A Chorographical Inquiry
Bethabara, John 1
1. Different readings, Bethany and Bethamara.
It is observed by all that treat upon this evangelist, that the reading doth vary in some copies; and this instance is alleged for one:
"These things were done in Bethabara; but in other copies it is in Bethany."
But Drusius; "The Vulgar Greek copies have it in Bethabara, which Epiphanius, in the place above mentioned, calls Bethamara. Of this reading Petavius is silent."
Nor indeed is it much wonder, that Bethamara should change into Bethania, since Bethamara signifies a place of wool; and Bethania signifies a place of sheep.
But it seems very strange how Bethabara should ever change into Bethany, unless upon some such occasion as these:
Either that Bethabara might be taken for the same with the house of exposition, or the school; whence for explication it is annexed, by some hand or other in the margin, the house of tradition, or doctrine: as if the evangelist were to be understood in this manner; "These things were done or disputed in a certain school beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing." And so that word the house of tradition or doctrine might steal from the margin into the text and common use...
2. The noted passages over Jordan.
Among the various ways of writing Bethabara in Hebrew, these two especially deserve our consideration at present: 'Beth-barah,' which we meet with in Judges 7, and Bethabara, or a place of passage, where they passed over Jordan. They must both come under our inquiry, whiles we are seeking the place in hand; and, first, of the latter.
Doubtless there was no part of Jordan but might be passed by boat from one side to the other, as men's different occasions might call them; but we are now considering the public and common passages that led over that river from one country into another.
I. There is a bridge over Jordan, betwixt the lake of Samochon and Gennesaret in the way that leadeth to Damascus, which hath the name of "Jacob's bridge"; of which our countryman Biddulph, who hath himself travelled over it, speaks to this purpose:
"At the foot of this rocky mountain runs a pleasant river called Jordan, which divideth Syria from Galilee. Over this river is built a goodly bridge, which bears the name of 'Jacob's bridge,' upon this twofold account: 1. Because in this place Jacob met with his brother Esau; 2. Because here he wrestled with the angel."
As to matter of fact, that there is and was such a bridge, I do not much question; but for the reasons why it is so called, as it is not much to our purpose to examine, so they seem to have little else but conjecture in them.
II. Jordan also had a bridge over it at Chammath, near Tiberias, at the very efflux of the river out of the sea of Gennesaret; as we have elsewhere shewn from the Talmudic authors, against the mistake of the tables, which place Tiberias at a great distance thence. "As well the lord the king, as all the princes, come even unto Tiberias, and pitch their tents near the bridge, where the streams of Jordan from the sea do divide themselves."
"With his army he pitched his tents near Tiberias, by the bridge, from whence the streams of Jordan, from the lake of Gennesaret, do divide themselves." Read this, and view the situation of Tiberias in the tables, and correct the mistake.
III. That was a most known and frequent passage from Jericho, which we so often read of in the Holy Scriptures; which yet seems rather to have been by boat than bridge. See 2 Samuel 19:18, and 2 Kings 2:8.
3. The Scythopolitan country.
There was a fourth, and that the greatest, passage betwixt Chammath and Jericho, but at a great distance from either; for the finding out of which, we are to consider what is intimated, 1 Kings 4:12: "And all Beth-shean, which is by Zartanah beneath Jezreel." And again, 1 Kings 7:46: "In the plain of Jordan did the king cast them, in the clay-ground, between Succoth and Zarthan." We will begin with Beth-shean.
I. Beth-shean, or Scythopolis, was in the lot of Manasseh, Judges 1:27. "Neither did Manasses drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean, which is Scythopolis." So that it was within the limits of Samaria, though indeed one of the Decapolitan cities, and within the jurisdiction of the Gentiles, as we have shewed elsewhere.
II. It was the utmost bound of Samaria towards Galilee. "The bounds of Galilee on the south is Samaria and Scythopolis, as far as the river Jordan."
III. The city was half a league's distance from Jordan, saith Borchard, and yet extends its jurisdiction beyond Jordan. That of Aethicus, in his Cosmography, is well known: "The river Jordan hath its head in mount Libanus, runs about the lake of Tiberias; from whence going out, hath its current through the midst of Scythopolis, and issues in the Dead Sea." Jordan divided Scythopolis in the midst; not the city (for that was at some considerable distance from the river), but the country itself; so that part of the country was on this, and part on the other side Jordan.
It was a noble city of the Syro-Grecians, and had considerable jurisdiction, not only within the confines of Manasses, but extended itself beyond, even to Perea.
