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near Burj Fâr'ah. McGarvey (Lands of the Bible, p. 293) found to his view a still more suitable location about four miles below the junction of the two branches of the stream,
Wådy Beidân. The Fâr’ah is the principal western affluent of the Jordan. It is a narrow, deep valley, flanked by parallel mountain ranges, running at first due south-east, then more to the south, till it reaches the Ghôr. The distance from the northern headsprings at Burj Fâr'ah to the Jordan, following the general line of its course, is about twenty miles. The stream itself is a slender thread banked by bluffs, steep, but grassy and not precipitous; at several points I judged them one hundred feet high or more. Above them the valley expands to the width of from one to two miles. The opposite ridges of the two mountain ranges are stated by Conder to be about four miles apart. In this extensive tract, though fertile and well watered, there is not a single village. It is held by the Mesa'ayd, a tribe of nomadic Arabs. They numbered in 1874, according to the report of Tyrwhitt Drake, one hundred and ten tents, and one hundred and eighty men.
In Biblical history this valley is known only as a thoroughfare. “It was up this valley that Jacob drove his flocks and herds from Succoth to Shalem near Shechem. It was along the banks of its stream that the “garments and vessels' of the hosts of Benhadad were strewn as far as Jordan” (Conder, Tent Work, i. 91).
The situation and course of the Wâdy. Beidân, which forms the southern branch of the Fâr'ah, will be seen by a glance at the large map of the Palestine Exploration Fund. At its beginning, it is a deep slit in the limestone strata between Ebal and Neby Belân ; in the rainy season it drains the plain between Jacob's Well and Sâlim, but most of the year is a dry gully. Starting from the springs called Râs el Fâr’ah, it is about two miles in length, running almost due east till it joins the northern branch of the Fâr’ah. . The writer's entrance into the valley was from the village of ’Askar, where he had encamped the previous day, April 20. The path follows nearly the ancient road to Damascus, via Scythopolis and Gadara. It skirts the base of Mt. Ebal, a little above the level of the plain of Sâlim, and, in the course of half an hour's riding, descends rapidly alongside of the gully. Our guide, a man from ’Askar, called the gully Wâdy Ibrîd. It is the southernmost branchlet, referred to above, of the Wâdy Beidân, which latter name the men of whom we made inquiry applied only to the lower portion, where the water supply is perennial. The hills on either side
as we descend are treeless ; scarcely a shrub is seen for half an hour, except a few rows of olives on our right across the gorge. The path is deeply worn into the white marl, and worms its way among the softer portions in so crooked a fashion as to make rapid riding an impossibility. The gorge narrows and deepens; the steep mountain wall on the right is Neby Belân, rising to the height of nearly two thousand feet above us. Between the path and Neby Belân is the deeply cut torrent-bed down among the rocks, edged on the side next to us with uptilted strata of dark, nummulitic limestone, shooting up from the gorge in strikingly picturesque serrated masses. The whole pass must always have formed a magnificent natural gateway to Shechem from the east.
In less than an hour after leaving 'Ain ’Askar we are at 'Aines Subiân, the southernmost of the large springs that feed the Fâr'ah. Turning now a little to the left, in a few minutes more we descend abruptly into another ravine, at the foot of the Mt. Ebal group. Here we are at the proper beginning of the Wâdy Beidân, — the Râs el Fâr'ah springs, which feed with perennial abundance the southern fork of the Fâr’ah stream. Fountains are bursting forth from the rocks on either side, and a mountain brook is plunging downward in cascades and broken streams to the lower bed of the Wady. The road, instead of following the water-course, crosses it, and, continuing northward to Tâbâs, traverses the triangular terrace which separates the two branches of the Fâr'ah.
This rocky glen of fountains may well detain the traveller a moment. Within the space of half a mile are numberless springs; the names of several of the larger are given on the Survey map. No other spot in Palestine, south of the sources of the Jordan at Bânias or Tell el Kâdy, so well deserves the name of “ The Springs.” There are four overshot flour mills within a few rods of one another; lower down, in the course of two miles, are six or seven others. Some of the latter bring their water through aqueducts of solid masonry, others by a mill-race carried down to the terminus of the Wady. Other little canals are drawn off on either side for the purposes of irrigation. The rich green of grass, planted grain, and dense shrubbery, offers to the eye a most refreshing contrast with the sterile chalk and limestone slopes we have just traversed. One of the largest of the mills is at the inflow of the little rivulet from 'Ain es Subiận. From this point the Wâdy Beidân extends for nearly two miles to its junction with the Fâr'ah ; in places it is from a quarter to half a mile in width, enclosed between the higher terraces of the valley, and lying about two thousand feet below the adjoining Neby Belân. The traveller will find few spots in Syria so beautiful as this glen in the wild luxuriance of its tropical foliage. Some gardens and enclosures of cultivated trees are owned, we were told, in Nâblous and Tulluza, as are also the neighboring mills. At the water's edge were thickets of oleander, then in full bloom; within enclosures were the walnut, mulberry, olive, fig, and in great abundance that most beautiful tree of the orient, the pomegranate, just blossoming into gorgeous crimson.
The stream is swift, winding little, but broadens here and there into pools of considerable depth. The men at the mills said large fish were caught in them, and sold in the market at Nâblous; I saw none longer than seven or eight inches. Of the depth of the water I attempted only an approximate measurement, by hiring one of the Fellâhin, who was fishing, to go with us, and wade back and forth through the pools. The largest was near the upper end of the glen, and in this the water reached about to his armpits. As compared with the northern branch of the Fâr’ah stream, this branch appears to be considerably the larger; the volume of water at the junction was evidently much greater. With this opinion accords the fact that the natives have given the name Râs el Fâr'ah (head of the Fâr'ah) to the southern group of springs.
