No Farm-houses

SAMARIA, the ancient capital of Israel, is seven and a half miles to
the northwest from Nablous, and 25 miles beyond, in the same direction,
is Cæsarea, on the Mediterranean coast. Intending to encamp that night
amid the ruins of the latter city, we ordered our horses at nine A.M.
At the appointed time their solid iron shoes were heard on the pavement
below, and the impatient Arab servant was crying, “Horses ready, sir.”
But we had met with an unexpected delay. Judging from the magnanimous
manner in which the schoolmaster of Nablous had received us at our
arrival, and his affable deportment during our stay, he seemed above
the tricks and meanness of other Orientals; but an Arab is an Arab
the world over――selfish, money-loving, and untrue, whether Christian,
Jew, or Moslem. Eastern hospitality always means an equivalent to be
returned for whatever has been received. Gifts are presented with the
tacit understanding that presents are to be given in return. Even the
merchant assures the buyer that all he has is his, well knowing that in
this unbounded generosity he is protected by the customs of the East,
which are invested with all the sanctity and authority of law. More
than once our host had said, “All I have is yours――my house, my food,
my service.” To the uninitiated this is equal to his ideal of Oriental
hospitality; but when the day of departure comes, the deceptive curtain
is lifted, and his Arab host stands before him a persistent creditor.
Having paid our host for his apartments and for the entertainment he
had furnished, I saw that he wore an expression of disappointment.
“What is the matter, my friend? Why is thy countenance sad, seeing thou
art not sick? It is nothing else but sorrow of heart.” “Ah! my dear sir,
you have paid me for my room, for my food, and for my service, but you
have not paid me for my politeness.” “How much do you charge for your
politeness?” A thoughtful moment followed, and he replied, “Two dollars
and a half.”[496]

Waving him an adieu, we sprang into our saddles, and in a few moments
issued out of the western portal of the city. Intending to visit
Cæsarea, which is now a desolation and a den of thieves, we had taken
the precaution to engage two Turkish soldiers as a guard, for whose
service the governor had demanded an exorbitant sum. They were to
have met us at the gate of the town, but, true to their traditional
indolence, they did not arrive till long after the appointed hour.
The sun was high, a long journey was before us, many places of deep
interest were to be visited, and we felt impatient at the delay. To
wait was the only remedy. At length one came, informing us that his
companion had lost his horse. Refusing to linger longer, we ordered
him to advance, leaving word with the guard at the gate to hasten the
tardy soldier, who overtook us after half an hour’s ride.

Our cavalcade now presented a picturesque appearance as we wound
round the southwestern spur of Gerizim and descended into the upper
end of the Vale of Shechem. Leading the way, our guard were mounted on
spirited horses fantastically caparisoned, while they themselves were
attired in costumes of the gayest colors. Each was armed with a long
gun thrown across the shoulders, a Turkish sword dangling by his side,
and a brace of old-fashioned cavalry pistols sticking in his girdle. As
we advanced the scenery became surpassingly lovely. Terraced hills rose
on either side, casting a grateful shade in the vale below; groves of
figs and olives, apples and pomegranates, apricots and almonds, covered
the plain and mountain sides. As we rode on, our ears were saluted with
the sound of running waters and the song of birds. In less than thirty
minutes we passed on our right a noble fountain, covered with a Roman
arch, around which were groups of peasants and droves of asses. An hour
beyond we came to an arched mill-race, not unlike a Roman aqueduct,
consisting of twelve pointed arches, gray with age and festooned with
graceful ferns. It is used for carrying the water to the south side
of the valley, where it falls headlong into the heart of an old mill,
amid the whirr of wheels, mingling an air of civilization with the
crude mechanics of the East. Leaving this terrestrial elysium, our
path diverged northward over bleak hills whose limestone ribs had
burst through the scanty soil, intensely reflecting the light and heat
of a Syrian sun. The path is cut into the solid rock, in some places
resembling steps, but now worn smooth by the tread of man and beast.
Near the summit of the ridge is the “Shepherds’ Spring,” where maidens
were drawing water for their flocks. Now the royal city of Samaria
rose to view. Its unique hill, like a truncated cone, adorned with
circular terraces; its marble porticoes, now in ruins; and its hut-like
dwellings, rising from amid the remains of more pretentious edifices,
formed a picture of singular beauty. Descending through magnificent
groves, the path followed the valley, and, after passing beneath an
old arched gateway, it abruptly turned to the west up the hill of the
Samaria of Omri, the Sebaste of Herod, and the Sebustieh of modern

The history of Samaria is among the most thrilling and romantic
portions of the Sacred Volume. It dates back to 900 years B.C. “In the
thirty and first year of Asa, king of Judah, began Omri to reign over
Israel, twelve years; six years reigned he in Tirzah. And he bought the
Hill of Samaria of Shemer for two talents of silver, and built on the
hill, and called the name of the city which he built after the name of
Shemer, owner of the Hill Samaria.”[497] Up to this time the revolted
ten tribes had no capital city as the object of their pride and the
centre of their affections. Originating in rebellion, the kingdom
of Israel had been governed by adventurers, who had reared sumptuous
palaces as fancy or luxury inclined. From Shechem, the original seat
of empire, Jeroboam removed to the enchanting Heights of Tirzah, a
magnificent mountain six miles north from Nablous, projecting from the
table-land of Ebal. Solomon had praised its beauty in his immortal song:
“Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah;”[498] and for forty years it
was the seat of royalty. Ambitious for an imperial city near Jerusalem,
Baasha, the successor of Jeroboam, abandoned Tirzah for Ramah; but,
overtaken by misfortune, he was compelled to return to the mountains of
Ephraim. More successful, however, than his predecessor, after a reign
of six years Omri finally exchanged Tirzah for the strength, wealth,
and glory of Samaria. Succeeding his father Omri to the throne of
Israel, and marrying the Sidonian Jezebel, Ahab removed his court to
Jezreel, on the slopes of Gilboa. To him belongs the shame of having
first erected an idol temple to Baal on the summit of Samaria, which
secured for him the divine verdict that “Ahab did more to provoke
the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that
were before him.”[499] The city was a tempting prize to the military
plunderers of that distant day. In the reign of Ahab, Benhadad, king of
Damascus, besieged it with a strong and boastful army, but, through the
courage and celerity of the young men of the provinces, he was repulsed
with terrible slaughter.[500] Long the residence of the Prophet Elisha,
Samaria was the scene of many of the most interesting events in his
marvelous career. Benhadad, regarding him the cause of the discomfiture
of his army, dispatched a detachment of troops to Dothan, six miles to
the north, to capture the man of God. Conscious of his danger, Elisha
invoked the divine aid, and the Lord smote the men with blindness, and
the prophet, whom they had been sent to capture, led them as captives
back to Samaria. Forgetting that mercy is due to the vanquished, the
king of Israel, in a paroxysm of revenge, cried out, “My father, shall
I smite them? shall I smite them?” More humane than his royal master,
the kind-hearted Elisha replied, “Thou shalt not smite them: wouldst
thou smite them whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with
thy bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink,
and go to their master.”[501] Benhadad, enraged at his failure to
capture the man whom he supposed was the cause of his ill success,
sought to accomplish by famine what he had failed to do by the sword.
Investing the city on every side, he reduced the citizens to the
greatest necessity. It was during the horrors of the long and fearful
famine which followed that, as the King of Israel passed along the wall,
“there cried a woman unto him, saying, Help, my lord, O king. And he
said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, This woman said unto
me, Give thy son, that we may eat him to-day, and we will eat my son
to-morrow. So we boiled my son and did eat him; and I said unto her on
the next day, Give thy son that we may eat him; and she hath hid her
son.” Rending his clothes at a spectacle so mournful, and erroneously
attributing the famine to Elisha, the king swore, “God do so, and more
also to me, if the head of Elisha, the son of Shaphat, shall stand
on him this day.” Conscious of his innocence and undaunted at the
threat, the prophet sat calmly in his house; and, contrary to all human
probability, but knowing what would befall the enemy that night, he
said to the executioner, “To-morrow about this time shall a measure
of fine flour be sold for a shekel, and two measures of barley for a
shekel, in the gate of Samaria.” Terrified by a supernatural noise,
that night the Syrians abandoned their well-provisioned camp and fled
for safety. Four lepers, who had lingered outside of the city, dying
of hunger, in the desperation of despair resolved to enter the enemy’s
camp and ask for bread; but, to their surprise, the camp was empty
of men, but full of the spoils of war. Lepers though they were, they
hastened back to the city with the glad tidings of plenty, and that day
were fulfilled the prophetic words of Elisha.[502]

Illustration: SAMARIA.

No important event occurred in connection with Samaria for 700 years,
till the reign of the Emperor Augustus, who bestowed it as a gift
upon Herod the Great, by whom it was enlarged and beautified, rivaling
Baalbec and Palmyra in the magnificence of its architecture. Herod
reared a temple on the summit of the hill in honor of his patron, and
inclosed its base with a colonnade, consisting of two ranges of columns
50 feet apart, and extending 3000 feet in length. Such was the splendor
of Samaria in the apostolic age, when Philip, together with Peter and
John, preached the kingdom of heaven to the Samaritans, and encountered
Simon Magus, the sorcerer of Sebaste.[503]

The ancient city was located on one of the most imposing and
picturesque hills in Palestine. Situated in a basin-like plain six
miles in diameter, it rises in an oval shape to the height of 300 feet.
Connected with the mountains on the east by a gentle swell of land, it
has the appearance of a noble promontory. Midway its sides is a broad,
irregular terrace, the site of the modern town, while its summit is
a long, level plateau. On the north and south are valleys, converging
on the west into the Valley of Nablous and running to the sea, bounded
on either side by higher mountains, dotted with villages, and fertile
in groves of fruit-trees and fields of grain. Nothing evinces the
refinement and elegance of Omri’s taste more than the selection of this
hill to be the site of his imperial city; but, under the degenerating
influences of Mohammedanism, the beautiful in nature and the grand
in art sink into insignificance. The footfalls of the Prophet are
the pitfalls of civilization. Here, as every where else in the East
where he sways his sceptre and lifts his sword, shame succeeds glory.
Filth and rags, indolence and turbulence, crime and misery, are
the chief features of the 400 inhabitants of the modern town. Their
sixty wretched huts are constructed of mud, in which are imbedded
the polished but now broken columns of costlier edifices. In a region
where plenty waits on ordinary industry, they are but little above the
condition of common beggars. In such a land indolence is a crime and
poverty a dishonor.

