Ba'shan (Heb. Bashan', בָּשָׁן, usually with the art., הִבָּשָׁן, light sandy soil; Samaritan Ver. בתנין; Targ. בּוּתנָן, Ps 68:13, also מִתנָן; the latter, Buxtorf [Lex. Talm. col. 370] suggests, may have originated in the mistake of a transcriber, yet both are found in Targ. Jon., De 33:22; Sept. Βασάν and Βασανῖτις, Josephus,[Ant. 9:8] and Eusebius [Onomast. s.v.] Βαταναία), a district on the east of Jordan, the modern el-Bottein or el-Betheneyeh (Abulfeda, Tab. Syr. p. 97). It is not, like Argob and other districts of Palestine, distinguished by one designation, but is sometimes spoken of as the "land of Bashan" (1Ch 5:11;. and comp. Nu 21:33; Nu 32:33); and sometimes as "all Bashan" (De 3:10,13; Jos 12:5; Jos 13:12,30), but most commonly without any addition. The word probably denotes the peculiar fertility of the soil; by the ancient versions, instead of using it as a proper name, a word meaning fruitful or fat is adopted. Thus, in Ps 22:13, for Bashan, we find in Sept. πίονες; Aquila, λιπαροί; Symmachus, σιτιστοί; and Vulg. Pingues (Ps 67:7), for hill of Bashan; Sept.
ὄρος πῖον; Jerome (see Bochart, Hierozoicon, pt. 1, col. 531), mons pinguis. The richness of the pasture-land of Bashan, and the consequent superiority of its breed of cattle, are frequently alluded to in the Scriptures. We read in De 22:14, of "rams of the breed (Heb. sons) of Bashan." (Eze 39:18), "Rams, lambs, bulls, goats, all of them fatlings of Bashan." The oaks of Bashan are mentioned in connection with the cedars of Lebanon (Isa 2:13; Zec 11:2). In Ezekiel's description of the wealth and magnificence of Tyre it is said, "Of the oaks of Bashan have they made their oars" (Eze 27:6). The ancient commentators on Am 4:1, "the kine of Bashan," Jerome, Theodoret, and Cyril, speak in the strongest terms of the exuberant fertility of Bashan (Bochart, Hierozoicon, pt. 1, col. 306), and modern travelers corroborate their assertions. See Burckhardt's Travels in Syria, p. 286-288; Buckingham's Travels in Palest. 2:112-117.
The first notice of this country is in Ge 14:5. Chedorlaomer and his confederates "smote the Rephaims in Ashtaroth Karnaim." Now Og, king of Bashan, dwelt in Ashtaroth, and "was of the remnant of the Rephaim" (Auth. Vers. "giants"), Jos 12:4. When the Israelites invaded the Promised Land, Argob, a province of Bashan, contained "sixty fenced cities, with walls, and gates, and brazen bars, besides unwalled towns a great many" (De 3:4-5; 1Ki 4:13). All these were taken by the children of Israel after their conquest of the land of Sihon from Arnon to Jabbok. They "turned" from their road over Jordan and "went up by the way of Bashan" — probably very much the same as that now followed by the pilgrims of the Haj route and by the Romans before them — to Edrei, on the western edge of the Lejah. See EDREI Here they encountered Og, king of Bashan, who "came out" probably from the natural fastnesses of Argob only to meet the entire destruction of himself, his sons, and all his people (Nu 21:33-35; De 3:1-3). Argob, with its 60 strongly fortified cities, evidently formed a principal portion of Bashan (De 3:4-5), though still only a portion (ver. 13), there being besides a large number of unwalled towns (ver. 5). Its chief cities were Ashtaroth (i.e. Beeshterah, comp. Jos 21:27 with 1Ch 6:71), Edrei, Golan, Salcah, and possibly Mahanaim (Jos 13:30). Two of these cities, viz. Golan and Beeshterah, were allotted to the Levites of the family of Gershom, the former as a "city of refuge" (Jos 21:27; 1Ch 6:71). The important district was bestowed on the half tribe of Manasseh (Jos 13:29-31), together with "half Gilead." After the Manassites had assisted their brethren in the conquest of the country west of the Jordan, they went to their tents and to their cattle in the possession which Moses had given them in Bashan (Jos 22:7-8). It is doubtful, however, whether the limits of this tribe ever extended over the whole of this region. SEE MANASSEH. Solomon appointed twelve officers to furnish the monthly supplies for the royal household, and allotted the region of Argob to the son of Geber (1Ki 4:13). Toward the close of Jehu's reign, Hazael invaded the land of Israel, and smote the whole eastern territory, "even Gilead and Bashan" (2Ki 10:33; Joseph. Ant. 9:8, 1); but after his death the cities he had taken were recovered by Jehoash (Joash) (2Ki 13:25), who defeated the Syrians in three battles, as Elisha had