Israel was cut in two by the Jordan. The districts east of the Jordan were those that had first been conquered; it was from thence that the followers of Joshua had gone forth to possess themselves of Canaan. But this division of the territory was a source of weakness. The interests of the tribes on the two sides of the river were never quite the same; at times indeed they were violently antagonistic. When the disruption of the monarchy came after the death of Solomon, Judah was the stronger for the fact that the eastern tribes followed those of the north. The eastern tribes were the first to lose their independence; they were carried into Assyrian captivity twelve years before the fall of Samaria itself.
The eastern side of Jordan, in fact, belonged of right to the kinsfolk of the Israelites, the children of Lot. Ammon and Moab derived their origin from the nephew of Abraham, not from the patriarch himself, the ancestor of Ammon being Ben-Ammi, |the Son of Ammi,| the national god of the race. It was said that the two peoples were the offspring of incest, and the cave was pointed out where they had been born. Ammon occupied the country to the north which in earlier days had been the home of the aboriginal Zuzini or Zamzummim. But they had been treated as the Canaanites were treated by the Israelites in later days; their cities were captured by the invading Ammonites, and they themselves massacred or absorbed into the conquerors.
To the north the territory of Ammon was bounded by the plateau of Bashan and the Aramaic kingdoms of Gilead. Southward it extended towards the frontier of Moab, if indeed the borders of the two nations did not at one time coincide. When the Israelitish invasion, however, took place, the Amorites under Sihon had thrust themselves between, and had carved for themselves a kingdom out of the northern half of Moab. The land north of the Arnon became Amorite; but the Ammonite frontier was too well defended to be broken through.
The kingdom of Ammon maintained itself down to the time of David. At one time, in the days of the Judges, the Ammonites had made the Israelitish tribes on the eastern side of the Jordan tributary to them, and had even crossed the river and raided the highlands of Ephraim. Under Saul, Ammon and Israel were at constant feud. Saul had begun his reign by rescuing Jabesh in Gilead from the Ammonite king Nahash, who had threatened to treat its inhabitants with innate Semitic barbarity. When civil war broke out in Israel, Nahash naturally befriended David, and the alliance continued after David's accession to the throne. Common interests brought them together. Esh-Baal, the successor of Saul in Gilead, was the enemy of both: his frontier adjoined that of Ammon, while between him and the King of Judah there was perpetual war. David had strengthened himself by marrying the daughter of the king of the Aramaic district of Geshur, which bounded Gilead on the north, and Ammonites and Aramaeans were in close alliance with each other.
As long as Nahash lived, there was peace between him and David. But with the accession of his son Hanun came a change. The King of Judah had become King of Israel, and his general, Joab, had subdued the neighbouring kingdom of Moab, and was looking out for a fresh field of fame. Hanun determined to forestall the war which he believed to be inevitable, and, in alliance with the Aramaeans, to crush the rising power of David. Family quarrels also probably conspired to bring about this resolution. In the after days of Absalom's rebellion we find David entertained in Gilead by Shobi the brother of Hanun; it may be, therefore, that Hanun had had a rival in his brother, who had received shelter and protection at David's court. At all events the Israelitish ambassadors were grossly insulted, and a long war with Ammon began. Campaign followed upon campaign; the City of Waters, Rabbah, the |capital| of Ammon, was closely invested, and the Aramaic allies of Hanun were put to flight. Rabbah fell at last; its defenders were tortured and slain, and the kingdom of Ammon annexed to the Israelitish empire.
When it recovered its independence we do not know. In the days of Assyrian conquest in the West it was already again governed by its own kings. One of them, Baasha, the son of Rehob, was, like Ahab of Samaria, an ally of Damascus against the Assyrian invader, and we hear of two others, one of whom bears the same name as |Shinab, King of Admah.| The storm of Babylonian conquest which overwhelmed Judah spared Ammon; after the destruction of Jerusalem Baalis was still king of the Ammonites, and ready to extend his power over the desolated fields of Judah.
