tower of the flock, a tower between Bethlehem and Hebron, near
which Jacob first halted after leaving Bethlehem (Gen. 35:21).
In Micah 4:8 the word is rendered "tower of the flock" (marg.,
"Edar"), and is used as a designation of Bethlehem, which
figuratively represents the royal line of David as sprung from
Tower of the furnaces
(Neh. 3:11; 12:38), a tower at the north-western angle of the
second wall of Jerusalem. It was probably so named from its
contiguity to the "bakers' street" (Jer. 37:21).
Jezreel, Tower of
one of the turrets which guarded the entrance to the city (2
an hundred, a tower in Jersalem on the east wall (Neh. 3:1) in
the time of Nehemiah.
tower of God, a fortified city of Naphtali (Josh. 19:38),
supposed by some to be identical with Magdala (q.v.).
tower of the flock, a place 2 miles south of Jerusalem, near the
Bethlehem road (Gen. 35:21). (See EDAR ¯T0001126.)
tower of fortune, a town in the plains of Judah, probably the
modern el-Mejdel, a little to the north-east of Ascalon (Josh.
God has graciously given, a tower in the wall of Jerusalem (Neh.
3:1; 12:39). It is mentioned also in Jer. 31:38; Zech. 14:10.
a hill or watch-tower, a place between Gibeah and Ramah noted
for its "great well" (1 Sam. 19:22); probably the modern
Suweikeh, south of Beeroth.
beacon; watch-tower, a Canaanite town; called also Hormah
(q.v.), Judg. 1:17. It has been identified with the pass of
es-Sufah, but with greater probability with S'beita.
a tower, a town in Galilee, mentioned only in Matt. 15:39. In
the parallel passage in Mark 8:10 this place is called
Dalmanutha. It was the birthplace of Mary called the Magdalen,
or Mary Magdalene. It was on the west shore of the Lake of
Tiberias, and is now probably the small obscure village called
el-Mejdel, about 3 miles north-west of Tiberias. In the Talmud
this city is called "the city of colour," and a particular
district of it was called "the tower of dyers." The indigo plant
was much cultivated here.
tower. (1.) A strongly-fortified place 12 miles from Pelusium,
in the north of Egypt (Jer. 44:1; 46:14). This word is rendered
"tower" in Ezek. 29:10, but the margin correctly retains the
name Migdol, "from Migdol to Syene;" i.e., from Migdol in the
north to Syene in the south, in other words, the whole of Egypt.
(2.) A place mentioned in the passage of the Red Sea (Ex.
14:2; Num. 33:7, 8). It is probably to be identified with Bir
Suweis, about 2 miles from Suez.
Babel, tower of
the name given to the tower which the primitive fathers of our
race built in the land of Shinar after the Deluge (Gen. 11:1-9).
Their object in building this tower was probably that it might
be seen as a rallying-point in the extensive plain of Shinar, to
which they had emigrated from the uplands of Armenia, and so
prevent their being scattered abroad. But God interposed and
defeated their design by condounding their language, and hence
the name Babel, meaning "confusion." In the Babylonian tablets
there is an account of this event, and also of the creation and
the deluge. (See CHALDEA ¯T0000758.)
The Temple of Belus, which is supposed to occupy its site, is
described by the Greek historian Herodotus as a temple of great
extent and magnificence, erected by the Babylonians for their
god Belus. The treasures Nebuchadnezzar brought from Jerusalem
were laid up in this temple (2 Chr. 36:7).
The Birs Nimrud, at ancient Borsippa, about 7 miles south-west
of Hillah, the modern town which occupies a part of the site of
ancient Babylon, and 6 miles from the Euphrates, is an immense
mass of broken and fire-blasted fragments, of about 2,300 feet
in circumference, rising suddenly to the height of 235 feet
above the desert-plain, and is with probability regarded as the
ruins of the tower of Babel. This is "one of the most imposing
ruins in the country." Others think it to be the ruins of the
Temple of Belus.
Tongues, Confusion of
at Babel, the cause of the early separation of mankind and their
division into nations. The descendants of Noah built a tower to
prevent their dispersion; but God "confounded their language"
(Gen. 11:1-8), and they were scattered over the whole earth.