Grand amid its ruins and conspicuous in its desolation is the Church
of John the Baptist, reared to the memory of that great man some time
during the reign of the Crusaders. Standing on the very brow of the
broad terrace on the east, its broken arches and crumbling walls recall
the beautiful ruins of Melrose and Dryburg Abbeys. In form it resembles
a Greek cross. The finish of the interior is of the Corinthian order,
and exceedingly beautiful. Measuring 153 feet in length and 75 in width,
the interior consists of a nave and two grand aisles, formed by rows of
clustered columns ornamented with Corinthian capitals. In the eastern
end is the chancel, with pointed arches elegantly adorned, resembling
the segment of a circle. But the Gothic roof is gone, and in the aisles
grass grows where once cowled monks and mail-clad knights knelt in
prayer. On white marble tablets set in the wall are sculptured crosses
of the Order of the Knights of St. John, now mutilated by the hand of
Moslem ignorance.

The southern half of the interior has been inclosed for a mosque, and
under a wely in this inclosure is the reputed tomb of St. John, called
by the Arabs “Neby Yahya.” It is a small chamber excavated in the solid
rock, reached by the descent of 21 steps. Here pious tradition points
to the final resting-place of his headless body, brought hither by his
friends from the castle of Machaerus, on the east of the Jordan, where
it was originally interred. When the brave Crusaders took possession of
the Holy Land, they guarded with affection and veneration the sepulchre
of their patron saint, and reared over his ashes this church as his
funeral pile. Though impossible to determine the correctness of the
tradition that here urns the dust of the greatest of prophets, it is no
less a tribute to his memory, and a dishonor to the memory of his royal
murderer, that the name of John and that of Herod are the only two
conspicuous names perpetuated by the ruins of Samaria.

Plucking a memorial leaf from the tomb, we followed the broad, level
belt of land to the southwest side of the hill, where are the remains
of Herod’s colonnade. It is impossible to speak with accuracy of
its vastness and magnificence. According to Josephus, Herod enlarged
the city, surrounded it with a wall 20 furlongs in circumference,
in the midst of which he left an open area a furlong and a half in
circumference, where he erected a temple to Augustus, remarkable alike
for the vastness of its dimensions and the exquisite beauty of its
finish.[504] To rival the renowned city of Palmyra, he constructed
a colonnade 50 feet wide and 3000 long, consisting of two rows of
polished limestone columns 16 feet high and two feet in diameter,
ornamented with Corinthian capitals. Through this imposing colonnade
the royalty, the beauty, and military of Sebaste passed up to the
temple of Augustus, which crowned the hill of Omri; but, like the grim
skeleton of departed beauty, it is now a ruin. For more than 200 feet
this avenue is marked by prostrate columns and broken bases. A hundred
shafts still stand erect as when reared eighteen centuries ago, but now
marred by the rude plowshare of the equally rude Arab. Ascending to the
site of the temple, 200 feet above the colonnade, we found 17 columns
without capitals, two of which were lying prostrate, overgrown with the
ripening grain. Half a mile distant to the right were 15 columns, which
are all that remain of that famous quadrangle composed of 170 columns.
Where marble walks once ran and exquisite statuary stood, venerable
Nature, outliving the monuments of human greatness, has resumed
her ancient sway, bearing on her fertile bosom clustering vines and
ripening grains. From the summit the prospect is no less extensive than
captivating. Unrivaled by any other hill as a site for a capital, the
position of Samaria is strong and central, its environs are fertile,
and its summit is fanned with breezes from the distant sea. The
vineyards, the cotton-fields, the circlet of mountains green with corn,
and the rich Plain of Sharon beyond, bounded by the blue waters of
the Mediterranean, form a picture of more than ordinary beauty, and
one which Elisha and Herod, Philip, and Peter, and John must have
contemplated with delight.

As we descended from the ruins of Sebaste, whose citizens were
great in crime as they were great in wealth and power, the prophetic
denunciations against the city and their fulfillment were recalled to
mind: “I will make Samaria as an heap of the field and as plantings of
a vineyard; and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley,
and I will discover the foundations thereof.”[505] “Samaria shall
become desolate, for she hath rebelled against her God.”[506]

It was two P.M. when we mounted our horses for Cæsarea. Reapers were
thrusting the sickle into the ripe barley, and maidens were gleaning
after them, as we rode over the Plain of Sebaste. Soon we turned
westward and again entered the Valley of Nablous, here known as Wady
Sh’aîr, “The Valley of Barley.” Through its centre flows a brook, which
increases in width and rapidity as it approaches the sea. Following the
northern bank of the stream, we passed, at intervals of several hundred
yards, Roman aqueducts, near which are mills driven by water power.
Reaching the small hamlet of ’Anebta, the road to Cæsarea branches,
one continuing down the valley to the Plain of Sharon, while the
other, striking across the barren ridges of Wady Mussîn, enters the
plain by the village of Bâkah. Choosing the latter, we traversed a
barren and cheerless region. Night came on apace as we neared the large
and flourishing town of Shuweikeh, situated on a lofty hill. Passing
the village of Kakôn, we mistook Zeita for the town of Bâkah. Riding
through its silent streets, we learned from a peasant that the place of
our night’s encampment was still to the westward. Regaining the road,
we lingered for a moment to examine the remarkable Hill of Zît, marking
the eastern border of the Plain of Sharon. Its sides are scarped and
regular, and its summit is level; around its base are hewn stones and
fragments of columns belonging to some unknown city. It was here we had
a despicable instance of the military tyranny of the Turks. One of our
soldiers rode into a field and cut down grain enough to feed his horse
that night, while the owner, who was a poor man, besought him, in the
most respectful manner, to spare his grain, as it was all his property.
But neither age, prayers, nor poverty touched the heart of that
military ruffian.

Anxious, hungry, and weary, we pitched our tents, at eight P.M., in
the environs of Bâkah, a small straggling town on one of the richest
plains in the world. The mules unloaded, the horses tethered, supper
over, prayers offered, my companions asleep, I walked out upon the
magnificent Plain of Sharon. A dreamy haze, like gossamer gauze, veiled
the skies of night, through which moon and stars softly peered. A scene
so lovely recalled the tender strain of one of our finest poets:

“Oh! sweet and beautiful night,
When the silver moon is high,
And countless stars, like clustering gems,
Hang sparkling in the sky:
While the breath of the summer breeze
Comes whispering down the glen,
And one fond voice alone is heard――
Oh, night is lovely then.”

The horse and his rider lay side by side, and the watch-fires, burning
dimly, shed a livid glare upon the sleepers. The moon, growing brighter
as she ascended, silvered each spear of grass and blade of corn, while
far away to the east, amid the mountain glens of Samaria,

“Shadows wandered free,
But spoke not o’er the idle ground.”

It was now midnight, and I was alone, a stranger in a strange land,
without one near me whose face I had seen beyond the ocean. The heavens
only were familiar; the moon and stars of my childhood were as old
companions; but, rising above the one and the other, I sought communion
with Him who is enthroned on high.

The morning dawned inauspiciously; the gossamer veil of the previous
night had been folded into thick clouds, which obscured the summits
of the distant hills. While we were waiting for our muleteer to load
his beast, there occurred a scene illustrating the tenacity of Eastern
customs. In our party was Dr. Barclay, the eminent American physician
of Joppa. His fame had preceded him, and, learning of his arrival,
the villagers brought out their sick of all ages, and for a time our
encampment became a hospital. Among the number was a young girl, who
with faltering step came leaning upon the arm of her mother. She was
pale and emaciated, and apparently in the last stages of consumption.
The doctor examined her symptoms, questioned her mother, and prescribed
for the patient, who long since, I fear, has passed to another world.
Such was a faint illustration of the days of the Savior, when “they
brought unto him those having all manner of diseases, and he cured
them.” In a country where science is neglected, _materia medica_ is
unknown, the barber is the physician, bloodletting is the panacea
for all diseases, and the “medicine-man” of more enlightened lands is
revered next to God.

The sick had scarcely found shelter within their hovels when the storm
broke upon us in all its fury. Protected by a thick burnous and a
Mackintosh coat, we waited patiently the return of fair weather. The
rain ceasing, we advanced, but had not reached the southern limits of
the town when the storm was renewed with tenfold violence. Deeming it
prudent to halt, we remained upon the plain for an hour, amid a
drenching rain and exposed to a raging wind; but when the rain ceased a
rainbow spanned the heavens such as seldom appears in Western skies.

Hoping to reach Cæsarea by noon, we dashed over the plain, and in less
than two hours came to the Nahr Abu Zabûra, which was so swollen as to
render fording dangerous. Exploring the banks for a ford, but failing
to find one, we plunged in with a shout, and with difficulty gained
the opposite bank. Safely “beyond the floods,” the Plain of Sharon lay
before us in all its wealth and beauty. It extends like a vast prairie
from the base of Carmel on the north to the sea-girt cliffs of Joppa
on the south. Eastward the Hills of Samaria look down upon it, with
Ebal and Gerizim rising above their fellows. Westward is the sea, whose
waters roll their ceaseless waves against its “empire shores.” It has
a shore line of 50 miles in length, and varies from one to 15 miles
in breadth. Undulating in long and graceful swells, it is at intervals
dotted with low hills crowned with the ruins of unknown towns.
Retaining its ancient character, it is the best pasture-land west of
the Jordan valley. Three thousand years ago here Shitrai the Sharonite
kept the flocks of David,[507] and over its ample fields the shepherd
of to-day might wander with his herds. Of the “rose of Sharon” neither
peasants nor scholars have any knowledge at present; if it exists, it
is not recognized by its inspired name. There grows upon the plain the
“imperial thorn,” by some regarded as the thorn of which the Savior’s
crown was made. Growing to the height of four feet, it has a gorgeous
purple blossom, with a long, lancet-like brier, and would well compose
a mock imperial crown.

