a-bi-le'-ne (Abeilene, Codex Alexandrinus and Codex Vaticanus; Abilene, Codex Sinaiticus): Mentioned in Lu 3:1 as the tetrarchy of Lysanias at the time when John the Baptist began his ministry. The district derived its name from Abila, its chief town, which was situated, according to the Itinerarium Antonini, 18 Roman miles from Damascus on the way to Heliopolis (Baalbec). This places it in the neighborhood of the village of Suk Wady Barada (see ABANAH), near which there are considerable ancient remains, with an inscription in Greek stating that a "freedman of Lysanias the tetrarch" made wall and built a temple, and another in Latin recording the repair of the road "at the expense of the Abilenians." The memory of the ancient name probably survives in the Moslem legend which places the tomb of Abel in a neighboring height where there are ruins of a temple. Josephus calls this Abila, he Lusaniou, literally, "the Abilene of Lysanius," thus distinguishing it from other towns of the same name, and as late as the time of Ptolemy (circa 170 AD) the name of Lysanias was associated with it.
The territory of Abilene was part of the Iturean Kingdom, which was broken up when its king, Lysanias, was put to death by M. Antonius, circa 35 BC. The circumstances in which Abilene became distinct tetrarchy are altogether obscure, and nothing further is known of the tetrarch Lysanias (Ant., XIX, v, 1; XX, ii, 1). In 37 AD the tetrarchy, along with other territories, was granted to Agrippa I, after whose death in 44 AD it was administered by procurators until 53 AD, when Claudius conferred it again, along with neighboring territories, upon Agrippa II. On Agrippa's death, toward the close of the 1st century, his kingdom was incorporated in the province of Syria.
C. H. Thomson