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Reference: Palestine


Denotes, in the Old Testament, the country of the Philistines, which was that part of the land of promise extending along the Mediterranean Sea on the varying western border of Simeon, Judah, and Dan, Ex 15:14; Isa 14:29,31; Joe 3:4. Palestine, taken in later usage in a more general sense, signifies the whole country of Canaan, as well beyond as on this side of the Jordan; though frequently it is restricted to the country on this side that river; so that in later times the words Judea and Palestine were synonymous. We find also the name of Syria-Palestina given to the land of promise, and even sometimes this province is comprehended in Coele-Syria, or the Lower Syria. Herodotus is the most ancient writer known who speaks of Syria-Palestina. He places it between Phoenicia and Egypt. See CANAAN.

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Illustration: Physical Map of Palestine Illustration: Palestine, Illustrating the New Testament

Originally denoted only the sea-coast of the land of Canaan inhabited by the Philistines (Ex 15:14; Isa 14:29,31; Joe 3:4), and in this sense exclusively the Hebrew name Pelesheth (rendered "Philistia" in Ps 60:8; 83:7; 87:4; 108:9) occurs in the Old Testament.

Not till a late period in Jewish history was this name used to denote "the land of the Hebrews" in general (Ge 40:15). It is also called "the holy land" (Zec 2:12), the "land of Jehovah" (Ho 9:3; Ps 85:1), the "land of promise" (Heb 11:9), because promised to Abraham (Ge 12:7; 24:7), the "land of Canaan" (Ge 12:5), the "land of Israel" (1Sa 13:19), and the "land of Judah" (Isa 19:17).

The territory promised as an inheritance to the seed of Abraham (Ge 15:18-21; Nu 34:1-12) was bounded on the east by the river Euphrates, on the west by the Mediterranean, on the north by the "entrance of Hamath," and on the south by the "river of Egypt." This extent of territory, about 60,000 square miles, was at length conquered by David, and was ruled over also by his son Solomon (2Sa 8; 1Ch 18; 1Ki 4:1,21). This vast empire was the Promised Land; but Palestine was only a part of it, terminating in the north at the southern extremity of the Lebanon range, and in the south in the wilderness of Paran, thus extending in all to about 144 miles in length. Its average breadth was about 60 miles from the Mediterranean on the west to beyond the Jordan. It has fittingly been designated "the least of all lands." Western Palestine, on the south of Gaza, is only about 40 miles in breadth from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, narrowing gradually toward the north, where it is only 20 miles from the sea-coast to the Jordan.

Palestine, "set in the midst" (Eze 5:5) of all other lands, is the most remarkable country on the face of the earth. No single country of such an extent has so great a variety of climate, and hence also of plant and animal life. Moses describes it as "a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills; a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil olive, and honey; a land wherein thou shalt not eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack any thing in it; a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass" (De 8:7-9).

In the time of Christ the country looked, in all probability, much as now. The whole land consists of rounded limestone hills, fretted into countless stony valleys, offering but rarely level tracts, of which Esdraelon alone, below Nazareth, is large enough to be seen on the map. The original woods had for ages disappeared, though the slopes were dotted, as now, with figs, olives, and other fruit-trees where there was any soil. Permanent streams were even then unknown, the passing rush of winter torrents being all that was seen among the hills. The autumn and spring rains, caught in deep cisterns hewn out like huge underground jars in the soft limestone, with artificial mud-banked ponds still found near all villages, furnished water. Hills now bare, or at best rough with stunted growth, were then terraced, so as to grow vines, olives, and grain. To-day almost desolate, the country then teemed with population. Wine-presses cut in the rocks, endless terraces, and the ruins of old vineyard towers are now found amidst solitudes overgrown for ages with thorns and thistles, or with wild shrubs and poor gnarled scrub (Geikie's Life of Christ).

From an early period the land was inhabited by the descendants of Canaan, who retained possession of the whole land "from Sidon to Gaza" till the time of the conquest by Joshua, when it was occupied by the twelve tribes. Two tribes and a half had their allotments given them by Moses on the east of the Jordan (De 3:12-20; comp. Nu 1:17-46; Jos 4:12-13). The remaining tribes had their portion on the west of Jordan.

