week of June 22 - 28, 2015
[E] white, "the white mountain of Syria," is the loftiest
and most celebrated mountain range in Syria. It is a branch running
southward from the Caucasus, and at its lower end forking into
two parallel ranges, the eastern or Anti-Lebanon, and the western
or Lebanon proper. They enclose a long valley (Joshua 11:17) of
from 5 to 8 miles in width, called by Roman writers Coele-Syria,
now called el-Buka'a, "the valley," a prolongation of
the valley of the Jordan.
Jebel es-Sharki, commences at its southern extremity in the gorge
of the Leontes, the ancient Litany, and extends north-east, parallel
to the Mediterranean coast, as far as the river Eleutherus, at
the plain of Emesa, "the entering of Hamath" (Numbers
34:8; 1 Kings 8:65), in all about 90 geographical miles in
extent. The average height of this range is from 6,000 to 8,000
feet; the peak of Jebel Mukhmel is about 10,200 feet, and the
Sannin about 9,000. The highest peaks are covered with perpetual
snow and ice. In the recesses of the range wild beasts as of old
still abound (2 Kings 14:9; Cant 4:8). The scenes of the
Lebanon are remarkable for their grandeur and beauty, and supplied
the sacred writers with many expressive similes (Psalms 29:5,6;
72:16; 104:16-18; Cant 4:15; Isaiah 2:13; 35:2; 60:13; Hosea 14:5).
It is famous for its cedars (Cant 5:15), its wines (Hosea 14:7),
and its cool waters (Jeremiah 18:14). The ancient inhabitants
were Giblites and Hivites (Joshua 13:5; Judges 3:3). It was part
of the Phoenician kingdom (1 Kings 5:2-6).
range, or Anti-Lebanon, or "Lebanon towards the sunrising,"
runs nearly parallel with the western from the plain of Emesa
till it connects with the hills of Galilee in the south. The height
of this range is about 5,000 feet. Its highest peak is Hermon
(q.v.), from which a number of lesser ranges radiate.
Lebanon is first mentioned in the description of the boundary
of Palestine (Deuteronomy 1:7; 11:24). It was assigned to Israel,
but was never conquered (Joshua 13:2-6; Judges 3:1-3).
range is now inhabited by a population of about 300,000 Christians,
Maronites, and Druses, and is ruled by a Christian governor. The
Anti-Lebanon is inhabited by Mohammedans, and is under a Turkish
[S] a mountain range in the north of Palestine. The name Lebanon signifies
white, and was applied either on account of snow which, during
a great part of the year, cover its whole summit, or on account
of the white color of its limestone cliffs and peaks. It is the
"white mountain" --the Mont Blane of Palestine. Lebanon
is represented in Scripture as lying upon the northern border
of the land of Israel. ( 1:7; 11:24; Joshua 1:4) Two distinct
ranges bear this name. They run in parallel lines from southwest
to northeast for about 90 geographical miles, enclosing between
them a long, fertile valley from five to eight miles wide, anciently
called Coele-Syria . The western range is the "Libanus"
of the old geographers and the Lebanon of Scripture. The eastern
range was called "Anti-Libanus" by geographers, and
"Lebanon toward the sunrising" by the sacred writers.
--the western range-- commences on the south of the deep ravine
of the Litany , the ancient river Leontes, which drains the valley
of Cole-Syria, and falls into the Mediterranean five miles north
of Tyre. It runs northeast in a straight line parallel to the
coast, to the opening from the Mediterranean into the plain of
Emesa, called in Scripture the "entrance of Hamath."
(Numbers 34:8) Here Nehr el-Kebir --the ancient river Eleutherus--
sweeps round its northern end, as the Leontes does round its southern.
The average elevation of the range is from 6000 to 8000 feet;
but two peaks rise considerably higher. On the summits of both
these peaks the snow remains in patches during the whole summer.
