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family, as, driven by stress of famine, they make their way toward that long line of purple mountains against the eastern sky—some twenty miles distant.
We see the two childless widows return—Naomi, proud and bitter in her poverty and bereavement, rejecting the greetings of the townspeople: “Call me not Naomi (pleasant), call me Mara (bitter): for the Almighty hath dealt
very bitterly with me. I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home
again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against
me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me?" We see the young Moabitess
with her strange beauty and gentleness winning all hearts. Amongst the youths and maidens around us, it is easy to believe that her descendants are not wanting.
"Ruth i. 20, 21.
We may still see the fields of wheat and barley in the valley below us from which “Boaz went up to the gate.” We may still hear the very same greeting as when “Boaz said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you, and they answered him, The Lord bless thee.” We may see the reapers resting at noonday, sheltered from the fierce heat of the sun by some spreading tree, dipping their morsel of bread into the vinegar or eating their parched corn from the ears,” the gleaners bearing home the wheat and barley they have gathered in the coarse cloth which serves the peasant women for a veil, or beating it out by the roadside that they may carry it more easily. Yonder are the threshing-floors in the field where the master will spend the nights of harvest to protect his produce from robbers. And here is the gate of the city where Boaz sat with the elders to redeem the possession that was Elimelech's and take the beautiful young widow to wife." Well was the nuptial benediction fulfilled, “The Lord make the woman that is come into thine house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephratah, and be famous in Bethlehem.”
Nearly a hundred years must have elapsed before we hear again of Bethlehem, for the grandson of Boaz and Ruth is now an old man.” He is the father of eight stalwart sons, the youngest of whom keeps his father's sheep upon the mountain-side. Though treated as of no account by the elders of the family,” he is yet called David (the darling), is described as “ruddy, blue-eyed, and beautiful;" he is already famous as a musician, and has distinguished himself for strength, courage, wit, and piety." These qualities commend him to the servants of Saul, and he is chosen to play before the moody king and charm away his gloom.”
The life of a Bethlehemite shepherd was one of no common toil and danger, and it remains so down to the present day. Hordes of wandering Bedouin are waiting to swoop down upon the flocks and herds of the peaceful inhabitants, and need to be watched against with ceaseless vigilance and repelled with fearless courage. Bears descend from the neighbouring mountains. Lions have disappeared, but in the days of David they came up from their lairs in the valley of the Dead Sea, driven forth by the swelling of the Jordan. The prowess of the shepherd lad had been tried against these familiar perils.” Yet, modest and pious, as he was strong and bold, he ascribes his success to the Lord, who taught his hands to war and his fingers to fight.” No wonder that He who “seeth not as man seeth, for the man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart,” should have rejected the elder sons of Jesse and directed his prophet to anoint the youngest as the future king.
Ruth iv. 1. * Ibid. ii. 4. * Ibid. ii. 14. * Ibid. ii. 17; iii. 15. * Ibid. iii. 7. * Ibid. iv. I–II. * Ibid. iv. II, 12. * I Sam. xvii. 12. * Ibid. xvi. 11; xvii. 28. " Ibid. xvi. 12 (see margin); xvii. 42. 11 Ibid. xvi. 18. * Ibid. ver, 23. * I Sam. xvii. 34–37.
* Ps. cxliv, I. * I Sam. xvi. 7.
His chequered fortunes now lead him away from Bethlehem and we hear of him no more in his actual birth-place. But the cave of Adullam was not far distant. The limestone rocks of the district abound in caves, many of them of great size. The one which is said by tradition to have been the retreat of David and his followers is about five miles from Bethlehem, near the base of Jebel Fureidis or the Frank Mountain already spoken of as so striking an object in the landscape. It is approached by a savage ravine, after which a steep ascent leads upward by a path so narrow that a handful of brave men might keep a whole army at bay. The entrance to the cave is by a small opening through which only a single person can pass at a time. This leads to a series of chambers, some large enough to hold several hundred men. A perfect labyrinth of galleries and passages, never fully explored, stretch in every direction, and are said by the Arabs to go as far as Tekoa. In one of them is a large cistern, supplied, probably, by filtration through the rock above. The largest chamber has an arched roof with numerous recesses in the sides, reminding visitors of a gothic cathedral. Here David, living in the midst of his own clan, would be promptly warned of the approach of danger, and could easily receive supplies of food. The summit of the hill above commands a view of the whole surrounding dis- trict, so that the movements ENTRANCE TO CAVE OF ADULLAM. of his enemies could be watched in every direction. His familiarity with the wild glens and strongholds of the district, gained whilst keeping his father's sheep, would prove an immense advantage in flying from his pursuers. And the proximity to Moab secured for him a safe retreat if hard pressed. In Moab, too, he found friends and relatives, in virtue of his descent from “Ruth the Moabitess," to whom he committed his parents when they were exposed to danger from the vindictive fury of Saul." The phrase that “his brethren and all his father's house went down thither unto him,” which at first suggests a difficulty, from the fact that the cave is high up on the mountain-side, finds an easy explanation as we observe that from Bethlehem they must first descend into the Wady Urtas and wind along down the ravine. In the references to this cave, as everywhere in Scripture, the narrative is in such exact and minute agreement with the topography of the district that it could only have been written by an eye-witness. It was whilst hiding here with his wild and outlawed followers that the touching incident occurred of his longing for the “water of the well of Bethlehem, that is at the gate." The worn and weary fugitive who compares himself to “a partridge hunted upon the mountains,” goes back to the peaceful happy days of his shepherd life. He remembers the time when, leading his flocks homeward in the evening after a day of sultry heat on the mountain-side, he had quenched his thirst at the familiar well, just as we had seen the shepherds doing on the same spot. Were ever days so happy! Was ever water so sweet! The “three mighty ones,” eager to gratify the faintest wish of their beloved chief, break through the beleaguering host of the Philistines, draw the water from the well, and return. The hero, reproaching himself for his selfish wish, that had “put in jeopardy the lives of these men," refuses to drink thereof, and pours it out for “a drink-offering to the Lord.”
* I Sam. xxii. 3, 4. * Ibid. ver. I.
Only once again does the name of Bethlehem occur in Old Testament history. The reference, though slight and incidental, has an important bearing on the site of the |- Nativity. When David was flying CAVE OF ADULLAM. from his rebellious son Absalom into the region beyond the Jordan, amongst those who showed kindness to the “dim discrowned king" was Barzillai the Gileadite. When the rebellion had been crushed, and the king was about to return to his own land, Barzillai accompanied him across the Jordan. The grateful monarch invited the old man to go up with him to Jerusalem as his guest. Barzillai declined the honour, pleading his advanced age, his growing
* I Chron. xi. 16-19. * I Sam. xxvi. 20. We saw and heard large numbers of the desert partridge, with its reddish legs and beak, and its sides striped with white, black, and brown, on these very mountains. * 2 Sam. xvii. 27–29.