Northern Palestine

PHILISTIA is among the richest sections of Palestine, and is scarcely
surpassed in fertility by any other portion of land upon the globe.
Consisting of that vast maritime plain extending from Joppa on the
north to Gerar on the south, it is washed by the Mediterranean on the
west, and is bounded on the east by the Mountains of Judea. Originally
occupied by the Avims, the descendants of Cush,[375] it subsequently
became the possession of the Philistines. In the division of the land
it fell to the tribes of Simeon and Dan, who, however, were never fully
able to subdue their allotted provinces. At present it is inhabited
by Moslem Arabs, whose humble towns occupy the sites of more renowned
cities. On the origin of the Philistines the learned are not agreed.
In the absence of authentic records and of distinctive customs, it is
difficult to decide whether they came from the hills of Cappadocia,
the islands of Cyprus and Crete, or from Lower Egypt. Their national
name, signifying “strangers,” implies their foreign birth. Nor is it
definitely known whether they came in possession of their new territory
by conquest, or by alliances formed with the aborigines of Canaan,
who, in process of time, were absorbed by the more rapid increase and
superior strength of their allies. Rising to greatness from an humble
beginning, their history forms part of the inspired narrative, and
the whole country now bears the name of Palestine, or “the Land of
the Philistines.” Dividing their possession into five lordships, they
founded as many royal cities, which are known in Scripture by the
names of Gaza, Ashdod, Askelon, Gath, and Ekron. Idolaters in faith
and practice, their chief divinity was Dagon, the “Fish-god,” whose
dominion over men, beasts, and fowls was represented by the triple
formation of his body. He had a human head, a horse’s neck, and trunk
and limbs covered with the feathers of different birds. His wife
Derceto, “the Fish-goddess,” or Syrian Venus, had the form of a
beauteous maid from her waist up, and thence downward resembled a fish.

As the home of Samson, and the scene of many a romantic story,
Philistia has a history of thrilling interest. It was therefore with no
ordinary delight that we left the Holy City to explore a region where
have occurred so many grand historic events. Skirting the northern
border of the Plain of Rephaim, we were soon under the shadow of the
Convent of the Cross. Turning to the right, we entered the Valley of
Roses, called by the Arabs Wady el-Werd. For more than half a mile
the bottom of the glen is covered with rose-bushes, cultivated for
the manufacture of rose-water, which is used in the East in large
quantities. Descending Wady el-Werd, we soon reached Philip’s Fountain,
where, according to a recent tradition, the Evangelist baptized the
Ethiopian eunuch.[376] ’Ain Hanîyeh is a pretty fountain gushing out
from a semicircular apse, ornamented with pilasters, and is situated in
a wild glen by the wayside, on the ancient road to Gaza. On the summit
of a neighboring hill to the north stands the quiet hamlet of ’Ain
Kârim, the birthplace of John the Baptist. It is in the “hill country
of Judea,” and is the scene of the meeting of those pious cousins,
the destined mothers of the Messiah and his harbinger.[377] High up on
a wild ridge to the south is the city of Bether, where the pretended
Christ, called Bar-cochba, the “Son of a Star,” made his last and fatal
stand against the Romans under Adrian. It was then a Jewish city of
wealth and learning, and, after a siege of three and a half years, was
forced to surrender. Eighty thousand of its unfortunate citizens fell
beneath the conqueror’s sword; and such was the dreadful slaughter,
that, according to the historian, the horses waded in blood up to their

Following the Sultâny, or “Queen’s Highway,” our path lay among the
“hills of Judea,” clad with vines and covered with corn. Approaching
the large town of Beit ’Abab, we turned to the west, and at high noon
reached the ancient city of Bethshemesh. Thistles and marigolds now
cover the ruins of the Philistine village, to which the Ark of the Lord
was brought from Ekron, and where fifty thousand people were slain for
their temerity in looking into the ark, contrary to the Lord’s express
command.[378] We were now in the country of Samson. Around us rose his
native hills, and beneath us stretched the valleys of his childhood,
while here and there appeared the scenes of many memorable deeds of his
riper years. On the summit of a neighboring hill to the right, which
rises steeply from the Valley of Sûr’ah, is the village of Zorah, where
he was born,[379] and adjoining it is the field where the angel of the
Lord appeared unto Manoah and his wife. Beyond an intervening ridge,
and less than two miles to the westward, is Timnath, situated on a
plain, the place where Samson married his Philistine wife.[380] It was
in one of the vineyards in the adjacent glen that, as he hastened to
his betrothed, he turned aside to slay the lion of Timnath who roared
against him,[381] and from whose dead carcass, on a subsequent occasion,
he took the honey which, on his wedding-day, was the subject of that
perplexing riddle, “Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the
strong came forth sweetness.”[382] It was there the wife of his bosom
was afterward given to another, and, to avenge himself, he went forth
to destroy the corn-fields of his enemies, which dotted the Plain of
Philistia.[383] From the base of his native hill extends the Valley of
Sorek, the home of Delilah,[384] and where the man with a divine secret,
yielding to the entreaties of a woman, fell asleep in the lap of false
affection, to awake to weakness and to shame. Along this same vale
the road leads to Gaza, whither the blind captive was led, bound with
fetters of brass, to grind in the prison-house of the Philistines.[385]
And now, after the lapse of so many centuries, all the incidents
of his wedding are illustrated by existing customs and confirmed by
facts. Wives are procured now, as then, by the intervention of parents;
marriages are attended by the same display; and on such occasions
riddles are propounded by the bridegroom, and other sports practiced.
In the wild glens of this region, and on the rugged hills, are foxes or
jackals, and through the corn-fields on the rich plains below another
Samson might send them on their burning mission.

Passing on toward the scene of his death, we turned to the southeast
in search of the Valley of Shochoh, where David slew Goliath. A ride of
six miles brought us to Beit Nettîf, a small village crowning a lofty
cliff. Impelled by curiosity, the people gathered around us in crowds
to examine our garments and riding equipage. Compelled to take a guide
to the romantic valley, we secured the services of a white-turbaned
Arab, who, after tenderly kissing his child and bidding his wife
adieu, led us through the town, and, to save a detour, up the roughest,
steepest mountain in the Holy Land. Skirting the verge of a dangerous
precipice on the north, we turned southward, and in less than an hour
entered one of the most picturesque ravines in Southern Palestine.
Rising grandly on either side, the rocks were festooned with delicate
shrubs, and from a thousand rills the water glided, forming a brooklet
below. Midway the ravine there is a fountain gushing out of the
mountain’s side, around which are a few Arab huts. The glen contracted
as we ascended, and at its terminus the country opened and declined
toward the south. Rapidly descending a mountain path, we were soon
in the Valley of Elah, where David achieved his celebrated victory.
Here, as elsewhere in our travels, we had proof of the harmony existing
between the inspired narrative of the event and the topography of the
scene of its occurrence.

