Territory of Judah
JUDAH, TERRITORY OF (יְהוּדָ֑ה; LXX Ιουδα). The land given the tribe of Judah in connection with the Conquest, described in
The hill country of Judah is characterized by a semi-dissected plateau, trending N-S, primarily a pastoral land, but supporting some agriculture on its small fields and terraced hillsides. Its natural boundaries provided defenses on three sides, only the N being militarily vulnerable. In the W the hills rise abruptly from the Shephelah, traversed by a series of steep valleys leading upward to the central high land. The desert of the Negev lay across the S, and on the E was the formidable wilderness of Judea, with its rugged terrain rising sharply from the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley.
The Biblical writers give a detailed treatment of the settlements within this territory. Of special importance were the frontiers, with their towns (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
I. GEOGRAPHICAL DATA
1. The Natural Boundaries
2. The Natural Divisions of Judah
(1) The Maritime Plain
(3) Theof Judah
II. THE TRIBE OF JUDAH AND ITS TERRITORY
III. THE BOUNDARIES OF THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH
I. Geographical Data.
Although the physical conformation of Western Palestine divides this land into very definite areas running longitudinally North and South, yet all through history there has been a recognition of a further--and politically more important--division into 3 areas running transversely, known intimes as Galilee, Samaria and Judea. These districts are differentiated to some extent by distinctive physical features which have in no small degree influenced the history of their inhabitants.
1. The Natural Boundaries:
The southernmost of these regions possesses on 3 sides very definite natural boundaries: to the West the Mediterranean, to the East the Dead Sea, and the Jordan, and to the South 60 miles, North to South, of practically trackless desert, a frontier as secure as sea or mountain range. On the North no such marked "scientific frontier" exists, and on this the one really accessible side, history bears witness that the frontier has been pushed backward and forward. The most ideal natural northern frontier, which only became the actual one comparatively late in Hebrew times (see Judaea), is that which passes from the river `Aujeh in the West, up the Wady Deir Baldt, by the wide and deep Wady Ishar to `Akrabbeh and thence East to the Jordan. A second natural frontier commences at the same line on the West, but after following the Wady Deir Baldt, branches off southward along the Wady Nimr (now traversed by the modern carriage road from Jerusalem to Nablus), crosses the water-parting close to the lofty Tell Ashur and runs successively down the Wady Sanieh and the Wady `Aujeh and by the eastern river `Aujeh to the Jordan. This division-line is one conformable to the physical features, because north of it the table-lands of "Judea" give place to the more broken mountain groups of "Samaria." Another less natural, though much more historic, frontier is that which traverses the Vale of Ajalon, follows the Beth-horon pass, and, after crossing the central plateau near el Jib (Gibeon) and er Ram (Ramah of Benjamin), runs down the deep and rugged Wady SuweiniT, between Jeba` (Geba) and Mukhmas (Michmash), to Jericho and the Jordan. It was along this line that the great frontier fortresses, Bethel, Gibeon, Ramah, Adasa, Geba and Michmash, were erected. Such, on the North, South, East, and West, were the natural boundaries of the southern third of Palestine; yet in all history the land thus enclosed scarcely ever formed a homogeneous whole.
2. The Natural Divisions of Judah:
Within these boundaries lay four very different types of land--the maritime plain, the "lowland" or Shephelah, the "hill country" and, included usually with the last, the desert or Jeshimon.
(1) The Maritime Plain:
The maritime plain, the "land Judah of the Philis" (
(2) The Shephelah:
This is a very important region in the history of Judah. It is a district consisting mainly of rounded hills, 500-800 ft. high, with fertile open valleys full of corn fields; caves abound, and there are abundant evidences of a once crowded population. Situated as it is between the "hill country" and the maritime plain, it was the scene of frequent skirmishes between the Hebrews and the Philistines; Judah failed to hold it against the Philistines who kept it during most of their history. The Shephelah is somewhat sharply divided off from the central mountain mass by a remarkable series of valleys running North and South. Commencing at the Vale of Ajalon and passing South, we have in succession the Wady el Ghurab and, after crossing the Wady es Siwan, the Wady en Najil, the Wady es Sunt (Elah) and the Wady es Cur. It is noticeable that the western extremity of the most historic northern frontier of ancient Judah--that limited by the Vale of Ajalon in the West--appears to have been determined by the presence of this natural feature. North of this the hills of Samaria flatten out to the plain without any such intervening valleys.
