(Baʹshan) [possibly, Fertile (Stoneless) Plain].
A large region E of the Sea of Galilee. The approximate boundaries of Bashan were Mount Hermon on the N, the mountainous region of Mount Hauran (Jebel ed Druz) on the E, Gilead on the S, and the hills bordering the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee on the W.
Bashan was located mainly on a high plateau, with an average height of about 600 m (2,000 ft). The land is generally flat, though containing some mountain ridges, and is of volcanic origin with much hard black basalt rock, which provides good retention of moisture. The soil is a mixture of tufa and red-brown earth. Water and melted snow flowing down from Mount Hermon helped to turn the entire region into an excellent agricultural area. The great fertility of this plain made the area a rich granary and provided fine pasture lands. This, in turn, contributed to the production of splendid strains of cattle and sheep. The bulls of Bashan and its male sheep were the subjects of song and poetry and were symbols of richness, strength, and prosperity.
The plains of Bashan appear to have been, in the main, treeless, but the mountain ridges were well wooded and contained massive trees, probably oaks (which are still to be found in that area today). In prophecy, these trees are used as symbols of great loftiness. (Isa 2:13; Zec 11:1, 2) Ezekiel 27:5, 6 indicates that the Phoenician boat builders of Tyre used the juniper trees of Senir for their planks and the tall cedars of Lebanon for their masts, but they fashioned their powerful oars from the sturdy trees of Bashan.
Bashan’s fertility and productivity are doubtless the reason for its being associated with other productive areas such as Carmel and Lebanon. (Jer 50:19; Isa 33:9) Jeremiah links the heights of Bashan with Lebanon as a vantage point from which to view the calamity due to come upon the land of the Israelites because of their forsaking Jehovah. (Jer 22:20) The mention of the “mountain of God” and the “mountain of peaks” of Bashan, at Psalm 68:15, 16, may refer to the mountainous region of Mount Hauran (Jebel ed Druz). Zalmon (mentioned in Ps 68:14) may have been its highest peak.
The region of Bashan apparently first enters the Bible record at Genesis 14:5 in the reference to the Rephaim (giants) in Ashteroth-karnaim, who were defeated by the invading kings of Abraham’s time (before 1933 B.C.E.). At the time of the Israelite invasion (c. 1473 B.C.E.), Og, the king of Bashan and the last remaining one of the giantlike men of that area, was defeated and slain, and the land was occupied by Israel. (Nu 21:33-35; De 3:1-3, 11; Jos 13:12) The tribe of Manasseh received Bashan as its inheritance, although it appears that a southern portion of it was allotted to the tribe of Gad.
The principal cities of Bashan were: Ashtaroth (a city of Og and later a Levite city), Edrei (the frontier city where Israel defeated Og), Golan (which also became a Levite city and one of the three cities of refuge E of the Jordan), and Salecah. (De 4:41-43; Jos 9:10; 12:4, 5; 20:8, 9; 1Ch 6:64, 71) In the region of Argob alone there were 60 walled cities, and ruins of ancient towns still dot the entire area today.
In the area E of the Jordan, the principal route from N to S, called “the king’s road,” ran through Bashan at the city of Ashtaroth, and this fact, together with Bashan’s great fertility and its proximity to Damascus, made it the goal of military conquest. King Hazael of Damascus captured Bashan during Jehu’s reign (c. 904-877 B.C.E.), but it was evidently recovered in the reign of Jehoash (2Ki 10:32, 33; 13:25) or at least by the time of Jeroboam II (c. 844-804 B.C.E.). (2Ki 14:25) Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria overran the whole area in the reign of Pekah (c. 778-759 B.C.E.).
In postexilic times Bashan came under Greek control and later became one of the major wheat granaries of the Roman Empire. It was divided into four districts, and with the exception of the NE district called Trachonitis, these districts preserved to some extent original names from the area: the district of Gaulanitis in the W drew its name from Golan, Auranitis in the S from Hauran, and central Batanaea from Bashan. Aside from a reference to Trachonitis (Lu 3:1), Bashan is not mentioned in the Christian Greek Scriptures.