Running north and south, the bed of the valley measures a mile in width,
and was covered with grain and flowers. Through its centre extends a
torrent bed, lined with smooth pebbles, and fringed with acacia-trees.
Though not high, the mountains on either side are bold and well defined.
On their summits the contending armies were drawn up in battle array,
watching each other’s movements. To make an assault, the intervening
valley must first be crossed, which would give to the defense an
immense advantage. Unwilling to lose a good position and invite
such a fearful slaughter, the armies were disinclined to make an
attack. Impatient at the delay, there was one brave spirit among
the Philistines who offered to stake the issues of the war upon a
single-handed combat. Descending, day after day, for forty days, the
left bank of the valley, Goliath of Gath threw down the gauntlet and
cried out, “I defy the armies of Israel; send me a man, that we may
fight together.” His giant form, his proud, defiant tone, his powerful
weapons, sent dismay to the heart of Israel, and neither the once
heroic Saul, nor any of his warriors, had the courage to accept the
challenge. With all the appearance of an accidental event, David that
day reached the camp with provision for his three brethren who were in
Saul’s army. Rising above the contempt of Eliab, rejecting the king’s
armor, but trusting in that higher power which had led him to the scene
and ordained him for the fight, David went forth to retrieve the honor
of his country, and vindicate the supremacy of Jehovah over the idol
Dagon. Like Syrian shepherds of to-day, he carried a staff, a scrip,
and sling, for the defense of his fold. Confident of his ability to
employ with success the instruments which he had been accustomed to
all his life, David descended, in the presence of the embattled hosts,
and from the flowing brook he stooped to gather five smooth stones for
the conflict. The apparent advantages were with the Philistine; but
the Unseen, who was with David, was more than he who was against him.
Goliath had size, strength, experience, armor, and weapons. David was
young, small, and armed only with a sling; but he had spirit, courage,
and faith. What to him would forever have remained the romantic stories
of a shepherd’s life, now suddenly becomes the source of inspiration
and the ground of hope. Among his native mountains a lion and a bear
had attacked his fold, and when, in attempting to rescue the lamb, the
wild beasts rose up against him, he smote the one and the other, “and
this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them, seeing he has
defied the armies of the living God.” Those champions met, one in the
pride of his strength and military prowess, the other in the name of
the Lord of hosts; one full of contempt for his antagonist, the other
conscious of a just cause. The polished armor, the brazen shield,
the burnished helmet, and immense spear of Goliath, glittered in the
sunlight; the ruddy cheeks of the shepherd boy glowed with a heroic
spirit, which was his only helmet, and a brave heart within him,
beating calmly, was his only shield. Swung by unerring skill, and
guided by an invisible hand, the smooth stone from the Brook Elah
penetrated the brain of the giant, and David stood in triumph upon his
fallen body, amid the shouts of victory and the benedictions of his

Seven miles to the northwest, on the same road over which the routed
Philistines fled, is Gath, the native city of Goliath. The conspicuous
hill on which it stood rises 200 feet above the Plain of Philistia, and
is now crowned with an old castle, a Mohammedan tomb, and a few huts,
which compose the modern town. Besides being the birthplace of the
famous warrior, it is also the scene of a singular episode in the life
of David. Compelled to fly from the presence of Saul, he stopped at Nob,
where, having obtained from Abimelech a supply of food and the sword of
Goliath, he came to Gath, either in the hope of not being recognized,
or, as a fugitive from Saul’s court, of receiving a welcome from the
Philistines, with whom the king was then at war. Disappointed in both,
and discovering that his fate was sealed, “he feigned himself mad
in their hands, and scrabbled on the doors of the gate, and let his
spittle fall upon his beard.” Madmen being privileged characters then,
as they are now in the East, he was permitted to roam at large; and,
embracing a favorable moment, he fled to the cave of Adullam, where he
gathered a small army around him, and resisted the repeated attempts of
Saul to take his life.[387]

From Gath the road runs toward the southeast, and the next important
place is Eleutheropolis, six miles distant. The path is rugged,
and alternately crosses stony ridges and small valleys. The village
occupies a nook in a green valley, and is surrounded by low hills.
Though the ancient city is destitute of special Biblical interest, yet
its ruins are extensive and unique. Within an inclosure 600 feet square
are the remains of a castle, filling one third of the entire space.
The interior contains arches, vaults, and marble shafts. Two hundred
yards up a ravine, extending eastward, are massive foundations, and a
fine well, more than seventy feet deep; but the chief attraction is the
great caves, unequaled in extent by any in Syria. The largest of these
caverns is 100 feet high and sixty-five in diameter. Lateral galleries
connect it with adjoining caves, which are surmounted with domes,
and ornamented with cornices. In another portion of the town is a
vast range of bell-shaped chambers, connected by arched doorways and
subterranean passages. While a few of them are entirely dark, most of
them are lighted by a circular aperture in the top. Some regard these
caverns as the work of Idumean Troglodytes, while others suppose them
to have been excavated for cisterns; the former is the more probable

Thirteen miles to the southwest is the site of Lachish, called by the
Arabs Um Lâkis. The intervening country is rocky and undulating, and
occasionally dotted with deserted villages. The hill on which the city
stood is low and flat, and is strewn with fragments of marble columns
and blocks of hewn stones. Lachish was among the cities of Judah
captured by Joshua,[389] but derives its chief significance from having
been fortified by Rehoboam,[390] and afterward besieged by Sennacherib.
It was while the latter was encamped here that King Hezekiah sent unto
him, saying, “I have offended; return from me; that which thou puttest
on me I will bear.” To meet the demand for 300 talents of silver and
thirty talents of gold, Hezekiah emptied his own treasure and that of
the house of the Lord; and, to supply a deficiency that remained, “he
cut off the gold from the doors and pillars of the Temple.” But, not
satisfied with a sum so large, Sennacherib sent three of his generals
to Jerusalem to demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the
city. One of the three was Rabshakeh, whose blasphemous speech offended
Heaven, as his proud and defiant words had overwhelmed the king with
consternation and fear. That night God heard Hezekiah’s prayer, and
vindicated his own insulted majesty. From his throne “the angel of
the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred
fourscore and five thousand.” The next morning Sennacherib departed for
Nineveh, where he was assassinated by two of his sons while worshiping
in the temple of Nisroch, his god.

In one of his noblest odes, Byron has described the destruction of the
Assyrian host:

“The Assyrian came down like the wolf on the fold,
And his cohorts were gleaming in purple and gold;
And the sheen of their spears was like stars on the sea,
When the blue wave rolls nightly on deep Galilee.