4. The great plain: the Scythopolitan passage there.
Of this great plain, which took in the whole breadth of the country of Manasseh from Jordan towards the west, a very long way, Josephus frequently speaks. Describing the situation and portion of Ephraim and Manasseh, he thus expresseth himself:
"The tribe of Ephraim extended itself in length from the river Jordan to Gadara" [Gazarah, or Gezer, Joshua 16:3, and 21:21]; "in breadth, from Bethel, and ends at the Great Plain."
"The half tribe of Manasseh extends itself in longitude from Jordan to the city Dor. But in latitude [from Ephraim] it reacheth to Beth-shean, which is now called Scythopolis." So that that 'great plain,' to those that were journeying from Galilee, began from Beth-shean, and extended itself in latitude to the confines of Ephraim. Hence that which we meet with in the same Josephus, "They that passed over Jordan came into the great plain, before which the city Bethsan lies"; or as it is in 1 Maccabees 5:52, "They went over Jordan into the great plain before Beth-shean."
In the Book of Judith, chapter 1:8, it is called "The great plain of Esdrelom": that is, in truth, "the great valley of Jezreel." Insomuch, that when it is said of Judah and his army (for he it is whom this passage concerns), that in his return from the land of Gilead he passed over Jordan into this "great plain," and that (as it should seem) not very far from Beth-shean; it is evident that the great and common passage over Jordan was hereabout, by which not only the Scythopolitans went over from their country on this side Jordan to that beyond, but those also of Samaria, and those of the Lower Galilee, passed over here to Perea.
Here would I seek for Jacob's Bridge, where he passed over "Jordan with his staff," when he went into Mesopotamia, and returned back with a family; and not where it is commonly now shewn. At least, the mention of Succoth, Genesis 33:17, which had its situation on the bank of Jordan, exactly opposite to Zartanah, a town near Beth-shean, puts it out of all question that Jacob returned that way. And, indeed, whether Scythopolis might not derive something of its appellation from the word Succoth, I cannot well tell: methinks the name of 'Scythians' hath some smack of such a kind of original for they always dwelt, and removed from one place to another, in tents.
5. Beth-Barah, Judges 7:24.
Neither was this Beth-barah at any very great distance from this passage. For so we have it, Judges 7:24: "Gideon sent messengers throughout all mount Ephraim, saying, Come down against the Midianites, and take before them the waters unto Beth-barah and Jordan." And this they did.
It is hard to say whether Kimchi with more reason said, that "these waters were not the waters of Jordan"; or Jarchi, more absurdly, that "they divided Syria from Canaan." There were, no doubt, some waters in the valley of Jezreel: for there the battle was,--at least, if that may be called a battle, where there was not one sword unsheathed by the conqueror. See Judges 6:33--When the Midianites fled, Gideon summons the Ephraimites by messengers, that they would take those waters beforehand, which the routed enemy in their flight must necessarily pass through before they could arrive at the bridge or ferry over Jordan (spoken of even now), that lay in their way home. When both armies had pitched the field, the Midianites lay on the north, towards Galilee, and the Gideonites on the south, near mount Ephraim, chapter 7:1. There was a river in the vale, (at which waters, probably, Gideon distinguished betwixt his followers, that lapped like a dog, and those that did not). This river at length discharged itself into Jordan, above the bridge or passage that led into Perea. When, therefore, the Midianites lay on the northern bank of this river, and so were not capable of attaining the passage over Jordan, till they had made through these waters first, it was the Ephraimites' care and business to maintain the opposite bank, and that indeed all the whole space from the place where the fight began, to Beth-barah and Jordan, that the enemy might be blocked up from all possibility of escape or retiring.
Whether, therefore, this passage, of which we have spoken, was called Beth-barah from that place so near Jordan, or Beth-abara, from the etymology before mentioned, it is no absurdity for the further bank of Jordan, which lay contiguous to the bridge or passage over it, to be called "Beth-barah beyond Jordan," either upon the one or the other account. For (however the learned Beza comes to question it) the Lexicons will tell you beyond Jordan: especially that common three fold division, "Judea, Galilee, and beyond Jordan." "On the east of the river Jordan"; as Ptolemy expresseth it: and Beza himself confesseth, that beyond Jordan, is the proper signification of the Greek word beyond, Matthew 4:15.
Let us, therefore, place the Beth-abara we are seeking for, where John was baptizing, on the further side of Jordan, in the Scythopolitan country, where the Jews dwelt amongst the Syro-Grecians, as in all the Decapolitan regions, where Christ might something more safely converse, from the vexations of the scribes and Pharisees, John 10:40, being, as it were, out of their reach and jurisdiction there. And so we find John baptizing, first, at the passage of Jericho, because, through the greatness of the road, there was always a considerable concourse of people; and next, at the passage of Scythopolis, for the same reason...
