(Baʹshan) [fruitful country; even and smooth land].
A large region in northern Transjordan. Bashan was N of Gilead and was bounded on the E by the mountainous region of Jebel Hauran and on the W by the hills bordering the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.—Deut. 3:3-14; Josh. 12:4, 5.
Bashan was located mainly on a high plateau, with an average height of about 2,000 feet (610 meters). 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, stretching roughly some fifty miles (80 kilometers) N and S and about twenty miles (32 kilometers) in width, 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 symbols of richness, strength and prosperity.—Deut. 32:14; Ezek. 39:18; Ps. 22:12.
The plain of Bashan appears 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; Zech. 11:1, 2) Ezekiel 27:5, 6 indicates that the Phoenician boat builders of Tyre used the juniper trees of Senir for their planks, the tall cedars of Lebanon for their masts, but 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 reference to the “mountain of God” and the “mountain of peaks” of Bashan, at Psalm 68:15, 16, may refer to the triple summits of Mount Hermon or may describe the many broken cones of extinct volcanoes that break the level plains of Bashan.
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 (b. 1933 B.C.E.). At the time of the Israelite invasion (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. (Num. 21:33-35; Deut. 3:1-3, 11; Josh. 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.—Josh. 13:29-31; 17:1, 5; 1 Chron. 5:11, 16, 23.
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. (Deut. 4:41-43; Josh. 9:10; 12:4, 5; 20:8, 9; 1 Chron. 6:64, 71) In the region of Argob alone there were sixty walled cities, and ruins of ancient towns still dot the entire area today.—Deut. 3:3-5.
The principal route through Transjordan from N to S, called “The King’s Highway,” ran through Bashan at the city of Ashteroth-karnaim, 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 (909-881 B.C.E.), but it was evidently recovered in the reign of Jehoash (2 Ki. 10:32, 33; 13:25) or at least by the time of Jeroboam II (852-811 B.C.E.). (2 Ki. 14:25) Tiglath-pileser III of Assyria overran the whole area in the reign of Pekah (775-755 B.C.E.).—2 Ki. 15:29; 1 Chron. 5:26.
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 Batanea from Bashan. Aside from a reference to Trachonitis (Luke 3:1), Bashan is not mentioned in the Greek Scriptures.—See ARGOB No. 2; HAURAN.