תמונות בעמוד

few of them still bear their ancient names. A concordance or a reference. Bible will show what an affluence of historical associations lie all around us ; Ai, the scene of Joshua's first great battle ; Migron, where the army of Saul encamped in his campaign against the Philistines; Michmash, the scene of Jonathan's heroic exploit; Ramah, the home of Samuel ; Gibeah, the birth-place of Saul; Gallim and Laish, the abode of Phalti the husband of Michal, when torn away from David; A and Nob, where, in the house of Ahimelech the priest, the sword of Goliath was laid up, and the shew-bread was placed before the Lord, of which David “ did eat when he was an hungered, and they that were with him.”




[graphic][merged small][merged small][subsumed][merged small]

Apart from its historical associations, there is little to interest us in the 1 district through which we pass. A bleak, wind-swept, rock-strewn moor or a series of rounded hills, where the grey limestone comes up to the surface, with only a few patches of meagre vegetation on the shallow soil, make up the scene. There is, however, one steep conical hill rising above the others, which arrests attention. Like the Jebel Fureidis near Bethlehem, it is conspicuous from every direction. Its modern name, Neby Samwil — The TOMB OF SAMUEL-embalms the memory of the prophet, who here judged Israel. With very strong probability it is identified with Mizpeh, i.e., the


Watch-tower, a name exactly appropriate to this lofty eminence, from which a view is gained over the whole of Southern Palestine. Here the prophet summoned Israel to war against their oppressors, or convened them for judgment; here “he took a stone and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Eben-eser, saying, Hitherto hath the Lord helped us ;” and here was heard, for the first time, the cry of devout loyalty, so often repeated since, “ God save the king.";

About two hours after leaving Jerusalem, we reach a small town, Bireh, the Beeroth of the Gibeonites,” but which has a deeper interest from its connection with the life of our Lord. It was the first stage for the pilgrims returning northward from Jerusalem, where they halted for the night. The stragglers who had lingered in the city here rejoined their companions and resumed their journey to Galilee on the following morning. The Child Jesus having tarried behind in Jerusalem, “ Joseph and His mother knew not of it. But they, supposing Him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought Him amongst their kinsfolk and acquaintance, And when they found Him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him.";

A little to the north-west of Beeroth, we approach an Arab village, standing on the ridge of a hill with a valley on either side. To the eastward the ridge rises considerably, giving an extensive view over the Jordan valley. A desolate moorland, strewn with ruins, stretches away to the north. As we enter the village, the first of the wretched and squalid houses which comprise it, makes some pretension to architectural decorations in a form not uncommon through central Palestine-over the doorway a couple of willow-pattern plates are let into the wall! The modern name, Beitîn, is but a reminiscence of its ancient and venerable one, BETHEL. But except the name, there is little to remind us that we are on a spot so memorable in Jewish history. A large reservoir, similar to those at Solomon's Pools and Hebron,-three hundred and fourteen feet long by two hundred and seventeen wide-constructed of massive Jewish masonry, may not improbably go back to a very early period. It is now empty, except after heavy rains; but it was formerly filled by the springs at which Abram watered his flocks and herds when, entering the land of Canaan, “he pitched his tent, having Beth-el on the west, and Hai on the cast: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord."*

The patriarch after his journey into Egypt returned “unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Beth-el and Hai; unto the place of the altar, which he had made there at the first : and there Abram called on the name of the Lord,” for wherever he pitched his tent there he built an altar- an example to all future ages of household piety and domestic worship. It was here and now that the strite occurred between




[merged small][ocr errors]

- -his herdsmen and those of his nephew Lot. Standing on the high ground

ready spoken of, the younger man "lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered cverywhere ... even as the garden of the Lord ... then Lot chose him all the plain of Jordan ; and Lot journeyed east : and they separated themselves the one from the other." As one contrasts the barren rocky hills around us with the rich and fertile plain of Sodom, the self-denial of "the Father of the faithful” becomes very striking and instructive. A new meaning is thus given to the promise ! which followed upon the choice of Abram ; “ And the Lord said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward : for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever . . . Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee.”: The blessing which thus came upon “faithful Abraham,” will surely be inherited by all who, like him, are content to forego present advantages in the service and at the call of God.

Of the city which once stood upon this site scarcely any trace remains. A careful examination of the ruins of a Christian church, probably of the date of the Crusades, shows that it has been built out of an older edifice. The size of many of the stones and the peculiar bevel on the edge shows that the original edifice was Jewish.

The foundations of other ancient structures may be traced on the hill-side, and near its summit are the remains of a tower which still rises to a considerable height. Nothing has yet been discovered to fix the site of the temple which Jeroboam built here to rival that at Jerusalem, or of the altar where, as he stood to offer incense, he was rebuked by the fearless prophet, followed by the withering of the monarch's arm, and the miraculous overthrow of the altar. A Jewish tradition tells us that the temple was so built that the idol-priests could look down upon that of Solomon on Mount Moriah. From the top of the tower this cannot now be done, but the Mount of Olives is distinctly visible almost to its base. Jerusalem is hidden by an intervening hill. I was told by my dragoman that a few years ago, before the upper courses of masonry had been removed, the temple platform could be seen, and it was evident that a very small addition to the height at which I stood would render this quite practicable.

It was somewhere in the rock-strewn moorland, which stretches around the city, that Jacob, travelling northward, a fugitive from his father's house at Beersheba, saw the mysterious vision, which formed the turning point in his career. Standing amongst these heaps of stones and sheets of smooth, bare rock, it is easy to realize the scene as “he tarried there all night, I because the sun was set ; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep." 3 1 Gen. xiii. 2 1 Kings xii. 26–33 ; xiii. 1-5.

3 Gen. xxviii. 10-19.

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]
« הקודםהמשך »