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ROM Jerusalem northward as far as Bethel, a distance of ten or twelve miles, we pass through the territory of Benjamin. The topography of the district illustrates the prophecies of Jacob and Moses as to the destinies of this small but warlike tribe, and explains the peculiar position which it held in the Jewish commonwealth. From the central plateau, which runs north and south, a succession of rugged and difficult passes lead east and west, debouching on the fertile Philistine plain on the one side, and on the yet more fertile Mosque OF DAVID. Valley of Jericho on the other. Its barren rocky soil, ill-adapted for agriculture, gave birth to a race of hardy warriors, whose military prowess was often called into exercise in protecting Jerusalem against invaders from the north, in guarding their own mountain fastnesses, or in making forays upon the territories of their eastern or western neighbours. Almost every hill-side has been the scene of a battle: almost every mound of ruins marks the site of some ancient village memorable for the heroic deeds there enacted. ‘Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.’’ ‘And of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord (7crusalem) shall dwell in safety by him ; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and He shall dwell between his shoulders:” a prophecy fulfilled when centuries afterwards the Lord took up His earthly abode among * Gen. xlix. 27. * Deut. xxxiii. 12.
the Mountains of Benjamin. With its barren soil and numerical inferiority it yet won for itself the proud title of ‘little Benjamin their ruler,' ' it gave the first king to Israel, and the great Apostle of the Gentiles boasted, with a lawful pride, that he was of the tribe of Benjamin.'” For some miles along the road, or from the eminences which skirt it,
Jerusalem is visible. Age after age, invading armies, or bands of pilgrims, approaching from the north, as they turned the crest of Scopus, have gained their first view of the city—a view in some respects even finer than that from Olivet. Here the first Crusaders halted at break of day, and as Jerusalem burst upon their view, they knelt, and with tears of gladness,
* Psa. lxviii. 27. * Phil. iii. 5.
VILLAGES NORTH OF 7 ERU.S.A.L.E.M. 133
kissed the sacred soil. Richard Coeur de Lion, leaving his camp at Ajalon, pressed forward alone, and as he ascended one of these hills, buried his face in his mailed hands, and exclaimed, “Oh Lord God, I pray Thee that I may never look upon Thy holy city, if so be that I rescue it not from Thine enemies.’
A complete itinerary of the villages along this route is given us by the prophet Isaiah, describing the march of the Assyrian army. Beginning at Ai, near Bethel, about twelve miles north of Jerusalem, he is passed to Migron; at Michmash he hath laid up his carriages: they are gone over the passage: they have taken up their lodging (i.e. halted for the night) at Geba , . Ramah
is afraid : Gibeah of Saul is fled. Lift up thy voice, O daughter of Gallim : cause it to be heard unto Laish, O poor Anathoth. Madmenah is removed ; the inhabitants of Gebim gather themselves to flee. As yet shall he remain at Nob that day.' Having thus seized all the villages on his line of march, he has reached the immediate precincts of the city, where the camp of the Assyrians is yet pointed out. Confident of victory, “he shall shake his hand against the mount of the daughter of Zion, the hill of Jerusalem;’ but ‘the Lord, the Lord of hosts, shall lop the bough with terror: and the high ones of stature shall be hewn down, and the haughty shall be humbled.'' Nearly all the villages here enumerated can be identified, and not a * Isa. x. 28–34.