TURNING to the third chapter of Deuteronomy, we read in the record of Moses, "So the Lord delivered into our hands Og also, king of Bashan, and all his people. . . . And the rest of Gilead, and all Bashan, being the kingdom of Og, gave unto the half tribe of Manasseh; all the region of Argob, with all Bashan, which is called the land of giants."

This land of Bashan lay on the east of the Jordan, and was among the earliest conquests of the Israelites. It extended south from the snow-capped ridge of Hermon to the River Jabbok, and it stretched away to the eastward till it lost itself in the sands of the desert. From the west, it appears like a long range of mountains rising abruptly from the deep valley of the Jordan. But on approaching it from the east, we find it an elevated table-land, from two thousand to five thousand feet in height.

The Bashan of the time of Moses was afterward divided into four Roman provinces,—Gaulonitis, Auranitis, Batanaea, and Trachonitis.  Gaulonitis lay to the west, bordering on Galilee and the Jordan; Batantaea lay on the extreme east, hemmed in by the desert; Trachonitis lay between these to the north; and Auranitis, to the south.  Gaulonitis and Auranitis are beautiful, level plains, dotted here and there with rounded hills.

The soil is black and loamy, covered with rich green grass or waving grain, and is wonderfully productive. Strips of oak forests, survivors of those famous "oaks of Bashan," greet the traveler's eye, and the plain is gay with the profusion of bright wild flowers.  Batanaea, however, is of an entirely different character.

It is a most picturesque mountain region, a mountain range some forty or fifty miles long, and running from north to south, occupying the section. The soil here, also, is extremely fertile, and the mountains are covered with evergreen oaks. The mountains and oaks, and the flocks and herds of Bashan, are often spoken of by the sacred writers. Says the psalmist, "A mountain of God is the mount of Bashan; a mount of peaks is the mount of Bashan." These mountainsides afford excellent pasturage for cattle.

But perhaps the most interesting and wonderful portion of the land is the Trachonitis, or rough country, the Argob of the Israelites; el-Lejah, or asylum, the Arabs call it, since it furnishes a safe retreat for all outlaws and persecuted persons. It is oval in shape, some twenty-two miles long and fourteen wide, and stands twenty or thirty feet above the surrounding plain. Speaking of this wonderful region, a writer says: "It is wholly composed of black basalt rock, which appears to have issued in past ages from innumerable pores in the earth in a liquid state, and to have flowed out on every side until the plain was almost covered.

. . . It has a wavy surface, broken by deep fissures and yawning gulfs with jagged edges.

The rock is filled with little pits and protuberances like air-bubbles. It is as hard as flint, and emits, when struck, a sharp, metallic sound. The border is everywhere as clearly defined as the line of a rocky coast, which, indeed, it very much resembles, with its inlets, bays, and promontories. "Speaking of the conquest of Bashan, Moses, says in the Sacred Record: "We took all his cities at that time, there was not a city that we took not from them, three-score cities, all the region of Argob, the kingdom of Og in Bashan. All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; besides unwalled towns a great many." Were this statement not from the Inspired Word, we would deem it incredible that so small a section of country could contain so many towns; yet says Dr. Porter, "On the spot, with my own eyes, I have seen that it is literally true."

The cities on the west side of the Jordan, with but few exceptions, have scarce one stone left upon another. On the eastern side of the valley this is entirely different. Here stands city after city, hundreds of years old, the houses as perfect as if finished only yesterday, but uninhabited and silent as a city of the dead. Travelers now walk the quiet streets; they open, unbidden, the doors of the houses, and sleep unmolested in the long deserted halls.

These stone houses are on a massive scale, with stone doors, stone window-shutters, and low, stone roofs, as if built for the race of giants who first inhabited the land, and at a time when the strength of the buildings was the chief consideration. Says Dr. Porter, in describing these houses: "The walls are sound, the roofs unbroken, the doors and even the window-shutters in their place." "The houses of Bashan are not ordinary houses. Their walls are from five to eight feet thick, built of large squared blocks of basalt; the roofs are formed of slabs of the same material, hewn like planks, and reaching from wall to wall; the very floor and window shutters are of stone, hung upon pivots projecting above and below."

One would think that a land so richly productive as Bashan, with these old, gigantic houses in a state of such perfect preservation, would be inhabited and well cultivated. Yet we are told by those who have been there that one may ride for miles, passing village after village, all deserted and silent, habited only by wild beasts. This region is as capable of sustaining a large population as ever, but Turkish rule offers no protection to any inhabitants against the lawless Bedouins, who still, as in the days of the Israelites, come with their flocks and tents and herds, and enter in to the land to destroy it.

Very strikingly have the words of the Book been fulfilled, in the case of Bashan: "The generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from afar land, shall say, when they see the plagues of this land, and the sicknesses which the Lord hath laid upon it, wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? What meaneth the heat of this great anger?  Then men shall say, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers; for they went and served other gods and worshiped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given them."




W. E. L.