1. A legend not much unlike that of the Chapel of Loretto.
Forasmuch as our evangelist makes only a transient mention of Nazareth in this place, not relating any thing that our Saviour did there, we shall take as transient notice of it at this time; by the by, only inquiring into its situation, as what we may have occasion to discourse more largely upon in another place.
But what, indeed, need we be very solicitous about the situation of this town, when the place we would especially look for there, that is, the house of the blessed Virgin, hath taken its leave of Nazareth, and, by the conveyance of angels, hath seated itself in Loretto in Italy. Of which thing, amongst many others, cardinal Baronius gives us this grave relation:
"That house wherein the most holy Virgin received the heavenly message about the Word being made flesh, doth not only by a wondrous miracle stand to this day entire; but, by the ministry of angels, was retrieved from the hands of infidels, and translated, first into Dalmatia, thence into Italy, to Loretto in the province of Picenum."
Let us repay one legend with another.
"They say of R. Chanina, saith he, seeing once his fellow-citizens carrying their sacrifices to Jerusalem, crieth out: 'Alas! they every one are carrying their sacrifices, and for my part I have nothing to carry; what shall I do?' Straightway he betaketh himself into the wilderness of the city, and finding a stone he cuts it, squares, and artificially formeth it; and saith, 'What would I give that this stone might be conveyed into Jerusalem!' Away he goeth to hire some that should do it; they ask him a hundred pieces of gold, and they would carry it. 'Alas! saith he, where should I have a hundred pieces? indeed, where should I have three?' Immediately the holy blessed God procured five angels, in the likeness of men, who offer him for five shillings to convey the stone into Jerusalem, if himself would but give his helping hand. He gave them a lift; and of a sudden they all stood in Jerusalem; and when he would have given them the reward they bargained for, his workmen were gone and vanished. This wonder he relates before the Sanhedrim, in the conclave of Gazith. They say to him, 'Rabbi, it should seem that these were angels that brought this stone': so he gave the elders the money, for which the angels had bargained with him."
In truth, I should easilier incline to believe this story than that of Loretto, because there is some reason to apprehend this R. Chanina no other than Haninah Ben Dusa, a notorious magician. Unless you will also say, that the chapel at Loretto took that jaunt by the help of magic.
A huge stone of its own accord takes a skip from the land of Israel, and stops up the mouth of the den in Babylon, where Daniel and the lions lay. But so much for tales.
2. The situation of Nazareth.
The situation of Nazareth, according to Borchard, Breidenbach, and Saligniac, ought to be measured and determined from mount Thabor. For so they unanimously: "From Nazareth two leagues eastward is mount Thabor." Nor is there any cause why, with respect to that region of Galilee in which they place this city, we should dissent from them, seeing there are others of the same opinion. Now the mount Tabor was in the very confines that divided Issachar from Zebulun; Joshua 19:22, "And the coast [i.e. of Issachar] reacheth to Tabor and Shahazimah." But what coast should this be? north or south? The north coast, saith Josephus:--
"Next to Manasseh is Issachar, having for its bounds of longitude mount Carmel and the river [Jordan], and of latitude mount Tabor." That is, the latitude of Issachar is from Manasseh to mouth Tabor, as Josephus plainly makes out in that place. Mount Tabor, therefore, lay as it were in the midst, betwixt the coasts of Samaria and Upper Galilee: having on this side Issachar towards Samaria, and on that side Zabulon towards the aforesaid Galilee.
Josephus describes mount Tabor, where these things seem something obscure. We have already seen where Scythopolis lay; and where the great plain, near Scythopolis. But what should that great plain be, that lieth so behind Tabor towards the north, that Tabor should be betwixt it and Scythopolis? Is not Zabulon so called in Josephus? yea, and Issachar too, at least a great part of it, if we consult the same Josephus. So that the great plain of Scythopolis or Manasseh, is distinctly called by him "the great plain of Samaria."
And the Lower Galilee is described by the Talmudists by this character, "That it produceth sycamines, which the Upper Galilee doth not." Now the sycamine trees were in the vale, 1 Kings 10:27. And hence seems to arise the distinction between the Upper and the Lower Galilee; the Lower so called because more plain and champaign, the Upper because more hilly and mountainous.
I am deceived if the Upper Galilee be not sometimes by way of emphasis called 'Galilee'; nor without cause, when as the Lower might be called the great plain. So Cana had the adjunct of 'Cana of Galilee,' perhaps that it might distinguish that Cana which bounds both the Galilees; of which more in its proper place. That passage which we meet with in our evangelist, chapter 4:43,44, "He departed from thence [from Samaria] and went into Galilee; for Jesus himself testified that a prophet hath no honour in his country": it looks this way; that is, he would not go into Nazareth, but into Galilee, viz. the Upper; and so came to Cana.
