Bible Dictionary

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Joel 3:4. The name originally denoted the district bordering the Mediterranean, inhabited by Philistines. As early as in the writings of Herodotus (about 440 B.C.), Greek and Roman historians used the name to denote the area between Syria and Egypt (just as in most modern atlases), a district nearly 180 miles long and about 85 miles in average breadth. Running from north to south is the deep Jordan valley, which at its lowest part near the Dead Sea, is 1290 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. This valley, which extends southward as far as the Gulf of Aqabah, is called the Arabah. On either side of the valley is hill country, the western range being broken by the plain of Esdraelon. Proceeding further west we reach the Shephelah or Low Hills, and then the Maritime Plain, extending the whole length of the seacoast, and including the plains of Philistia and Sharon. Down in the south was the Negev, called in the KJV the “south country.” On the east of Jordan the highest summit is Mount Hermon (9400 feet). Thence going south the ground falls to an average height of about 2000 feet, this tableland being crossed by numerous valleys, and gradually sinking southward and eastward until the desert is reached. When Abraham first settled in the Holy Land, the country was occupied by various Semitic tribes. Some of these remained on the borders of Palestine and for a long time disputed with Israel the possession of the land. The Israelite dominion was largest in the time of David. It shrank in consequence of repeated defeats by the Syrians, Assyrians, and Babylonians. The land was never fully occupied by the Jews after their return from captivity. In the time of our Lord, Judea was mainly Jewish, but in the rest of Palestine there was a mixture of Jews, Syrians, and Greeks. The coast towns were mainly gentile. Samaria was occupied by people of mixed race who accepted the law of Moses but who were regarded by Jews with a special hatred. In Galilee the small towns and villages were mainly Jewish, while in the large towns as well as in the district east of Jordan known as Decapolis the people were for the most part gentile.