oak of Paran, a place on the edge of the wilderness bordering
the territory of the Horites (Gen. 14:6). This was the farthest
point to which Chedorlaomer's expedition extended. It is
identified with the modern desert of et-Tih. (See PARAN
probably the hilly region or upland wilderness on the north of
the desert of Paran forming the southern boundary of the
Promised Land (Deut. 33:2; Hab. 3:3).
burning, a place in the wilderness of Paran, where the "fire of
the Lord" consumed the murmuring Israelites (Num. 11:3; Deut.
9:22). It was also called Kibroth-hattaavah (q.v.).
a low palm-tree, the south-eastern corner of the desert et-Tih,
the wilderness of Paran, between the Gulf of Akabah and the head
of the Wady Guraiyeh (Num. 13:21). To be distinguished from the
wilderness of Sin (q.v.).
id. (1.) A grandson of Esau, one of the "dukes of Edom" (Gen.
36:11, 15, 42).
(2.) A place in Southern Idumea, the land of "the sons of the
east," frequently mentioned in the Old Testament. It was noted
for the wisdom of its inhabitants (Amos 1:12; Obad. 1:8; Jer.
49:7; Ezek. 25:13). It was divided from the hills of Paran by
the low plain of Arabah (Hab. 3:3).
abounding in foliage, or abounding in caverns, (Gen. 21:21), a
desert tract forming the north-eastern division of the peninsula
of Sinai, lying between the 'Arabah on the east and the
wilderness of Shur on the west. It is intersected in a
north-western direction by the Wady el-'Arish. It bears the
modern name of Badiet et-Tih, i.e., "the desert of the
wanderings." This district, through which the children of Israel
wandered, lay three days' march from Sinai (Num. 10:12, 33).
From Kadesh, in this wilderness, spies (q.v.) were sent to spy
the land (13:3, 26). Here, long afterwards, David found refuge
from Saul (1 Sam. 25:1, 4).
fenced enclosures consisting of "a low wall of stones in which
thick bundles of thorny acacia are inserted, the tangled
branches and long needle-like spikes forming a perfectly
impenetrable hedge around the encampment" of tents and cattle
which they sheltered. Such like enclosures abound in the
wilderness of Paran, which the Israelites entered after leaving
Sinai (Num. 11:35; 12:16; 33:17, 18). This third encampment of
the Israelites has been identified with the modern 'Ain
el-Hudhera, some 40 miles north-east of Sinai. Here Miriam
(q.v.), being displeased that Moses had married a Cushite wife
(Num. 12:1), induced Aaron to join with her in rebelling against
Moses. God vindicated the authority of his "servant Moses," and
Miriam was smitten with leprosy. Moses interceded for her, and
she was healed (Num. 12:4-16). From this encampment the
Israelites marched northward across the plateau of et-Tih, and
at length reached KADESH.
banning; i.e., placing under a "ban," or devoting to utter
destruction. After the manifestation of God's anger against the
Israelites, on account of their rebellion and their murmurings
when the spies returned to the camp at Kadesh, in the wilderness
of Paran, with an evil report of the land, they quickly repented
of their conduct, and presumed to go up "to the head of the
mountain," seeking to enter the Promised Land, but without the
presence of the Lord, without the ark of the convenant, and
without Moses. The Amalekites and the Canaanites came down and
"smote and discomfited them even unto Hormah" (Num. 14:45). This
place, or perhaps the watch-tower commanding it, was originally
called Zephath (Judg. 1:17), the modern Sebaiteh. Afterwards
(Num. 21:1-3) Arad, the king of the Canaanites, at the close of
the wanderings, when the Israelites were a second time encamped
at Kadesh, "fought against them, and took some of them
prisoners." But Israel vowed a vow unto the Lord utterly to
destroy the cities of the Canaanites; they "banned" them, and
hence the place was now called Hormah. But this "ban" was not
fully executed till the time of Joshua, who finally conquered
the king of this district, so that the ancient name Zephath
became "Hormah" (Josh. 12:14; Judg. 1:17).
