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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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or BASAN, one of the most fertile cantons of Canaan, which was bounded on the west by the river Jordan, on the east by the mountains of Gilead, on the south by the brook of Jabbok, and on the north by the land of Geshur. The whole kingdom took its name from the hill of Bashan, which is situated in the middle of it, and by the Greeks is called Batanaea.

It had no less than sixty walled towns in it, beside villages. It afforded an excellent breed of cattle, and stately oaks, and was, in short, a plentiful and populous country. Og, king of the Amorites, possessed this country when Moses made the conquest thereof. In the division of the Holy Land, it was assigned to the half tribe of Manasseh. Of the present state of this portion of the ancient possessions of the Israelites, Mr. Buckingham, in his Travels, gives the following account: "We ascended the steep on the north side of the Zerkah, or Jabbok; and, on reaching the summit, came again on a beautiful plain, of an elevated level, and still covered with a very rich soil. We had now quitted the land of Sihon, king of the Amorites, and entered into that of Og, the king of Bashan, both of them well known to all the readers of the early Scriptures. We had quitted too, the districts apportioned to the tribes of Reuben and of Gad, and entered that part which was allotted to the half tribe of Manasseh, beyond Jordan eastward, leaving the land of the children of Ammon on our right, or to the east of the Jabbok, which, according to the authority before quoted, divided Ammon, or Philadelphia, from Gerasa. The mountains here are called the land of Gilead in the Scriptures, and in Josephus; and, according to the Roman division, this was the country of the Decapolis, so often spoken of in the New Testament, or the province of Gaulonitis, from the city of Gaulon, its early capital. We continued our way over this elevated tract, continuing to behold, with surprise and admiration, a beautiful country on all sides of us: its plains covered with a fertile soil, its hills clothed with forests; at every new turn presenting the most magnificent landscapes that could be imagined. Among the trees, the oak was frequently seen; and we know that this territory produced them of old. In enumerating the sources from which the supplies of Tyre were drawn in the time of her great wealth and naval splendour, the Prophet says, ‘Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars,' Ezekiel 27:6 . Some learned commentators indeed, believing that no oaks grew in these supposed desert regions, have translated the word by ‘alders,' to prevent the appearance of inaccuracy in the inspired writer. The expression of ‘the fat bulls of Bashan,' which occurs more than once in the Scriptures, seemed to us equally inconsistent, as applied to the beasts of a country generally thought to be a desert, in common with the whole tract which is laid down in our modern maps as such between the Jordan and the Euphrates; but we could now fully comprehend, not only that the bulls of this luxuriant country might be proverbially fat, but that its possessors, too, might be a race renowned for strength and comeliness of person. The general face of this region improved as we advanced farther in it; and every new direction of our path opened upon us views which surprised and charmed us by their grandeur and their beauty. Lofty mountains gave an outline of the most magnificent character; flowing beds of secondary hills softened the romantic wildness of the picture; gentle slopes, clothed with wood, gave a rich variety of tints, hardly to be imitated by the pencil; deep valleys, filled with murmuring streams and verdant meadows, offered all the luxuriance of cultivation; and herds and flocks gave life and animation to scenes as grand, as beautiful, and as highly picturesque as the genius or taste of a Claude could either invent or desire."

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Bashan'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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