III. Palestine in the Historic Books of the Old Testament.
1. Book of Joshua:
Joshua is the great geographical book of the Old Testament; and the large majority of the 600 names of places, rivers and mountains in Palestine mentioned in the Bible are to be found in this book.
(1) Topographical Accuracy.
About half of this total of names were known, or were fixed by Dr. Robinson, between 1838 and 1852, and about 150 new sites were discovered (1872-1878, 1881-1882) in consequence of the 1-in. trigonometrical survey of the country, and were identified by the present writer during this period; a few interesting sites have been added by M. Clermont-Ganneau (Adullam and Gezer), by A. Henderson (Kiriathjearim), by W.F. Birch (Zoar at Tell esh Shaghur), and by others. Thus more than three-quarters of the sites have been fixed with more or less certainty, most of them preserving their ancient names. It is impossible to study this topography without seeing that the Bible writers had personal knowledge of the country; and it is incredible that a Hebrew priest, writing in Babylonia, could have possessed that intimate acquaintance with all parts of the land which is manifest in the geographical chapters of Joshua. The towns are enumerated in due order by districts; the tribal boundaries follow natural lines--valleys and mountain ridges--and the character of various regions is correctly indicated. Nor can we suppose that this topography refers to conditions subsequent to the return from captivity, for these were quite different. Simeon had ceased to inhabit the south by the time of David (1 Chronicles 4:24), and the lot of Da was colonized by men of Benjamin after the captivity (1 Chronicles 8:12,13; Nehemiah 11:34,35). Tirzah is mentioned (Joshua 12:24) in Samaria, whereas the future capital of Omri is not. Ai is said to have been made "a heap forever" (Joshua 8:28), but was inhabited apparently in Isaiah's time (Isaiah 10:28 = Aiath) and certainly after the captivity (Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32; 11:31 = Aija). At latest, the topography seems to be that of Solomon's age, though it is remarkable that very few places in Samaria are noticed in the Book of Joshua.
(2) The Passage of the Jordan.
Israel crossed Jordan at the lowest ford East of Jericho. The river was in flood, swollen by the melting snows of Hermon (Joshua 3:15); the stoppage occurred 20 miles farther up at Adam (ed-Damieh), the chalky cliffs at a narrow place being probably undermined and falling in, thus damming the stream. A Moslem writer asserts that a similar stoppage occurred in the 13th century AD, near the same point. (See JORDAN.) The first camp was established at Gilgal (Jilgulieh), 3 miles East of Jericho, and a "circle" of 12 stones was erected. Jericho was not at the medieval site (er Richa) South of Gilgal, or at the Herodian site farther West, but at the great spring `Ain es SulTan, close to the mountains to which the spies escaped (Joshua 2:16). The great mounds were found by Sir C. Warren to consist of sun-dried bricks, and further excavations (see Mitteil. der deutschen Orient-Gesell., December, 1909, No. 41) have revealed little but the remains of houses of various dates.
(3) Joshua's First Campaign.
The first city in the mountains attacked by Israel was Ai, near Chayan, 2 miles Southeast of Bethel. It has a deep valley to the North, as described (Joshua 8:22). The fall of Ai and Bethel (Joshua 8:17) seems to have resulted in the peaceful occupation of the region between Gibeon and Shechem (Joshua 8:30-9:27); but while the Hivites submitted the Amorites of Jerusalem and of the South attacked Gibeon (el Jib) and were driven down the steep pass of Beth-horon (Beit `Aur) to the plains (Joshua 10:1-11). Joshua's great raid, after this victory, proceeded through the plain to Makkedah, now called el Mughar, from the "cave" (compare Joshua 10:17), and by Libnah to Lachish (Tell el Chesy), whence he went up to Hebron, and "turned" South to Debir (edh Dhaheriyeh), thus subduing the shephelah of Judah and the southern mountains, though the capital at Jerusalem was not taken. It is now very generally admitted that the six letters of the Amorite king of Jerusalem included in Tell el-Amarna Letters may refer to this war. The 'Abiri or Chabiri are therein noticed as a fierce people from Seir, who "destroyed all the rulers," and who attacked Ajalon, Lachish, Ashkelon, Keilah (on the main road to Hebron) and other places.
See EXODUS, THE.
(4) The Second Campaign.
The second campaign (Joshua 11:1-14) was against the nations of Galilee; and the Hebrew victory was gained at "the waters of Merom" (Joshua 11:5). There is no sound reason for placing these at the Chuleh lake; and the swampy Jordan valley was a very unlikely field of battle for the Canaanite chariots (Joshua 11:6). The kings noticed are those of Madon (Madin), Shimron (Semmunieh), Dor (possibly Tell Thorah), "on the west," and of Hazor (Chazzur), all in Lower Galilee. The pursuit was along the coast toward Sidon (Joshua 11:8); and Merom may be identical with Shimron-meron (Joshua 12:20), now Semmunieh, in which case the "waters" were those of the perennial stream in Wady el Melek, 3 miles to the North, which flow West to join the lower part of the Kishon. Shimron-meron was one of the 31 royal cities of Palestine West of the Jordan (Joshua 12:9-24).
The regions left unconquered by Joshua (13:2-6) were those afterward conquered by David and Solomon, including the Philistine plains, and the Sidonian coast from Mearah (el Mogheiriyeh) northward to Aphek (Afqa) in Lebanon, on the border of the Amorite country which lay South of the "land of the Hittites" (Joshua 1:4). Southern Lebanon, from Gebal (Jubeil) and the "entering into Hamath" (the Eleutherus Valley) on the West, to Baal-gad (probably at `Ain Judeideh on the northwestern slope of Hermon) was also included in the "land" by David (2 Samuel 8:6-10). But the whole of Eastern Palestine (Joshua 13:7-32), and of Western Palestine, except the shore plains, was allotted to the 12 tribes. Judah and Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), being the strongest, appear to have occupied the mountains and the shephelah, as far North as Lower Galilee, before the final allotment.