“Like the leaves of the forest when Summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when Autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay wither’d and strown.

“For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he pass’d;
And the eyes of the sleepers wax’d deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still.

“And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide,
And through it there roll’d not the breath of his pride;
And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf,
And cold as the spray of the rock-beaten surf.

“And there lay the rider distorted and pale,
With the dew on his brow, and the rust on his mail;
And the tents were all silent, the banners alone,
The lances unlifted, the trumpet unblown.

“And the widows of Ashur are loud in their wail,
And the idols are broke in the temple of Baal;
And the might of the Gentile, unsmote by the sword,
Hath melted like snow in the glance of the Lord!”

The bleakness of the scenery from Lachish to Gaza is relieved by groves
of palms, olives, and willows, together with the gardens which surround
the half dozen intervening villages. The peasants of these towns are
industrious, and the glee of the children indicated their happiness,
notwithstanding their nudity. The road crosses diagonally several deep
torrent beds, which drain the upland country, and which continue their
courses through the white sand downs to the sea. The approach to Gaza
is among sand-hills and through olive-groves, and, after a ride of
twelve miles from Lachish, the traveler finds himself in this renowned
Philistine city. Situated three miles from the sea, Gaza is a city of
15,000 inhabitants, 300 of whom are Christians and the rest Moslems.
Around it, like a green belt, are gardens of apricots, mulberries, and
palms. On its western side runs the same road which was trodden by the
Pharaohs thousands of years ago, and which leads to the pasture-fields
of Gerar. Between the town and the sea is a range of hills, of drifting
sand, two miles wide. On the east of the city are barren hills, the
highest of which is crowned with a Mohammedan wely, and is probably the
hill to the top of which Samson carried the gates of Gaza.

Rising from amid the rude buildings of the town is the great mosque,
which was once a Christian church, and dedicated to John the Baptist.
It has a peaked roof and an octagonal minaret. The interior is 130 feet
long, and is divided into a nave and two aisles by rows of Corinthian
columns. Modern Gaza has neither walls, gates, nor fortifications of
any kind. Though thus exposed to the attacks of the predatory bands of
Bedouins, yet the inhabitants are seldom molested, for no other reason,
perhaps, than the fact that they themselves in part are freebooters.

With an antiquity that ranks it among the oldest cities in the
world,[391] Gaza was originally inhabited by the Hivites, the
descendants of Canaan,[392] who in the lapse of time were dispossessed
by the Philistines, who elevated it to the dignity of a royal city. In
the days of Moses it was the home of those giants known as the Anakims,
whose formidable stature and warlike character alarmed the Hebrew
spies, and, though subsequently captured by the tribe of Judah, it
was repossessed by the sons of Anak, who enslaved the Israelites.[393]
But Gaza appears most prominent in sacred history as the scene of many
remarkable events in the life of Samson, and from him it has derived
an imperishable name. In his happier days he here performed one of the
most astonishing feats of his supernatural strength. Besieged by his
enemies, he arose at midnight and carried the gates of the city upon
his shoulders to the top of a hill that is before Hebron.[394] It was
prior to his alliance with Delilah, and when in full possession of
his marvelous strength, that he thus bade defiance to a whole race
of giants. But, deceived by the duplicity of an unworthy wife, he
afterward became, in the very city of his triumph, a blind, fettered,
imprisoned captive, the sport of woman, and the ridicule of man.

Illustration: GAZA.

Dreading him more than an army with banners, the Philistines had taken
every precaution to secure their powerful and determined foe. Having
consigned him to eternal darkness by the destruction of his eyes,
they fastened his limbs with fetters of brass, and, thrusting him into
a loathsome dungeon, appointed him to the menial work of an Eastern
woman.[395] But He who had chosen him to be the champion and avenger
of his people restored his strength, and with its restoration the
day of vengeance returned. Deeming his capture a public good, the
Philistines assembled to offer thanksgiving to their god Dagon. The day
dawned without a cloud, and the sun rose in beauty upon the Plains of
Philistia. At an early hour the streets of ancient Gaza were thronged
with an excited multitude, who were hastening to the great sacrifice,
and rejoicing in the capture of the giant of Zorah. The grand temple of
their idol crowned the loftiest of their hills. Its broad flat roof was
supported by arches resting on pillars. Two central columns, massive
and strong, and standing near each other, were the key to the whole
support. On the roof of the spacious temple, and also within the sacred
fane, the lords of the Philistines, with their wives, had assembled to
honor their god and enjoy the sports of the occasion. Though it was no
part of their original purpose that Samson should add to the joy of the
day by exhibitions of his strength, yet, as one pleasure never fails to
excite a desire for another, and as a succession of pleasures demands
the most extravagant delights, so, in the delirious excitement of the
moment, the blind captive is called to make them sport. They had heard
of the return of his strength, and he being now sightless, they could
witness exhibitions of his power without fear of injury to themselves,
as in former days, so long as they remained beyond his reach. Josephus
supposes they made him a laughing-stock, and insulted him in their
cups; but, rather, they forced him to perform prodigious exploits of
physical strength, which accounts for his weariness, and his excuse to
lean against the pillars. Led by a little Philistine boy, he came from
his gloomy dungeon. The transition from darkness to light had no effect
upon his sightless eyeballs. Recalling the havoc he had made among
their countrymen at Lehi, and not knowing what plans of revenge were
then the subject of his thoughts, many ran at his approach, while all
sought to avoid his grasp. As he advanced he was greeted with shouts
of ridicule and peals of laughter. Removing the brazen fetters to give
full play to his mighty limbs in the contemplated performance, a guard
of Philistine giants encircle him, to pierce him with spear and javelin
should he attempt to avenge his misfortune. Without knowing the manner
in which he acted, we are left to imagine how he made sport for his
enemies. What massive block of marble did he lift? what new lion of
Timnath did he grapple with? what gate with posts and bar did he carry
on his shoulders? what new cord or green withes did he snap asunder,
as “tow is broken when it toucheth the fire?” what new Delilah wove
his fresh-grown “locks with the web, and fastened them with a pin to
a beam,” that he might bear away web, pin, and beam?

Deceived by the docility of his spirit and the obedience of his
behavior, he is called within the temple itself. At length, wearied
with the great exertions he had been required to make, he unsuspectedly
requested of the lad that led him, “Suffer me that I may feel the
pillars whereupon the house standeth, that I may lean upon them.”
Sweating, panting, weary, the captive leans for rest against the marble
columns, while, in fancied security, the people shout, joke, laugh,
rending his very soul. A blind man’s eye reveals no heart-secret.
Samson repents a misspent life, and, conscious that his strength was
Heaven’s gift, he prays, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and
strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at
once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then, seizing the
two pillars, “he bowed himself with all his might,” and in a moment
the roof fell in, precipitating those on the top into one broken, dying
mass with those within, and, slaying more in his death than in his life,
the victor and the vanquished slept the sleep that knows no waking.

