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captivity in Babylon, the tribe of Judah was so decidedly pre-eminent, that the name, Land of Judah, or Judea, was by degrees extended to the whole territory of the Israelites on both sides of the Jordan, 2 Chron. ix. 11; xvii. 2; Hag. i. 14. For the same reason, and about the same time, the children of Israel began to be called Jews, (in Latin, Judæi.)
VI. In Genesis, (xl. 15,) it is called the "Land of the Hebrews," another name for the Israelites, derived from Eber, an ancestor of Abraham. This name is also used by Josephus, and some heathen writers.
VII. Palestine was originally nothing more than the Greek name for the land of the Philistines, a tract of country situated on the sea-coast, south-west of the land of Israel. Usage, however, has extended it to the whole region bounded by the Jordan and the Mediterranean, Arabia, and Mount Lebanon. It is the term most commonly employed at present.
Let us never forget that this is the most important country upon the face of the earth, not only as the promised land, the residence of God's favoured people, and the type of the heavenly inheritance, the rest that remaineth for the people of God, but for other still more weighty considerations. Here the Son of God, one with the Father and the Holy Ghost, took upon him the nature of man; here he suffered for us men, and for our salvation; and here he left an example how we are to seek to serve him in newness of life, agreeably to his holy word.
BOUNDARIES AND EXTENT.
Ir is difficult to fix precisely the boundaries of the country inhabited by the Israelites; as its extent varied at different periods of the Jewish history, and as its limits are expressed in Scripture by reference to places the exact situation of which is now uncertain.
In general terms, however, it may be described as between the mountains of Lebanon on the north, the Mediterranean on the west, and the deserts of Arabia
on the south. Beyond the Jordan, it stretched eastward, without any well-defined limit, into the region which lies between that river and the Euphrates.
It was situated, therefore, between 31° and 33° 30′ N. lat. and between 34° 30′ and 37° E. long. from Greenwich.
The exact dimensions are not quite certain. The whole length of the land is commonly denoted in the Bible by the phrase "from Dan to Beer-sheba," which places are supposed to have been distant from each other about 170 miles. The greatest breadth from east to west, though doubtful, was probably not more than eighty miles. The latest maps and descriptions represent it as nearly 200 miles long, and about eighty wide in the centre, but ten or fifteen less in other parts.
GENERAL ASPECT OF THE COUNTRY.
PALESTINE is agreeably diversified with hill and dale. The Scriptures repeatedly make mention of it as a hilly country, Exod. xv. 17; Deut. xi. 11; 1 Kings xx. 23; Ezek. xxxiv. 13. Two parallel chains of mountains run from north to south, one on each side of the Jordan, originating in the mountains of Lebanon, which divide Palestine from Syria, and terminating in the mountains of Horeb and Sinai, in Arabia Petræa. From these branch off a number of minor ridges, intersecting the whole country, interrupted here and there by plains and spacious valleys. The whole region between Jaffa and Rama is a succession of gentle elevations and delightful fields and valleys.
In Judea, there are many mountains of moderate height, uneven and irregular in shape. About and beyond Jericho, the hills are bare and barren, the valleys uncultivated, full of stones, and destitute of verdure. In the north, the mountains, though inferior in height, have a more inviting aspect; being covered with vegetation. The valleys, which they overlook, are fruitful, and are thickly planted with orchards.
The interior of the land is one great valley, watered
by the only considerable river in the country, the Jordan, which flows from north to south, and empties itself into a large salt lake.
In the western part of the hill country, the plains and valleys are numerous, and some of them extensive, but far less productive than those upon the river.
The sea-coast, to which the name Palestine more properly belongs, is almost entirely level, and not only without rivers, but even destitute of brooks, except such temporary rivulets as are produced by the melting of the snow in winter. Notwithstanding, the soil is black and rich, and when the rains are regular, produces plentiful crops of grain and pulse.
I. THE mountains of Lebanon, which form the northern boundary of Palestine, dividing it from Syria, are considered as belonging to both countries. (See p. 37.) A branch of this range, running to the southwest from Anti-Libanus, is properly the Mount Naphtali, upon which Kedesh, one of the cities of refuge, was situated, Josh. xx. 7. It is now called Mount Seffad.