Till this time "the whole earth was of one language and of one
speech." (See SHINAR ¯T0003389.)
a military fortress (1 Chr. 11:7), also probably a kind of tower
used by the priests for making known anything discovered at a
distance (1 Chr. 6:54). Castles are also mentioned (Gen. 25:16)
as a kind of watch-tower, from which shepherds kept watch over
their flocks by night. The "castle" into which the chief captain
commanded Paul to be brought was the quarters of the Roman
soldiers in the fortress of Antonia (so called by Herod after
his patron Mark Antony), which was close to the north-west
corner of the temple (Acts 21:34), which it commanded.
dwelling, the Dora of the Romans, an ancient royal city of the
Canaanites (Josh. 11:1, 2; 12:23). It was the most southern
settlement of the Phoenicians on the coast of Syria. The
original inhabitants seem never to have been expelled, although
they were made tributary by David. It was one of Solomon's
commissariat districts (Judg. 1:27; 1 Kings 4:11). It has been
identified with Tantura (so named from the supposed resemblance
of its tower to a tantur, i.e., "a horn"). This tower fell in
1895, and nothing remains but debris and foundation walls, the
remains of an old Crusading fortress. It is about 8 miles north
of Caesarea, "a sad and sickly hamlet of wretched huts on a
the making of, formed the chief labour of the Israelites in
Egypt (Ex. 1:13, 14). Those found among the ruins of Babylon and
Nineveh are about a foot square and four inches thick. They were
usually dried in the sun, though also sometimes in kilns (2 Sam.
12:31; Jer. 43:9; Nah. 3:14). (See NEBUCHADNEZZAR ¯T0002684.)
The bricks used in the tower of Babel were burnt bricks,
cemented in the building by bitumen (Gen. 11:3).
the height of Mizpeh or of the watch-tower (Josh. 13:26), a
place mentioned as one of the limits of Gad. There were two
Mizpehs on the east of the Jordan. This was the Mizpeh where
Jacob and Laban made a covenant, "Mizpeh of Gilead," called also
Galeed and Jegar-sahadutha. It has been identified with the
modern es-Salt, where the roads from Jericho and from Shechem to
Damascus unite, about 25 miles east of the Jordan and 13 south
of the Jabbok.
Heb. tannur, (Hos. 7:4). In towns there appear to have been
public ovens. There was a street in Jerusalem (Jer. 37:21)
called "bakers' street" (the only case in which the name of a
street in Jerusalem is preserved). The words "tower of the
furnaces" (Neh. 3:11; 12:38) is more properly "tower of the
ovens" (Heb. tannurim). These resemble the ovens in use among
There were other private ovens of different kinds. Some were
like large jars made of earthenware or copper, which were heated
inside with wood (1 Kings 17:12; Isa. 44:15; Jer. 7:18) or grass
(Matt. 6:30), and when the fire had burned out, small pieces of
dough were placed inside or spread in thin layers on the
outside, and were thus baked. (See FURNACE ¯T0001398.)
Pits were also formed for the same purposes, and lined with
cement. These were used after the same manner.
Heated stones, or sand heated by a fire heaped over it, and
also flat irons pans, all served as ovens for the preparation of
bread. (See Gen. 18:6; 1 Kings 19:6.)
(Heb. always with the article, "the" Millo). (1.) Probably the
Canaanite name of some fortification, consisting of walls filled
in with earth and stones, which protected Jerusalem on the north
as its outermost defence. It is always rendered Akra i.e., "the
citadel", in the LXX. It was already existing when David
conquered Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:9). He extended it to the right
and left, thus completing the defence of the city. It was
rebuilt by Solomon (1 Kings 9:15, 24; 11:27) and repaired by
Hezekiah (2 Chr. 32:5).
(2.) In Judg. 9:6, 20 it is the name of a rampart in Shechem,
probably the "tower of Shechem" (9:46, 49).
hill; mound, the long, narrow, rounded promontory on the
southern slope of the temple hill, between the Tyropoeon and the
Kedron valley (2 Chr. 27:3; 33:14; Neh. 3:26, 27). It was
surrounded by a separate wall, and was occupied by the Nethinim
after the Captivity. This wall has been discovered by the
engineers of the Israel Exploration Fund at the south-eastern
angle of the temple area. It is 4 feet below the present
surface. In 2 Kings 5:24 this word is translated "tower" (R.V.,
"hill"), denoting probably some eminence near Elisha's house.
face of God, a place not far from Succoth, on the east of the
Jordan and north of the river Jabbok. It is also called
"Peniel." Here Jacob wrestled (Gen. 32:24-32) "with a man" ("the
angel", Hos. 12:4. Jacob says of him, "I have seen God face to
face") "till the break of day."
