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Edrei

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(Hebrews Edre'i, אֶדְרֶעַי , mighty; Sept. Ε᾿δράείν and Ε᾿δραϊ v ν), the name of two cities.

1. One of the metropolitan towns (Ashtaroth being the other) of the kingdom of Bashan, beyond the Jordan (Joshua 12:4-5; Joshua 13:12; Deuteronomy 3:10). It was here that Og, the gigantic king of Bashan, was defeated by the Israelites, and lost his kingdom (Numbers 21:33-35; Deuteronomy 1:4; Deuteronomy 3:1-3). Edrei afterwards belonged to eastern Manasseh (Joshua 13:31; Numbers 32:33). It is probable that Edrei did not remain long in possession of the Israelites. May it not be that they abandoned it in consequence of its position within the borders of a wild region infested by numerous robber bands? The Lejah is the ancient Argob, and appears to have been the stronghold of the Geshurites; and they perhaps subsequently occupied Edrei (Joshua 12:4-5). It was the seat of a bishop in the early ages of Christianity (Reland, Palaest, page 547), and a bishop of Adraa sat in the Council of Seleucia (A.D. 381) and of Chalcedon (A.D. 451). In A.D. 1142 the Crusaders under Baldwin III made a sudden attack upon Adraa, or Adratum, then popularly called also Civitas Berardi de Stampis, but they encountered such obstacles in the difficult nature of the ground, the scarcity of water, and the valor of the inhabitants, that they were compelled to retreat (Will. Tyr. pages 895, 896, 1031). Abulfeda calls it Adsraat (Tab. Syr. 79).

There are two ancient towns in Bashan which now claim the honor of being the representatives of Edrei. The one is called Edhra, and is situated on the southwest angle of the rocky district of Lejah, the Argob of the Hebrews, and the Trachonitis of the Greeks. The ruins of Edhra are among the most extensive in Hauran. The site is a strange one. It is a rocky promontory projecting from the Lejah, (See TRACHONITIS), having an elevation of some thirty feet above the plain, which spreads out beyond it smooth as a sea, and of unrivaled fertility. The ruins are nearly three miles in circuit, and have a strange, wild look, rising up in black shattered masses from the midst of black rocks. A number of the ancient houses still remain, though half buried beneath heaps of more modern ruins. Their walls, roofs, and doors are all of stone; they are low, massive, and simple in plan; and they bear the marks of the most remote antiquity. Some of them are doubtless as old as the time of the Rephaim, and they are thus specimens of primeval architecture such as no other country could produce. At a later period Edhra was adorned with many public edifices, now mostly in ruins. A large church still stands at the northern end of the town. A Greek inscription over the door informs us that it was originally a heathen temple, was converted into a church, and dedicated to St. George in A.D. 516. There are the walls of another church of St. Elias; and in the center of the town a cloistered quadrangle, which appears to have been at first attached to a forum, and afterwards to a cathedral. On the public buildings and private houses are many Greek inscriptions. Some were copied by Burckhardt, and some by Reverend J.L. Porter. At the time of the visit of the latter in 1854 the population amounted to about fifty families, of which some eight or ten were Christian, and the rest Mohammedan. A full account of the history and antiquities of Edrei is given in Porter's Five Years in Damascus, 2:220 sq., and Handbook for Syria and Palestine, page 532 sq.; also in his Giant Cities of Bashan, page 94 sq. See also Burckhardt's Travels in Syria, page 57 sq.; Buckingham's Travels among the Arab Tribes, page 274.

The other place with which Edrei has been identified is called Dera, and stands in a shallow wady in the open plain of Hauran, about fourteen miles south of Edhra. The following reasons have been assigned in favor of the other site. 1. The name Edrei, which signifies "strength," and the fact that it was the capital of an ancient and warlike nation, naturally lead to the belief that it was a very strong city. Ancient cities were always, when possible, built on the tops of hills, or in rocky fastnesses, so as to be easily defended. Edhra stands on a ridge of jagged rocks, and is so encompassed with cliffs and defiles as to be almost inaccessible. Dera, on the contrary, is in the open plain, and has no traces of old fortifications (G. Robinson, Travels in Palestine, 2:168). It is difficult to believe that the warlike Rephaim would have erected a royal city in such a position. 2. Dera has neither well nor fountain to attract ancient colonists to an un-defended site. Its supply of water was brought by an aqueduct from a great distance (Ritter, Palest. and Syr. 2:834). 3. The ruins of Edhra are more ancient, more important, and much more extensive than those of Dera. The dwellings of Edhra possess all the characteristics of remote antiquity massive walls, stone roofs, stone doors. The monuments now existing seem to show that it must have been an important town from the time the Romans took possession of Bashan; and that it, and not Dera, was the episcopal city of Adraa, which ranked next to Bostra (Reland, Pal. page 219, 223, 548). None of the buildings in the latter seem older than the Roman period (Dr. Smith, in Robinson's Bib. Res. 3, App. page 155, 1st ed.). On the other hand, the identification of Dera and Edrei can be traced back to Eusebius and Jerome, who say that Edrei was then called Adara (Ἀδαρά ), and was a noted city of Arabia, twenty-four miles from Bostra (Onomast. s.v. Ε᾿σδραεί, Esdrai). In another place they give the distance at twenty-five miles from Bostra and six from Ashtaroth (ib. s.v. Ἀσταρώθ, Astaroth, where the place in question is called Ἀδράα, Ader). Adara is laid down in the Peutinger Tables as here indicated (Reland, Palaest. p. 547; comp. Ptolemy, 5:17, 7). There can be no doubt that the city thus inferred to is the modern Dera; and the statement of Eusebius is too explicit to be set aside on the supposition that he has confounded the two sites in dispute. Moreover, it is improbable that the boundaries of Manasseh East extended so far as the locality of Edhra. Most modern geographers have therefore concluded that Dera marks the real site of Edrei (Reland, Palaest. page 547; Ritter, Palest. and Syr. 2:834; Burckhardt, Syria, page 241; Buckingham, Arab Tribes, page 168; Schwarz, however, declares for the other position, Palest. page 222).

2. A fortified town of northern Palestine, allotted to the tribe of Naphtali, and situated near Kedesh and Hazor (Joshua 19:37). About two miles south of Kedesh is a conical rocky hill called Tell Khuraibeh, the "Tell of the ruin," with some remains of ancient buildings on the summit and a rock-hewn tomb in its side. It is evidently an old site, and it may be that of the long-lost Edrei. The strength of the position, and its nearness to Kedesh, give probability to the supposition. Dr. Robinson (Bibl. Res. 3:365) suggests the identity of Tell Khurmaibeh with Hazor (q.v.). For the objections to this theory, see Porter's Handbook for Syria and Palestine, page 442.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Edrei'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/e/edrei.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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