Thus, the lot of Simeon was within that inherited by Judah (Joshua 19:1), and that of Da seems to have been partly taken from Ephraim, since Joseph's lot originally reached to Gezer (Joshua 16:3); but Benjamin appears to have received its portion early (compare Joshua 15:5-11; 16:1,2; 18:11-28). This lot was larger than that of Ephraim, and Benjamin was not then the "smallest of the tribes of Israel" (1 Samuel 9:21), since the destruction of the tribe did not occur till after the death of Joshua and Eleazar (Judges 20:28).
The twelve tribes were distributed in various regions which may here briefly be described. Reuben held the Moab plateau to the Arnon (Wady Mojub) on the South, and to the "river of Gad" (Wady Na`aur) on the North, thus including part of the Jordan valley close to the Dead Sea. Gad held all the West of Gilead, being separated from the Ammonites by the upper course of the Jabbok. All the rest of the Jordan valley East of the river was included in this lot. Manasseh held Bashan, but the conquest was not completed till later. Simeon had the neghebh plateau South of Beersheba. Judah occupied the mountains South of Jerusalem, with the shephelah to their West, and claimed Philistia South of Ekron. Benjamin had the Jericho plains and the mountains between Jerusalem and Bethel. The border ran South of Jerusalem to Rachel's tomb (1 Samuel 10:2), and thence West to Kiriath-jearim (`Erma) and Ekron. Da occupied the lower hills West of Benjamin and Ephraim, and claimed the plain from Ekron to Rakkon (Tell er Raqqeit) North of Joppa. Manasseh had a large region, corresponding to Samaria, and including Carmel, Sharon and half the Jordan valley, with the mountains North of Shechem; but this tribe occupied only the hills, and was unable to drive the Cannanites out of the plains (Joshua 17:11,16) Ephraim also complained of the smallness of its lot (Joshua 17:15), which lay in rugged mountains between Bethel and Shechem, including however, the grain plateau East of the latter city. Issachar held the plains of Esdraelon and Dothan, with the Jordan valley to the East, but soon became subject to the Canaanites. Zebulun had the hills of Lower Galilee, and the coast from Carmel to Accho. Naphtali owned the mountains of Upper Galilee, and the rich plateau between Tabor and the Sea of Galilee. Asher had the low hills West of Naphtali, and the narrow shore plains from Accho to Tyre. Thus each tribe possessed a proportion of mountain land fit for cultivation of figs, olives and vines, and of arable land fit for corn. The areas allotted appear to correspond to the density of population that the various regions were fitted to support.
The Levitical cities were fixed in the various tribes as centers for the teaching of Israel (Deuteronomy 33:10), but a Levite was not obliged to live in such a city, and was expected to go with his course annually to the sacred center, before they retreated to Jerusalem on the disruption of the kingdom (2 Chronicles 11:14). The 48 cities (Joshua 21:13-42) include 13 in Judah and Benjamin for the priests, among which Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6:13,15) and Anathoth (1 Kings 2:26) are early noticed as Levitical. The other tribes had 3 or 4 such cities each, divided among Kohathites (10), Gershonites (13), and Merarites (12). The six Cities of Refuge were included in the total, and were placed 3 each side of the Jordan in the South, in the center, and in the North, namely Hebron, Shechem and Kedesh on the West, and Bezer (unknown), Ramoth (Reimun) and Golan (probably Sachem el Jaulan) East of the river. Another less perfect list of these cities, with 4 omissions and 11 minor differences, mostly clerical, is given in 1 Chronicles 6:57-81. Each of these cities had "suburbs," or open spaces, extending (Numbers 35:4) about a quarter-mile beyond the wall, while the fields, to about half a mile distant, also belonged to the Levites (Leviticus 25:34).
2. Book of Judges:
(1) Early Wars.
In Judges, the stories of the heroes who successively arose to save Israel from the heathen carry us to every part of the country. "After the death of Joshua" (Judges 1:1) the Canaanites appear to have recovered power, and to have rebuilt some of the cities which he had ruined. Judah fought the Perizzites ("villagers") at Berek (Berqah) in the lower hills West of Jerusalem, and even set fire to that city. Caleb attacked Debir (Jsg 1:12-15), which is described (compare Joshua 15:15-19) as lying in a "dry" (the King James Version "south") region, yet with springs not far away. The actual site (edh Dhaheriyeh) is a village with ancient tombs 12 miles Southwest of Hebron; it has no springs, but about 7 miles to the Northeast there is a perennial stream with "upper and lower springs." As regards the Philistine cities (Judges 1:18), the Septuagint reading seems preferable; for the Greek says that Judah "did not take Gaza" nor Ashkelon nor Ekron, which agrees with the failure in conquering the "valley" (Judges 1:19) due to the Canaanites having "chariots of iron." The Canaanite chariots are often mentioned about this time in the Tell el-Amarna Letters and Egyptian accounts speak of their being plated with metals. Manasseh, Ephraim, Zebulun, Asher and Naphtali, were equally powerless against cities in the plains (Judges 1:27-33); and Israel began to mingle with the Canaanites, while the tribe of Da seems never to have really occupied its allotted region, and remained encamped in the borders of Judah till some, at least, of its warriors found a new home under Hermon (Judges 1:34; 18:1-30) in the time of Jonathan, the grandson of Moses.
(2) Defeat of Sisera.
