Pella (Gr. Πέλλα), a city of Palestine, and one of the towns of the Decapolis in Peraea, being the most northerly place in the latter district (Pliny, v. 16, 18; Josephus, War, 3:3, 3; comp. Ptolemy, v. 15, 23, and Stephanus, s.v.). It was also called Butis (ἡ Βοῦτις). The place is not named in the Bible, but the district of "Decapolis," or ten cities, of which Pella was one, is mentioned in Mt 4:25; Mr 5:20; Mr 7:31. That district must have extended round to the south-east as well as to the east and north-east of the Sea of Galilee. Gerasa, Gadara, and Hilpos, three cities of the Decapolis, lay to the south-east of that sea, and Pella is mentioned with these by Josephus (War, 2:18, 1). Pella must therefore have been somewhere in that direction. Eusebius and Jerome say that it was six miles from Jabesh-Gilead, on the road over the mountains from Gerasa to Bethshan, and twenty-one miles north of Amathus, now Amateh, near the junction of the Zerka or Jabbok with the Jordan. The name of Jabesh is still retained in Wady Yabes, or the valley of Jabesh, which comes down from Jebel Ajliin, or the mountains of Northern Gilead, in a south-westerly direction, and enters the Ghor, or the plain of the Jordan, about eight or ten miles below the latitude of Bethshan. JabeshGilead no doubt lay somewhere within or upon that valley. The only ancient site with ruins within that valley, and on the old road from Bethshan to Gerasa, is one called Ed-Deir, on a height, on the south side of Wady Yabes, a little to the south of Kefr-Abil-Arbel of Jerome, and Arbela of Eusebius, in the borders of Pella. This, i.e. Ed-Deir, is supposed to be the site of Jabesh-Gilead (see Robinson, Lat. Bible Res. p. 319; Van de Velde, Palest. 2:352). In early times a convent possibly stood on the site of Jabesh-Gilead, or a convent may have been the last building that remained; hence probably the name of Ed-Deir, or "the convent," called perhaps at first "the convent of Jabesh- Gilead," and afterwards simply "the convent," meaning the convent of Yabes or Jabesh. About two hours or six miles from Ed-Deir, on the old road to Bethshan, and about twenty-one miles north of Amateh, on an elevated plateau in the side of the mountains of Gilead, immediately above the plain of the Jordan. and about 1000 feet above the level of that plain, almost directly opposite to, or to the east of Bethshan, and immediately above Sukuit, or ancient Succoth, in the plain below, is an ancient site with extensive ruins, called Tubukat Fahel, or Tubukat Felah, as Dr. Thomson's Arab guide called it, who insisted upon this being the true name (Land and Book, 2:176). This no doubt is Pella. The Arabs pronounce it Fella, or Felah, as they have no p in their language. and use for b for p. The place is described by Porter as a low flat tell, in a nook among higher hills, having around it on the north, west, and south a narrow plain, with a ravine on its south side intersecting the plain. The tell and a part of the plain are covered with ruins-veritable remains of an ancient and important city. Columns of the Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian orders were observed by Irby and Mangles in 1818. Portions of the walls are still standing, and the line of streets is here and there traceable. Among the ruins are the remains of an ancient Christian church. The plain stands out like a terrace in the side of the mountains; hence its modern name, "the Terrace of Pella" (Porter, Handbook, p. 318).
The origin of Pella, like that of Gerasa, is not known. But it is said that some Macedonian veterans from the armies of Alexander the Great settled there under the Seleucidae, and named their new home after Pella of Macedon. Fahel, or Felah, however, may be the form of an earlier Arabic or Hebrew name, which the Greeks converted into Pella. The place was taken by Antiochus the Great, in the year B.C. 218 (Polyb. v. 70, 12). It was afterwards destroyed by the Jews under Alexander Jannasus, because the inhabitants refused to conform to the Jewish rites and customs (Josephus, Ant. 13:15, 4). It was built again, however, and afterwards taken by Pompey, who restored it to its former inhabitants (Ant. 14:4, 4); and it finally became the head or capital of a toparchy or district. But what makes Pella specially interesting is the fact that it formed the refuge and home of the Christians of Jerusalem during the siege and destruction of that city by the Romans (see Baier, De Christianorum migratione in Pellam, Jen. 1694). The disciples had been directed by their divine Master to "flee into the mountains" (Mt 24:16), and to this place in the mountains of Gilead, we are told, they retired (Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. 3:5). If the name of the place be of Hebrew origin, its meaning would be, hidden, secret, wonderful, severed, set apart, escape or deliverance, and a very suitable description would it be, as if it had been providentially intended by anticipation, of the hiding-place of the Lord's people, where his hidden ones dwelt in the secret place of the Most High, and were safe until the calamities of those times were passed; where the secret of the Lord was with them that feared him, and his dealings with them so wonderful; where he severed between his servants and the rest of the nation, and set apart the godly for himself; and where they that escaped out of Jacob, the remnant that was to inherit his holy mountains. found deliverance. The view of the surrounding country from the place is very charming, and the waters of Pella are celebrated. In the ravine on the south side of the city or tell is a large and beautiful fountain, which sends forth a fine, clear, and copious stream down the valley called Wady Mafiz, or the valley of the banana or plalntain, now full of tamarisks and oleanders, into the plain of the Jordan. The fountain is of such copiousness as to show it at once to be the famous fountain of Pella spoken of by ancient authors. In the early ages of Christianity, Pella became an episcopal city, but it seems to have been destroyed at or immediately after the conquest of Syria by the Saracens (Reland, Palaest. p. 924 sq.). See Schumacher, Pella (Lond. 1888).