(Heb. rothem), called by the Arabs retem, and known as Spanish
broom; ranked under the genus genista. It is a desert shrub, and
abounds in many parts of Israel. In the account of his
journey from Akabah to Jerusalem, Dr. Robinson says: "This is
the largest and most conspicuous shrub of these deserts, growing
thickly in the water-courses and valleys. Our Arabs always
selected the place of encampment, if possible, in a spot where
it grew, in order to be sheltered by it at night from the wind;
and during the day, when they often went on in advance of the
camels, we found them not unfrequently sitting or sleeping under
a bush of retem to shelter them from the sun. It was in this
very desert, a day's journey from Beersheba, that the prophet
Elijah lay down and slept beneath the same shrub" (1 Kings 19:4,
5). It afforded material for fuel, and also in cases of
extremity for human food (Ps. 120:4; Job 30:4). One of the
encampments in the wilderness of Paran is called Rithmah, i.e.,
"place of broom" (Num. 33:18).
"The Bedawin of Sinai still burn this very plant into a
charcoal which throws out the most intense heat."
flight, or, according to others, stranger, an Egyptian, Sarah's
handmaid (Gen. 16:1; 21:9, 10), whom she gave to Abraham (q.v.)
as a secondary wife (16:2). When she was about to become a
mother she fled from the cruelty of her mistress, intending
apparently to return to her relatives in Egypt, through the
desert of Shur, which lay between. Wearied and worn she had
reached the place she distinguished by the name of
Beer-lahai-roi ("the well of the visible God"), where the angel
of the Lord appeared to her. In obedience to the heavenly
visitor she returned to the tent of Abraham, where her son
Ishmael was born, and where she remained (16) till after the
birth of Isaac, the space of fourteen years. Sarah after this
began to vent her dissatisfaction both on Hagar and her child.
Ishmael's conduct was insulting to Sarah, and she insisted that
he and his mother should be dismissed. This was accordingly
done, although with reluctance on the part of Abraham (Gen.
21:14). They wandered out into the wilderness, where Ishmael,
exhausted with his journey and faint from thirst, seemed about
to die. Hagar "lifted up her voice and wept," and the angel of
the Lord, as before, appeared unto her, and she was comforted
and delivered out of her distresses (Gen. 21:18, 19).
Ishmael afterwards established himself in the wilderness of
Paran, where he married an Egyptian (Gen. 21:20,21).
"Hagar" allegorically represents the Jewish church (Gal.
4:24), in bondage to the ceremonial law; while "Sarah"
represents the Christian church, which is free.
holy, or Kadesh-Barnea, sacred desert of wandering, a place on
the south-eastern border of Israel, about 165 miles from
Horeb. It lay in the "wilderness" or "desert of Zin" (Gen. 14:7;
Num. 13:3-26; 14:29-33; 20:1; 27:14), on the border of Edom
(20:16). From this place, in compliance with the desire of the
people, Moses sent forth "twelve spies" to spy the land. After
examining it in all its districts, the spies brought back an
evil report, Joshua and Caleb alone giving a good report of the
land (13:18-31). Influenced by the discouraging report, the
people abandoned all hope of entering into the Promised Land.
They remained a considerable time at Kadesh. (See HORMAH
¯T0001820; KORAH ¯T0002222.) Because of their unbelief, they
were condemned by God to wander for thirty-eight years in the
wilderness. They took their journey from Kadesh into the deserts
of Paran, "by way of the Red Sea" (Deut. 2:1). (One theory is
that during these thirty-eight years they remained in and about
At the end of these years of wanderings, the tribes were a
second time gathered together at Kadesh. During their stay here
at this time Miriam died and was buried. Here the people
murmured for want of water, as their forefathers had done
formerly at Rephidim; and Moses, irritated by their chidings,
"with his rod smote the rock twice," instead of "speaking to the
rock before their eyes," as the Lord had commanded him (comp.
Num. 27:14; Deut. 9:23; Ps. 106:32, 33). Because of this act of
his, in which Aaron too was involved, neither of them was to be
permitted to set foot within the Promised Land (Num. 20:12, 24).
The king of Edom would not permit them to pass on through his
territory, and therefore they commenced an eastward march, and
"came unto Mount Hor" (20:22).
This place has been identified with 'Ain el-Kadeis, about 12
miles east-south-east of Beersheba. (See SPIES ¯T0003493.)
