Struck at Caesarea-Philippi, A.D. 8.


Chubby is a large Christian village, built on the two marginal waves of the Lejah. An old inscription in the neighbouring village, Zobeireh, in which there is a reference to Britain, gives the ancient name of this village, which was Habiba. Khubab, or Habiba, an entirely Christian village, under a Christian sheikh, contrasts most favourably with the places we last visited.

The Druzes at Burak are a parcel of outlaws, watching for the police, or their other natural enemies, the Arabs. The people of Musmeih are wild animals with some little clothes. They have a limited field for vicious practices — nobody worth the killing, and nothing to steal; but I have reason to believe that they have fair natural talents for dastardly deeds, which would improve with opportunity and practice, for my companion dropped his rug from the saddle, and it disappeared among the rocks like a flash.

Khubab is an agricultural village, wheeled round [274] far west from the Arabs as to be comparatively safe from their attacks; but sometimes the Arabs sweep over their fields, and leave them clean enough; and sometimes, also, they gut and ruin the village. There are a few houses in the village of the best Hauranic style, with the ceiling slabs ornamented; and these are solid enough to defy the Arabs. The villagers also hide their wheat in pits (nawawis) in the earth, which they stop, and cover over with dung, rubbish, and stones, so that the Arabs do not always find their grain treasures; but they sometimes torture the sheikh to make him disclose these granaries, and they have refinements in cruelty worthy of the ancient inquisitors.

The men of Khubab labour in the fields during the seasons for labour, and, (luring the remainder of the year, cut and dress basaltic mill-stones. which are rolled to Akka, and there shipped for the Egyptian market. The women spin and weave and attend to household matters, and keep themselves comparatively clean. One of their occupations exclusively is kneading the cows' dung and sticking it on the walls to dry for fuel. When dry, the balls are gathered and stacked for winter use, as is clone with peat in Ireland. There is not a shop in the town. Pedlars visit it with Manchester prints of the brightest colours, Egyptian sugar, bracelets, and other commodities, and get wheat, eggs, cheese, and such local products, in return for their merchandise.

I proclaimed that we had books to sell, and the whole village turned out and swarmed to our tent. The people [275] had a sufficiency of curiosity, and curiosity sometimes leads to knowledge. We had a fair prospect of selling all our books at the first market; but the schoolmaster came with a stick, and drove away his pupils, and after him the priest arrived, with great bluster and noise, and forced his flock back into the village. He declared that they had done sixty years without our Bible, and they would not permit it to enter among them.

We were startled to hear an almost Scripture expression drop from his passionate lips, —

These people have turned the world upside down in Beyrout and Damascus, and they are come here also."

It was in vain I told him he was rejecting God's book and Christ's gospel, and mentioned that already he had one of our Bibles on the altar of his church; for he was wrathful and inexorable, and he drove his flock away, but one of his lambs carried off a Bible without paying for it.

The sheikh and another man came to our tent by night, Nicodemus-like, and eagerly bought two Bibles; and a pretty little bride. Feride, — a rara avis, — who had learned German, and become a Protestant, with the Prussian Sisters at Beyrout, bought from us a Bogatzky's "Golden Treasury"; but her husband, still under the yoke of the priest, compelled her to return it on the morrow.

We spent Sunday at Khubab, and had a good deal of conversation with the people, for they kept coming and going in a perpetual stream all clay. Their questions and modes of thought were very interesting. [276]

During the day we strolled up to the top of the chief ridge, on which the village was built. We stopped beside a little graveyard in which women were swaying themselves backwards and forwards and wailing for their dead. Each grave is walled up with a single-stone wall about four feet high, which tapers in towards the top. The district is cut up into little gardens and fields, and walled around with high walls which have no entrance. But in these enclosures there is neither soil nor shrub— nothing but the bare grey stones. If they were ever gardens or vineyards, both soil and roots have entirely disappeared.

