Road occurs but once in the A.V. of the Bible, viz. in 1Sa 27:10, where it is used in the sense of "raid" or "inroad," the Hebrew word (פָּשִׁט) being elsewhere (e.g. ver. 8; 23:27; 30:1, 14, etc.) rendered "invade" and "invasion." A road in the sense which we now attach to the term is expressed in the A.V. by "way" and "path," for which the most general words in the original are דֶּרֶך, ὁδός.
In the East, where traveling is performed mostly on some beast of burden, certain tracks were at a very early period customarily pursued; and that the rather as from remote ages commerce and traveling went on by means of caravans, under a certain discipline, and affording mutual protection in their passage from city to city and from land to land. Now, wherever such a band of men and animals had once passed they would form a track, which, especially in countries where it is easy for the traveler to miss his way, subsequent caravans or individuals would naturally follow; and the rather inasmuch as the original route was not taken arbitrarily, but because it led to the first cities in each particular district of country. Thus at a very early period were there marked out on the surface of the globe lines of intercommunication running from land to land, and in some sort binding distant nations together. These, in the earliest times, lay in the direction of east and west, that being the line on which the trade and the civilization of the earth first ran. The purposes of war seem, however, to have furnished the first inducement to the formation of made, or artificial, roads. War, we know, afforded to the Romans the motive under which they formed their roads; and doubtless they formed them not only to facilitate conquest but also to insure the holding of the lands they had subdued; and the remains of their roads show us with what skill they laid out a country and formed lines of communication.
From the nature of the soil in the Holy Land, the roads must have been sometimes mountainous and rocky, sometimes level and sandy. The former were the most difficult, and in the rainy season the torrents made them dangerous (Schulz, Leitung, 5, 350). Yet they had a firmness which was important, since little was known of road making in the East. (The ancient Indians [Hindus] must be excepted, according to the accounts of trustworthy historians; see Strabo, 15, 689, and the remains of ancient artificial roads which are still extant [see Von Bohlen, Indien, 2, 199 sq.]. The Persians may have learned the art from India.) In De 19:3 (comp. Mishna, Maccoth, 2, 5) it seems that the minds of the Israelites were early familiarized with the idea, "Thou shalt prepare thee a way . . . that every slayer may flee thither;" and other passages, when taken in connection with it, seem to prove that to some extent artificial roads were known to the Hebrews in the commencement of their commonwealth. In Isa 40:3 are these words: "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain." Nor is the imagery unusual (comp. Isa 11:16; Isa 19:23; Isa 33:8; Isa 35:8; Isa 49:11; Isa 62:10). In 1Sa 6:12 we read: "The kine went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left." In Numbers also (20, 17): "We will go by the king's highway," etc. (21:22; De 2:27; Le 26:22). Indeed, it is highly probable that the Hebrews had become acquainted with roads during their sojourn in Egypt, where, in the Delta especially, the nature of the country would require roads and highways to be thrown up and maintained. Josephus (Ant. 8, 7, 4) expressly says, "Solomon did not neglect the care of the ways, but he laid a causeway of black stone (basalt) along the roads that led to Jerusalem, both to render them easy for travelers and to manifest the grandeur of his riches." (See the Mishna, Maccoth.) To the Romans, however, Palestine was greatly indebted for its roads. On this subject Reland (Paloestina) has supplied useful information. In the East generally, and in Palestine in particular, the Romans formed roads and set up milestones in imitation of what they had done in Italy. Eusebius, in his Onomasticon, frequently alludes to their existence in Palestine. To the present day traces of these roads and fragments of the milestones remain.
1. The first road in Palestine which we mention ran from Ptolemais, on the coast of the Mediterranean, to Damascus. This road remains to the present day. Beginning at Ptolemais (Acco), it ran eastward to Nazareth, and, continuing south and east, passed the plain of Esdraelon on the north; after which, turning north and east, it came to Tiberias, where, running along the Sea of Galilee, it reached Capernaum, and, having passed the Jordan somewhat above the last place, it went over a spur of the Anti-Libanus (Jebel Heish), and, keeping straight forward east by north, came to Damascus. This road was used for the purposes both of trade and war. In the history of the Crusades it bears the name of Via Maris. It connected Europe with the interior of Asia. Troops coming from Asia over the Euphrates passed along this way into the heart of Palestine. Under the Romans it was a productive source of income. It was on this road, not far from Capernaum, that Jesus saw Matthew sitting "at the receipt of custom" and gave him his call to the apostleship. (See, in general, Ritter, Erdkunde, 2, 379 sq.)
2. Another road passed along the Mediterranean coast southward into Egypt. Beginning at Ptolemais, it ran first to Caesarea, thence to Diospolis, and so on through Ascalon and Gaza down into Egypt. (Comp. Josephus, War, 4, 11, 5; Ant. 14, 8, 1; Pliny, 6, 33; Arrian, Alex. 3, 1. See Appian, Cir. 5, 52. The stations are given as above, rather differently from Josephus, in Antonin. Itiner. p. 149.) This was also an important line of communication, passing as it did through cities of great importance, running along the coast and extending to Egypt. A glance at the map will show how important it was for trade by land and by sea as well as for the passage of troops. A branch of this road connected the sea with the metropolis, leading from the same Caesarea through Diospolis to Jerusalem. Down this branch Paul was sent on his way to Felix (Ac 23:23,26; comp. Josephus, War, 4, 8, 1; Jerome, Ep. 108). The band went through Antipatris, and thence on to Caesarea.