I wept when I remembered the son of Manoah. He was a child of
Providence. His was a miraculous birth. Chosen to punish idolatry,
to deliver his country, and judge a nation, Samson was an army of
_one_. God had purposed to accomplish through him what he had done
by the mighty forces of Joshua, Deborah, Gideon, and Jephthah, and to
illustrate his own divine power in subduing the enemies of his church
by the arm of a single man. It was a thought worthy of a God. As in
other ways of the Almighty, the secret of Samson’s power was hidden.
Unlike Goliath, he was an ordinary man in stature: there was nothing
in his physique that indicated his wondrous strength. It was this that
confounded his foes, and impelled them to solicit Delilah with a bribe
to ascertain the secret of his power. As his strength was not in his
muscles, so it was not in the seven locks of his hair. When asleep and
at ordinary duties he was as other men, but when the Philistines were
to be punished, the Spirit of the Lord came upon him. So long as he
retained the solitary virtue of secrecy, and allowed his beard and hair
to grow untrimmed, it pleased the Lord to use him as he did Jephthah
and Cyrus, and as he does a thunderbolt or a volcano, to punish the
wicked; but when he preferred the smiles of a woman to the benedictions
of heaven, he became as other men. Though a failure in life, he was
faithful in death; and for the faith of his dying act, St. Paul records
the name of Samson among the illustrious believers.[396]

The subsequent history of Gaza is replete with memorable events. Being
the key to Palestine to those on the south, and the key to Egypt to
those on the north, it has been frequently subjected to the calamities
of war. Besieged by Alexander the Great, its defenders surrendered
their city with their lives; and in the fearful conflict the great
warrior received a wound in the shoulder, which threatened to terminate
his eventful career. In the first century of our own era it was twice
destroyed, and, though subsequently rebuilt, it never attained its
ancient splendor. Though early visited by the teachers of Christianity,
yet in the fifth century it contained eight temples dedicated to the
worship of heathen gods. In 634 A.D. it yielded to the conquering arms
of Mohammed, and afterward became the birthplace of Esh-Shâfa’y, the
founder of one of the largest of the Mohammedan sects. In 1152 A.D. the
Crusaders found the city deserted, and, erecting a strong fortress on
the highest hill, intrusted its defense to the Knights Templars.[397]
Captured and sacked by Saladin in 1170 A.D., with the exception of a
brief interval, it has remained, as it is now, a Moslem city.

Askelon is on the sea, twelve miles to the north from Gaza. The great
route thither runs along the eastern side of the sand downs which
separate it from the shore, and, continuing northward, passes through
several Arab towns, surrounded with orchards of figs and groves of
palms. Despite the incessant efforts of the villagers, the drifting
sand is annually approaching their homes, and, if not resisted by a
more formidable barrier, will completely destroy their gardens and
overwhelm their dwellings. It is not uncommon to see trees so buried
that only a green twig is visible, indicating the position of the tree,
while the branches of those not yet entombed are dusted with the flying

As one of the five royal cities of the Philistines, Askelon was
celebrated for the grandeur of its architecture. It occupied an area
not unlike in form an amphitheatre. Along the shore extend a series of
bold cliffs, a mile in length and eighty feet high. From the northern
end of this range a lofty ridge sweeps round like a semicircle, first
to the eastward, then to the southward, and finally, bending westward,
runs to the sea. Within this space are the ruins of the city, and on
the top of this curving ridge the wall was built, defended by strong
towers, the immense fragments of which, thrown together in confused
heaps, suggest a destroying angel more powerful than the hand of man.
On the east are the remains of a large castle, and near it is the chief
entrance to the city. Not far from a ruinous wely are the traces of a
noble avenue, which was once lined with columns, and within 200 yards
of it is a low excavated area, on which are thirty large granite and
marble shafts. Beneath mounds of sand there must be other remains,
perhaps of temples and palaces, but at present not even the outlines
of a building can be traced. Whether viewed in its ruins, or as
defenseless against the encroaching waves of sand, Askelon wears an
air of dreariness as indescribable as it is sad. On her rests the
burden of prophecy: “Askelon shall be a desolation.[398] Askelon shall
not be inhabited.”[399]

Illustration: RUINS OF ASKELON.

Though it was allotted to the tribe of Judah, the Philistines held
possession of their city throughout the whole period of the Jewish
monarchy. Its significance in sacred history is derived from its
gross idolatry, and the fearful judgments denounced against it by the
prophets, rather than from any great events having occurred within
its limits. But, beyond the inspired record, it has a history in which
figure many illustrious characters. Regarding its maritime location
as invaluable, Herod the Great adorned the city with baths, porticoes,
and fountains, and after his death his sister Salome resided there
in a palace which her brother had built. Suffering greatly in the
wars between the Jews and the Romans, the original citizens became the
allies of the latter, and Askelon was the scene of a horrid massacre,
in which 2500 Jews were put to death. In after years the Christians
and the Moslems lost and won in turns this important sea-port town.
Captured by Baldwin III. in 1152 A.D., it subsequently reverted to the
Moslems, but yielded again to the Crusaders, under Richard Cœur de Lion,
in 1191 A.D., who compelled Saladin to abandon this stronghold; and
when, in turn, the Christians were expelled, Askelon began to wane, and
to-day it is an uninhabited town.

Less than 100 yards to the northeast stands the wretched village of
El-Jûrah, the modern representative of the royal city. Through its
gardens the road leads to Ashdod, eight miles to the north. Two miles
on the way is the town of Mejdel, the largest and most flourishing of
all the villages on the Plain of Philistia. The buildings are large
and well constructed, the streets are wide and clean, and the scenery
and gardens around it are exceedingly beautiful. Passing through the
village of Hamâmeh, the path runs along the sandy downs, and after
ascending a low ridge, enters Ashdod on the south. Its mud houses are
located on the declivity of a hill, and near it is a lake 500 yards
in circumference. Though once the capital of a lordship, yet Ashdod is
without antique ruins, and the traveler is left to record its history
amid the beautiful gardens, without the remains of temples and palaces
to aid his recollection. It was here the Ark of the Lord was brought
after the battle of Aphek, and the Philistines, deeming it a religious
trophy, placed it in the temple of their idol, “And when they of
Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen on his face
to the earth before the Ark of the Lord.” Elevating their deity to
his place, the Philistines found him in the dust again on the second
night. Smitten by the Lord with pestilence for their impiety, in their
distress they sent the Ark to Gath.[400] Three centuries later Ashdod
was dismantled by King Uzziah;[401] and it is afterward mentioned by
Nehemiah, who reproaches the Jews for having there married heathen
wives after their return from captivity.[402] Called by the Greeks
Azotus, it was here that Philip the Evangelist was found after the
baptism of the eunuch.[403] But Ashdod is conspicuous in profane
history for having withstood a siege of twenty-nine years, when
invested by Psammetichus, king of Egypt, which is the longest siege
on record.

