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A Chorographical Century
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."
Rabban Gamaliel, and the elders sitting together at the ascent into the gallery, in the mount of the Temple, had Jochanan, the priest, and the amanuensis, sitting with them. They said to him, "Go to, write to our brethren, the inhabitants of Upper Galilee, and Nether Galilee, health: we certify you, that the time is come of separating the tithes. And to our brethren, that inhabit the Upper South Country, and that inhabit the Nether South Country, health: we certify you," &c.
The 'Upper South country' consisted of that part of the country, which was hilly; the 'Nether,' of a plain, and valley sinking on both sides. Which country, although it were barren above all other parts of the land, yet had its inhabitants, and those many, as well as other countries of the land.
He that turns over the Talmudical books, will meet very frequently with the name of the 'South,' taken for 'whole Judea' in opposition to 'Galilee.' "Those of Zippor enjoined a fast to obtain rain, but the rain came not down. Therefore, said they of Zippor, R. Joshua Ben Levi obtained rain for the southern people: but R. Chaninah hinders it from coming upon the people of Zippor. They were called, therefore, together to a second fast. R. Chaninah sent to fetch R. Joshua Ben Levi. And both went out to the fast, and yet rain fell not. He stood forth, therefore, and said before them, Neither doth Joshua Ben Levi obtain rain for the southern people, nor does R. Chaninah restrain it from the people of Zippor: but the southern people have a soft heart, to hear the words of the law and be humbled: but the people of Zippor have a hard heart." But now R. Joshua Ben Levi, who was called "the southern," was of Lydda: and those southern people, for whom he obtained rain, were of Lydda, and such as dwelt in that country.
"A devout disciple learned the intercalation of the year before his master, three years and a half: he came, and intercalated for Galilee: but he could not intercalate for the south," that is, for Judea
Hence you may understand, in what sense some Rabbins are called southern: as "R. Jacob of the south"..."R. Samlai of the south"; whom you have disputing with certain, whom the Gemarists call heretics: whom I think rather to have been 'Christians.' And it seems to be the disputation of a Christian purposed to assert a trinity of persons in the Deity, but nevertheless a unity of the Deity. After you have heard the matter, perhaps you will be of my judgment. View the place.
After very many histories of this place in the Holy Bible, which there is no need to repeat here,--in this city did Alexander the Great, at length, besiege Babemeses the Persian, by the space of two months. "And that city, which before-time was most famous, was laid waste by him, and rendered desert." Not that he had destroyed the building of the city, or consumed it with fire; for presently after his death, Antigonus and Ptolemy, his captains, fighting, it had walls, gates, and fortifications: but that he divested it of its ancient glory, so that it was at last melted into a new city of that name built nearer the sea, where formerly had been 'the haven of the Gazaeans.' That is called by Diodorus, 'old Gaza'; and 'Gaza desert,' by Strabo, and the New Testament, Acts 8:26. At last it was called 'New Maijuma,' and after that 'Constantia':--concerning which, see Eusebius, of 'the Life of Constantine,' book iv. chap. 28; and Sozomen's 'Ecclesiastical History,' book v. chap. 3...
There is mentioned the 'mart of Gaza,' one of the three more famed marts,--to wit, that of Gaza, and of Aco, and of Botna.
There was a place also without the city, which was called, 'The waste (or desert) of the leper's cloister.'
'Ascalon,' in the Samaritan interpreter, is the same with 'Gerar,' Genesis 21.
The word Gerar, among the Talmudists, seems to have passed into 'Gerariku.' "Wherefore (say they) have they not determined of that country, which is in Gerariku? Because it is ill to dwell in. How far? To the river of Egypt. But behold, Gaza is pleasant to dwell in," &c.
In the author of Aruch it is, Gardiki. "Bereshith Rabbah (saith he) renders Gardiki." 'The king of Gerar,' Genesis 20:2, with the Jerusalem Targumist, is "The king of Arad." Note the affinity of Arad, Gerar, and Ascalon; and thence, unless I am deceived, will grow some light, to illustrate those places in the Holy Bible, where we meet with these names.