A town was afterwards built there (Judg. 8:8; 1 Kings 12:25).
The men of this place refused to succour Gideon and his little
army when they were in pursuit of the Midianites (Judg. 8:1-21).
On his return, Gideon slew the men of this city and razed its
lofty watch-tower to the ground.
brightness, a place some 11 miles north-east of Shechem, on the
road to Scythopolis, the modern Tabas. Abimelech led his army
against this place, because of its participation in the
conspiracy of the men of Shechem; but as he drew near to the
strong tower to which its inhabitants had fled for safety, and
was about to set fire to it, a woman cast a fragment of
millstone at him, and "all to brake his skull" i.e., "altogether
brake," etc. His armourbearer thereupon "thrust him through, and
he died" (Judg. 9:50-55).
On the night of his betrayal, when our Lord was in the garden of
Gethsemane, Judas, "having received a band of men and officers
from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with
lanterns and torches and weapons" (John 18:1-3). Although it was
the time of full moon, yet in the valley of the Kidron "there
fell great, deep shadows from the declivity of the mountain and
projecting rocks; there were there caverns and grottos, into
which a fugitive might retreat; finally, there were probably a
garden-house and tower, into whose gloom it might be necessary
for a searcher to throw light around." Lange's Commentary.
(Nahum 2:3, "torches," Revised Version, "steel," probably should
be "scythes" for war-chariots.)
or Miz'peh, watch-tower; the look-out. (1.) A place in Gilead,
so named by Laban, who overtook Jacob at this spot (Gen. 31:49)
on his return to Israel from Padan-aram. Here Jacob and Laban
set up their memorial cairn of stones. It is the same as
Ramath-mizpeh (Josh. 13:26).
(2.) A town in Gilead, where Jephthah resided, and where he
assumed the command of the Israelites in a time of national
danger. Here he made his rash vow; and here his daughter
submitted to her mysterious fate (Judg. 10:17; 11:11, 34). It
may be the same as Ramoth-Gilead (Josh. 20:8), but it is more
likely that it is identical with the foregoing, the Mizpeh of
Gen. 31:23, 25, 48, 49.
(3.) Another place in Gilead, at the foot of Mount Hermon,
inhabited by Hivites (Josh. 11:3, 8). The name in Hebrew here
has the article before it, "the Mizpeh," "the watch-tower." The
modern village of Metullah, meaning also "the look-out,"
probably occupies the site so called.
(4.) A town of Moab to which David removed his parents for
safety during his persecution by Saul (1 Sam. 22:3). This was
probably the citadel known as Kir-Moab, now Kerak. While David
resided here he was visited by the prophet Gad, here mentioned
for the first time, who was probably sent by Samuel to bid him
leave the land of Moab and betake himself to the land of Judah.
He accordingly removed to the forest of Hareth (q.v.), on the
edge of the mountain chain of Hebron.
(5.) A city of Benjamin, "the watch-tower", where the people
were accustomed to meet in great national emergencies (Josh.
18:26; Judg. 20:1, 3; 21:1, 5; 1 Sam. 7:5-16). It has been
supposed to be the same as Nob (1 Sam. 21:1; 22:9-19). It was
some 4 miles north-west of Jerusalem, and was situated on the
loftiest hill in the neighbourhood, some 600 feet above the
plain of Gibeon. This village has the modern name of Neby
Samwil, i.e., the prophet Samuel, from a tradition that Samuel's
tomb is here. (See NOB ¯T0002742.)
Samuel inaugurated the reformation that characterized his time
by convening a great assembly of all Israel at Mizpeh, now the
politico-religious centre of the nation. There, in deep
humiliation on account of their sins, they renewed their vows
and entered again into covenant with the God of their fathers.