God hears. (1.) Abraham's eldest son, by Hagar the concubine
(Gen. 16:15; 17:23). He was born at Mamre, when Abraham was
eighty-six years of age, eleven years after his arrival in
Canaan (16:3; 21:5). At the age of thirteen he was circumcised
(17:25). He grew up a true child of the desert, wild and
wayward. On the occasion of the weaning of Isaac his rude and
wayward spirit broke out in expressions of insult and mockery
(21:9, 10); and Sarah, discovering this, said to Abraham, "Expel
this slave and her son." Influenced by a divine admonition,
Abraham dismissed Hagar and her son with no more than a skin of
water and some bread. The narrative describing this act is one
of the most beautiful and touching incidents of patriarchal life
(Gen. 21:14-16). (See HAGAR ¯T0001583.)
Ishmael settled in the land of Paran, a region lying between
Canaan and the mountains of Sinai; and "God was with him, and he
became a great archer" (Gen. 21:9-21). He became a great desert
chief, but of his history little is recorded. He was about
ninety years of age when his father Abraham died, in connection
with whose burial he once more for a moment reappears. On this
occasion the two brothers met after being long separated. "Isaac
with his hundreds of household slaves, Ishmael with his troops
of wild retainers and half-savage allies, in all the state of a
Bedouin prince, gathered before the cave of Machpelah, in the
midst of the men of Heth, to pay the last duties to the 'father
of the faithful,' would make a notable subject for an artist"
(Gen. 25:9). Of the after events of his life but little is
known. He died at the age of one hundred and thirty-seven years,
but where and when are unknown (25:17). He had twelve sons, who
became the founders of so many Arab tribes or colonies, the
Ishmaelites, who spread over the wide desert spaces of Northern
Arabia from the Red Sea to the Euphrates (Gen. 37:25, 27, 28;
39:1), "their hand against every man, and every man's hand
(2.) The son of Nethaniah, "of the seed royal" (Jer. 40:8,
15). He plotted against Gedaliah, and treacherously put him and
others to death. He carried off many captives, "and departed to
go over to the Ammonites."
There are six Hebrew words rendered "oak."
(1.) 'El occurs only in the word El-paran (Gen. 14:6). The
LXX. renders by "terebinth." In the plural form this word occurs
in Isa. 1:29; 57:5 (A.V. marg. and R.V., "among the oaks"); 61:3
("trees"). The word properly means strongly, mighty, and hence a
(2.) 'Elah, Gen. 35:4, "under the oak which was by Shechem"
(R.V. marg., "terebinth"). Isa. 6:13, A.V., "teil-tree;" R.V.,
"terebinth." Isa. 1:30, R.V. marg., "terebinth." Absalom in his
flight was caught in the branches of a "great oak" (2 Sam. 18:9;
R.V. marg., "terebinth").
(3.) 'Elon, Judg. 4:11; 9:6 (R.V., "oak;" A.V., following the
Targum, "plain") properly the deciduous species of oak shedding
its foliage in autumn.
(4.) 'Elan, only in Dan. 4:11,14,20, rendered "tree" in
Nebuchadnezzar's dream. Probably some species of the oak is
(5.) 'Allah, Josh. 24:26. The place here referred to is called
Allon-moreh ("the oak of Moreh," as in R.V.) in Gen. 12:6 and
(6.) 'Allon, always rendered "oak." Probably the evergreen oak
(called also ilex and holm oak) is intended. The oak woods of
Bashan are frequently alluded to (Isa. 2:13; Ezek. 27:6). Three
species of oaks are found in Israel, of which the "prickly
evergreen oak" (Quercus coccifera) is the most abundant. "It
covers the rocky hills of Israel with a dense brushwood of
trees from 8 to 12 feet high, branching from the base, thickly
covered with small evergreen rigid leaves, and bearing acorns
copiously." The so-called Abraham's oak at Hebron is of this
species. Tristram says that this oak near Hebron "has for
several centuries taken the place of the once renowned terebinth
which marked the site of Mamre on the other side of the city.
The terebinth existed at Mamre in the time of Vespasian, and
under it the captive Jews were sold as slaves. It disappeared
about A.D. 330, and no tree now marks the grove of Mamre. The
present oak is the noblest tree in Southern Israel, being 23
feet in girth, and the diameter of the foliage, which is
unsymmetrical, being about 90 feet." (See HEBRON ¯T0001712;
of Sin (the moon god), called also Horeb, the name of the
mountain district which was reached by the Hebrews in the third
month after the Exodus. Here they remained encamped for about a
whole year. Their journey from the Red Sea to this encampment,
including all the windings of the route, was about 150 miles.