The line of cultivation runs along at the height of about 6000
feet; and below this the features of the western slopes are entirely
different. The rugged limestone banks are scantily clothed with
the evergreen oak, and the sandstone with pines; while every available
spot is carefully cultivated. The cultivation is wonderful, and
shows what all Syria might be if under a good government. Fig
trees cling to the naked rock; vines are trained along narrow
ledges; long ranges of mulberries, on terraces like steps of stairs,
cover the more gentle declivities; and dense groves of olives
fill up the bottoms of the glens. Hundreds of villages are seen--
here built among labyrinths of rocks, there clinging like among
labyrinths of rocks, there clinging like swallows’ nests
to the sides of cliffs; while convents, no less numerous, are
perched on the top of every peak. The vine is still largely cultivated
in every part of the mountain. Lebanon also abounds in olives,
figs and mulberries; while some remnants exist of the forests
of pine, oak and cedar which formerly covered it. (1 Kings
5:6; Ezra 3:7; Psalms 29:5; Isaiah 14:8) Considerable numbers
of wild beasts still inhabit its retired glens and higher peaks;
the writer has seen jackals, hyaenas, wolves, bears and panthers.
(2 Kings 14:9; Solomon 4:8); Habb 2:17 Along the base of
Lebanon runs the irregular plain of Phoenicia --nowhere more than
two miles wide, and often interrupted by bold rocky spurs that
dip into the sea. The main ridge of Lebanon is composed of Jura
limestone, and abounds in fossils. Long belts of more recent sandstone
run along the western slopes, which are in places largely impregnated
with iron. Lebanon was originally inhabited by the Hivites and
Giblites. (Joshua 13:5,6; Judges 3:3) The whole mountain range
was assigned to the Israelites, but was never conquered by them.
(Joshua 13:2-6; Judges 3:1-3) During the Jewish monarchy it appears
to have been subject of the Phoenicians. (1 Kings 5:2-6;
Ezra 3:7) From the Greek conquest until modern times Lebanon had
no separate history.
--The main chain of Anti-Libanus commences in the plateau of Bashan,
near the parallel of Caesarea Philippi, runs north to Hermon,
and then northeast in a straight line till it stinks down into
the great plain of Emesa, not far from the site of Riblah. Hermon
is the loftiest peak; the next highest is a few miles north of
the site of Abila, beside the village of Bludan , and has an elevation
of about 7000 feet. The rest of the ridge averages about 5000
feet; it is in general bleak and barren, with shelving gray declivities,
gray cliffs and gray rounded summits. Here and there we meet with
thin forests of dwarf oak and juniper. The western slopes descend
abruptly into the Buka’a ; but the features of the eastern
are entirely different. Three side ridges here radiate from Hermon,
like the ribs of an open fan, and form the supporting walls of
three great terraces. Anti-Libanus is only once distinctly mentioned
in Scripture, where it is accurately described as "Lebanon
toward the sunrising." (Joshua 13:5)
[E] A watch-mountain or a watch-tower. In the heart of the mountains
of Israel, a few miles north-west of Shechem, stands the "hill
of Shomeron," a solitary mountain, a great "mamelon."
It is an oblong hill, with steep but not inaccessible sides, and
a long flat top. Omri, the king of Israel, purchased this hill
from Shemer its owner for two talents of silver, and built on
its broad summit the city to which he gave the name of "Shomeron",
i.e., Samaria, as the new capital of his kingdom instead of Tirzah
(1 Kings 16:24). As such it possessed many advantages. Here Omri
resided during the last six years of his reign. As the result
of an unsuccessful war with Syria, he appears to have been obliged
to grant to the Syrians the right to "make streets in Samaria",
i.e., probably permission to the Syrian merchants to carry on
their trade in the Israelite capital. This would imply the existence
of a considerable Syrian population. "It was the only great
city of Palestine created by the sovereign. All the others had
been already consecrated by patriarchal tradition or previous
possession. But Samaria was the choice of Omri alone. He, indeed,
gave to the city which he had built the name of its former owner,
but its especial connection with himself as its founder is proved
by the designation which it seems Samaria bears in Assyrian inscriptions,
Beth-khumri ('the house or palace of Omri').", Stanley.
Samaria was frequently besieged. In the days of Ahab, Benhadad
II. came up against it with thirty-two vassal kings, but was defeated
with a great slaughter (1 Kings 20:1-21). A second time, next
year, he assailed it; but was again utterly routed, and was compelled
to surrender to Ahab (20:28-34), whose army, as compared with
that of Benhadad, was no more than "two little flocks of
In the days of Jehoram this Benhadad again laid siege to Samaria,
during which the city was reduced to the direst extremities. But
just when success seemed to be within their reach, they suddenly
broke up the seige, alarmed by a mysterious noise of chariots
and horses and a great army, and fled, leaving their camp with
all its contents behind them. The famishing inhabitants of the
city were soon relieved with the abundance of the spoil of the
Syrian camp; and it came to pass, according to the word of Elisha,
that "a measure of fine flour was sold for a shekel, and
two measures of barely for a shekel, in the gates of Samaria"
(2 Kings 7:1-20).
