The mountainous Country of Judea.
"What is the mountainous country of Judea? It is the king's mountain."
However Judea, here and there, doth swell out much with mountains, yet its chief swelling appears in that broad back of mountains, that runs from the utmost southern cost as far as Hebron, and almost as Jerusalem itself. Which the Holy Scripture called "The hill-country of Judah," Joshua 21:11; Luke 1:39.
Unless I am very much mistaken,--the maps of Adricomus, Tirinius, and others, ought to be corrected, which have feigned to themselves a very long back of mountains, beginning almost at the Red Sea, and reaching almost to the land of Canaan, and that with this inscription, "The Amorrhean Mountain." Those authors are mistaken by an ill interpretation of [a] phrase rendering it, "in the way by" (or near) "the mountain of the Amorites,"--when it should be rendered, "in the way to the mountain of the Amorites." Let the reader consult Deuteronomy 1:19,20: "We departed from Horeb, and went through all that great and terrible desert, which ye saw, in the way leading to the mountain of the Amorite, as our Lord commanded us, and came to Cadesh-barnea. Then I said unto you, You are now come to the mountain of the Amorites," &c.
The mountain of the Amorites took its beginning from Cadesh-barnea, the southern border, of the land of Israel,--and, by a hardened gibbosity, thrust forward itself into Judea beyond Hebron, the name only being changed into the "Hill-country of Judea." Whence is that of Samson to be understood, that he carried not the gates of Gaza near to Hebron, or to the mountain, whence Hebron might be seen;--but to the top of this mountainous country, which runs out to Hebron:--and so are the words to be rendered, Judges 16:3, "He carried them to the top of a mountainous place, which is before Hebron."
This mountainous country is called "The mountainous desert," Psalm 75:6, because it is not from the east, nor from the west, nor from the desert of the mountains. Where the Targum thus; "Nor from the south, the mountainous place."
It remains doubtful, why it is called by the Talmudists "The King's mountain." Whether because it was king among all the other mountains of Judea? or, because the royal dignity of David's house sprang hence,--to wit, from Hebron? There is much mention of it in the Jewish writers.
The Chaldee paraphrast upon Judges 4:5: "Deborah had white dust in the King's Mountain." That is, as it seems, potter's clay: for the Gemarists, speaking somewhere concerning potters say, "That they work in black dust, or in white dust."
"In the days of R. Hoshaia, some went about to get a freedom from some tithes for the Mount of the King."
Rabbi Simeon had vine-dressers in the Mount of the King. He was minded to let out his vineyard to heathens.
R. Chaijah, R. Issai, and R. Immai, went up to the King's Mountain. They saw a certain heathen, who was suspicious concerning their wine.
A myriad of cities stood in the Mountain-royal, of which R. Eliezer Ben Harsum possessed a thousand. This mountainous country is not, therefore, called "The mountainous desert," because it was void of cities and towns, but because it was a more barren and rough country.
"The Royal Mountain was laid waste by reason of a cock and a hen. It was the custom, when they brought forth the bridegroom and the bride, to lead before them a cock and a hen: as if they should say, Increase and multiply, as they. On a certain day a regiment of Romans passed by, and wrested the cock and the hen from them: these, therefore, rose up against them, and beat them. Away, therefore, they go to Caesar, and told him, The Jews rebel against thee, &c. R. Asai saith, Three hundred thousand drew sword, and went up to the Royal Mountain, and there slew for three days and three nights," &c.
Rabbi Asai saith, "Janneus the king had sixty myriads of cities in the Royal Mountain: and in each the number was equal to them, that went out of Egypt,--excepting three cities, in which that number was doubted. And these were, I. Caphar Bish (that is, the Ill Town); therefore called so because it afforded not a house of hospitality. II. [A town,] that had its name from a certain herb, because by that herb they were nourished. III. The town of males; so called, saith R. Jochanan, because their wives first brought forth males, and then females, and so left off."
This story is recited by the Jerusalem Talmudists, who say the town of males is so called, because, unless the women departed thence somewhere else, they could not bring forth male children.
"But (saith Ulla) I saw that place, and it is not able to contain even sixty myriads of nests. Therefore, said a certain sectary of R. Chaninah, Ye lie, ye lie. To whom he replied, That land is called 'the land of a Kid': but now 'a kid' hath a skin, that does not contain his flesh: so the land of Israel, while it is inhabited, is spacious; but, when uninhabited, more contracted."