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A Commentary on the New Testament
from the Talmud and Hebraica
Chapter 1: Of the places mentioned in Luke 3.
Some historical passages concerning the territories of Herod, &c.
Whether Perea may not also be called Galilee.
Some things in general concerning the country beyond Jordan.
2 Samuel 20:18 discussed.
Before we make any particular inquiries into the countries mentioned Luke 3:1, it will not be amiss to dip into history a little more generally.
"Augustus Caesar received Herod's sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, upon their arrival at Rome, with all the kindness imaginable, granting a power to Herod to establish the kingdom in which of his sons he pleased: yea, and moreover, gave him the region of Trachonitis, Batanea, and Abranitis." We find Perea (peculiarly so called) not mentioned in this place, when yet it was most assuredly under Herod's jurisdiction: how else could he have built Herodium, which was in the extreme confines of Perea southward, where he himself was buried?
Neither, indeed, doth St. Luke say any thing of Perea, even then when he mentions the tetrarchy of Herod Antipas, under whose jurisdiction, Josephus tells us, were both Perea and Galilee. "Perea and Galilee were both under Antipas."
Why Josephus should not mention Perea, when he is speaking of the father's kingdom, or why St. Luke should omit it, when he instances the tetrarchy of the son, that being so unquestionably within his jurisdiction, I confess is something strange to me; nor could I pass it without some remark.
The same Josephus tells us this of the tetrarchy of Philip: "Batanea, also, and Trachonitis, Auranitis, and some parts of Zeno's house, about Jamnia, yielding the profits of one hundred talents, were under Philip's government." And again, "Then died Philip, in the twentieth year of the reign of Tiberius, when he himself had governed for seven-and-thirty years over Trachonitis, Gaulonitis, and the country of the Bataneans." Here we see Auranitis is not mentioned, but Gaulonitis is; and in St. Luke, neither Batanea, nor Gaulonitis, nor Auranitis; but, instead of them, Iturea. There is a chronological difficulty in these words of Josephus, which is not easily solved; but this is not the business of this treatise.
It is hard to say whether this house of Zenon, have any relation with Zenodorus the robber. Josephus, in the place above quoted, mentions him, saying, that Augustus was the more willing to put Batanea, Trachonitis, and Auranitis, under the government of Herod the Great, that he might the more effectually suppress the thefts and rapines committed by one Zenodorus and the Trachonites. Strabo also speaks of this Zenodorus, telling us, that "there were few robberies committed now; the robbers of Zenodorus' party being cut off."
But if the name should be writ in the mother tongue, Beth Zenun, it might signify a place or region of cold; and so denote some country adjacent to the snows of Lebanon; or some part of the mountain of snow [Hermon]; I rather believe.
I. Although the whole Transjordanine country might justly enough be called Perea, for this very reason, because it was on the other side Jordan; yet, generally speaking, the country is distinguished, and that is peculiarly called Perea, which was the kingdom of Sehon, the dwelling afterward of the Reubenites, and part of the tribes of Gad.
Hence that of Ptolemy, that "from the east of the river Jordan," there are only these cities reckoned up by him: Cosmos. Livias. Callirrhoe (of old, Lasha.) Gazorus. Epicaerus.
Other places that were beyond Jordan he mentions under other districts; as, some under Coelosyria, others under Batanea.
That which we are now inquiring about, is, whether the Transjordanine country was ever called Galilee. The rise of this question is, because our Evangelist mentions the whole tetrarchy of Herod, under the name of Galilee, when as Perea was a great part of it. I incline much to the affirmative, for these reasons: and first, I suppose that the upper part of the country 'beyond Jordan' might be called 'Galilee.'
1. From Matthew 4:15, "by the way of the sea beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles." Are not those places beyond the sea of Gennesaret, called, in this place, 'Galilee of the Gentiles,' in distinction to Galilee properly so called, on this side Jordan?
2. Judas, who moved the sedition against the Roman tax, is, by Gamaliel, called 'Judas of Galilee,' Acts 5:37,--who yet, by Josephus, is called, "A Gaulonite of the city of Gamala." Now it is well enough known that Gaulona and Gamala were beyond Jordan.
II. I suppose Perea, properly so called, to have gone also under the name of Galilee, for these reasons:
1. The whole land of Canaan, both that beyond and that on this side Jordan, was under the jurisdiction of Herod the Great. So that divide this whole country into four tetrarchies, the first Judea; the second Samaria; both which were under the government of Pilate; the third, Iturea and Trachonitis, under Philip; the fourth will be Galilee on this side, and Perea beyond Jordan. Whereas, therefore, St. Luke, in the division of the tetrarchies, names only Galilee, as that which belonged to Herod, it is manifest he includes Perea under that of Galilee, and speaks of it as a known and commonly-received thing.
2. In Luke 7:11, it is said of Jesus, that "as he went to Jerusalem, he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee." One would have thought it had been proper to have said, "through the midst of Galilee and Samaria." For when he went from Jerusalem to his own country, he then passed through Samaria, and so into Galilee; but going from home to Jerusalem, he in his passage went through Galilee, and then through Samaria: but now it is very certain, that in that journey he did pass through Perea, having first gone through the Samaritan country. Whence it is very probable that Perea is called, by our evangelist in this place, Galilee; in the very same manner as he had also included it in the mention of Galilee, Luke 3:1.
3. In that tragical feast, wherein the last mess was the head of John Baptist, those who then were treated by Herod are called the "great estates of Galilee," Mark 6:21. Now, that supper was kept in the palace Herodium, which was in the very extreme parts of Perea towards the south; and, therefore, surely those "great estates of Galilee," that were with him, must be no other than the great estates of Perea.