There are no paths over this great plain, which is seldom trodden
except by those who till the soil, and the compass or a peasant is
the traveler’s only guide. Though ordinarily this is a disadvantage,
yet to us it proved advantageous, as in our wanderings we discovered a
lake that had been lost since the days of the Crusaders. Though it is
not large, its waters are pure, of a bluish tint, and abound in fish.
Flocks of wild ducks were floating on its placid bosom. Its waters
never fail, though they are sensibly increased by the rains in the wet
seasons. Its shores are clean and sandy. On the north it is bounded
by a high sand-bank of many miles in extent. The sand is of an orange
color, like that found on the Debbet er-Ramleh in Arabia. On the south
and west there is a meadow rich in rank weeds, and covered with acres
of white and yellow daisies. On the north and east there is an oaken
grove, lovely as an English park.

Crossing the large sand-hill, we soon entered a tract of country
remarkable only for the quantity of thorns and brambles, which scratch
both man and beast in the most painful manner. An hour’s ride from
the lake brought us to the outer walls of Cæsarea, and at one P.M.
we encamped within its massive ruins. Fearing an attack, our soldiers
immediately left us to return to Nablous, assigning as the cause the
worst of military reasons――that they were afraid to remain. An Arab
soldier is rarely to be trusted in danger. His convictions of right
and wrong, his sense of obligation, his want of personal courage, his
habitual meanness of soul, and his traditional hatred of the Christian,
disqualify him to be a trusty guard. He is of advantage to the traveler
in saving him from the petty annoyances of the common people, by whom
he is dreaded because he is tyrannical and brutal, but it is his nature
to cower in the presence of a superior and courageous foe. There is
nothing so mean as an Arab soldier.

It was a dangerous experiment to visit Cæsarea, and especially to
remain there during the night without a guard. For many years there
has been a standing feud between the Fellahîn who dwell in the villages
on the plain and the Hawâra Arabs who hover along the coast. It was a
novel sight, as we crossed the fields, to see farmers engaged in the
peaceful pursuits of husbandry armed to the teeth. Men were threshing
with guns slung upon their backs; women were gleaning with heavy clubs
dangling at their side; and patrol-men, with sword and pistols, gun
and lance, were on the alert to give the alarm at the first appearance
of the foe. With brief intervals, such has been the condition of
Sharon since the earliest ages, and Isaiah gives it as a sign of
the restoration of the Jews, that “Sharon shall be a fold of flocks,
and the Valley of Achor a place for the herds to lie down in, for my
people that have sought me.”[508] Discouraged by such dangers, but
few travelers attempt this interesting tour; but there is so much of
religious and political importance connected with this renowned city,
that we felt justified in making the journey and remaining during the
night, after we had been abandoned by our military escort.

The authentic history of Cæsarea commences with Strabo, in the reign
of Augustus, who describes it as an insignificant landing-place, marked
by “Strato’s Tower.” From this solitary tower Cæsarea became the most
magnificent city in Palestine, under the auspices of Herod the Great.
The subject and friend of Augustus, he sought to perpetuate the favor
of his royal master by founding an imperial city and giving to it the
family name of Cæsar; and, impelled by an unbounded ambition, he aimed,
if possible, to make it rival Rome in the elegance of its architecture
and in the extent of its commerce. Abandoning the traditions of his
fathers, he transferred the capital of his empire from its mountain
fastnesses to this inhospitable coast, which exposed it alike to the
corruption of Western nations and to the attack of their naval galleys.
But in removing the sceptre of empire from Judah he unconsciously
became the accomplisher of prophecy, and in inviting the civilization
of the West to his shores he unintentionally opened a highway for
the nations to hear from apostolic lips the sublime lessons of
Christianity. Sparing neither art nor treasure in founding his new
city, he surrounded it with a wall of many miles in circumference, and
within the inclosure erected on a commanding hill, which he encompassed
by a second wall, a splendid temple of white marble, and dedicated it
to Cæsar. According to Josephus, he adorned it with two statues, one
representing Rome, and the other his patron Augustus. To attract the
commerce of the West, he constructed in front of the acropolis a harbor
equaling the Athenian Piræus both in elegance and extent. Sinking
huge stones to the depth of 20 fathoms, he constructed an immense and
gently-curving breakwater to protect vessels in port from the southern
and western gales, but left an open channel on the north for the
entrance and departure of ships. To strengthen and beautify the mole,
he reared large towers, containing vaulted chambers adorned with arched
ceilings, mosaic pavements, polished columns, and sculptured capitals,
for the accommodation of naval officers, and connected the towers
and the shore by a long quay, designed for the landing of merchandise
and the pleasures of a promenade. To tempt the wealth and fashion
of Greece and Rome, he erected on the east and south a vast theatre
and circus; and to secure the health and comfort of the citizens, he
built aqueducts extending miles in length, and large enough to admit
a mounted cavalier.[509] But the history of Cæsarea was as brief as it
was splendid; its decline was as rapid as its rise was sudden. Forsaken
by men, it is now an uninhabited desolation. An unbroken silence reigns
within its palaces, the wild Arab refuses to pitch his tent within the
crumbling walls, and the shepherd declines to lead his flock amid its
wild flowers and rich grasses. Rank weeds grow where royal feet trod,
the shy fox barks and the hungry jackal wails where kings reigned,
and sobbing winds sigh responsive to moaning waves where the voice of
revelry was heard. As the ancient population of the city, consisting of
200,000 souls, could not have resided within the walls of the acropolis,
our first attempt was to ascertain the location and direction of the
outer wall. Riding to the east of the town, we could trace a regular
mound sweeping from shore to shore in the form of a semi-circle, now
covered with rubbish, and overgrown with high weeds. Returning, we
ascended the second or inner wall, which is well preserved, and is
exceedingly strong. On the south, east, and north it is surrounded by
a deep moat, and is flanked on three sides by bastions surmounted with
towers 120 and 150 feet apart. Commencing on the shore, the north wall
runs inland a distance of 900 feet; forming an angle at this point
with the eastern wall, the latter extends southward 1728 feet, where
it joins the south wall, which runs to the sea, a distance of 657 feet.
Having an altitude of more than 70 feet, this wall is supported by 17
bastions. To increase its defensive power, the eastern wall is double,
one portion being perpendicular and the other oblique. Near the
northeast angle is a large gateway, the chief entrance to the town on
the east; and in the southern wall, near the shore, there is another
gate, surmounted by one of the watch-towers of the olden city.

Measuring half a mile in length and a quarter in breadth, the whole
area within this inclosure is covered with heaps of rubbish, with deep
intervening pits; and on the one and in the other grow marigolds, white
daisies, chess, thistles, and brambles. Not a fragment of Cæsarea’s
temple remains to be identified, and on its site are the ruins of
the Cathedral of Cæsarea, in which the learned Eusebius officiated as
bishop of the diocese for more than a quarter of a century. Of this
noble edifice four large buttresses are standing, which, from their
height, are seen from afar, presenting an imposing appearance to the
traveler, whether his approach is from the plain on the east or from
the sea on the west. Though a complete ruin, the outline of this early
Christian church can be traced without difficulty. Constructed of
beveled stones, the interior consisted of a nave and two lateral aisles.
Originally extending 143 feet in length, 121 feet of the south wall
continue _in situ_, 13 feet in thickness. In the eastern end is the
chancel, which, consisting of three semicircular apses measuring 60
feet in all, is the breadth of the cathedral. Standing from 16 to 20
feet apart, and being from five to seven feet thick, the four remaining
buttresses formed the grand portico to this Christian temple. Judging
from the projection of the arch, the doorway was 12 feet high, as it
is nine wide. Beneath the church is a dark and loathsome vault 77 feet
long, gradually declining toward the east. It is now the den of jackals
and hyenas.

Illustration: ANCIENT CÆSAREA.

If any work of art is worthy to be called grand, it is the
Herodian harbor of Cæsarea. The breakwater described by Josephus is a
continuation of the southern wall of the acropolis, more than 300 feet
of which are still visible above the sea. Some of the stones in the
lower courses are 20 feet long, six wide, and as many thick. In the
southeast corner of the mole are the remains of a tower, reached by 20
stone steps, and commanding a view of the entire port. The ceiling was
formerly arched, and a portion of an old arch projects from the side,
resting on the figure of a human head. Connected with this tower, and
on a level with the shore, were the apartments for the officers of
custom, the mosaic floors of which remain in excellent condition. On
the very extremity of the mole is another tower, containing a square
room 20 feet high, 30 wide, and 35 long, but the waves are fast wearing
it away. On the northern side of the harbor, flanked by stones 15 feet
long, seven wide, and six thick, are three immense gateways for the
entrance of vessels. Following the shell-strewn shore of a small bay,
we reached the end of the northern wall of the acropolis. The noble
marble pier, once extending into the sea 170 feet, is now a ruin. Its
hundred prostrate columns lie as they fell, most of them parallel to
each other, with now and then one lifting its head in silence above
its fellows, worn by the tireless surges which roll over it, careless
of its former grandeur. To me, sitting on one of those columns far
out into the sea, time passed unconsciously. The day had declined, the
golden sun was sinking into the distant ocean, and, as if an angel had
led me back into the past, I thought of the fall of empires and the
vanity of human glory.