II. Mount Carmel, which still retains its ancient name, is situated on a promontory, upon the south side of the Bay of St. Jean d'Acre. It consists of several hills rising in separate peaks; that furthest north being the highest. The soil of this mountain is rich, producing fruits and flowers in abundance. Its name signifies a fruitful field. It is also well watered by rivulets. We often find allusions to its fertility and beauty in the Scriptures. See Isa. xxxiii. 9; xxxv. 2; Sol. Song vii. 5; Jer. 1. 19; Amos i. 2.
Mount Carmel has several spacious caverns, some of which were formerly inhabited by monks, whose cells are still visible. On this mountain, it is believed, the prophets Elijah and Elisha, for the most part, dwelt; and the Mohammedans still regard one of the caves with particular reverence, as having been the residence
of Elijah. An order of monks in the Roman Catholic church are called Carmelites, because they erected their first convent on the summit of this mountain.
III. To the south-east of Carmel stands Mount Tabor, a lime-stone mountain, of a conical form, with forests of oaks and other trees. It overtops all the neighbouring hills, to which the prophet alludes, Jer. xlvi. 18. On the south and west of Tabor lies the plain of Jezreel, or Esdrelon; beyond which, on the south, are the mountains of Nablus. On the north, the hills of Nazareth come up to the very foot of Tabor. On the northern side Mount Tabor is precipitous. The summit of the mountain is a small plain. On this mountain Barak encamped with his 10,000 men, before he attacked Sisera, Judg. iv. 6, 12, 14. Here also, according to a very old tradition, Christ was transfigured, Matt. xvii. 1; Mark ix. 2; Luke ix. 28. During the summer season, Mount Tabor is often covered with thick clouds, which break away at noon. A strong wind blows by day, and at night the dew falls heavily. The woody parts of the mountain have always been a resort for hunters and fowlers, Hos. v. 1. From the top of Mount Tabor there is a noble prospect, reaching southward to Jerusalem, eastward to the plains of Jordan, and northward to the plains of Galilee.
IV. A few miles to the north of Tabor, stands a rugged mountain, almost square, terminating in two sharp peaks. By the Arabs it is called the Horns of Hotein, from a village in the neighbourhood; but by the Christians, the Mount of Beatitudes, from a tradition that the "Sermon on the Mount" was here delivered, Matt. v.—vii.
V. To the south of Nazareth, beyond the plain of Esdrelon, there is a mountain of moderate height, the south side of which is an abrupt and rugged precipice. This the tradition of the country designates as the place from which the Jews attempted to precipitate the Saviour, Luke iv. 29.
VI. On the south-east border of the plain of Esdrelon,
is the Mountain of Gilboa, so called from the numerous springs by which it is watered; also remarkable for the battle between the Israelites and the Philistines, in which king Saul was slain, 1 Sam. xxviii. 4; xxxi. 1; 2 Sam. i. 6, 21. The soil of this mountain and its environs is rich, but uncultivated.
VII. A little further south begins Mount Ephraim. This name is given in the Scriptures to a continuous tract of highlands running through the territory of the tribe of Ephraim, Josh. xvii. 10, 15; Judg. xvii. 1; xix. 16, 18, etc. Most of the mountains in this range are covered with woods, and interspersed with fruitful valleys.
VIII. Still further south stand Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, separated by a valley, in which the old city of Shechem stood. On the south side Mount Ebal is green with luxuriant vegetation; on the north it is steep and rugged. These two mountains are remarkable for the solemn ceremony performed upon them, by the command of Moses, at the ratification of the covenant between God and his people, Deut. xxvii. 12 -26; xxviii. Moses also commanded that after the conquest of the land an altar should be built, and a feast celebrated, on Mount Ebal, Deut. xxvii. 4, which was performed by Joshua (viii. 30—35.) The Samaritans, however, pretended that it was upon Mount Gerizim that these rites were performed, and accused the Jews of falsifying this passage of the Pentateuch; but the charge may, with greater justice, be retorted upon themselves.
After the building of the second temple at Jerusalem, the Samaritans built one for themselves upon Mount Gerizim, John iv. 20, which is still regarded as a holy place by the Samaritans at Nablus, who look towards it when they pray, as the Jews look towards Jerusalem, and the Mohammedans towards Mecca.
IX. The hills which encircle Nablus, the ancient Shechem, are the same upon which the sons of Jacob