« PreviousContinue »
ing point of its earlier magnificence under the reign the famine-stricken people pining on the walls, or of Ahab, though being, from the first, one of “the walking like skeletons on the streets. And we thrones of wickedness,” it was a hollow and short had but yesterday seen, outside the gates of lived greatness; for, as Isaiah had also foretold, “its Sychar, such lepers as might have gone out from glorious beauty was as a fading flower, and as the gates of Samaria, so long ago, into the forthe hasty fruit before summer.” At the insti- saken camp, and, after satiating their own hunga, gation of Jezebel, his Zidonian princess, Ahab have carried back the news of abundance and life . erected a temple to Baal, and richly endowed a which, in a moment, turned despair into jubilie. numerous retinue of idol-priests; and this was But the reformations were partial, and the defollowed by the rearing of an ivory palace for generacy persistent and deep. Next to its aposhimself and his imperious queen. It is doubtful tasy to false gods, it is evident, from many a whether the baleful influence of this woman upon scathing reference in the prophets, that its besetAhab and the fortunes of his kingdom has usually ting crime was drunkenness; and this was 2850 been measured at its full extent. That she was ciated with those other crimes of oppression, a woman of "unconquerable will and immortal bloodshed, and robbery, which are the marks hate” like Lady Macbeth, that she was volup- a people that are ripening for the sickle of Divine; tuous and vain of her charms like Cleopatra, judgment, and whose cup of iniquity is nearly and that in the use of her powers she turned her full. There is scarcely a bolder passage
in all weak and wicked husband into the veriest slave the ancient prophets than that in the Book of of her ambition, is seen by every one.
Amos, in which the very heathen are summoned doubt whether it is generally seen that her malign from the distant Philistine Ashdod, and eren dominion marked a fatal stage of transition on from Egypt, told to take their post of observatio the part of Ahab's people from the impure wor- on the neighbouring mountains, and to bear witship of the true God to the worship of false gods, ness to the daring wickedness practised by tbord from superstition to idolatry, from rebellion to who had once claimed to be the people of God. apostasy. It is only in this view that we read “Publish in the palaces at Ashdod, and in the aright those words in which the inspired pen palaces in the land of Egypt, and say, Assemble places a double brand over Ahab's name. “There yourselves upon the mountains of Samaria, and was none like unto Ahab which did sell himself behold the great tumults in the midst theredi
, to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, and the oppressions in the midst thereof. Fe whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did they know not to do right, saith the Lord, the very abominably in following idols, according to store up violence and pillage in their palaces all things as did the Amorites."
The long-threatened retribution came at lat Even after this, indeed, when there were gleams Samaria was besieged, her temples and palace of penitence and partial reformation, there seemed levelled to the dust, and her people, with me a merciful reluctance to give the people over to the around their necks and bound together in gans will of their enemies——“How shall I give thee up, like slaves, borne away into a remote captivity Ephraim ?”-as when, after the three years of siege from which they never returned. by Benhadad, the Syrian king, they were reduced Eight hundred years afterwards, Samaria 42 to the last terrible extremity of famine, and by rebuilt, and recovered a temporary splendor a miraculous interposition, according to Elisha's under Herod, commonly called the Great. That almost incredible words, they passed from gaunt cruel and crafty Idumean had an artist's eye, and hunger to overflowing plenty in a day. We ob- was a man of magnificent schemes, and seeing tained a new impression of that most dramatic what a noble site the place offered, built picture which the inspired writer has given us of palatial city rich in architecture, whose chied the famine in Samaria, when we looked round ornament was a temple in honour of bis patron on the contiguous mountains and imagined them Augustus. In this favourite city be lived in covered by Benhadad's soldiers, who could look wicked splendour, delighting in song, and festival
, down from those heights into the city and see and riot, and in the dance of the wanton woman.