Shalmaneser invaded Israel in the days of Hoshea, and reduced
it to vassalage. He laid siege to Samaria (B.C. 723), which held
out for three years, and was at length captured by Sargon, who
completed the conquest Shalmaneser had begun (2 Kings 18:9-12;
17:3), and removed vast numbers of the tribes into captivity.
(See SARGON .)
This city, after passing through various vicissitudes, was given
by the emperor Augustus to Herod the Great, who rebuilt it, and
called it Sebaste (Gr. form of Augustus) in honour of the emperor.
In the New Testament the only mention of it is in Acts 8:5-14,
where it is recorded that Philip went down to the city of Samaria
and preached there.
It is now represented by the hamlet of Sebustieh, containing about
three hundred inhabitants. The ruins of the ancient town are all
scattered over the hill, down the sides of which they have rolled.
The shafts of about one hundred of what must have been grand Corinthian
columns are still standing, and attract much attention, although
nothing definite is known regarding them. (Compare Micah 1:6.)
In the time of Christ, Western Palestine was divided into three
provinces, Judea, Samaria, and Galilee. Samaria occupied the centre
of Palestine (John 4:4). It is called in the Talmud the "land
of the Cuthim," and is not regarded as a part of the Holy
Land at all.
It may be noticed that the distance between Samaria and Jerusalem,
the respective capitals of the two kingdoms, is only 35 miles
in a direct line.
[S] (watch mountain ). This city is situated 30 miles north of Jerusalem
and about six miles to the northwest of Shechem, in a wide basin-shaped
valley, six miles in diameter, encircled with high hills, almost
on the edge of the great plain which borders upon the Mediterranean.
In the centre of this basin, which is on a lower level than the
valley of Shechem, rises a less elevated hill, with steep yet
accessible sides and a long fiat top. This hill was chosen by
Omri as the site of the capital of the kingdom of Israel. He "bought
the hill of Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built
on the hill, and called the name of the city which he built, after
the name of the owner of the hill, Samaria." (1 Kings 16:23,24)
From the that of Omri’s purchase, B.C. 925, Samaria retained
its dignity as the capital of the ten tribes, and the name is
given to the northern kingdom as well as to the city. Ahab built
a temple to Baal there. (1 Kings 16:32,33) It was twice besieged
by the Syrians, in B.C. 901, (1 Kings 20:1) and in B.C. 892, (2
Kings 6:24-7; 2 Kings 6:20) but on both occasions the siege was
ineffectual. The possessor of Samaria was considered Deuteronomy
facto king of Israel. (2 Kings 15:13,14) In B.C. 721 Samaria was
taken, after a siege of three years, by Shalmaneser king of Assyria,
(2 Kings 18:9,10) and the kingdom of the ten tribes was put an
end to. Some years afterward the district of which Samaria was
the centre was repeopled by Esarhaddon. Alexander the Great took
the city, killed a large portion of the inhabitants, and suffered
the remainder to set it at Shechem. He replaced them by a colony
of Syro-Macedonians who occupied the city until the time of John
Hyrcanus, who took it after a year’s siege, and did his
best to demolish it entirely. (B.C. 109.) It was rebuilt and greatly
embellished by Herod the Great. He called it Sebaste=Augusta ,
after the name of his patron, Augustus Caesar. The wall around
it was 2 1/2 miles long, and in the centre of the city was a park
900 feet square containing a magnificent temple dedicated to Caesar.
In the New Testament the city itself does not appear to be mentioned;
but rather a portion of the district to which, even in older times
it had extended its name. (Matthew 10:5; John 4:4,5) At this clay
the city is represented by a small village retaining few vestiges
of the past except its name, Sebustiyeh , an Arabic corruption
of Sebaste. Some architectural remains it has, partly of Christian
construction or adaptation, as the ruined church of St. John the
Baptist, partly, perhaps, traces of Idumaean magnificence, St.
Jerome, whose acquaintance with Palestine imparts a sort of probability
to the tradition which prevailed so strongly in later days, asserts
that Sebaste, which he invariably identifies with Samaria was
the place in which St. John the Baptist was imprisoned and suffered
death. He also makes it the burial-place of the prophets Elisha