Hailing the first blush of returning day, I sat on the desolate shore
and read the inspired history of Cæsarea. Excepting Jerusalem, no city
in Palestine is more intimately connected with the early Christian
Church. Coming from the interior, the apostles sought the great centres
of commerce, where they preached to men of all nations their catholic
faith. Having baptized the Ethiopian eunuch, Philip the Evangelist
followed the coast, and, preaching Jesus to the inhabitants of all
the maritime cities thereon, he came to Cæsarea.[510] Thirty years
thereafter, here, with his four daughters, he resided as one of the
seven deacons of the infant church, when St. Paul and St. Luke were
his guests. It was in his house that Agabus took Paul’s girdle, and,
binding his own hands and feet, foretold the arrest and imprisonment
of the apostle to the Gentiles.[511] Arrested in the Holy City, here
Paul was brought a prisoner by order of Claudius Lysias, and somewhere
amid these ruins was the dungeon in which he was confined two years.
In obedience to Roman law, hither came Ananias the high-priest, with
the orator Tertullus, to accuse him before the governor. Here stood
the palace of the sordid Felix and his adulterous Drusilla, where
he “reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come;”
and where he made that marvelous defense before Agrippa and Festus,
provoking the taunt from the latter, “Paul, thou art beside thyself;
much learning hath made thee mad;” and extorting the concession from
the former, “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” And from
this harbor, now the wreck of earlier grandeur, that apostle entered
the ship Adramyttium, under Julius, a centurion of Augustus’s band,
to prosecute his appeal before Cæsar, and at last to die a martyr at
Ire Fontana, beneath the walls of Rome.[512] Here was the home of the
devout Cornelius, to whom Peter came from Joppa on the coast, 33 miles
to the south, with the keys of the kingdom of heaven, to open its gates
to the Gentiles and baptize the first heathen convert. Here, in the
year 270 A.D., Eusebius Pamphili was born, and subsequently this was
the birthplace of Procopius the historian.

Sending the baggage to Athlît, our party separated to explore the
different parts of the city, agreeing to rendezvous at night at the
above-named place. Riding down the coast with a single companion, we
first examined Herod’s amphitheatre. Located a little south of the
acropolis wall, it occupies a commanding position. Judging from the
shape of the ground, it was originally semicircular in form. Much
of the masonry has survived the waste of time, and among the broken
granite columns is one nine feet in circumference. The arena has an
eastern and western diameter of 69 feet, and a northern and southern
diameter of 78 feet. The seats are of stone, arranged in tiers, and
recede as they ascend, giving a slope from the bottom of the arena to
the outside of the uppermost seat of 90 feet. The width of the eastern
wall, from the highest tier of seats to its outer edge, is 75 feet,
forming a grand promenade. It was not possible to determine whether
this is an embankment of earth faced with masonry or a solid wall. It
is penetrated with arched passage-ways, like those in the amphitheatres
of Capua and Pompeii, which lead to the dens and stalls of the animals
designed for the entertainment of the spectators. On the south side
is one of the principal vomitories leading to the arena; it is 11 feet
wide, 48 long, and is the only one now open. High up in the southeast
part of the building is a solitary seat, just as it was left by the
last spectator by whom it was occupied. The shape of the mounds on the
south indicates that the southern wall of the theatre served as part of
the city wall, as on its extreme western end are the remains of an old
watch-tower containing a circular chamber, and not far to the north are
the ruins of another, occupying a narrow neck of land commanding the
approaches to the coast. It is evident, from the present appearance of
the mounds, that originally the walls extended to the shore, agreeing
with the description of Josephus that “it was conveniently situated for
a prospect to the sea.”[513]

With this theatre stands connected one of the most mournful tragedies
of Bible times. Having murdered the Apostle James and attempted the
life of Peter, Herod Agrippa came from Jerusalem to Cæsarea to call
to account the citizens of Tyre and Sidon, who had incurred his royal
displeasure. Arrayed in robes of gold and silver texture, Herod entered
the theatre on a festive day to deliver an oration to his subjects.
According to an ancient custom, it was early in the morning, and the
sun’s rays, falling upon his resplendent garments, dazzled the eyes of
the beholders, who, in a delirium of joy at the brilliant spectacle,
and at the same time affected by the eloquent tones of his voice, rose
_en masse_ and cried out, “It is the voice of a god and not of a man.
Be thou merciful to us; for, although we have hitherto reverenced thee
only as a man, yet shall we henceforth own thee as superior to mortal
nature.” In this moment of divine homage he looked up and saw above
him, on a rope, an owl, a bird of ill omen. It was the messenger of his
departure. Refusing to rebuke this impious flattery, “the angel of the
Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory, and he was eaten
up of worms, and gave up the ghost.”[514] Looking upon his flatterers
as he expired, the dying king exclaimed, “I, whom ye call a god, am
commanded presently to depart this life, while Providence thus reproves
the lying words you have just said to me; and I, who was by you
called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death.”[515] The
construction of the theatre is in harmony with these serious facts. The
imperial throne being on the west side of the edifice, toward the shore;
the auditors sitting with their backs toward the east; and the building,
like all structures of the kind in Eastern countries, having no roof,
the rising sun shone with dazzling brightness upon the monarch’s robes,
transforming him into an object of indescribable magnificence, and
awakening the acclamations of the people.

Riding eastward through lacerating thorns and briers, we saw a red
granite block, 35 feet long, five wide, and four thick, lying upon
its broad surface, and near it another of less dimensions. Beyond them,
to the north, is Herod’s circus for chariot racing. It consists of
an oblong basin with embanked sides. The three conical shafts of red
granite, averaging from eight to ten feet in length, which marked the
goal of the ancient course, are still standing; and in the midst of
a field not far to the northwest is a deep well, 20 feet in diameter,
with circular mouthpiece and arched roof.

The ride from Cæsarea to Mount Carmel is less remarkable for its
Biblical antiquities than for the pleasures of the tour. It was
11 A.M. when we regained the shore, and I rejoiced in the mysterious
companionship of the sea. The aqueducts of Herod extended for miles on
our right, and, though dry, are in a good condition. The coast is here
lined with low black rocks, against which the waves dash wildly, the
spray reflecting the rainbow. At midday we came to the Nahr Zurka, or
the Crocodile River of Strabo and Pliny, which is a clear and fordable
stream. Having its source among the hills on the east, it flows down
a pretty glen, amid wild flowers and dense shrubbery. To the left is
a low promontory, jutting into the sea, and covered with the shapeless
remains of some unknown light-house. To the right the Samarian Hills
creep down to the shore. The beach soon widened, and was strewn for
miles with white and purple shells to the depth of several feet. In two
hours we passed Tantûra, the Dor of the Scriptures, whose king was the
ally of Jabin of Hazor.[516] It is a small village of 30 houses; and on
an islet to the west is an old tower, which, like an ancient landmark,
is seen from Cæsarea to Carmel. Passing the small towns of Kefr Naum
and Surafend on the right, we reached Athlît at six P.M. on Saturday,
and pitched our tents on a beautiful lawn, beneath the walls of the
_Castellum Peregrinorum_. This is the second most interesting city of
Phœnicia, but the date of its origin and the name of its founder are
unknown. With ruins as vast and grand as those of Cæsarea, the style
of the architecture is superior to that of the city of Herod. Unnoticed
by sacred and profane historians, its name remained in obscurity
till the twelfth century, when the Crusaders selected it as the chief
landing-place for pious pilgrims _en route_ for the Holy City, calling
it the “Pilgrims’ Castle.” It occupies a rocky promontory, and is
bounded on the west by the ever-majestic sea, and on the east by green
hills and fertile plains. Crossing the headland from bay to bay are
the remains of an outer wall, which once inclosed a quadrangular area
a mile in extent. Within this inclosure stood the citadel, inclosed by
a wall 15 feet thick and 30 high. It was constructed of pure Phœnician
stones, and was penetrated by three gates, two on the east and one on
the south, which were reached by stone steps. Opposite the southern
gate is a massive pier 12 feet wide and 150 long, most of which is
still above the water. Here the shore is covered with prostrate columns,
fallen pendentives, broken entablatures, and marred cornices. Rising
out of the sea are sections of the western wall, the southern end of
which is formed of circular stones 12 feet in circumference. Originally
there sprang from this wall a lofty arcade 35 feet wide, and beneath
it ran an arched passage-way across the entire promontory. In the
northwest corner is a large room, to the very door of which vessels
came to land their passengers and discharge their cargoes. To the
northeast of this arcade is a plain Gothic church 20 feet wide and
133 long. The ceiling is supported by 12 arches, springing from as many
plain brackets, each arch culminating in an elegant embossed flower.
The interior is reached by a single door, and its one square and two
pointed windows look upon the sea.

Consisting of a few huts, occupied by inhabitants as filthy as they
are wretched, the modern town of Athlît is piled upon the ruins of the
ancient acropolis. Beneath the citadel are immense vaults, supporting
the formidable fortress above. In the midst of these huts stands the
once magnificent Gothic church of the Crusaders. The remaining wall
is 80 feet high, and is divided into sections by ribs, which rest upon
the heads of human figures. These arches, no doubt, spanned the eastern
aisle of the church in the days of its glory. Such are the splendid
ruins of Athlît. Impressed with its greatness, I experienced the novel
emotions of gazing upon a decayed city whose powerful citizens are
without a record in history. Enumerating Dor and its towns, Joshua may
have included Athlît; or, if it existed at that time, it may not have
been possessed by Issachar.

Two roads lead from the “Pilgrims’ Castle” to Mount Carmel, one
along the coast to Haifa, the other through the Vale of Dor. We took
the latter: the path leads over rich plains, where reapers and gleaners
were gathering the ripened grain. To the east the trees and blades of
corn seemed to rise out of water, but we soon discovered that it was
a mirage. In an hour we reached the mouth of a narrow mountain defile.
To the south of the entrance are two remarkable caves, which some time
have been human habitations. The larger of the two is 300 feet long
and 50 wide. The sides and top are formed into sections by 13 natural
arches, resembling the ribbed ceiling of a Gothic church. The bottom
of the cave declines inward, and near its termination the percolated
water drops from the fretted roof. Entering the mountain gorge, the
lofty hills on either side are covered with oaks, hawthorn, myrtle,
and acacias, and flowers bloomed along the grassy vale. The Sabbath
silence that reigned within was unbroken save by the cooing of the
dove in its mountain home, and the scream of the eagle as he flew from
his inaccessible eyry. The hills soon receded, and the broad valley
was dotted with oaken groves and fields of pasture, where herds of
cattle and flocks of sheep and goats were browsing. Passing through the
village of Asifriah, we descended a steep path leading into a ravine
of extraordinary grandeur. Descending the glen, between mountains which
arose thousands of feet above us, we turned to the north and began
the ascent of Carmel. For two hours we ascended a mountain path steep
and rugged, lined with oaks, acacias, and flowers, when we gained
the summit of the sacred mount, and stood with Elijah of Tishbe, and
Elisha, the son of Shaphat.