Illustration: ASHDOD.

Twenty miles to the north, situated on the coast, is ancient Joppa.
From Ashdod thither the route lies through one of the richest sections
of the Plain of Philistia. It is a gentle depression coming down from
the east, three miles wide, through the centre of which runs a deep,
winding torrent bed. The soil is loamy, and yields the finest grain
raised in Syria. Among the large and prosperous villages that dot its
fertile sides are Batâneah and El-Burka; but beyond this oasis the
land is stony and barren, and the wretched hovels of which the towns
are composed, together with the squalidity of the peasants, recall the
prophetic denunciation, “A bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will
cut off the pride of the Philistines.”[404] Passing through Yebna, the
Jabneh of the Bible,[405] and leaving Ekron,[406] five miles to the
east the road crosses diagonally the great Wady Surâr, which drains the
western section of the Judean Hills from Hebron to Bethel. Less than
two miles from the sea are the remains of a Roman bridge which once
spanned the torrent, and from this ruin the path declines westward to
the coast, when, turning northward, it follows the beach to Yâfa.

Standing upon a rock whose western base is washed by the Mediterranean,
Joppa is one of the oldest cities in the world. Though its authentic
history begins with the partitioning of Palestine into tribal
possessions, yet, according to Pliny, it existed prior to the Flood.
Called by Joshua Japho,[407] by Luke Joppa,[408] by the Arabs Yâfa,
and by the Franks Jaffa, it was originally allotted to the tribe of
Dan,[409] but remained in comparative obscurity till the reign of
Solomon, when it became the chief maritime city of his kingdom. Being
the nearest harbor to Jerusalem, the floats of pine and cedar from
Lebanon for the building of the first and second temples were landed
here,[410] and hence transported to the Holy City on the back of camels.
Centuries later, Jonah here embarked for Tarshish,[411] and in our own
era here lived the benevolent Tabitha, whom Peter restored to life,[412]
and here was the home of Simon, with whom the apostle lodged.[413]

The only antiquity to detain the traveler a single hour is the
traditional house of Simon. Like all Eastern dwellings, it is
constructed of stone, square in form, with a flat roof, and may have
stood for centuries, as, without violence, it will endure for hundreds
of years to come. Standing near the seaside, both the location and
structure of the building are in harmony with the inspired narrative,
and a venerable tradition points to it as once the residence of
a tanner. The entrance is through a low gallery, before which the
servants of Cornelius stood inquiring for Peter. Within is a small
court-yard, containing a well of excellent water, and from the court
a stone staircase leads to the roof, from which I enjoyed a commanding
view of the sea, over whose blue waters had glanced the apostolic eye
as Peter sat beneath those clear expanded heavens from which descended
the symbolic sheet, opening to his Jewish understanding the purposes
of the divine mind. Plucking a leaf from the solitary tree adorning the
court, I entered the interior, which is now occupied by the Moslems as
a place of prayer, and by whom it is revered no less for its antiquity
than for its traditional sacredness. Excepting its gardens, Joppa is
neither clean nor beautiful. The streets are narrow and irregular, and
the best buildings have no claim to architectural elegance. Inclosed by
a stone wall, the city has a single gate, opening toward the east. Near
it, and around a pretty Saracenic fountain, are the famous fruit-bazars
of Jaffa, where are sold the finest oranges and lemons in the world.
Here also is the seat of justice, where the cadi[414] tries all civil
and criminal suits, sitting, as in Bible times,[415] in the gate of
the city. As of old, Joppa is a sea-port town of considerable trade,
and, if possessed of a good harbor, would be the most flourishing
maritime city of Palestine. The products of its immense fruit-orchards,
together with the silk and soap here manufactured, are exported in
large quantities to the cities on the Mediterranean coast.


Possessing a population of 5000 souls, a fifth of whom are
Christians, 200 Jews, and the rest Moslems, the basis of social
and political distinction is religion rather than nationality. The
Mohammedans have several mosques, the Jews a synagogue, the Latins,
Greeks, and Armenians have each a convent, for the entertainment of
pilgrims _en route_ for the Holy City.

Under the direction of Dr. Barclay, who combines the two professions
of physician and missionary, a society has here been formed called the
“Abrahamic Coalition,” the object of which is the gathering together in
one large community all the indigent Jews in the East, and locate them
on the Plain of Sharon, securing to each a small piece of land, and
otherwise aiding the colonists in practical agriculture.

As illustrating the changeless character of Eastern customs, before
the door of our inn stood a magician performing astonishing feats with
serpents. A Nubian by birth, his face was black and glossy, his eyes
small and snakish, and his countenance expressive of great cunning.
With a smile, he drew from the ample folds of his bosom three large
black serpents, which had been nestling next his naked breast; and
caressing them in the fondest manner, he lifted them up to his neck,
and allowed them to entwine themselves about his head. Subject to the
will of their charmer, they obeyed his magical words, and the magician
of Joppa vividly recalled the magicians of Egypt.[416]

Once more our faces were turned toward the Holy City. On leaving Joppa,
our path for half an hour lay between enormous hedges of the cactus
plant, inclosing orange and lemon groves, which cover an area of many
miles in extent. The air was surcharged with the fragrance of those
delicious fruits, and beneath the ladened trees lay heaps of lemons
and oranges, like apples in an American orchard. Charmed with a ride
so delightful, we were soon upon the Plain of Sharon, stretching
far to the northeastward, to the white and purple Hills of Benjamin.
Passing the hamlet of Yasûr on our left, in thirty minutes we entered
the pine-groves of Beit Dejân. The declining sun forewarning us of
approaching night, we gave loose rein to our horses, and bounded over
that glorious plain. As far as the eye could reach, crimson anemones,
tufts of lily leaves, and white and yellow daisies covered the ground
like a carpet of many colors, while here and there stood the shepherd’s
black tent, with herds and flocks around it, and on the evening air
came the soft notes of his flute. In the starlight away to the east,
like a dark column standing out against the sky of night, appeared the
solitary tower of Ramleh. At seven P.M. we were knocking at the iron
gate of the Latin Monastery, and, with a courtesy for which others have
not given them credit, the Franciscan brothers received us to their
retreat, while their tall and graceful superior entertained us with
an ease and dignity worthy a Christian gentleman. After an excellent
dinner in the refectory, a quiet-looking friar led us, by the light
of a single wax taper, across a dark court-yard to a small chamber
containing four beds, neat and clean, as if the work of a woman’s hand.