The oppression of Israel by Jabin II of Hazor, in Lower Galilee, appears to have occurred in the time of Rameses II, who, in his 8th year, conquered Shalem (Salim, North of Taanach), Anem (`Anin), Dapur (Deburieh, at the foot of Tabor), with Bethanath (`Ainitha) in Upper Galilee (Brugsch, History of Egypt, II, 64). Sisera may have been an Egyptian resident at the court of Jabin (Judges 4:2); his defeat occurred near the foot of Tabor (Judges 4:14) to which he advanced East from Harosheth (el Charathiyeh) on the edge of the sea plain. His host "perished at Endor" (Psalms 83:9) and in the swampy Kishon (Judges 5:21). The site of the Kedesh in "the plain of swamps" (Judges 4:11) to which he fled is doubtful. Perhaps Kedesh of Issachar (1 Chronicles 6:72) is intended at Tell Qadeis, 3 miles North of Taanach, for the plain is here swampy in parts. The Canaanite league of petty kings fought from Taanach to Megiddo (Judges 5:19), but the old identification of the latter city with the Roman town of Legio (Lejjun) was a mere guess which does not fit with Egyptian accounts placing Megiddo near the Jordan. The large site at Mugedd`a, in the Valley of Jezreel seems to be more suitable for all the Old Testament as well as for the Egyptian accounts (SWP, II, 90-99).
(3) Gideon's Victory.
The subsequent oppression by Midianites and others would seem to have coincided with the troubles which occurred in the 5th, year of Minepthah (see EXODUS, THE). Gideon's home (Judges 6:11) at Ophrah, in Manasseh, is placed by Samaritan tradition at Fer`ata, 6 miles West of Shechem, but his victory was won in the Valley of Jezreel (Judges 7:1-22); the sites of Beth-shittah (ShaTTa) and Abel-meholah (`Ain Chelweh) show how Midian fled down this valley and South along the Jordan plain, crossing the river near Succoth (Tell Der`ala) and ascending the slopes of Gilead to Jogbehah (Jubeichah) and Nobah (Judges 8:4-11). But Oreb ("the raven") and Zeeb ("the wolf") perished at "the raven's rock" and "the wolf's hollow" (compare Judges 7:25), West of the Jordan. It is remarkable (as pointed out by the present author in 1874) that, 3 miles North of Jericho, a sharp peak is now called "the raven's nest," and a ravine 4 miles farther North is named "the wolf's hollows." These sites are rather farther South than might be expected, unless the two chiefs were separated from the fugitives, who followed Zebah and Zalmunna to Gilead. In this episode "Mt. Gilead" (Judges 7:3) seems to be a clerical error for "Mt. Gilboa," unless the name survives in corrupt form at `Ain Jalud ("Goliath's spring"), which is a large pool, usually supposed to be the spring of Harod (Judges 7:1), where Gideon camped, East of Jezreel.
The story of Abimelech takes us back to Shechem. He was made king by the "oak of the pillar" (Judges 9:6), which was no doubt Abraham's oak already noticed; it seems also to be called `the enchanter's oak' (Judges 9:37), probably from some superstition connected with the burial of the Teraphim under it by Jacob. The place called Beer, to which Jotham fled from Abimelech (Judges 9:21), may have been Beeroth (Bireh) in the lot of Benjamin. Thebez, the town taken by the latter (Judges 9:50), and where he met his death, is now the village Tubas, 10 miles Northeast of Shechem.
The Ammonite oppression of Israel in Gilead occurred about 300 years after the Hebrew conquest (Judges 11:26), and Jephthah the deliverer returned to Mizpah (Judges 11:29), which was probably the present village Cuf (already noticed), from his exile in the "land of Tob" (Judges 11:3,6). This may have been near Taiyibeh, 9 miles South of Gadara, in the extreme North of Gilead--a place notable for its ancient dolmens and rude stone monuments, such as occur also at Mizpah. Jephthah's dispute with the men of Ephraim (Judges 12:1) indicates the northern position of Mizpah. Aroer (Judges 11:33) is unknown, but lay near Rabbath-ammon (Joshua 13:25; 2 Samuel 24:5); it is to be distinguished from Aroer ('Ar`air) in the Arnon ravine, mentioned in Judges 11:26.
The scene of Samson's exploits lies in the shephelah of Judah on the borders of Philistia. His home at Zorah (Sur`ah) was on the hills North of the Valley of Sorek, and looked down on "the camp of Dan" (Judges 13:25 margin), which had been pitched in that valley near Beth-shemesh. Eshtaol (Eshu`a) was less than 2 miles East of Zorah on the same ridge. Timnath (Judges 14:1) was only 2 miles West of Beth-shemesh, at the present ruin Tibneh. The region was one of vineyards (Judges 14:5), and the name Sorek (Surik) still survives at a ruin 2 miles West of Zorah. Sorek signified a "choice vine," and a rock-cut wine press exists at the site (SWP, III, 126). These 5 places, all close together, were also close to the Philistine grain lands (Judges 15:5) in a region of vines and olives. Samson's place of refuge in the "cleft of the rock of Etam" (see Judges 15:8) was probably at Beit `ATab, only 5 miles East of Zorah, but rising with a high knoll above the southern precipices of the gorge which opens into the Valley of Sorek. In this knoll, under the village, is a rock passage now called "the well of refuge" (Bur el Chasutah), which may have been the "cleft" into which Samson "went down." Lehi (Judges 15:9) was apparently in the valley beneath, and the name ("the jaw") may refer to the narrow mouth of the gorge whence, after conference with the Philistines, the men of Judah "went down" (Judges 15:11) to the "cleft of the rock of Etam" (SWP, III, 83, 137), which was a passage 250 ft. long leading down, under the town, to the spring. All of Samson's story is connected with this one valley (for Delilah also lived in the "Valley of Sorek," Judges 16:4) except his visit to Gaza, where he carried the gates to the `hill facing Hebron' (Judges 16:3), traditionally shown (SWP, III, 255) at the great mound on the East side of this town where he died, and where his tomb is (wrongly) shown. Another tomb, close to Zorah, represents a more correct tradition (16:31), but the legends of Samson at this village are of modern Christian origin.