The country about the village is not so rocky and rugged as at Musmeih. The greatest waves of the lava stopped a mile east, leaving a ridge-like formation, on which stand two conspicuous towns that were finally destroyed by the Bedawîn about six years before our visit.

Looking towards the Druze mountain, the great basaltic lake or plateau does not appear so fearfully desolate as when seen from the north; patches of green with yellow flowers relieve the dreary scene.

Between us and Mount Hermon there stretched a vast level sea of green growing corn, dappled with red fields left fallow and here and there black villages with white domes and tall minarets, rose like islands; and conical hills and low ranges of mountains prevented the green flat sea from running up sheer to the edge of the mountain.

Hermon itself, streaked and zebraed with snow, presented from our standpoint one of its finest side views. [277] However modern vulgarity may affect to despise Hermon, for not being the biggest mountain in the world, it is by far the finest object in the whole Syrian landscape; and we do not wonder, when we view it from all quarters of the land, that it impressed so deeply the minds of patriarchs and prophets.

About us, where we stood, the only signs of vegetation were a few patches of nettles and mallows, which grew among the blasted-looking, desolate graves; but there were patches of green down below in the hollows, and as we looked down on the village, it presented a cheerful appearance—girls trooped about in their bright Sunday dresses, and heads of families lay about in little grassy fields, with their children tumbled around them. The scene came as near a picture of home life in a country village as anything I had seen in the East.

From the point where we stood we were able to count fourteen round towers in the Lejah, and a great number of mortuary tombs resembling in a small way the Palmyra towers. Being once detained a day at Khubab, in consequence of my horse having lost a shoe. I visited the round tower due south of the village, and succeeded in getting a good photograph of it.

The tower stands near a fort at a well. It is built of basalt, and tapers from the base. The circumference one yard from the ground is sixty-eight feet. It has thirty-seven layers of stone in it, the one with the other of which would be nearly a foot high each. The walls are four feet thick; the height of the door is five feet five inches, and [278] its width three feet three inches. A central column of cylindrical stones supports a stone loft at the height of fourteen feet, and a spiral staircase, the stones of which project from the wall, and are much worn by wear, ascends to this loft.

By the Hauran tower I place, for comparison, one of the Palmyra mortuary towers, which I found to be one


hundred and eleven feet high, and to contain loculi for four hundred and eighty bodies.

On our way back from the tower we visited one of the ruins that are so numerous, and that no one thinks worthy of a visit. We chose Melihat Hezkin, inasmuch as no European, as far as we knew, had ever visited it. We reached it on foot in less than an hour, and on our way we got both partridge and quail. We met three women who were out gathering a kind of wild rape, which they cook and eat. We found the village just like all other Hauran towns, in a small way. The doors and ceilings and windows [279] were of stone. Each house, however, seemed to have more than the ordinary number of compartments.

At one corner of the village, near the village tank or cistern, was a square tower forty or fifty feet high, with a spiral staircase ascending to two stories. The upper floors were broken clown, but enough remained to show the character of the building. The stones in the narrow streets were worn smooth, and the fireplaces showed signs of much use, but the place had been a long time utterly abandoned.

At the northern corner, a little modern square building domed over contained the grave of Sheikh Hezkin, covered with a green cloth. Pilgrimages are made to the tomb, and each pilgrim leaves a staff stuck into the wall near the grave, so that the chamber is a magazine of staves. The only sign of life in the place was a solitary clove that flew out of the only tree in the village, which is that in the court of the mosque.

On the 7th of April we started for Ezra, a town on the margin of the Lejah due south. The morning was raw and cold, and yet women and boys were hanging about our tent. As we worked our way once more to the coast-line, we only saw, of animate things, pensive donkeys, meditating among the black rocks—pictures of long-suffering misery. When we pushed out from the black shore, the ground became covered with flowers; among others I saw pink convolvulus, lilac mallows, yellow-hearted daisies, and scarlet pheasant's-eyes.