Ramleh is nine miles to the southeast from Joppa, and is one of the
best-built towns on the Plain of Sharon. It is environed for miles
with fig-orchards and orange-groves. Containing a population of 3000
inhabitants, the majority of whom are Greek Christians, tradition
identities Ramleh with the Ramah of Samuel, the birthplace of Nicodemus,
and the native city of Joseph of Arimathea. Chosen by the Crusaders to
be their southern rendezvous, it became the head-quarters of Richard
of England in 1191 A.D. Its chief architectural attraction is a noble
square tower 120 feet high, built of hewn stone, and standing a mile
to the west from the town, amid the ruins of a large quadrangular
inclosure. There is nothing, either in its construction or in history,
to indicate whether it it is the campanile of a Christian church or the
minaret of a mosque. A flight of stone steps, narrow and spiral, leads
to the top, from which is obtained a view of surpassing beauty. In all
its amplitude and richness, the Plain of Sharon spreads out before the
eye, extending from the roots of Carmel on the north, to the promontory
of Joppa on the south, and from the hills of Samaria and Judea on the
east, to the Mediterranean on the west; while on every hand appear
fields of grain, groves of fruit-trees, and towns, whose white domes
shine in the sunlight like diamonds in a circlet of emeralds.

Illustration: RAMLEH, OR THE “LOOK-OUT.”

A ride of forty minutes through an embowered avenue brought us to Ludd,
the Lod of the Old Testament,[417] and the Lydda of the New.[418] It is
an Arab town of 2000 inhabitants, and, though unsurpassed by the beauty
of its environs, it is neither remarkable for the elegance of its
buildings nor the regularity of its streets. To the Christian, Lydda
is interesting as the place where Peter cured Eneas of palsy, and where
he was stopping when he was informed of Tabitha’s death. To Englishmen
it is memorable as the birthplace of St. George, England’s patron
saint, and as containing his tomb, in which he was interred near the
close of the third century, after his martyrdom in Nicomedia, under
the relentless Diocletian. According to William of Tyre, the Emperor
Justinian reared a noble church over the ashes of the saint and martyr,
which, at a later period, was destroyed by the revengeful Moslems.
Rebuilt by Richard Cœur de Lion, it was partially destroyed again by
the troops of Saladin. The walls and a part of the vault of the eastern
niche of this monumental structure remain, adorned with pilasters,
capitals, and cornice. On the south side of the grand aisle is a
pointed arch of great elegance, supported by massive clustered columns
with marble Corinthian capitals, forming one of the most picturesque
ruins in Palestine.


Forty minutes from Ludd we passed the town of Jimzu,[419] and just
beyond the road branched, one path diverging to the right, running
through Wady Suleimân, and the other ascending the steep acclivities
of Bethhoron the Nether. Though it is exceedingly rugged, yet, as
it passes over one of the grandest battle-fields in sacred history,
we chose the latter. Now began the toil of the journey. The verdure
had disappeared, and the white limestone rocks protruded above the
scanty soil, leaving only intervening patches of tillable land, which
was being plowed as we passed. Disobeying the divine command, and
disregarding the fitness of nature, a peasant was plowing with an ox
and an ass,[420] and another with an ass and a camel. Passing Um Rush
in two hours from Jimzu, we toiled up a mountain path, and at noon
reached Lower Bethhoron. Memorable in Bible history as the second
stage of the flight of the five kings of the Amorites, the roughness
of the scene is in harmony with the horrors of war. The surface of
the land is broken into circular rocky hills, around the base of which
equally stony valleys wind. From the hill-sides the rocks protrude like
terraces, rising with much regularity one above the other. The modern
town is perched on a rocky ridge, and called by the Arabs Beit ’Ur
et-Tahta. Amid its sterility a few half-naked peasants lay basking in
the genial sunshine of spring, who greeted us as we passed with a lazy
smile. Though located on the northwest border of Benjamin, the city
belonged to Ephraim, and from that tribe it was taken and allotted to
the Levites.[421] Passing over the roughest tract of land above the sea,
in less than an hour we reached Upper Bethhoron. Bearing the Arabic
name of Beit Ur el-Fôka, it is a small village, the huts of which
are composed of large hewn stones once belonging to more pretentious
buildings. Sturdy men sat smoking on the rocks, and near them women
were playing with their children. Among the maidens were the sheikh’s
daughters, who wore about the head a circlet of silver coins. These
ornaments are a maiden’s dowry.

Surveying the surrounding country from the roof of the sheikh’s house,
the famous battle-field of Gibeon lay before me. Seven miles to the
southeast is Gibeon, whose conical summit is just hidden by the loftier
peaks of Benjamin. Less than three miles to the northwest is Lower
Bethhoron, and five miles to the south, on the summit of a long, low
ridge, is the small hamlet of Yâlo, the traditional site of Ajalon.
Between the two hills is the green valley of Ajalon, now called Merj
Ibn ’Omeir, expanding, as it opens, into the Plain of Philistia. Having
formed a powerful coalition, the chiefs of the Amorites, with the King
of Jerusalem at their head, had besieged the city of Gibeon. On the eve
of the battle the Gibeonites sent to Joshua for relief, whom they had
previously deceived into an alliance, and found him on the Plain of
Jericho. Though despising a treaty founded in craft, yet appreciating
the obligations of an oath above a temporary inconvenience, and guided
by the faint light of the stars, the Israelitish chieftain passed up
the Plain of Jericho to Wady Fârah, and, turning westward, he reached
the scene of the conflict, after a forced march by night, in the early
dawn of the next morning. Falling with irresistible surprise and power
upon the confederate kings, “he slew them with great slaughter at
Gibeon.” Flying before his victorious arms, the remnant went “along
the way that goeth up to Bethhoron.” Outstripping their pursuers,
the Amorites continued their flight “in the going down to Bethhoron.”
Reaching the ridge on which we stand with all his “mighty men” around
him, Joshua beheld the valley through which the fugitives were escaping,
and, despairing of overtaking them if the day was not prolonged, he
invoked the divine interposition in his behalf. Moved by a sublime
faith, he stretched forth the arm that bore the conqueror’s spear,
and, in the presence of all Israel, said, “Sun, stand thou still on
Gibeon, and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.” Respecting the faith
of his servant and answering his prayer, Jehovah interposed; “and the
sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged
themselves upon their enemies; and there was no day like that before
it or after it, that the Lord hearkened unto the voice of a man; for
the Lord fought for Israel.” Receiving more than he had asked for,
a hail-storm came to his assistance, and after it had accomplished
its terrible work, killing foes but sparing friends, Joshua and his
warriors descended the declivities of Bethlehem, and pressed the
remnant of a once proud foe so hard as to compel the five kings to
take refuge in the great cave of Makkedah, around which he encamped
for the night, and on the morrow hung the royal fugitives.[422]

