BA'ARAS ("Ba'arah," "hot springs," from , "burning"):
By: Kaufmann Kohler
A place in the ravine Zerḳa Ma'in above the city of Macherus on the northeastern shore of the Dead Sea, where are, according to Josephus ("B. J." vii. 6, § 3), the so-called Iron Mountains. According to Eusebius ("Onomasticon," s. v. καριαδεὶμ), the place called Baaru was near Baal Meon, nine miles from Heshbon; similarly Jerome on Num. xxxii. 38. There are many hot springs at the place, some containing sweet and some bitter water, and they are interspersed with cold springs. One spot is especially remarkable, containing a cave overhung by a rock joining two projecting hills, from the one of which issues a very cold spring, from the other a very hot one; and the bath composed of these waters as they mingle is used as a remedy against many maladies, and is especially efficacious for strengthening the nerves. In the neighborhood are mines of sulphur and alum.
An interesting legend connected with these springs is related in the Midrash (see Epstein, "Beiträge zur Jüdischen Alterthumskunde," pp. 107, 108; and compare Buber's Tan., Wayeẓe, p. 146, note): Jacob was pursued by Esau on his way along the Jordan, but no sooner did he put his staff into the river than the Jordan divided itself and he passed over. Then Jacob came to Ba'arah (), a place like the hot springs of Tiberias, and there took a bath; again Esau followed him and besieged the place, so that Jacob would have died there in these hot waters had God not opened a way of escape for him in the cold springs whither he went. To these miracles the prophet refers when saying of Jacob, "When thou passest through the waters I will be with thee; when thou walkest through the fire thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isa. xliii. 2).
Ba'aras is especially significant for a peculiar plant of the same name which grows there, deriving its name, "Ba'aras" (the burning one), from its flame-like color, which flashes at night like lightning. It was used, says Josephus, "by exorcists to drive out the demons from sick persons possessed by spirits of wicked persons that enter living men and kill themunless some help is used against them." (Compare Pliny, "Hist. Nat." xxviii. 23).
- Josephus, B. J. vii. 6, § 3;
- Reland, Palestina, pp. 303, 487, 611, 881;
- Böttger, Topographisch-Histor. Lexicon zu . . . Fl. Josephus, p. 47;
- Buhl, Geographie des Alten Palästina, p. 123.