« Basel, Council of Bashan Bashford, James Whitford »


BASHAN, bê´shan: The northeastern part of trans-Jordanic Palestine. The name occurs in the Old Testament in prose and sometimes in poetry with the article ("the Bashan"), indicating that bashan was originally a common noun, and its signification is made evident by the Arabic bathanah, “a fertile plain free from stones.” The Greeks had the name in the forms Basan, Basanaitis, the LXX has Basanitis, and Josephus Batanaia and Batanea (cf. Eusebius and Jerome, Onomasticon). The location of the district is clearly noted in the Old Testament as the northern third of the plateau to the east of the Jordan (Deut. iii, 8; Joshua xiii, 11-12), with Gilead (the Yarmuk) as the southern boundary, Hermon on the north, and Salcah on the east.

As soon as the traveler going east from the Sea of Tiberias crosses the Nahr-al-Allan, eighteen miles away, he may note the abrupt change of the structure of the plain. The numerous hillocks, a peculiarity of the Jaulan, disappear, as do the great lava blocks, and in their place one sees a great plain of mellowed, red-brown, fertile soil stretching away east, north, and south. The boundary of this on the northeast is the volcanic, wooded heights of Al-Kunetra and the base of Mt. Hermon, on the north the district of Wadi al-Ajam, on the east the Lejjah and Jebel Druz or Jebel Hauran, and on the south the plateau of Al-Hamad, with the stony Jaulan in the west. It is divided by two great wadies (Dahab and Zadi), which empty into the Yarmuk. Ruins abound, and on some of the hillocks are the graves of the former leaders and chiefs of the districts.

The spongy, easily worked soil is a mixture of disintegrated lava, ashes, and sand from Jebel Hauran. To this composition is due the extraordinary fertility of the region, yielding half crops even in seasons of drought. The plain is almost treeless, the only exceptions being the old terebinths which stand by Arabic holy-places or vilages. The slope of the southern part, which is the granary of Syria, is quite sharp from east to west, while from north to south the altitude is about the same. The boundaries already noted (the steppe of Hamad and the Druz mountains) are prominent. The last are the “Salmon" of Ps. lxviii, 14-15. The region formed part of the kingdom of Og (Joshua xii, 5). It is celebrated in the Old Testament for its cattle (Deut. xxxii, 14; Ezek. xxxix, 18), and in these times probably served better a pastoral than a nomadic population. The “oaks of Bashan" (Isa. ii, 13; Ezek. xxvii, 6) have disappeared except on the foothills of the Hauran and Hermon mountains, where there are small groves, and along the Yarmuk.

The following cities of Bashan are mentioned in the Old Testament: (1 and 2) Ashtaroth and Edrei, capitals of Og (Deut. i, 4, iii, 1; Joshua xii, 4); (3) Ashteroth Karnaim (Eusebius and Jerome, Onomasticon), not far from Job’s grave [an Arab sanctuary], and near Shaikh Sad, until 1903 the seat of government; (4) Bozrah (I Macc. v, 26), at the southwest of the Hauran, containing ruins dating from Roman times; (5) Golan (Joshua xxi, 7), one of the Levitical cities of refuge, probably the modern Saham al-Jolan on the western edge of the plateau; (6) Karnain (I Macc. v, 26, perhaps Amos vi, 13, A. V. “horns”), not located; (7) Salcah, modern Salkhad, east from Bozrah, on the watershed, with a castle built in an old crater. These places are all on the edge of the plateau, as are the modern cities.

The Old Testament mentions also the district Argob in Bashan, which had sixty cities (I Kings iv, 13; Deut. iii, 4), a possession of Jair (Deut. iii, 14, but cf. Judges x, 3 sqq., I Kings iv, 13), and in the eastern part of the Jaulan.

H. Guthe.

Bibliography: J. L. Porter, Giant-Cities of Bashan, New York, 1871; id., Five Years in Damascus, London, 1855; J. G. Wetstein, Reisebericht über Hauran und die Trachonen, Berlin, 1860; idem, Das batanäische Giebelbirge, Leipsic, 1884; C. J. M. de Vogüé, La Syrie centrale, inscriptions sémitiques, 2 vols., Paris, 1868-77; R. F. Drake and C. F. T. Drake, Unexplored Syria, 2 vols., London, 1872; G. Schumacher, Across the Jordan, pp. 20-40, 103-242, ib. 1886; idem, The Jaulan, p. 125, ib. 1888; idem, Das südliche Basan zum ersten Male aufgenommen und beschrieben, Leipsic, 1897; W. M. Thomson, The Land and the Book, 3 vols., New York, 1886; F. Buhl, Geographie von Palästina, Freiburg, 1896; G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, pp. 542, 549-553, 575 sqq., 611sqq., London, 1897; D. W. Freshfield, The Stone Towns of Central Syria, New York, n.d.

« Basel, Council of Bashan Bashford, James Whitford »
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