The language of Ammon, if we may argue from the proper names, was, like that of Moab, a mere dialectal variety of that of Israel. The |language of Canaan| must have been adopted by the Ammonites and Moabites just as it was by the Israelitish tribes. The Moabite Stone has proved this conclusively. Moabite and Ammonite, Phoenician and Hebrew, were all alike dialects of one language, which differed from one another merely as one English dialect differs from another. Hebrew had retained a few |Arabisms,| a few traces of its ancient contact with Arabic-speaking tribes; that was all. In other respects it was the same as |the language of Canaan| on either side of the Jordan.
The Ammonites believed themselves to be the children of the national god Ammi. But Ammi was usually worshipped under the title of Malcham or Milcom, |the King.| It was to Milcom that Solomon erected an altar at Jerusalem, in honour of that Ammonite wife whose son Rehoboam succeeded him on the throne, and it was from the head of his image at Kabbah that his crown of gold and precious stones, 131 pounds in weight, was removed to grace the triumph of David.
Moab was more exposed to the inroads of its nomadic neighbours from the wilderness than its sister-kingdom of Ammon. It lay along the eastern shores of the Dead Sea, and was a land of lofty mountains and fertile river-plains. Its wadis were coveted by the tribes of the desert; the well-watered valley of the Arnon attracted more powerful foes. When the Israelites encamped in |the plain of Moab,| Balak, the Moabite king, sent in terror to Balaam, the seer of Pethor. He had indeed cause for alarm. The Amorites had already robbed him of the fairest portion of his dominions; Moab north of the Arnon had fallen into their hands. The Amorite song of triumph has been preserved in the Book of Numbers. |Come unto Heshbon,| it said; |let the city of Sihon be built and fortified. For a fire has gone forth from Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon; it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the Baalim of the high-places of Arnon. Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: [Chemosh] hath given his sons that escaped [the battle], and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon, King of the Amorites.|
Moab was avenged by Israel. The Amorites were crushed by the Israelitish forces, though the lands they had taken from Moab were not restored to their original owners. The conquerors settled in them, and a mixed Israelitish and Moabite population was the result. The Moabites, in fact, were powerless to resist. The southern portion of the kingdom had been overrun by Midianite hordes; the enemy with whom the Israelites had to contend on Moabite soil was Midianite and not Moabite. Those who corrupted Israel on the high-place of Peor were Midianites in race.
The Midianites seem to have continued in occupation of Moabite territory for several generations. Reuben was enabled to pasture his flocks in peace in its valleys, and it is probable that it was not till Hadad, the King of Edom, |smote Midian in the plain of Moab| that Midianitish supremacy came finally to an end. It may be that Gideon's success against the Midianite oppressors of Gilead was one of the results of their overthrow by the Edomite prince.
At the same time, Midianitish supremacy did not mean the destruction of the Moabite kingdom. Moab was still governed by its own kings, tributary vassals though they were to the foreigner. One of them, Eglon, made himself master of southern Palestine shortly after the Israelitish conquest of the country, and was murdered by the Benjamite Ehud. Between Moab and Judah there was, as might be expected from their geographical position, constant intercourse. A Moabitess was the ancestress of David, and it was to the court of the King of Moab that David entrusted his parents when hard pressed by Saul. Possibly the Moabite prince was not ill pleased to befriend the enemy of his own enemy, the King of Israel.
It had been better for the Moabites, however, had David never lived to succeed Saul. The conquest of the Philistines by his troops was followed by the conquest of Moab. The vanquished people were decimated, every second man being mercilessly slain. So thoroughly was the country subdued that it was more than a century before it ventured to break away from its Israelitish master. After the disruption of Solomon's heritage it fell to the share of the northern kingdom, though native kings once more sat upon its throne. Now and again they revolted, to be brought back to obedience, however, when Israel recovered its strength. Such was the case when Omri founded his dynasty at Samaria; Moab again became a dependency of the Israelitish monarch, and its ruler was forced to pay tribute and homage to his over-lord. The tribute consisted in sheep, or rather in their skins, which were tanned by the Israelites into leather, while the fleeces upon them were woven into cloth. In the time of Ahab, Mesha, the son of Chemosh-melech, sent each year 100,000 lambs and 100,000 rams.
