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Palestine.

BY THE REV. ANDREW THOMSON, D.D., F.R.S.E., EDINBURGH.

XIII.-SYCHAR.

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The marks of that which once had been.”

ARLY on the Sabbath morning, the mis- curses and blessings, and the many myriad voices

sionary El Karey was at our tents, responded at each awful pause with their loud ready to conduct us down to Sychar; it “Amen."

having been arranged that we should The two mountains approach nearer at this hold a religious service in the little chapel belong- part of the valley than at any other, being little ing to the Jewish and Arab Christians, of which he more than fifteen hundred feet apart at the base, was minister. It was a clean, airy, cheerful little though the distance rapidly increases as you place, with cushioned divans all round its walls, ascend. It was very remarkable how much their on which the native worshippers sat after their shape and contour corresponded to each other, own Oriental fashion. Worship was conducted almost forcing upon one the conjecture that they by an English clergyman who was one of our had once been united, and that some tremendous party; and this was followed by a sermon of convulsion of nature, the throes of young

earthmuch evangelical distinctness and fervour. It quake's birth,” had riven them in sunder. Nothing would be difficult to say how many denomina- that we had ever seen before in the natural world tions of Christians were represented in that little so vividly reminded us of Coleridge's well-worn company of eleven; but both the circumstances and the character of the worship made us much

“They stood aloof, the scars remaining, more alive to our unity than to our differences.

Like rocks that had been rent asunder:

A hollow sea now rolls between ; The consciousness of being surrounded by really

Yet neither frost, nor rain, nor thunder, hostile faiths, brings out in great force the senti

Shall wholly do away, I ween, ment of brotherhood.

We remained for some hours conversing with It is a stale objection, a good many centuries the missionary about his many difficulties and old, that the sides of the two mountains on which discouragements in this stronghold of Moham- the tribes were stationed were much too far apart medan fanaticism and nest of Jewish bigotry, for the voice of Joshua and the Levites to be with its veil apparently as thick as ever. By-and- audible by either half of the multitude ; and by, it was proposed that a portion of us should modern Rationalists have not been slow to assert walk down to the entrance of the gorge, and

that Joshua's narrative of this sublime transacspend an hour or two in reading and meditation tion is clearly chargeable with exaggeration and at Jacob's Well. But the morning had been

invention. But the rashness and invention are cloudy, and we were not far on our way when all on the side of the objectors. It might have the descending rain and the increasing wind been sufficient to satisfy a fairly candid mind, brought us to a halt. But we were arrested on a that the elastic atmosphere of an Eastern climate spot of great historic interest; for, in all likeli- causes it to transmit sound with a celerity and hood, we were in that very part of the valley distinctness that are sometimes astonishing. And, where, according to the charge left behind him by moreover, that the acoustic qualities of some Joses, Joshua, with the ark of the Lord before places, arising from their natural formation, have him, and having six of the tribes stationed on been known to produce effects in hearing that, the slopes of Ebal, and six stretching up the sides beforehand, were almost incredible. So that the of Gerizim, read aloud in the hearing of the im- wisdom of the witty Fuller did not desert him mense congregation the words of the law with its when he remarked that “the make and fashion

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of these mountains, picked out by God's provi- | law was chiselled out, and have expressed the dence for that purpose, might advantage much hope that these indestructible pillars, graven deep the articulate audibility of the Levites' voices.” and covered all over with their Hebrew charac

But we were able to test the matter by experi- ters, might one day yet be dug up from beneath ment, as other travellers had done before us. the soil of the dark mountain, after the burial Stationing two of our number in the centre of of so many thousand years—truth thus literthe valley and in the middle of a field of corn, ally “springing out of the earth.” While the one of our brethren ascended some distance up sacred story distinctly tells us that the pillars the sides of Ebal, while we clambered up among were covered over with plaster or cement, on the rocks of Gerizim ; it having been agreed which it is natural to suppose the law was written that the one should repeat a few of the curses, while it was yet soft; and then drying and hardenand the other a few of the blessings, without ing, the writing would continue for ages, though mentioning which of them he would select. not likely to survive the action of climate, or to And though a drizzling rain was falling, and the escape the Vandalism of man for so many thouwind blowing so hard that we could scarcely sand years. When this difficulty has been laid keep our Bibles open, we were not only heard to rest, the same class of men have been ready distinctly by the brethren in the valley, but by with another. What an incredible labour and each other from the respective mountains ; so length of time, they say, it must have cost to that, as we remember, we were able to name the write the whole of Deuteronomy on tablets of first of the curses that our friend had spoken from stone, or even on walls of cement!“ Where,” Ebal, as if he had intended a sly reference to some says an old writer, “shall they find, and how of those Rationalists whose assertions we were shall they fetch, stones in folio for so voluminous now reducing to experiment—"Cursed be he that a work ?” While nothing more

seems meant removeth his neighbour's landmark.” How many than the thirteen cursings with their opposite other of the historical objections of unbelief would blessings were inscribed on the cement; and pershrivel into ashes were they similarly put to the haps, along with these, the ten commandments, proof!

