Capital of ABILENE, the tetrarchy of Lysanias (Luke 3:1), on the eastern slope of Lebanon, in a region fertilized by the river Barada (Abana). Abel (Hebrew) means "a grassy spot." The tradition of Abel's murder having taken place here (marked by his tomb 30 feet in length, Nebi Habil, on a hill) arose from confounding his name (properly Hebel) with abel, a frequent name of rich meadowy places. The lively and refreshing green of the spot is noticed by Burckhardt. Abilene had originally been a tetrarchate under Lysanias, Ptolemy's son (Josephus, Ant. 14:13, 8; 18:6, 10), put to death 33 B.C., through Cleopatra's intrigues, who then took the province.
Next, it fell to Augustus, who rented it to Zenodorus, but as he did not clear it of robbers it was given to Herod the Great. At his death the southern part was added to Trachonitis and Ituraea, as a tetrarchy for his son Philip. The rest, the larger part, including Abila, was then bestowed on the Lysanias of Luke 3:1, probably descended from the former Lysanias. Ten years afterward the emperor Caligula gave it to Agrippa I as "the tetrarchy of Lysanias." The division of Abilene between Lysanias and Philip accounts for the seeming difference between Luke who assigns it to Lysanias, and Josephus who assigns it to Philip. Abila stood in the Suk ("a market") wady Barada, a gorge where the river breaks down through the mountain Antilebanon toward the plain, with a semicircular background of cliffs three or four hundred feet high, between Heliopolis (Baalbec), 32 miles off; and Damascus,
18. Latin inscriptions found here respecting the repairs of the road by the Abileni, and concerning the 16th legion, identify the place.