Nazareth, therefore, was in the Lower Galilee, in the very confines of Issachar and Zabulon, and is commonly received within Zabulon, itself being distant sixteen miles or more from Capernaum; for from Capernaum, mount Tabor is distant ten miles, or thereabouts.
3. Ben Nezer.
..."The Rabbins have a tradition: Those that are taken out of the kingdom, behold they are properly captives; but those that are taken by thieves, they are not to be called captives."
"The tradition is to be distinguished. As to kingdom and kingdom, there is no difficulty": that is, as to kingdoms, which are equal. "But between the kingdom of Ahasuerus, and the kingdom of Ben Nezer, there is. Between thieves and thieves there is no difficulty; but between Ben Nezer and the thieves of the world viz. common thieves, there is. There [in Palestine] Ben Nezer is called a king: here [in Babylon] he is called a robber." Gloss: "Ben Nezer was a thief, and took cities, and ruled over them; and became the captain of robbers."
It is very suspicious to what purpose they have invented that name for the most infamous robber, to call him the "son of Nezer." By those very letters [nun,tzadai,resh] they write the city 'Nazareth.' Read on, and the suspicion will increase.
"I considered the horns; and behold, there came up among them another little horn [Dan 7:8], This is Ben Nezer." Aruch quoteth this passage: "There came up among them another little horn: This is the kingdom of the Cuthites. Now what they meant by the kingdom of the Cuthites, may be conjectured from 'The winter is past' [Cant 2:11]; This is the kingdom of the Cuthites." And a little after: "The time is coming when the kingdom of Cuth shall be destroyed, and the kingdom of heaven shall be revealed."
It is easy imagining what they would point at by the kingdom of the Cuthites; the Christians no doubt (unless they will pretend to some Samaritan kingdom): and if so, it is as obvious whom they design by "Ben Nezer." Let them shew whence came the name of the tetrarchy of the Nazarenes in Coelosyria; of which Pliny: "Coelosyria habet Apamiam Marsya amne divisam. A Nazerinorum tetrarchia Bambycen, quae alio nomine 'Hierapolis' vocatur, Syris vero 'Magog.'"
4. Certain horrid practices in Capharnachum.
Having spoken of Nazareth, it will not be amiss to make some mention of Capernaum, which, however distant many miles, yet was it the place where our Saviour dwelt, as Nazareth was his native soil. We have considered its situation in another treatise, being in the country of Gennesaret, a little distance from Tiberias. There is another Capernaum mentioned by Gulielmus Tyrius, that lay upon the coast of the Mediterranean, as this did upon the coast of Gennesaret: "In a place called Petra Incisa, near old Tyre, betwixt Capernaum and Dor, two sea-coast towns."
It is uncertain whether the name be derived from pleasantness or comfort. And though our Capernaum might justly enough take its name from the pleasantness of its situation, according to the description that Josephus giveth of it; yet the oriental interpreters write it the latter way. The Rabbins also mention such a town, written in the same letters; of which, perhaps, it will not be tedious to the reader to take this story:
"Chanina, R. Joshua's brother's son, went into Capernaum, and the heretics" (or magicians for the word signifies either) "enchanted him. They brought him into the city sitting upon an ass"; on the sabbath-day, which was forbidden by their law. "He went to his uncle R. Joshua, who besmeared him with a certain ointment, and he was recovered." It should seem that, by some kind of enchantments, they had thrown him into a delirium so far, that he had forgot both himself and the sabbath-day. There is another story immediately follows that:
"A certain disciple of R. Jonathan's flies over to these heretics" [that himself might be entered amongst them, and become one too]. "Jonathan finds him out employed in castrating birds and beasts. They sent to him" [Jonathan], "and said, It is written, Cast in thy lot amongst us, and let us all have one purse. He fled; and they followed him, saying, Rabbi, come and give us a cast of thy office towards a young bird. He returned, and found them committing adultery with a woman. He asked them, Is it the manner of the Jews to do such things as these? They answer, 'Is it not written in the law, Cast in thy lot amongst us, and let us all have one purse?' He fled, and they pursued him to his own house, and then he shut the doors against them. They call to him and say, 'O Rabbi Jonathan, go, and rejoicing tell thy mother, that thou didst not so much as look back towards us; for if thou hadst looked back, thou hadst then followed us as vehemently as we have now followed thee.'"
