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PERÆA:

Division of Palestine, extending, according to Josephus ("B. J." iii. 3, § 3), from Macherus in the south to Pella in the north, and from the Jordan in the west to Philadelphia (Rabbat Ammon) in the east. But in fact it covered a much larger area, stretching from the Yarmuk in the north to the Arnon in the south, thus including the territories of Bashan, Gaulanitis, and the Hauran, from the present Jabal 'Ajlun to Al-Balḳa. It is a rough plateau, sloping abruptly toward the Jordan in the west, with a more gradual descent in the east toward the Arabian desert. Although the vegetation of Peræa is far less rich than that of Palestine and Galilee, the country contains good pasturage and the soil may be easily cultivated. The following rivers, mentioned in the Bible, belong to Peræa: the Jabbok (Gen. xxxii. 22); the Arnon (Num. xxi. 13; Deut. iii. 8); the Zered (Num. xxi. 12; Deut. ii. 13); the Abana, and the Pharpar (II Kings v. 12). The Talmud gives the Yarmuk (; Parah viii. 10; B. B. 74b).

The principal cities of Peræa, mentioned in the Bible, are: Ashteroth Karnaim (Gen. xiv. 5); Mahanaim (Josh. xiii. 26, 30); Ramoth in Gilead (Josh. xxi. 38; Deut. iv. 43); Beth-peor and Medeba (Josh. xiii. 9, 16, 20); and Bezer (Deut. iv. 43). The literature of the Talmudic period mentions the following cities as belonging to Peræa, or the territory designated as Peræa: Gadara ('Ar. ix. 6); Ragab (Men. viii. 3); Tarela (Yer. Ḥag. i. 1); Amathus (Eusebius, "Onomasticon"); Gerasa (Midr. Shemu'el xiii.); Callirrhoe (; Gen. R. xxxvii.); and Makar(; Ta'an. 33a).

Peræa did not become of importance in the political history of Judea until the time of the Maccabees. The first Jewish prince to subjugate Peræa was Judas Maccabeus. John Hyrcanus subdued Medeba, while Alexander Jannæus took the fortresses of Gadara and Amathus and levied tribute upon the Moabites and Gileadites (see Josephus, "Ant." xiii. 13, §§ 3-5). The greater part of Peræa remained Jewish until the time of Herod; Gabinius assigned a sanhedrin to it in 63 C.E., when he divided Judea into five districts. Fifty years later Herod's brother Pheroras was appointed tetrarch of Peræa ("Ant." xv. 10, § 3). It was subjugated by Vespasian in 67, before the fall of Jerusalem. In the Talmudic time Peræa did not have as favorable a reputation as Judea and Galilee; for, according to the Abot de-Rabbi Natan, Judea represented the grain, Galilee the straw, and 'Eber ha-Yarden (= Peræa) the chaff.

Bibliography:
  • Neubauer, G. T. pp. 241-258;
  • Schwarz, Palestine, pp. 145-204;
  • Grätz, Gesch. 3d ed., iii. 70, 269, 322, 507, 516 et seq.;
  • Schürer, Gesch. i. 185 et seq., 279, 281, 283, 285; ii. 8-11, 146.
E. G. H. S. O.
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