|Descriptive Geography and Brief Historical Sketch of
By Rabbi Joseph Schwarz
is true that the boundaries of the territory of Dan are not given in the
Scriptures; but they can be determined with tolerable accuracy from the towns of
this tribe, as enumerated in Joshua 19:40-48. Through means of Josephus, who in
various passages calls Jabné (Jamnia) a city of Dan, and gives Dor (Dandura) as
the most northern, and Ashdod as the most southern towns of the same, we can
easily fix the northern and southern boundaries. It appears also, from the
description of the territory of Simeon, that the present village Beilin, the
Baalath* of the Bible, was the most northerly point of this tribe; it lay
therefore on the boundary between Simeon and Dan, and was thus the most
southeasterly point of the latter. The boundary ran thence westward to Ashdod,
on the Mediterranean, and on the other side from Baalath over Beth-Shemesh, the
modern En-Sems, to Ajalon, now Jalo, and turning northwesterly it ran between
Lod and Ramleh, for the former belonged to Benjamin, and then northerly over
Djilil, Kefar-Saba, &c., to Dandura, the ancient Dor. It will thus appear
that the territory of Dan was situated between the Mediterranean and the
portions of Benjamin and Ephraim, so that the western parts of these tribes
could by no means have extended to the sea. What is said therefore in the
description of the limits of the sons of Joseph, "And the goings out thereof
were to the sea," (Joshua 16:3,5,) means only that the boundary ran in a
straight line, without turning to the north and south in the direction of the
sea, but not that it ever touched the same. Josephus, by the by, contradicts
himself, in extending the land of Ben jamin to the Great Sea, whilst he alleges
that the coast belonged to Dan.
In Yerushalmi Sanhedrin, chap. i., it says: "We find that the public
announcement of the year and the monthly determination of the feasts and
החדש) by the Sanhedrin (which would only take
place in the territory of Judah), were made in Baalath, which sometimes belonged
to Judah and at others to Dan. Eltheké, Gibethon, and Baalath, belonged to
Judah; Baalah, Jyim, and Ezem, belonged to Dan. How could they then make the
announcement in Baalath? Because the houses belonged to Judah, the fields,
however, to Dan." This passage contains much of interest in a geographical
point of view, so that I deem it proper to discuss it somewhat at length. It
appears strange that Eltheké, &c., should be ascribed to Judah, and Baalah,
&c., to Dan, when the reverse seems to have been the case, on reference to
Joshua 15:29 and 19:44. Again, if Baalath belonged to Judah, the determination
of years and festivals could legally take place there; the question, therefore,
in the passage cited appears most surprising. There can, therefore, be no doubt
but that a transposition has taken place in the passage before us, and that it
ought to be read correctly "Eltheké Gibthon, and Baalath belonged to Dan, and
Baalah, Jyim, and Ezeni, to Judah." We can deduce from this passage of the
Yerushalmi that the Baalah of Joshua 15:29, is different from Baalatha
of ibid. 19:44, since the former was quite to the south, and that the second,
which was also called Baalath Beër (Ramoth Negeb), was in the portion of
Simeon, and was on the boundary between this tribe and Dan, but is still
considered by the Yerushalmi as a city of Judah, because originally all the part
of Simeon was included in that of his powerful brother, so that the cities of
the former are also considered as belonging to the latter. We learn farther from
this that the frontier towns are often considered as belonging to one and again
to the other tribe, and that in a measure the possession of them was alternately
determined, since the text says, "Sometimes to Judah, at others to Dan."
Again, that occasionally the division of these boundary towns was so, that the
town itself, the buildings, as the Talmud has it, belonged to one, whilst the
fields, meadows, and environs belonged to another tribe; which exposition will
enable us to unravel many obscurities in the divisions of the tribes.
I believe that Baalath is Baalah in the construct state, and is, so to say, an
abbreviated phrase, and that the other noun belonging to it is to be understood.
Thus Baalah of Bear. The Kametz in Joshua 19:44, is only because it
concludes the verse.—TRANSLATOR.
will now mention the following of the towns of Dan:
and Eshtaol צרעה
אשתאל see above, page 101.