While I read these things, I cannot but call to mind the Nicolaitans, and such who indulged to themselves a liberty of all obscene filthiness; nor is what we have related unworthy our observation with respect to heresies of this kind. Should this Capernaum be the same (as probably it is) with that Capernaum which we meet with so frequently in the evangelists, it is something observable what is said of it, "Thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell."
5. Some short remarks upon Cana, John 2:2.
It is very disputable which should be the first letter of the word Cana, whether Caph or Koph, for we find both.
I. Kanah, with the initial letter Koph, is a city in the tribe of Asher, Joshua 19:28.
II. Kene, a word not very much differing in the sound, occurs amongst the Talmudists, "Rabbi and his Sanhedrim, having numbered votes, pronounced Keni, clean."--Gloss: "Keni was a place of doubtful esteem, reckoned amongst the unclean" [that is, a place of the Gentiles]; "but in the days of R. Judah Haccodesh, it came under trial, and they pronounced it clean."
III. We find Kana in Josephus, but the situation not mentioned: "Antiochus being slain" [viz. when he fought with the Arabian king], "his army fled to the town Kana." This is hardly our Cana, as may in some measure appear in Josephus' context.
IV. But further he speaks in 'His Own Life,' of "Cana in Galilee." As for its situation, as far as can be collected from Josephus, we discuss that in another treatise, and shew that it is not far from that place where the river Jordan dischargeth itself into the sea of Gennesaret; so that between this Cana and Capernaum, there seems to be almost the whole length of that sea.
V. But it must not be forgotten that Canah, beginning with the letter Caph, is met with in Juchasin; the words these: "In the end of the chapter" [it is the seventh chapter of Bavah Mezia] "there is a tradition. Abba Chalaphtha or Caphar Hananiah, in the name of R. Meir, saith," [they are in Bavah Mezia, where he is brought in, and what he said], "It seems to me" (they are the words of the author of Juchasin) "that Caphar Hananiah is Caphar Cana; as may be proved out of the ninth chapter of the book Sheviith: for there was the entrance of the Lower Galilee."
From that place, quoted in Sheviith, which is Hal. 2. it plainly appears that Caphar Hananiah was in the very outmost border that divided the Upper and the Lower Galilee. From whence it is evident, that the entrance of the Lower Galilee, according to our author, was not as we go from Samaria to Galilee, but from the Upper Galilee into the Lower. And whether our Cana of Galilee be so called to distinguish it from that Cana that so divides between the two Galilees, or from that Cana that was in the tribe of Asher (which may not unfitly be called 'Cana of the Sidonians'), it is at the reader's choice to determine. As also, why the Syriac interpreter should in this place write Katna, instead of 'Cana.' Whether he had in his eye or mind Kattath, Joshua 19:15, which, in the vulgar dialect, was called Katanath, as the Seventy render it, and the Jerusalem Talmudists affirm; or whether by a diminutive kind of word Katanah, he would intimate the smallness of the town: q.d. "Cana the Less."
1. Certain names and places of near sound with 'Salim.'
Let us begin with Salim, and thence look after its neighbour 'Aenon.' We may be a little helped in our inquiry by that passage in Genesis 33:18: "And came to Shalem, a city of Sychem." There are some versions, and the authors of the tables, have upon these words built I know not what city Salem near Sychem. But neither the Jews nor Samaritans acknowledge any such thing. For the Jews render it, and that not without reason, "And Jacob came safe into the city of Shechem."
II. Salim, in the Greek interpreter, according to the Roman copy is the name of a place, Joshua 19:22; where the Hebrew runs thus, "And the coast [of Issachar] reacheth to Tabor, and Shahazimah, and Beth-shemesh." But the Greek "And the confines touched upon Gethbor, and upon Salim near the sea, and Bethsamosh."
The Masorets observe that Shahazimah, which is written with a Vau, should be written by a Jod; which also these interpreters acknowledge (which is worthy our taking notice of); but then they divide the word into two parts, and write it Shahaz at the sea: but why they should turn Shahaz into Salim, it is something difficult to guess.
It seems probable that Selame, which Josephus, in the account of his own life, makes mention of, as fortified by himself, amongst other towns in Galilee, is the same with this Salim, mentioned by the Seventy; and that the rather, because there it is reckoned up with mount Tabor.
III. Saalim, in the Alexandrian copy, answers to the Hebrew Shaalim, 1 Samuel 9:4. In the Complut. Sallim; in the Roman Segalim; where the Targum, instead of in the land of Shalishah, hath in the land of the south: and instead of in the land of Saalim, it hath in the land of Methbara. But why both here and also 2 Kings 4:42, they should render Baal-shalisha by the land of the south, we find some kind of reason in the Gemarists, who upon this place have this note:
"There was no country throughout the whole land of Israel where the fruits of the earth were so forward as in Baal-Shalisha." Now such a country they call southern fields; or literally, made south; "because the sun both riseth and sets upon them." But why they should render the land of Saalim, the land of Methbara is something more unintelligible, unless it should be with some respect to mount Tabor, which we find mentioned in the following chapter, verse 3; and so Methbara, should be "the plain of Tabor."