Ascalon was distant from Jerusalem five hundred and twenty furlongs: that is, sixty-five miles. Which is to be understood of the older Ascalon. For Benjamin Tudelensis makes mention of a double Ascalon,--(this our) old, and the new. For thus he writes: "Then" (from Azotus) "is new Ascalon distant two parsae, or leagues" (that is, eight miles); "which Ezra, the priest, of blessed memory, built at the seashore...now that is distant from old Ascalon, now destroyed, four leagues."
So that, from Azotus to Ascalon, of which we are speaking, and of which alone the Holy Scripture speaks, were, by his computation, four-and-twenty miles; and by the computation of Adrichomius, two hundred furlongs, that is, five-and-twenty miles.
"Ten miles from Gaza" (says our countryman Sandes [Sandys], an eyewitness), "and near the sea, is placed Ascalon, now of no note, anciently a venerable place to the heathen for the temple of Dagon, and the festivals of Semiramis' birthday."
From Gaza to Azotus, Diodorus Siculus being witness, are two-hundred and seventy furlongs: which amount to four-and-thirty miles: namely, from Gaza to Ascalon, ten miles, and thence to Azotus four-and-twenty.
That is a common saying, "From Ascalon onward to the south, is the heathen country, and Ascalon itself is reputed for a heathen country." And yet something of Ascalon was within the land of Israel. The apple-gardens or orchards, did bound the land of Ascalon on that coast, which we have observed before. And yet, "when R. Ismael Ben R. Josi, and Ben Hakkaphar, were set over the space of Ascalon" (that is, when it was intrusted to them to judge concerning the spaces or parts of Ascalon,--namely, what were within the land, and what without, &c.) "They pronounced it clean from the authority of R. Phinchasi Ben Jair, who said, We went down to the corn-market of Ascalon, and thence we received wheat, and going up into our city we washed, and ate our Thruma"; i.e. The portion of first-fruits belonging to the priests. The greatest part of the city, if not the whole, was esteemed, under the second Temple, to be without the limits of the land: but some part, or at least the apple-yards, and the places next adjacent, were within the land.
Mention is made of a certain temple in Ascalon among the "five more famous temples,--viz. the temple of Bel in Babylon, the temple of Nebo in Cursi, of Tiratha in Mapheg, of Zeripha in Ascalon, and of Nishra in Arabia."
And there is a story of a fast enjoined, because some sign appeared of a blast of the corn in Ascalon: "The elders went down from Jerusalem into their cities, and enjoined a fast, because so much of a blast was seen in Ascalon as the space of the mouth of an oven may contain."
But most famous of all is the story of the eighty women, that were witches, hanged by Simeon Ben Shetach in one and the same day. We will not think much to relate the thing in the words of the Gemarists:--"When as two disciples of the wise men in Ascalon were intent upon the study of the law, one of them, at length dying, had no funerals performed for him,--when yet a publican, dying at that time, had. To the student, that survived, are revealed the joys of his saved companion, and likewise the punishments of the damned publican." Let the learned reader turn this clause into English; unless my conjecture fail me, it savours of spite and poison. I should thus render it: "He saw Mary, the daughter of Eli, in the shades, hung up by the kernels of the breasts; and when he inquired, How long she was to suffer those things? it was answered, Until Simon Ben Shetach came to supply her place. But, said he, for what crime? It is answered, Therefore, because he sometime swore against his soul, and said, If I shall ever become a prince, I will destroy all wizards. But behold, he is become a prince, and yet he hath not done this: for eighty women, that are witches, lie hid in a cave at Ascalon, and kill the world. Go, and tell him, &c. He went to him, therefore, and related these things, &c. On a certain rainy day, therefore, having eighty young men in company with him, he goes to the cave, knocks, professes himself one of the bewitching society, and is let in. He sees them exercising their art. For, muttering certain words together, one brings morsels of meat,--another, wine,--another, boiled flesh, &c. But what can you do, say they? Saith he, I will twice utter my voice, and I will bring in eighty youths handsomely habited, themselves merry, and shall make you so. They say to him, Such we would have. He utters his voice the first time, and the young men put on their clean clothes" (free from the rains, for they had carried them with them covered and safe in certain vessels for the same purpose). "Crying out the second time, in they all come: and a sign being given, that each man should lift up from the earth one woman (for so their magical power would perish), he said to her which had brought the morsels, Bring hither now the morsels; but she brought them not. Therefore, said he, Carry her away to the gallows. Bring wine, but she brought it not; Carry her also away, saith he, to hanging. And so it was done with them all. Hence is the tradition, Simeon Ben Shetach hung eighty women in Ascalon. But they do not judge two persons in the same day: but this he did out of the necessity of the time." Where the Gloss thus; "He was compelled to do this, because the women of Israel had very much broke out into witchcraft. Therefore, he made a hedge to the time, and hanged them, to expose the thing publicly. And this in one and the same day, that their kindred might no way conspire to deliver them."
