Notes On Biblical Geography -- By: Edward Robinson
BSac 5:17 (Feb 1848) p. 79
Notes On Biblical Geography
I. Abila of Lysanias. The Inscriptions
The Evangelist Luke relates, that John the Baptist entered upon his public ministry “in the fifteenth year of Tiberius Caesar; Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod [Antipas] being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene;” Luke
BSac 5:17 (Feb 1848) p. 80
3:1. It might here seem, that the writer was intending to mark the state of the governments in the several provinces and regions where John and Jesus were about to exercise their ministry. Judea and Galilee were the chief scenes of our Lord’s labors; but he traversed also the dominions of Philip (which included Gaulonitis) where he passed from the eastern shore of the Lake of Tiberias to Caesarea Philippi; Mark 8:13, 22–27. But why is Abilene likewise mentioned? Very possibly because, as we shall see, it lay upon the northern confines of Philip’s territories, stretching along the eastern slope of Hermon and Anti-Lebanon; so that our Lord, while in the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, may very easily have entered and preached within its limits. Indeed, according to a passage from Josephus hereafter to be quoted (Antt. 15. 10. 3), it is not improbable that the district of Paneas (Caesarea Philippi) itself may have been at that time connected with Abilene under the rule of Lysanias,
The district Abilene was so called from its chief town Abila; known also as Abila of Lysanias, to distinguish it from another Abila in Peraea (now Abil), situated between Gadara and Capitolias; see Polyb. 5. 71. 2. Jos. B. J. 2. 13. 2. ib. 4. 7. 5. The Abila of Lysanias is marked by the geographer Ptolemy and the Itineraries as lying between Heliopolis (Báalbek) and Damascus, on the eastern slope of Anti-Lebanon. This of course decides the general position of the district Abilene. The definite site of Abila we shall endeavor to ascertain further on.
The eastern declivity of Anti-Lebanon is quite gradual; or, rather, this eastern side is characterized by successive lower ridges, with intervening open tracts or terraces, running parallel with its course, and presenting towards the east steep declivities and sometimes perpendicular precipices. The river Barada, the ancient Chrysorrhoas, the only important stream of Anti-Lebanon, rises high up in the mountain and flows by Damascus. In its course it breaks through no less than three such ridges;—one below Zebedany; a second near ei-Fîjeh; and a third at Dummar.
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