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- This article was originally based on an entry from a public domain edition of the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. As such, some of the information contained herein may be outdated. Please edit the article if this is the case, and feel free to remove this notice when it is no longer relevant.
Golan or Gaulonitis (Hebrew: גּולן, gōlān; Arabic: الجولان, Greek: Γαυλανῖτις, Gaulanítis) is an ancient city in the biblical Land of Israel. It was in the territory of Manasseh in the area of Bashan, and it was the most northerly of the three cities of refuge east of the Jordan River (Deuteronomy 4:43). Manasseh gave this city to the Gershonite Levites (Joshua 21:27). It must have been a great and important city in its day, but the site cannot now be determined with any certainty.
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According to the Bible, the Israelites invaded the Amorite homeland in Golan and took it from them. : "Next we turned and went up along the road toward Bashan, and Og king of Bashan with his whole army marched out to meet us in battle at Edrei." : "The LORD said to me, "Do not be afraid of him, for I have handed him over to you with his whole army and his land. Do to him what you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon." : "So the LORD our God also gave into our hands Og king of Bashan and all his army. We struck them down, leaving no survivors." : "At that time we took all his cities. There was not one of the sixty cities that we did not take from them—the whole region of Argob, Og's kingdom in Bashan." :"All these cities were fortified with high walls and with gates and bars, and there were also a great many unwalled villages." : "We completely destroyed [a] them, as we had done with Sihon king of Heshbon, destroying [b] every city—men, women and children." : "But all the livestock and the plunder from their cities we carried off for ourselves."
The city was known to Josephus (Ant. 13, 15, 3). Near Golan, Alexander Jannaeus was ambushed by Obodas, king of the Arabians, and his army. Crowded together in a narrow and deep valley, Alexander was broken in pieces by the multitude of camels (BJ, 1, 4, 4). This incident is located at Gadara (Ant. 13, 13, 5). However, Golan was later destroyed by Alexander. It had already given its name to a large district, Gaulanitis (BJ, 3, 3, 1, 5; 4, 1, 1). It formed the eastern boundary of Galilee. It was part of the tetrarchy of Philip (Ant. 17, 13, 1; 18, 4, 6).
The city was known to Eusebius as "a large village" giving its name to the surrounding country Onomasticon (Greek: Γαυλών, Gaulō̇n). This country must have corresponded roughly with the modern Jaulān in which the ancient name is preserved.
The boundaries of the province today are Mount Hermon to the north, Jordan and the Sea of Galilee to the west, the Yarmouk River to the south, and the Allan River to the east. This plateau, which in the north is about 3,000 ft (910 m) high, slopes gradually southward to a height of about 1,000 ft (300 m). It is made entirely of igneous rock, and there are many cone-like peaks of extinct volcanoes, especially toward the north. It affords good land for pasturing, and it has long been a favorite summer grazing ground of the nomads. Traces of ancient forests remain, but for the most part today it is treeless. To the east of the Sea of Galilee, the soil is deep and rich. Splendid crops of wheat are grown here, and olives flourish in the hollows. The country is furrowed by deep valleys that carry the water southwestward into the Sea of Galilee. This region has not yet been subjected to a thorough examination, but many important ruins have been found which tell of a plentiful and prosperous population in ancient times. The best description of these, and of the region generally, will be found in Schumacher's The Jaulan and Across the Jordan. To him also we owe the excellent maps which carry us eastward to the province of el-Haurān.
Schumacher inclines to the belief that the ancient Golan may be located in Sahm el-Jaulān (a large village 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Nahr ‛Allān and 4 miles (6.4 km) southeast of Tsīl). The extensive ruins probably date from the early Christian Era. The buildings are of stone, many of them of spacious dimensions, while the streets are wide and straight. The inhabitants are not more than 280. The surrounding soil is rich and well watered, bearing excellent crops. Standing in the open country, it would be seen from afar; and it was easily accessible from all directions.