...Pliny doth dispose the towns here in this order;--"Azotus, the two Jamnes, Joppe."--R. Benjamin, in the order backward, thus,--"Joppah, Jabneh, Azotus." That is Jabneh with this author, that is Jaminia with the other.
A remembrance of this place is in 2 Chronicles 26:6: but the chief fame of it is for the Sanhedrim, that was placed there, both before the destruction of Jerusalem and after.
Rabban Gamaliel, St. Paul's master, first presided there. Under whom came forth that cursed form of prayer, which they called "The prayer against heretics," composed by Samuel the Little, who died before the destruction of the city. Gamaliel died eighteen years before the Temple was destroyed; and his son Rabban Simeon succeeded him, who perished with the city.
Jerusalem being destroyed, Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai obtained of Titus the conqueror, that he might still receive and retain the Sanhedrim of Jabneh: which being granted by him, Jochanan himself was first president there; and after him, Rabban Gamaliel the second: and after him, R. Akibah. And this place was famous above all the other universities, except only the latest of all,--viz. Tiberias: so that "The vineyard of Jabneh" became a proverb. "For there they sat in order, as a vineyard." And it is reported, "that there were there three hundred classes of scholars,--or, at least, eighty." How long time Rabban Jochanan sat here, is doubted.
There are some, who attribute to him two years only; and others five: with whom we consent. This Rabban Jochanan I very much suspect to be the same with that John, mentioned Acts 4:6. Omitting those things, which were done by him, while he remained at Jabneh,--let me produce his dying words, as they are recited by his friends: "When Rabban Jochanan Ben Zaccai now lay languishing, his scholars came to visit him: whom he seeing began to weep. To whom they said, 'O thou light of Israel, thou right-hand pillar, thou strong hammer, whence are those tears?' To whom he replied, 'If men were about to carry me before a king of flesh and blood, who today is here, and tomorrow is in his grave,--if he were angry with me, his anger is not everlasting; if he should cast me into bonds, his bonds are not eternal; if he should kill me, his killing would not be eternal: and I might perhaps pacify him with words, or soften him with a gift. But they are ready to lead me before the King of kings, the Lord, holy and blessed, who lives and lasts for ever, and for ever and ever; who if he be angry with me, his anger is eternal; if he bind me, his bond is eternal; if he kill me, his killing is eternal; and whom I cannot either appease with words, or soften with a gift. And moreover, there are two ways before me, one to paradise, another to hell; and I know not which way they will lead me. Should I not therefore weep?'" Ah! the miserable and fainting confidence of a Pharisee in death!
Rabban Gamaliel of Jabneh, a busy and severe man, succeeded Jochanan. Being to be slain with his father, Rabban Simeon,--by the intercession of Rabban Jochanan he was delivered. Being also sought for to be slain, when Turnus Rufus (in Josephus, Terentius Rufus) ploughed up the floor of the Temple, he was delivered by a way scarcely credible. Sitting in Jabneh he removed R. Akibah, head at that time of the school of Lydda, from his headship; and he at last was removed from his, and over him was placed R. Eleazar Ben Azarias. R. Akibah succeeded him, and sat forty years, and died a fool, being deceived by Ben Cozba, and slain with him: and the university was removed from Jabneh to Usha.
"Jabneh stands two parsae" (that is, eight miles) "from Azotus: and was at last called Ivelyn." They are the words of Benjamin, in his Itinerary [p. 51].
"Lydda was a village, not yielding to a city in greatness."