We first passed through fenced and cultivated fields, much resembling parts in Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and [280] we soon emerged on the broad unfenced plain, where the neighbours' landmarks, large black stones, show the boundaries of the different cultivators. Tibny was in front, on an eminence, like most of the towns of this region. I galloped to the village, according• to my custom, in advance of the cavalcade, shouting or singing something to bring the people out of their dens. I found that the most effective cry on such occasions was "fresh haddock" with a County Louth accent, and as we were in the character of pedlars, the cry was not very unbecoming. In Druze villages we tried a stave of the Drupe war-song, and it not only brought the people around us, but put them in good humour, as they were no doubt charmed with our style of singing it.

Most of the villagers came out to meet us, and salutations over, I pointed to the colporteur, who was opening his boxes, and told them that lie had books for sale, God's books, and explanations of them by good and learned men. I then took an armful of books, and leaving the crowd around the boxes with the colporteur, I literally took a walk over the town, jumping from roof to roof, and saluting the people down in their courts, till I had a sufficient crowd around me; and, then sitting down on an aged stone, I read them passages that seemed to turn up by accident. I thus had an opportunity of seeing the whole town, and of offering our books to every soul in it. Sometimes the crowd became menacing, and then I became aggressive, and questioned them in such a manner as to turn their attention from me to themselves. [281] When it became a case of "throwing pearls before swine," I commenced to purchase their old coins and medals, like other travellers.

Frankness and good temper and firmness carry one safely along, while a little swaggering, or assumption of mystery, would get us turned out of the village, and perhaps something more. I always returned to the colporteur with an enormous following of savages—climbing over walls and houses, and swarming out of lanes and dens, and all converging towards the books.

Here a widow, with impressive eagerness, bought a Bible for her son, who could read, and she not only paid for it, but poured blessings upon us for bringing it to her. "My son will read it to me, and I shall learn everything for myself," she exclaimed.

Tibny, like most of the other towns, consists of two parts. The Boman official part, temple and all, is in ruins. The native inhabited part is on a mound of ruins, and is of more recent construction.

Leaving Tibny, we passed a number of men ploughing up the fallow ground. They refused to buy our books, on the plea that they had no money; but when I offered them free they had no desire to possess them. Five other villages similar to Tibny lay along our path. At Muhejjeh there are long Greek inscriptions, and pieces of Greek sculpture; but the inhabitants were the most surly Moslems we had met. On the principle of offering our books to all, we urged them to buy, taking no notice of their churlishness. [282]

The women of Muhejjeh have their legs tattooed in pretty patterns, so that they seem to have on blue open-work stockings, through which the white skin appears. They wear their petticoats short, and tucked up, in order to show their ornamented legs.

Shukra, in the midst of a red plain, turned out to be a Christian village, and we could see that Christianity, even in a very degraded form, has a thew and sinew that renders it superior to Islamism. The people seemed alive and eager to see and know. I found such people, as a rule, better than their priest. They bought books, but the old priest stole one.

I watched the priest with much interest stealing the book, but did not interfere with him, as I knew that he could put an end to our selling if he chose. In the accomplishment of his little purpose he bought a Psalm-book, and shuffled it and a Bible together, until he thought no one saw him, when he slipped the Bible to his wife, and she carried it off home under her apron. When he had the Bible secured, lie pretended to discover mistakes in the Psalm-book, and got back his money.

Shukra has also its Corinthian capitals lying about, and several Greek inscriptions built into the walls with the wrong side down. It has all the Hauranic characteristics of the other towns, and from its modern walls peep the eloquent fragments of a higher civilization and more prosperous times.

Bearing to the left, we entered Ezrá over a horrible path, partly the Roman road, and partly the black basaltic [283] rock worn smooth and slippery as polished steel. Ezrá is a large ruin, situated at the base of a rocky promontory, on the south-west corner of the Lejah. This ruin has recently been identified as the Edrei of Og, king of Basilan, but without sufficient reason, and contrary to overwhelming evidence.