It was a period of great religious awakening and of revived
national life. The Philistines heard of this assembly, and came
up against Israel. The Hebrews charged the Philistine host with
great fury, and they were totally routed. Samuel commemorated
this signal victory by erecting a memorial-stone, which he
called "Ebenezer" (q.v.), saying, "Hitherto hath the Lord helped
us" (1 Sam. 7:7-12).
(LXX., "Orech"), length, or Moon-town, one of the cities of
Nimrod's kingdom in the plain of Shinar (Gen. 10:10); the Orchoe
of the Greeks and Romans. It was probably the city of the
Archevites, who were transplanted to Samaria by Asnapper (Ezra
4:9). It lay on the left bank of the Euphrates, about 120 miles
south-east of Babylon, and is now represented by the mounds and
ruins of Warka. It appears to have been the necropolis of the
Assyrian kings, as the whole region is strewed with bricks and
the remains of coffins. "Standing on the summit of the principal
edifice, called the Buwarizza, a tower 200 feet square in the
centre of the ruins, the beholder is struck with astonishment at
the enormous accumulation of mounds and ancient relics at his
feet. An irregular circle, nearly 6 miles in circumference, is
defined by the traces of an earthen rampart, in some places 40
Shinar, The Land of
LXX. and Vulgate "Senaar;" in the inscriptions, "Shumir;"
probably identical with Babylonia or Southern Mesopotamia,
extending almost to the Persian Gulf. Here the tower of Babel
was built (Gen. 11:1-6), and the city of Babylon. The name
occurs later in Jewish history (Isa. 11:11; Zech. 5:11). Shinar
was apparently first peopled by Turanian tribes, who tilled the
land and made bricks and built cities. Then tribes of Semites
invaded the land and settled in it, and became its rulers. This
was followed in course of time by an Elamite invasion; from
which the land was finally delivered by Khammurabi, the son of
Amarpel ("Amraphel, king of Shinar," Gen. 14:1), who became the
founder of the new empire of Chaldea. (See AMRAPHEL ¯T0000221.)
Siloam, Tower of
mentioned only Luke 13:4. The place here spoken of is the
village now called Silwan, or Kefr Silwan, on the east of the
valley of Kidron, and to the north-east of the pool. It stands
on the west slope of the Mount of Olives.
As illustrative of the movement of small bands of Canaanites
from place to place, and the intermingling of Canaanites and
Israelites even in small towns in earlier times, M.C. Ganneau
records the following curious fact: "Among the inhabitants of
the village (of Siloam) there are a hundred or so domiciled for
the most part in the lower quarter, and forming a group apart
from the rest, called Dhiabrye, i.e., men of Dhiban. It appears
that at some remote period a colony from the capital of king
Mesha (Dibon-Moab) crossed the Jordan and fixed itself at the
gates of Jerusalem at Silwan. The memory of this migration is
still preserved; and I am assured by the people themselves that
many of their number are installed in other villages round
Jerusalem" (quoted by Henderson, Israel).
There were in Israel (1) cities, (2) unwalled villages, and
(3) villages with castles or towers (1 Chr. 27:25). Cities, so
called, had walls, and were thus fenced. The fortifications
consisted of one or two walls, on which were towers or parapets
at regular intervals (2 Chr. 32:5; Jer. 31:38). Around ancient
Jerusalem were three walls, on one of which were ninety towers,
on the second fourteen, and on the third sixty. The tower of
Hananeel, near the north-east corner of the city wall, is
frequently referred to (Neh. 3:1; 12:39; Zech. 14:10). The
gateways of such cities were also fortified (Neh. 2:8; 3:3, 6;
Judg. 16:2, 3; 1 Sam. 23:7).
The Hebrews found many fenced cities when they entered the
Promised Land (Num. 13:28; 32:17, 34-42; Josh. 11:12, 13; Judg.
1:27-33), and we may estimate the strength of some of these
cities from the fact that they were long held in possession by
the Canaanites. The Jebusites, e.g., were enabled to hold
possession of Jerusalem till the time of David (2 Sam. 5:6, 7; 1
Several of the kings of Israel and Judah distinguished
themselves as fortifiers or "builders" of cities.