4. There is mention of Geliloth of Jordan, Joshua 22:11, when the passage was concerning Perea: whence that country might well take its name of Galilee.
As to the tetrarchies of Herod and Philip, this, I suppose, we may determine without prejudice or question, that nothing was within their jurisdiction but what was within the confines of the land of Israel, properly so called. As to what may be objected concerning Iturea, we shall consider in its own place. Whilst we are, therefore, looking into these countries, our main business will be with what was beyond Jordan; for that on this side the river was only Galilee, about which we shall not much trouble ourselves, because there is no difficulty concerning it.
The Transjordanine country, if I mistake not, from greatest antiquity, is divided in that story, Genesis 14:5: "Chedorlaomer, and the kings that were with him, smote the Rephaims in Ashtaroth-karnaim, and the Zuzims in Ham, and the Emims in Shaveh-kiriathaim, and the Horites in mount Seir."
These two things we may apprehend from this passage: 1. That the country of Bashan was inhabited by the Rephaims; Perea (another part of the land beyond Jordan), by the Zuzims, Moab by the Emims. 2. That Ashtaroth-karnaim, Ham, and Shaveh-kiriathaim are not every one the names of whole countries, but particular places in those countries; perhaps where the several fights were, or where the people of that country had been subdued.
As to Ashtaroth-karnaim, there is little doubt but that was in the kingdom of Bashan; the larger region being called Ashtaroth, Karnaim is added in a distinguishing limited sense: Deuteronomy 1:4, "Og, the king of Bashan, which dwelt at Ashtaroth in Edrei."
Of the place itself, the Jewish doctors thus: "At twenty cubits, a man sits in the shadow of his tent" (viz. in the feast of Tabernacles); "he does not sit in the shadow of his tabernacle beyond twenty cubits, but in the shadow of its sides" [that is, if the roof or cover of his tabernacle be above twenty cubits high]. "Abai saith unto him, If, therefore, any one shall pitch a tabernacle in Ashtaroth-karnaim, is not the tabernacle so also?" Gloss: "Ashtaroth-karnaim were two great mountains, with a valley between; and, by reason of the height and shadow of those mountains, the sun never shone upon the valley."
Why the Samaritan copy should use here Aphinith Karnaiah, instead of "Ashtaroth-karnaim," especially when it retains the word Ashtaroth elsewhere, is not easy to say, unless it should have some relation to boughs; as a place thick and shady with boughs. But such is the confusion of the guttural letters in the Samaritan language, that we can determine nothing positively.
That the Zuzims inhabited Perea, as it is distinguished from the country of Bashan, may be evident from the progress of the conqueror; for whereas it is plain that the Rephaims dwelt in Bashan, and the Emims in the country of Moab, Deuteronomy 2:10,11, it is manifest that the Zuzims, who were conquered after the Rephaims, and before the Emims, lay in a country between both, and that was Perea.
And hence are those to be corrected that would correct the reading here, and instead of "the Zuzims in Ham," would render it, "the Zuzims with them." So the Greek, Vulgar, &c.: as if the Zuzims were amongst the Rephaims, when they were distinguished both in nation and dwelling.
When the Israelites went out of Egypt into that land, the whole Transjordanine region was divided into these two seigniories,--the kingdom of Sehon, and the kingdom of Og. That of Sehon was Perea, strictly so called now; that of Og, was all the rest under the name of Bashan. But after the return of Israel from Babylon, Bashan was so subdivided, that Batanea, or Bashan, was only a part of it, the rest going under the name of Trachonitis, Auranitis, and, if you will, Gaulonitis too; for we meet with that distinction also in Josephus. To give, therefore, all these countries at this time their proper bounds and limits, if it does not exceed all human skill and wit, I am sure it doth mine.
So that all we can do in this matter, is only to propound a few things of these places thus divided, as far as conjecture may carry us, which we submit fairly to the fair and candid judgment of the reader. Let us, therefore, begin with Trachonitis.
"Tekoah hath the preeminence for oil: Abba Saul saith, The next to that is Regab beyond Jordan."
Gul. Tyrius would derive the name from dragons. For so he: "It [Trachonitis] seems to have taken its name from dragons. Those hidden passages and windings underground, with which this country abounds, are called dragons. Indeed, almost all the people of this country have their dwellings in dens and caves; and in these kind of dragons."
Other things might be offered as to the signification of the word: but we are looking after the situation of the place, not the etymology of the name. And the first thing to be inquired into, as to its situation, is, whether it extended in longitude from the south to the north, or from the west to the east. The reason of our inquiry is, partly upon the account of Auranitis, which we are to speak of presently, and partly those words in Josephus, "Batanea was bounded with Trachonitis." How so? Either that Batanea lay between Perea and Trachonitis, extending itself from the west towards the east, or between Trachonitis and Galilee, strictly so called, extending itself in length from the south towards the north: which last I presume most probable; and so we place Trachonitis in the extreme parts of the Transjordanine country towards the east. And both which, upon these reasons taken together:
1. The Gemarists, describing the circumference of the land from the north, do mention "Tarnegola [or Gabara] the upper, which is above Caesarea [Philippi], and Trachona, which extends to Bozrah": where the extension of Trachona must not be understood of its reaching to some Bozrah in those northern borders; but to some Bozrah or Bosorrah in the confines of Perea: and so it supposes the country extending itself from the north towards the south.