Mesha subsequently succeeded in shaking off the foreign yoke. He has left us a record of his victories, the so-called Moabite Stone, which was discovered among the ruins of his capital, Dibon. The country north of the Arnon was wrested from Israelitish hands, and the King of Israel, in spite of help from Judah and Edom, failed to recover it. Moab was permanently lost to the kingdom of Samaria. The Assyrian texts mention some of its later rulers. One of them was Shalman, who may be the spoiler of Beth-Arbel referred to by Hosea; another was Chemosh-nadab, the contemporary of Hezekiah.
Chemosh-nadab signifies |Chemosh is noble.| Chemosh was the national god of Moab, as Milcom or Ammi was of Ammon. Like Yahveh of Israel, he stood alone, with no wife to share his divinity. So entirely, in fact, had the conception of a goddess vanished from the mind of the Moabite, that, as we learn from the Moabite Stone, the Babylonian Istar, the Ashtoreth of Canaan, had been transformed into a male deity, and identified with Chemosh. It was to Ashtar-Chemosh, Mesha tells us, and not to Ashtoreth, that he devoted the captive women of Israel.
The older population, expelled or enslaved by the conquering Moabites, went by the name of Emim. It is probable that they belonged to the same stock as the Zamzummim or Zuzim whose country had been seized by the Ammonites. We may gather from the narrative in Genesis that the invaders forced their way eastward and northward from the valley of the Jordan and the shores of the Dead Sea.
South of Moab were the rugged and barren mountains of Seir, the seat of the kingdom of Edom. In prehistoric days they had been the home of the Horites, whose name may denote that they were of the |white| Amorite race or that they were dwellers in |caves.| To the Egyptians it was known as |the Red Land,| along with the desert that stretched westward; |Edom| is merely the Hebrew or Canaanitish translation of the Egyptian title. The title was one which well befitted the red cliffs of Seir.
Through the centre of the mountains a rift extended from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. In geological times it had been the channel of the Jordan; now it is called the Wadi el-Araba. It was this rift which brought wealth to Edom; through it passed the highroad of commerce which connected Syria with the harbours at the head of the gulf. The spices of Arabia, the gold of Africa, were unshipped at Elath and Ezion-gaber, and carried from thence on the backs of camels to the nations of the north. The tolls levied on the merchandise made the kingdom of Edom wealthy, and at the same time an object of envy to its poorer neighbours. In conquering Edom, David doubtless desired to secure the trade with the Red Sea and the ports through which the trade passed.
Edom was the elder brother of Israel. The two nations never forgot that they were of one blood and one parentage. Their languages were the same, as we may gather from the Edomite proper names; indeed, it would seem that the dialect of Edom agreed with Hebrew in those Arabising peculiarities which marked it off from the language of the Canaanites. Edomites took part in the Israelitish conquest of Palestine, and both Caleb and Othniel were Kenizzites by race.
The Edomite occupation of Seir was long subsequent to the settlement of the Ammonites and Moabites in the regions which bore their names, though it preceded the Israelitish settlement in Canaan. While Israel was herding its flocks in Egypt, Edom was establishing itself in the mountains of Seir. Esau, the brother of Jacob, had already gathered around him a body of followers, and had married into the family of a Horite chief. His descendants, partly by conquest, partly by absorption, planted themselves securely in the country which was henceforth to be called Edom. Horite and Amalekite Bedawin were alike absorbed into the new-comers, whose position in Edom resembled that of the Israelites in Canaan.