The appendix to Judges includes two stories concerning Levites who both lived in the time of the 2nd generation after the Hob conquest (18:30; 20:28), and who both "sojourned" in Bethlehem of Judah (17:8; 19:2), though their proper city was one in Mt. Ephraim, In the first case Jonathan, the grandson of Moses, founded a family of idolatrous priests, setting up Micah's image at Da (Tell el Qadi) beside the sources of the Jordan, where ancient dolmen altars still exist. This image may have been the cause why Jeroboam afterward established a calf-temple at the same place. It is said to have stood there till the "captivity of the ark" (St. Petersburg MS, Judges 18:30), "all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh" (Judges 18:31). From this narrative we learn that the tribe of Da did not settle in its appointed lot (Judges 18:1), but pitched in the "camp of Dan," west of Kiriath-jearim (Judges 18:12). This agrees with the former mention of the site (Judges 13:25) as being near Zorah; and the open valley near Beth-shemesh is visible, through the gorges of Lehi, from the site of Kiriath-jearim at `Erma.
The Defeat of Benjamin.
In the 2nd episode we trace the journey of the Levite from Bethlehem past Jerusalem to Gibeah (Jeba`), East of Ramah (er-Ram), a distance which could easily be traversed in an afternoon (compare Judges 19:8-14). Gibeah was no doubt selected as a halting-place by the Levite, because it was a Levitical city. The story of the great crime of the men of Gibeah was well known to Hosea (Judges 9:9). Israel gathered against them at Mizpah (Tell en Nacbeh) on the watershed, 3 miles to the Northwest, and the ark was brought by Phinehas to Bethel (compare Judges 20:1,31; 18:26,27), 3 miles Northeast of Mizpah. The defeat of Benjamin occurred where the road to Gibeah leaves the main north road to Bethel (Judges 18:31), West of Ramah. The survivors fled to the rock Rimmon (Rummon), 3 1/2 miles East of Bethel, on the edge of the "wilderness" which stretches from this rugged hill toward the Jordan valley. The position of Shiloh, 9 miles North of this rock, is very accurately described (Judges 21:19) as being North of Bethel (Beitin), and East of the main road, thence to Shechem which passes Lebonah (Lubban), a village 3 miles Northwest of Seilun or Shiloh. The "vineyards," in which the maidens of Shiloh used to dance (Judges 21:20) at the Feast of Tabernacles, lay no doubt where vineyards still exist in the little plain South of this site. It is clear that the writer of these two narratives had an acquaintance with Palestinian topography as exact as that shown throughout Jgs. Nor (if the reading "captivity of the ark" be correct) is there any reason to suppose that they were written after 722 BC.
3. Book of Ruth:
The Book of Ru gives us a vivid picture of Hebrew life "when the judges ruled" (1:1 the King James Version), about a century before the birth of David. Laws as old as Hammurabi's age allowed the widow the choice of remaining with the husband's family, or of quitting his house (compare 1:8). The beating out of gleanings (2:17) by women is still a custom which accounts for the rock mortars found so often scooped out on the hillside. The villager still sleeps, as a guard, beside the heap of winnowed grain in the threshing-floor (3:7); the head-veil, still worn, could well have been used to carry six measures of barley (3:15). The courteous salutation of his reapers by Boaz (2:4) recalls the common Arabic greeting (Allah ma`kum), "God be with you." But the thin wine (2:14) is no longer drunk by Moslem peasants, who only "dip" their bread in oil.
4. Books of Samuel:
The two Books of Samuel present an equally valuable picture of life, and an equally real topography throughout. Samuel's father--a pious Levite (1 Chronicles 6:27)--descended from Zuph who had lived at Ephratah (Bethlehem; compare 1 Samuel 9:4,5), had his house at Ramah (1 Samuel 1:19) close to Gibeah, and this town (er-Ram) was Samuel's home also (1 Samuel 7:17; 25:1). The family is described as `Ramathites, Zuphites of Mt. Ephraim' (1 Samuel 1:1), but the term "Mt. Ephraim" was not confined to the lot of Ephraim, since it included Bethel and Ramah, in the land of Benjamin (Judges 4:5). As a Levite, Elkanah obeyed the law of making annual visits to the central shrine, though this does not seem to have been generally observed in an age when "every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 21:25). The central shrine had been removed by Joshua from Shechem to the remote site of Shiloh (Joshua 22:9), perhaps for greater security, and here the tabernacle (Joshua 22:19) was pitched (compare 1 Samuel 2:22) and remained for 4 centuries till the death of Eli. The great defeat of Israel, when the ark was captured by the Philistines, took place not far from Mizpah (1 Samuel 4:1), within an easy day's journey from Shiloh (compare 1 Samuel 4:12). Ekron, whence it was sent back (1 Samuel 6:16), was only 12 miles from Beth-shemesh (`Ainshems), where the ark rested on a "great stone" (Septuagint, 1 Samuel 6:18); and Beth-shemesh was only 4 miles West of Kiriath-jearim (1 Samuel 6:21), which was in the mountains, so that its inhabitants "came down" from "the hill" (1 Samuel 6:21; 7:1) to fetch the ark, which abode there for 20 years, till the beginning of Saul's reign (1 Samuel 14:18), when, after the war, it may have been restored to the tabernacle at Nob, to which place the latter was probably removed after Eli's death, when Shiloh was deserted. The exact site of Nob is not known, but probably (compare Isaiah 10:32) it was close to Mizpah, whence the first glimpse of Jerusalem is caught, and thus near Gibeon, where it was laid up after the massacre of the priests (1 Samuel 21:1; 22:9,18; 2 Chronicles 1:3), when the ark was again taken to Kiriath-jearim (2 Samuel 6:2). Mizpah (Tell en-Nacbeh) was the gathering-place of Israel under Samuel; and the "stone of help" (Eben-ezer) was erected, after his victory over the Philistines, "between Mizpah and Shen" (1 Samuel 7:12)--the latter place (see Septuagint) being probably the same as Jeshanah (`Ain Sinai), 6 miles North of Mizpah which Samuel visited yearly as a judge (1 Samuel 7:16).