See above, page 104.
is no longer known. In the time of Eusebius there was a village in the vicinity
of Sebasta (Samaria), called Shelbin. If now the territory of Dan extended so
far as Dor, as Josephus reports, then is it easy to conceive that this tribe had
some possessions up to the immediate vicinity of Samaria. The next mentioned
town, Ajalon, is certainly a considerable distance from Samaria; but it is by no
means unusual to enumerate several towns together, although they lie far apart
from one another.
the modern village Jalo, 11 English miles from Jerusalem, and 2˝ English miles
from Gibeon; wherefore the assertion of Rashi to Joshua 10:12, that Ajalon is
far from Gibeon, is not borne out by the fact. East of Lod, on the road to
Gimso, there is a large valley running between two high mountain peaks, of which
one points to the south, the other to the north. On the southern mount, there is
the just-mentioned Jalo, opposite to which lies, on the northern mount, the
village Beth-Ur, which is Lower Beth-Horon of Joshua 10:10, and 16:3. Above the
same, is a narrow pass which leads to a village lying on the summit of a steep
mount, and is now called Beth-Ur Fok, which means Upper Beth-Horon (Joshua
16:5); but this appellation seems to me erroneous, since this place must have
been much farther removed from Lower Beth-Horon; it would be more correct* to
take it for "the descent to Beth‑Horon" of Joshua 10:11. From this
peak one can see Gibeon to the east and Ajalon to the west. It would then appear
that Joshua must have stood here when (10:12) he called out in prophetic
inspiration "Sun, stand still in Gibeon, and moon, in the valley of Ajalon."
This narrow pass is also mentioned in Sanhedrin, 32 b, and Tosephtah b,
Niddah 8, also in Bereshith Rabbah 73, where it speaks of Rab Huna of
Beth-Horon. In Yoma, chap. vi. § 9, it says: "It is a distance of 3 mill from
Jerusalem to בית
חידודו Beth Chidodo;" but the
Yerushalmi to this passage and Maimonides read "to Beth‑Horon." I
confess that this reading cannot be correct, since Beth-Horon is much farther
than 3 mill from Jerusalem. Josephus says the distance is 100 stadia, about 12
English miles; and Beth-Ur is actually thus far from Jerusalem. The correct
reading, therefore, is Beth-Chidodo, the name of a town or place now unknown,
but which was probably southeast of Jerusalem, near the valley of Kidron, the
rocky defiles of which was the place whither the scapegoat (שעיר
לעזאזל) was sent on the Day of
Atonement, of which I may, perhaps, speak more hereafter.
אילון although not any more known, it is nevertheless
mentioned in 1 Kings 4:9, along with Shaalabbin, Beth-Shemesh and Beth-Chanan.
אלתקה also called Elthekon (Joshua 15:59), is perhaps
the village Althini, not far from Beilin (Baalath).
See above, page 122.
יהוד, is the village Jehudia, 7˝ English miles
southeast of Jaffa,
Berak בני ברק.
There is a spot, 5 English miles northeast from Jaffa, which the Arabs call
Barak, perhaps the former site of the town, although there are no ruins to be
found at it. The assertion of Eusebius that this town should have been situated
near Ashdod, is incorrect.
was situated, according to Eusebius, 12 mill north of Eleutheropolis, on the
road to Lod. It is at present unknown.
i. e. the waters of disease; this place was, according to my opinion, near the
Wady Udshi, which descends from the mountains of Lod. Wady Udshi also signifies
the stream of pain, nearly synonymous with the Hebrew appellation of the town,
which was also most likely applied to the river near which it stood.
In Yoma, fol. 38 a, we read, "When they arrived at the harbour of Akko," i. e. at the time they carried the gates made for the temple from
Alexandria to Jerusalem. I can scarcely believe that it was necessary to run so
far north as Akko for this purpose, and I venture therefore to read Jaffa in its
place; and in truth, the Talmud Yerushalmi for Yoma, in the same narration, has נמלא
של יפו "The harbour of Jaffa."
Bené-Elam and Bené-Charim בני עילם בני
חרים (Ezra 2:31,32),
is perhaps the village Charim ben Elim, situated on a bay of the sea, 8 English
miles north-northeast of Jaffa. The inhabitants point out here the grave of the
high priest Eli, contained in an elegant building; but no one acquainted with
the Bible, can have the least doubt of the incorrectness of assuming this monument to be what
is alleged for it. For, why should Eli, who died at Shiloh (1 Sam. 4:18), have
been carried hither to be buried? This error appears to me to have arisen from
an incorrect interpretation of the name of the town Charim ben Elim. It is
evidently a compound of Bené-Elam and Bené-Charim, both of which places, as is
apparent from the others mentioned in Ezra 2, must have been situated in the
neighbourhood of Jaffa. The people now changed Elam into Eli, and thus
originated the false legend that the grave of Eli the high priest was existing
there. On this grave, over which is built quite an elegant structure, there is a
large tombstone, inscribed on one side with a Hebrew, and on the other with a
Samaritan, inscription. It is well known, the Samaritans call themselves all
priests, and their chief they called "high priest." It is, therefore, highly
probable that this grave encloses the bones of one of these; perhaps his name
may have been Eli, whence then the origin of this error becomes doubly apparent.
