- pe-re'-a (he Peraia, Peraios, Peraites):
1. The Country:
This is not a Scriptural name, but the term used by Josephus to denote the district to which the rabbis habitually refer as "the land beyond Jordan." This corresponds to the New Testament phrase peran tou Iordanou (Mt 4:15; 19:1, etc.). The boundaries of the province are given by Josephus (BJ, III, iii, 3). In length it reached from Pella in the North to Macherus in the South, and in breadth from the Jordan on the West to the desert on the East. We may take it that the southern boundary was the Arnon . The natural boundary on the North would be the great gorge of the Yarmuk. Gadara, Josephus tells us (BJ, IV, vii, 3, 6), was capital of the Peraea. But the famous city on the Yarmuk was a member of the Decapolis, and so could hardly take that position. More probably Josephus referred to a city the ruins of which are found at Jedur--a reminiscence of the ancient name--not far from es-SalT. The northern Gadara then holding the land on the southern bank of the Yarmuk, the northern boundary of the Peraea would run, as Josephus says, from Pella eastward. For the description of the country thus indicated see GILEAD, 2.
In the time of the Maccabees the province was mainly gentile, and Judas found it necessary to remove to Judea the scattered handful of Jews to secure their safety (1 Macc 5:45).
Possibly under Hyrcanus Jewish influence began to prevail; and before the death of Janneus the whole country owned his sway (HJP, I, i, 297, 306). At the death of Herod the Great it became part of the tetrarchy of Antipas (Ant., XVII, vii, 1). The tetrarch built a city on the site of the ancient Beth-haram (Josh 13:27) and called it Julias in honor of the emperor's wife (Ant., XVIII, ii, 1; BJ, II, ix 1). Here Simon made his abortive rising (Ant., XVII, x, 6; BJ, II, iv, 2). Claudius placed it under the government of Felix (BJ, II, xii, 8). It was finally added to the Roman dominions by Placidus (BJ, IV, vii, 3-6). Under the Moslems it became part of the province of Damascus.
Peraea, "the land beyond Jordan," ranked along with Judea and Galilee as a province of the land of Israel. The people were under the same laws as regarded tithes, marriage and property.
Peraea lay between two Gentileprovinces on the East, as Samaria between two Jewish provinces on the West of the Jordan. The fords below Beisan and opposite Jericho afforded communication with Galilee and Judea respectively. Peraea thus formed a link connecting the Jewish provinces, so that the pilgrims from any part might go to Jerusalem and return without setting foot on Gentilesoil. And, what was at least of equal importance, they could avoid peril of hurt or indignity which the Samaritans loved to inflict on Jews passing through Samaria (Lk 9:52 f; Ant, XX, vi, 1; Vita, 52).
It seems probable that Jesus was baptized within the boundaries of the Peraea; and hither He came from the turmoil of Jerusalem at the Feast of the Dedication (Jn 10:40). It was the scene of much quiet and profitable intercourse with His disciples (Mt 19; Mk 10:1-31; Lk 18:15-30). These passages are by many thought to refer to the period after His retirement to Ephraim (Jn 11:54). It was from Peraea that He was summoned by the sisters at Bethany (Jn 11:3).
Peraea furnished in Niger one of the bravest men who fought against the Romans (BJ, II, xx, 4; IV, vi, 1). From Bethezob, a village of Peraea, came Mary, whose story is one of the most appalling among the terrible tales of the siege of Jerusalem (BJ, VI, iii, 4). Josephus mentions Peraea for the last time (BJ, VI, v, 1), as echoing back the doleful groans and outcries that accompanied the destruction of Jerusalem.