If now the reader can pitch upon any of these places we have already named, or any other he may have met with in his reading, as that which our evangelist here meaneth, let him consider whether the article near to may properly be prefixed to it, and yet St. John hath it near to Salim which gives some ground of conjecture that the passage is to be understood not of any town or city, but of some other matter; which, by way of exercitation, it may not be amiss a little to enlarge upon.
2. A 'Salmean' or a 'Salamean,' used amongst the Targumists instead of a 'Kenite.'
Every one that hath but dipped into the Chaldee paraphrasts, must know that the 'Kenites' are called by them 'Salmeans,' or 'Salameans.' So Onkelos, Genesis 15:19; Numbers 24:21,22. So Jonathan, Judges 1:16, 4:2, 5:24; 1 Samuel 15:6, 27:10. It is likewise observable, that the 'Maachathites' are by them called the 'Epikerites,' Deuteronomy 3:14; Joshua 13:13. And this, probably, from the place or country where the Maachathites of old dwelt, which, in the time of the Targumists, was called "Epicaerus on the east of the river Jordan," deg. 67.31.0. Whether indeed the situation doth fall out right, I shall not at present discourse.
But the 'Kenite' is not termed a 'Salmean' from any place or country where he dwelt. For the Kenites in the southern part of Judea are called 'Salameans,' Judges 1. So also Heber the Kenite in Galilee, Judges 4. And there were Kenites amongst the Amalekites, 1 Samuel 15; and there were of the Kenites beyond Jordan, Genesis 15: whence so called is not to our purpose. It sufficeth, that they were vulgarly known by the name of Salame; which, how near akin it is to Salim, let the unbiased reader judge. Who knoweth, therefore, but the evangelist should mean thus; "John was baptizing in Aenon, near the Salamean, 'or Kenite'"; giving that name to that people, which, at that time, they were commonly called by? But supposing this should be granted us, what Kenite should we understand here? either those that were in the wilderness of Judah, or those on the other side of the salt sea?
3. Aenon in the Greek Interpreter, Joshua 15:62.
If the 'Essene' might be called Salmean, as well as Kenite (and certainly he seems to have as much claim to it, if the word denote perfection, or austerity of life), then I could more confidently place our Salim, in the wilderness of Judah; because there I find Aenon mentioned in the Greek version, Joshua 15:61,62: where the Hebrew hath it thus: "In the wilderness, Beth-araba, Middin, and Secacah, and Nishban, and the city of Salt, and En-gedi, six cities": but the Greek "And Baddargis, and Tharabaam, and Aenon." &c. Where it is plain that Aenon, is put for Middin; but why it should be so, is more difficult to tell. This only we may remark, that the word Middin occurs Judges 5:10: which if I should render, "ye that dwell by Middin," I should have Kimchi to warrant me, who, in his notes upon this place, tells us, that "Middin is the name of a city mentioned in Joshua, Middin and Secacah." But now, when Aenon, signifies a place of springs or waters, see what follows: "from the noise of archers among the places of drawing waters." The Greek is "among those that draw water." So that if you ask the Greek interpreter why he should render Middin by Aenon, a place of springs, he will tell you, because Middin was a place "of those that draw waters."
The Essenes succeeded the Kenites in their dwelling in the wilderness of Judah: and not only so, but in strictness and austerity of life, as Josephus and others assure us. Now if we will but allow the 'Essenes' to be called Salmeans, as the Kenites were, then the words of the evangelist might bear such sense as this;--"John was baptizing in Aenon near the Essenes." And it may be supposed, that as the Baptist had already conversed with two of the Jewish sects, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and had baptized some of each, so he would now apply himself to a third sect amongst them, viz. the Essenes, and baptize some of them too. But herein I will not be positive.
4. The Syriac remarked. And Eustathius upon Dionysius.
Whilst we are treating upon the word Aenon, I cannot but observe that the word is divided both in the Syriac and Arabic version: Syriac, "In the fountain Jon": Arabic "In the fountain Nun." The words of the evangelist seem to discover the signification of the name.
"Because there was much water there." For we could not have rendered the word more significantly, than a place of springs, or a watery place. So Nonnus;
Why, therefore, did those interpreters take the word in two, when it was plain and etymological enough of itself?