The last twenty-two chapters of Exodus, together with the whole
of Leviticus and Num. ch. 1-11, contain a record of all the
transactions which occurred while they were here. From Rephidim
(Ex. 17:8-13) the Israelites journeyed forward through the Wady
Solaf and Wady esh-Sheikh into the plain of er-Rahah, "the
desert of Sinai," about 2 miles long and half a mile broad, and
encamped there "before the mountain." The part of the mountain
range, a protruding lower bluff, known as the Ras Sasafeh
(Sufsafeh), rises almost perpendicularly from this plain, and is
in all probability the Sinai of history. Dean Stanley thus
describes the scene:, "The plain itself is not broken and uneven
and narrowly shut in, like almost all others in the range, but
presents a long retiring sweep, within which the people could
remove and stand afar off. The cliff, rising like a huge altar
in front of the whole congregation, and visible against the sky
in lonely grandeur from end to end of the whole plain, is the
very image of the 'mount that might be touched,' and from which
the voice of God might be heard far and wide over the plain
below." This was the scene of the giving of the law. From the
Ras Sufsafeh the law was proclaimed to the people encamped below
in the plain of er-Rahah. During the lengthened period of their
encampment here the Israelites passed through a very memorable
experience. An immense change passed over them. They are now an
organized nation, bound by covenant engagement to serve the Lord
their God, their ever-present divine Leader and Protector. At
length, in the second month of the second year of the Exodus,
they move their camp and march forward according to a prescribed
order. After three days they reach the "wilderness of Paran,"
the "et-Tih", i.e., "the desert", and here they make their first
encampment. At this time a spirit of discontent broke out
amongst them, and the Lord manifested his displeasure by a fire
which fell on the encampment and inflicted injury on them. Moses
called the place Taberah (q.v.), Num. 11:1-3. The journey
between Sinai and the southern boundary of the Promised Land
(about 150 miles) at Kadesh was accomplished in about a year.
(See MAP facing page 204.)
(1.) Heb. midhbar, denoting not a barren desert but a district
or region suitable for pasturing sheep and cattle (Ps. 65:12;
Isa. 42:11; Jer. 23:10; Joel 1:19; 2:22); an uncultivated place.
This word is used of the wilderness of Beersheba (Gen. 21:14),
on the southern border of Israel; the wilderness of the Red
Sea (Ex. 13:18); of Shur (15:22), a portion of the Sinaitic
peninsula; of Sin (17:1), Sinai (Lev. 7:38), Moab (Deut. 2:8),
Judah (Judg. 1:16), Ziph, Maon, En-gedi (1 Sam. 23:14, 24;
24:1), Jeruel and Tekoa (2 Chr. 20:16, 20), Kadesh (Ps. 29:8).
"The wilderness of the sea" (Isa. 21:1). Principal Douglas,
referring to this expression, says: "A mysterious name, which
must be meant to describe Babylon (see especially ver. 9),
perhaps because it became the place of discipline to God's
people, as the wilderness of the Red Sea had been (comp. Ezek.
20:35). Otherwise it is in contrast with the symbolic title in
Isa. 22:1. Jerusalem is the "valley of vision," rich in
spiritual husbandry; whereas Babylon, the rival centre of
influence, is spiritually barren and as restless as the sea
(comp. 57:20)." A Short Analysis of the O.T.
(2.) Jeshimon, a desert waste (Deut. 32:10; Ps. 68:7).
(3.) 'Arabah, the name given to the valley from the Dead Sea
to the eastern branch of the Red Sea. In Deut. 1:1; 2:8, it is
rendered "plain" (R.V., "Arabah").
(4.) Tziyyah, a "dry place" (Ps. 78:17; 105:41).
(5.) Tohu, a "desolate" place, a place "waste" or "unoccupied"
(Deut. 32:10; Job 12:24; comp. Gen. 1:2, "without form"). The
wilderness region in the Sinaitic peninsula through which for
forty years the Hebrews wandered is generally styled "the
wilderness of the wanderings." This entire region is in the form
of a triangle, having its base toward the north and its apex
toward the south. Its extent from north to south is about 250
miles, and at its widest point it is about 150 miles broad.
Throughout this vast region of some 1,500 square miles there is
not a single river. The northern part of this triangular
peninsula is properly the "wilderness of the wanderings"
(et-Tih). The western portion of it is called the "wilderness of
Shur" (Ex. 15:22), and the eastern the "wilderness of Paran."
