Biblical Notes -- By: H. B. Hackett

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 024:93 (Jan 1867)
Article: Biblical Notes
Author: H. B. Hackett

Biblical Notes

H. B. Hackett

1. Situation Of Haran

A controversy has recently sprung up respecting the situation of the patriarchal Haran, which is not without interest to students of the Bible. It seems that there is a Haran el-Arwamâd, a little village about four hours east of Damascus, on the border of the lake into which the Barada (Abana) flows. Dr. Beke, an English scholar and traveller, in his “Origines Biblicae” (published in 1834), threw out the idea that the scripture Haran was not in Mesopotamia as generally supposed, but must have been near Damascus. He now maintains, since the unexpected discovery of this Hârân between “Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus,” that it must be the identical Haran (or Charran) of the Bible in Aram-Naharim, i.e., Aram of the two rivers (as rendered in the Septuagint, Mesopotamia, Gen. 24:10; Deut. 23:4). In 1861 Dr. Beke made a journey to Palestine, chiefly in order to examine this question on the ground. The argument on which he mainly relies, or at least the one that is likely to impress the reader most, is the fact that Laban in his pursuit of Jacob appears to have travelled from Haran to Gilead on the east of the Jordan in seven days (Gen. 31:23), whereas the actual distance of Haran from Gilead is about three hundred geographical miles, and would make in that country an ordinary journey of fifteen or twenty days. An Arab tribe on its ordinary migrations moves from twelve to fifteen miles a day, and a caravan, from twenty to twenty-three miles a day. On the other hand, it is not a little remarkable that Dr. Beke himself went over the ground, step by step, between Hârân el-Arwamâd and Gilead, and found the time to be five days, which proves to be very nearly the time that Laban was on the way before he overtook Jacob in Gilead.

It must be owned that the rapidity of Laban’s pursuit from Haran is not a slight difficulty, and requires for its removal various suppositions which the scripture text may allow, but does not directly suggest. First, we may assume that Laban, taking with him only some of his sons or other near kindred (“his brothers,” see Gen. 31:23), was unencumbered with baggage or women and children, and hence moved with all the celerity of which Eastern travelling allows. One party was fleeing and the other pursuing. The chase was a close one, as all the language indicates. Jacob complains that Laban had “followed hotly “after him. The swift dromedaries would be brought into requisition, if the ordinary camels were not swift enough. The speed of these animals is such, says Sir Henry

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