(2) Saul's Search.
The journey of Saul, who, "seeking asses found a kingdom," presents a topography which has often been misunderstood. He started (1 Samuel 9:4) from Gibeah (Jeba') and went first to the land of Shalisha through Mt. Ephraim. Baal-shalisha (2 Kings 4:42) appears to have been the present Kefr Thilth, 18 miles North of Lydda and 24 miles Northwest from Gibeah. Saul then searched the land of Shalim--probably that of Shual (1 Samuel 13:17), Northeast of Gibeah. Finally he went south beyond the border of Benjamin (1 Samuel 10:2) to a city in the "land of Zuph," which seems probably to have been Bethlehem, whence (as above remarked) Samuel's family--descendants of Zuph--came originally. If so, it is remarkable that Saul and David were anointed in the same city, one which Samuel visited later (1 Samuel 16:1,2) to sacrifice, just as he did when meeting Saul (1 Samuel 9:12), who was probably known to him, since Gibeah and Ramah were only 2 miles apart. Saul's journey home thus naturally lay on the road past Rachel's tomb near Bethlehem, and along the Bethel road (1 Samuel 10:2,3) to his home at Gibeah (1 Samuel 10:5,10). It is impossible to suppose that Samuel met him at Ramah--a common mistake which creates great confusion in the topography.
(3) Saul's Coronation and First Campaign.
Saul concealed the fact of his anointing (1 Samuel 10:16) till the lot fell upon him at Mizpah. This public choice by lot has been thought (Wellhausen, History of Israel, 1885, 252) to indicate a double narrative, but to a Hebrew there would not appear to be any discrepancy, since "The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of Yahweh" (Proverbs 16:33). Even at Mizpah he was not fully accepted till his triumph over the Ammonites, when the kingdom was "renewed" at Gilgal (1 Samuel 11:14). This campaign raises an interesting question of geography. Only 7 days' respite was allowed to the men of Jabesh in Gilead (1 Samuel 11:3), during which news was sent to Saul at Gibeah, and messengers dispatched "throughout the borders of Israel" (1 Samuel 11:7), while the hosts gathered at Bezek, and reached Jabesh on the 7th or 8th day (1 Samuel 11:8-10) at dawn. Bezek appears to be a different place from that West of Jerusalem (Judges 1:4) and to have been in the middle of Palestine at Ibzik, 14 miles North of Shechem, and 25 miles West of Jabesh, which probably lay in Wady Yabis in Gilead. The farthest distances for the messengers would not have exceeded 80 miles; and, allowing a day for the news to reach Saul and another for the march from Bezek to Jabesh, there would have been just time for the gathering of Israel at this fairly central meeting-place.
The scene of the victory over the Philistines at Michmash is equally real. They had a `post' in Geba (or Gibeah, 1 Samuel 13:3), or a governor (compare the Septuagint), whom Jonathan slew. They came up to Michmash (Mukhmas) to attack Jonathan's force which held Gibeah, on the southern side of the Michmash valley, hard by. The northern cliff of the great gorge was called Bozez ("shining") in contrast to the southern one (in shadow) which was named Seneh or "thorn" (1 Samuel 14:4). Josephus (BJ, V, ii, 2) says that Gibeah of Saul was by "the valley of thorns," and the ravine, flanked by the two precipitous cliffs East of Michmash, is still called Wady es SuweiniT, or "the valley of little thorn trees." Jonathan climbed the steep slope that leads to a small flat top (1 Samuel 14:14 the King James Version), and surprised the Philistine `post.' The pursuit was by Bethel to the Valley of Aijalon, down the steep Beth-boron pass (1 Samuel 14:23,31); but it should be noted that there was no "wood" (1 Samuel 14:25,26) on this bare hilly ridge, and the word (compare Song of Solomon 5:1) evidently means "honeycomb." It is also possible that the altar raised by Saul, for fulfillment of the Law (Genesis 9:4; Exodus 20:25), was at Nob where the central shrine was then established.
(4) David's Early Life.
David fed his flocks in the wilderness below Bethlehem, where many a silent and dreadful "Valley of Shadows" (compare Psalms 23:4) might make the stoutest heart fail. The lion crept up from the Jordan valley, and (on another occasion) the bear came down from the rugged mountains above (1 Samuel 17:34). No bears are now known South of Hermon, but the numerous references (2 Kings 2:24; Isaiah 59:11; Hosea 13:8; Proverbs 17:12; 28:15) show that they must have been exterminated, like the lion, in comparatively late times. The victory over Goliath, described in the chapter containing this allusion, occurred in the Valley of Elah near Shochoth (Shuweikeh); and this broad valley (Wady es SunT) ran into the Philistine plain at the probable site of Gath (Tell es Cafi) to which the pursuit led (1 Samuel 17:1,2,52). The watercourse still presents "smooth stones" (1 Samuel 17:40) fit for the sling, which is still used by Arab shepherds; and the valley still has in it fine "terebinths" such as those from which it took its name Elah. The bronze armor of the giant (1 Samuel 17:5,6) indicates an early stage of culture, which is not contradicted by the mention of an iron spearhead (1 Samuel 17:7), since iron is found to have been in use in Palestine long before David's time. The curious note (1 Samuel 17:54) as to the head of Goliath being taken "to Jerusalem" is also capable of explanation. Jerusalem was not conquered till at least 10 years later, but it was a general practice (as late as the 7th century BC in Assyria) to preserve the heads of dead foes by salting them, as was probably done in another case (2 Kings 10:7) when the heads of Ahab's sons were sent from Samaria to Jezreel to be exposed at the gate.
