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Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

The Divisions of Palestine.

JUDAH. יהודה

(Joshua 15)

The southern boundary of Judah I have already described, when giving the southern boundary of Palestine, with which it is identical. I wish, therefore, to make mention of a few places there omitted. It says in Joshua 15:3, "And passed along to Hezron, and went up to Adar, and fetched a compass to Karkaa;" whereas in Num. 34:4, Hazar-Adar is given as one place, which appears here as two, Hezron and Adar. We find, moreover, in the southern part of Judah, several towns bearing the name of Chazar (Hazar), or Chazor, e.g. Chazor Chadattha, Chezron which is Chazor, Chazar Gaddah, Chazar Shual, and Chazar Susah; which leads me to suppose that we must ascribe this to the fact of its being the country of the Avim (Deut. 2:23), who dwelt in open towns Chazerim, as far as Gaza. (Probably, therefore, that Adar was also one of these, or a Chazar of the Avim, hence Chazar-Adar; and Chezron was a city of the same.)

The Septuagint renders Chazar-Adar (in Num. 34:4) with Arad, and Adar in Joshua with Sanada, which I conceive to be an error, since Arad ערד was too far north to be the southern boundary of Judah and Palestine.

It, therefore, appears that the site of Hezron, Adar, and Karkaa, must have been between Wady Gaian (Kadesh-Barnea) and Wady Kisaimi (Azmon); but at the present day not a trace of these names is to be found, except the two, Gaian and Kisaimi, which enabled us to determine the probable situation of Kadesh­Barnea and Azmon.

The eastern and western boundaries of Judah are well defined, to wit, the Dead Sea on the east, and the Mediterranean on the west; wherefore, I have merely to trace the northern boundary. It says, verse 6, "And the border went up to Beth Choglah, and passed along by the north of Beth-Arabah,* and the border went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben."

* Since, however, Beth-Arabah and Beth-Choglah are both reckoned as belonging to Benjamin (Joshua 18:21, 22), this passage appears very obscure; for here it appears that the boundary ran north of Beth-Arabah, wherefore it must belong to Judah and not to Benjamin. But I think that it may be thus explained: "And it run from the north to Beth-Arabah," i. e. after the line has run from the west northward, it taken the direction of Beth-Arabah, since originally the line runs from Jordan westward to Beth-Choglah, whence it runs north to Beth-Arabah, wherefore it remains beyond the boundary line, and belongs to the tribe of Benjamin, all to the south being part of Judah. This would require us to render מצפון "from the north," as צפונה or לצפון "to the north," or "northward;" which use of מ is occasionally met with, as מקדם "eastward" (Gen. 13:12).

Beth-Choglah was already explained when treating of Jericho. About 4 English miles north of the Dead Sea, is an old castle Burdj Chadjla; the similarity of names lets us suppose that Beth-Choglah must have been formerly in this vicinity. Hieronymus, however, says: "Beth-Choglah is 3 miles from Jericho, and 2 miles from Jordan," which would place this castle too far northwest, and consequently could not then be Beth-Choglah; but on the spot indicated by Hieronymus there is no trace of a town to be found.

Beth-Arabah is unknown; but it must have been northwest of the preceding.

Eben (stone of) Bohan Ben (son of) Reuben. The situation of this spot is on the mountain which runs west from the valley of Jordan, where I found, in the direction of Jericho, several uncommonly large rocks, of which some are well calculated to mark a boundary; but I could discover no trace to indicate the identical stone here mentioned.

Verse 7. "And the border went up towards Debir from the valley of Achor, and so northward, looking towards Gilgal, that is, before the going up to Adummim, which is on the south side of the river (should be 'the valley'), and the border passed towards the waters of En­Shemesh, and the goings out thereof were at En-Rogel."

The valley of Achor is also mentioned in a previous part of Joshua (7:24); it extends, accordingly, through the mountains to the valley of the Jordan, opposite Jericho.

On the mountains I found a large place, called by the Arabs, Tugrit al Dibr, and at a distance of about 1 English mile to the northwest, I saw a very high rocky hill, composed of nothing but pyrites, which they call Tell Adum. I cannot doubt but that the first is the ancient Debir, and the latter Maale Adumim מעלה אדומים the "Height (the going up E. V.) of Adummim," or the Red Hill. This Tell is about 6 English miles east-northeast from Jerusalem. To the east of the same, I found several ruins, to wit, Akbath, Beth-Djabr, Chirbath-Gatun, which I cannot identify.

East of Azarie (see Azal) there is found in the valley, which the Arabs call Wady Chot, a handsome large spring, the Ein al Chot, which I take to be the spring of the sun (En Shemesh).

En-Rogel, Gay ben Hinnom, the Valley of Rephaim, En-Neptoach, will be more particularly described under article Jerusalem.

Verse 9. "And went out to the cities of Mount Ephron, and the border was drawn to Baalah, which is Kirjath-Jearim."

