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PALESTINE.

Palestine begins at Achzib. It is bounded on the W. by the Mediterranean, and on the E. by the Jordan. Its total length is about 140 miles, and its average breadth 70.

The whole country between these boundaries is an irregular mass of mountain range, rising in a central core, which extends from the gorge of the Leontes, with but one break, till it terminates almost precipitously at Beer-sheba. That one break is the Plain of Esdraelon, which cuts both the range and the country in half, running irregularly across from the Mediterranean (at Kaifa) to the Jordan, near Beth-shan. This plain is bounded on the N. by the rocky heights of Nazareth, terminating in the Mount of Precipitation and Mount Tabor; on the E. by Little Hermon, or "the hill of Moreh" (an isolated off-shoot of Anti-Libanus); and on the S. and W. by the range of Carmel, which, coming up from the sea, sweeps round S.E. by Jenin (En-gannim), till it recoils with a northward termination (Mount Gilboa), which almost divides the plain in half. It then throws off a number of isolated knolls and undulating downs about Dothan and the "Hill of Samaria," and connects itself with the main Samaritan range (Ebal and Gerizim). Continuing its southernly course, it joins the "hill country of Judæa," gradually increasing in elevation until it reaches its culminating point in the plateau of Mamre (above Hebron), about 3,600 feet above the sea.

One spur of this range, tending eastward, terminates in an abrupt cliff, surrounded on three sides by a deep narrow gorge (Hinnom and Kedron, which meet at the foot), forming a natural moat. On this spur stands Jerusalem (the ancient impregnable fortress of Jebus), which, with Mount Olivet, the opposite crown of the Kedron gorge, Bethlehem, on one peak of the main range, and the "House of Abraham," at Mamre, are the highest points in Palestine.

This mountain range is cleft lengthwise (from N. to S.) by a singular phenomenon, viz. a great deep valley, which begins at Antioch and extends to the Gulf of Akaba. At first it follows the course of the Orontes, then that of the Leontes, forming the "Valley of Lebanon," for an extent of 70 miles. It then falls rapidly to the upper fountains of the Jordan, joins the plains of Htileli, and forms the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea, whence it continues to the Gulf of Akaba. The valley of Lebanon at its northern extremity is 2,300 feet above" the sea-level; at Huleh it is level with the Mediterranean; while the surface of the Sea of Tiberias is 682 feet, and that of the Dead Sea 1,292 feet below it. From thence the valley gradually rises, until it reaches the sea-level at Ezion-geber. This valley is 300 miles long, 140 of which are below the level of the sea, forming a deep and wide trench in the mountain chain, so that to one standing in Palestine, the eastern bank of the Jordan seems to be flanked by a continuous range of mountains, which is really only the edge of the cleft, the elevated plateau continuing eastward in a gentle decline, till it dies into the "Syrian Desert."

Summary.

Mountains. The two great ranges are: Eastern—Anti-Libanus, Bashan, Gilead, Moab, and Edom; Western—Libanus, Carmel, Samaritan and Judæan Hills.

Plains. Maritime.—Sharon, on the western coast between Joppa and Hor, which extends somewhat inland; Philistia, a narrower strip, running southward from Joppa to the "Desert of Shur," known as the "Land of the Philistines," who gave to the country its name "Palestine."

CentralEsdraëon, the battle-field of Palestine, is an irregular triangle, one side (12 miles) formed by the Galilæan hills, another (18 miles) running from the E. to the Samaritan range, a third (15 miles), from Jenin to the mountains of Nazareth. But it consists of three parts: (1) N., terminating in a narrow pass into the plain of Accho W., and runnng on past Tabor eastward to the hills of Galilee. This is the Plain of Megiddo, where Barak defeated Sisera, and Pharaoh-Necho Josiah. It is bounded on the S. by the terminations of Little Hermon and Gilboa, between which runs (2) the Plain of Jezreel, descending past the well of Harod (where Gideon's 300 men lapped with their tongues, Judg. vii.), by Beth-shan, where the bodies of Saul and Jonathan were exposed, to the banks of the Jordan; and (3) the Plain of Jenin (En-gannim, "the garden-house" (2 Kin. ix. 27), towards which Ahaziah fled from Jehu) extends southward from Gilboa to the Samaritan range. The most important historically is (2), in which the Philistines from Hermon triumphed over Saul encamped on Gilboa. At the foot of the former hill were Shunem, Nain, and En-dor; on the latter (Gilboa) stood Jezreel, and at its foot lay Naboth's vineyard. Here were fought most of the battles between Israel and the Syrians (2 Kings).

Eastern.Aramæa (the "Highland" lying to the N.E. of Palestine), a vast plateau, extending from the mountains of Gilead and Bashan to the Euphrates eastward; from the Lebanons to the Arabian Desert southward. This tract must be divided into three parts: (1) Aram-Naharaim (Highland between the two Rivers), or Padan-Aram, lying between the Tigris and Euphrates, better known by its Greek name, Mesopotamia; (2) Aram-Damesk (Highland of Damascus), 2 Sam. viii. 6. (3) "Wilderness" of Aram (2 Chron. viii. 4), still called the Hauran. It must be noted, that where "Syria" or "Syrian language" occurs in the Authorised Version, the original has "Aram" and "Aramaic" respectively.

Plateaux. Bashan, Gilead, Hauran.

Valleys. The great central depression intersecting the country from N. to S., beginning with that of Orontes (in the N.), followed by that of Lebanon or Cœle-Syria, Huleh, Jordan, Siddim, and Akaba.

Rivers. Orontes, flowing N. from Mount Libanus through Antioch to the Mediterranean, 149 miles; Leontes, rising near Baalbek, flows S. down the valley of Lebanon to the Mediterranean, 55 miles; Bărăda (Abana) rises in Anti-Libanus, flows in many channels to Damascus (23 miles), and is absorbed in irrigating the plain. Arnon was the boundary between Moab and the Amorites, and became the southern frontier of the Israelites east of Jordan. It enters the Dead Sea through a narrow chasm in the rock. Jabbok rises in the eastern plateau, winds westward down a narrow gorge, and falls into the Jordan, halfway between the Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea. Except during the winter rains, it is almost dry. It was the boundary between the territories of Sihon and Og (Josh. xii.); and also the northern frontier of Ammon, and the scene of Jacob's wrestling with the angel (Gen. xxxii. 22–24). Kishon drains the Plain of Esdraëlon, and falls into the Bay of Kaifa. Jordan 70 (═descending) rises at the foot of Hermon, and passing through the waters of Merom and Sea of Tiberias, falls into the Dead Sea, from which there is no outlet. The direct distance between its source and mouth is 92 miles; from the Sea of Tiberias to the Dead Sea 60; but its course between the two is 200, with a fall of 610 feet in 60 miles. Kedron is now a dry bed, running from Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.

Lakes. Merom (Huleh), six miles long by four broad; Tiberias, fifteen by eight miles; Dead Sea (or Lake Asphaltites), 46 by 10 miles.

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