I. Beth-cerem, Nehemiah 3:14. "The stones, as well of the altar, as of the ascent to the altar, were from the valley of Beth-cerem, which they digged out beneath the barren land. And thence they are wont to bring whole stones, upon which the working iron came not."
The fathers of the traditions, treating concerning the blood of women's terms, reckon up five colours of it; among which that, "which is like the water of the earth, out of the valley of Beth-cerem."--Where the Gloss writes thus, "Beth-cerem is the name of a place: whence a man fetches turf, and puts it into a pot, and the water swims upon it: that is, he puts water to it, until the water swims above the turf."
The Gemarists, examining this clause, hath these words: "R. Meir saith, He fetched the turf out of the valley of Beth-cerem. R. Akibah saith, Out of the valley of Jotapata. R. Jose saith, Out of the valley of Sicni. R. Simeon saith, Also out of the valley of Genesara."
II. Let the author of Aruch render it for me: "The mount of Simeon brought forth three hundred bags of broken bread for the poor every sabbath evening." But instead of 'the mount of Simeon brought forth,'--whence it might be taken for the lot of the land of Simeon,--he renders it, "Rabbi Simeon brought forth," &c.
"But why was it laid waste? Some say, For fornication:--others say, Because they played at bowls." The town Simonias is mentioned by Josephus in his life, "in the confines of Galilee."
III. "Two tribes had nine hundred cities." The Gloss is: "There were nine hundred cities in the tribe of Judah, and in the tribe of Simeon: therefore, nine became the priests' and Levites'." See Joshua 21:16, and weigh the proportion.
IV. "Nittai the Tekoite brought a cake out of Bitur but they received it not. The Alexandrians brought their cakes from Alexandria; but they received them not. The inhabitants of mount Zeboim brought their first-fruits before Pentecost; but they received them not," &c. The Gloss is, "Bitar was without the land." Therefore, this was not that Bitar, whose destruction we have mentioned before.
"Mount Zeboim," wheresoever it was, was certainly within the land: for otherwise the first-fruits were not to be received from thence. Now they refused them, not because they were unlawful in themselves, but because they were brought in an unlawful time: for "they offered not the first-fruits before Pentecost," saith the tradition; where also this same story is repeated.
Mention is made of Migdal Zabaaia (a word of the same etymology), in that notable story: "Three cities were laid waste; Chabul for discord: Shichin for magical arts: and Migdal Zabaaia" (or the town of dyers) "for fornication."
V. Socoh, Joshua 15:35. Thence was Antigonus, some time president of the Sanhedrim. "Antigonus of Soco received the Cabala of Simeon the Just."
VI. "Be Teri and Kubi." The Gemarists, speaking of David's battle with Ishbi-benob, 2 Samuel 21, make mention of these things: "When they were come to Kubi (say they), they said, 'Let us arise up against him':--when they were come to Be Teri, they said, 'Do they kill the lion between the two she-whelps?'" Where the Gloss writes thus: "David pursued them flying, and he approached near to the land of the Philistines: and when he came to Kubi, which was between the land of Israel and the Philistines, they said, &c. Be Teri is also the name of a place."
VII. Gophna.--Concerning the situation of this place it is doubted whether it is to be assigned to Judah or to the land of Samaria. These things certainly seem plainly to lay it to Judea. Josephus saith these words concerning Titus marching with his army to Jerusalem: "He passeth swiftly through the country of Samaria unto Gophna:...where tarrying one day, in the morning he marches forward; and, after some days, pitches his station along the valley of thorns unto a certain town called Gabbath-Saul."
The Jerusalem Talmudists write thus: "Fourscore pair of brethren, priests, married fourscore pair of sisters, priestesses, in Gophna, in one night." You will scarce find so many priests in the country of Samaria.
"The synagogue of the men of Gophna was in Zippor":--whom you will scarcely believe to be Samaritans.
Of the eleven Toparchies, the second after Jerusalem was Toparchia Gophnitica, in Pliny Zophanitica, the Toparchy of Gophna.
The word Gophna is derived from the vineyards.
VIII. "The valley of Rimmon."--"Seven elders came together to intercalate the year in the valley of Rimmon:--namely, R. Meir, R. Juda, R. Jose, R. Simeon, R. Nehemiah, R. Lazar Ben Jacob, and R. Jochanan Sandelar." And a little after; "There was a marble rock there: into which every one fastened a nail; therefore it is called to this day, 'The Rock of Nails.'"
IX. "They do not bring the sheaf [of first-fruits] but from some place near Jerusalem. But if some place near Jerusalem shall not produce those first-fruits, then they fetch it farther off. There was a time when a sheaf was brought out of the gardens of Zeriphin, and the two loaves out of the valley of En-Socar."
X. "They sometime asked R. Joshua, 'What concerning the sons of the envious woman?' (as 1 Samuel 1:6). He answered, 'Ye put my head between two high mountains,--namely, the school of Shammai and of Hillel, that they may dash out my brains: but I testify concerning the family of Beth Anubai, of Beth Zebuim; of the family of Beth-Nekiphi, of Beth-Koshesh, that they were the sons of the envious woman; and yet their posterity stood great priests, and offered at the altar.'"