From the conquest till the time of Saul, about four hundred years, the people were governed by judges. For a period of one hundred and twenty years the kingdom retained its unity while it was ruled by Saul and David and Solomon. On the death of Solomon, his son Rehoboam ascended the throne; but his conduct was such that ten of the tribes revolted, and formed an independent monarchy, called the kingdom of Israel, or the northern kingdom, the capital of which was first Shechem and afterwards Samaria. This kingdom was destroyed. The Israelites were carried captive by Shalmanezer, king of Assyria, B.C. 722, after an independent existence of two hundred and fifty-three years. The place of the captives carried away was supplied by tribes brought from the east, and thus was formed the Samaritan nation (2Ki 17:24-29).

Nebuchadnezzar came up against the kingdom of the two tribes, the kingdom of Judah, the capital of which was Jerusalem, one hundred and thirty-four years after the overthrow of the kingdom of Israel. He overthrew the city, plundered the temple, and carried the people into captivity to Babylon (B.C. 587), where they remained seventy years. At the close of the period of the Captivity, they returned to their own land, under the edict of Cyrus (Ezr 1:1-4). They rebuilt the city and temple, and restored the old Jewish commonwealth.

For a while after the Restoration the Jews were ruled by Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, and afterwards by the high priests, assisted by the Sanhedrin. After the death of Alexander the Great at Babylon (B.C. 323), his vast empire was divided between his four generals. Egypt, Arabia, Palestine, and Coele-Syria fell to the lot of Ptolemy Lagus. Ptolemy took possession of Palestine in B.C. 320, and carried nearly one hundred thousand of the inhabitants of Jerusalem into Egypt. He made Alexandria the capital of his kingdom, and treated the Jews with consideration, confirming them in the enjoyment of many privileges.

After suffering persecution at the hands of Ptolemy's successors, the Jews threw off the Egyptian yoke, and became subject to Antiochus the Great, the king of Syria. The cruelty and opression of the successors of Antiochus at length led to the revolt under the Maccabees (B.C. 163), when they threw off the Syrian yoke.

In the year B.C. 68, Palestine was reduced by Pompey the Great to a Roman province. He laid the walls of the city in ruins, and massacred some twelve thousand of the inhabitants. He left the temple, however, unijured. About twenty-five years after this the Jews revolted and cast off the Roman yoke. They were however, subdued by Herod the Great (q.v.). The city and the temple were destroyed, and many of the inhabitants were put to death. About B.C. 20, Herod proceeded to rebuild the city and restore the ruined temple, which in about nine years and a half was so far completed that the sacred services could be resumed in it (comp. Joh 2:20). He was succeeded by his son Archelaus, who was deprived of his power, however, by Augustus, A.D. 6, when Palestine became a Roman province, ruled by Roman governors or procurators. Pontius Pilate was the fifth of these procurators. He was appointed to his office A.D. 25.

Exclusive of Idumea, the kingdom of Herod the Great comprehended the whole of the country originally divided among the twelve tribes, which he divided into four provinces or districts. This division was recognized so long as Palestine was under the Roman dominion. These four provinces were, (1) Judea, the southern portion of the country; (2) Samaria, the middle province, the northern boundary of which ran along the hills to the south of the plain of Esdraelon; (3) Galilee, the northern province; and (4) Peraea (a Greek name meaning the "opposite country"), the country lying east of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. This province was subdivided into these districts, (1) Peraea proper, lying between the rivers Arnon and Jabbok; (2) Galaaditis (Gilead); (3) Batanaea; (4) Gaulonitis (Jaulan); (5) Ituraea or Auranitis, the ancient Bashan; (6) Trachonitis; (7) Abilene; (8) Decapolis, i.e., the region of the ten cities. The whole territory of Palestine, including the portions alloted to the trans-Jord

