187. Stone Cities

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Deuteronomy 3:55All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many. (Deuteronomy 3:5). All these cities were fenced with high walls, gates, and bars; beside unwalled towns a great many.
These cities of Basilan, which are also referred to in 1 Kings 4:1313The son of Geber, in Ramoth-gilead; to him pertained the towns of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead; to him also pertained the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, threescore great cities with walls and brazen bars: (1 Kings 4:13), seem to have astonished their conquerors. “Why were these cities, with their walls and gates, something so remarkable to the Israelites? Because they had come from the Red Sea through the wilderness, until near the Mandhur, [that is, the Hieromax,] almost exclusively through a limestone region, in which, until this day, the troglodyte-life predominates; the soft limestone being adapted to the excavation of artificial caverns. That, in a land of hard basalt, is not to be thought of. There, in order to obtain the security which the caverns afford, it is necessary to build cities, walled around and provided with strong gates. To the astonishment of European travelers, there remain today large numbers of the walled cities of Basilan, with their black basalt houses, gates, doors, and bolts” (Raumer, Palästina, pp. 78-79).
Recent travelers tell marvelous stories of these unoccupied stone cities, which are still in excellent preservation. Porter believes that some of them are the veritable cities taken by the Hebrews at the time referred to it the text. He says: “Time produces little effect on such buildings as these. The heavy stone slabs of the roofs resting on the massive walls make the structure as firm as if built of solid masonry; and the black basalt used is almost as hard as iron. There can scarcely be a doubt, therefore, that these are the very cities erected and inhabited by the Rephaim, the aboriginal occupants of Bashan” (Giant Cities of Bastian, p. 84).
Macgregor also speaks of the immense slabs of stone which were used in the construction of these black basalt houses. He saw double doors made of slabs seven feet high and six inches thick, and with pivots about four inches long and three in diameter, turning in stone sockets; and stone window shutters, in size four feet by three. The room in which he slept was fourteen feet long, nine wide, and eleven high. Stone rafters supported a stone roof. The walls were from four to six feet thick. Many of the houses were two stories high, and a few three stories. See The Rob Roy on the Jordan, pp. 175-179.
The high antiquity claimed for these houses has been disputed, though all agree that they are of great age; but, whether they are the same buildings which the Hebrew warriors saw, or are of more recent date, they are undoubtedly similar in construction and in general appearance to the dwellings which made up the cities spoken of in the text.