2. "Of the province of Batanea; east of which is Saccea, and here, under the hill Alsadamus, are the Trachonite Arabians." Behold here the Trachonites living east of Batanea.
3. "The country of Gamala, and Gaulanitis, and Batanea, and Trachonitis." But were not Gamalitica itself and Gaulonitis within Batanea? Right: but by this distinction he divides between that Batanea that was nearer Galilee, and that that was farther off. That country that lay nearest, from those noted towns of Gaulan and Gamala, he calls Gaulonitis and Gamalitica; and that which was farther off, he calls by its own name of Batanea; and what lies still beyond that, Trachonitis.
There was a time when all that whole country, which now is distinguished into these severals, had one general name of Bashan; which word, how it came to change into Bathan, or Batanea,--as also, with the Targumists and Samaritans, into Batnin and Matnin,--any one, indifferently skilled in the Syrian tongue, will easily discern.
That Auranitis took its denomination from Hauran, hardly any one will question, especially that observes Ezekiel 47:16, to be rendered by the Greek interpreters, "which are upon the borders of Auranitis."
Hauran is reckoned up amongst those hills, at the top of which, by lifting up some flaming torches, they were wont to give notice of the new year.
"Where did they hold up those lights? From mount Olivet to Sartaba. And from Sartaba to Gryphena. And from Gryphena to Hauran. And from Hauran to Beth Baltin. And from Beth Baltin, he that held up the light there, did not depart, but waved it hither and thither, up and down, till he saw the lights kindled throughout the whole captivity."
The Gemarist queries, "What is Beth-Baltin? Rabh saith, It is Biram. What is the captivity? Rabh Joseph saith, It is Pombeditha." Gloss: "The sense of it is this: That Biram is in the land of Israel." How! is Biram the same with Beth Baltin, and yet is Biram within the land of Israel? when, in the Jerusalem Gemara, "Rabh Honna saith, When we came hither, we went up to the top of Beth Baltin, and discerned the palm trees in Babylon." If this be true, the geographers are to consider whether there can be any prospect of Babylon from the land of Israel. In their sense it may be true enough, who commonly by the name of Babylon understand all those countries into which the Babylonish captivity were carried; not only Chaldea, but Mesopotamia also, and Assyria. So that bounding the land of Israel with the river Euphrates (which, indeed, the Holy Scriptures themselves do), they make it contiguous with Mesopotamia, the river only between; and they place Beth Baltin not far from the bank on this side the river.
The Gemarists acknowledge that lights were lifted up upon some hills between those which they had mentioned; but these were the most known and celebrated, and therefore they named them only. Now it is probable enough that mount Hauran gave the denomination to the whole country Auranitis, which we are now upon. Perhaps there might be some part of Antilibanus called Hauran, either from the Syriac word Havar, which signifies white; or from the Hebrew word Hor, a cave. It may well enough agree either way, the hill being white with snow, and hollow with the subterranean passages that were there.
However, it is plain enough, from the place in Ezekiel before quoted, that Hauran was situated in the very extreme parts of the land towards the north, and from thence the country, as it had its situation there, so had its name Auranitis. Gul. Tyrius (by what authority I cannot tell) placeth it near the sea of Gennesaret: "The country of Auranitis being suddenly run through, which is by the sea of Tiberias," &c.
And that the river Orontes [springing between Libanus and Antilibanus near Heliopolis, as Pliny hath it] took its name from Hauran, the word itself seems to assure us. Although some, quoted by Eustathius, do apprehend it to be a Latin name. As if 'Orontes' were the same with 'Orientalis,' 'the Eastern.' Orontes was of old called Typhon, as Strabo tells us.
The reader must excuse me if I make a narrower search into the situation of Iturea, although Barradius may confidently enough have told him (upon his own trust merely, as far as I can learn), that "the country is in the tribe of Nephthali, at the foot of mount Libanus." Perhaps he hath followed Borchard, who himself writes only upon the credit of Jacobus de Vitriaco: "You must know, the region of Decapolis hath several names in Scripture. Sometimes it is called Iturea; sometimes, Trachonitis; sometimes, the plain of Libanus; sometimes, the land of Moab; in one place, Gabul; in another place, Galilee of the Gentiles, and the Upper Galilee; but everywhere it is all one and the same country." Thus he confusedly enough.
Pliny places some nation or other, called by the name of the Itureans, in Cyrrhestica of Syria: "Next that is Cyrrhestica, the Irneates, the Gindareni, the Gabeni, two tetrarchies, which are called Granii Comatitae, the Emisenes, the Hylatae, a nation of the Itureans, and those of them also called the Betarreni, the Mariamitani," &c.
[Strabo] "After Macra is Marsyas, wherein are some hilly places, on one of which stands Chalcis, a garrison of Marsyas. The beginning of it is Laodicea, about Libanus. The Itureans and Arabs hold all the mountainous places, a very mischievous sort of people, all of them."
[Eupolemus] "David made war with the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Itureans, the Nabathites, and Nabdites." He had said before, "That he had subdued the Syrians dwelling by Euphrates and Comagene, the Assyrians and Phoenicians that were in Galadene."
[Gul. Tyr.] "Taking the way by the sea of Galilee, we entered Phoenice, and, leaving Paneas, which is Caesarea Philippi, on the right hand, we came to Iturea."