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).
pure, a superintendant of customs; a chief tax-gather
(publicanus) at Jericho (Luke 19:1-10). "The collection of
customs at Jericho, which at this time produced and exported a
considerable quantity of balsam, was undoubtedly an important
post, and would account for Zacchaeus being a rich man." Being
short of stature, he hastened on before the multitude who were
thronging about Christ as he passed through Jericho on his way
to Jerusalem, and climbed up a sycamore tree that he might be
able to see him. When our Lord reached the spot he looked up to
the publican among the branches, and addressing him by name,
told him to make haste and come down, as he intended that day to
abide at his house. This led to the remarkable interview
recorded by the evangelist, and to the striking parable of the
ten pounds (Luke 19:12-27). At Er-riha (Jericho) there is a
large, venerable looking square tower, which goes by the
traditional name of the House of Zacchaeus.
(Palestinae), a city on the shore of the Mediterranean, on the
great road from Tyre to Egypt, about 70 miles northwest of
Jerusalem, at the northern extremity of the plain of Sharon. It
was built by Herod the Great (B.C. 10), who named it after
Caesar Augustus, hence called Caesarea Sebaste (Gr. Sebastos =
"Augustus"), on the site of an old town called "Strato's Tower."
It was the capital of the Roman province of Judaea, the seat of
the governors or procurators, and the headquarters of the Roman
troops. It was the great Gentile city of Israel, with a
spacious artificial harbour. It was adorned with many buildings
of great splendour, after the manner of the Roman cities of the
West. Here Cornelius the centurion was converted through the
instrumentality of Peter (Acts 10:1, 24), and thus for the first
time the door of faith was opened to the Gentiles. Philip the
evangelist resided here with his four daughters (21:8). From
this place Saul sailed for his native Tarsus when forced to flee
from Jerusalem (9:30), and here he landed when returning from
his second missionary journey (18:22). He remained as a prisoner
here for two years before his voyage to Rome (Acts 24:27; 25:1,
4, 6, 13). Here on a "set day," when games were celebrated in
the theatre in honour of the emperor Claudius, Herod Agrippa I.
appeared among the people in great pomp, and in the midst of the
idolatrous homage paid to him was suddenly smitten by an angel,
and carried out a dying man. He was "eaten of worms" (12:19-23),
thus perishing by the same loathsome disease as his granfather,
Herod the Great. It still retains its ancient name Kaiseriyeh,
but is now desolate. "The present inhabitants of the ruins are
snakes, scorpions, lizards, wild boars, and jackals." It is
described as the most desolate city of all Israel.
The first occasion on which we read of a prison is in the
history of Joseph in Egypt. Then Potiphar, "Joseph's master,
took him, and put him into the prison, a place where the king's
prisoners were bound" (Gen. 39:20-23). The Heb. word here used
(sohar) means properly a round tower or fortress. It seems to
have been a part of Potiphar's house, a place in which state
prisoners were kept.
The Mosaic law made no provision for imprisonment as a
punishment. In the wilderness two persons were "put in ward"
(Lev. 24:12; Num. 15:34), but it was only till the mind of God
concerning them should be ascertained. Prisons and prisoners are
mentioned in the book of Psalms (69:33; 79:11; 142:7). Samson
was confined in a Philistine prison (Judg. 16:21, 25). In the
subsequent history of Israel frequent references are made to
prisons (1 Kings 22:27; 2 Kings 17:4; 25:27, 29; 2 Chr. 16:10;
Isa. 42:7; Jer. 32:2). Prisons seem to have been common in New
Testament times (Matt. 11:2; 25:36, 43). The apostles were put
into the "common prison" at the instance of the Jewish council
(Acts 5:18, 23; 8:3); and at Philippi Paul and Silas were thrust
into the "inner prison" (16:24; comp. 4:3; 12:4, 5).
The earliest mention of city-building is that of Enoch, which
was built by Cain (Gen. 4:17). After the confusion of tongues,
the descendants of Nimrod founded several cities (10:10-12).
