« הקודםהמשך »
THE FRONTIERS OF PHILISTIA.
stands, two thousand six hundred feet above the level of the sea. Up to the time of David the whole maritime plain over which we have been riding was held by the Philistines. The defiles and passes we are about to enter formed the marches--the debatable ground, the possession of which was contested inch by inch during successive generations. A little to the north of us stood the city of Ekron, whither the Ark of God was brought from Ashdod. We can trace the path by which the milch-kine, yoked to the new
on which the Ark was laid, left their calves behind them and " went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after them unto the border of Beth-shemesh. And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping their wheat harvest in the valley: and they lifted up their eyes, and saw the Ark, and rejoiced to see it.": The names of Ekron and Bethshemesh are easily identified in Akir and Ain-shems. As we saw the green slopes of the hills with their fields of wheat and barley, and the labourers in the busy light of the declining sun, it was easy to realise the whole scene. Tracing the history step by step and noting how the localities exactly fell into the requirements of the narrative, it was impossible not to be struck by the precise accordance of the one with the other. The land and the book formed a perfect illustration of one another.
Two traditional sites are now passed-El Latron, the name of which is said to be derived from its having been the abode of the penitent thief, and Amwâs, the ancient Nicopolis, long regarded as the EMMAUS of the New Testament. Though the identity of the latter site was for a thousand years unquestioned, and has recently been reasserted by the high authority of Dr. Robinson, it seems to me to be quite untenable. Its distance from Jerusalem is too great. The evangelist fixes it at "three score furlongs;" Amwâs is a hundred and sixty. Robinson assumes an error in the MSS., for which there is no authority; nor is it credible that the disciples should
have visited Jesusalem and returned hither in the same day, as the narrative requires, making a distance of forty miles.
Just as the sun was setting we found ourselves on the summit of a hill. Below us was a tangle and labyrinth of valleys running one into another. On the opposite hill the sun was resting before he “hasted to go down."
Our camp was pitched on the edge of a brook in the bottom of the valley where mists and shadows were already gathering thick and heavy. It was the VALLEY OF AJALON, where Joshua commanded the sun to stand still. Again the topography illustrated and confirmed the narrative. Joshua,
encamped at Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan, received intelligence that five kings of the Amorites had attacked the Gibeonites with whom he had just before made an alliance,' and who demanded instant succour.
« Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly and save us and help
Though only just before the army had required three days to reach the city,” Joshua at once ordered a forced march which he accomplished in the course of a single night. He found the Amorites besieging Gibeon, the site of which is marked by the village of Geeb, some distance to the north-east
THE VALLEY OF AJALON AND KIRJATH-JEARIM.
of where we stand. Taken by surprise at this sudden and unlooked-for attack, they were “discomfited,” “ slain with a great slaughter,” and “chased along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon,” now, Beit ’Ur el-Foka, Bethhoron the upper, on the summit of a hill looking over the plain of Sharon. Here they seem to have made a stand, but were driven down the steep rocky declivity leading to the lower Beth-horon, now Beit ’Ur et-Tahta, at the foot of the ravine. As in wild panic they were rushing down the precipitous descent, a hailstorm, perhaps, accompanied by a fall of meteoric stones, added to their confusion and dismay. Slipping and falling from rock to rock, the discomfited host endeavoured to escape along the valleys below us, hotly pursued by the victorious army.
The kings took refuge in a cave, the entrance to which was blocked up by the pursuers who still pressed on after the flying foe. The sun had reached his meridian and stood over Gibeon, the pale crescent moon over Ajalon. Will the shades of evening close upon them when the victory is incomplete, giving opportunity to the Amorites to escape among the defiles which run in every direction, or to rally in the darkness ? “Then spake Joshua to the Lord . . . and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies.” The victory was complete; the kings were brought out from the hiding-place and slain.
· And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp at Gilgal.”
Soon after leaving the valley of Ajalon we reach the village of Kuryetel-enab, better known at the present day as Abu-Gosh, from the robber chief who for nearly a quarter of a century kept the Turkish power at bay, and levied blackmail on the whole district. It is identified with tolerable certainty as the ancient KIRJATH-JEARIM (the city of forests), though the forests from which it took its name have long since disappeared. Originally a city of the Gibeonites," it subsequently became one of the border towns marking the frontier between Judah and Benjamin. It is in consequence frequently mentioned in the mapping out and allotment of the land by Joshua.3 The accuracy of what has been well called “The Doomsday Book of the Israelites” is shown by the fact that these ancient records still afford invaluable aid in settling the topography of Palestine. At Kirjath-Jearim the Ark rested for twenty years after being recovered from the hands of the Philistines and before its removal to Jerusalem by David. It was in this “city of forests” that the royal psalmist found it in “ the fields of the wood” and brought it with songs of praise to the place he had prepared for its reception. It was very interesting to read the narrative of the bringing hither of the Ark and compare it with the surrounding scenery. “And the men of Kirjath-Jearim came, and fetched up the Ark
| Joshua x. 8-27. See Stanley's 'Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 208–212. • Ibid. ix, 17 ; xv. 9, 60; xviii. 14, 15, 28. • 1 Sam. vi, 21 ; vii. I, 2.
2 Ibid. ix. 17. 1 Chron, xiii. 5. Psalm cxxxii. 6.