David's outlaw life began when he took refuge with Samuel at the "settlements" (Naioth) near Ramah, where the company of prophets lived. He easily met Jonathan near Gibeah, which was only 2 miles East; and the "stone of departure" ("Ezel," 1 Samuel 20:19) may have marked the Levitical boundary of that town. Nob also (1 Samuel 20:1) was, as we have seen, not far off, but Gath (1 Samuel 20:10) was beyond the Hebrew boundary. Thence David retreated up the Valley of Elah to Adullam (`Aid-el-ma), which stood on a hill West of this valley near the great turn (southward) of its upper course. An inhabited cave still exists here (compare 1 Samuel 22:1), and the site meets every requirement (SWP, III, 311, 347, 361-67). Keilah (1 Samuel 23:1) is represented by the village Kila, on the east side of the same valley, 3 miles farther up; and Hereth (1 Samuel 22:5) was also near, but "in Judah" (1 Samuel 23:3), at the village Kharas on a wooded spur 7 miles Northwest of Hebron. Thence David went "down" (1 Samuel 23:4) to Keilah 2 miles away to the West. As there was no safety for the outlaws, either in Philistia or in Judah, they had to retreat to the wilderness of Ziph (Tell ez Zif), 4 miles Southeast of Hebron. The word "wood" (choresh) may more probably be a proper name, represented by the ruin of Khoreisa, rather more than a mile South of Ziph, while the hill Hachilah (1 Samuel 23:19) might be the long spur, over the Jeshimon or desert of Judah, 6 miles East of Ziph, now called el Kola. Maon (M`ain) lay on the edge of the same desert still farther South, about 8 miles from Hebron. En-gedi (1 Samuel 23:29; 24:1,2) was on the precipices by the Dead Sea. The "wild goats" (ibex) still exist here in large droves, and the caves of this desert are still used as folds for sheep in spring (1 Samuel 24:3). The villagers South of Hebron are indeed remarkable for their large flocks which--by agreement with the nomads--are sent to pasture in the Jeshimon, like those of Nabal, the rich man of Carmel (Kurmul), a mile North of Maon (1 Samuel 25:2), who refused the customary present to David's band which had protected his shepherds "in the fields" (1 Samuel 25:15) or pastures of the wilderness. In summer David would naturally return to the higher ridge of Hachilah (1 Samuel 26:1) on the south side of which there is a precipitous gorge (impassable save by a long detour), across which he talked to Saul (1 Samuel 26:13), likening himself (1 Samuel 26:20) to the desert "partridge" still found in this region.
(5) The Defeat and Death of Saul.
The site of Ziklag is doubtful, but it evidently lay in the desert South of Beersheba (Joshua 15:31; 19:5; 1 Chronicles 4:30; 1 Samuel 27:6-12), far from Gath, so that King Achish did not know whether David had raided the South of Judah, or the tribes toward Shur. Saul's power in the mountains was irresistible; and it was for this reason perhaps that his fatal battle with the Philistines occurred far North in the plain near Jezreel. They camped (1 Samuel 28:4) by the fine spring of Shunem (Sulem), and Saul on Gilboa to the South. The visit to Endor (Andur) was thus a perilous adventure, as Saul must have stolen by night round the Philistine host to visit this place North of Shunem. He returned to the spur of Gilboa on which Jezreel stands (1 Samuel 29:1), and the spring noticed is a copious supply North of the village Zer`in. Beth-shan (1 Samuel 31:12) was at the mouth of the valley of Jezreel at Besian, and here the bodies of Saul and his sons were burned by the men of Jabesh-gilead; but, as the bones were preserved (1 Samuel 31:13; 2 Samuel 21:13), it is possible that the corpses were cremated in pottery jars afterward buried under the tree. Excavations in Palestine and in Babylonia show that this was an early practice, not only in the case of infants (as at Gezcr, and Taanach), but also of grown men. See PALESTINE EXPLORATION. The list of cities to which David sent presents at the time of Saul's death (1 Samuel 30:26-31) includes those near Ziklag and as far North as Hebron, thus referring to "all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt."
(6) Wellhausen's Theory of a Double Narrative.
The study of David's wanderings, it may be noted, and of the climatic conditions in the Jeshimon desert, does not serve to confirm Wellhausen's theory of a double narrative, based on the secret unction and public choice of Saul, on the double visit to Hachilah, and on the fact that the gloomy king had forgotten the name of David's father. The history is not a "pious make-up" without "a word of truth" (Wellhausen, Hist Israel, 248-49); and David, as a "youth" of twenty years, may yet have been called a "man of war"; while "transparent artifice" (p. 251) will hardly be recognized by the reader of this genuine chronicle. Nor was there any "Aphek in Sharon" (p. 260), and David did not "amuse himself by going first toward the north" from Gibeah (p. 267); his visit to Ramah does not appear to be a "worthless anachronistic anecdote" (p. 271); and no one who has lived in the terrible Jeshimon could regard the meeting at Hachilah as a "jest" (p. 265). Nor did the hill ("the dusky top") "take its name from the circumstance," but Wellhausen probably means the Sela`-ha-machleqoth ("cliff of slippings" or of "slippings away"), now Wady Malaqeh near Maon (compare 1 Samuel 23:19,24,28), which lay farther South than Ziph.
(7) Early Years of David's Reign.