"The king passing through the country of Sidon, and going up some hilly places which lay between ours and the enemy's borders, he came to a place every way accommodated with all necessaries, a fruitful soil and well watered; the name of it Messahara. Going thence into the valley called Bacar, he found the land which hath been said to flow with milk and honey. Some are of opinion that this country was of old called Iturea. But long before that, viz. in the days of the kings of Israel, it was called the Grove of Libanus."
Where at length shall we find this Iturea? Had Philip any part of his tetrarchy within Cyrrhestica, or Chalcis of Syria? And yet, if you believe either Pliny or Strabo, there were the Itureans. I suspect there is something couched in the etymology of the word, that may as much puzzle as the situation of the place.
If Bacar, as it is described by Tyrius, be indeed Iturea, it may be derived from Hittur, which signifies wealth; or from crowning, especially when the country itself is crowned with so much plenty. It is a notion familiar enough amongst the Talmudic authors.
Indeed, if I could believe that Iturea were the same with Decapolis, then I would suppose the word ten might have been altered by the change of Shin into Thau, according to the Syriac manner: but I neither can believe that, nor have I ever met with such a change made in that word, but rather that it would go into Samech.
May it not, therefore, be derived from Chitture, diggings, because of the caves and hollows underground? So that the Iturei might signify the same with Troglodytae, "those that dwell in caverns and holes." And so the Troglodytes, which were on the north of Israel, are distinguished from those on the south, viz. the Horites in Edom. Now that these countries, of which we are treating, were peculiarly noted for caves and dens; and they not only numerous, but some very strange and wonderful, Strabo, Josephus, Tyrius, and others, do abundantly testify.
"There are, beyond Damascus, two mountains called Trachones." Afterward; "Towards Arabia and Iturea, there are some cragged hills, famous for large and deep caves; one of which was capable of receiving four thousand men in it." But that was a prodigious cave of Zedekiah's, wherever it was, that was eighteen miles' space; at least, if those things be true which are related concerning it.
There was a cave beyond Jordan, about sixteen miles from Tiberias, that was three stories high; had a lower, a middle, and an upper dining room. Which, indeed, was fortified, and held a garrison of soldiers in it.
So that we may, not without reason, conjecture the Iturea of which we now speak might be so called from Chitture, such kind of diggings under ground: and that Pliny and Strabo, when they talk of the "nation of the Itureans in Cyrrhestica and Chalcis," do not place the country of Iturea there; only hinted that the Troglodytes, who dwelt in dens and caves, were there.
Iturea therefore, mentioned by our evangelists, was in the country beyond Jordan, viz. Batanea and Auranitis, or Auranitis alone, as may appear out of Josephus, compared with this our evangelist. For St. Luke saith, that "Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis": Josephus, that he was tetrarch of Trachonitis, Batanea, and Auranitis. Either, therefore, Auranitis and Batanea in Josephus is the Iturea in St. Luke or else Batanea in Josephus is confounded with Trachonitis mentioned in St. Luke, and Auranitis alone is Iturea. For that passage in Josephus ought to be taken notice of: "Caesar invest Agrippa with the tetrarchy that Philip had, and Batanea, adding moreover Trachonitis with Abella." Where it is observable, that there is mention of the tetrarchy of Philip, distinct from Batanea and Trachonitis. And what is that? certainly Auranitis in Josephus, and perhaps Iturea in St. Luke.
Josephus, in the words before quoted, speaking of Abella, adds this passage; "that had been the tetrarchy of Lysanias." So also Ptolemy; "Abila, that bore the name of Lysanias": and he reckons this up among the cities of Coelosyria, under these degrees: Heliopolis 68.40 33.40; Abila 68.45 33.20.
It is not without cause distinguished by its relation to Lysanias, because in one place or another there were several Abilas or Abellas: for the Hebrew word Abel goes into that pronunciation in the Greek: and there were many places of that name.
Abel-shittim, where the Israelites pitched their tents immediately after they had passed the river Jordan, in Josephus is called Abila, "distant from Jordan threescore furlongs": which he also mentions with Julias in Perea. There is also Abel-meholah, and Abel-beth-maachah, &c.
Near this sound comes Abelas of the Cilicians. The very word Abilene is in Vajicra Rabba; "The Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away. (Job 1:15) R. Abin Bar Cahna saith, They came out of Caphar Karinus, and they went through all Abilene, and came to Migdol Zabaiah, and there died."
2 Samuel 20:18 discussed.
Amongst all the cities and countries that bear the name of Abel, the most celebrated is that in 2 Samuel 20, made famous by the history of a foolish Sheba and a wise woman. The woman's expression is not a little wrested and tortured by interpreters: "They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel; and so they ended the matter."
The Greek version hath more perplexed it. The Latin interpreter renders it thus: "They spake a word in former days, saying, Asking he was asked in Abel and in Dan, if those things have failed which the faithful of Israel laid up. Asking they will ask in Abel, and so if they have failed."
If any one can make any tolerable sense of these words, he would do well to teach others how to do it too; especially let them tell the reason why Dan should be added here. It is true Dan and Abel-beth-maacah are mentioned together as not very distant from one another, 1 Kings 15:20: and if we do by the words understand their neighbourhood to one another, I see nothing else that can be picked out of them.
However, both the Roman and Alexandrian editions agree in this reading, which have the preference of all other editions of the Greek version. And let them now, who are for correcting the Hebrew Bibles by the Greek, say, whether they are for having them corrected here; only let them give me leave to enjoy the Hebrew text as we now have it.
