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Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of Palestine

By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz, 1850

The Sons of Joseph.

"And the lot of the children of Joseph fell from Jordan by Jericho, unto the water of Jericho on the east, to the wilderness that goeth up from Jericho throughout Mount Beth-El, and goeth out from Beth-El Luzah, and passeth along unto the borders of Archi to Ataroth, and goeth down westward to the border of Japhleti, unto the border of Beth-Horon the nether, and to Gezer; and the goings out thereof are toward the sea." (Joshua 16:1-3.)

In explanation of this passage, I will remark that only the southern boundary of Ephraim and Menasseh, as it limits in this direction the territories of both, is designated with the common name of "the boundary of the sons of Joseph." In describing, however, the other boundary lines, the names of both the respective tribes are mentioned. (See Joshua 16:5, and 17:7.) By the Water of Jericho is understood the spring called En­Sultan, which is the same with that known as the spring of Elisha, which, as mentioned above, page 83, has its source northwest of Jericho; and as it spreads itself like a stream, it is called here "the water of Jericho." Since now the northern border of Benjamin is the southern one of the sons of Joseph, we can take it for granted that the Ataroth here mentioned is the same with Ataroth-Adar of Joshua 18:13, or at least that they were two places situated close by each other. At the present time there are two villages called Atarah, one of which is 1 English mile south of Beëroth, and the other 7½ English miles north of Beit-un (Beth-El). It appeared to me at first doubtful which of the two was the Ataroth of the Bible; but upon closer investigation I convinced myself that this position must be assigned to the first, and that the second was merely an arbitrary appellation, of which no trace can be found in antiquity. The assertion of Eusebius, that Archi-Ataroth is 4 mill south of Sebasta, appears to me quite erroneous.

Japhlet יפלט though not known at present must still have been situated between Atara of Beëroth and BethUr, i. e. Beth-Choron.

Gezer גזר See the 31 Kings, page 85.

Lower and Upper Beth-Horon (Choron). These two places, as appears from Joshua 16:3 and 5, must have been a considerable distance apart, and we have already remarked above, p. 140, that the first was near Jalo (Ajalon). In order to determine the site of the second, the following will, I think, be sufficient. In the book of Jashar to Gen. 34, it is alleged that Beth-Horon was not far from the town of Gaash; and the remains of Joshua are interred, as is well known, from Joshua 24:30, at Timnath-Serach, now, no doubt, the village Kefar Charas, as the burial-place of Joshua is called Timnath­Cheres in Judges 2:9, and it is at the same time described as north of Mount Gaash. (The grave, moreover, of the great leader of the Israelites, ornamented with a handsome monument, is pointed out at Kefar Charas.) Consequently Beth-Choron must have been in the immediate vicinity of this place. And indeed there is, 3 English miles north of it, a village named Chavara, and the similarity is sufficiently strong to authorize us to suppose it to be the ancient Upper Beth-Choron. It is probable that the Persian Satrap of Moab, Sanballat, the Choronite (Neh. 2:10), was a native of this town.

The position of the frontier towns of verses 6 and 7 is correctly given by Eusebius, as follows:

Michmethah was 15 mill from Shechem, and 6 mill from Beth-Shean; Taanath-Shiloh* 10 mill east from Shechem, in the vicinity of Jordan, and Janocha, 12 mill east of Shechem, and Naaran (1 Chron. 7:28), at present called Neama, was 5 mill from Jericho.

* According to Yerushalmi Megillah, chap. i., Taanath-Shiloh is identical with Shiloh. If this be so, then the statement of Eusebius is incorrect, and should be in that case 15 mill southeast from Shechem.

But the meaning of the various Bible passages is not that the boundary line ran westerly from Beth-Horon to Michmethah, for the latter was not in a western direction from the former, but at a distance of more than 20 English miles in a northern course; and the western border is first defined only farther down in verse 8. I rather think the proper meaning to be that the border did not run in a straight line from Beth-Horon to Michmethah, but at first somewhat westerly, and then it turned northeasterly, till it touched Michmethah; thence to the south, to the east of Taanath-Shiloh, and then farther southeasterly to the Jordan. The western border, however, went (verse 8) from Tappuach to the stream Kanah, which flows to the west of Shechem, and falls into the Mediterranean, in the southern vicinity of Caesarea Palestinae, and it was this river which separated Ephraim from Menasseh. Josephus relates that the possessions of Ephraim extended from Beth-El to the valley of Jezreel; for Michmethah was not far from this valley.