Edrei of Og was well known to the Greeks and Romans under the name Adraa, and this rendering of the Hebrew name in Greek corresponds to the rendering of other Shemitic names by the same people, especially in the bilingual inscriptions of Palmyra.1

In Roman times Adraa (Edrei) was one of the chief towns of the Arabian province, and, like Bosra, had liberty to coin its own money, and I have in my cabinet several imperial Greek coins struck at Adraa.2 Now we are left in no hesitation as to the position of Adraa (Edrei.) The Bible declares it to have been on the way to Bashan" for an army marching from Heshbon.3 Eusebins places it on the road to Capitolias and Gadara, twenty-five miles from Bosra, and the Peutinger tables place it twenty-four miles from Bosra, in the same direction.

On one of my visits to Adra'at I approached it from Bosra along the route indicated by Eusebius and the Peutinger tables, and after a march of twenty-four or twenty-five miles we came upon the extensive ruins of [284] Edrei at the place where our path was crossed by "the way to Bashan."

1 De Voglié, Inser. Palmyr., p. 4.
2 On the reverse of one is the uncouth figure of an enormous giant, a lingering tradition of 0g.
3 Deut. iii. 1.

Accompanied by Dr. Thomson, the author of The Land and the Book, I started from Bosra on April 10th, and proceeded by a track parallel to the Roman Road, which runs straight as an arrow from Bosra to Adra'at.

The country through which we passed was exceedingly fertile and well cultivated. Vast spaces green with corn alternated with immense tracts red in fallow. Furrows a mile in length were turned by the plough in the basaltic ash, of which the soil is largely composed.

On our path, and to right and left, there were many agricultural villages which marked, by decaying ruins, the sites of important towns, and there were many rocky patches and basaltic outcrops here and there; but as we stood high in our stirrups and gazed around us, we seemed to be steering through a vast sea of waving corn, and villages and rocks appeared as black islets in the green ocean.

Adra'at we found beautifully situated on a rising ground, enfolded in a bend of the Wady Zeidy. At Jisr et-Taiyebeh, a river, flowing in the Wady Zeidy, crossed our path from right to left, ran by our side on the left, sometimes quite close to our path and sometimes at the distance of a mile; but at a quarter of a mile from Adra'at it recrossed our path from left to right and flowed in a beautiful curve round the north of the town.

During the whole journey I inquired from every person [285] we met the name of the town on the hill to which we were going."What is the name of that town?" I would ask, gently, pointing to the place. Invariably the Bedawîn would answer, "Adra'at."

As if I had not heard distinctly, I would ask the question again and again in a higher key, and they would bawl out again and again, aspirating every letter until the word might have torn their teeth out, " A-d-r-a'-at."

Almost as uniformly the Fellahîn called it Derá, but as the Bedawîn always preserve the oldest pronunciation, and their rendering agrees with that of Abu el-Fida, Edrisi, and the Arab geographers generally, I propose to follow it in this book.

We had a discussion regarding the right name of the place on the bridge below the town as hot as any that has been waged by Western scholars over the name. A great caravan bearing wheat to Akka was passing over the bridge as we approached it. The drivers in charge of the kufl were Bedawîn, but a number of the Fellahîn to whom the wheat belonged were in the party.

"What town is that?" I said to a Bedawi, as I handed him a few dates from my pocket.

"Adra'at!" shouted the Bedawi. "Derá!" shouted the Fellahîn. Then there arose Babel on the bridge, and we could occasionally catch fragments of sounds — such as "Ibu el-Kelb" (son of a dog), "Dera 'at" "Majnoun" (idiot), "Derá," etc. In fact the sons of the desert were almost as rude and noisy as critics and [286] controversialists at home, and they sought to settle the matter in dispute by strength of assertion like our own positivists.