The Hebrew makes the sense plain, if the first words be but rightly applied, namely, to Sheba and his party speaking; "When Sheba and his followers came hither, they at first certainly said thus, That they would ask Abel of its peace, or on whose side it was, and so they made the matter entire," or made a show of their own integrity. For that that Joab was chiefly to be satisfied in, was, that this city had not taken part with the conspirators; which is directly done, if we admit this sense and interpretation of the words. This prudent woman assures him, that "those of Abel had by no means invited Sheba and his fellow-rebels into their town, or by any consent with them in their rebellions, would ever willingly have admitted them; but that they were miserably deceived by their fawning and false words, while they only pretended to inquire about the peace and well-being of that city: and that you may know more effectually that all this is true which I now affirm to you, we will immediately throw you the head of Sheba over our wall."
Sarepta, in the story of Elijah, 1 Kings 17, is written in Hebrew Tzarephath, and with the same letters in Obadiah verse 20: and therefore it may be reasonably inquired, whether it be one and the same place. Indeed, there would hardly be any doubt in it, but that the Jews ordinarily by Tzarephath understand France; and by Sepharad, which by the prophet is used in the very same verse, Spain. The words of the prophet are very variously rendered; and yet in all that variety, nothing hinders but that Zarephath there may be understood of the Zarephath mentioned in the Kings. For whether the passage concern the captivity's being detained in Zarephath, or the captivity's possessing the land to Zarephath (for in that variety chiefly the words are expounded), in either sense it may well enough be, that the 'Sarepta that belongs to Zidon' may be the scene of the affair. As to the former, if we compare but that passage concerning Tyre, the sister of Sidon, Amos 1:9, and withal the potency and dominion of the Sidonians, it may not be improbable but that the Israelites might be captived in Sarepta of Sidon. And as to the latter, whereas in the verse immediately before, the discourse is of the possession of the mount of Esau, of the fields of Ephraim, Samaria, and Gilead, and then there is mention of possessing the land of Canaan as far as Zarephath, who would seek Zarephath in France, and not in some neighbouring place, according to all the rest of the places there named, which were all very near? Let me add moreover, that whereas there is mention of possessing the land of the Canaanites "even unto Zarephath," the Greek interpreters will tell you who those Canaanites were that are distinguished from the rest of the nations in the land of Canaan; viz. the Phoenicians, Joshua 5:1. And by the 'kings of the Hittites,' mentioned 1 Kings 10:29 and 2 Kings 7:6, I would likewise suppose the Phoenician kings.
The Italian interpreter for Sepharad retains Zarphath...
The Greek hath Ephratha, with which the Arabian interpreter agrees. But the Syriac with the Targumist, Spain. The Vulgar, Bosphorus, confusedly. And yet Nobilius hath this passage: "St. Jerome tells us, the other interpreters agreed with the Hebrew word Sepharad, which he rendered Bosphorus." If he means that all agreed in acknowledging the word Sepharad, he tells us no news; but who agreed with his word Bosphorus?
I must confess, Sepharad is not a place so obvious as Zarephath, nor can any thing be offered in it but conjecture only: and if I might be allowed my guess, I would look for Sepharad in Edom rather than in Spain: and that because Obadiah prophesies against the Edomites properly so called. Whereas, therefore, he tells us, That the captivity of Israel, in Sarepta of the Phoenicians, shall possess the land of the Canaanites, it is probable he means, by the captivity in Sepharad, those captives in Edom who shall possess the cities of the south. The Zarphathani, or Sareptani were of the north, the Sepharadani of the south, amongst the Erembi. "Whom you may rightly call the Troglodyte Arabs," saith Strabo; that is, probably, the Horims in mount Seir; for I suspect Horim, by ill use, might form itself into Eremb.
If we consider that the Jews do generally by Edom understand the Roman empire, and indeed all the Christian nations in the west, we shall easily perceive why they fix these places, Zarephath and Sepharad, so far from Palestine. For Obadiah prophesying against the Edomites, properly so called, the Jews change the scene and persons according to the vulgar construction of Edom, which they had received amongst themselves.
Pliny: "From Tyre is Sarepta and Ornithon, certain towns so called: Sidon where glass is made, and from whence sprang the Boeotian Thebes."
Borchard: "About three very short leagues from Tyre, the river Eleutherus runs into the sea: about two leagues from that river is Sarepta: about two leagues from Sarepta is Sidon. Sarepta, at this time, doth not consist of above eight houses, though the ruins do still say it was once a brave town."
Some would have Zarephath signify as much as a place of melting; from boiling and melting metals, but especially glass.
"Between Acon and Tyre there is a shore all spread over with little hillocks of sand; that bears a glassy sand: the glass indeed is not cast here, but being carried to Sidon, there it is made fusile," &c.
Chapter 3: Nain, Luke 7:11
Concerning Nain near Tabor, shewn to strangers.
In the Alexandrian copy Ijon is Nain, 1 Kings 15:20: in the Roman it is Ain. So Hazar-enan, Numbers 34:9, in the Roman copy is Arsenain; in the Alexandrian, Asernain. Neither of them agrees with our Nain: for it is very absurd to conceive that our Saviour ever was at Hazar-enan, the utmost borders of the land towards Syria; nor can we suppose him in Ijon, that seeming to be according to the order of the places as they are ranked in the text above quoted, either beyond Dan, or in the extremest borders of the land on that side.
As to our Nain, Borchard saith thus; "Two leagues from Nazareth, not much above one from mount Tabor southward, is mount Hermon the less, on the north side of which is the city Nain; at whose gates Jesus recovered a widow's son from death, as we read Luke 7." So also Breidenbach: so some tables as to the situation of Hermon and Tabor, near the situation of Nain near Hermon.