Proofs of the Identification. Near the Western End of the Wady Beidân. In favor of thus locating Ænon upon the future New Testament Maps of Palestine are the following considerations: they apply for the most part to any site in the upper Fâr'ah, but become still more significant and conclusive, assuming the definite locality that has just been described.
I. It is εγγύς του Σαλεμ. - Now it must be admitted that we cannot yet identify this Salim with certainty; but recent geography and early tradition are at one, at least so far as to look for it in or on the border of Samaria. If the Shalem of Gen. xxxiii. 18 be the name of a city, it is then by all means probable that John refers to that ancient and well-known Biblical site. Granting it is not, but merely an adjective, “safe," still the Septuagint is in evidence that there was a Salem (Palau) here in the neighborhood of Shechem; and that to the Evangelist and his readers, familiar as they were with that version, it was known as the city by which Jacob encamped on his arrival from Padan Aram.
The objection perhaps occurs to the reader: if Ænon was situated in the valley so near the famous Samaritan capital, why
should the Evangelist not describe its situation accordingly? Why is it not “near to Shechem,” the better-known city, instead of “near to Salim,” especially considering that he wrote at a distance from Palestine, and for readers, to a great extent, unfamiliar with its geography? The answer that at once suggests itself is that the latter may have been its usual designation in Palestine itself, where it was to be distinguished from other Ænons. Furthermore, the Wâdy Beidân is, as described above, the natural appendage to the plain which is still often called the “plain of Salim," I whereas it is some five miles in a direct line from Nâblous, and to the traveller much further, because he must follow the road around Mt. Ebal.
That the Sâlim east of Nâblous has had a continuous existence from the New Testament period seems still more likely from the fact that the Samaritan Chronicle, in its list of twenty-two towns, where the high priests who succeeded Tobiah resided, mentions, first in order, Salem (in the Arabic version, Salim) the Great (Neubauer's Sam. Chron., cited by Conder, Pal. Ex. Fund Special Papers, p. 230). It was probably, therefore, the chief and well-known place of that name at the time of John's writing.
2. No one spot in all western Palestine that could possibly be named as the site of Ænon is so well entitled to be designated “ The Springs.” The Wâdy Beidân is emphatically a place of “ much water" (mollà idara). Its closely-clustered group of springs would give the name to the valley, not merely from the ample supply of
May this not furnish the clue to the gender of Ealkij? The permanence of the name renders it more than probable that the northern end of the plain or valley, often called the Mŭkhna, anciently bore the name of the town overlooking it; ο Σαλείμ may have come to be the name of the plain (as o Σάρων, of the plain of Sharon), it being a tract then threaded and crossed by several of the most important roads in Palestine.
Or the article may be neuter, the name belonging, at a still earlier date, to the mountain. Every traveller who has approached Náblous from the north-east, south, or east, will recall the white wely of Neby Belân as the most conspicuous land-mark of the region. It crests the mountain-peak, on the southern slope of which lies the village of Sâlim. It is the local shrine, as I found on inquiry, to which the inhabitants of Sâlim and the two adjacent villages most frequently resort. One can hardly doubt that it is one of the Palestinian “high places” of very ancient sanctity, and it may itself have borne the name Sahein. In that case, whether itself anterior to the town-name or not, the name might well have been TÒ Saniu. On this latter supposition it would be still more natural for an Ænon situated in the Wâdy Beidân to be described as “near to Salim," since one who is in the valley seems to see the summits of the mountain almost immediately above him.
water for use, but as a conspicuous feature of the landscape. The traveller in ancient times as now must have taken with him a vivid picture of the verdant foliage and white cascades seen below him in the rocky gorge.
3. Proximity of the name 'Ainûn. — This is a ruined village, “apparently modern, standing on a small hillock" (see P. E. F. Memoirs, vol. ii., p. 234). It is described by Robinson, and also by Guérin. The site is about five miles north-east of the springs of the Beidân. “There is only one other place of the name in Palestine," says Conder (Tent IVork, i., p. 92), “Beit 'Ainûn, near Hebron ; but this is a place which has no very fine supply of water, and no Salem near it. On the other hand, there are many other Salems all over Palestine, but none of them have an Ænon near them.” It must be conceded that the finding of comparatively modern village-ruins with the name 'Ainûn, on a site so destitute of water as quite to belie the name, besides being distant some seven miles from Sâlim, over two intervening mountain-ranges, is not at first sight a promising re-enforcement to the argument. But the mere existence of this name in the region of the ancient Salim is a fact not to be ignored. Further, the very fact of its inappropriateness on its present site suggests the conjecture that it is a comparatively modern transfer from some earlier site in the neighborhood, nearer to the springs in the bed of the Fâr’ah. Such a transfer of an ancient name to a neighboring site (compare, for instance, the modern Súrafend, the ancient Sarepta, or Zarephath) is sufficiently common to make it a creditable supposition in the present
4. It fully satisfies the conditions imposed by the gospel narrative. — John's work was nearly ended ; our Lord had not yet left Judea to enter upon his ministry in Galilee. For not far from a year and a half John had been fulfilling his mission, - first in the lower Jordan valley, afterwards moving to the north. Between himself and the Jewish authorities at Jerusalem, the relation was one of recognized and avowed hostility. That the latter exerted themselves to diminish his influence and to hinder his public ministry, we can hardly doubt. It was but natural for John to withdraw from the region of Jerusalem and the districts most accessible to Pharasaic and priestly influence. The Wâdy Beidân, at the head of the Fâr’ah valley, was quite suitable for his purpose. Here was water for baptizing; space and water for the numbers who gathered about him, though at this period there were probably no such immense multitudes as at first. Two great thoroughfares converged just at the head of the valley, - that from Damascus