Biblical Geography and History

By Charles Foster Kent | Go to book overview

II
THE GENERAL CHARACTERISTICS OF PALESTINE

History of the Terms Palestine and Canaan . The term Palestine, originally applied to the home of Israel's foes, the Philistines, was used by the Greeks as a designation of southern Syria, exclusive of Phœnicia. The Greek historian Herodotus was the first to employ it in this extended sense. The Romans used the same term in the form Palestina and through them the term Palestine has become the prevailing name in the western world of the land once occupied by the Israelites and their immediate neighbors on the east and west. The history of the older name Canaan (Lowland) is similar. In the Tell el-Amarna Letters, written in the fourteenth century B. C., Canaan is limited to the coast plains; but as the Canaanites, the Lowlanders, began to occupy the inland plains the use of the term was extended until it became the designation of all the territory from the Mediterranean to the Jordan and Dead Sea valley. It does not appear, however, to have ever been applied to the east-Jordan land.

Bounds of Palestine . Palestine lies between the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian desert. Its northern boundary is the southern slope of Mount Hermon and the River Litany, as it turns abruptly to flow westward into the Mediterranean. Palestine begins where the Lebanons and Anti-Lebanons break into a series of elevated plateaus. Its southern boundary is the varying line drawn east from the southeastern end of the Mediterranean a little south of the Dead Sea at the point where the hills of Judah and the South

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