I am well enough satisfied that they should place Nain in the tribe of Issachar, if there be no mistake among them as to mount Tabor. For whereas Tabor is indeed the very utmost border of Issachar northward, Joshua 19:22, it must needs be that what is beyond that southward, a league or two, should be reckoned within that tribe. But I much suspect the Tabor mentioned by them, and that which is now shewn to travellers, is not the true Tabor: nor do I much question but that Hermon, of which they talk, is made out of a mistake and misconstruction of Psalm 89:12, "Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name." My scruple as to mount Tabor ariseth hence; because that Tabor, which is shewn to strangers, as our countryman Biddulph, and another acquaintance of mine own, who were on the top of it, do describe it, does not at all agree with the description Josephus gives us of the true mount Tabor. Our countryman tells us, "It is a hill not very steep, nor very high, nor very large; but a round beautiful hill," &c. On the contrary, "Mount Tabor is in height thirty furlongs, very difficult of ascent on the north side; the top is a great plain of about six-and-twenty furlongs."
The Persian interpreter, instead of Nain, hath Nabelis, that is, Neapolis, which is also Sychem: but for what reason, I know not. Nor do I suppose that it was conceived by any one expositor, that the widow's son, whom Christ raised from death, was a Samaritan; he was indeed upon the borders of Samaria, but a great distance from Sychar.
The Darshanim [expositors] upon Bereshith Rabba speak of a certain place called Naim, upon this occasion: "Issachar is a bony [or strong] ass, Genesis 49:14. It is spoken of Issachar's country; for as an ass is low before and behind, and high in the middle, so is it in the tribe of Issachar; it is a valley here and a valley there, and hilly otherwhere; it couches between two borders. These are the two valleys, the valley of Pislan, and the valley of Jezreel. And he saw that rest was good, this is Tinaam: and the land that it was pleasant, this is Naim."
We have here, by the way, a taste of those allegorical and far-fetched ways of expounding the Scriptures, wherein these egregious commentators do so much please and value themselves. However, we are thus far beholding to them, that they have given us to understand that there was a Nain in the tribe of Issachar, called so from the pleasantness of its situation (as indeed Tinaam bears the same derivation), which we have some reason to judge was the same Nain with ours in the evangelist, and that in Josephus.
"It was usual for the Galileans, coming up to the holy city to the feasts, to take their journey through the Samaritans country, And then their way lay through a town called Nais." I confess the Greek expressions are something perplexed; but it is no great matter. "It happened that some of the Samaritans and inhabitants of the great plain fought with them, and killed a great number."
You may think he repeats the very same story, though differing in some circumstances. "There was another fight betwixt the Galileans and Samaritans; For hard by a town called Gema, situated in the great plain of Samaria, multitudes of Jews going up to the feast, there was a certain Galilean slain."
It is not much worth our examining whether this be one and the same story with the other, or whether this Gema be the same town with Nain: but this we may gather hence, that Nain was in the extreme borders of Issachar, touching upon the Samaritan country, and Gema in the extreme borders of Samaria that were next adjoining to Issachar. And when the Galileans went down from Nain, a town in Issachar, into the great plain of Samaria, the first town in their way is Gema, there the enemy meets and fights them: if at least Gema and Nain be not one and the same place.
There is a great inclination in me to believe that Naim is the same with Engannim, mentioned Joshua 19:21, 21:29. For, 1. Both of them were within the tribe of Issachar; Engannim, as the Holy Scriptures, and Nain, as the Jewish doctors tell us; and why we should not take their word in such a thing as this, I know no reason. 2. Both of them signify pleasantness: Naim, in the very etymon, implies pleasantness: and Engannim, a fountain of gardens. 3. The Engannim, mentioned Joshua 21:29, in 1 Chronicles 6:73, is Anem. Now if you transpose the letters, it will be Naim. 4. Let me add that Engannim (if there be any credit to those guides that commonly shew these places to travellers) lies directly in the way going from Galilee to Jerusalem; and so, as is very evident, was our Naim. Of this place, thus our countryman Biddulph: "a town, commonly called Jenine, of old Engannim: exceedingly pleasant, abounding with waters and gardens, and delightsome walks."
Why the Seventy should render Engannim by a fountain of letters, Joshua 21:29, let those that are more learned, search out. It is true, the children of Issachar are celebrated for their skill in computing the times, 1 Chronicle 12:32; where the Targumist, "They were skilled in calculating the beginnings of the years, the calends of the months, and the intercalation both of years and months; sophists [skillful] in new moons, astrologers [conversant] about planets and stars," &c.
If we would include the Levites, that dwelt amongst the tribe of Issachar, under the general name of Issachar, then might Engannim, being a Levitical city, be an academy for that kind of mathematical learning; but in both we are very uncertain. Nor is it less obscure, that the same Greek interpreter hath, instead of Remeth, Engannim, Enhaddah, and Bethpazes, rendered, "Remmas, and Jeon, and Tomman, and Aemarec, and Bersaphes," Joshua 19:21.
Chapter 4: Emmaus, Luke 24.
Several things about its name and place.
We have spoken something already concerning Emmaus in our Chorographical Century, chapter 45; let us add some few things in this place.
I. It was distant from Jerusalem, as appears both from our evangelist and Josephus, about threescore furlongs. By account of common furlongs, seven miles and a half, eight of the Jewish. What copy, therefore, of Josephus must the learned Beza have by him, who thus speaks upon the place? "Sixty; so the Syriac hath it, and indeed all copies: so that here is either a mistake in the number, or else it is ill written in Josephus, thirty furlongs." Our Josephus plainly hath it, "A town called Emmaus, distant from Jerusalem threescore furlongs"...