Next, we have a record of the cities of the Canaanites, Sidon,
Gaza, Sodom, etc. (10:12, 19; 11:3, 9; 36:31-39). The earliest
description of a city is that of Sodom (19:1-22). Damascus is
said to be the oldest existing city in the world. Before the
time of Abraham there were cities in Egypt (Num. 13:22). The
Israelites in Egypt were employed in building the "treasure
cities" of Pithom and Raamses (Ex. 1:11); but it does not seem
that they had any cities of their own in Goshen (Gen. 46:34;
47:1-11). In the kingdom of Og in Bashan there were sixty "great
cities with walls," and twenty-three cities in Gilead partly
rebuilt by the tribes on the east of Jordan (Num. 21:21, 32, 33,
35; 32:1-3, 34-42; Deut. 3:4, 5, 14; 1 Kings 4:13). On the west
of Jordan were thirty-one "royal cities" (Josh. 12), besides
many others spoken of in the history of Israel.
A fenced city was a city surrounded by fortifications and high
walls, with watch-towers upon them (2 Chr. 11:11; Deut. 3:5).
There was also within the city generally a tower to which the
citizens might flee when danger threatened them (Judg. 9:46-52).
A city with suburbs was a city surrounded with open
pasture-grounds, such as the forty-eight cities which were given
to the Levites (Num. 35:2-7). There were six cities of refuge,
three on each side of Jordan, namely, Kadesh, Shechem, Hebron,
on the west of Jordan; and on the east, Bezer, Ramoth-gilead,
and Golan. The cities on each side of the river were nearly
opposite each other. The regulations concerning these cities are
given in Num. 35:9-34; Deut. 19:1-13; Ex. 21:12-14.
When David reduced the fortress of the Jebusites which stood
on Mount Zion, he built on the site of it a palace and a city,
which he called by his own name (1 Chr. 11:5), the city of
David. Bethlehem is also so called as being David's native town
Jerusalem is called the Holy City, the holiness of the temple
being regarded as extending in some measure over the whole city
Pithom and Raamses, built by the Israelites as "treasure
cities," were not places where royal treasures were kept, but
were fortified towns where merchants might store their goods and
transact their business in safety, or cities in which munitions
of war were stored. (See PITHOM ¯T0002968.)
separated, generally supposed to be the Greek form of the Hebrew
_netser_, a "shoot" or "sprout." Some, however, think that the
name of the city must be connected with the name of the hill
behind it, from which one of the finest prospects in Israel
is obtained, and accordingly they derive it from the Hebrew
_notserah_, i.e., one guarding or watching, thus designating the
hill which overlooks and thus guards an extensive region.
This city is not mentioned in the Old Testament. It was the
home of Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:39), and here the angel
announced to the Virgin the birth of the Messiah (1:26-28). Here
Jesus grew up from his infancy to manhood (4:16); and here he
began his public ministry in the synagogue (Matt. 13:54), at
which the people were so offended that they sought to cast him
down from the precipice whereon their city was built (Luke
4:29). Twice they expelled him from their borders (4:16-29;
Matt. 13:54-58); and he finally retired from the city, where he
did not many mighty works because of their unbelief (Matt.
13:58), and took up his residence in Capernaum.
Nazareth is situated among the southern ridges of Lebanon, on
the steep slope of a hill, about 14 miles from the Sea of
Galilee and about 6 west from Mount Tabor. It is identified with
the modern village en-Nazirah, of six or ten thousand
inhabitants. It lies "as in a hollow cup" lower down upon the
hill than the ancient city. The main road for traffic between
Egypt and the interior of Asia passed by Nazareth near the foot
of Tabor, and thence northward to Damascus.
It is supposed from the words of Nathanael in John 1:46 that
the city of Nazareth was held in great disrepute, either
because, it is said, the people of Galilee were a rude and less
cultivated class, and were largely influenced by the Gentiles
who mingled with them, or because of their lower type of moral
and religious character. But there seems to be no sufficient
reason for these suppositions. The Jews believed that, according
to Micah 5:2, the birth of the Messiah would take place at
Bethlehem, and nowhere else. Nathanael held the same opinion as
his countrymen, and believed that the great "good" which they
were all expecting could not come from Nazareth. This is
probably what Nathanael meant. Moreover, there does not seem to
be any evidence that the inhabitants of Galilee were in any
respect inferior, or that a Galilean was held in contempt, in
the time of our Lord. (See Dr. Merrill's Galilee in the Time of
The population of this city (now about 10,000) in the time of
Christ probably amounted to 15,000 or 20,000 souls.