Northwest of Jerusalem there is a plain about 2 English miles in extent. At its termination there is a deep valley, called Wady Zarr, also Wady Beth Chanin; the village Lifta lies in the declivity of this valley, which runs first west, then a little southward, then a little northward, and again west, and continues thus with a southern tendency, till it reaches the sea near Aker or Ekron. West-southwest of Jerusalem, at a distance of about 5 English miles, is another small valley, which at length unites with the Wady Zarr. Between these two valleys is a high plain, which, in comparison with these deep valleys, may be regarded as a mountain, and I conceive this plain to be the Mount Ephron. It is now over this point that the boundary ran, passed through the Wady Zarr, and then somewhat to the north to Baalah or Kirjath-Jearim.

Verse 10. "And the border compassed from Baalah westward unto Mount Seir, and passed along unto the side of Mount Jearim, which is Chesalon on the north side, and went down to Beth Shemesh, and passed on to Timnah."

The following are some remarkable names which I discovered in this direction. 4½ English miles west-southwest of Jerusalem, in the mountain, there is a small village called Ein Kerem, which is undoubtedly the town of Karem mentioned in the Septuagint translation to Joshua, 15:61.

One English mile northwest of this point, in the neighbourhood of the village Kustel, situated on the summit of a mount, I found a ruin called Chirbath Izpa. West of Zaba (which see) I found a ruin, called Chirbath Gadran; near to this are the ruins of an old tower, an elegant palace, and other buildings. At the foot of this tower, is a large and beautiful spring, by name of Ein-Abis. About half a mile west of these ruins, on the declivity of a mount, I found the ruin Chirbath-Djeba; and 2½ English miles west of this; I saw an isolated mount, at the foot of which there is a ruin which the Arabs call Midan. It appears to me perfectly clear that this must be the Mount Modiim, which the Talmud Pesachim, fol. 93, alleges to be distant from Jerusalem 15 mill, or 11¼ English miles, which is actually the distance from Midan to the holy city. On the summit of this mount, one can see the Mediterranean to the south of Jabne and Ashdod. (See 1 Macc. 13:29.)

South of the Wady Zarr there are found Izfa, Chars, Ein Abis, Chirbath-Luz, the Mount Midan, and the other just-mentioned ruins, wherefore all these belonged to the portion of Judah.

North of the Wady Zarr are found Zoba, Kustel, Beth-Ula, Beth-Tiksa, Beth-Chanine, and Nebi Smuel (improperly taken for Ramah, or Ramataim Zofim); all of which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin: it is therefore apparent that the Wady Zarr must have formed the boundary between Judah and Benjamin.

About 7½ English miles west-northwest of Jerusalem is the village Kirye, also called Abu Gosh, because it is the seat of the celebrated sheich, or rather the captain of highwaymen, of that name, and is undoubtedly the ancient Kirjath-Jearim. About 2½ English miles west of this there is on the summit of a high mount the village Saris, which was destroyed in the year 5594 (1834), by Ibrahim Pacha, and forms the highest point between Jerusalem and Ramla. It is also mentioned by the Septuagint in the passage cited, as the correct reading should be Saris. South of this village, at the distance of about 1 English mile, is the village Kirzi or Saide; 2½ English miles south of this there is the already mentioned Mount Midan, between the valley which leads to Kirye Abu Gosh, and that which leads from Zaara (which see) to the village Saris. I take this to be the Mount Jearim spoken of in Joshua 15:10, and that the land between the two valleys was called Jearim, whence then Kirjath (the city of) Jearim, and Har (mount of) Jearim. I also suppose that a trace of Seir may be discovered in Saris, and hence the Mount Seir (ibid.) to be identical with Saris, and therefore not to be confounded with Mount Seir to the east of the Dead Sea.

Two and a half English miles west of Zoba there runs a little valley as far as Kirye Abu Gosh, and unites in the opposite direction with the Wady Zarr. There is likewise another valley extending southward from Saris to the vicinity of Zaara. I therefore suppose that the boundary line between Judah and Benjamin ran from the Wady Zarr into the little valley which extends to Kirye Abu Gosh, from there to Saris, and then southward to Mount Midan and Kislon; again it entered the Wady Zarr, to Beth-Shemesh, which is the modern village Ein Sems, about 2½ English miles west of Mount Midan; west of Ein Sems, about 1 English mile from there, stood the village Tibna, no doubt Timnah; 7½ English miles northwest of this stood the village Akar, which is Ekron, and lies northeast of the Wady Zarr. It appears therefore that the boundary line left the Wady and ran on towards Akar.

Verse 11. "And the border went out to the side of Ekron northward; and the border was drawn to Shicron, and passed along to Mount Baalah, and went out unto Jabneel, and the goings out of the border were at the sea."

Two and a half English miles northwest of Akar is the village Jebmel, unquestionably the former Jabneel, also called Jabne (2 Chron. 26:6, and Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 6:8). The European Christians, under the government of Fulgo, King of Jerusalem, built not far from this a city, which they called Hibelim, of which R. Benjamin of Tudela speaks when he says עבלים היא יבנה Eblim which is Jabne.

The sites of Shicron and Mount Baalah are therefore to be sought between Jebniel and Akar; but I could discover no trace of them.

Jebniel is situated properly speaking in the Wady Zarr, but the Arabs call it there no more by that name, but they designate it as Wady Rubin, and it extends thence with a permanent water-course to the sea. The boundary therefore ran from Jebniel through the Wady, somewhat northerly, ending at the Mediterranean.

Josephus (Ant., book v. chap. i.) says, "To Judah belonged the northern part of Judea up to Jerusalem."