David, till the 8th year of his reign, was king of Judah only. The first battle with Saul's son occurred at Gibeon (2 Samuel 2:13), where the "pool" was no doubt the cave of the great spring at el Jib; the pursuit was by the `desert Gibeon road' (2 Samuel 2:24) toward the Jordan valley. Gibeon itself was not in a desert, but in a fertile region. Abner then deserted to David, but was murdered at the "well of Sirah" (`Ain Sarah) on the road a mile North of David's capital at Hebron. Nothing more is said about the Philistines till David had captured Jerusalem, when they advanced on the new capital by the valley of Rephaim (2 Samuel 5:22), which apparently ran from South of Jerusalem to join the valley of Elah. If David was then at Adullam ("the hold," 2 Samuel 5:17 the King James Version; compare 1 Samuel 22:5), it is easy to understand how he cut off the Philistine retreat (2 Samuel 5:23), and thus conquered all the hill country to Gezer (2 Samuel 5:25). After this the ark was finally brought from Baale-judah (Kiriath-jearim) to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:2), and further wars were beyond the limits of Western Palestine, in Moab (2 Samuel 8:2) and in Syria (2 Samuel 8:3-12); but for "Syrians" (2 Samuel 8:13) the more correct reading appears to be Edomites (1 Chronicles 18:12), and the "Valley of Salt" was probably South of the Dead Sea. Another war with the Syrians, aided by Arameans from East of the Euphrates, occurred East of the Jordan (2 Samuel 10:16-18), and was followed by the siege of Rabbath-ammon (`Amman), East of Gilead, where we have notice of the "city of waters" (2 Samuel 12:27), or lower town by the stream, contrasted, it seems, with the citadel which was on the northern hill.
(8) Hebrew Letter-writing.
In this connection we find the first notice of a "letter" (2 Samuel 11:14) as written by David to Joab. Writing is of course noticed as early as the time of Moses when--as we now know--the Canaanites wrote letters on clay tablets in cuneiform script. These, however, were penned by special scribes; and such a scribe is mentioned early (Judges 8:14). David himself may have employed a professional writer (compare 2 Samuel 8:17), while Uriah, who carried his own fate in the letter, was probably unable to read. Even in Isaiah's time the art was not general (Isaiah 29:12), though Hebrew kings could apparently write and read (Deuteronomy 17:18; 2 Kings 19:14); to the present day the accomplishment is not general in the East, even in the upper class. It should be noted that the first evidence of the use of an alphabet is found in the early alphabetic Psalms, and the oldest dated alphabetic text yet known is later than 900 BC. The script used in the time of Moses may have been cuneiform, which was still employed at Gezer for traders' tablets in 649 BC. The alphabet may have come into use first among Hebrews, through Phoenician influence in the time of David; and so far no script except this and the cuneiform has been unearthed in Palestine, unless it is to be recognized in signs of the Hittite syllabary at Lachish and Gezer. Another interesting point, as regards Hebrew civilization in David's time, is the first mention of "mules" (2 Samuel 13:29; 18:9; 1 Kings 1:33,38), which are unnoticed in the Pentateuch. They are represented as pack animals on an Assyrian bas-relief; but, had they been known to Moses, they would probably have been condemned as unclean. The sons of David fled on mules from Baal-hazor (Tell `Acur) "beside Ephraim" (now probably Taiyibeh), North of Bethel, where Absalom murdered Amnon.
(9) The Later Years of David's Reign.
On the rebellion of Absalom David retreated to Mahanaim, apparently by the road North of the Mount of Olives, if the Targum of Jonathan (2 Samuel 16:5) is correct in placing Bahurim at Almon (`Almit), Northeast of Jerusalem. It is not clear where the "wood of Ephraim," in which Absalom perished, may have been, but it was beyond Jordan in Gilead (2 Samuel 17:22; 18:6); and oak woods are more common there than in Western Palestine. The latest revolt, after Absalom's death, was in the extreme north at Abel (Abil), in Upper Galilee (2 Samuel 20:14), after which Joab's journey is the last incident to be studied in the Books of Samuel. For census purposes he went East of the Jordan to Aroer (perhaps the city on the Arnon), to the "river of Gad" (Wady Na`aur) near Jazer, and through Gilead. Tahtim-hodshi (2 Samuel 24:6) is believed (on the authority of three Greek manuscripts) to be a corruption of "the Hittites at Kadesh" (Qades), the great city on the Orontes (see HITTITES), which lay on the northern boundary of David's dominions, South of the kingdom of Hamath. Thence Joab returned to Zidon and Tyre, and after visiting all Judah to Beersheba reached Jerusalem again within 10 months. The acquisition of the temple-site then closes the book.
5. Books of Kings:
(1) Solomon's Provinces.
The Books of Kings contain also some interesting questions of geography. Solomon's twelve provinces appear to answer very closely to the lots of the twelve tribes described in Josh. They included (1 Kings 4:7-19) the following:
(c) Southern Judah (see Joshua 12:17),
(f) Northern Gilead and Bashan,
(g) Southern Gilead,
(j) part of Isaachar and probably Zebulun (the text is doubtful, for the order of 1 Kings 4:17 differs in the Septuagint),
The Septuagint renders the last clause (4:19), "and one Naseph (i.e. "officer"') in the land of Judah"--probably superior to the other twelve. Solomon's dominions included Philistia and Southern Syria, and stretched along the trade route by Tadmor (Palmyra) to Tiphsah on the Euphrates (4:21,24; compare 9:18 = Tamar; 2 Chronicles 8:4 = Tadmot). Another Tiphsah (now Tafsach) lay 6 miles Southwest of Shechem (2 Kings 15:16). Gezer was presented to Solomon's wife by the Pharaoh (1 Kings 9:16).
(2) Geography of the Northern Kingdom.