III. Josephus commonly renders Chammath of Tiberias (a place so called from the hot baths) by Ammaus; but whether our Emmaus ought to have this derivation, is a question. There were, indeed, at Emmaus, noted waters; but we can hardly suppose they were warm, if we consider but the usual writing of the word amongst the Talmudists.
"Rabban Jochanan Ben Zacchai had five disciples, who, while he lived, sat always with him; but when he died, they retired to Jabneh. But R. Eliezer Ben Erech betook himself to his wife at Emmaus, a place of pleasant waters and pleasant dwelling." There is something in this little story that might not be unworthy our inquiry, as to the scholastical history of the Jews; viz. where Rabban Jochanan should make his abode, if not in Jabneh? for that is the place they commonly allot to him; but this is not a place to dispute of such matters.
"They came to Nicopolis: now Nicopolis is a city in Palestine. This the book of the gospel calls Emmaus, while it was yet a village. There, through the plenty of good waters, and all necessary provisions, they enjoyed a good comfortable night."
This author, upon this occasion, quotes some passages out of Sozomen, in the sixth book of the Tripartite History, which are in his fifth book, chapter 20; wherein the waters at Emmaus are celebrated not only for their plenty and pleasantness, but as they were wonderfully wholesome and medicinal. For thus he: "There is a city in Palestine, which now hath the name of Nicopolis, of which the holy gospel makes mention as of a village (for then it was so), and calls it Emma. The Romans, having sacked Jerusalem, and gained an entire victory over the Jews, from the event of that war, gave this town the name of Nicopolis. Before the city near the road (where our Saviour, after he had arisen from the dead, walking with Cleophas, made as if he was hastening to another town), there is a certain medicinal spring, wherein not only men that are sick, being washed, are cured, but other sort of animals also, of whatsoever diseases they are afflicted with. The report is, that Christ, as he was once going that way with his disciples, turned aside to that fountain; and having washed his feet in it, the waters have ever since retained a healing quality and virtue in them."
We leave the credit of the story to the relater of it: only one thing we may observe from the hint he gives us, that it is no wonder if, in the evangelist's time, Emmaus was but a little village, when as, not long before it, it had been burnt and destroyed by Varus. Nor is it more strange, that its ancient name Emmaus should change into Nicopolis, when the place itself became a Roman colony.
Ptolemy tells us something of its situation by its degrees, saying, "Emmaus, 65. 45. 31. 45."
As to the vicinage of countries or places adjacent, thus the Jerusalem Talmud: "From Beth-horon to Emmaus it is hilly. From Emmaus to Lydda it is champaign; and from Lydda to the sea is valley."
If you would hear Ptolemy more largely, thus he writes: Jamnia 65. 40. 31. 0.; Lydda 66. 0. 32. 0.; Antipatris 66. 20. 32. 0.; Emmaus 65. 45. 31. 45.; Jerusalem 66. 0. 31. 40.
Although this account of the distance betwixt Jerusalem and Emmaus doth not very well agree with what our evangelist and Josephus have said, yet may we learn from the places named along with it, in what quarter of the heaven it was situated. To all which we may add that of Josephus, Antiq. lib. xii. cap. 11. and 1 Maccabees 4: Judas Maccabeus engages with Gorgias near Emmaus: the Gorgians fly, and the Maccabeans pursue "as far as Gadaron (Gezer) to the plains of Idumea, Azotus, and Jamnia."
I therefore recite this passage, that it may appear that Emmaus lay towards Galilee, although from Jerusalem it inclined also westward. For whereas, concerning the latitude of Galilee extending itself from west to east, there must of necessity be several roads from Jerusalem to this or that part of it; so this through Emmaus was one, through Beth-horon another, through Antipatris a third; if, at least, this last did not fall in with that of Emmaus. That passage in Gul. Tyrius makes me think it might; who, describing the encampings and journeyings of the crusade army, tells us, "Leaving the maritime towns, Antipatris and Joppa on the right, they passed through Eleutheria, and came to Lydda, which is Diospolis." And cap. 24, "From whence, taking guides along with them, persons well skilled in those places, they came to Nicopolis": which is the same with Emmaus.
From all which we may reasonably presume that the two disciples were going to Emmaus, not as to the utmost limit of their journey, but as that lay in their way towards Galilee.
To what tribe Emmaus belonged would be something hard to determine, because of the situation of Beth-horon, which was in Ephraim, Joshua 16; but that the Talmudists do clearly enough say, it was not in the Samaritan country.
"They were servants of the priests, saith R. Meir. But R. Jose saith. They were of the family of Beth Pegarim, and Beth Zippory, in Emmaus, who had placed their daughters in marriage with the priests."
The discourse is about the musicians in the Temple; and the dispute is, whether they were Levites or Israelites, particularly natives of Emmaus, the natives of those two families, who, for their purity, were thought worthy to be taken into the affinity and blood of the priests themselves. And this passage, indeed, puts it out of all question, that Emmaus was not within the tribe of Ephraim; because it would be ridiculous to suppose that either Samaritan women should be joined in marriage with the priests, or that Samaritan men should be permitted to play on the instruments in the Temple. Emmaus, therefore, must be placed in the tribe of Benjamin, which what it was called before is not easy to guess.