which the same quaint writer has happily termed But what a congregation must that have been ! “the breviate and abstract of the whole law." Perhaps half a million of people standing on How often do we mine too deep, as well as dig either mountain, especially if we include "the too near the surface, for the golden nugget of women, the little ones, and the strangers ;" each truth ! curse and blessing answered by a million voices, On returning to our encampment up among the with their consenting " Amens,” which rolled up olives, hoping that we should at length command the gorge like thunder, and awakened the echoes some solitude and Sabbath peace, we found ourfar and near.

If we except some of the scenes selves introduced into discomfort and vexation. connected with the giving of the law from Sinai, | The drizzling rain of the forenoon had not abated, nothing ever witnessed on earth can have exceeded and the breeze had increased to a gale. The canthis in sublimity.

vas of our tent turned out to be less water-proef Another direction was left behind by Moses to than a common umbrella, and not only the grassy Joshua : that, in addition to this solemn procla- foor beneath us, but even our beds, began to mation of the law with its associated curses and be soaked with rain. Heavy drops were every blessings, he should erect pillars somewhere on moment falling upon us from above, and we were Mount Ebal, on which the words of the law sitting with our feet in water. So thick had the should be inscribed ; as if to teach us that the gloom become, that the dark summits of the two hearing of the law was to be followed by the per- mountains, though so very near us, could not be manent and practical recollection of it. What

What were we to do? To have remained wasted ingenuity and conjecture some learned in the tent overnight would have been perilous men have expended on this simple fact! They to health, and even to life. And yet there was have imagined tall marble columns, on which the no certainty of accommodation in Sychar. A

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dry and sheltered cave on the sides of Ebal, had songs of innumerable birds, in which that of the it been offered us at that moment, would have been bulbul predominated, seemed to express in that gladly bailed. At length, when it was within early morning the earth's glad worship. We now an hour of evening, the welcome countenance of became fully alive to the truth of what had been the missionary once more appeared. We eagerly noticed regarding this Sychar region by Van de inquired, Was there no inn, or khan, or lodging- Velde and other travellers--that the extraordinary house, in which we could obtain refuge for the humidity which is the effect of so many rills and night? Nothing of the kind. Two persons might water-courses, produces more of those beautiful with difficulty be sheltered in the missionary's own atmospheric tints in which painters so much dehouse. This accommodation we at once yielded light, than we meet with in any other part of Paup to a physician and his wife, who were of our lestine. This forms one of the great charms of company, throwing out at the same time the the scenery of our own mountain-land, as any timid question whether, in our straits, some of us one must have noticed for himself who has lived might not be allowed to sleep overnight on the for a week in the neighbourhood of Ben Ledi or divans in the little chapel in which we had wor- of Ben Macdhui, or amid the exquisite lake scenery shipped in the morning. Yes; those of us who of Cumberland. The vapoury atmosphere, when

, chose, might. Along with the friend who occu- sunlit, softens and glorifies everything, and gives pied the same tent with us, we gratefully accepted us ten different pictures out of one object. The the asylum ; the others remained behind, either want of this is one chief defect of hot and troexpecting the storm to abate, or that, with better pical regions, and it is this which we generally tents and more sheltered positions than our own,

