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MOSQUE AT HEBRON.
city gate, evidently of great antiquity. It was here that he executed the murderers of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul. “And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and
hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.":
When the tribes of Israel came down to Hebron, and made David king
over all the land, the interest and importance of the city ceased. Only once again does it appear in history. Here Absalom came and raised the standard of revolt against his father, and “sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then shall ye say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron,”: The name does not occur in the New Testament, nor does our Lord appear to have visited it in the course of His ministry; but on the flight into Egypt, when Joseph “arose and took the young Child and His mother by night," they must have passed through the city and probably rested here on the first night of the journey.
Great and various as is the interest associated with Hebron, that interest culminates in the cave of Machpelah. Here lie the bodies of the three great patriarchs-Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with their wives - Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah. Mohammedan tradition affirms that the embalmed body of Joseph, likewise, rests here, and his cenotaph is in the mosque over the cave, with those of the other patriarchs."3
It is thus the most interesting Campo Santo in the world, and shares with Jerusalem the distinction of being regarded with reverence alike by Jews,
Christians, and Mohammedans. If it were possible for us to ascertain with certainty the sepulchre of our Lord, we should approach it with yet deeper feelings of awe and reverence, though He lay there only for thirty-six hours. But in seeking the place “where the Lord lay,” we have nothing to guide us but vague conjecture and dubious tradition. Here, however, the identification is absolute and beyond the reach of scepticism.
Guarded with superstitious care for more than three thousand years, we can feel complete confidence that “the Father of the faithful” and “the Friend of God” lies here with his sons. 1 2 Sam. XV. IC.
• Matt. ii. 14. • We learn from Gen. 1. 25, 26, Exod. xiii. 19, and Joshua xxiv. 32, that Joseph gave strict commands to his descendants that his body should be carried back into Canaan, that it was embalmed and placed in a coffin, that in the confusion of the flight out of Egypt his dying injunction was not forgotten, and that “the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor” (Joshua xxiv. 32). The Mohammedan tradition is that the mummy was afterwards removed to Machpelah. The ambiguous statement of Stephen (Acts vi. 16) seems to imply that though buried at Shechem he was yet laid in the sepulchre with Abraham. A passage in Josephus (Ant. ii. 8, 2) may bear the same meaning; and the spot pointed out as that of Joseph's tomb is in perfect accordance with this view, it being detached from that of the others at one corner of the mosque, as though the wall had been broken through at a later period than the previous interments, and after the main entrance into the cave had been finally closed up.
THE CAVE OF MICHPELA II.
The entrance to the cave appears to have been in the face of a projecting mass of rock-there are many such round Hebron—which rose in the field of Ephron the Hittite. The trees which bordered it' were probably co-extensive with the walls which now enclose the Haram of the Mosque. At a very early period, probably not later than the times of David or Solomon, an edifice was erected over the cave. The stones are of great size, with the characteristic Jewish bevel. Dr. Wilson measured one which was thirty-eight feet in length. The architecture is peculiar, being neither Saracenic nor Christian. A series of flat pilasters stand round the sides. From the main entrance a flight of stone steps runs up between the outer wall and the mosque. We thus rise from the bottom of the cliff, in the face of which was the entrance of the cave, up to the top. Into the cave itself no one is allowed to enter. Even the mosque is guarded with jealous care. No Jew or Christian had been permitted to set foot within it, until, after immense difficulty, permission was granted to the Prince of Wales and his suite in the year 1862. Within the last few years the severity of the restriction has been somewhat relaxed.
In the year 1873, I was allowed to go about halfway up the flight of steps outside the mosque, and to put my hand through a hole in the wall which I was told led into the cave. I was then led round the outside on to the roof, that I might look down through the lattice-work of a tower into the mosque. All, however, was perfectly dark, and I could see nothing. The locality of the shrines was pointed out to me, which agreed with the description given by Dean Stanley in the narrative of his visit with the Prince of Wales.
It is to Dean Stanley that we are indebted for our knowledge of the interior. He found the chapels or shrines of the patriarchs and their wives, arranged in order, over the places where the bodies were said to lie in the cave beneath. They stand as in the annexed plan.
As we turn away from the secret and mysterious cave, where lie the ashes of the illustrious dead, under the jealous care of their Arab guardians, hallowed memories and yet more
hallowed hopes suggest themselves.
The hushed silence of well-nigh four thousand years shall one day be broken, and He whɔ is “the resurrection and the life” shall call forth the sleepers from their resting-place of ages.
ARRANGEMENT OF TOMBS IN CAVE OF MACHIPELATI.
I Gen. xxiii. 17.
“What though the Moslem mosque be in the valley !
Over the Hebrews' grave!
Spring from their rocky bed." On the return from Hebron a slight detour by a road leading through vineyards brings us to a magnificent tree known as Abraham's Oak. Here, according to tradition, Abraham sat at the door of his tent, when he received the visit of the angels.' It is a stately Syrian oak, of the species known to the Arabs as Sindiân. Though of great age it is obviously later than the Christian era. Yet it well deserves a visit, not only for its great size and beauty, but as the last survivor of the grove of oaks which stood here in Patriarchal and Hebrew times, It measures twenty-three feet round the trunk, and its branches cover an area in one direction of fifty feet, and of ninety feet in another. Its situation answers admirably to the Biblical description of Mamre, being " before” or “over against ” Machpelah, whilst from the hill above it a view, already referred to," of the plain of Sodom is gained. Here, therefore, I should fix the site of Mamre rather than at Rhamet el Khulil (the Hill of the Friend), which stands some distance to the north.
PW t was a brilliant morning in early spring
we rode along the hill-side over the Wady Urtas from Solomon's Pools
to BETHLEHEM. The turf was vividly green, gemmed with innumerable flowers. Orchards of peach, apricot, and pomegranate with their white and scarlet blossoms, succeeded one another in an unbroken series along the valley. The conduit, which conducts the water from Solomon's Pools to Jerusalem, and which in ancient times supplied the Temple, was open in various places, and we could see the crystal stream flash past on its way to “make glad
the city of God.”: The Jebel Fureidis, a steep conical mountain, visible from almost every point in Southern Palestine, formed a striking object in the landscape,
“The little hills rejoice on every side; the pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.” Wherever we turn our eyes the words of the Psalmist are suggested as the aptest description of the scenery. It was easy to see where the Shepherd of Bethlehem drew the materials for his poetry.
Psa. xlvi. 4. It has been conjectured that the reference in the text is to the bringing of this very stream to Jerusalem. A river, in the common sense of the term, there could never have been in or near the city.
2 Psa. Ixv. 12, 13.