How long the work of conquest and settlement lasted we do not know. It resulted in the formation of numerous tribes, each under its chieftain, the aluph or |duke| as he was termed. These |dukes| corresponded with the |princes| of the tribes of Israel. But whereas the |princes| of the Israelitish tribes did not survive the life in the desert, the |dukes| of Edom give way only to kings. For this there was a good reason. The invasion of Canaan and the promulgation of the Mosaic Law changed the whole organisation of the Hebrew people. On the one hand, the Israelites required a leader who should lead them in the first instance against the Canaanites, in the second against the foreign oppressors who enslaved them from time to time. On the other hand, the high-priests at Shiloh exercised many of the functions which would naturally have belonged to the head of the tribe. Neither |judge| nor high-priest was needed in Edom. There the native population was weak and uncivilised; it possessed neither cities nor chariots of iron, and its subjugation was no difficult task. Once in possession of the fastnesses of Seir, the Edomites were comparatively safe from external attack. It was a land of dangerous defiles and barren mountains, surrounded on all sides by the desert. There was no central sanctuary, no Levitical priesthood, no Mosaic Law. The |duke| consequently had no rival; the history of Edom knows nothing of judges or high-priests.
The law of evolution, however, which governed other Semitic communities prevailed also in Edom. The dukes had to give place to a king. The tribes were united under a single leader, and the loosely federated clans became a kingdom. As in Israel, so too in Edom the kingdom was elective. But, unlike Israel, it remained elective; there was no pressure of Philistine conquest, no commanding genius like David, no central capital like Jerusalem to make it centralised and hereditary. Several generations had to pass before the Edomites were called upon to fight for their independence against a foreign invader, and when they did so the struggle ended in their subjugation. The elective principle and the want of a common centre and feeling of unity that resulted from it had much to do with the victory of David.
The song of triumph with which the Israelitish fugitives celebrated the overthrow of their Egyptian enemies mentions the aluphim or |dukes| of Edom. But before the Israelites had emerged from the wilderness the dukes had been supplanted by a king. It was a king who refused a passage through his dominions to Moses and his followers, and in this king some scholars have seen the Aramaean seer Balaam the son of Beor. At all events, the first Edomite king is said to have been Bela or Balaam the son of Beor, and the name of the city of Din-habah, from which he came, has a close resemblance to that of Dunip in northern Syria.
A list of the kings of Edom is given in the thirty-sixth chapter of Genesis, extracted from the state annals of the country. It seems to be brought down to the time when Saul was elected king over Israel. The chronicles of Edom were probably taken to Jerusalem at the time of its conquest by David; at any rate, they would then have become accessible to an Israelitish writer. The conquest was very thorough, all the male population being put to the sword, and a few only escaping to Egypt. Among these was a member of the royal house, Hadad by name, who grew up at the Egyptian court, and, after marrying the sister-in-law of the Pharaoh, returned to his native mountains, where he played the part of a bandit chief. The caravans which passed from the Gulf of Aqaba to the north were attacked and plundered, and Solomon up to the end of his reign failed to suppress the brigands. With the disruption of the Israelitish monarchy, Edom, as was natural, fell to the lot of Judah, and for many years was governed by a viceroy. It was not until after the death of Jehoshaphat that the Edomites succeeded in revolting from their masters, and in recovering their ancient independence. Three of their rulers are mentioned in the Assyrian inscriptions, from which we learn that there was a city of Edom, as well as a country of that name.
Of the religion of the Edomites we know but little. The supreme Baal was the Sun-god Hadad; another god worshipped by them was Qaus or Kos. Of goddesses we hear nothing. The Israelites, however, recognised in the Edomites brethren of their own, whose religion was not far removed from that of the descendants of Jacob. An Edomite of the third generation could enter |into the congregation of the Lord,| and we hear of no rival deity in Edom to Yahveh of Israel. Indeed, in the old poetry of Israel Yahveh was said to have risen up |from Seir,| and the charge brought against Edom by the prophet Obadiah is not that of idolatry or the worship of a |strange god,| but of standing on the side of the |foreigners| on the day that Jerusalem was destroyed.
