Ancient Sources

The Peraea and the Dead Sea



19. Alon Atath, today Bethagla - (Qasr Hajla)

ORIGINAL TEXTS

Area Atad locus trans Iordanem, in quo planxerunt quondam Iacob tertio ab Iericho lapide, duobus milibus ab Iordane, qui nunc vocatur Bethagla, quod interpre-tatur locus gyri, eo quod ibi more plangentium circuierunt in funere Iacob.
(Jerome 9:17-20)


ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Eusebius, Onomasticon 8:17-20 (ca. 295 A.D.); Jerome 9:17-20 (ca. 390 A.D.)
Alon Atad [the threshing floor of Atad] (Gen 50:10), "beyond the Jordan", where they mourned Jacob, is a place at the third milestone from Jericho, two miles from the Jordan, which today is called Bethagla, meaning "the place of the circle", for there they walked in a circle, as mourners do, at Jacob's funeral.

BIBLICAL BACKGROUND

Gen 49:33-50:11 The funeral of the patriarch Jacob
When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.
Then Joseph threw himself on his father's face and wept over him and kissed him. Joseph commanded the physicians in his service to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel; they spent forty days in doing this, for that is the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.
When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph addressed the household of Pharaoh, "If now I have found favor with you, please speak to Pharaoh as follows: My father made me swear an oath; he said, 'I am about to die. In the tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.' Now therefore let me go up, so that I may bury my father; then I will return." Pharaoh answered, "Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear to do."
So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father's household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. Both chariots and charioteers went up with him. It was a very great company. When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed a time of mourning for his father seven days. When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, "This is a grievous mourning on the part of the Egyptians." Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan.

Josh 15:1-7
The eastern border of the tribe of Judah
The lot for the tribe of the people of Judah according to their families reached southward to the boundary of Edom, to the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south. And their south boundary ran from the end of the Dead Sea, from the bay that faces southward; it goes out southward of the ascent of Akrabbim, passes along to Zin, and goes up south of Kadesh-barnea, along by Hezron, up to Addar, makes a turn to Karka, passes along to Azmon, goes out by the Wadi of Egypt, and comes to its end at the sea. This shall be your south boundary. And the east boundary is the Dead Sea, to the mouth of the Jordan. And the boundary on the north side runs from the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan; and the boundary goes up to Beth-hoglah, and passes along north of Beth-arabah; and the boundary goes up to the Stone of Bohan, Reuben's son; and the boundary goes up to Debir from the Valley of Achor, and so northward, turning toward Gilgal.

MORE ANCIENT SOURCES

Josephus, Antiquities 13.1.5 (1st cent. A.D.)
(22) However, Simon and Jonathan returned to the lakes of the river, and abode there; but Bacchides, when he had secured all Judea with his garrisons, returned to the king; and then it was that the affairs of Judea were quiet for two years; (23) but when the deserters and the wicked saw that Jonathan and those that were with him lived in the country very quietly, by reason of the peace, they sent to king Demetrius, and excited him to send Bacchides to seize upon Jonathan, which they said was to be done without any trouble, and in one night's time; and that if they fell upon them before they were aware, they might slay them all. (24) So the king sent Bacchides, who, when he was come into Judea, wrote to all his friends, both Jews and auxiliaries, that they should seize upon Jonathan, and bring him to him; (25) and when, upon all their endeavors, they were not able to seize upon Jonathan, for he was sensible of the snares they laid for him, and very carefully guarded against them, Bacchides was angry at these deserters, as having imposed upon him, and upon the king, and slew fifty of their leaders; (26) whereupon Jonathan, with his brother, and those that were with him, retired to Bethagla, a village that lay in the wilderness, out of his fear of Bacchides. He also built towers in it, and encompassed it with walls, and took care that it should be safely guarded. (27) Upon the hearing of which Bacchides led his own army along with him, and besides took his Jewish auxiliaries, and came against Jonathan, and made an assault upon his fortifications, and besieged him many days, (28) but Jonathan did not abate of his courage at the zeal Bacchides used in the siege, but courageously opposed him; and while he left his brother Simon in the city to fight with Bacchides, he went privately out himself into the country, and got a great body of men together of his own party, and fell upon Bacchides's camp in the nighttime, and destroyed a great many of them. His brother Simon knew also of this his falling upon them, because he perceived that the enemies were slain by him, (29) so he sallied out upon them, and burnt the engines which the Macedonians used, and made a great slaughter of them; (30) and when Bacchides saw himself encompassed with enemies, and some of them before, and some behind him, he fell into despair and trouble of mind, as confounded at the unexpected ill success of this siege. (31) However he ventured his displeasure at these misfortunes upon those deserters who sent for him from the king, as having deluded him. So he had a mind to put an end to this siege after a decent manner, if it were possible for him so to do, and then to return home.

Epiphanius, Descriptio Terrae Sanctae 11 (8th cent. A.D.)
East of Jericho, at a distance of about three miles, lies Saint Gerasimus in a small castrum [
Qasr Hajla]. Two miles away is the monastery of saint Zosima the Great. Near him also lies buried saint Anthimos.


Map Section 2 Place Discussion

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Created Saturday, December 16, 2000 at 11:55:08
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copyright - Studium Biblicum Franciscanum - Jerusalem 2000