The Syriac Jon brings to mind a passage of Eustathius upon this verse of Dionysius:
"Some say, saith he, that that whole sea from Gaza as far as Egypt, is called the Ionian sea, from Io." "Indeed, some call even Gaza itself Ione, where there is a heifer in the image of Io, or the moon."
That Gaza was ever called Ione, is not commonly known; but grant it was, and the same, from that place even as far as Egypt, to have been called the Ionian sea; yet should not I have derived its name from 'Io,' but rather from the 'Iones,' those brassy robust men, of whose coming into Egypt, and fixing their seats there by the sea, Herodotus gives us a famous relation.
But must we seek for ein Jon (or Javan, as some would have it) hereabout? To seek John about Gaza, would be to seek him out of the land of Israel; at least, as the bounds of that land were at that time determined.
5. Herodium, a palace.
If Aenon was the place where John baptized last, immediately before his imprisonment, then we must look for it either in Galilee or Perea: for in one of those places it was where he began his acquaintance with Herod. For however St. Luke, speaking of Herod, mentions Galilee only within his tetrarchy, Luke 3:1, yet Josephus tells us, that "both Perea and Galilee were under his jurisdiction." Where then shall we begin his first acquaintance with the Baptist? I had once inclination to have fixed it in Galilee; but whilst I consider better that Herodium was in Perea, and very near Machaerus, John's prison, that seems the more probable.
Josephus, speaking of Herod the Great and his stately buildings, hath this amongst other things: "He fortified a castle upon a hill towards Arabia, and called it Herodium, after himself." Where, by Arabia, you are to understand the land of Moab; and he seemed to have fortified that castle, as a bulwark against the Moabitish Arabs.
The same Herod that built it is buried there, as the same Josephus tells us; where, describing the funeral pomp, he gives this account: "After those followed five hundred of his own domestic servants, bearing spices. His body was brought two hundred furlongs" [from Jericho where he died] to Herodium, where, according to his own appointment, he was interred. But, in Antiq. lib. xvii. cap. 10, "They came to Herodium eight furlongs; for there he had ordered his funeral solemnities." At first sight, here is an appearance of a slip in history: but it is to be understood, that from Jericho to Herodium it was two hundred furlongs, that is, twenty-five miles; but Herod's burying-place was eight furlongs from Herodium, a common distance for burying-places to be from cities.
6. Machaerus, a castle.
Josephus tells us, that John Baptist was imprisoned by Herod in the castle of Machaerus: "He [the Baptist], upon Herod's suspicion, is sent prisoner to Machaerus." A little before that he had told us, This place "is the frontier betwixt the kingdom of Aretas [the Arabian king] and Herod."
Of the situation of the place, Pliny hath this hint; "that Arabia of the Nomades [or Moab], situated on the east of Asphaltites, fronts it on the west, and Machaerus situated on the north, fronts it on the south"; otherwise, you would remove Machaerus a great way from its proper situation.
We meet with it in the Talmudists under the name of Macvar.
"The mountainous country of Perea was the hill Macvar and Gedor." The Jerusalem Targum, and Jonathan upon Numbers 32:35, instead of "Atroth, Shophan, and Jaazer," have "Maclelta of Shophan and Macvar": to which Jonathan adds "Macvar of Garamatha."
It is obvious enough how they came to render Atroth by Maclelta (as also Onkelos hath done); viz. because they translated the Hebrew word, which denotes a crown, by the Chaldee word, which is of the same signification. But why Jaazer by Macvar? Onkelos upon the third verse of the same chapter, renders 'Jaazer' and 'Nimrah' by, which I should translate, "the Atrati or denigrati of the house of Nimrin." And Ptolemy comments thus in Arabia Petraea: "There are all along that country certain mountains called the Black Mountains, namely, from the bay which is near Pharan, to Judea." But whether Macvar hath any relation with blackness from a dish or furnace, I leave it to others to inquire.
So that we see Herodium and Machaerus are situated on the outermost coast of Perea towards the south, or the land of Moab, near the shore of Asphaltites, or the Dead sea.
The nature of the place we have described by Josephus, "There spring out, near this place, certain fountains of hot waters, of a very different taste, some bitter some sweet; there are also many springs of cold waters," &c. Compare the bitter waters with the waters of Nimrin, Isaiah 15:6, and the other with those of Dimon, verse 9; where, query whether Dimon be not the same with Dibon [Beth and Mem being alternately used]; that by that pronunciation it might agree more with blood; "The waters of Dimon are full of blood."
Whilst we are in this watery country, are we not got amongst the rivers of Arnon? The learned Beza commenting upon those words of St. John 3:23, "for there was much water there," affirms it, commenting thus: "namely, many rivers, of which also in that tract about Aroer there is mention in the books of Moses." And the situation of the place confirms it; when as Machaerus was the very utmost bounds of the 'land of Israel' towards Moab, according to Josephus, as also was Arnon according to Moses.
