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NABLUS AND ITS INHABITANTS.
have been bent in the manner represented. The date and value of this curious relic are as yet doubtful. Subsequent investigations may throw light upon its origin.
The few survivors of the Samaritans are now rent asunder by intestine feuds. Apparently, they will speedily cease to exist altogether. Their synagogue rolls may then come into the hands of Europeans, and receive a more careful and thorough examination than has been hitherto possible.
In Nablus alone of all the cities of Palestine is it possible to see and feel what “the good land” was in the days of its prosperity. In addition to the fertility of its soil and the beauty of its situation, there is an air of activity and life which is wanting elsewhere. Lying on the main road between the interior and the coast it has a considerable traffic. Its bazaars are crowded with bedouin from beyond the Jordan, with the peasantry of the valley, and with Russian, Armenian and Greek pilgrims who, having landed at Haifa, are on their way to Jerusalem. The wrangling and chaffering between the buyers and sellers belonging to these various nationalities offer a curious contrast to the quiet modes of transacting business at home. The shopkeeper begins by asking four times as much as he means to take. The customer meets him by bidding a fourth of what he means to give. Bystanders join in the negotiation. The whole party work themselves up into what appears to be a fit of uncontrollable fury, shrieking and yelling at one another in their guttural Arabic till manslaughter seems imminent. At length the bargain is concluded, and peace is restored.
Nablus boasts of some manufactures. Considerable quantities of soap are made, and one large factory has quite a European look. The oil produced here is the best in Palestine ; and large quantities of cotton are grown.
CHARMING ride of about six miles north
west from Nablus brings us to SAMARIA. The road follows the valley for some distance, and then mounts the western shoulder of Ebal. As we reach the crest of the ridge, a beautiful and fertile plain, surrounded by hills, bursts upon
In the centre of the basin rises a flat-topped hill, its sides terraced to the summit, on which stand the remains of the ancient city. Rows of columns are seen clear and sharp against the skyline, and amongst the mean houses
of the peasantry stand the ruins of the RUINED CHURCH OF ST. JOHN IN SAMARIA.
magnificent city built here by Herod, and called by him Sebaste (=Augusta) in honour of his imperial patron.
The great and obvious advantages of the site of Samaria make it extraordinary that a city did not exist here at a very early period. The Biblical narrative, however, is clear, that it was built by Omri, the father of Ahab, who bought the hill from Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on it a city which he called Samaria, after the name of the former proprietor.' Shechem, the earlier capital, lying in a valley, was exposed to attack. Samaria seated on a hill could be easily defended, and was more central. The seat of government was, therefore, removed thither, and gave its name to the northern confederacy. The strength of its position is proved by the fact that it sustained two severe sieges from the Syrians who attacked it with "all their hosts."? On the first occasion Benhadad, brought i Kings xvi. 23-24.
i Kings xx. 2 Kings vi. 24-vii. 20.
RUINS OF SAMARIA.
against it “thirty-two kings,” his allies. On the second, it held out till the last horrors of famine had been endured. In both cases the city finally escaped by divine intervention ; but it must have been almost impregnable to have held out against such formidable attacks.
Climbing the rather steep ascent that leads up into the city, we come to a large pool or reservoir. Though it does not possess the same marks of antiquity as those at Hebron, Urtas and Bethel, it has yet been identified with some probability as that near which Naboth was slain by the infamous and idolatrous Jezebel, and where shortly after, “one washed the chariot of Ahab in the pool of Samaria, and the dogs licked up his blood, and they washed his armour according to the word of the Lord, which he spake.”:
Near “the pool of Samaria” are the remains of a large and handsome Christian Church, in the cave under which, according to a very early tradition, the body of John the Baptist was buried after his execution. Though the date of the edifice is comparatively modern, it leads back our thoughts to Apostolic times, when “ Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them, and the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which he spake.” Such was the success of his ministry that Peter and John joined him in the work. Here it was that the divine judgment fell upon Simon the Sorcerer—a solemn warning to after ages of the danger of mercenary motives in religious profession.3
Of the earlier city of Omri and Ahab no trace remains. The threatenings of ancient prophecy have been literally fulfilled. I will make Samaria as a heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard ; and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof." “Woe to the crown of pride, to the drunkards of Ephraim, whose glorious beauty is a fading flower, which are on the head of the fat valleys of them that are overcome with wine! Behold the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand.” “Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God.”+ Standing on the summit of the hill, and looking down on the mounds of stone poured into the valley below, it would be difficult to find a more exact accomplishment of prophecy than that before us. The ruins of the city subsequently built upon the site are very striking, not only from their extent but from their character and position. A double avenue of Corinthian columns may yet be traced along the whole brow of the hill. The colonnade, according to Dr. Porter, runs eastward in a straight line for about one thousand feet, and then curves round to the left, following the sweep of the hill, extending altogether about three thousand feet. On the north-eastern slope of the hill the ground
1 Kings xxi. 1-19; xxii. 34 -31. It is, however, doubtful whether Jezreel was not the scene of the double tragedy. ? Matt. xiv, 12. Mark vi. 29.
3 Acts viii. 1-25. Micah i. 6. Isa. xxviii. 1, 2. Hosea xiii. 16.
falls back into a natural amphitheatre. The central part of this seems to have been cut into steps forming tiers of seats, as though a theatre had been constructed here. In front of these earthworks are the remains of another very remarkable structure. Dr. Porter calculates that when the edifice was complete there must have been one hundred and seventy columns, of which fifteen are still
standing. But we have no clue to the character of the building of which they formed part.
From Samaria northwards two routes of great interest and beauty lie before us. The one leads westward through a line of valleys of extraordinary fertility, where in spite of the sparse population and the depredations of the
A few wretched Bedouins large crops of wheat and barley meet the eye.