But its meretricious glory almost vanished with | ruins that it was past noon before we were again himself. There is no Samaria now. Hanging on on horseback, and it now became evident that the eastern brow of the hill, every part of which our route for the day must be greatly shortened. was once covered with the city, there is a miser- As we proceeded along the narrow valley which able Arab mud-village of about sixty houses, the led northward from Samaria, we more than ever only redeeming feature in which is a church built appreciated its admirably chosen position for reby the Crusaders over the reputed grave of John the sisting the approach of invading armies, and our Baptist. But nowhere else could we trace either imagination called up other companies that so house or inhabitant. We imagined that we could many thousand years before must have crowded see down in the valley the marks of what might those very glens. The myriads of Israelitish caponce have been Herod's royal garden, laid out in tives that were carried away in the last deplots, and with channels for irrigation. On one portation by Shalmaneser, when Samaria was part of the hill itself we followed with interest a made a ruin, must have been driven along long line of columns, a few of which were still these very defiles, weeping and lamenting, wrung standing, some broken, many prostrate on the by a worse than the bitterness of earth, and others half buried in the soil or hidden death. “ Weep ye not for the dead, neither in the rank grass; and these are not improbably bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth the remains of a magnificent colonnade that away: for he shall return no more, nor see his lined on either side the principal street of Herod's native country.” city, that led up to the temple of the Cæsar, To-day we were especially tantalized by passing such as we saw a few weeks afterwards in one of near to places rich in scriptural associations, whose the oldest streets of Damascus. But this was all very names had a fascination in them, but which that remained of what had once been Samaria. we were constrained to leave unvisited. About Those words had been written by the prophet six miles to the eastward of our path was Tirzah, Vicah not only before the days of Herod, but the rural residence of the earlier kings of Israel, while Israel was still a kingdom and Samaria its proverbial for its beauty, and the emblem of the capital: “Therefore will I make Samaria as an Church even in the days of Solomon,—“Thou beap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah.” Beautiful and I will pour down the stones thereof into the even now as it rises from the midst of corn-fields Falley, and I will discover the foundations there- and fragrant gardens, and looks down as from a l of." We confess to our having been startled queenly throne upon scenes of verdure that de
when we read those ancient prophetic words, and scend to the Jordan's wave. That large mound I saw with what minuteness they had photographed of ruins, again, to the westward, surrounded by the living picture that lay before us. The fea- a little circlet of hills, with a lively fountain near tures were complete in their correspondence in it pouring out its waters and making the grassy every part. The upper portion of the mountain plot around it so beautifully green, is Dothan, is rudely terraced by stones which had evidently one of the favourite pasture-grounds of Jacob's been taken from the walls and foundations of the sons—the spot where Joseph was first cast by his ancient city, and the intervening spaces are occu- brethren into the pit, and afterwards taken up pied by narrow corn-fields, or strips of garden, and sold to the travelling merchants from Gilead. from which the vine is not absent. The earth How every feature harmonizes to this day with bas been carefully ploughed or dug up in every the old immortal story! Old Jacob and his sons place; and those stones which have not been must have had a good eye for choice grazingned for terraces are either gathered together in fields, as that lingering verdure around the old heaps, or tumbled down into the valley far be- “Telli' sufficiently proves. There are many natural neath, where we could see them “in multitudes pits, too, and empty cisterns around the spot, in confusedly hurled,” like boulders left after the which envious sons might still dispose of a brother sweep and fury of an inundation.
against whom jealousy had made them more cruel We had lingered so long among these historic | than the grave; nor is it less noticeable that the
caravan road from Gilead down to Egypt winds and level ground of the now rapidly expanding past those ruins still.
valley. We were surprised to meet a company of Many a century afterwards, Dothan became the Turkish cavalry, some hundreds in number, travelresidence of the prophet Elisha. In the quaint
In the quaint ling southward in military order. They were a words of an old historian, he became “the pick- sort of mounted police, with vaguely defined
lock of the cabinet council" of the king of Syria, powers, ready to inflict prompt punishment upon and being able to reveal his most hidden designs offenders without troubling themselves with the to the Israelitish king, made it easy for him to formalities of legal proceedings, and especially inanticipate and baffle all his movements.
tended to be a terror to Bedouin evil-doers. was sent by night to surround Dothan and seize Gradually one mountain after another rose up the person of the patriot-seer, so that when the
before us. Nearest us was Gilboa, the scene of prophet's servant looked out in the morning, he Saul's last conflict with the Philistine hosts, and saw, to his dismay, the whole city encompassed of his own and Jonathan's tragic death, where "the by Syrian chariots and horsemen.
“ Fear not,”
shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, the said the prophet to his terrified attendant, " for shield of him that had been anointed with oil." they that be with us are greater than they that The literature of antiquity boasts no elegy so be with them." Immediately, in answer to magnanimous and tender as that of David over Elisha's prayer, his servant's eyes were opened to the fallen king and the nobly chivalrous Jonatban, look into the spirit-world, and he beheld every emi- whose “ love to him had been wonderful, passing nence around Dothan covered with a fiery guard the love of women.” Gilboa was brown and of angels, with chariots of fire and horses of fire, parched, as if the curse of David still rested on the Heaven-sent protectors of the solitary man of it. “Let there be no dew, neither let there God. What a sacredness lingers over spots that rain upon you.” Little Hermon, rising about have been trodden by such visitants ! A little three miles beyond, was green to its summit, as before sunset our tents were pitched near to the if it were a pasture-ground for flocks. Further entrance of the vast plain of Esdraelon, not far to the north-east there came into view at length from Jenin, the Engannim of Joshua's times, a the beautifully cone-shaped Tabor, not the true town even now of considerable size for modern scene of the Transfiguration—the haunt
this Palestine, whose minarets and domes we could day of wolves and panthers, thickly wooded to its see rising above the forest of olives and other summit; while in front of us, across the plain, trees, that helped to justify its old name as the there rose a range of Galilean hills, far up in the “fountain of gardens.”