Branching off from the northern portion of the mountains of Samaria,
Carmel is a bold and grand promontory projecting into the sea. Running
in a northwesterly direction, it is the boundary-line between the Plain
of Sharon on the south and that of Phœnicia on the north. Rising 2000
feet above the sea, it is 18 miles long and five wide. Covered with
evergreen oaks, it is appropriately called “The Fruitful Field.” As
the type of natural beauty, Isaiah compares the returning glory of his
nation to the “excellency of Carmel,”[517] while Amos predicts that
“the top of Carmel shall wither,”[518] as descriptive of the utter
ruin of his country. From the summit the eye rests upon one of the
noblest landscapes in the world. To the west is that “great sea” seen
by the prophet’s servant; to the south are the Mountains of Samaria;
to the north the Hills of Nazareth; while to the east is the Plain of
Esdraelon, stretching far away to the Jordan in vast undulations, and
dotted with Gilboa, Little Hermon, and Mount Tabor.

But the glory of Carmel is its sacred associations. In the darkest
hour in Jewish history, when Jehovah’s altars were thrown down and his
prophets slain, hither Elijah invited the priests of Baal to test by
fire the superiority of their respective gods. The priests conceding
the existence of Elijah’s God, the contest was to decide whether
Jehovah or Baal should be the supreme divinity of the land. Chastened
by the evils of a long drouth, the people were prepared for a procedure
so extraordinary. Ahab, over whom the infamous Jezebel had gained the
ascendency, was upon the throne of Israel; and, while lost to all the
better feelings of woman’s nature, and irreclaimably abandoned to the
worst forms of idolatry, there remained no hope in the case of the
queen, yet such a divine interposition might act for good on the mind
of the king.

Midway the mountain there is an upland plateau, commanding a view of
the entire plain. In this recess there is a noble fountain, three feet
square, shaded by oaks, and rising above it is that bold and rocky peak
which the prophet’s servant ascended to watch the rising cloud. Here,
in full view of Ahab’s palace, the sacrifices were offered. From the
loose rocks that here abound were taken the stones to build the altars.
From these forests was hewn the wood on which the offerings were placed.
From this mountain spring, either miraculously preserved from becoming
dry during the long drouth, or created by a divine power for the
occasion, were drawn the twelve barrels of water to fill the trench
around the altar of Elijah. From the pasture-fields below, up these
slopes, came the bullocks to be sacrificed; while, covering the gentle
declivities, and extending in vast concentric circles to the plain
beneath, and clinging to every crag and tree above, the people were
gathered to witness the most interesting of all sacrificial scenes.
Around their altar stood the king and priests of Baal, while, wrapped
in his mantle, Elijah stood alone. From morning till noon, and thence
till evening, the prophets of idolatry implored their god in vain. With
an irony that was biting as it was confusing, the prophet of Tishbe
urged them to cry aloud. It was the dawn of his triumph. Sublime in his
simplicity and strong in his isolation, Elijah invited the people near.
Repairing the Lord’s altar, he prepared the sacrifice, and, in answer
to a prayer no less brief than fervent, the fire descended and the
sacrifice was consumed, amid the acclamations of the people, “The Lord,
he is the God!” As the defamers of religion and the enemies of God and
man, the priests of Baal were led down to the banks of the Kishon, from
which they had so recently come in such pomp, and were slain. Ahab and
Elijah reascended the Mount, the former to eat and drink, the latter
to pray. Hearing, in his prophetic ear, the sound of abundance of rain,
Elijah sent his servant up to the loftiest of the mountain peaks to
watch the rising cloud from the bosom of the sea. The heavens grew
dark, the rain began to fall; and in fear lest the Kishon might not be
fordable, Ahab was commanded to hasten to his palace; while, careless
of his age, and in the spirit of a loyal subject to a king whom he had
humbled in the presence of his people, Elijah girded up his loins, and
ran before the chariot of Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.[519]

Consecrated by an event so remarkable, Carmel subsequently became the
abode of Elisha. It was while looking down, one afternoon, upon this
same great plain he saw the “woman of Shunem” coming in behalf of her
only son. He sent Gehazi to inquire the object of her visit; but she
passed him by, and, pressing up this hill, laid her complaint before
him. Descending from his mountain retreat, he hastened to her home of
sorrow and restored her child to life.[520]

In after years Carmel was regarded with a superstitious veneration even
by the learned heathen. Here Pythagoras passed some time in solitary
meditations, and hither Vespasian came to consult the oracle which
became so famous.

THERE are two classes of plains in Palestine――those upon the sea-board,
as the Plains of Philistia, Sharon, and Phœnicia, and those of the
interior, as the Plains of Rephaim, Jericho, El-Mukhna, the Bukâ’a, and
Esdraelon. They differ from each other chiefly in location, the former
being maritime, and consequently more or less affected by the action of
the sea; the latter being inland, and subject to the influences of the
lofty mountains by which they are encompassed. Though equally beautiful,
fertile, and historically important, yet at present those upon the
coast are less cultivated and less inhabited than the others, as the
wild Bedouins, dreading the sea, prefer to pitch their tents in the
interior. Nothing evinces the degeneracy of the Syrian Arabs more
than the neglect of these vast garden-plains. Perhaps it is not so
much a proof of their degeneracy, as the Turk in Syria has never been
otherwise than what he now is――indolent as he is overbearing, the
enemy of all improvements, and the destroyer of whatever is elegant in
architecture or beneficial in good government. The proverbial richness
of the soil of Palestine is evinced by the abundance of grain annually
raised at the expense of the least possible labor. Without ever
receiving, the land is ever giving. The superficial process of plowing
resembles our mode of dragging, and the application of mineral and
other kinds of manure is a thing unknown. One often and heartily
desires to see an American farmer occupying these noble plains, with
his enlightened views of agriculture and his improved implements of
husbandry. What golden harvests, in more senses than one, would repay
his toil! He would realize the prophetic blessings pronounced on Asher,
“His bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties.”

The custom of dwelling in villages, and not upon the land cultivated,
is fatal to the thorough development of the natural resources of any
country. You may travel for miles through the richest portions of
Palestine without seeing a human habitation. In going from Etham
to Hebron, a distance of 15 miles, and through a fertile region, we
failed to see a single dwelling, though occasionally we observed a
small village perched on a mountain top. The traveler never meets
with the clean, comfortable farm-house so common in the agricultural
districts of America. Here the people dwell in towns, and there is
a matter-of-fact meaning in the Savior’s words, “A sower went forth
to sow.” If we except its eastern branches, there is not a single
inhabited dwelling on the whole Plain of Esdraelon, and not more than
one sixth of its soil is cultivated. Occasionally are seen the black
tents of the nomadic Bedouin, who, despoiler-like, feeds his flocks
till the crop is exhausted, and then removes to another section of rich
pasturage, or, mounted on his fleet steed, scours the plain in search
of plunder.

Whether considered as to the extent of its area, the fertility of
its soil, the beauty of its scenery, or the political and religious
importance of its history, the Plain of Esdraelon is the first of
inland plains. The southern frontier of Zebulon, it fell to the lot
of Issachar, “who saw that rest was good, and the land that it was
pleasant;” and, rather than abandon his possession, “he bowed his
shoulder to bear, and became a servant unto tribute.”[521] Extending
from the Mediterranean to the Jordan Valley, it is not unlike a vast
rent in the heart of the land. Resembling in form an irregular triangle,
its base extends a distance of 15 miles from Jenîn to the mountains
below Nazareth; and with one side measuring 12 miles long, formed
by the Hills of Galilee, the other runs along the Samarian range a
distance of 18 miles. Serving as the channel-bed of the ancient Kishon,
its apex is a narrow pass half a mile wide, opening into the Plain of
’Akka. From its base three arms branch out toward the east, divided
by Gilboa and Little Hermon. With Tabor on one side and Little Hermon
on the other, the northern branch has Nain and Endor on its southern
border, and was the path taken by the troops of Deborah and Barak when
on their way to the battle of Megiddo. Lying between Gilboa and Jenîn,
the southern branch terminates among the hills to the eastward. But,
excelling the others in extent and richness, the great central branch
descends in green and gentle slopes to the banks of the Jordan, having
Jezreel on the south and Shunem on the north, and is known in Scripture
as the “Valley of Jezreel,” where Gideon triumphed, and Saul and his
sons were slain. Having its most distant perennial source in the great
fountain of Jenîn, the famous river Kishon flows through this plain in
a northwesterly direction, and pours its brackish waters into the sea.
Called by the Arabs Nakr el-Mukuttah, it is ordinarily a clear and
rapid stream, lined on either side with flowers and dense shrubbery.
Increased in the rainy season by numberless mountain torrents, and
by springs from the base of Carmel and from the bases of the Hills
of Nazareth, it varies in depth from four to eight feet, and from 10
to 40 in width. It is evident that it must have been swollen by some
extraordinary means to have swept away the fugitive army of Jabin. “The
stars in their courses fought against Sisera” may indicate a tremendous
storm that swept over mountain and plain, sending down torrents of
water from the mountain streams, overflowing the steep banks of the
Kishon, and sweeping on to the sea with irresistible force, bearing on
its rapid current the routed foe, who, in the confusion of defeat and
flight, had become entangled in the dense thickets that line its banks.

