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Crossing the plain in a westerly direction, we reach, in about an hour, a wretched village of mud huts, dominated by a single ruinous tower. Its modern name is Er Riha. Near it was the site of the ancient GILGAL. Here the column of stones, taken from the bed of the Jordan, was piled; here the first camp in the promised land was pitched; here the covenant with God was renewed by the celebration of the passover and the circumcision of the people; here “the manna ceased" and “they did eat of the old corn of the land, unleavened cakes and parched corn on the selfsame day;” and here it was that “the Captain of the Lord's host,” with “a sword drawn in his hand,” appeared to Joshua to encourage him in the conflicts which yet awaited him. It is not to be wondered at that something of sanctity should attach to a spot hallowed with such memories and associations as these. Hence we find that the Tabernacle remained at Gilgal during the stormy period which followed till it was removed to its resting-place in Shiloh.” And in after ages the people still assembled to offer sacrifices on the spot so memorable in their history. As this was in a certain sense the cradle, if not the birth-place, of the national existence, we find that it was at Gilgal that Saul was made king," and that the men of Judah assembled to reinstate David upon the throne on his return from exile.” From the residence of Elijah and Elisha THE JORDAN, in Gilgal, and from the events which are FROM THE SEA of GALILEE To The DEAD seA. recorded to have happened there, it is clear that a school of the prophets continued to exist on the site of the ancient sanctuary down to a late period of the monarchy." The sad tendency to apostacy and idolatry which cast so deep a shadow over the history of the Jews, was specially manifest on this sacred spot, for we find Hosea and Amos singling out Gilgal for special censure and denunciation,” teaching that no sanctity of place, no hallowed memories, no
Joshua iv. v. * Ibid. xviii. I. * I Sam. x. 8. * Ibid. xi. 15. * 2 Sam. xix. 15. "See the various references to Gilgal in the Books of the Kings. * Hosea iv. 15; ix. 15; xii. II. Amos iv. 4; v. 5.
THE WEIGHBOURHOOD OF #ERICHO.
outward influences, can avail to check the corruptions of “an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.”
About half an hour after leaving Er Riha, we reach some mounds of crumbling debris at the foot of a range of barren precipitous mountains, which form the western boundary of the Jordan valley. It is the site of JERICHO. The soil around it is fertile as ever. Its fountains still pour forth streams over the “well watered” plain. Nowhere has the primaeval curse fallen more lightly. With the slightest effort on the part of man, the whole region would become a garden. But alas! it is a desolate waste. The Bedouin lead their flocks across the plain as did the patriarchs of old. But there is no other sign of human life. The groves of palm trees which once stretched for miles around the city and gave it its name, have disappeared. One solitary survivor lingered up to the year 1835, but this, too, has now perished. Nothing is left to break the depressing sense of solitude and desolation. The curse pronounced upon the doomed city still seems to linger amongst its ruins: “Cursed be the man before the Lord, that riseth up and buildeth this city of Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his first-born, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates thereof.”
Standing upon the mounds which mark the site of the ancient city, and looking eastward, we have immediately behind us the range of mountains and table-land, which stretching westward, as far as the plains of Sharon, formed the territory of Judah and Benjamin. Before us is the plain of the Jordan here at its widest. The long wall-like chain of the mountains of Moab bounds the view on the east. Numerous ravines, each of which is memorable in the wars of the Israelites, intersect the range. The vast plains which stretch northward and eastward afford splendid grazing ground, now as of yore, when the flocks and herds of the Midianites wandered over them, when “Gilead was a place for cattle” and the “oaks,” “the rams," and “the bulls of Bashan” were symbols of agricultural and pastoral wealth."
Looking across the valley, attention is arrested by the numerous conical hills rising from the flat table-land which is supported by the mountain chain. Many of these attain considerable height, not only from the plain below, but from the plateau on which they rest. Of these, one holds a conspicuous place in early Hebrew history. Balak, king of Moab, alarmed at the rapid and irresistible progress of the children of Israel, and despairing of checking their advance, sends across the Euphrates to bring thence the seer whose incantations may seduce or overcome the mighty God who had given them the victory. He knew not that—
“God is not a man that He should lie;
Heb. iii. i2. * Deut. xxxiv. 3; Judges i. 16; iii. 13. 2 Chron. xxviii. 15. * Joshua vi. 26. After the lapse of five centuries the curse was fulfilled, I Kings xvi. 34.
* Num. xxxii. I. Deut. xxxii. 14. Ps, xxii. 12. Ezek. xxxix. 18. Zech. xi. 2.
Hath He said, and shall He not do it?
He had brought the seer to the top of Pisgah, whence he might command a view of the encampment of Israel in the plain below and of the whole promised land. Vain are all sacrificial rites, all magical arts, all offers of wealth and power. He who was brought to curse can only bless, “And Balaam rose up and went to his place: and Balak also went his way.”
Yet again we find Israel encamped in the plains of Moab, on the eastern bank of the Jordan. Their forty years' wanderings are ended. They are now to go in and possess the good land. But their heroic leader is not to go before them. Though “a hundred and twenty years old, his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” He might, therefore, have looked forward to a further period of active service; at least he might have hoped to reap with his own hand the harvest for which he had toiled and waited so many weary years. But it was not to be. He must climb “the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho"—the very height upon which Balaam had stood. There “the Lord showed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.” Ignorance of the topography of Palestine has led many to conclude that this extended vision was physically impossible, to be accounted for only by miracle; or by the deniers of miracles, to be rejected as mythical and legendary. So far is this from being the case, that modern travellers, who have been permitted to
“Stand where Moses stood,
have described the scene in words which only fill up the outline of the inspired narrative. The whole extent of Palestine lies stretched out like a map from the snowy summit of Hermon on the north, to the Mediterranean on the west, and the granite peaks of Arabia on the south. Innumerable legends have gathered about the death of Moses on Nebo. The Talmud abounds with them. Josephus rises to true pathos and poetry as he describes its traditionary incidents. The Mohammedans have wild weird myths of the war which raged amongst the spirits of good and evil around his dying form, and they perform pilgrimages to his legendary tomb on the mountain just above Jericho. All we know is that “Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And He buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over