The southern part of Edom was known as Teman; it was to the east of Teman that the Kadmonites or |children of the East| pitched their tents. We first hear of them in an Egyptian papyrus of the age of the Twelfth dynasty (B.C.2500). Then they received with hospitality a political fugitive from Egypt; he married one of their princesses and became one of their chiefs. Their wisdom was celebrated in Palestine like that of their Edomite neighbours of Teman, and the highest praise that could be bestowed on Solomon was that his |wisdom excelled all the wisdom of the children of the East.|
Not far from the camping-places of the Kadmonites was the land of Uz, famous as the home of Job. Uz, in fact, was a province of Edom; Edomite colonists, so we are told in the Book of Lamentations, inhabited it. Indeed, it has been suggested that the difficulties presented by the language of the Book of Job are due to the fact that it is the language of Edom rather than of the Jews, differing from the latter only as an English dialect may differ from that of a neighbouring county. At all events, Job was as much a hero of Hebrew as of Edomite tradition, while the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs contains the wise sayings of a king whose territory adjoined the land of Edom. Lemuel, according to the Hebrew text, which is mistranslated in the Authorised Version, ruled over Massa, and Massa, the Mash of Genesis, is described in the Assyrian inscriptions as that part of northern Arabia which spread eastward from Edom. The Hebrew of Palestine doubtless included it in the country of |the children of the East.|
The larger part of northern Arabia, however, was the home of the Ishmaelites. They lived, it is said, |from Havilah unto Shur,| like the Amalekites or Bedawin. But whereas the Amalekites were the wild, untamable natives of the desert, the Ishmaelites came of a cultured ancestry, half Babylonian, half Egyptian, and the traditions of it were never forgotten. They lived a settled life in fenced villages and fortified castles, as their descendants still do to-day. Like the Israelites, they were divided into twelve tribes, the eldest and most important of which were the Nabatheans, who spread from the frontiers of Babylonia to Petra in the far west. Kedar was another powerful tribe; in the days of the later Assyrian empire its kings contended in battle with the armies of Nineveh.
The name of Ishmael is met with in Babylonian contracts of the age of Abraham. It is a name which belongs to Canaan rather than to Babylonia or Arabia. The Ishmaelite tribes, in fact, spoke dialects in which Canaanitish and Arabic elements were mingled together. They are the dialects we term Aramaic, and represent a mixture of Arabic with Canaanitish or Hebrew. As we go northwards into Syria the Canaanitish element predominates; southward the Arabic element is the more pronounced.
The Ishmaelites were merchants and traders. They lived on the caravan-road which brought the spices of southern Arabia to Canaan and Egypt, and the trade was largely in their hands. In the history of Joseph we hear of them carrying the balm of Gilead and the myrrh of the south on their camels to Egypt, and in the second century before the Christian era the merchant princes of Petra made their capital one of the wealthiest of Oriental cities. It was not until 105 A.D. that the Nabathean state was conquered by Rome, and the Ishmaelites of northern Arabia transformed into Roman subjects. They have left their tombs and inscriptions among the rocks of Petra, while the cliffs of the Sinaitic Peninsula are covered with the scrawls of Nabathean travellers.
Southward of the Ishmaelites came the Midianites. Midianites and Ishmaelites were alike of the same blood. Both traced their descent from Abraham; it was only on the side of the mother that their origin was different. While the Ishmaelites claimed connection with Egypt, the Midianites were more purely Arabic in race. The name of Keturah their ancestress means |incense,| and points to the incense-bearing lands of the south. Midian was properly the district which stretched along the western coast of the Gulf of Aqaba towards Mecca, if not towards Yemen. But Midianite tribes had also pushed northwards and mingled with the descendants of Ishmael. |Ishmaelites| and |Midianites| seem convertible terms in the story of Joseph, and the Midianites who swarmed into the north of Israel in the days of Gideon, along with the Amalekites and |the children of the East,| must have been as much Ishmaelite as Midianite in descent.