While the controversy raged we forded the river with difficulty, and ascended the sloping sides of the green hill to Adra'at. We passed several Bedawi tents on the acclivity, with men and children squatting at their doors. The people of the town were at first sullen, especially the Moslems; but when they found we could talk their language they became more pleasant, and were ready to sell us anything they had.

Adra'at stands in the midst of green and beautiful rolling hills. It must always have been a great agricultural centre, and it is still the most populous town in Bashan. As it is situated on the edge of a most fertile district, it has been more constantly occupied than Ezrá in the Lejah, and hence it is smothered with great heaps of dung, which have grown up higher than the houses and over them. The land needed no manure, and all refuse remained where it was first flung.

Adra'at is a town of four tiers. The modern habitations are on the top, and next to them are the Roman foundations, and beneath on the chalk are the ruins of Og's city. But below all there is a subterranean city, with houses and streets excavated out of the solid rock. I explored some of the passages, but as the work was both dirty and dangerous, and as I had no change of garments with me, I thought it better to be content with Wetzstein's description till such times as the Palestine Exploration [287] Fund could take up a thorough investigation of the underground city.1

A small portion of the ancient Adra'at is now covered by the modern village. We explored the place, keeping along the tops of the great dung heaps and looking down into the squalid dwellings. There are still many ancient, ruins which have not yet been engulfed by the ever-growing refuse. There is a curious square minaret of the truncated pyramid pattern. There is a large mosque which seems to be a transformed monastic building, and at the southern end of the rectangular enclosure one sees the apse of the church, the chord of which was thirty-eight yards. There are also the remains of ancient baths and many other ruins which testify to the civilization and luxury- of the place at a remote period. All the structures appear to have been built from stones rifled from older buildings. We had our best view, however, from Tell Karak, which stands higher than Adra'at, and formed the citadel or north-eastern suburb of the city. We saw the aqueduct, bearing the name of Pharaoh, by which the water was brought from Dilly, and carried across Wady Zeidy by a bridge of live circular spans, now partially in ruins. [288] The bridge, though ancient, was also made from odds and ends taken from other edifices.

1Merrill, in his interesting book "East of the Jordan" — London, 1881, pp. 350-352 —has translated Dr. Wetzstein's description; and Mr. Schumacher, in his work "Across the .Jordan"—published by the Palestine Exploration Fund, 188t, pp. 136-144—has given a minute description with plans of an underground exploration carried out by him. He does not, however, seem to have come across the part explored by Wetzstein. Nor did I.

We spent some hours on Sunday reading on the top of Tell Karak. A large group of natives sat open-mouthed around us as we read in their own tongue the twenty-two passages of the Bible in which 0g, the king of Bashan, is referred to. As we read and looked at the natural features of the landscape around us, the whole scene became vivid before us. And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og, the king of Basilan, went out against them, he and all his people to the battle at Edrei." 1

The Israelites, flushed with their victory over Sihon, king of the Amorites, poured down the sloping sides of the Zulmeh Hills from the south-west, and on the way of Bashan," at Edrei, gained a decisive victory over King Og, who dwelt at Ashtaroth and Edrei, and reigned in Mount Hermon and Saleah, and in all Bashan. . . ." 2

It is clear from the narrative that the great battle was not fought in Bashan, but on the way to Bashan. Then we turned and went up the way to Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan came out against us, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei." 3

As we read these and kindred passages on the summit of the old citadel of Adra'at, we had no room for even a doubt that we were in the very centre of the ancient battle-field, on which the kingdom of Bashan was won for the half tribe of Manasseh. Og's two capitals were Edrei and Ashtaroth, and he reigned in Salcah and Hermon and [289] in all Bashan. The inspired writer might have stood where we stood when writing his narrative, so vivid is his description. To the south-east Salcah (Sulkhâd), its castle erected on the crater of an extinct volcano, dominated the district. Far to the north-west towered the lofty Hermon, snow-clad to its base. Between these two lofty landmarks stretched' the kingdom of Basilan with the threescore cities of Jain.