Jeroboam was an Ephraimite (1 Kings 11:26) from Zereda, probably Curdah, 2 miles Northwest of Bethel, but the Septuagint reads "Sarira," which might be Carra, 1 1/2 miles East of Shiloh. After the revolt of the ten tribes, "Shishak king of Egypt" (1 Kings 11:40; 14:25) sacked Jerusalem. His own record, though much damaged, shows that he not only invaded the mountains near Jerusalem, but that he even conquered part of Galilee. The border between Israel and Judah lay South of Bethel, where Jeroboam's calf-temple was erected (1 Kings 12:29), Ramah (er-Ram) being a frontier town with Geba and Mizpah (1 Kings 15:17,22); but after the Syrian raid into Galilee (1 Kings 15:20), the capital of Israel was fixed at Tirzah (1 Kings 15:21), a place celebrated for its beauty (Song of Solomon 6:4), and perhaps to be placed at Teiacir, about 11 miles Northeast of Shechem, in romantic scenery above the Jordan valley. Omri reigned here also for six years (1 Kings 16:23) before he built Samaria, which remained the capital till 722 BC. Samaria appears to have been a city at least as large as Jerusalem, a strong site 5 miles Northwest of Shechem, commanding the trade route to its west. It resisted the Assyrians for 3 years, and when it fell Sargon took away 27,290 captives. Excavations at the site will, it may be hoped, yield results of value not as yet published:
See next article.
The wanderings of Elijah extended from Zarephath (Curafend), South of Sidon, to Sinai. The position of the Brook Cherith (1 Kings 17:3) where--according to one reading--"the Arabs brought him bread and flesh" (1 Kings 17:6) is not known. The site of this great contest with the prophets of the Tyrian Baal is supposed to be at el Machraqah ("the place of burning") at the southeastern end of the Carmel ridge. Some early king of Israel perhaps, or one of the judges (compare Deuteronomy 33:19), had built an altar to Yahweh above the Kishon (1 Kings 18:20,40) at Carmel; but, as the water (1 Kings 18:33) probably came from the river, it is doubtful whether this altar was on the "top of Carmel," 1,500 ft. above, from which Elijah's servant had full view of the sea (1 Kings 18:42,43). Elijah must have run before Ahab no less than 15 miles, from the nearest point on Carmel (1 Kings 18:46) to Jezreel, and the journey of the Shunammite woman to find Elisha (2 Kings 4:25) was equally long. The vineyard of Naboth in Jezreel (1 Kings 21:1) was perhaps on the east of the city (now Zer`in), where rock-cut wine presses exist. In the account of the ascension of Elijah, the expression "went down to Bethel" (2 Kings 2:2) is difficult, if he went "from Gilgal" (2 Kings 2:1). The town intended might be Jiljilia, on a high hill 7 miles North of Bethel. The Septuagint, however, reads "they came."
(3) Places Connected with Elisha.
The home of Elisha was at Abel-meholah (1 Kings 19:16) in the Jordan valley (Judges 7:22), probably at `Ain Chelweh, 10 miles South of Beth-shan. If we suppose that Ophel (2 Kings 5:24 the Revised Version margin), where he lived, was the present `Afuleh, it is not only easy to understand that he would often "pass by" Shunem (which lay between Ophel and Abel-meholah), but also how Naaman might have gone from the palace of Jezreel to Ophel, and thence to the Jordan and back again to Ophel (2 Kings 5:6,14,24), in the course of a single day in his chariot. The road down the valley of Jezreel was easy, and up it Jehu afterward drove furiously, coming from Ramoth in Gilead, and visible afar off from the wall of Jezreel (2 Kings 9:20). The `top of the ascents' (2 Kings 9:13), at Ramoth, refers no doubt to the high hill on which this city (now Reimun) stood as a strong fortress on the border between Israel and the Syrians. The flight of Ahaziah of Judah, from Jezreel was apparently North by Gur (Qara), 4 miles West of Ibleam (Yebla), on the road to "the garden house" (Beit Jenn), and thence by Megiddo (Mujedda`) down the Jordan valley to Jerusalem (2 Kings 9:27,28). Of the rebellion of Moab (2 Kings 1:1; 3:4) it is enough to point out here that King Mesha's account on the Moabite Stone agrees with the Old Testament, even in the minute detail that "men of Gad dwelt in Ataroth from of old" (compare Numbers 32:34), though it lay in the lot of Reuben.
6. Post-exilic Historical Books:
The topographical notices in the books written after the captivity require but short notice. The Benjamites built up Lod (Ludd), Ono (Kerr `Ana) and Aijalon (Yalo), which were in the lot of Da (1 Chronicles 8:12; Nehemiah 11:35), and it is worthy of note that Lod (Lydda) is not to be regarded as a new town simply because not mentioned in the earlier books; for Lod is mentioned (number 64) with Ono in the lists of Thothmes III, a century before the Hebrew conquest of Palestine The author of Chronicles had access to information not to be found elsewhere in the Old Testament. His list of Rehoboam's fortresses (2 Chronicles 11:6-10) includes 14 towns, most of which were on the frontiers of the diminished kingdom of Judah, some being noticed (such as Shoco and Adoraim) in the list of Shishak's conquests. He speaks of the "valley of Zephathah" (2 Chronicles 14:10), now Wady Cafieh, which is otherwise unnoticed, and places it correctly at Mareshah (Mer`ash) on the edge of the Philistine plain. He is equally clear about the topography in describing the attack on Jehoshaphat by the Ammonites, Moabites and Edomites. They camped at En-gedi (`Ain Jidi), and marched West toward Tekoa (Tequ`a); and the thanksgiving assembly, after the Hebrew victory, was in the valley of Beracah (2 Chronicles 20:1,20,26), which retains its name as Breikut, 4 miles West of Tekoa.
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