But here we find no place that is called either Aenon or Salim. True, indeed; but the place, for the very wateriness of it, deserves to be called Aenon, that is, a place of springs; and if Salim may be the same with Salamean, here we have also the Kenite or Salamean, Genesis 15 and Numbers 24. However, in a thing so very obscure, it is safest not to be positive; and the reader's candour is begged in this modest way of conjecturing. The way we tread is unbeaten, and deserves a guide, which as yet we have not obtained.
7. The hill Mizaar, Psalm 42:6.
Let us now (however something beyond our bounds) pass from the first entering of the coasts of Moab towards the north, to the utmost limits of it southward.
"I will remember thee (saith the Psalmist) from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar." Where is this hill Mizar? not to take any notice of what we meet with in Borchard and others, concerning Hermon near Thabor (by what authority I cannot tell), as also that the hill Mizaar, is rendered almost by all, a little hill; or, in a word, that the Targumist and R. Solomon tell us, it is mount Sinai; Apollinarius, that it is mount Hermon: it seems plainly to be the 'hilly part of Zoar,' whither Lot would have fled, if the straitness of time might have permitted him, Genesis 19:20; "O let me escape to this city; is it not Mizar, or a little one?" so that the hill Mizar may be the same, as if it had been said the hilly part of the little city Zoar.
The reasons of the conjecture, besides the agreeableness of the name, may be especially these two:
I. As Hermonium, or Hermon, was near the springs of Jordan, so the hilly part of Zoar lay hard by the extreme parts of Jordan in Asphaltites; and the Psalmist, speaking of the land of Jordan, or of the land on the other side of Jordan, seems to measure out all Jordan from one end to the other, from the very spring-head to the furthermost part where the stream ends.
II. As David betook himself to the country on the other side of Jordan towards Hermon, in his flight from his son Absalom, so was it with him, when flying from Saul he betook himself to Zoar in the land of Moab, 1 Samuel 22:3. And so bewails his deplorable condition so much the more bitterly, that both those times he was banished to the very utmost countries, north and south, that the river Jordan washed.
8. Eglath Shelishijah, Isaiah 15:5.
With the mention of Zoar is this clause subjoined in Isaiah, Eglath Shelishijah, or "a heifer of three years old." So with the mention of Zoar and Horonaim, the same clause is also subjoined in Jeremiah.
Isaiah 15:5: "His fugitives unto Zoar, a heifer of three years old."
Greek; "In it unto Sego. For it is a heifer of three years."
Vulgar: "Its bars were unto Segor: a heifer in his third year."
Targum: "That they should fly as far as Zoar, a great heifer of three years old."
English: "His fugitive shall flee unto Zoar: a heifer of three years old."
Jeremiah 48:34: "From Zoar to Horonaim, a heifer of three years old."
Vulgar: "From Segor unto Horonaim, the heifer being in her third year." And so others.
I am not ignorant what commentators say upon these places: but why may not Eglath Shelishijah be the name of some place, and so called a third Eglah, in respect of two other places much of the same sound...
There is mention of Ein Eglaim, in that country, Ezekiel 47:10; where Eglaim is plainly of the dual number, and seems to intimate that there were two Egels, with relation to which this our Eglah may be called Eglah the third. So Ramathaim, 1 Samuel 1:2, is of the dual number, and plainly shews there were two Ramahs.
The sound of the word Necla comes pretty near it. This we meet with in Ptolemy, in Arabia Petraea: Zoar 126.96.36.199.; Thoan 188.8.131.52.; Necla 184.108.40.206.
So that here we see the geographer mentions Zoar and Necla, as the prophet before had Zoar and Eglah: and how easily might Eglah pass into Necla in Greek writings, especially if the letter Tzadai hath any thing of the sound of the letter n in it. The geographer makes the distance of Zoar from Necla to be fifteen miles: so, we may suppose, was the distance of Zoar from Eglah, Horonaim lying between them; from whence the words of the prophet may not be unfitly rendered thus:
I am deceived if Agalla, which we meet with in Josephus, be not the Eglah we are now speaking of: numbering up the twelve cities, which Hyrcanus promised he would restore to Aretas, the Arabian king, being what his father Alexander had taken from him: amongst the rest he nameth Agalla, Athone, Zoar, Horonae. Of Zoar there can be no scruple; and as little of Horonae; but, by that must be meant Horonaim. Athone, seems to bear a like sound with Ptolemy's Thoana; and Agalla, with his 'Necla,' and that with our 'Eglah.'
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