1Numb. xxi. 33.
2Joshua xiii. 11, 12.
3Delft. iii. 1.

Og's two capitals were Edrei and Ashtaroth. From Edrei he could see the lofty extremities of his kingdom. But where was Ashtaroth? Standing on the highest tops of Tell Karak, I asked the crowd of Arabs who surrounded me the names of the tells in view. Beginning on the eastern horizon and sweeping round the north to the west, they pointed out Tell 'Arar., Tell el-Faras, Tell Abu Nida, Tell el-Jumna, Tell el-Jabia, Tell el-Harrah, and a score of other tells which were either extinct volcanoes or artificial mounds.

One of the tells mentioned in the general summary was Tell Ashtarah. I did not affect any surprise when I heard the name, but I said quietly. "Where is Tell Ash'areh?"

Half a dozen voices shouted out at once. There is Tell Ash'areh, but yonder away beyond is Tell Ashtarah." As I stood on the highest point of Edrei, I could distinctly see not only the remote boundaries of Basilan but also the Mound of Ashtaroth towering from eighty to one hundred feet above the surrounding plain.

Edrei was Og's great industrial and political capital, but Ashtaroth was his sacred and ecclesiastical capital, [290] and the sites and ruins accord with this view. Edrei stood on the cross-road and meeting-place of industry and commerce, and the ruins tell of large resources and great prosperity. Ashtaroth stood on a sacred mound, apart from the highways of secular life, and the scattered ruins and foundations on Tell Ashtarah are such as might be expected in connection with the worship of the local deity.

In contrast with these obvious landmarks of the ancient Edrei, let us look at the three reasons given for identifying Ezra of the Lejah as the City of Og.

First: The situation. It occupies an "impregnable site." whereas "Adra'at lies in tie open country."

To this we reply, that the city Bosra was in the open country too, and in the open country became much more great and famous than Edrei. Besides, King Og was strong enough to live in a city in the plain. And when the Israelites "went up the way to Basilan" (Dent. iii. 1), Og did not retreat to some impregnable stronghold, but went out to meet them on their march, confident of victory.

Second: The antiquity of the massive walls of the dwellings. The chief advocate of this theory acknowledges that the buildings may be as old at least as the Roman dominion"

Third: The correspondence of the Arabic name to the Hebrew name Edrei. So far as this argument goes, it tells [291] in favour of Adra'at, which is practically the same as the Hebrew name.

It was not, therefore, up among the rocky fastnesses of Bashan that the giant leader and his host were overcome by the hosts of the Lord, but on the plains, as the Israelites "went up the way to Basilan."

We must not, however, overlook the testimony of the ancient dwellers in these parts, for their vanity often led them to write the name of their city in conjunction with their own names. Thus "I, Smith," or "We, the Smiths of such and such a place, erect this monument at our own expense," etc. On this question the evidence of ancient Smith is conclusive. For he declares, with cutting emphasis and frequent repetition, that the name of the place in Greek and Roman times was not Edhra or Admit, but Zorava. The name of the city Zorava stands as con- spicuous as a signboard on two large stones near the minaret, and engraved oil the walls of the two churches — St. Elias and St. George.

Og, king of Bashan, was one of our earliest and tallest friends. He and his wondrous bedstead had a large place in our imaginations ere we heard of ".Jack the Giant-Killer" or "Giant Despair." e owed his giantship a small debt of gratitude, and we have now paid it, by restoring our tall and ancient friend to his own city and rightful inheritance.1

1In this question I agree with Burckhardt. Wetzstein, and Waddington. The invaluable work of the latter is conclusive on this subject, but it is unfortunately beyond the reach of the public. [292]

Text Archive Home | Book Details | Table of Contents