“God’s testimony is in the rocks.” The correspondence between the
inspired account and the facts as they now appear, after the lapse of
twenty-three centuries, illustrates the accuracy of sacred history.
The night’s march from Gilgal to Gibeon, a distance of less than
twenty-five miles, was not only possible, but can now be accomplished
by any ordinary pedestrian. The going up to Bethhoron the Upper, and
the going down to Bethhoron the Nether, correspond with the altitude
of the former from Gibeon, and the depression of the latter from Beit
el-Fôka. The relative locations of Gibeon and Ajalon to Upper Bethhoron,
and the probable position of the sun and moon in the heavens at that
time, agree with the statement as to where Joshua was when he invoked
the prolongation of the day; and his subsequent pursuit of the foe in
the direction of Azekah, Makkedah, and Jarmuth is confirmed by the
identification of those places.

There is nothing in the text indicating that the prayer of Joshua
was offered late in the afternoon, and that, as Gibeon is on the east
of Upper Bethhoron and Ajalon on the west, therefore the sun could
not have stood still on the former nor the moon on the latter. It was
probably not noon when he invoked the lengthening of the day. The sun
had not yet passed the meridian of Gibeon, while over the western vale
of Ajalon the faint crescent of an old moon still lingered, just as
it appeared to me. Hence, standing between the two planets as they
rode high in the heavens above him, and between the two cities on the
earth, he gave forth his miraculous command with the utmost accuracy;
while from the western sea came that fearful hail-storm driving up the
valleys below, killing more than had been slain by the sword, and from
the eastern border of the otherwise dark storm-cloud was reflected the
light of the motionless sun and moon.

Leaving Upper Bethhoron, our path lay for some time along the old
Roman road, sections of which remain as perfect as when the chariot
of the proud Cestius was driven over it. Turning to the southeast, in
two hours we reached the celebrated city of Gibeon. Like most Oriental
towns, it crowns the summit of a conspicuous hill, which, being
separated from the surrounding hills, rises in isolation from a noble
plain. The encircling plains are unsurpassed in Southern Palestine
for the richness of their soil, and their meadow-like smoothness and
verdure. Covering many acres are vineyards, olive-groves, and almond
orchards. Such is the peculiar formation of the hill on which the town
is built, that the rocks protruding from the sides serve the double
purpose of steps and terraces. Over the summit are scattered the small
stone buildings of El-Jib, which in part are composed of materials
of great antiquity. Without walls and gates, the city is destitute
of fortifications, and the crooked, unpaved streets are accessible to
all. The present inhabitants are an illustration that character, like
names, is transmitted from one generation to another. In their address
and shrewdness they resemble their ancestors. The Sheikh of Gibeon
is a man of medium height, and, unlike his countrymen, is emotional,
communicative, and exceedingly gracious. Pressing us to enter his
khan,[423] he refreshed us with coffee, and, failing to persuade us
to remain during the night, he accompanied us through the village,
and received our gifts with flowing eyes and many bows. Nor are the
children less crafty. Boys kissed our hand for paras, and for a piastre
the maidens at the fountains let down their pitchers from their heads
that we might drink. Reading the story of their ancestral cunning on
the spot, we could easily fancy their fathers gathering together the
emblems of deception to decoy the Israelites into an alliance that
brought protection to themselves, but war to their allies; and with
less difficulty their descendants could collect tattered garments,
clouted shoes, rent wine-skin bottles, musty bread, and jaded asses,
and with equal confidence declare themselves to be “embassadors from a
far country.”

Illustration: GIBEON.

Falling to the tribe of Benjamin in the division of the land,[424]
Gibeon afterward became a Levitical city.[425] Subsequently to the
destruction of Nob by Saul, it was the seat of the tabernacle till the
completion of the Temple.[426] On the eastern side of the hill is a
large well of delicious water. Springing up in a cave excavated in the
solid rock, the water was originally conducted to a reservoir below,
which measures 120 feet in length and 100 in breadth. Formerly it
was called the “Pool of Gibeon,” and around its peaceful waters the
rival armies of Israel and Judah met in battle. It was here that
Abner challenged Joab to terminate the strife by a gladiatorial fight
between twenty-four chosen men――twelve representing David, and twelve
representing Ishbosheth. But so equal were the champions in skill and
power, “that they caught every man his fellow by the head, and thrust
his sword in his fellow’s side, so they fell down together.”[427] The
death of all the combatants leaving the issue of the contest undecided,
the two armies sprang to the fight on the adjoining plain, and, after a
sore battle, Abner was defeated, and the claims of David to the kingdom
of all Israel were confirmed by a decisive victory.[428] Thirty-three
years after, by the “great stone which is in Gibeon,” in the same
highway now trodden by the feet of careless pilgrims, “Joab took Amasa
by the beard with the right hand to kiss him,” and, with a sword in the
other, treacherously slew his cousin.[429]

But the glory of Gibeon is the dream and prayer of Solomon. Sanctifying
the morning of a long and eventful reign by acts of devotion, he came
from Jerusalem to worship the Lord. Upon a great altar which he had
reared he offered a thousand burnt sacrifices, and that night in a
dream he communed with the God of his fathers, and asking wisdom to
govern his kingdom rather than wealth and honor, he received a wise
and understanding heart.[430]

A mile to the south, beyond a green and lovely plain, is Mizpeh――“The
Look-out”――one of the oldest watch-towers in Southern Palestine. With
it stand connected many of the most thrilling events in Jewish history.
Chosen in the infancy of the nation for the advantages it afforded
as a point of observation in times of war, it subsequently became
the national rendezvous, where the tribes were accustomed to meet to
worship Jehovah, to make war, to conclude peace, and elect a king.
Justly aggrieved at the insult offered the whole country by the
citizens of Gibeah in refusing to surrender the young men who had
committed the horrid crime on the person of the Levite’s concubine,
the eleven tribes here assembled, and, having vowed never to return to
their homes till the inhabitants of Gibeah were punished, they marched
forth to that series of battles in which thousands fell, and in which
the tribe of Benjamin was well-nigh exterminated.[431] Two hundred
and eighty-six years later, Samuel gathered the armies of Israel at
Mizpeh to fight against the Philistines, and after their return from
the slaughter of the foe he set up a memorial-stone and called it
Ebenezer.[432] A quarter of a century thereafter the nation reassembled
to choose a king; and here, for the first time in Israel, when the
people beheld the majestic form of Saul, the son of Kish, on whom the
lot had fallen, their loyal exclamations awakened the echoes of the
surrounding hills――“God save the king!”[433] Fortifying it for the
protection of his frontier, King Asa removed from Rama the materials
with which Baasha had constructed his battlements, and with them built
a strong fort. Five centuries after the coronation of Saul, Ishmael,
of the royal family of Judah, here surprised and assassinated Gedaliah,
the Chaldean governor, who, during the Jewish captivity, resided at

