BOẒRAH (Heb. בָּצְרָה).
(1) A city in *Bashan, south of the *Hauran mountains. It is probably mentioned in the city list of Thutmose III (no. 23) and the Tell *el-Amarna letters (EA 197) as Buzruna. It does not appear in the Bible but may be identical with Bosoa, where Jews lived in the time of the Hasmoneans (I Macc. 5:26). Bozrah's great period began in 106 C.E. when the Nabatean kingdom was annexed to the Roman Empire and Trajan built a highway from Bozrah to Aïla. He also established the camp of the Third Legion, "Cyrenaica," at Bozrah (Ptolemy 5:16, 4), and the city was then renamed Nova Trajana Bostra. Hadrian visited it in 129 C.E. Some time later it became the capital
of the province of Arabia, a position it retained until the end of Byzantine times (Eusebius, Onom. 10:46). From the third century onward, it was the seat of a Christian archbishopric and in the same century, was elevated to the rank of a Roman colony. In the fourth century, Bozrah was a flourishing city which had trade relations with Persia and Arabia. In the Roman and Byzantine periods, Jews lived at Bozrah and the community included many rabbis, such as Jonah, Eleazar, Berechiah, and Tanḥum; others, among them Resh Lakish and Abbahu, visited the city since the local Jews seem to have been lax in their religious observances. The Babylonian Talmud (Shab. 29b) mentions a synagogue at Bozrah. Bozrah was the capital of the Ghassanid principality under Byzantine suzerainty. It was captured by the Arabs in 635 and retained its status as capital of the Hauran. It is today a village in Jordan called Buṣrā-Askī Shām with about 2,000 inhabitants. The impressive archaeological remains of the ancient city include a wall, intersecting streets, a triumphal arch, a well-preserved theater, burial towers, baths (there are springs in the northwest of the city), and a large cistern, 485 × 62 ft. (148 × 19m.), from Roman times. A Christian cathedral, built in 512, contains one of the earliest known examples of a Byzantine dome. A second church has a bell tower and a monastery called Deir (Dayr) Baḥīrā after the monk with whom Muhammad is said to have lodged on his visit there. Around the Roman theater is a citadel erected in 1202 by the Mamluk sultan al-Ādil. Archaeological researches were conducted by the American University of Beirut between 1980 and 1984 in the northwest area of the city, with the discovery of settlement remains from the Early and Middle Bronze Ages. A project of mapping and excavation at the site has been conducted by a Franco-Syrian team since the early 1980s, providing much information about the Nabatean-Roman and Byzantine cities.
(2) A city of *Edom. It is mentioned in the Bible in connection with the list of Edomite kings (Gen. 36:33) and in other passages (I Chron. 1:44; Isa. 34:6, 63:1; Jer. 49:13, 22; Amos 1:12). In ancient times Bozrah was a stronghold (hence its name, meaning "fort") guarding the roads from the plateau of Edom to the *Arabah. Archaeological remains have been discovered at a place which the locals call Buṣayra, located 6 miles (10 km.) south of Tafila. Surveyed by N. Glueck, the site was subsequently excavated by C.M. Bennett between 1971 and 1974 and in 1980. The excavations revealed a major Edomite settlement in the Iron Age II, with later remains from the Persian, Hellenisitic, and Roman phases.
(3) A village on the southern border of Trachonitis. It is mentioned as Bosor (I Macc. 5:26) and called Buṣr al-Ḥarīrī in Arabic. Jews who settled there in the time of *Judah Maccabee appealed to him for help against their neighbors, and this help was promptly given. The name also occurs in the phrase "Trachonitis in the territory of Bozrah" (instead of "Bozrah in the territory of Trachonitis"?) in the list of the country's borders (Tosef., Shev. 4:11; Sif. Deut. 11:21).
(1) R.E. Bruennow and A.V. Domaszewski, Provincia Arabia, 3 (1909), 1–84; H.C. Butler, Syria, vol. "Architecture" (1919), 215ff.; Abel, Geog, 2 (1938), 286; J.W. Crowfoot, Early Churches in Palestine (1941), 37–38; 94–95. H. Seeden, "Bronze Age Village Occupation in Busra: AUB Excavations on the Northwest tell, 1983–1984," in: Berytus, 34 (1986): 11–81; idem, "Busra 1983–1984: Second Archaeological Report," Damaszener Mitteilungen, 3 (1988): 387–411; J-M. Dentzer, et al., "Nouvelles recherches franco-syriennes dans le quartier est de Bosra ash-Sham," in: Comptes Rendus des Séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres (1993), 117–147. (2) Glueck, in: AASOR, 14 (1934), 78–79; 15 (1935), 83, 97–98; J.R. Bartlett, Edom and the Edomites (1989); P. Bienkowski, "Umm el-Biyara, Tawilan and Buseira in Retrospect," in: Levant, 22 (1990), 91–109. (3) Abel, in: RB, 32 (1923), 519; Press, Ereẓ, 1 (1951), 64.
[Michael Avi-Yonah /
Shimon Gibson (2nd ed.)]
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.