Between the Midianites and the Israelitish fugitives from Egypt there had been close affinity. Moses had found a refuge in Midian, and his wife and children were Midianite in race. His father-in-law, |the priest of Midian,| had visited him under the shadow of Sinai, and had given him his first lessons in political organisation. A Midianite remained to guide the Israelites through the wilderness, and the Kenites, who took part with the tribe of Judah in the conquest of Canaan, appear to have migrated from Midian. It was not until just before the invasion of Palestine that the old bonds of friendship and mixture between Israel and Midian were broken asunder. Midianite hosts had overrun the land of Moab as at a later time they overran the land of Israel, and the Israelites had forsaken Yahveh for the worship of the Midianite Baal-Peor. This was the result of intermarriage; the Israelites had taken Midianite wives and conformed to the licentious rites of a Midianite god.
Israel, however, was saved by its Levite priests. They rallied round Yahveh and Moses, and in the struggle that ensued the forces on the side of the national God proved the stronger. The Midianitish faction was annihilated, its leaders put to death, and the Midianites themselves attacked and despoiled. Among the slain was the seer of Pethor, Balaam the son of Beor.
The Moabites must have hailed the Israelites as saviours. They had delivered them from their two assailants, the Amorites on the north, the Midianites on the east. But the Midianite power was broken only for a time. We hear at a subsequent date of the Edomite king Hadad |who smote Midian in the field of Moab,| and a time came when Midianite shekhs overran Gilead, and penetrated into the valleys and villages of Manasseh on the western side of the Jordan. After their defeat by Gideon, however, we hear of them no more. They passed out of the Israelitish horizon; henceforth their raiding bands never approached the frontiers of Israel. The land of Midian alone is mentioned as adjoining Edom; the Midianites who had traversed the desert and carried terror to the inhabitants of Canaan become merely a name.
Midian was originally governed by high-priests. This was the case among other Semitic peoples as well. In Assyria the kings were preceded by the high-priests of Assur, and recently-discovered inscriptions show that in southern Arabia, in the land of Sheba, the high-priest came before the king. Jethro, |the priest of Midian,| represented a peculiarly Arabian institution.
The name of |Arab| was applied to certain tribes only of northern Arabia. We hear of them in the Old Testament as well as in the Assyrian inscriptions. In the Old Testament the name seems to include the Ishmaelite clans to the east of Edom. Their |kings,| it is said, brought tribute to Solomon; a colony of them was established at Gur-Baal in the south of Judah. We learn from the Assyrian texts that they could be governed by queens; two of their queens indeed are mentioned by name.
It was also a |queen of the south,| it will be remembered, who came to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Sheba, the Saba of classical antiquity, was an important kingdom of south-western Arabia, which had grown wealthy through its trade in spicery. From time immemorial Egypt had imported frankincense from the southern coasts of the Arabian peninsula, and the precious spices had been carried by merchants to the far north. The caravan-road of trade ran northward to Midian and Edom, touching on the one side on the frontier of Egypt, on the other on that of Palestine. The road and the country through which it passed were in the hands of the south Arabian kings. Their inscriptions have been discovered at Teima, the Tema of the Old Testament, not far inland from El-Wej, and in the days of Tiglath-pileser the kings of Saba claimed rule as far as the Euphrates. It was no strange thing, therefore, for a queen of Sheba to have heard of the power of Solomon, or to have sought alliance with so wealthy and luxurious a neighbour. His province of Edom adjoined her own possessions; his ports on the Gulf of Aqaba were open to her merchants, and the frankincense which grew in her dominions was needed for the temple at Jerusalem.