The "wilderness of Judea" (Matt. 3:1) is a wild, barren
region, lying between the Dead Sea and the Hebron Mountains. It
is the "Jeshimon" mentioned in 1 Sam. 23:19.
the eldest son of Amram and Jochebed, a daughter of Levi (Ex.
6:20). Some explain the name as meaning mountaineer, others
mountain of strength, illuminator. He was born in Egypt three
years before his brother Moses, and a number of years after his
sister Miriam (2:1,4; 7:7). He married Elisheba, the daughter of
Amminadab of the house of Judah (6:23; 1 Chr. 2:10), by whom he
had four sons, Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. When the
time for the deliverance of Isarael out of Egypt drew nigh, he
was sent by God (Ex. 4:14,27-30) to meet his long-absent
brother, that he might co-operate with him in all that they were
required to do in bringing about the Exodus. He was to be the
"mouth" or "prophet" of Moses, i.e., was to speak for him,
because he was a man of a ready utterance (7:1,2,9,10,19). He
was faithful to his trust, and stood by Moses in all his
interviews with Pharaoh.
When the ransomed tribes fought their first battle with Amalek
in Rephidim, Moses stood on a hill overlooking the scene of the
conflict with the rod of God in his outstretched hand. On this
occasion he was attended by Aaron and Hur, his sister's husband,
who held up his wearied hands till Joshua and the chosen
warriors of Israel gained the victory (17:8-13).
Afterwards, when encamped before Sinai, and when Moses at the
command of God ascended the mount to receive the tables of the
law, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy
of the elders of Israel, were permitted to accompany him part of
the way, and to behold afar off the manifestation of the glory
of Israel's God (Ex. 19:24; 24:9-11). While Moses remained on
the mountain with God, Aaron returned unto the people; and
yielding through fear, or ignorance, or instability of
character, to their clamour, made unto them a golden calf, and
set it up as an object of worship (Ex. 32:4; Ps. 106:19). On the
return of Moses to the camp, Aaron was sternly rebuked by him
for the part he had acted in this matter; but he interceded for
him before God, who forgave his sin (Deut. 9:20).
On the mount, Moses received instructions regarding the system
of worship which was to be set up among the people; and in
accordance therewith Aaron and his sons were consecrated to the
priest's office (Lev. 8; 9). Aaron, as high priest, held
henceforth the prominent place appertaining to that office.
When Israel had reached Hazeroth, in "the wilderness of
Paran," Aaron joined with his sister Miriam in murmuring against
Moses, "because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married,"
probably after the death of Zipporah. But the Lord vindicated
his servant Moses, and punished Miriam with leprosy (Num. 12).
Aaron acknowledged his own and his sister's guilt, and at the
intercession of Moses they were forgiven.
Twenty years after this, when the children of Israel were
encamped in the wilderness of Paran, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram
conspired against Aaron and his sons; but a fearful judgment
from God fell upon them, and they were destroyed, and the next
day thousands of the people also perished by a fierce
pestilence, the ravages of which were only stayed by the
interposition of Aaron (Num. 16). That there might be further
evidence of the divine appointment of Aaron to the priestly
office, the chiefs of the tribes were each required to bring to
Moses a rod bearing on it the name of his tribe. And these,
along with the rod of Aaron for the tribe of Levi, were laid up
overnight in the tabernacle, and in the morning it was found
that while the other rods remained unchanged, that of Aaron "for
the house of Levi" budded, blossomed, and yielded almonds (Num.
17:1-10). This rod was afterwards preserved in the tabernacle
(Heb. 9:4) as a memorial of the divine attestation of his
appointment to the priesthood.
Aaron was implicated in the sin of his brother at Meribah
(Num. 20:8-13), and on that account was not permitted to enter
the Promised Land. When the tribes arrived at Mount Hor, "in the
edge of the land of Edom," at the command of God Moses led Aaron
and his son Eleazar to the top of that mountain, in the sight of
all the people. There he stripped Aaron of his priestly
vestments, and put them upon Eleazar; and there Aaron died on
the top of the mount, being 123 years old (Num. 20:23-29. Comp.
