To what tribe Emmaus belonged would be something hard to determine, because of the situation of Beth-horon, which was in Ephraim, Joshua 16; but that the Talmudists do clearly enough say, it was not in the Samaritan country.
"They were servants of the priests, saith R. Meir. But R. Jose saith. They were of the family of Beth Pegarim, and Beth Zippory, in Emmaus, who had placed their daughters in marriage with the priests."
The discourse is about the musicians in the Temple; and the dispute is, whether they were Levites or Israelites, particularly natives of Emmaus, the natives of those two families, who, for their purity, were thought worthy to be taken into the affinity and blood of the priests themselves. And this passage, indeed, puts it out of all question, that Emmaus was not within the tribe of Ephraim; because it would be ridiculous to suppose that either Samaritan women should be joined in marriage with the priests, or that Samaritan men should be permitted to play on the instruments in the Temple. Emmaus, therefore, must be placed in the tribe of Benjamin, which what it was called before is not easy to guess.
I conceive there is mention made of this place in Siphra: "R. Akibah said; I asked Rabban Gamaliel and R. Joshua in the shambles of Emmaus, when they went to receive the beast to make a feast for their son," &c. Now Rabban Gamaliel and R. Joshua were both of Jabneh; so that, by considering the situation of Jabneh, we may more confidently believe that they were in the Emmaus we are speaking of. We have the same passage in Maccoth, fol. 14. 1.
It was one of the larger cities: for so Josephus speaks of it; "Cassius disfranchized four cities, the greatest of which was Gophna and Emmaus; and next to these was Lydda and Thamna."
Under the disposition of the duke of Palestine amongst the rest, was "Ala Antala of the dromedaries of Admatha"; where Pancirole notes, that Admatha in St. Jerome, in his Hebrew Places, is called 'Ammata.' This, by the agreeableness of sound, may seem to be our Emmaus; unless, more probably, at this time it bore the name of Nicopolis.
When I take notice that Chammath or the 'Baths of Tiberias,' and Emmaus was much celebrated for famous waters; I cannot forget the 'waters of Nephtoah,' or the 'Fountain of Etam,' from whence water was conveyed by pipes into the Temple. This was in the same quarter from Jerusalem with our Emmaus: so that our Emmaus may as well be derived from Ammath, a channel of waters, as well as the other from Chammath, the warm baths. But this I leave to the reader's judgment.
In memory of this place, let us record a story out of Sigevert's Chronicle, in the reigns of Theodosius and Valentinianus: "At this time, in a garrison in Judea called Emmaus, there was a perfect child born. From the navel upward he was divided, so that he had two breasts and two heads, either of which had their proper senses belonging to them: the one ate when the other did not, the one slept when the other was awake. Sometime they slept both together; they played one with another; they both wept, and would strike one another. They lived near two years; and after one had died the other survived about four days."
If this two-headed child was the issue of a Jew, then might that question be solved which is propounded, If any one should have two heads, on which of the foreheads should the phylacteries be bound? No mean scruple indeed. But let us have from the Glossator as considerable a story: "Asmodeus produced, from under the pavement before Solomon, a man with two heads. He marries a wife, and begot children like himself, with two heads, and like his wife, with one. When the patrimony comes to be divided, he that had two heads requires a double portion: and the cause was brought before Solomon to be decided by him."
As to that Thamna, or Timnath, which Josephus, in the place above quoted, makes mention of, it is disputed in Sotah, fol. 17. 1; where "Rabh asserts that there were two Timnaths, one in Judea, and the other that of Samson." We all know of a third of that name, Joshua's Timnath, viz. Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim, where Joshua was buried, Joshua 24:30. Here give the Rabbins a little play, and let them trifle by transposing the names of Serah and Cheres, and from thence ground a fiction, that the image of the sun was fixed upon the sepulchre of Joshua, in remembrance of the sun's miraculous standing still by his word. This is like them. Nor, indeed, is that of a much better mould, which the Seventy add, "There they put into the monument with him the stone-knives, with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, when he brought them out of Egypt, as the Lord had commanded them." Were these, think you, in the Hebrew text once, and have they slipped out since? Do they not rather savour of the Samaritan Gloss, or the Jewish tradition?
They recede from the Hebrew text in the same story, but something more tolerably, when they render "on the north side of the hill Gaash," "from the north side of the hill Galaad": where, as far as I am able to judge, they do not paraphrase ill, though they do not render it to the letter. Let us consider that obscure passage which hath so much vexed interpreters, in Judges 7:3; "Proclaim now in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead." The place where this thing was acted was either in or very near the vale of Jezreel, distant from mount Gilead beyond Jordan, twenty or thirty miles; and therefore how could these Gideonites depart from mount Gilead? I am not ignorant what some do allege towards the untying this knot, viz. that it should be taken thus, "Whoever be of mount Gilead, let them return." The Targumist to this sense; "Whosoever is fearful, let him return, and let choice be made out of mount Gilead; i.e. 'Let the Gileadites be chosen.'" But whether his meaning was that the Gileadites should be chosen to remain because they are not afraid, or be chosen to return because they were; I shall not reckon it worth the while to inquire.
But may not mount Gilead in this place be understood of the hill Gaash? It is certain the situation agrees well enough; and perhaps there is no great difference in the name.
Whence that mount Gilead beyond Jordan first had its name, is not unknown; namely, from that heap of stones, set up by Jacob for a witness of the covenant betwixt him and Laban (Gen 31).
We read of something not unlike it set up by Joshua near Shechem, in testimony of the covenant betwixt the people and God, Joshua 24:26. Now, therefore, who can doubt but that Joshua was buried near Shechem? For when that place was particularly bequeathed and set out by Jacob for his son Joseph, who, of the whole stock and lineage of Joseph, could justlier inherit that part of the country than Joshua?
He was buried on the north side of the hill Gaash, in his own ground. Might not that hill be also called Gilead, upon the account of that pillar of witness that was built there a little from Sychem? whence the foot of the hill, and the hill itself beginning to rise (if it were northward, which we suppose),then it might very well reach not far from that place where this matter of Gideon was transacted. For, whereas the field wherein the battle was, was within the tribe of Manasseh, contiguous to mount Ephraim, and Gideon proclaims that whosoever were afraid should depart from mount Gilead; we can, perhaps, think of no more proper sense wherein this mount Gilead can be taken, than that that part of mount Ephraim was so called from the pillar of testimony placed on the south side of it, when the common name for it was the hill Gaash.