But the significance of Esdraelon is its marked history. It is the
battle-field of nations. The hosts of Israel and the wild tribes of
the ancient Canaanites have met in death-grapple upon its soil, and
in later times the powerful armies of Europe contended on the fields
of El-Fûleh with the barbarous hordes of the Orient. Here Deborah and
Barak marshaled their hosts against Sisera; here Gideon encountered
the Midianites; here the Philistines fought against Saul and Jonathan;
here Benhadad put the battle in array against Ahab; here Jehu slew
Ahaziah and Joram; here the knights of mediæval times grappled with the
soldiers of the Crescent, and Napoleon and Kleber led their splendid
columns against the relentless Turks. It was a memorable day when
we traversed this plain, recalling the clamor of war, and in fancy
beholding the onset, the retreat, and fierce pursuit of mighty armies.
And equally gratified were we that those scenes of death are past, and
that flowers now bloom and harvests ripen where belligerent hosts once

Descending from the heights of Carmel, we followed a winding path
through wooded dells to the southwest corner of Esdraelon, and in half
an hour reached Wady el-Mêlhor, “The Salt Valley,” which forms the
boundary-line between Carmel and the Mountains of Samaria. Up this
ravine the French marched in 1799 to attack Ramleh. Fording the Kishon,
our path lay along the base of the Samarian Hills, which are furrowed
by deep gorges, eleven of which are the channels of as many streamlets
flowing into the sacred river. Seven miles beyond is the battle-field
of Megiddo. Here, sweeping along the base of a high mound, are the
“waters of Megiddo,” running northward into the Kishon. On the banks of
this stream is the scene of that great battle between Barak and Sisera.
Roused by the call of a woman, the former had assembled the northern
tribes of Israel on the summit of Tabor, where he was joined by Deborah,
who led to the fight the tribes of Central Palestine. Choosing Taanach
as his rallying-point, the latter had concentrated his host with 900
iron chariots. Approaching from different points of the plain, the
contending foes met hard by the “waters of Megiddo.” Then it was that
“the stars in their courses fought against Sisera,” as at that moment
a storm of sleet and hail gathered from the east, and, bursting over
the plain in the face of the advancing Canaanites, threw them into
confusion, and “the torrent swept them away.”[522] Springing from his
chariot, Sisera fled on foot into the neighboring mountains, where the
nail of Jael awaited him who had escaped the sword of Barak. Then, in
the moment of triumph, Deborah sang her wondrous song.[523]

Six centuries later, here Josiah, king of Judah, fought against
Pharaoh-necho of Egypt, who was advancing to attack the King of Assyria,
and here, in the “Valley of Megiddo, the archers shot at King Josiah,
and he said, Have me away, for I am sore wounded.”[524]

Following the southern border of Esdraelon, we reached Jeneen at
sundown, where we encamped for the night upon its beautiful lawn.
Taking an Arab guide, we started the next morning for the Beisân of
the Arabs, the Scythopolis of the Romans, and the Bethshean of the
Bible, on whose ancient walls the dead bodies of Saul and Jonathan were
fastened after the fatal battle of Gilboa. Our path lay up a low ridge
of limestone hills which overhung the valley of the Jordan on the west,
and, crossing the summit, we descended to a noble plain, well watered,
overgrown with rank weeds and briers, and dotted with the black tents
of wandering Bedouins. Pausing for a moment, we examined, as far as
modesty and safety would allow, the encampment of these nomads. Around
their tents flocks and herds were grazing, watched by the faithful
dog and guarded by mounted patrolmen, who scoured the plain for a mile
in circumference, to discover, if possible, the lurking-place of some
neighboring plunderer. In an open tent “two women were grinding at a
mill,” while others were kneading bread and spinning flax. Every thing
about the encampment wore the aspect of a semi-barbarous state, and
the question rose in our minds more than once as to the tent-life of
Abraham and his sons. In many points there is an evident similarity.
Like the nomads of the present day, the patriarchs wandered from place
to place; their property consisted of herds of cattle, and flocks of
sheep and goats; their women, to whose lot it fell to grind, spin, and
cook, occupied separate tents, as in modern times; and, like them, they
were constantly liable to be surprised and plundered; hence then as now,
all the males went armed for the protection of their property. But here
the parallel ends. There is no comparison as to personal excellence,
domestic refinement, and social dignity. If the words and acts of a man
reveal his heart and manifest his condition, then the history of those
venerable patriarchs bespeaks a purity of character, a refinement of
social life, and a dignity of private and public behavior not unworthy
the best state of society in this Christian age.


Illustration: ARAB ENCAMPMENT.

Reaching Bethshean at noon, we found a wretched modern village of
500 Egyptians, whom Ibrahim Pasha had colonized there to protect his
frontier, but who are now cruelly oppressed by the wild nomads of the
Ghôr. The ancient city was one of the strong-holds of Palestine, which
the Israelites were never able to take. It lies in the line of the
great caravan route from Damascus to Egypt, and is the same traveled
by the Ishmaelites who bought Joseph. Like most of the cities of that
distant age, it was built upon a hill, with a walled acropolis crowning
the summit. Increasing in wealth and population, the limits of the town
were extended to the plain below. Covering a space of more than three
miles in circumference, the piles of massive ruins which remain no less
indicate the strength of the position than the elegance and affluence
of the city. The religious temples of Bethshean were the boast of its
citizens, and, judging from the number and finish of the remaining
marble columns, they must have equaled in magnificence those of more
renowned places. But time has wrought what the marshaled hosts of
Israel could not accomplish. Bethshean is a desolation; its site and
environs are covered with acres of thorns and brambles; the famous
Roman arch, that spanned the streamlet on the east, is broken; the
impregnable wall, upon which the lifeless bodies of Saul and his sons
were suspended in derision, has fallen; the proud temples of Ashtaroth,
that resounded with songs of triumph over the slain, are no more, and
solitary columns rise up amid weeds and thistles, like spectres in the
silent vales. The only remaining building is the amphitheatre, having
a diameter of 180 feet. Though comparatively well preserved, with all
the interior passages and doors nearly perfect, it is so overgrown
with weeds and lacerating briers that we examined it with the greatest

From the summit of the acropolis we obtained a view which was as
interesting as it was commanding. Four hundred feet below us lay the
Valley of the Jordan. Measuring more than three miles in width, it is
every where well watered, green, and fertile, and dotted with thickets
of tamarisk. Directly opposite rose the Mountains of Gilead, in the
side of which stood the town of Jabesh Gilead, whose valiant men, under
cover of the night, rescued the remains of Saul and his sons, and,
recrossing the Jordan, interred them in their own town, beneath a
venerable oak.[525] And in the same direction is the site of ancient
Pella, the first city of refuge under the Christian dispensation.
Called by the natives Tŭbŭkat Fahil, it is a plateau in the mountain’s
side 1000 feet above the Jordan. More than a mile in length, it is half
a mile in width. The soil is a bright red, and the terrace is bordered
with verdure, and so singularly formed that the mountains seemed to
have receded to give place to the persecuted sons of God.

On leaving this city of ruins we crossed a stone bridge 35 feet wide
and 75 long, and entered the “Valley of Jezreel.” It is the central
branch of the great plain of Esdraelon, and is bounded on the north by
Little Hermon and on the south by Mount Gilboa, both of which ridges
run eastward and overhang the Jordan valley. This vale is three miles
wide, and through its centre flows the Jalûd to the Jordan, which is
a clear and noble stream. Extending from its banks to the base of the
hills on either side are fertile fields, on which, at intervals of
two miles, were Arab encampments. To distinguish it from Mount Hermon
proper, the ridge on the northern border of this vale is called Little
Hermon, having received this appellation from the ecclesiastics of the
fourth century, who erroneously supposed, from its contiguity to Mount
Tabor, that the Psalmist referred to it in that sublime passage: “The
north and the south, thou hast created them; Tabor and Hermon shall
rejoice in thy name.”[526] Shapeless and barren, it has neither natural
beauty nor historical interest. It has its greatest height toward the
west, and its eastern end gradually slopes down into a broad plateau of
table-land. But its companion ridge, known as Mount Gilboa, is at once
remarkable for its appearance and its historical associations. It is
neither high nor rugged, but low and rolling. At a distance it appears
smooth and shadowy, but a nearer view reveals the slight gullies that
furrow its sides and the bolder ledges projecting from its summit. In
its northern base, less than two miles from Zer’in, is the large and
famous fountain of ’Ain Jalûd, where Gideon’s men evinced their courage
by lapping water. Without exception, it is the most beautiful fountain
in Palestine. Issuing from two deep caves at the base of Gilboa, the
limpid water spreads out into a basin of solid rock 50 feet in diameter.
The water is clear and delicious. From the sides and tops of the
caverns depend trails of fern, maiden’s hair, and other water-plants.
Around the border of this basin, and on the banks of the stream that
flows from it, is ample room where Gideon’s men might have tested and
proved their courage. Called by the inspired writer “the Well of Harod,”
or the “Spring of Trembling,” it evidently derives its name from
those decisive words of Jehovah: “Whosoever is fearful and afraid,
let him return and depart early from Mount Gilboa.”[527] For centuries
this was the rendezvous of many a hostile army. From its pure waters
Gideon crossed the plain at dead of night, and with his pitchers, and
lights, and trumpets, surprised the Midianites;[528] and, years after,
Saul encamped at the “Fountain of Jezreel.”[529] Clad in disguise, he
descended the southern border of the plain, and, crossing Little Hermon
below Shunem, he went to consult the Witch of Endor as to the fortunes
of the coming day. A little to the northwest from the spring the
mighty army of the Philistines lay encamped before Shunem, and when
the morning came they descended the gently-sloping plain and began the
onset; and the fierce Amalekites drove the army of Saul up the rocky
acclivities of Gilboa, where, on the favorite battle-field of the king
and his sons, “The shield of the mighty was vilely cast away, even the
shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.”[530]

In less than half an hour’s ride from ’Ain Jalûd we stood amid the
desolations of Jezreel, the empire city of Ahab, and the residence
of his cruel and impious queen. Situated on the crest of a low spur
projecting into the plain from Gilboa, it is but little higher than the
plain itself, except on the north side, where there is a descent of 100
feet. Twenty miserable huts compose the modern town of Zer’in, together
with a square antique tower called an “inn.” Excepting a few sarcophagi,
with sculptured ornaments and heaps of rubbish, there is nothing to
remind the traveler of the royal city of Jezreel. Here the infatuated
Jezebel planned the destruction of the Lord’s prophet; and here, having
first accomplished his death, she confiscated the property of Naboth,
reserving for her weak-minded husband the long-coveted vineyard. Though
no sign for its identification remains, it must have been to the east
of her palace, as the two kings met the relentless Jehu coming from
Ramoth Gilead, which is on the east, “in the portion of Naboth.” Here,
in the conflict that ensued, Joram was slain on the spot; the queen
was trampled under the hoofs of Jehu’s horses, while King Ahab, hoping
to escape by flight over the plain to En-gannim, was overtaken by his
pursuers, and died of his wounds at Megiddo.[531] Here all the sad
details of the fearful judgments pronounced against the house of Ahab
have been fulfilled, and, were it not for the imperishable places
around, it would be impossible to identify the site of Jezreel, where
Jezebel held her murderous orgies.