miss in the Holy Land. “Fiery tints,” it is rethey would be able to brave it out. The watch-marked, “are to be seen both in the morning and men were just proceeding to shut the gate of the evening, and glittering violet or purple-coloured Sychar when we entered it. A broad and rapid hues where the light falls next to the long deep stream was flowing down its principal street; by shadows; but there is an absence of colouring, no means an unmixed evil, for it would be a most and of that charming dusky haze in which obefficient scavenger, sweeping away before it the jects assume such softly - blended forms, and in 6th and offal of many weeks. Sheltered at length which also the transition in colour from the forein that little house of prayer, we did not hear the ground to the furthest distance loses the hardfaintest whisper of the storm; and in a short ness of outline peculiar to the perfect transparency time we were locked in one of the most refresh- of an Eastern sky." But this charming valley ing sleeps we enjoyed in Palestine. We returned reserves an exhaustless beauty for the painter's to our encampment early on the following morn- eye, and presents all the softly-blending hues of ing, to learn how much suffering we had escaped. a picture in our Scottish Highlands or in SwitzerCanvas had been torn to shreds, tent-poles had | land. been broken, lights and fires had been extin- And now, as we look down upon Sychar, more guished. Some had sat for hours in thick dark- than half concealed amid its blossoming gardens, ness up to their ankles in water, and longing for how many Biblical memories cluster around it ! the break of day. In some the seeds of maladies No town in Palestine exceeds it in this respect, were sown that night, from which they are suf- except Jerusalem. Its original name of Shechem, fering to this hour.

passing into Sychar in the New Testament, runs It was a lovely morning, and all nature seemed through the whole period of the four thousand refreshed and cheerful, after the universal baptism / years included in the inspired narratives. It was of yesterday. We could see, far down beneath here that Abraham first pitched his tent before us, the glancing of the full bright streams, as the oaks of Moreh. It became the favourite they rushed through the gardens of walnut and pasture-ground of Jacob, a “right of common ” mulberry, of orange and fig, and pomegranate. having been acquired by the purchase of that parcel

. The mingled fragrance of those many trees came of land for a sepulchre, in which the bones of up upon us like a heavenly incense; and the l Joseph, so many centuries afterwards, found their

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last resting-place. When the Israelites had crossed narratives that the Samaritans paid back the the Jordan, and begun that course of conquest in bitter grudge with interest. The inspired notices which Jehovah Himself was their invincible close with the memorable conversation of our Leader, the neighbouring mountains of Ebal and Lord with the woman of Sychar at the neighGerizim became a second Sinai, where the law bouring Jacob's Well, in which he spoke to her was solemnly republished to the assembled tribes. immortal truths which added largely to those Here Abimelech, during the turbulent period of which had been echoed so long ago by the million the Judges, after having slain his seventy breth- voices from Ebal and Gerizim, and sent her up ren, set up an independent sovereignty; and from the valley with her newly-kindled torch to enthe neighbouring height, the young and nimble lighten many other hearts in Sychar: though Jotham spoke to the fickle people the most pic- many think that this same “ city of Samaria" oras turesque of Old Testament parables—that of the the true scene of the later religious awakeniug trees choosing a king, which cast ridicule upon described in the Acts of the Apostles of which Abimelech's unfitness, and foretold the people's the evangelist Philip was the ruling spirit. One punishment through the vile object of their choice. thing is certain, that Sychar was extensively ChrisThis was the spot where the foolish Rehoboam tianized in the first ages of our religion ; and only was proclaimed and crowned King of Israel, after eighty years after Christ, it became the birth-place the death of Solomon; and where, soon after, and chosen home of Justin Martyr, one of the best when the kingdom was dismembered through his of the early Christian fathers. At the same time, infatuated rashness, Jeroboam was made king of the peculiar distinction that clings to Sychar is the ten revolted tribes, and chose this as his that from the days of Nehemiah downwards it capital, though the honour was soon shared by has been the centre and stronghold of the SamariTirzah, and not long after absorbed by Samaria. tan worship; that the Samaritan race and sect, Centuries intervened, and at length the greater extinct in every other region and city of the part of the inhabitants of the northern kingdom world, continue to have their priesthood, their were carried away by the Assyrians into hopeless ritual, and their synagogue here ; and that, in all captivity. Colonists sent from Assyria came and likelihood, animal sacrifices have been offered with filled their places, and intermixing with the glean- longer continuance and in more unbroken suoings of the Israelitish population that had been cession on the summit of its mount Gerizim than allowed to linger in the land, formed a mongrel on any other spot on the earth.