Deut. 10:6; 32:50), and was "gathered unto his people." The
people, "even all the house of Israel," mourned for him thirty
days. Of Aaron's sons two survived him, Eleazar, whose family
held the high-priesthood till the time of Eli; and Ithamar, in
whose family, beginning with Eli, the high-priesthood was held
till the time of Solomon. Aaron's other two sons had been struck
dead (Lev. 10:1,2) for the daring impiety of offering "strange
fire" on the alter of incense.
The Arabs still show with veneration the traditionary site of
Aaron's grave on one of the two summits of Mount Hor, which is
marked by a Mohammedan chapel. His name is mentioned in the
Koran, and there are found in the writings of the rabbins many
fabulous stories regarding him.
He was the first anointed priest. His descendants, "the house
of Aaron," constituted the priesthood in general. In the time of
David they were very numerous (1 Chr. 12:27). The other branches
of the tribe of Levi held subordinate positions in connection
with the sacred office. Aaron was a type of Christ in his
official character as the high priest. His priesthood was a
"shadow of heavenly things," and was intended to lead the people
of Israel to look forward to the time when "another priest"
would arise "after the order of Melchizedek" (Heb. 6:20). (See
originally denoted only the sea-coast of the land of Canaan
inhabited by the Philistines (Ex. 15:14; Isa. 14:29, 31; Joel
3:4), and in this sense exclusively the Hebrew name Pelesheth
(rendered "Philistia" in Ps. 60:8; 83:7; 87:4; 108:9) occurs in
the Old Testament.
Not till a late period in Jewish history was this name used to
denote "the land of the Hebrews" in general (Gen. 40:15). It is
also called "the holy land" (Zech. 2:12), the "land of Jehovah"
(Hos. 9:3; Ps. 85:1), the "land of promise" (Heb. 11:9), because
promised to Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 24:7), the "land of Canaan"
(Gen. 12:5), the "land of Israel" (1 Sam. 13:19), and the "land
of Judah" (Isa. 19:17).
The territory promised as an inheritance to the seed of
Abraham (Gen. 15:18-21; Num. 34:1-12) was bounded on the east by
the river Euphrates, on the west by the Mediterranean, on the
north by the "entrance of Hamath," and on the south by the
"river of Egypt." This extent of territory, about 60,000 square
miles, was at length conquered by David, and was ruled over also
by his son Solomon (2 Sam. 8; 1 Chr. 18; 1 Kings 4:1, 21). This
vast empire was the Promised Land; but Israel was only a part
of it, terminating in the north at the southern extremity of the
Lebanon range, and in the south in the wilderness of Paran, thus
extending in all to about 144 miles in length. Its average
breadth was about 60 miles from the Mediterranean on the west to
beyond the Jordan. It has fittingly been designated "the least
of all lands." Western Israel, on the south of Gaza, is only
about 40 miles in breadth from the Mediterranean to the Dead
Sea, narrowing gradually toward the north, where it is only 20
miles from the sea-coast to the Jordan.
Israel, "set in the midst" (Ezek. 5:5) of all other lands,
is the most remarkable country on the face of the earth. No
single country of such an extent has so great a variety of
climate, and hence also of plant and animal life. Moses
describes it as "a good land, a land of brooks of water, of
fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a
land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and
pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein
thou shalt not eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack
any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose
hills thou mayest dig brass" (Deut. 8:7-9).
"In the time of Christ the country looked, in all probability,
much as now. The whole land consists of rounded limestone hills,
fretted into countless stony valleys, offering but rarely level
tracts, of which Esdraelon alone, below Nazareth, is large
enough to be seen on the map. The original woods had for ages
disappeared, though the slopes were dotted, as now, with figs,
olives, and other fruit-trees where there was any soil.
Permanent streams were even then unknown, the passing rush of
winter torrents being all that was seen among the hills. The
autumn and spring rains, caught in deep cisterns hewn out like
huge underground jars in the soft limestone, with artificial
mud-banked ponds still found near all villages, furnished water.
Hills now bare, or at best rough with stunted growth, were then
terraced, so as to grow vines, olives, and grain. To-day almost
desolate, the country then teemed with population. Wine-presses
cut in the rocks, endless terraces, and the ruins of old
vineyard towers are now found amidst solitudes overgrown for
ages with thorns and thistles, or with wild shrubs and poor
gnarled scrub" (Geikie's Life of Christ).
