BASHAN or HA-BASHAN ("fertile, stoneless ground"):

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. iii. 10), the modern Salkhat; thence northward to Hermon (Deut. iii. 8, iv. 47), which may be inferred from the passage in Deut. xxxiii. 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. iii. 14; Josh. xii. 5, xiii. 11, 13). The land was probably rather well settled in early times, since Deut. iii. 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. i. 4; iii. 1, 10; Josh. xii. 4; Num. xxi. 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. xx. 8), and was held by the Gershon branch of the Levites (Josh. xxi. 27; I Chron. vi. 56). Of Salecah nothing is known but the fact that it was a boundary city (Josh. xii. 5; Deut. iii. 10; Josh. xiii. 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. lxviii. 16). The soil is very fertile and provides excellent pasture for flocks, which in ancient times were noted for their size and breed (Deut. xxxii. 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 iv. 1), and for wicked people in general (Ps. xxii. 13). In the eastern portion oaks grew quite plentifully (Isa. ii. 13), and were used in making oars for the Tyrian trade (Ezek. xxvii. 6). In figurative language, Bashan is often linked with the Lebanon and Carmel as designative of mourning (Zech. xi. 2), languishing (Nahum i. 4), or casting away its fruit (Isa. xxxiii. 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. iii. 13; Josh. xiii. 29; I Chron. v. 23). According to I Chron. v. 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 (I Kings iv. 13, 19). In the days of Jehu, Hazael began to devastate the land (II Kings x. 33), but in the invasion of Tiglath-pileser (II Kings xv. 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."

J. Jr. G. B. L.
Images of pages