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Peleshet. Four times in KJV, found always in poetry (Ex 15:27; Isa 14:29,31; Joe 3:4); same as Philistia (Ps 60:8; 87:4; 83:7 "the Philistines".) The long strip of seacoast plain held by the Philistines. The Assyrian king Ivalush's inscription distinguishes "Palaztu on the western sea" from Tyre, Samaria, etc. (Rawlinson, Herodotus 1:467.) So in the Egyptian Karnak inscriptions Pulusata is deciphered. The Scriptures never use it as we do, of the whole Holy Land. (See CANAAN for the physical divisions, etc.) "The land of the Hebrew" Joseph calls it, because of Abraham's, Isaac's, and Jacob's settlements at Mamre, Hebron, and Shechem (Ge 40:15). "the land of the Hittites" (Jos 1:4); so Chita or Cheta means the whole of lower and middle Syria in the Egyptian records of Rameses II. In his inscriptions, and those of Thothmes III, Tu-netz, "Holy Land," occurs, whether meaning "Phoenicia" or "Palestine". In Ho 9:3 "land of Jehovah," compare Le 25:23; Isa 62:4.

The holy land, Zec 2:12; 7:14, "land of desire"; Da 8:9. "the pleasant land"; Da 11:16,41, "the glorious (or goodly) land"; Eze 20:6,15, "a land that I had espied for them flowing with milk and honey, which is the glory of all lands." God's choice of it as peculiarly His own was its special glory (Ps 132:13; 48:2; Jer 3:19 margin "a good land, a land of brooks of water (wadies often now dry, but a few perennial), of fountains and depths that spring out of valleys and hills (the deep blue pools, the sources of streams), a land of wheat, barley, vines, figtrees, pomegranates, oil olive, honey (dibs, the syrup prepared from the grape lees, a common food now) ... wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness, thou shalt not lack anything in it; whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass" (De 8:7-9). "The land of the Amorite" (Am 2:10).

The land of Israel in the larger sense (1Sa 13:19); in the narrower sense of the northern kingdom it occurs 2Ch 30:25. After the return from Babylon "Judaea" was applied to the whole country S. and N., and E. beyond Jordan (Mt 19:1). "The land of promise" (Heb 11:9). "Judaea" in the Roman sense was part of the province "Syria," which comprised the seaboard from the bay of Issus to Egypt, and meant the country from Idumea on the S. to the territories of the free cities on the N. and W., Scythopolis, Sebaste, Joppa, Azotus, etc. The land E. of Jordan between it and the desert, except the territory of the free cities Poilu, Gadara, Philadelphia, was "Perea." From Dan (Banias) in the far N. to Beersheba on the S. is 139 English miles, two degrees or 120 geographical miles. The breadth at Gaza from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea is 48 geographical miles; at the Litany, from the coast to Jordan is 20 miles; the average is 34 geographical or 40 English miles. About the size of Wales. The length of country under dominion in Solomon's days was probably 170 miles, the breadth 90, the area 12,000 or 13,000 square miles.

The population, anciently from three to six millions, is now under one million. The Jordan valley with its deep depression separates it from the Moab and Gilead highlands. Lebanon, Antilebanon, and the Litany ravine at their feet form the northern bound. On the S. the dry desert of Paran and "the river of Egypt" bound it. On the western verge of Asia, and severed from the main body of Asia by the desert between Palestine and the regions of Mesopotamia and Arabia, it looks on the other side to the Mediterranean and western world, which it was destined by Providence so powerfully to affect; oriental and reflective, yet free from the stagnant and retrogressive tendencies of Asia, it bore the precious spiritual treasure of which it was the repository to the energetic and progressive W. It consists mainly of undulating highlands, bordered E. and W. by a broad belt of deep sunk lowland.

The three main features, plains, hills, and torrent beds, are specified (Nu 13:29; Jos 11:16; 12:8). Mount Carmel, rising to the height of above 1,700 ft., crosses the maritime plain half way up the coast with a long ridge from the central chain, and juts out into the Mediterranean as a bold headland. The plain of Jezreel or Esdraelon on its northern side, separating the Ephraim mountains from those of Galilee, and stretching across from the Mediterranean to the Jordan valley, was the great battlefield of Palestine. Galilee is the northern portion, Samaria the middle, Judaea the southern. The long purple wall of Gilead and Moab's hills on the eastern side is everywhere to be seen. The bright light and transparent air enable one from the top of Tabor, Gerizim or Bethel at once to see Moab on the E. and the Mediterranean on the W. On a line E. of the axis of the country and running N. and S. lie certain elevations: Hebron 3,029 ft. above the sea; Jerusalem, 2,610; Olivet, 2,724; Neby Samwil on the N., 2,650; Bethel, 2,400; Ebal and Gerizim, 2,700; Little Hermon and Tabor, N. of the Esdraelon plain, 1,900.