From an early period the land was inhabited by the descendants
of Canaan, who retained possession of the whole land "from Sidon
to Gaza" till the time of the conquest by Joshua, when it was
occupied by the twelve tribes. Two tribes and a half had their
allotments given them by Moses on the east of the Jordan (Deut.
3:12-20; comp. Num. 1:17-46; Josh. 4:12-13). The remaining
tribes had their portion on the west of Jordan.
From the conquest till the time of Saul, about four hundred
years, the people were governed by judges. For a period of one
hundred and twenty years the kingdom retained its unity while it
was ruled by Saul and David and Solomon. On the death of
Solomon, his son Rehoboam ascended the throne; but his conduct
was such that ten of the tribes revolted, and formed an
independent monarchy, called the kingdom of Israel, or the
northern kingdom, the capital of which was first Shechem and
afterwards Samaria. This kingdom was destroyed. The Israelites
were carried captive by Shalmanezer, king of Assyria, B.C. 722,
after an independent existence of two hundred and fifty-three
years. The place of the captives carried away was supplied by
tribes brought from the east, and thus was formed the Samaritan
nation (2 Kings 17:24-29).
Nebuchadnezzar came up against the kingdom of the two tribes,
the kingdom of Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem, one
hundred and thirty-four years after the overthrow of the kingdom
of Israel. He overthrew the city, plundered the temple, and
carried the people into captivity to Babylon (B.C. 587), where
they remained seventy years. At the close of the period of the
Captivity, they returned to their own land, under the edict of
Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4). They rebuilt the city and temple, and
restored the old Jewish commonwealth.
For a while after the Restoration the Jews were ruled by
Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and afterwards by the high
priests, assisted by the Sanhedrin. After the death of Alexander
the Great at Babylon (B.C. 323), his vast empire was divided
between his four generals. Egypt, Arabia, Israel, and
Coele-Syria fell to the lot of Ptolemy Lagus. Ptolemy took
possession of Israel in B.C. 320, and carried nearly one
hundred thousand of the inhabitants of Jerusalem into Egypt. He
made Alexandria the capital of his kingdom, and treated the Jews
with consideration, confirming them in the enjoyment of many
After suffering persecution at the hands of Ptolemy's
successors, the Jews threw off the Egyptian yoke, and became
subject to Antiochus the Great, the king of Syria. The cruelty
and opression of the successors of Antiochus at length led to
the revolt under the Maccabees (B.C. 163), when they threw off
the Syrian yoke.
In the year B.C. 68, Israel was reduced by Pompey the Great
to a Roman province. He laid the walls of the city in ruins, and
massacred some twelve thousand of the inhabitants. He left the
temple, however, unijured. About twenty-five years after this
the Jews revolted and cast off the Roman yoke. They were
however, subdued by Herod the Great (q.v.). The city and the
temple were destroyed, and many of the inhabitants were put to
death. About B.C. 20, Herod proceeded to rebuild the city and
restore the ruined temple, which in about nine years and a half
was so far completed that the sacred services could be resumed
in it (comp. John 2:20). He was succeeded by his son Archelaus,
who was deprived of his power, however, by Augustus, A.D. 6,
when Israel became a Roman province, ruled by Roman governors
or procurators. Pontius Pilate was the fifth of these
procurators. He was appointed to his office A.D. 25.
Exclusive of Idumea, the kingdom of Herod the Great
comprehended the whole of the country originally divided among
the twelve tribes, which he divided into four provinces or
districts. This division was recognized so long as Israel was
under the Roman dominion. These four provinces were, (1) Judea,
the southern portion of the country; (2) Samaria, the middle
province, the northern boundary of which ran along the hills to
the south of the plain of Esdraelon; (3) Galilee, the northern
province; and (4) Peraea (a Greek name meaning the "opposite
country"), the country lying east of the Jordan and the Dead
Sea. This province was subdivided into these districts, (1)
Peraea proper, lying between the rivers Arnon and Jabbok; (2)
Galaaditis (Gilead); (3) Batanaea; (4) Gaulonitis (Jaulan); (5)
Ituraea or Auranitis, the ancient Bashan; (6) Trachonitis; (7)
Abilene; (8) Decapolis, i.e., the region of the ten cities. The
whole territory of Israel, including the portions alloted to
the trans-Jordan tribes, extended to about eleven thousand
square miles. Recent exploration has shown the territory on the
west of Jordan alone to be six thousand square miles in extent,
the size of the principality of Wales.