Concerning its situation, and distance from Jerusalem, the Misna hath these words: "The vineyard of four years" (that is, the fruit of a vineyard now of four years' growth; for, for the first three years, they were trees, as it were, not circumcised) "was brought to Jerusalem, in the space of a day's journey on every side. Now these were the bounds of it; Elath on the south; Acrabatta on the north; Lydda on the west; and Jordan on the east." The Gloss; "The wise men appointed, that the second tenth of the fruits, growing within the space of a day's journey from Jerusalem, should be carried thither to be eaten, and should not be redeemed. That the streets of Jerusalem might be crowned with fruits."
When you consider this distance, you may well wonder what that means, which is almost become a proverb, "The women of Lydda knead their dough, go up to the Temple, pray, and come back, before it be leavened." Not that the distance of the places is made less; but that hence may be shewn, that no disadvantage accrued to these women, who paid their vows and performed their religion.
I very much wonder, that the authors of the maps have held Lod and Lydda for two towns; Lod not far from Jordan and Jericho; Lydda not far from the Mediterranean sea. A Jew, or one versed in Jewish affairs, will laugh at these things; when Lod and Lydda have no difference at all between them,--unless that that is Hebrew,--this, Greek.
When the Sanhedrim sat in Jabneh, there flourished eminent schools in Lydda. Yea, Lydda had her schools and her learned men, when the university was gone away into Galilee, and Jabneh lamented her loss of scholars.
There R. Akibah bore the headship of the school, removed, as I said before, from his government by Rabban Gamaliel, "because he detained at Lydda more than forty pair of men travelling" (towards Jabneh) "to give their testimony to the Sanhedrim concerning the new moon; and suffered them not to go forwards."
Gamaliel being dead, or rather removed,--when R. Akibah was head in Jabneh, R. Tarphon was rector of the school of Lydda, whom you have sometimes disputing with R. Akibah, but at last yielding to him with this commendation; "He that separates himself from you, is as if he separated himself from his own life."
We read of five elders teaching and erring before Tarphon at Lydda. We read also of a fast enjoined at Lydda for the obtaining of rain, and Tarphon the moderator of the solemnity. The stories of this place are infinite; we will gather a few.
Helena the queen celebrated the feast of tabernacles at Lydda.
R. Eliezar and R. Joshua were sometime present in the same place at the feast of dedication: but being not enough satisfied concerning the fast at that time enjoined, one went to the bath,--the other, to the barber's shop.
Here it was, that Ben Satdah was surprised and taken, and brought before the Sanhedrim, and stoned...
Since it was not lawful to intercalate the year any where but in Judea, "a great many went to Lydda out of the school of the Rabbi" (Judah Haccodesh, viz. out of Galilee. And a little after: "R. Jeremiah asked before R. Zeira, Is not Lydda a part of Judea? Yes, saith he. Wherefore, then, do they not transact the intercalation of the year there?--Because they are obstinate, and unskillful in the law."
"Lydda is a part of Judea." Let some maps mark this, which have placed a certain Lod, which never was any where, not far from Jericho, as was said before; because Lod, in the land of Benjamin, is brought in, Nehemiah 11:35: but they set Lydda far beyond the bounds of Judea in the land of Ephraim.
"Koshab Bar Ulla sometime got away to Lydda to Rabbi Josua Ben Levi, dwelling there, when he fled from the Romans. The Romans pursued him, and besieged the city. Unless you deliver him to us, say they, we will destroy the city. R. Josua Ben Levi persuaded him, and he was delivered to the Romans."
I might produce numberless things celebrating the name of Lydda; such as, "The chamber of Beth-Arum in Lydda." "The chamber of Beth-lebaza in Lydda." "The chamber of Beth-Nethaza in Lydda."--We suppose these were schools.
I might mention very many names of Rabbins residing at Lydda, besides those whom I have remembered before: such are, R. Chama Bar Chanina, and R. Hoshaia with him. R. Illai, and R. Eliezer; and others, who are vulgarly called the Southern, in the sense we produced before. Concerning R. Josua Ben Levi, by name, the author of Juchasin hath these words, "His habitation, or college, was in the south of the land of Israel." He means Lydda.