The watershed sends off the drainage of the country in streams running W. to the Mediterranean and E. to the Jordan, except at the Esdraelon plain and the far N. where the drainage is to the Litany. Had the Jews been military in character, they would easily have prevented their conquerors from advancing up the precipitous defiles from the E., the only entrances to the central highlands of Judah, Benjamin, and Ephraim, from the Jordan valley; as Engedi (2Ch 20:1-2,16) and Adummim, the route between Jericho and Jerusalem by which Pompey advanced when he took the capital. The slope from the western valleys is more gradual, as the level of the plain is higher, and the distance up the hills longer, than from the eastern Jordan depression; still the passes would be formidable for any army with baggage to pass. From Jaffa up to Jerusalem there are two roads: the one to the right by Ramleh and the wady Aly; the other the historic one by Lydda and the Bethorons, or the wady Suleiman, and Gibeon.

By this Joshua drove the Canaanites to the plains; the Philistines went up to Michmash, and fled back past Ajalon. The rival empires, Egypt and Babylon-Assyria, could march against one another only along the maritime western plain of Palestine and the Lebanon plain leading toward and from the Euphrates. Thus Rameses II marched against the Chitti or Hittites in northern Syria, and Pharaoh Necho fought at Mefiddo in the Esdraelon plain, the battlefield of Palestine; they did not meddle with the central highlands, "The S. country" being near the desert, destitute of trees, and away from the mountain streams, is drier than the N., where springs abound. (See PHARAOH NECHO; MEGIDDO.) The region below Hebron between the hills and the desert is called the Negeb (the later Daroma) from its dryness. Hence Caleb's daughter, having her portion in it, begged from him springs, i.e. land having springs (Jg 1:15). The "upper and lower springs" spring from the hard formation in the N.W. corner of the Negeb (Jos 15:19); here too Nabal lived, so reluctant to give "his water" (1Sa 25:11).

The verdure and blaze of scarlet flowers which cover the highlands of Judah and Benjamin in spring, while streams pour down the ravines, give place to dreary barrenness in the summit. Rounded low hills, with coarse gray stone, clumps of oak bushes, and the remains of ancient terraces running round them, meet one on each side, or else the terraces are reconstructed and bear olives and figs, and vineyards are surrounded by rough walls with watchtowers. Large oak roots are all that attest the former existence of trees along the road between Bethlehem and Hebron. Corn or dourra fills many of the valleys, and the stalks left until the ensuing seedtime give a dry neglected look to the scene. More vegetation appears in the W. and N.W. The wady es Sumt is named from its acacias. Olives, terebinths, pines, and laurels here and ten miles to the N. at Kirjath Jearim ("city of forests") give a wooded aspect to the scenery.

The tract, nine miles wide and 35 long, between the center and the sudden descent to the Dead Sea, is desolate at all seasons, a series of hills without vegetation, water, and almost life, with no ruins save Masada a

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1. Situation and name.

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PALESTINE, taken in a limited sense, denotes the country of the Philistines or Palestines, including that part of the land of promise which extended along the Mediterranean Sea, from Gaza south to Lydda north. The LXX were of opinion that the word Philistiim, which they generally translate Allophyli, signified "strangers," or men of another tribe. Palestine, taken in a more general sense, signifies the whole country of Canaan, the whole land of promise, as well beyond as on this side Jordan, though pretty frequently it is restrained to the country on this side that river; so that in later times the words Judea and Palestine were synonymous. We find, also, the name of Syria Palestine given to the land of promise, and even sometimes this province is comprehended in Coelo-Syria, or the Lower Syria. Herodotus is the most ancient writer we know that speaks of Syria Palestine. He places it between Phenicia and Egypt. See Canaan.