Arimatheea

Arimathee'a (Α᾿ριμαθαία, from the Heb. Ramathaim, with the art, prefixed), the birth- place of the wealthy Joseph, in whose sepulcher our Lord was laid (Mt 27:57; Joh 19:38). Luke (Lu 23:51) calls it "a city of the Jews;" which may be explained by 1 Maccabees 11:34, where King Demetrius thus writes: "We have ratified unto them (the Jews) the borders of Judaea, with the three governments of Apherema, Lydda, and Ramathem ( ῾Ραμθέμ), that are added unto Judaea from the country of Samaria." Eusebius (Onomast. s.v.) and Jerome (Epit. Paulae) regard the Arimathaea of Joseph as the same place as the RAMATHAIM SEE RAMATHAIM of Samuel, and place it near Lydda or Diospolis (see Reland, Palaest. p. 579 sq.), Samuel's birth-place, the RAMAH SEE RAMAH of 1Sa 1:1,19, which is named in the Septuagint Armathaim (Α᾿ρμαθαίμ), and by Josephus Armatha (Α᾿ρμαθά, Ant. v. 10, 2). Hence Arimathaea has by most been identified with the existing Riamleh, because of the similarity of the name to that of Ramah (of which Ramathaim is the dual), and because it is near Lydda or Diospolis. Dr. Robinson (Researches, 3, 40, 44; new ed. 3, 141), however, disputes this conclusion on the following grounds:

(1.) That Abulfeda alleges Ramleh to have been built after the time of Mohammed, or about A.D. 716, by Suleiman Abd-al-Malik;

(2.) that "Ramah" and "Ramleh" have not the same signification;

Bible concordance for ARIMATHEA.

(3.) that Ramleh is in a plain, while Ramah implies a town on a hill (רָם, high).

To these objections it may be answered,

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(1.) That Abulfeda's statement may mean no more than that Suleiman rebuilt the town, which had previously been in ruins, just as Rehoboam and others are said to have "built" many towns that had existed long before their time; for the Moslems seldom built towns except on old sites or out of old materials; so that there is not a town in all Palestine that is with certainty known to have been founded by them.

(2.) In such cases they retain the old names, or others resembling them in sound, if not in signification, which may account for the difference between "Ramah" and "Ramleh."

(3.) Neither can we assume that the place called Ramlah could not be in a plain, unless we are ready to prove that Hebrew names were always significant and appropriate.

This they probably were not. They were so in early times, but not eventually, when towns were numerous, and took their names arbitrarily from one another without regard to local circumstances. Farther, if Arimathaea, by being identified with Ramah, was necessarily in the mountains, it could not have been "near Lydda," from which the hills are seven miles distant (see Thomson, Land and Book, 2, 300; comp. Wilson, Lands of Bible, 2, 263). SEE RAMATHAIM-ZOPHIM.

Ramleh is in north lat. 310 59', and east long. 350 28', 8 miles south-east from Joppa, and 24 miles northwestly west from Jerusalem. It lies in the fine undulating plain of Sharon, upon the eastern side of a broad, low swell rising from a fertile though sandy plain. Like Gaza and Jaffa, this town is surrounded by olive-groves and gardens of vegetables and delicious fruits. Occasional palm-trees are also seen, as well as the kharob and the sycamore. The streets are few; the houses are of stone, and many of them large and well built. There are five mosques, two or more of which are said to have once been Christian churches; and there is here one of the largest Latin convents in Palestine. The place is supposed to contain about 3000 inhabitants, of whom two thirds are Moslems, and the rest Christians, chiefly of the Greek Church, with a few Armenians. The inhabitants carry on some trade in cotton and soap. The great caravanroad between Egypt and Damascus, Smyrna, and Constantinople, passes through Ramleh, as well as the most frequented road for European pilgrims and travelers between Joppa and Jerusalem (Robinson, 3, 27; Raumer, p. 215). The tower is the most conspicuous object in or about the city. It stands a little to the west of the town, on the highest part of the swell of land, and is in the midst of a large quadrangular enclosure, which has much the appearance of having once been a splendid khan. The tower is wholly isolated, whatever may have been its original destination. The town is first mentioned under its present name by the monk Bernard, about A.D. 870. About A.D. 1150 the Arabian geographer Edrisi (ed. Jaubert, p. 339) mentions Ramleh and Jerusalem as the two principal cities of Palestine. The first Crusaders, on their approach, found Ramleh deserted by its inhabitants; and with it and Lyddta they endowed the first Latin bishopric in Palestine, which took its denomination from the latter city. From the situation of Ramleh between that city and the coast, it was a post of much importance to the Crusaders, and they held possession of it generally while Jerusalem was in their hands, and long afterward. In A.D. 1266 it was finally taken from the Christians by the Sultan Bibars. Subsequently it is often mentioned in the accounts of travelers and pilgrims, most of whom rested there on their way to Jerusalem. It seems to have declined very fast from the time that it came into the possession of the Crusaders. Benjamin of Tudela (Itin. p. 79, ed. Asher), who was there in A.D. 1173, speaks of it as having been formerly a considerable city. Belon (Observat. p. 311), in 1547, mentions it as almost deserted, scarcely twelve houses being inhabited, and the fields mostly untilled. This desertion must have occurred after 1487; for Le Grand, Voyage de Hieirusalem, fol. 14, speaks of it as a peopled town (though partly ruined), and of the "seigneur de Rama" as an important personage. By 1674 it had somewhat revived, but it was still rather a large unwalled village than a city, without any good houses, the governor himself being miserably lodged (Nau, Voyage Nouveau, 1, 6). A century later it remained much in the same state, the governor being still ill lodged, and the population scarcely exceeding 200 families (Volney, 2, 220). Its recent state must, therefore, indicate a degree of comparative prosperity, the growth of the present century (see Robinson's Researches, 3, 33 sq.). SEE RAMAH.

 
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