The Samaritans, however, go constantly to this grave to perform at it their
devotions; but every one who is truly pious, will guard himself against being
misled by legends of so little credibility as this. Near this place are some
ruins, which are probably the remains of Apollonia, mentioned in Josephus’
Antiquities and the Jewish War.
Ataroth, Beth Joab עטרות
(1 Chron. 2:54). On the road from Jerusalem to Jaffa, 1˝ English miles west of
Saris, is the village Al Etron (incorrectly pronounced Latrun), and is no doubt
the ancient Ataroth. Three-fourths of an English mile north-northeast of this
is Beth-Joab, near which is a large spring called Bir-Joab.
From those places of Dan mentioned in the Talmudic writings, we will
describe the following.
Kefar Saba כפר
(Yerushalmi Demai, chap. ii.), is still a village, situated 3 English miles north of Djilil,
or Gilgal (Joshua 12:23). In this Kefar Saba is found a monument, which the
Arabs call "the sepulchre of the sons of Jacob;" but I could not ascertain
the reason of so naming it. This town was also called Antipatris (see Yoma, 69 a,
and Gittin, 76 a); and Josephus relates of it, that Herod had it built
up, and gave it the name of Antipatris, in honour of his father Antipater.
(Gittin, 57 a). Of this formerly celebrated city, which was situated 10
English miles north of Kefar Saba, there remains nothing but some ruins. There
is also a village of the same name 7˝ English miles southwest of Jerusalem.
also called Caesarea Palestinae (Megillah, 6 a), is at present the
miserable village Kisaria, and is situated on the Mediterranean, 7˝ English
miles south of Dardura. It was built by Herod, called the great, and named
Caesarea, in honour of the Roman emperor, Augustus Caesar. This formerly famous
seaport town, and the largest in Palestine after the destruction of Jerusalem,
is now totally destroyed; and there is nothing visible of its former elegance,
except large and still remarkable ruins, the interiors of which are filled up
with the huts of fishermen. When Ibrahim Pacha undertook considerable repairs on
the fortifications of Akko, he caused some large stones from the ruins of
Caesarea to be brought away for the purpose. In order to distinguish this place
from another of the same name at the foot of the Anti-Lebanon (Caesarea
Philippi), this one was called Caesarea Palestinae.
(Yerushalmi Demai, ch. ii., "from Pundeka to Kefar Saba"), is the present
village Phunduk, 5 English miles east of Kefar Saba. Also 2˝ miles north
north-east of Sebasta (Samaria), there is the village Phundokomi. It will appear
from the passage just cited from the Yerushalmi, that there were two towns
and these are no doubt the two villages Phunduk and Phundokomi.
צריפין (Menachoth, 64 b), the present village
Zaraphan, 2˝ English miles north of Ramleh, on the road to Jaffa. Another
village of the same name, Zeraphan Athikah, i. e. the old Zeraphan, is in the
vicinity of Ekron.
קושטא (Sanhedrin, 97 a), is probably the village
Al Kustani, situated in the Lowland, 5 English miles southwest of Ekron.
רמלא i. e. sand, in Arabic, so called on account of the
large quantity of sand found on the road from Jaffa to this place, lies 10
English miles southeast of Jaffa, in the Lowland. It is therefore quite
erroneous to assume that this town is identical with Ramathaim-Zofim, which was
on the mountain of Ephraim. Not less surprised was I to find it stated, in a
description by a non-Israelite, that in olden time no mention whatever occurs of
Ramleh, the more so since the Mahomedan historian Abulfeda relates that it was
built in the year 63 (i. e. 4435 A. M., or 675 C. E.) by Soliman Ebed al Maliki.
This is evidently a mistake; because Ptolemy already speaks of Ramleh in his
description of the country. The error of the author quoted may have arisen from
a rebuilding of the town by Soliman.
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