The people of Sheba belonged to the south Arabian stock. In both blood and language they differed considerably from the Semites of the north. Physically they bore some resemblance to the Egyptians, and it has been suggested that the Egyptians were originally emigrants from their shores. They lived in lofty castles, and terraced the slopes of the mountains for the purpose of cultivation, as they still do to-day. Civilisation among them was old; it was derived, at least in part, from Babylonia, and the dynasty which reigned over Babylon in the age of Abraham was of south Arabian descent. Some of them crossed the Red Sea and founded colonies in Africa, in the modern Abyssinia, where they built cities and introduced the culture of their former homes. Like the Egyptians and the Babylonians, they were a literary people; their inscriptions are still scattered thickly among the ruins of their towns, written in the letters of the alphabet which is usually termed Phoenician. But it is becoming a question whether it was not from south Arabia that Phoenicia first borrowed it, and whether it would not be more truthfully called Arabian.
The religion of southern Arabia was highly polytheistic. Each district and tribe had its special god or gods, and the goddesses were almost as numerous as the gods. Along with Babylonian culture had come the adoption of several Babylonian divinities; -- Sin, the Moon-god, for instance, or Atthar, the Ashtoreth of Canaan. How far westward the worship of Sin was carried may be judged from the fact that Sinai, the sacred mountain whereon the law of Israel was promulgated, took its name from that of the old Babylonian god.
In the tenth chapter of Genesis Sheba is one of the sons of Joktan, the ancestor of the south Arabian tribes. Foremost among them is Hazarmaveth, the Hadhramaut of to-day; another is Ophir, the port to which the gold of Africa was brought. But the same chapter also assigns to Sheba a different origin. It couples him with Dedan, and sees in him a descendant of Ham, a kinsman of Egypt and Canaan. Both genealogies are right. They are geographical, not ethnic, and denote, in accordance with Semitic idiom, the geographical relationships of the races and nations of the ancient world. Sheba belonged not only to south Arabia but to northern Arabia as well. The rule of the Sabaean princes extended to the borders of Egypt and Canaan, and Sheba was the brother of Hazarmaveth and of Dedan alike. For Dedan was a north Arabian tribe, whose home was near Tema, and whose name may have had a connection with that sometimes given by the Babylonians to the whole of the west.
Such, then, was Arabia in the days of the Hebrew writers. The south was occupied by a cultured population, whose rule, at all events after the time of Solomon, was acknowledged throughout the peninsula. The people of the north and the centre differed from this population in both race and language, though all alike belonged to the same Semitic stock. The Midianites on the western coast perhaps partook of the characteristics of both. But the Ishmaelites were wholly northern; they were the kinsmen of the Edomites and Israelites, and their language was that Aramaic which represents a mixture of Arabic and Canaanitish elements. Wandering tribes of savage Bedawin pitched their tents in the desert, or robbed their more settled neighbours, as they do to-day; these were the Amalekites of the Old Testament, who were believed to be the first created of mankind, and the aboriginal inhabitants of Arabia. Apart from them, however, the peninsula was the seat of a considerable culture. The culture had spread from the spice-bearing lands of the south, where it had been in contact with the civilisations of Babylonia on the one side and of Egypt on the other, and where wealthy and prosperous kingdoms had arisen, and powerful dynasties of kings had held sway. It is to Arabia, in all probability, that we must look for the origin of the alphabet -- in itself a proof of the culture of those who used it; and it was from Arabia that Babylonia received that line of monarchs which first made Babylon a capital, and was ruling there in the days of Abraham. We must cease to regard Arabia as a land of deserts and barbarism; it was, on the contrary, a trading centre of the ancient world, and the Moslems who went forth from it to conquer Christendom and found empires, were but the successors of those who, in earlier times, had exercised a profound influence upon the destinies of the East.
[Footnote 6: 2 Sam. xvii.27.]
[Footnote 7: Jer. xl.14.]
[Footnote 8: Rehoboam is an Ammonite name, compounded with that of the god Am or Ammi. Rehob, which is the first element in it, was also an Ammonite name, as we learn from the Assyrian inscriptions.]
[Footnote 9: Numb. xxi.27-29.]
[Footnote 10: x.14.]
[Footnote 11: iv.21.]