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Night had now closed over the scene. Gideon and his servant having crept down amidst the sleeping hosts and overheard the narrative of a dream told by one of the invaders to his companions, returned and prepared for the attack. Dividing his men into three companies of a hundred each, they rush upon the unsuspecting enemy. The trumpets peal out their shrill and startling blast; the lamps flash forth in the midst of the tents; the war-cry of Israel—"the sword of the Lord and of Gideon "—is heard rising loud and high above the din ; "and the Lord set every man's sword against his fellow throughout all the host : and the host fled” in wild confusion and disorder to the fords of the Jordan, a few miles to the eastward. Here, as they attempted to cross, they were attacked a second time, suffered a second defeat, and two of their sheiks, Oreb and Zeeb—the Raven and the Wolf-captured and put to death. Gideon and his three hundred heroes, “faint, yet pursuing,” continued to press upon the rear of the flying foe. Coming up with them in Karkor he attacked and defeated them yet a third time. Finding that their kings Zebah and Zalmunna had “slain his brethren, the sons of his mother,
he put them to the sword. This disastrous defeat finally broke up the Bedouin confederacy. Never again whilst the Jewish commonwealth lasted did “the children of the East" attempt an invasion.'
The valley which had been the scene of these great victories was next to witness a mournful defeat—that of Saul by the Philistines.
The two armies were encamped in nearly the same positions with those of Gideon and the Midianites—the Israelites on Gilboa near the fountain of Jezreel, the Philistines at Aphek, or Shunem, on the opposite side of the valley. Saul, in his moody despair, “when he saw the host of the Philistines, was afraid, and his heart greatly trembled. And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dream, nor by Ürim, nor by the prophets." Like the great captain who long before had encamped on the same spot he undertook a night journey, past the host of the Philistines, to the village of Endor, which lay in the mountains a few miles in the rear of their camp. His interview with the witch whom he went to consult but deepened the
Judges vi., vii., viii.
dark and gloomy cloud which hung around him. Next morning the battle was joined, the Israelites were defeated, and “fell down slain in the mountains of Gilboa." The tragic end of Saul, and the pathetic lament of David are too familiar to need further record here."
The inspired narrative contains allusions to other engagements of minor importance as having been fought on this great battle-field : one of these scarcely less mournful than the defeat and death of Saul is recorded in detail. towards the close of the Jewish monarchy; that of Israel had already disappeared. Pharaoh Necho, king of Egypt, on his way to attack the Assyrians, was marching through this valley. Josiah, either to preserve the integrity of his territory, or as being in alliance with the king of Assyria, met him at the western end of the plain, near Megiddo. .
Necho warned him against " meddling” in the conflict which concerned the Assyrians solely, and in which he had no part. The result cannot be told more briefly and simply than in the words of Scripture. “Nevertheless Josiah would not turn his face from him, but disguised himself, that he might fight with him, and hearkened not unto the words of Necho from the mouth of God, and came to fight in the valley of Megiddo. And the archers shot at king Josiah ; and the king said to his servants, Have me away; for I am sore wounded.
His servants therefore took him out of that chariot, and put him in the second chariot that he had; and they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died, and was buried in one of the sepulchres of his fathers. And all Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah : and all the singing men and all the singing women spake of Josiah in their lamentations to this day; and made them an ordin
ance in Israel: and, beMONASTERY ON MOUNT CARMEL.
hold, they are written in
the Lamentations." One more event yet remains to be spoken of in connection with this famous battle-field. It has been already said that the ridge of Carmel forms one of the southern boundaries of the plain. Its north-western extremity runs i Sam. xxviii., xxxi. 2 Sam. i.
2 Chron. xxxv. 22-25.
ELIJAH ON MOUNT CARMEL.
out into the Mediterranean, and is crowned by the convent of Mar Elyas from which the Carmelite monks take their name. At its south-eastern end, a short distance below the summit, is a level plateau which looks down upon Jezreel and commands an extensive view over the whole plain. Its modern Arabic name is El MUHRAKAH (the place of burning, or of sacrifice). A perennial spring, which is said never to fail even in the severest droughts, furnishes a copious supply of water. Near the foot of the hill is a mound called the Tel Kasis (the hill of the priests). The river Kishon which flows along the plain immediately below the plateau is called the Nahr el Mukatta (the river of slaughter)." All these names naturally connect themselves with the sacrifice of Elijah, who on this plateau brought together the priests of Baal, and when they had failed to win an answer from their idol gods, built an altar, and drawing water from the fountain which after three years' drought still furnished an adequate supply, poured it over the sacrifice. The Lord God of Israel answered by fire. The appeal was irresistible. The whole people exclaimed with one voice—“The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” Within sight of the idolatrous city, and beneath the eyes of the king, the apostate priests were seized, dragged down to the mound and river, and slain.
The prophet now ascends to the top of the hill just above, from which a magnificent view of the Mediterranean is obtained. Burying his face in his mantle, in importunate prayer, he sends his servant to look out toward the sea. At last a cloud is descried no larger than a man's hand. For three years the sky had been cloudless. Now the harbinger of rain is gratefully welcomed. The prophet returns with the glad tidings to the monarch—“Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.” These words have caused some perplexity to commentators. Their meaning becomes perfectly clear as read on the spot. The river Kishon, easily fordable at this point, and, doubtless, perfectly dry after the protracted drought, would soon become a rushing, furious torrent, as in the days of Sisera. Besides which the Plain of Esdraelon consists of a rich alluvial soil which after a heavy rain-fall becomes absolutely impassable for carriages, and is difficult even for horsemen or pedestrians. If Ahab is to return to Jezreel he must do so at once.
“ And it came to pass, in the meanwhile, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.”
This famous battle-field, the scene of Israel's most glorious victories and most disastrous defeats, finds a place in the prophecies of the New, as well as in the histories of the Old Testament. The name by which it is commonly known, Esdraelon, is but a Grecised form of the Hebrew Jezreel. It was
It is, however, possible that Mukatta may be a corruption of Megiddo.
? 1 Kings xviii. In common with all recent writers on this subject, I must confess my obligations to Dean Stanley's invaluable summary of the historical associations of the Plain of Esdraelon, in his “Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 335-357.
likewise called the valley of Megiddo from the town near which some of its most desperate conflicts raged. Hence in the book of Revelation it is spoken of as “the place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (the hill, or fortress of Megiddo). This is not the place in which to discuss the precise meaning of the prophecy, nor to enquire whether the inspired writer indicated a particular locality as the scene of the final conflict, or used this historical plain as typical of the battles yet to be fought between the powers of light and darkness. One thing is clear, that the struggles of which the valley has been the theatre only foreshadowed that more desperate conflict which awaits us when “the spirits of devils, working miracles, go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that day of God Almighty.' Whatever the time, the place, the nature of that final conflict may be, its terribleness cannot be doubted as we read the descriptions given of it in the visions of Patmos. But the issue is certain. The wars of ancient Israel were waged with doubtful fortune-victory and defeat alternated. But in that “great day of God,” though the battle seem to hang long in suspense, the victory is sure. The “Captain of our Salvation ” “goeth forth conquering, and to conquer.” “He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet.” Nor is the conflict altogether future. Even now it rages around us, and we are summoned to take part in it. Neutrality and indifference are impossible. “He that is not with us is against us.” May the solemn words of reproof and warning spoken of those who stood aloof in the Valley of Esdraelon sink into our hearts. "Curse ye Meroz! said the angel of the Lord, Curse ye bitterly the inhabitants thereof! Because they came not to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord, against the mighty.” “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the Lord be God, follow him ; but if Baal, then follow him.":