bosom of which, somewhere, we knew was NazaIt was some hours after the lights were ex- reth. tinguished, and we had lain down on our little As we rode slowly onward we were able
take iron bed, before sleep came. The dogs in the in, almost at a glance, the whole of the magnifneighbouring town barked and bowled incessantly, cent plain of Esdraelon. From the shores of the and troops of jackals answered in hideous re- Mediterranean, where it is guarded on one side sponses further off, some of their cries too vividly by the noble promontory of Carmel, and on tbe reminding us of those of little children in distress. other by the less lofty headland of Akka, it esWhen they became silent our fancy grew active tends over a space of more than twenty miles ta in the darkness, and we imagined that we heard the banks of the Jordan, being separated into some of those foul creatures sniffing beneath the minor valleys by the mountains we have name! canvas of our tent, and burrowing away to effect as it approaches towards the river. Its average an entrance. But simple weariness at length width is between ten and twelve miles, the richlybrought rest, and we rose in the morning quite wooded range of Carmel, and the less bold mounrefreshed.
tains of Samaria, bounding it on the south, while It was delightfully exhilarating in the early on the north it is hemmed in by the green bilis, morning, when the air was yet fresh and cool, to of Galilee. It possesses an extraordinary natural canter along for miles on the comparatively smooth fertility, and is so level that every inch of it is as capable of culture as the plains of Lombardy. | of Tabor,” how many armies have met on those Ven competent to judge have declared that, if peaceful fields in deadly struggle, and the foamthis single plain were brought under the hand of ing Kishon swept away their slain to the seaskilled agriculture, it would yield grain enough to Philistine archers, Syrian horsemen, Midianites support the entire population within the present with their deadly javelins, Bedouins with their limits of the Holy Land. But at present not more quivering lances, Saracens with their crescentthan one-sixth of it is under even the rudest form ensigns, Crusaders with their red-cross banners. of cultivation, and the greater part of what looks The accomplished Dr. Clark scarcely exceeded so beautifully verdant when seen from a distance, the fact when he said that “warriors out of every is either the rank luxuriance of thistles and other nation which is under heaven have pitched their Feeds, or swampy ground, in which the stork de- tents in the plain of Esdraelon, and have beheld lights; though “that ancient river, the river Kishon," the various banners of their nations wet with the winds through it, and affords the means of natural dews of Tabor and Hermon." It is a circumdrainage all the way to the sea. We searched stance not without interest, that this plain is Fith our glass in all directions, and while here spoken of in the Apocalypse of John as the scene and there we could see a solitary mound of ruins of the last great decisive contest between the rising in the midst of that sea of verdure, we powers of good and evil; for the battle of Armacould not discover a single village or human habi- geddon is just the battle of “ Megiddo,” which is bation, except towards the east, at the base of the ancient name of the plain of Esdraelon. Is Tabor, or on the slopes of Little Hermon. We this name merely synıbolical? or is this very plain afterwards learned at Nazareth that a company
destined to become the actual field of one of those of European merchants at Beyrout had purchased battles which influence the history of the world, the entire plain from the Turkish Government for and which is to turn the balance on the side of £18,000, with the intention of developing its im- freedom, humanity, the rights of conscience, and mense resources in the employment of native | Christian truth ? industry. This is important even as a recogni- But here we are at Jezreel, which stands on a tion of the right of private propety in this spur of Gilboa that projects far into the plain. A miserably-governed country, and, if carried out lofty square tower and some twenty ruined houses
energy and prudence, it will be one of the are all that now remain of what was once the best means of education for the people, and will favourite regal residence of Ahab and his Pheniturn this spacious territory once more into a cian queen; for Eastern despots in those times, as arden of the Lord. But the native hands will in our own, took pride in building and multiplyteed to be guided by European heads, and the ing palaces. Of what wild riot and Heaven-defyželds will need to be strongly fenced and vigor- ing lasciviousness was this place, looking out susly protected against the bands of lawless Be- upon one of the grandest pictures of beauty and doain from across the Jordan, to whom plunder plenty in the world, for a time the scene! What and pillage are as the air they breathe.