(3) The Hill Country of Judah:
The hill country of Judah is by far the most characteristic part of that tribe’s possessions; it was on account of the shelter of these mountain fastnesses that this people managed to hold their own against their neighbors and hide away from the conquering armies of Assyria and Egypt. No other section of the country was so secluded and protected by her natural borders. It was the environment of these bare hills and rugged valleys which did much to form the character and influence the literature of the Jews. The hill country is an area well defined, about 35 miles long and some 15 broad, and is protected on three sides by natural frontiers of great strength; on the North alone it has no "scientific frontier." On the South lay the Negeb, and beyond that the almost waterless wilderness, a barrier consisting of a series of stony hills running East and West, difficult for a caravan and almost impracticable for an army. On the West the hills rise sharply from those valleys which delimit them from the Shephelah, but they are pierced by a series of steep and rugged defiles which wind upward to the central table-land. At the northwestern corner the Bethhoron pass--part of the northern frontier line--runs upward from the wide Vale of Ajalon; this route, the most historic of all, has been associated with a succession of defeats inflicted by those holding the higher ground (see Beth-horon). South of this is the Wady `Ali, up which runs the modern carriage road to Jerusalem, and still farther South lies the winding rocky defile, up part of which the railway from Jaffa is laid, the Wady es Surar. A more important valley, because of its width and easier gradient, is the great (Wady es Cunt), to guard the highest parts of which (now the Wady es Cur) was built the powerful fortress of Beth-zur (
These roads are:
(a) The earliest historically, though now the least frequented, is the most northerly, which passes westward at the back of ancient Jericho (near `Ain es Sultan) and ascends by Michmash and Ai to Bethel;
(b) the route traversed by the modern Jerus-Jericho road;
(c) the more natural route which enters the hills by Wady Joreif Ghusal and runs by Nebi Musa joining the line of the modern carriage road a mile or so after passing the deserted ruin of the Saracenic Khan el Ahmar. Here runs the road for the thousands of pilgrims who visit the shrine of Nebi Musa in the spring.
(d) The most natural pass of all is by way of Wady el Kuneiterah, across the open plateau of el Bukeia’ and over the shoulder of Jebel el Muntar to Bethlehem.
From `Ain Feshkhah a very steep road, probably ancient, ascends to join this last route in el Bukeia`, From Engedi (`Ain Jidy) a steep ascent--almost a stairway--winds abruptly to the plateau above, whence a road passes northwesterly by the Wady Hucaceh past Tekoa to Bethlehem and Jerusalem, and another branch goes west to Hebron and Juttah.
Somewhere along these routes must have lain the "
The altitude attained in this "hill country" is usually below 3,000 ft. in the north (e.g. Ramallah, 2,850 ft., Nebi Samwil, 2,935 ft.), but is higher near Hebron, where we get 3,545 ft. at Ramet el Khulil. Many would limit the term "hill country of Judea" to the higher hills centering around Hebron, but this is unnecessary. Jerusalem is situated near a lower and more expanded part of the plateau, while the higher hills to its north, are, like that city itself, in the territory of Benjamin.
II. The Tribe of Judah and Its Territory.
The territory of the tribe of Judas is described ideally in
The northern boundary which separated the land of Judah from that of Benjamin requires brief mention. The various localities mentioned in
The territory of Judah was small; even had it included all within its ideal boundaries, it would have been no more than 2,000 square miles; actually it was nearer 1,300 square miles, of which nearly half was desert.
III. The Boundaries of the.
These were very circumscribed. In
After the Northern Kingdom fell, the frontier of Judah appears to have extended a little farther North, and Bethel (
See especially H G H L, chapters viii-xv; P E F, III, and Saunders, Introduction to the Survey of Western Palestine.