R. Eliezer, dying at Caesarea, desired to be buried at Lydda, whom R. Akibah bewailed as well with blood as tears. "For when he met his hearse betwixt Caesarea and Lydda, he beat himself in that manner, that blood flowed down upon the earth. Lamenting, thus he spoke,--O my father, my father, the chariot and horsemen of Israel. I have much money, but I want a moneyer, to change it." The Gloss is this, "I have very many questions; but now there is no man, to whom I may propound them."
There is a place between Jamnia and Lydda, which was called Bekiin; of which there is this mention: "R. Jochanan Ben Brucha, and R. Eliezer the blind, travelling from Jabneh to Lydda, met R. Josua in Bekiin," &c.
From Jamnia to Joppe (according to Benjamin, in his Itinerary [p. 51]) are three leagues, or parsae: "Now Lydda was nigh to Joppa," Acts 9:38.
Between Lydda and the sea, a spacious valley runs out, here and there widely spreading itself, and sprinkled with villages. The holy page of the New Testament [Acts 9:35] calls it Saron: and that of the Old calls the whole, perhaps, or some part of it, 'the plain of Ono,' Nehemiah 6:2, 11:35; 1 Chronicles 8:12...
The wine of Sharon is of great fame, with which they mixed two parts water: and remarkable is that they say concerning the houses of Sharon. R. Lazar saith, "He that builds a brick house in Sharon, let him not return back": which was allowed to others, Deuteronomy 20:5,--namely, that they should return back from the war, if they had built a new house, and it were not yet dedicated. "But the men of Sharon withdrew not themselves back" (they are the words of the Jerusalem Gemara), "because they repaired their houses within seven years: and the chief priest also prayed for them on the day of expiation, that their house might not become their graves." The Gloss upon the Babylonian Talmud thus; "Sharon was the name of a place, whose ground was not fit for bricks: and therefore, they often repaired their houses within seven years."
Among the villages, scattered up and down in this pleasant vale, we meet with Caphar Lodim, between Lydda and the sea. There is mention of it in the book Gittin, in the very beginning: "He that brings a bill of divorce from a heathen country is bound to witness thus,--This bill was written I being present, and was sealed I being present.--R. Eleazar saith, Yea, he that brings it from Caphar Lodim to Lydda": R. Nissim, explaining the place, saith thus; "Caphar Lodim was without the land of Israel, neighbour to Lydda, which was within [the land], and partook of its name, because some people of Lydda were always present there."
And this village neighboured upon Lydda, situate on the east of it. "R. Eleazar had a vineyard of four years' growth; on the east of Lydda, near Caphar Tebi." Of it there is this mention also:--
"They sometime brought a chest full of bones from Caphar Tebi, and they placed it openly in the entrance to Lydda. Tudrus the physician and the rest of the physicians go forth"--(namely, that they might judge, whether they were the bones of men or no; and thereby, whether they were to be esteemed clean or unclean). "Tudrus said, Here is neither the backbone nor the skull of a man. They said, therefore, Since here are some, who reckon them clean, others that hold them unclean, let the matter be decided by votes. R. Akibah began, and he pronounced them clean, &c."
The name Tebi, given to this village, seems to be derived from the kids skipping up and down in this fruitful vale. The word also gave name to men; and that, as it seems, with some delight. The woman Tabitha is of eternal memory, Acts 9; and, in the pages of the Talmudists, "Tebi the servant of Rabban Gamaliel; and Tabitha his maid-servant. Yea, every maid-servant of his was called Mother Tabitha,--and every man-servant, Father Tebi."
This coast is marked out Joshua 18:12; where, at verse 14, are very many versions to be corrected, which render the sea; such are, the Syriac, the Seventy, the Vulgar, the Italian, ours, &c.: whence ariseth a sense of insuperable difficulty to a chorographical eye: when it should, indeed, be rendered of the west, as the Chaldee, Arabic, R. Solomon, &c. rightly do.
We read of a double Beth-horon in the Old Testament, but one only under the second Temple...
At that place that great Canaanitish army perished, Joshua 10, not with hail (the Jews being judges), which presently melted,--but with stones, which hardened, and lasted unto all following ages. Hence is that, "Whosoever shall see the place, where the Israelites passed through the sea, where they passed through Jordan, where they passed by the rivers of Arnon, or those great stones in the going down of Beth-horon,--is bound to bless."
