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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

ARBELA . The discrepancy between 1Ma 9:1-73 and Jos. [Note: Josephus.] Ant . XII. xi. 1, our only authorities, makes uncertain the route of Bacchides in his march on Jerusalem. Josephus makes him pitch his camp at Arbela in Galilee: 1 Mac. brings him ‘by the way that leadeth to Gilgal,’ to ‘Mesaloth which is in Arbela.’ His course thence points to Jiljilia as Gilgal, about 5 miles N. of Bîr ez-Zeit , where the battle was fought with Judas. Mesaloth might then he sought in Meselieh , about 3 miles S.E. of Dothan. But no name resembling Arbela, either of town or district, is found in the neighbourhood; although Eusebius ( Onomasticon ) seems to have known an Arbela not far from Lejjun. On the other hand, Arbela in Galilee survives in the modern Irbil or Irbid , a ruin on the S. lip of the gorge, Wâdy Hamâm , which breaks westward from Gennesaret. There is, however, no trace of a Mesaloth here, unless indeed Robinson’s ingenious suggestion is right, that it may be the Heb. mesillîth , referring to the famous caverned cliffs in the gorge, whence Bacchides extirpated the refugees.

W. Ewing.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [2]

ar - bē´la ( ἐν Ἀρβήλοις , en Arbḗlois ): This place is mentioned in 1 Macc 9:1ff, and in Ant , Xii , xi, 1, describing the march and encampment of Bacchides. The former says that "Demetrius sent Bacchides and Alcimus into the land of Judea ... who went forth by the way that leadeth to Galgala, and pitched their tents before Masaloth, which is in Arbela, and after they had won it they slew much people." Josephus says that Bacchides "marched out of Antioch and came into Judea and pitched his camp at Arbela, a city of Galilee, and having besieged and taken those that were there in caves (for many people fled into such places) he removed and made all the haste he could to Jerusalem." It was from the caves near the village of Arbela in Galilee that Herod dislodged the robbers ( Ant. , Xiv , xv, 4 f; BJ , I, xvi, 2ff). Josephus fortified the caves of Arbela in lower Galilee ( Vita , 37), "near the lake of Gennesar" ( BJ , II, xx, 6).

The references in Josephus point plainly to the caves in the cliff forming the south wall of the tremendous gorge of Wādy el - Ḥamām which opens on the plain of Gennesaret, west of the village el - Mejdel . A series of these caves, skillfully adapted to purposes of refuge and defense, is still known as Qal‛at ibn Ma‛ān , "fortress of the son of Ma‛ān ." On the height above stand the ruins of Irbid or Irbil (both forms are heard today), which unquestionably represent the Arbela of Josephus. The army from Antioch may quite well have come this way. No name however in the least resembling Masaloth has been recovered in this district. We may mention Robinson's suggestion ( BR , II, 398, note), that it may stand for the Hebrew meṣillōth , "steps, stories, terraces," and may apply to the fortress in the rocks.

On the other hand the writer of 1 Macc is an earlier authority than Josephus. If we accept his guidance, Bacchides must have crossed the plain of Esdraelon and followed the main highway southward through Samaria. Galgala may then be identified with Jiljilia , about 8 miles North of Bethel, and Masaloth with Meselieh , about 3 miles Southeast of Dothan. Onomasticon mentions an Arbela in the great plain, 9 miles from Legio ( Lejūn ), but it is now unknown. The phrase en arbḗlois might mean that Masaloth was in the district of Arbela; but there is no trace of this name as attaching to any tract in this neighborhood.

One or other of these routes must have been taken. While no certain decision can be reached, special weight attaches to the statement of Josephus, on account of his acquaintance with the localities in the region, and his unquestionable familiarity with the history. See also Beth-Arbel .

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [3]

( Τὰ Ἀρβήλα ) , mentioned in  1 Maccabees 9:2, as defining the situation of Masaloth, a place besieged and taken by Bacchides and Alcimus at the opening of the campaign in which Judas Maccabaeus was killed. According to Josephus (Ant. 12:11, 1) this was at Arbela of Galilee ( Ἐν Ἀρβήλοις ) , a place which he elsewhere states to be near Sepphoris, on the lake of Gennesareth, and remarkable for certain impregnable caves, the resort of robbers and insurgents, and the scene of more than one desperate encounter (comp. Ant. 14:15, 4 and 5; War, 1:16, 2 and 3; 2:20, 6; Life, 37). These topographical requirements are fully met by the existing Irbid, a site with a few ruins, west of Mejdel, on the south-east side of the Wady Hamam, in a small plain at the foot of the hill of Kurun Hattin. The caverns are in the opposite face of the ravine, and bear the name of Kulat Ibn Maan (Robinson, 2:398; Burckh. 331; Irby, 91). As to the change in the name, the Arbela of Alexander the Great is called Irbil by the Arabic historians (Robinson, 2:399). Moreover, the present Irbid is undoubtedly mentioned in the Talmud as Arbel (see Schwarz, Palest. 189; Reland, Palest. 358; Robinson, 3, 343 note). There seems, therefore, no reason to doubt the soundness of this identification (first suggested in the Muinch. Gel. Anzeigen, Nov. 1836). The army of Bacchides was on its road from Antioch to the land of Judaea ( Γῆν Ι᾿Ούδα ) , which they were approaching "by the way that leadeth to Galgala" (Gilgal), that is, by the valley of the Jordan in the direct line to which Irbid lies. Ewald, however (Gesch. Isr. 4:370 note), insists, in opposition to Josephus, that the engagements of this campaign were confined to Judaea proper, a theory which drives him to consider "Galgala" as the Jiljilia north of Gophna. See Gilgal But he admits that no trace of an Arbela in what direction has yet come to light. Arbela is probably the BETH-ARBEL (See Beth-Arbel) (q.v.) of  Hosea 10:14 Smith.

( Ἀρβηλά ), another city mentioned by Eusebius and Jerome (Onomast. s.v.) as situated beyond Jordan, near Pella; doubtless the present Irbid, a large village with extensive ruins near Wady Shelaleh, visited by several travelers (Ritter, Erdk. 15:1054 sq.).