I conceive there is mention made of this place in Siphra: "R. Akibah said; I asked Rabban Gamaliel and R. Joshua in the shambles of Emmaus, when they went to receive the beast to make a feast for their son," &c. Now Rabban Gamaliel and R. Joshua were both of Jabneh; so that, by considering the situation of Jabneh, we may more confidently believe that they were in the Emmaus we are speaking of. We have the same passage in Maccoth, fol. 14. 1.
It was one of the larger cities: for so Josephus speaks of it; "Cassius disfranchized four cities, the greatest of which was Gophna and Emmaus; and next to these was Lydda and Thamna."
Under the disposition of the duke of Palestine amongst the rest, was "Ala Antala of the dromedaries of Admatha"; where Pancirole notes, that Admatha in St. Jerome, in his Hebrew Places, is called 'Ammata.' This, by the agreeableness of sound, may seem to be our Emmaus; unless, more probably, at this time it bore the name of Nicopolis.
When I take notice that Chammath or the 'Baths of Tiberias,' and Emmaus was much celebrated for famous waters; I cannot forget the 'waters of Nephtoah,' or the 'Fountain of Etam,' from whence water was conveyed by pipes into the Temple. This was in the same quarter from Jerusalem with our Emmaus: so that our Emmaus may as well be derived from Ammath, a channel of waters, as well as the other from Chammath, the warm baths. But this I leave to the reader's judgment.
In memory of this place, let us record a story out of Sigevert's Chronicle, in the reigns of Theodosius and Valentinianus: "At this time, in a garrison in Judea called Emmaus, there was a perfect child born. From the navel upward he was divided, so that he had two breasts and two heads, either of which had their proper senses belonging to them: the one ate when the other did not, the one slept when the other was awake. Sometime they slept both together; they played one with another; they both wept, and would strike one another. They lived near two years; and after one had died the other survived about four days."
If this two-headed child was the issue of a Jew, then might that question be solved which is propounded, If any one should have two heads, on which of the foreheads should the phylacteries be bound? No mean scruple indeed. But let us have from the Glossator as considerable a story: "Asmodeus produced, from under the pavement before Solomon, a man with two heads. He marries a wife, and begot children like himself, with two heads, and like his wife, with one. When the patrimony comes to be divided, he that had two heads requires a double portion: and the cause was brought before Solomon to be decided by him."
As to that Thamna, or Timnath, which Josephus, in the place above quoted, makes mention of, it is disputed in Sotah, fol. 17. 1; where "Rabh asserts that there were two Timnaths, one in Judea, and the other that of Samson." We all know of a third of that name, Joshua's Timnath, viz. Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim, where Joshua was buried, Joshua 24:30. Here give the Rabbins a little play, and let them trifle by transposing the names of Serah and Cheres, and from thence ground a fiction, that the image of the sun was fixed upon the sepulchre of Joshua, in remembrance of the sun's miraculous standing still by his word. This is like them. Nor, indeed, is that of a much better mould, which the Seventy add, "There they put into the monument with him the stone-knives, with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, when he brought them out of Egypt, as the Lord had commanded them." Were these, think you, in the Hebrew text once, and have they slipped out since? Do they not rather savour of the Samaritan Gloss, or the Jewish tradition?
They recede from the Hebrew text in the same story, but something more tolerably, when they render "on the north side of the hill Gaash," "from the north side of the hill Galaad": where, as far as I am able to judge, they do not paraphrase ill, though they do not render it to the letter. Let us consider that obscure passage which hath so much vexed interpreters, in Judges 7:3; "Proclaim now in the ears of the people, saying, Whosoever is fearful and afraid, let him return and depart early from mount Gilead." The place where this thing was acted was either in or very near the vale of Jezreel, distant from mount Gilead beyond Jordan, twenty or thirty miles; and therefore how could these Gideonites depart from mount Gilead? I am not ignorant what some do allege towards the untying this knot, viz. that it should be taken thus, "Whoever be of mount Gilead, let them return." The Targumist to this sense; "Whosoever is fearful, let him return, and let choice be made out of mount Gilead; i.e. 'Let the Gileadites be chosen.'" But whether his meaning was that the Gileadites should be chosen to remain because they are not afraid, or be chosen to return because they were; I shall not reckon it worth the while to inquire.
But may not mount Gilead in this place be understood of the hill Gaash? It is certain the situation agrees well enough; and perhaps there is no great difference in the name.
Whence that mount Gilead beyond Jordan first had its name, is not unknown; namely, from that heap of stones, set up by Jacob for a witness of the covenant betwixt him and Laban (Gen 31).
We read of something not unlike it set up by Joshua near Shechem, in testimony of the covenant betwixt the people and God, Joshua 24:26. Now, therefore, who can doubt but that Joshua was buried near Shechem? For when that place was particularly bequeathed and set out by Jacob for his son Joseph, who, of the whole stock and lineage of Joseph, could justlier inherit that part of the country than Joshua?
He was buried on the north side of the hill Gaash, in his own ground. Might not that hill be also called Gilead, upon the account of that pillar of witness that was built there a little from Sychem? whence the foot of the hill, and the hill itself beginning to rise (if it were northward, which we suppose), then it might very well reach not far from that place where this matter of Gideon was transacted. For, whereas the field wherein the battle was, was within the tribe of Manasseh, contiguous to mount Ephraim, and Gideon proclaims that whosoever were afraid should depart from mount Gilead; we can, perhaps, think of no more proper sense wherein this mount Gilead can be taken, than that that part of mount Ephraim was so called from the pillar of testimony placed on the south side of it, when the common name for it was the hill Gaash.
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