Bethany in Judaea
Bethany In Judaea We glean the following additional particulars on this interesting Scripture locality. Bethany is mentioned in connection with Beth-phage, "house of figs." We also know that palm trees were plentiful in the environs of Bethany (Joh 12:13) and on the Mount of Olives (Ne 8:15); while they were sufficiently rare in Palestine to give to each locality where they were found a distinctive name (comp. Ge 14:7; De 34:3; Jg 4:5).
The village of Bethany is unquestionably ancient, though it was probably so small, and its situation so retired, that it never came into notice until the time of our Lord. Bethany stands on the border of the desert. Beyond it there is not, and apparently never was, any inhabited spot. It seems as if excluded from the world of active life, and one would suppose, from the look of its inhabitants, that they had given up industry in despair. The view from it is dreary and desolate. Olivet shuts out Jerusalem and the country westward; and the eye roams eastward down the bare, gray, "wilderness of Judaea" into the deep valley of the Jordan, and then up again to the long wall of the Moab mountains on the distant horizon. The houses are massive and rude, built chiefly of old hewn stones. The leading, and indeed the only, road from Jerulsalem to Jericho runs past Bethany. It is one of the dreariest in all Palestine, and it is now, as it was in the time of our Lord, one of the most dangerous (Lu 10:30). The road does not proceed direct from the Holy City to this village; it winds round the south side of the Mount of Olives; thus making the distance as nearly as possible fifteen furlongs (Joh 11:18). It was up that road through the wilderness from Jericho Christ came to raise Lazarus; and on it, without the village, the weeping sisters met him (comp. 10:40 and 11:1-20). It was along that road to Jerusalem he went in triumphal procession, and from the palm-trees in the adjoining fields the multitudes cut down branches (Mr 11:1-11; Joh 12:13). A steep and rugged footpath leads from Jerusalem to Bethany over the summit of Olivet. It was probably by it Jesus "led out" his disciples "as far as to Bethany" — the same place where he was often wont to retire — and there "he lifted up his hands and blessed them. And while he blessed them he was parted from them, and received up into heaven" (Lu 24:50-51). By the same path the disciples returned to Jerusalem (Ac 1:12). It is a singular fact, and one calculated to show the value that ought to be attached to Eastern traditions, that a tradition as old as the beginning of the 4th century fixes the scene of the ascension on the summit of the Mount of Olives, and there, in honor of it, the empress Helena built a church (Eusebius, Vit. Const. iii, 43); yet Luke distinctly states that this event occurred at Bethany.