predicted (2Ki 13:19; Joseph. Ant. 9:8, 7). After this date, although the "oaks" of its forests and the wild cattle of its pastures — the "strong bulls of Bashan" — long retained their proverbial fame (Eze 27:6; Ps 22:12), and the beauty of its high downs and wide-sweeping plains could not but strike now and then the heart of a poet (Am 4:1; Ps 68:15; Jer 50:19; Mic 7:14), yet the country almost disappears from history; its very name seems to have given place as quickly as possible to one which had a connection with the story of the founder of the nation (Ge 31:8-47), and therefore more claim to use. Even so early as the time of the conquest, "Gilead" seems to have begun to take the first place as the designation of the country beyond the Jordan, a place which it retained afterward to the exclusion of Bashan (comp. Jos 22:9,15,32; Jg 20:1; Ps 60:7; Ps 108:8; 1Ch 27:21; 2Ki 15:29). Indeed "Bashan" is most frequently used as a mere accompaniment to the name of Og, when his overthrow is alluded to in the national poetry. After the captivity the name Batanaea was applied to only a part of the ancient Bashan; the three remaining sections being called Trachonitis, Auranitis, and Gaulanitis (Lightfoot's Works, 10:282). All these provinces were granted by Augustus to Herod the Great, and on his death Batanaea formed a part of Philip's tetrarchy (Joseph. War, 2:6, 3; Ant. 18:4, 6). At his decease, A.D. 34, it was annexed by Tiberius to the province of Syria; but in A.D. 37 it was given by Caligula to Herod Agrippa, the son of Aristobulus, with the title of king (Ac 12:1; Joseph. Ant. 18:6, 10). From the time of Agrippa's death, in A.D. 44, to A.D. 53, the government again reverted to the Romans, but it was then restored by Claudius to Agrippa II (Ac 25:13; Joseph. Ant. 20, 7, 1).
The ancient limits of Bashan are very strictly defined. It extended from the "border of Gilead" on the south to Mount Hermon on the north (De 3:3,10,14; Jos 12:5; 1Ch 5:23), and from the Arabah or Jordan valley on the west to Salcah and the border of the Geshurites and the Maacathites on the east (Jos 12:3-5; De 3:10). The sacred writers include in Bashan that part of the country eastward of the Jordan which was given to half the tribe of Manasseh, situated to the north of Gilead. Bochart incorrectly places it between the rivers Jabbok and Arnon, and speaks of it as the allotment of the tribes of Reuben and Gad (Nu 32:33). Of the four post-exilian provinces, Gaulanitis, Auranitis, Trachonitis, and Batanaea, all but the third have retained almost perfectly their ancient names, the modern Lejah alone having superseded the Argob and Trachonitis of the Old and New Testaments. The province of Jaulan is the most western of the four; it abuts on the Sea of Galilee and the Lake of Merom, from the former of which it rises to a plateau nearly 3000 feet above the surface of the water. This plateau, though now almost wholly uncultivated, is of a rich soil, and its north-west portion rises into a range of hills almost everywhere clothed with oak forests (Porter, 2:259). No less than 127 ruined villages are scattered over its surface. SEE GOLAN. The Hauran is to the southeast of the last named province and south of the Lejah; like Jaulan, its surface is perfectly flat, and its soil esteemed among the most fertile in Syria. It too contains an immense number of ruined towns, and also many inhabited villages. SEE HAURAN. The contrast which the rocky intricacies of the Lejah present to the rich and flat plains of the Hauran and the Jaulan has already been noticed. SEE ARGOB. The remaining district, though no doubt much smaller in extent than the ancient Bashan, still retains its name, modified by a change frequent in the Oriental languages. Ard el-Bataniyeh lies on the east of the Lejah and the north of the range of Jebel Hauran or ed-Druze (Porter, 2:57). It is a mountainous district of the most picturesque character, abounding with forests of evergreen oak, and with soil extremely rich; the surface studded with towns of very remote antiquity, deserted, it is true, but yet standing almost as perfect as the day they were built. For the boundaries and characteristics of these provinces, and the most complete researches yet published into this interesting portion of Palestine, see Porter's Damascus, vol. 2; comp. Schwarz, Palest. p. 219; Jour. Sac. Lit. Jan. 1852, p. 363, 364; July, 1854, p. 282 sq.; Porter, Giant Cities (Lond. 1865).