Three miles to the northwest, on the direct road to Nazareth,
stands the tower of El-Fûleh, where Napoleon, with 3000 Frenchmen,
successfully resisted the attack of 30,000 Turks during a period of
six hours, and finally routed his powerful foe. But we had lingered too
long on the heights of Zer’in, as night had set in, and we were an hour
hunting for our encampment. Riding through fields of wheat and barley,
we crossed the Valley of Jezreel, and, after a journey of three miles,
arrived at the small village of Shunem, called by the inhabitants Sôlem.
Though destitute of architectural elegance, its environs are beautified
with large and fruitful gardens. Occupying the lower slope of Little
Hermon, it consists of a few Arab huts, without a single vestige of
antiquity. Belonging to the tribe of Issachar, it was the home of that
“great woman” who built a “little chamber on the wall” for the Prophet
Elisha, and here she “embraced a son” as a reward for her hospitality,
and received that son from the dead as a farther expression of the
divine regard. Her house, with the “little chamber on the wall,” is
gone, but yonder is the field whither the child of promise “went to his
father to the reapers,” where he received the fatal _coup de soleil_,
and from which he was carried back to his mother. Fifteen miles to
the southwest, but in full view, is the blue ridge of Carmel, where
the prophet and his servant Gehazi lived in solitude, and over this
intervening plain the disconsolate mother rode to lay her complaint
before the “man of God,” who, yielding to entreaties, returned with her
to Shunem, and called back the spirit of her departed son.[532] Behind
the town is the “Hill of Moreh,” along the base of which the Midianites
lay when surprised by Gideon, and where the Philistines were encamped
the night preceding the battle of Gilboa.

Illustration: JEZREEL.

Winding round the western base of Little Hermon, in less than an
hour we came to Nain, whose name is suggestive of the most tender
associations. Situated on a low mountain spur, its dwellings are small
and its inhabitants are few. Directly opposite, standing forth in
all its beauty, is Mount Tabor, and rising up beyond, far away on the
horizon, is the white cone of Hermon. Though fortune has lavished no
favor on this quiet hamlet, yet Christ has linked its memory with one
of his most touching miracles. To the east of the village are tombs
in the hill-side, where the people now, as of old, bury their dead.
It was probably to one of these ancient sepulchres that his neighbors
were bearing the “young man” to his burial when Jesus, coming from the
north, met the funeral procession, and in tones of divine compassion
sweetly whispered to the disconsolate mother, “Weep not,” while, with
an authority that knew no barrier, he touched the bier and commanded,
“Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.”[533] Three miles to the northeast,
located on a rocky acclivity, is the small village of Endor. The path
thither crosses the northern shoulder of Jebel ed-Duhy, and, entering
the Plain of Esdraelon, diverges to the right up the hill on which the
town stands. The transition between Nain and Endor is too sudden to
be pleasant. Tender-hearted mothers and beguiling old witches are too
unlike to be grouped together in the same picture or visited the same
day. Endor is a wretched place of 30 huts, and the noble view afforded
from its rocks is the only natural charm of the village. The sides
of the hills that rise above it contain many large and curious caves,
some of which are used for human habitations. Tradition has designated
the most remarkable one of the number as the sibylline home of the
famous witch of Endor. It is a deep and solemn cave. The entrance is
guarded by two massive rocks, between which there is a large fig-tree,
imparting an air of secrecy to the spot. Within the cavern is a spring
of crystal water, and from the rocks above and on either side trails
of maiden’s hair depend like curtains of Mechlin lace. From its inner
chambers come deep and mournful echoes, and the alternate light and
darkness within gives to the cave an air of witchery. Placed under
the ban of the kingdom, with a price set upon her head, it is not
unreasonable that the Pythoness of Endor should have sought a retreat
so difficult of access in which to perform her necromantic feats.
Celebrated for her skill, it was to her the troubled Saul repaired,
in the darkness of an ever-memorable night and in the disguise of
a peasant, to revive, if possible, his broken spirit by hopeful
disclosures of the coming day. With a duplicity only equaled by her
depravity, she evoked the venerable Samuel. Not in obedience to her
call, but to forewarn the heart-broken king, the venerable prophet,
“covered with a mantle,” appeared, and announced with more than Delphic
authority, “To-morrow shalt thou and thy sons be with me.”[534]

Illustration: NAIN.

The witch of Endor has left to her female descendants the impress
of her brazen-facedness. There is an archness in their countenances
and a boldness in their behavior not characteristic of woman in
any other part of Palestine. Mounting a horse like a man, they ride
with a swiftness and daring hardly excelled even by the plundering
Bedouin. Destitute of all those finer virtues which belong to Christian
womanhood, they are as vicious as they are uncouth. Not suspecting
their honesty, I had left a leather pouch upon the ground which
contained many valuables while I pressed a few ferns from the sibyl’s
cave. Returning to the spot, it was gone. All swore by the beard of
the Prophet they had not seen it. Threats made no impression upon
their fears, and they smiled in scorn at being reported to the Pasha.
In a moment the town was aroused, and our threats were returned with
a shower of stones; but, revolver in hand, we commenced the search
of every hovel. Descending a narrow pass in the rocks, I saw a woman
standing in the mouth of a cave whose countenance excited my suspicion,
and, offering her a _baksheesh_, she drew from the ample folds of her
bosom the stolen pouch, with a shamelessness not unworthy Endor’s elder

Three miles to the north, diagonally across the northern branch of
Esdraelon, stands the Mount of Transfiguration. Whether considered
for its natural beauty or as the scene of many thrilling historic
events, Tabor is second only to Olivet in religious interest among
all the sacred mountains. Separated from the surrounding hills except
on the northwest, it stands out alone, having its base swept by the
magnificent Plain of Esdraelon. Its shape changing with the stand-point
of the beholder, it is not easy to define its graceful form. Having
seen it from every point of the compass, its variant forms added not
a little to my impressions of its extraordinary beauty. Viewed from
the Heights of Carmel, it resembled a truncated cone; seen from the
northern Hills of Galilee, it reminded me of the Pyramids of Egypt;
from the Mountains of Samaria it appeared like the segment of a great
circle; while from the summit of Jebel ed-Duhy and from the plain below
it was not unlike a terraced mound or woodland park. More than two
thirds of its sides on the east and north, up to its very summit, are
covered with noble oaks and beautiful terebinths, not densely like a
forest, but with open glades between oaken groves, adorned with grass,
and strewn with pheasant-eyes, anemones, and amaranths. Its summit
is an oblong area half a mile long and a quarter wide, broken into
charming vales and hillocks, enhancing the delights of the spot. In
ascending to the top the path resembled the threads of a screw, winding
in gentle acclivities up to the highest peak. Now it led through groves
of terebinths, now over flowery beds, now verging on the edge of a bold
precipice, now entering dells sombre with the thick foliage of stately
oaks, and anon opening into glades where the grass was green and the
flowers fragrant. Though the heat was intense without, the path was so
smooth and shady that we gained the loftiest point in less than an hour,
where we were refreshed alike by the unbroken silence of the scene and
the unrivaled glory of the view.

Illustration: MOUNT TABOR.

Tabor rises 2000 feet above the level of the sea, and the prospect
from its summit is one of extraordinary grandeur. The eye sweeps over
the Mountains of Samaria, the long ridge of Carmel, the Bay of Haifa,
the Plain of ’Akka, the Hills of Galilee, the lofty peak of Safed, the
“Horns of Hattîn,” the majestic form of Hermon, the gray walls of Moab,
the dark line of verdure defining the banks of the Jordan, while nearer
are the slopes of Gilboa, the rocks of Duhy, and the glorious Plain of
Esdraelon, like one unbroken sea of verdure, with its borders dotted
with the hamlets of Jezreel, El-Fuleh, Shunem, Nain, and Endor. And
no less significant is the thrilling history of Tabor. Tabor was the
northern boundary-line of the tribe of Issachar;[535] here the heroic
Deborah and Barak assembled the children of Zebulon and Naphtali to
fight against Sisera;[536] years later it was the rendezvous of the
brothers of Gideon――“each one resembled the children of a king”――whom
Zebah and Zalmunna slew;[537] and at a later period it became the scene
of Israel’s idolatry, whose priests Hosea denounces for having “been
a snare on Mizpah and a net spread on Tabor.”[538] Bold in its outline
and firm upon its everlasting base, the inspired writers chose it as a
symbol of glory――“Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name,”[539] and
as typical of the Lord’s unchangeable word, “Surely as Tabor is among
the mountains, and as Carmel is by the sea, so shall Pharaoh come.”[540]
Naturally one of the strong-holds of the land and the key of the
plain, it became in our own era the head-quarters of Josephus, as it
had been in the year 218 B.C. the strong-hold of Antiochus the Great.
But there is one historic honor which does not belong to Tabor, and,
if it did, would not enhance the glory of its associations. Proverbial
for the application of real or fancied names to the scenes of the great
events in their martial annals, and ever fond of a high-sounding name,
the French have designated the conflict which occurred on the Plains of
El-Fuleh as the “Battle of Mount Tabor.” But as the village of El-Fuleh,
where Kleber met the advanced guard of the Turks, and which afterward
became the central point of attack, is ten miles to the southeast from
Tabor, with equal propriety it might have been called the battle of
Mount Carmel, and with greater consistency the battle of Mount Gilboa.
The simple fact of Napoleon’s army coming from Nazareth and sweeping
round the northeastern base of Tabor is not sufficient to justify the
misnomer, nor warrant the application of the name of this most sacred
of “mountains” to a battle fought by a chieftain who had invaded the
Holy Land on an ambitious crusade.

