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Iturea, Trachonitis, Batanea, Gaulanitis, and Auranitis in the first century C.E.

Batanaea or Batanea (the Hellenized/Latinised form of Bashan) was an area of the Biblical Holy Land, north-east of the Jordan River, to the east of Trachonitis. It was one of the four post-Exile divisions of the area of Bashan. Now known as Ard-el-Bathanyeh, it runs north-south along the east side of the Lejah and the Hauran, from Salkhad on the south, to Tells Khaledyeh and Asfar on the north. It is, on average, 12 miles wide, and for 30 miles along it extends the Gebel Hauran, a range of hills, whose central plateau is 2670 ft. above sea level and whose highest point is 6400 ft. Its highest peak may be the "Hill of Basan" referred to in Psalm 68:15.

In the first century BCE the land was acquired by Herod the Great, and on his death in 4 BC passed to his son Philip as part of his inheritance. In some sources Philip is referred to as Tetrarch of Batanea with the capital at Caesarea Philippi, though his lands were more extensive than this.

On his death in 34 A.D. Batanea passed to Herod Agrippa I, and in 53 CE to his son, Herod Agrippa II. Following his death, however, it was annexed to the Roman province of Syria.

D. A. Carson, in his commentary on the Gospel of John, says that the "Bethany across the Jordan" of John 1:28 (referenced again in John 11), is actually Batanaea, transliterated across Aramaic to Greek.


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Meaning: light soil

First mentioned in Gen 14:5, where it is said that Chedorlaomer and his confederates "smote the Rephaim in Ashteroth," where Og the king of Bashan had his residence. At the time of Israel's entrance into the Promised Land, Og came out against them, but was utterly routed (Num 21:33-35; Deut 3:1-7).

This country extended from Gilead in the south to Hermon in the north, and from the Jordan on the west to Salcah on the east. Along with the half of Gilead it was given to the half-tribe of Manasseh (Josh 13:29-31). Golan, one of its cities, became a "city of refuge" (Josh 21:27). Argob, in Bashan, was one of Solomon's commissariat districts (1 Kg 4:13). The cities of Bashan were taken by Hazael (2Kg 10:33), but were soon after reconquered by Jehoash (2Kg 13:25), who overcame the Syrians in three battles, according to the word of Elisha (19).

From this time Bashan almost disappears from history, although we read of the wild cattle of its rich pastures (Ezek 39:18; Ps 2212), the oaks of its forests (Isa 2:13; Ezek 27:6; Zech 11:2), and the beauty of its extensive plains (Amos 4:1; Jer 50:19). Soon after the conquest, the name "Gilead" was given to the whole country beyond Jordan.

After the Exile, Bashan was divided into four districts, (1.) Gaulonitis, or Jaulan, the most western; (2.) Auranitis, the Hauran (Ezek 47:16); (3.) Argob or Trachonitis, now the Lejah; and (4.) Batanaea, now Ard-el-Bathanyeh, on the east of the Lejah, with many deserted towns almost as perfect as when they were inhabited.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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The tract of country north of Gilead, the Yarmuk being the dividing-line. It stretches eastward along this southern limit as far as Salchah or Salecah (Deut 3:10), the modern Salkhat; thence northward to Hermon (Deut 3:8, iv. 47), which may be inferred from the passage in Deut 33:22, which speaks of Dan leaping from Bashan, and referring to the time when Dan had emigrated to the extreme north. In the west, Bashan did not extend quite to the Jordan; the territory of the Maachathites and the Geshurites intervening between it and the river (Deut 3:14; Josh 12:5, xiii. 11, 13). The land was probably rather well settled in early times, since Deut 3:4 speaks of sixty cities; there are many ruins remaining to this day. The names of very few cities have, however, been preserved. Edrei (Deut 1:4; iii. 1, 10; Josh 12:4; Num 21:33), apparently a royal city, was the scene of the battle which ended in the defeat of Og, and gave the Hebrews possession of the land. It is now known as "Ed-deraah." Generally mentioned in connection with Edrei is another royal city, Ashtaroth, perhaps the modern Tell-Ashtera. Golan was set aside by Joshua as a city of refuge (Josh 20:8), and was held by the Gershon branch of the Levites (Josh 21:27; 1Chr 6:56). Of Salecah nothing is known but the fact that it was a boundary city (Josh 12:5; Deut 3:10; Josh 13:11).

The land of Bashan is characterized by its volcanic formation: the hills have craters and are picturesquely called "har gabnunnim" (mountain of summits; A. V. "high hills," Ps 6816). The soil is very fertile and provides excellent pasture for flocks, which in ancient times were noted for their size and breed (Deut 32:14). The powerful cattle of Bashan are referred to in the orations of the Prophets as designations for the strong, overbearing inhabitants of Samaria (Amos 4:1), and for wicked people in general (Ps 2213). In the eastern portion oaks grew quite plentifully (Isa 2:13), and were used in making oars for the Tyrian trade (Ezek 27:6). In figurative language, Bashan is often linked with the Lebanon and Carmel as designative of mourning (Zech 11:2), languishing (Nah 1:4), or casting away its fruit (Isa 33:9).

According to Biblical tradition, Bashan was conquered from the mythical Og by the Hebrews in the days of Moses, and was handed over to the half-tribe of Manasseh (Deut 3:13; Josh 13:29; 1Chr 5:23). According to 1Chr 5:11, Gad also had some land in Bashan, but this late passage is hardly sufficient evidence. In Solomon's reign a commissariat officer was stationed in Bashan (1 Kg 4:13, 19). In the days of Jehu, Hazael began to devastate the land (2Kg 10:33), but in the invasion of Tiglath-pileser (2Kg 15:29) it is not mentioned. See G. A. Smith, "Historical Geography of the Holy Land," ch. xxvii. The name gave rise to the Greek "Batanæa" and to the modern Arabic "Buthaniyatun."

This entry includes text from the Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906.
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