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Notes on Bible Places from your weekly Bible study
compiled by Mark Mohlenbrock

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An overview of the geographical places mentioned in the Bible from your weekly Bible study. Main entries are from [E] M.G. Easton M.A., D.D., Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Third Edition, published by Thomas Nelson, 1897 [S] Smith's Bible Dictionary which has been used by students of the Bible since it's introduction in the 1860's and [H] Holman Bible Dictionary published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. Other references and links are noted.

For week of June 22 - 28, 2015

Lebanon:

[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.

Lebanon proper, 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).

The eastern 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).

The Lebanon 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 ruler.

[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. (Joshua 13:5)

1. Lebanon --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.

2. Anti-Libanus. --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)

Additional references:

Samaria:

[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 kids."
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 and Obadiah.

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