disbanded by Herod dwell there; and on the south by Samaris and Scythopolis, as far as the river Jordan. On the east it is bounded by Hippene and Gadaris, and Gaulanitis and the frontiers of Agrippa's kingdom.
The northern limit is Tyre and: the Tyrian territory.
That which is called Lower Galilee
extends in length from Tiberias to Chabulon, near which on the sea-coast is situated Ptolemais. Its greatest breadth is from a village called Xalòth, situated in the great plain, to Berbase; from which place also the breadth of Upper Galilee
commences, extending to a village named Baca, which separates the Tyrian territory from Galilee.
In length, Upper Galilee reaches to Meroth from Thella, a village near the Jordan.
Now the two Galilees, being of such extent, and surrounded by foreign nations, have always resisted every hostile invasion; for its inhabitants are trained to arms from their infancy, and are exceedingly numerous; and neither have the men ever been wanting in courage, nor the country suffered from paucity of inhabitants, since it is rich, and favourable for pasture, and planted with every variety of tree; so that by its fertility it invites even those [p. 2.532]
who are least given to the pursuit of agriculture. Every part of it, therefore, has been put under cultivation by the inhabitants, and none of it lies idle; but it possesses numerous cities and multitudes of villages, all densely populated on account of its fertility, so that the smallest of them has more than 15,000 inhabitants.
--On the whole, then, although Galilee
is inferior to Peraea
in extent, yet it is superior to it in strength. For the former is all under cultivation, and productive in every part; but Peraea, although much more extensive, is for the most part rugged and barren, and too wild for the culture of tender produce. Nevertheless, wherever the soil is soft it is very productive; and the plains are covered with various trees (the greater part is planted with olives, vines, and palms), and watered by mountain torrents, and perennial wells sufficient to supply water whenever the mountain streams are dried up by the heat. Its greatest length is from Machaerûs to Pella, and its breadth from Philadelphia to the Jordan.
It is bounded on the north by Pella, which we have mentioned; on the west by the Jordan. Its southern boundary is Moabitis, and its eastern is Arabia and Silbonitis, and also Philadelphene and Gerasa.
--The country of Samaria
lies between Judaea
for beginning at the village called Ginaea,
situated in the great plain, it ends at the toparchy of Acrabatta: its character is in no respect different from that of Judaea, for both abound in mountains and plains, and are suited for agriculture, and productive, wooded, and full of fruits both wild and cultivated. They are not abundantly watered; but much rain falls there.
The springs are of an exceedingly sweet taste; and, on account of the quantity of good grass, the cattle there produce more milk than elsewhere.
But the best proof of their richness and fertility is that both are thickly populated.
--On the confines of the two countries stands the village Annath, otherwise called Borceos, the boundary of Judaea on the north.
The south of it, when measured by length, is bounded by a village, which stands on the confines of Arabia, called by the neighbouring Jews Jardan.
In breadth it extends from the Jordan to Joppa, and in the centre of it lies the city Jerusalem; for which cause the city is called by some, not without reason, the navel of the earth. Judaea is not deprived of. the advantages of the sea, as it extends along the sea-coast to Ptolemais.
It is divided into eleven districts, of which Jerusalem, as the seat of government, rules, taking precedence over the surrounding country as the head over the body.
The other districts, after it, are distributed by toparchies. Gophna is second; after that, Acrabatta, then Thamna, Lydda, Ammaus, Pella, Idumaea, Engaddae, Herodēum, Jerichus; then Jamnia and Joppa, which take precedence of the neighbouring country.
Besides these districts, there are Gamalitica and Gaulanitis, Batanaea, and Trachonitis, parts of the kingdom of Agrippa. Beginning from Mount Libanus and the source of the Jordan, this country reaches in breadth to the lake of Tiberias: its length is, from a village called Arpha to Julias.
It is inhabited by Jews and Syrians mixed.
Thus we have given an account, as short as was possible, of Judaea and the neighbouring regions.
Besides this general description of the country according to its divisions in the first century of the Christian era, Josephus has inserted in his history special descriptions of several towns and districts, with details of great geographical interest and importance.
These, however, will be found, for the most part, under their several names, in these volumes. [AULON; BASHAN; ESDRAELON VALLIS; BELUS; JERICHO; JERUSALEM; TIBERIAS MARE, &c.]
As the division of Gabinius does not appear to have had a permanent influence, it may be sufficient to notice it, before dismissing Josephus, who is our sole authority for it.