They believe, in the same place, also, the army of Sennacherib fell. For so the Gloss upon the words before spoken, "The going down of Beth-horon was the place where the army of Sennacherib fell."
This was a highway. Josephus, in the place above cited, relating a story of one Stephen, a servant of Caesar, who suffered hardly by robbers in this place, saith, that it was "in the public way of Beth-horon,"--namely, in the king's highway, which goes from Jerusalem to Caesarea.
Yet the passage and ascent here was very strait; which the Talmudists do thus describe: "If two camels go up together in the ascent of Beth-horon, both fall." The Gloss, "The ascent of Beth-horon was a strait place; nor was there room to bend to the right hand or to the left."
The story of Cestius, the Roman captain, in Josephus, is sad, but not unseasonable in this place. He intrenched against Jerusalem, in a place called the Scope on the north part of the city (which we shall show hereafter): and being at length forced by the Jews to retreat, "he came near to Gabaon, to his former camp." And being pressed farther by them, he betook himself to Beth-horon; "He led his forces to Beth-horon."
"But the Jews, whilst he marched along places where there was room, did not much press him; but they getting before the Romans who were shut up within the straits of the descent (of Beth-horon), stopped them from going out: others thrust them that came in the rear down into the valley. And the whole multitude being spread at the opening of the way, covered the army with their darts."
Behold! the way leading from Jerusalem to Beth-horon:--
I. From the city to Scopo (of which we shall speak afterward), is seven furlongs.
II. From Scopo to Gabao, or Geba, forty-three furlongs. For Gabao was distant from Jerusalem...Josephus relating it, fifty furlongs,--that is, six miles and more.
III. From Geba to Beth-horon fifty furlongs, or thereabouts. And about Beth-horon was a very great roughness of hills, and a very narrow passage.
Josephus thus describes the land of Benjamin; "The Benjamites' portion of land was from the river Jordan to the sea, in length: in breadth, it was bounded by Jerusalem and Beth-el." Let these last words be marked, "The breadth of the land of Benjamin was bounded by Jerusalem and Beth-el." May we not justly conclude, from these words, that Jerusalem and Beth-el were opposite, as it were, in a right line? But if you look upon the maps, there are some that separate these by a very large tract of land, and make them bend and slope from one another.
Beth-el heretofore was Luz: of which the Rabbins upon Judges 1:23, &c. do not a little trifle. Sometimes it is called Beth-aven. So the Talmudists; "That town, which sometimes was called Beth-el, afterward was called Beth-aven." And the Chaldee upon Hosea 4:15: "Go not up to Beth-el"; for the Hebrew, "Go not up to Beth-aven." So also chapter 10:5,8. Not that there was not another town, named Beth-aven (see Joshua 18:12,13): but that Beth-el too deservedly bore the reproach of that name, in the same manner as Jerusalem bore the name of Sodom, Isaiah 1:10.
It is said of Deborah, that she lived "between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim," Judges 4:5: where the Targum thus; "She had gardens in Ramatha, olive-trees making oil in the valley, a house of watering in Beth-el." Not that Beth-el properly was in the hill-country of Ephraim, since that town stood upon the very boundaries of Judea; but that the dwelling of Deborah was at the beginning of that hill-country, a valley running between that hill-country and those boundaries. Beth-el itself was situate in a hilly country, Joshua 16:1; which yet one would scarcely call the hill-country of Ephraim (since there was a time, when Beth-el and her towns belonged to Judea, 2 Chronicles 13:19: hence the idolatry of those of Judah is sometimes mixed with the Ephraimites', of which they hear often enough from the prophets); but it was a certain hilly place, running out between Judea and the land of Ephraim: see Joshua 18:12.
On the east of Beth-el heretofore was Hai, Genesis 12:8; Joshua 8:9, &c. But upon the very first entrance almost of Israel into the land of promise, it became thenceforth of no name, being reduced into eternal ashes by Joshua. The town Beth-aven was not far from it, Joshua 7:2, which gave name to the wilderness adjacent, Joshua 18:12. In which we suppose Ephraim stood, 2 Chronicles 13:19. Which Ephraim, in the New Testament, is called "the region near the wilderness," John 11:54; concerning which we shall speak afterward.
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