bloody plots were conceived here, in the active But while this noble plain appears to have been brain of the woman Jezebel, against the prophets formed by a bounteous Heaven to be the granary and the saints of God! It is one of those places of a kingdom, how often has it been the chosen which teem only with associations of violence and battle-field of contending tribes and nations. Per- wickedness. Down on that level ground, stretchhaps there is no other place on earth that bas ing eastward, there may bave been the pleasureso often echoed the terrible shouts of war. From garden of Abab; and adjoining it, Naboth’s little the days of Barak and Deborah, three thousand patch of ground, a patrimony which had come Fears ago, when the war-chariots of Sisera swept down through six centuries from his fathers, and the plain, down to those of Kleber and Napoleon, which the sturdy citizen refused to yield up at in the end of the last century, when the Turks any price to the exacting despot, pettish as a were mown down in thousands by the artillery of spoiled child. On yonder spot, in Naboth's France, in what was proudly termed “the battle ground, Elijah may have confronted him when he
had come down to gloat over his new possession, bier, and given back to his grateful mother, who the price of innocent blood, and had made him can scarcely believe for joy. quail beneath the prediction of that dread Neme- We searched also for Endor, but it lay too far sis in which the punishment would be made to round to the north of Little Hermon to be visible bear the image of the sin, as face answereth to from our halting-place. We turned away, musing face in a glass. From such a watch-tower as this on Saul, whose midnight visit to that remote which overlooks the plain, the watchman may mountain village gave occasion to one of the have descried, coming up by the way from the most strangely dramatic scenes in Old Testament Jordan, amid the clouds of dust raised by his history. There are few men whose character is furious driving, the approach of Jehu, the avenger less worthy of imitation, and yet whose history is of God. And from a window in some tower like more instructive. Not incapable of virtuous imthis the painted Jezebel may have been flung, at pulses and generous affections, yet nursing the
, Jehu's command, by her crouching eunuchs, and passion of jealousy until it poisoned and embittered her mangled body dragged to the mound where his whole being; great in physical courage, but : the offal of the city was heaped together, to be without moral strength; with a keen consciou:torn and devoured by such mongrel dogs as we saw ness of moral debasement and divine abandonat that moment prowling among the ruins. There ment, becoming moody, melancholy, vindictive, is even a large pool at no great distance from the and yielding to ungovernable bursts of passion watch-tower, where Ahab's blood-stained chariot that carry him to the verge of madness; betaking may have been washed, and the dogs, according himself to superstition when he has cast of the to Elijah's prophecy, no word of which fell to the last influences of religion, and skulking away ground, have drank Ahab's blood.
across the mountain on the eve of his last battle We now began in good earnest to cross the to the cave of a sorceress, to obtain counsel, in bis plain for those grassy Galilean hills, which we knew extremity, through the tricks of necromaner. somewhere imprisoned Nazareth. It was a ride Yet, even at his worst and lowest, having somein which we found the advantage of trusting a thing of kingly dignity clinging to him, like the good deal to the sagacity of our horses, for the crown upon his head and the bracelet on his ground was in many places swampy and deceiving, arm, which were found the next day on his lifeand they knew far better where to obtain solid less body on the battle-ground of Mount Gilber. footing than we did. When we had got across We were consoled, however, for our not seeing and were a considerable way up the mountain, we Endor, by our soon after entering the beautifullyhalted, and began to search with our glasses for situated village of Shunem. The villagers looked Nain, for we knew by our map that it must be down upon us, as we passed along, with kindly somewhere not far off. Our eye rested on it at curiosity from the top of their mud-walls, and length, about three miles distant, hanging on the we were soon seated in a rich garden of lemon western side of the Little Hermon, not very far and orange-trees, and comfortably shaded from from its base, Our glass brought it very near, the noon-day sun, at our mid-day meal. They and with the little hamlet so distinctly before us, were hospitable villagers, contrasting favourab we could imagine the touching scene which has with the scowling men of Sychar. In a feti shed so imperishable an interest around the place: minutes, half the population of Shunem were the funeral-procession coming forth from the gate gathered round us; but their behaviour as exof Nain—the bier, with its shrouded but uncoffined cellent. We looked up to the loaded branch of a body, silently borne by a few men-weeping women lemon-tree immediately above our head, when a behind doing their best to comfort the widowed friendly Shunamite, guessing our wish, cut down mother of that only son—a smaller company,
the branch with one stroke of his sword and with Jesus at their head, meeting the congrega- made it fall at our feet, supplying a lemon or tion of mourners—the solemn, hopeful pause—the two to each of our party. A revolver, belonging
— word spoken by Jesus, which instantly leaps forth to one of our number, was handed round and into effect—the young man rising up from his explained to his fellow - villagers by one of the