He informs us that the Roman general having defeated Alexander the son of Aristobulus, and pacified the country, constituted five councils (συνέδρια
) in various parts of the country, which he distributed into so many equal divisions (μοίρας
These seats of judicature were Jerusalem, Gadara, Amathus, Jericho, and Sepphoris in Galilee. (Ant.
In the division of the country among the sons of Herod the Great, Judaea, Idumaea (i. e., in the language of Josephus, the southern part of Judaea), with Samaria, were assigned to Archelaus, with the title of ethnarch. Antipas had Galilee and Peraea, with the title of tetrarch, and Philip, with the same title, Trachonitis, Auranitis, Batanaea, and Paneas, mostly without the limits of Palestine [vid. s. vv.
17.13.4.) On the disgrace and banishment of Archelaus, in the 10th year of his reign, his government was added to the province of Syria, and administered by a procurator subordinate to the prefect of Syria; the same fate attended the tetrarchy of Philip on his death in the twentieth year of Tiberius, until it was committed to Herod Agrippa by Caius Caligula, with the title of king, to which was added the tetrarchy of Lysanias, and subsequently, on the banishment of Antipas, his tetrarchy also; to which Claudius added besides Judaea and Samaria, so that his kingdom equalled in extent that of his grandfather Herod the Great. On his death, his son, who was but seventeen years old, was thought too young to succeed him, and his dominions reverted to the province of Syria.
But on the death of Herod king of Chalcis, that country was committed to the younger Agrippa, which was after wards exchanged for the tetrarchies of Philip and Lysanias, to which Nero added the part of Galilee about the sea of Tiberias, and Julias in the Decapolis.
After his death, in the third year of Trajan, there is no further mention of the tetrarchies (Reland, Palaestina,
lib. i. cap. 30, pp. 174, 175.)
The division into toparchies, mentioned by Josephus, is recognised also by Pliny, though their lists do not exactly coincide. Pliny reckons them as follows:--
||Oreine (in which was Jerusalem.)|
Of these 8 and 9 are not reckoned by Josephus; but Reland is probably correct in his conjecture that 8 is identical with his Pella, and 9 with his Idumaea, as this district may well be described as ὀρεινὴ, mountainous.
(Plin. Hist. Nat.
The other notices of Pliny are few and fragmentary, but agree in all essential particulars with the synchronous but independent account of Josephus above cited.
Its geography had undergone little variation when Ptolemy wrote in the following century, and the brief notices of that geographer are as accurate as [p. 2.533]
He calls it Palaestina of Syria, otherwise called Judaea, and describes it as bounded by Syria on the north, by Arabia Petraea on the east and south. Independently of the coast of the Mediterranean, he reckons the districts of Galilee, Samaria, Judaea, and Idumaea, but describes the Peraea, by a periphrasis, as the eastern side of Jordan, which may imply that the name was no longer in vogue.
He names also the principal cities of these several divisions (5.16).
The most valuable contributions to the ancient geography of Palestine are those of Eusebius and his commentator S. Jerome, in the Onomasticon, composed by the former, and translated, with important additions and corrections, by the latter, who has also interspersed in his commentaries and letters numerous geographical notices of extreme value. They are not, however, of such a character as to be available under this general article, but are fully cited under the names of the towns, &c. (See Reland, Palaest.
lib. ii. cap. 12, pp. 479, &c.)
It remains only to add a few words concerning the partition of Palestine into First, Second, and Third, which is first found at the commencement of the fifth century of the Christian era, in the Code of Theodosius (A.D. 409); and this division is observed to this day in the ecclesiastical documents of the Eastern Church, by which it was adopted from the first; as it is recognised in the Notitiae, political and ecclesiastical, of the fifth and following centuries. (Quoted fully by Reland, l.c.
capp. 34,35, pp. 204--234.)
In this division Palaestina Prima comprehended the old divisions of Judaea and Samaria; Palaestina Secunda, the two Galilees and the western part of Peraea; Palaestina Tertia, otherwise called Salutaris, Idumaea and Arabia Petraea; while the greater part of the ancient Peraea was comprehended under the name of Arabia.
As the sources of geographical information for Palestine are far too numerous for citation, it may suffice to refer to the copious list of authors appended to Dr. Robinson's invaluable work (Bibl. Res.
vol. iii. first appendix A., pp. 1--28), and to the still more copious catalogue of Carl Ritter (Erdkunde, Palästina,
2tr. B. 1te Abt. 1850, pp. 23--91), who in his four large volumes on the peninsula of Mount Sinai, Palestine, and Syria, has with his usual ability systematised and digested the voluminous records of centuries, and completely exhausted a subject which could scarcely be touched within the limits assigned to a general article in such a work as the present. [G.W