7 race with a mongrel religion, partly idolatrous and It was with no little interest that we propartly Jewish. When the people of the southern ceeded to explore this ancient town; and kingdom came back from their later and tem- especially to visit the Samaritan high-priest in 47 porary exile, and proceeded to rebuild their his own house, for we were curious to see someTemple at Jerusalem, these Samaritans offered to thing of the domestic life of so remarkable a share with them in the work; but were rejected, people. Sychar consists of two long streets, both from suspicion of the purity of their designs, which run in the line of the valley; and these and also because they did not belong to the chosen are intersected by a considerable number of nation. This led to the erection of a rival temple cross streets. In many places the upper stories on the summit of the neighbouring Gerizim, and supported on pillars, project so far on both to the institution of a rival worship in imitation sides as to form an arcade, which serves to of that of the Jewish Temple, in which disaffected protect the passengers from the sun's rays, aud and runaway priests assisted. Hatreds and ani- which is also found useful in times of turbulenca mosities between the two communities were the and war. There are bazaars for the sale of prů consequence of all this. These extended and visions and cloth, the former being open

and became more embittered with the lapse of ages ;

the latter covered. Two things particularly struck so that when Christ appeared, the Jews refused us as we wandered through the odd-looking streets to the Samaritan schismatics the most common One of these was, that while Sychar is so very civilities, and there is evidence from the gospel | ancient, it presents very few remains of antiquity.

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No doubt there are plenty of broken pillars built 150: the rest are Mohammedans. These are al into modern houses, sarcophagi used as troughs fierce and fanatical race, insolent and overbearing for fountains, and traces here and there of old to every sect but their own; usually on the verge Saracenic ornaments.

But we saw

no entire

of insurrection, often in actual conflict with the structure that we could call ancient; at least, weak and vacillating Turkish power that rules according to the Eastern standard of antiquity. them, and only peaceful when they feel the Frequent revolutions and insurrections, we sus- strong grip of such an iron hand as that of Ibrapect, have made rough work of the older past him Pasha. The other circumstance was that we could see no As we looked up from the open streets and tinoccupied spaces in Sychar, unless we except saw portions of the town creeping up into quiet the rich gardens which abound within its gates, and shady nooks of the mountain, we could mark and whose lovely trees frequently overtop even the exceeding accuracy of the description by its loftiest minarets. The reason is, that it is Josephus that “Gerizim hangeth over Shechem." a busy, growing place, the chief manufacturing It must have been from such an overhanging town in Palestine. From its locality, it flourishes eminence as that before us that Jotham delivered almost in spite of itself. Its soap manufactures his memorable parable of the trees meeting toare old and extensive; its cotton-cloth weaving gether to elect a king, and at length choosing the is not despicable ; and, above all, its manufacture useless and prickly bramble-emblem of the of olive oil employs a large part of its population. usurping Abimelech, who affected honours for This accounts for the multitude of olive-gardens which he was not qualified, and became a source which we had seen around so many of the vil- of misery and ruin to those who had raised so vile lages as we had journeyed northward, and for so a person to his pride of place. It is said that many others which we were yet to pass. The Jotham, when he uttered his parable to the olive-berries when ripe are carefully shaken from eagerly listening multitudes in the city beneath, the trees, brought to Sychar by the little farmers “ lifted up his voice and cried.”

And did any on nimble donkeys, and sold to the oil mer- one doubt the possibility of a person speaking chants, who have usually a ready market for all with a loud and distinct voice being heard from that can be brought. Then this Sychar valley is such an eminence by those beneath, the probthe gateway by which goods from the ports of lem has been solved by the well-authenticated Jaffa and Beyrout pass to the transjordanic regions ; | fact that from that very height soldiers, on one and by which, again, travelling merchants from occasion in later times, addressed the people in the East come with their peculiar products to the the city, and succeeded in instigating them to markets and sea-ports of the West.

It was no

insurrection. The place was very skilfully chosen unlikely thing that at that very moment, hidden by Jotham ; for while his parable could be heard among those trees hard by, there might be a by the citizens, those who were irritated by it caravan of Ishmaelitish merchants, with their when its drift and meaning came at last to be camels and mules laden with spices and gums, seen, would need to make a long circuit before with ornainents of gold and silver from Damas- they could reach the spot where he was, and he cus, or even with shawls and silks from the more would have abundance of time to flee and escape, distant Bagdad, passing on to the land of the as we know he did. Pyramids, who would have had no objection to It deserves to be noticed that all the trees buy another Joseph, and to sell him as a slave to introduced by Jotham into his parable abound in the wife of some modern Potiphar in Egypt. this region at the present hour, as we found on

The estimates we received of the population of climbing Mount Gerizim at a later part of the Sychar were exceedingly varied; but could an day : the olive, the fig, the vine, and the bramble accurate census be taken, we should not be sur- also, in troublesome abundance, so that another Irised to find that it exceeded 10,000. Of these Jotham speaking in these days would not need the Jews are probably not above 50 ; the Greek to alter a single image in his picture. And the and other Christians, 100; and the Samaritans, further fact is surely not without interest, that at

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