But the glory of Tabor is the transfiguration of our Lord. Anxiously
I sought to identify the spot of that wondrous scene, that I might look
up into the same serene heavens from which came the voice of approval,
and in which appeared Moses and Elias. High up on the northern slopes,
far away from the ruins of the ancient village, is a lovely glade,
inclosed with oaks and adorned with flowers. Shut in from the world,
all nature breathes a sense of repose, and a holy quiet reigns within
undisturbed. The view of the blue skies is unobstructed, and here in
the “stilly night,” watched only by the stars, the Son of God held
converse with Moses and Elias touching “his decease which he should
accomplish at Jerusalem;” and, as a pre-intimation of his glorified
body after his ascension, “the fashion of his body was altered, and
his raiment was white and glistening.”

For nearly sixteen centuries Tabor has been regarded as the
veritable scene of this great event, and not till within a few years
has its claim been called in question. The chief argument against this
venerable tradition is drawn from the itinerary of the Evangelists,
in which Cæsarea Philippi is mentioned as the last place where Christ
had taught previous to his transfiguration. It has been suggested that
the probable scene of the event is somewhere on the southern ridge of
Hermon. More than once, while on its noble summit, I had occasion to
regret that the doubt of its identity had been suggested to my mind,
and the more so as the author of the suggestion had nothing better
to offer; but the examination which I felt compelled to make not only
removed all reasonable doubts, but, proving entirely satisfactory,
confirmed the impression of earlier years, and added to the joy of the
moment. If our Lord had been transfigured immediately or on the next
day after the conversation with his disciples touching men’s opinions
as to himself, there would be some force in the objection; but two of
the evangelists inform us that the event occurred six days[541] after
this conversation, and St. Luke assures us it took place “about eight
days after these sayings.”[542] The distance between Cæsarea Philippi
and the summit of Tabor is less than 18 hours, or less than 54 miles,
which, on foot or otherwise, can be accomplished in less than three
days, thus giving sufficient time for the journey between the two
places. And it is a fact equally significant, that immediately after
our Lord had been transfigured we find him in the vicinity of Tabor
at Capernaum, which is but 21 miles over an excellent road to the
northeast; thence crossing the Jordan at the head of the lake, “he
departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judea beyond
Jordan;”[543] all of which is consistent with the location of the
several places in leaving Mount Tabor for the north, but which would
not be true if our Lord came southward from the slopes of Hermon. It
has also been objected that, from the days of Joshua to the time of
Antiochus the Great, Tabor has been an inhabited mountain, and, as
such, would have been inappropriate for the retirement of Christ and
his three disciples; but history simply intimates that during fifteen
centuries the mount had been the rendezvous of belligerent armies, and
that, in process of time, its summit was fortified; but in the times
of Josephus the defenses had fallen into decay, and he caused them to
be rebuilt about thirty years subsequent to our Lord’s ascension. If
inhabited at all when Christ ascended its verdant slopes, it was only
by a few wretched villagers, such as may be seen in their mud huts, or
clinging to ancient ruins in other parts of Palestine; and, though its
summit were inhabited, yet, owing to the peculiar configuration of the
mount, its high northern acclivities are singularly retired. It is a
remarkable fact, that, though accustomed to withdraw from the world for
meditation and prayer, Christ never chose a “howling wilderness” as the
place of his devotion, but always an inhabited mountain. Even the Mount
of Olives, rendered doubly sacred by the frequency of his presence,
was in his day, as now, a populous mountain, but in some of its wooded
dells was his bower of prayer. Jesus sought the haunts of men, and,
like a great warrior sleeping in the midst of his camp, he was ever
with his people. St. Luke more than intimates that the transfiguration
occurred during the darkness and silence of the night. Referring to the
miracle wrought immediately after the descent, he states, “And it came
to pass, that on the next day, when they were come down from the hill,
much people met him.”[544] Such an hour for the display of the divine
majesty was singularly appropriate. During the day he would have been
subject to intrusion from wandering shepherds and strolling hunters on
any mountain in Palestine; but under the cover of the night he would
have been unmolested by either, as the former are stationary in the
midst of their flocks at that time, and the latter are unable to pursue
their vocation. If the vision transpired in the daytime, why were
the disciples overcome with sleep? The suggestion of Peter to build
three tabernacles or booths, or provide some temporary shelter made
of branches of trees, according to a custom still prevalent in the
East, is more than an intimation that night had overtaken them, and,
supposing their heavenly guests would tarry with them, they desired to
shelter them from the dews of the night.

It was two o’clock on Saturday afternoon when we left the small village
of Debûrieh, at the base of Mount Tabor, for the Sea of Galilee. Riding
up a fruitful valley, in an hour we came to a branching road――one
branch leading directly to Tiberias, and the other to the mouth of
the Jordan. Either from ignorance or villainy, an Arab directed us to
follow the latter path, which caused us to be benighted, and greatly
endangered our safety. The mistake, however, was to our advantage
in the end, as we passed through a tract of country rarely visited
by travelers, owing to the turbulent and thievish character of the
population. Turning eastward, the path lay along the crest of a
mountain ridge, where the peasantry of both sexes were engaged in
husbandry. Occasionally we passed the extensive ruins of unknown
towns, and now and then entered villages remarkable only for their
wretchedness and filth. Whether to display their horsemanship or test
our courage, three mounted Arabs, armed with Bedouin swords, pistols,
and lances 20 feet long, issued from one of those miserable hamlets,
and, singing a war-song, dashed by us at a furious speed, when,
suddenly wheeling, with their lances leveled at our breasts, they
rushed toward us as if to plunge us through. Finding their equestrian
feats neither awakened our fears nor inspired our admiration, they
returned to their village and allowed us to pursue our unfrequented
path. From the summit of the mountain we were crossing we gained a
noble view of the Vale of Tiberias and its circlet of green hills.
Cheered by the prospect of reaching our destination at an early hour,
we rapidly descended 1000 feet into the wild gorge of Fejas, flanked
by lofty mountains, and followed the banks of a beautiful stream lined
with shrubbery and gorgeous oleanders. Charmed with the surrounding
scenery, and confiding in our Arab guide, we passed the hours happily,
nor were our suspicions aroused that we had been misdirected till it
was too late to retrace our steps. Referring to our maps, we found
ourselves in the wild and uninhabited Vale of Fejas, which terminates
in the valley of the Jordan, 10 miles to the south from Tiberias.
Straining our eyes, as we wound round each jutting cliff, to catch
a glimpse through the opening hills of the vale we had seen from the
heights above, at length, in the dusk of the evening, we reached the
upper terraces of the Jordan. Under other circumstances we would have
surveyed the new landscape with delight; but we were now benighted,
miles from a human habitation, in a country notorious for its robberies,
and with skies already black with the coming storm. Closing up
together so as to form a circle with our horses, we held a council,
and discussed the question of advancing or encamping for the night. Far
to the east, beyond the rushing river, we could discover, by its faint
lights, the solitary village of Kanâtir, but were not near enough to
reach it before we should be overtaken by the darkness and the storm.
Tiberias was 10 miles to the north; night was now upon us; the skies
were cloudy; the rain began to fall; the path to the ancient capital
of Galilee was unknown, and we were without a guide. Against remaining
where we were were the serious facts that our cuisine was empty, and we
were without provender for our mules and horses. Deciding to proceed,
we forded several torrents, and, on ascending a broad upland plateau,
in the darkness of the hour plunged into a marsh, into which our horses
sank to their haunches. Crossing a barley-field which had been reaped,
we met two mounted Arabs, whom we understood to say that Tiberias was
but half an hour to the north. Cheered by the good news, we urged on
our jaded beasts to their utmost speed, now stumbling over rocks, now
floundering in the soft, marshy soil. But, as we advanced, the darkness
increased; each friendly star had withdrawn its guiding ray, and the
rain fell in torrents. Part of the company made directly for the shore,
while two of us continued on the upland to report the first glimmer
of the distant lights of Tiberias. Onward we rode; the hours dragged
heavily by. Near midnight the clouds dispersed, and familiar stars
came out one by one, and looked softly down upon the lost and weary
travelers. The beautiful lake lay quietly in its mountain bed, and the
repose of night rested on all nature, undisturbed save by the rippling
wave breaking faintly on the pebbled shore, or the sudden leap of the
jackal or flight of the stork, startled by the sound of our coming.
Beguiling the weary hours by the recollections of the past, hunger and
fatigue were forgotten as the visions of other years rose up before
my mind, and, by the realization of a sublime faith, I beheld the
Redeemer treading the troubled bosom of Gennesaret in the darkness and
storm of night, as in the days of old. It was now past midnight; we
had failed to reach Tiberias; we knew not the distance to be traveled;
and, determining to encamp, we pitched our tents upon the sandy beach,
tethered our hungry horses, and, contenting ourselves with a little
rice and mish-mish, we laid down to fitful slumber.

The peaceful Sabbath dawned without a cloud. While yet the night
struggled with the morn, I ascended a bold bluff, commanding a glorious
view. The skies were soft and warm; the mellow light of day lined the
east; the sea was placid as an embowered lake, and the surrounding
hills were yet dreamy with the haze of night. The impressions of that
hour were as hallowed as their memory is imperishable. It was the
first time, by the light of day, that I looked upon that most sacred of
lakes. Returning to the tent, we learned, to our happy surprise, from
a passing Arab, that we were within half an hour’s ride of Tiberias.
Compelled by the necessities of the case, we passed quietly up the
coast and encamped within the walls of the ancient city just as the
Jewish population, attired in their most costly robes, were hastening
to their devotions around the sepulchres of their fathers.