"The so-called 'Holy House' is a cave under the Latin church,
which appears to have been originally a tank. The 'brow of the
hill', site of the attempted precipitation, is probably the
northern cliff: the traditional site has been shown since the
middle ages at some distance to the south. None of the
traditional sites are traceable very early, and they have no
authority. The name Nazareth perhaps means 'a watch tower' (now
en-Nasrah), but is connected in the New Testament with Netzer,
'a branch' (Isa. 4:2; Jer. 23:5; Zech. 3:8; 6:12; Matt. 2:23),
Nazarene being quite a different word from Nazarite."
a watch-mountain or a watch-tower. In the heart of the mountains
of Israel, a few miles north-west of Shechem, stands the "hill
of Shomeron," a solitary mountain, a great "mamelon." It is an
oblong hill, with steep but not inaccessible sides, and a long
flat top. Omri, the king of Israel, purchased this hill from
Shemer its owner for two talents of silver, and built on its
broad summit the city to which he gave the name of "Shomeron",
i.e., Samaria, as the new capital of his kingdom instead of
Tirzah (1 Kings 16:24). As such it possessed many advantages.
Here Omri resided during the last six years of his reign. As the
result of an unsuccessful war with Syria, he appears to have
been obliged to grant to the Syrians the right to "make streets
in Samaria", i.e., probably permission to the Syrian merchants
to carry on their trade in the Israelite capital. This would
imply the existence of a considerable Syrian population. "It was
the only great city of Israel created by the sovereign. All
the others had been already consecrated by patriarchal tradition
or previous possession. But Samaria was the choice of Omri
alone. He, indeed, gave to the city which he had built the name
of its former owner, but its especial connection with himself as
its founder is proved by the designation which it seems Samaria
bears in Assyrian inscriptions, Beth-khumri ('the house or
palace of Omri').", Stanley.
Samaria was frequently besieged. In the days of Ahab, Benhadad
II. came up against it with thirty-two vassal kings, but was
defeated with a great slaughter (1 Kings 20:1-21). A second
time, next year, he assailed it; but was again utterly routed,
and was compelled to surrender to Ahab (20:28-34), whose army,
as compared with that of Benhadad, was no more than "two little
flocks of kids."
In the days of Jehoram this Benhadad again laid siege to
Samaria, during which the city was reduced to the direst
extremities. But just when success seemed to be within their
reach, they suddenly broke up the seige, alarmed by a mysterious
noise of chariots and horses and a great army, and fled, leaving
their camp with all its contents behind them. The famishing
inhabitants of the city were soon relieved with the abundance of
the spoil of the Syrian camp; and it came to pass, according to
the word of Elisha, that "a measure of fine flour was sold for a
shekel, and two measures of barely for a shekel, in the gates of
Samaria" (2 Kings 7:1-20).
Shalmaneser invaded Israel in the days of Hoshea, and reduced
it to vassalage. He laid siege to Samaria (B.C. 723), which held
out for three years, and was at length captured by Sargon, who
completed the conquest Shalmaneser had begun (2 Kings 18:9-12;
17:3), and removed vast numbers of the tribes into captivity.
(See SARGON ¯T0003227.)
This city, after passing through various vicissitudes, was
given by the emperor Augustus to Herod the Great, who rebuilt
it, and called it Sebaste (Gr. form of Augustus) in honour of
the emperor. In the New Testament the only mention of it is in
Acts 8:5-14, where it is recorded that Philip went down to the
city of Samaria and preached there.
It is now represented by the hamlet of Sebustieh, containing
about three hundred inhabitants. The ruins of the ancient town
are all scattered over the hill, down the sides of which they
have rolled. The shafts of about one hundred of what must have
been grand Corinthian columns are still standing, and attract
much attention, although nothing definite is known regarding
them. (Comp. Micah 1:6.)
In the time of Christ, Western Israel was divided into
three provinces, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Samaria occupied
the centre of Israel (John 4:4). It is called in the Talmud
the "land of the Cuthim," and is not regarded as a part of the
Holy Land at all.
It may be noticed that the distance between Samaria and
Jerusalem, the respective capitals of the two kingdoms, is only
35 miles in a direct line.