3. A third line of road connected Galilee with Judaea, running through the intervening Samaria (Lu 17:11; Joh 4:4; Josephus, Ant. 20, 6, 1; Life, § 52). The journey took three days. Passing along the plain of Esdraelon, the traveler entered Samaria at Ginaea (Jenin) and was thence conducted to Samaria (Sebaste), thence to Shechem (Nablus), whence a good day's travel brought him to Jerusalem. This last part of the journey (comp. Isa 10; Isa 28 sq.) has been described by Maundrell (Journey, p. 85 sq.).
In the time of the Romans there was also a road from Jerusalem to the lake Gennesareth through Shechem and Scythopolis. The same road sent a branch off at Scythopolis in a westerly direction through Esdraelon to Cesarean; and another branch across the Jordan to Gadara, on to Damascus, along which line of country there still lies a road, southward of the Sea of Galilee, to the same celebrated city (see Reland, Palest. p. 416; Itin. Hieros. p. 585 sq.; also Antonin. Itiner. p. 198). This road was even traversed by armies (Josephus, Ant. 14, 3, 4).
4. There were three chief roads running from Jerusalem. One passed in a northeasterly direction over the Mount of Olives, by Bethany, through openings in hills and winding ways on to Jericho (Mt 20:29; Mt 21:1; Lu 10:30 sq.; 19:1, 28 sq.; comp. Russegger, Reis. 3, 102 sq.), near which the Jordan was passed when travelers took their way to the north if they wished to pass through Peraea, which was the road the Galilean Jews, in coming to and returning from the festivals in the capital, were accustomed to take, thus avoiding the unfriendly territory of Samaria; or travelers turned their faces towards the south if they intended to go towards the Dead Sea. This road was followed by the Israelites when they directed their steps towards Canaan. Through Peraea the Syrian and Assyrian armies made their hostile advances on Israel (2Ki 8:28; 2Ki 9:14; 2Ki 10:32 sq.; 1Ch 5:26).
A second road led from Jerusalem southward to Hebron, between mountains, through pleasant valleys (Russegger, Reis. 3, 78), whence travelers went through the wilderness of Judaea to Aila, as the remains of a Roman road still show; or they might take a westerly direction on to Gaza, a way which is still pursued and is of two days' duration (Crome, Palest. 1, 97 sq.). The ordinary way from Jerusalem to Gaza appears, in the Roman period, to have lain through Eleutheropolis and Ascalon. From Gaza through Rhinocorura and Pelusium was the nearest road down into Egypt from Jerusalem (Josephus, Ant. 14, 14, 2). Along this road many thousand prisoners, made by Vespasian in his capture of Jerusalem, were sent to Alexandria in order to be shipped for Rome. Of these two roads from Jerusalem to Gaza one went westward by Ramlah and Ascalon, the other southward by Hebron. This last road Raumer (Palest. p. 191; see also his Beiträge, published after Robinson's work on Palestine — namely, in 1843 correcting or confirming the views given in his Palestina, 1838) is of opinion was that which was taken by Philip (Ac 8:26 sq.), partly because tradition states that the eunuch was baptized in the vicinity of Hebron, and this road from Jerusalem to Hebron runs through the "desert" Thekoa (Thecua) in the Onomasticon. And here he finds the reason of the angel's command to go "towards the south" — for Hebron lay south of Jerusalem — whereas but for this direction Philip might have gone westward by Ramlah. Robinson, admitting that there is a road from Jerusalem to Hebron, maintains (1, 320; 2, 640) that Philip went by a third road, which led down Wady Musurr to Betogabra (Eleutheropolis), and thinks that he has found at Tell el-Hasy the spot where the eunuch received baptism. But, says Raumer (Beiträge, p. 41), this road ran in a southwesterly direction, and Philip was commanded to go towards the south, for which purpose he must have gone by Hebron. Raumer then proceeds to confirm his original position. Jerome, in his Life of Paula, testifies that a road from Jerusalem to Gaza went through Hebron. Paula travelled from Jerusalem to Bethlehem, which lay south of the city: "When she reached Bethlehem she quickened the pace of her horse and took the old road which leads to Gaza." This road conducted to Bethsur (a little north of Hebron), "where," says Jerome, "while he read the Scriptures, the eunuch found the Gospel fountain." "This," adds Raumer,' is the same Bethsur of which Jerome, in the Onomasticon, says, 'As you go from AElia to Hebron, at the twentieth milestone, you meet Bethsoron, near which, at the foot of a mountain, is a fountain bubbling out of the soil. The Acts of the Apostles state that the chamberlain of queen Candace was baptized in it by Philip.' From Bethsur Paula proceeded to Hebron. The Itinerarium Hierosolymitanum (of the year 333) mentions Bethsur as the place where the baptism was performed." Raumer concludes by remarking: "Robinson rightly rejects tradition when it contradicts the Sacred Scriptures, but he must also reject those pretended scientific theories which contradict Holy Writ. Such hypotheses may easily become the groundwork of scientific legends. To fix the baptismal place of the chamberlain at Tell el-Hasy contradicts the Scripture; but Bethsur, which has from the earliest ages been so accounted, agrees with the passage in the Acts of the Apostles." There only remains for us to mention what Winer reckons the third of the three great roads which ran from Jerusalem; this third road went to the Mediterranean at Joppa (Jaffa), a way which, from the time of the Crusades, has been taken by pilgrims proceeding to the holy city from Egypt and from Europe. Its principal station, Ramleh, seems to have been founded by the Saracens. See De Wette, Archeologie; Scholz, Archeologie; Heeren, Ideen, 1, 740; Ritter, Erdkunde; Crome, Paldstina, 1, 8; Burckhardt, Syria, 2, 547; Rosenmuller, AIterth. 2, 2, 338; Raumer, Beitrage, p. 30 sq.; also the articles SEE GEOGRAPHY; SEE PALESTINE.