Called by the natives Neby Samwîl, after the honored son of Hannah,
the hill has an altitude of 600 feet above the surrounding plain. On
its evenly-terraced sides the fig and vine grow luxuriantly. The summit
is dotted with a few rude dwellings, composed of the remains of nobler
edifices. The ruins of departed greatness are every where visible, and
in the wall of a caravansary are imbedded shattered capitals and broken
columns. In rude mimicry of happier days, the peasants have excavated
small courts to the depth of several feet in the native rock in front
of their unpretending homes. Rising, as if by way of contrast, from
amid these hovels is a large but deserted mosque. Erected by the
Crusaders, it was originally a Christian church. Constructed in the
form of a Latin cross, the interior is ornamented with Saracenic arches.
Within is the traditional tomb of Samuel, which, unlike the sepulchres
of other prophets, has neither altar nor ornaments. Attached to the
mosque is a graceful minaret, which rises 100 feet above the summit
of the hill, from the balcony of which I obtained an extraordinary
view of Southern Palestine. As far as the eye could reach, the land of
Judea was spread out before me, broken by deep ravines and dotted with
conical hills. To the north was Gibeon, and beyond appeared Alaroth,
Beeroth, the dark peak of Ophrah, and the famous rock of Rimmon; lining
the distant horizon to the northeast were Gibeah of Saul, Michmash
of Jonathan, and the Hills of Gilead; over a forest of summits to the
east were the Mountains of Moab――that ever-visible wall of limestone;
beyond, the small hamlet of Hanîna; to the southeast rose the domes and
minarets of Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and the tomb-like form of Herodium;
to the south were the vine-clad hills of Hebron and the home of Samson;
while due west, and as far as the eye could penetrate north and south,
was the white shore of the Mediterranean, with the blue waters of the
sea mingling with the mists of the western sky. Such was the prospect
from Mizpeh, which, in the mighty past, often met the eye of Samuel,
Saul, and Solomon; and, though he occupied a stand-point a few miles to
the eastward, but of greater altitude, such must have been the vision
of Moses from the summit of Pisgah ere he entered into glory.

THE day was all that the most romantic tourist or thoughtful traveler
could have desired, when, at three o’clock on Monday afternoon, in
the month of April, we left Jerusalem for the last time, on our long
tour through Northern Palestine. Passing out of the Damascus Gate, I
ascended the rocky ridge over the grotto of Jeremiah, and looked down
upon the Holy City with the fondness of one bidding adieu to the scenes
of his childhood. A gentle breeze was blowing from the Western Sea, and
the flag of our country floated from the summit of Zion. The clattering
of horses’ hoofs on the pavements below told me my companions were
coming, and, turning to the northwest, the “City of the Great King”
faded forever from my view. Crossing the hill Scopus, we were soon
on the great caravan route leading from Egypt to Damascus. For half
an hour our path lay through an open and undulating country, when it
passed between two conical hills――Shâfât on the west, and Nob on the
east. Less than a mile beyond the latter is Gibeah, the birthplace of
King Saul.[435] Called by the Arabs Tuleil el-Fûl――“the Hill of the
Beans”――it resembles a perfect cone when viewed from a distance. Rising
from a rich plain, it is an object of universal attraction. Terraced
from base to summit, it presents to the eye a beautiful appearance, as
the green circles of corn mingle with the white limestone soil. On the
summit are the remains of a tower or palace, fifty-six feet long and
forty-eight wide, and by some unknown force the huge blocks of stone
have been thrown together in a form not unlike a pyramid.

Few places in the Holy Land fill so large a space in the inspired
volume as Gibeah. Coming from Bethlehem on his way to Mount Ephraim,
the unfortunate Levite at nightfall turned in hither, and was received
into the house of a peasant. That night was committed an offense by
the young men of the city, which resulted in one of the most terrible
battles on record. To punish the offenders and avenge the insult,
around this hill all Israel gathered for battle against the Benjamites,
and, though the former were repeatedly repulsed, they at length
triumphed and well-nigh exterminated the tribe of Benjamin.[436] Three
centuries later, after the death of all the actors in that mournful
tragedy, Gibeah rose to royal significance. Here resided Kish, unto
whom was born Saul, than whom “there was not among the children of
Israel a goodlier person than he; from his shoulders and upward he was
higher than any of the people.”[437] From here his father sent Saul to
recover the strayed asses, and, while looking for the asses, he found
a kingdom. Returning from Rameh after his coronation, he chose Gibeah
as the seat of his new government.[438] From this first royal city in
Palestine he went forth to fight his first battle, which was against
the Ammonites, who had besieged Jabesh-gilead.[439] After his rejection
by Samuel at Gilgal, hither Saul returned in disgrace;[440] and it
was here, in those dark days of disappointment which followed, that
an evil spirit came upon him, and, to soothe his troubled soul by the
soft music of his harp, the shepherd-boy of Bethlehem was summoned to
the king’s presence.[441] Here the high-minded Jonathan conceived his
more than woman’s love for the son of Jesse.[442] Forgetting earlier
attachments and David’s well-earned renown, here, in a fit of passion,
Saul threw his javelin at the youthful warrior.[442] Here he gave his
daughter Michal in marriage to David;[442] and here the true-hearted
wife rescued her persecuted husband from the murderous hand of her
father, and deceived the king by placing an image in her bed.[443] Here
the unwilling Michal was given to Phalti,[444] and from Gibeah Saul and
his sons went forth to the fatal battle of Gilboa.[445]

Forty years after the death of the king the tragical history of Gibeah
closed, as it had commenced, in a scene of blood. For an offense, the
history of which is neither recorded by sacred or profane writers, the
Almighty sent a famine of three years’ continuance upon the land, and
when David inquired of the Lord the cause, he was informed, “It is for
Saul and for his bloody house, because he slew the Gibeonites.”[446]
Josephus supposes that Saul had violated the treaty which Joshua had
made with the men of Gibeon, and had attempted to slay the entire
population of the city. Wishing to relieve his kingdom from the
miseries of a famine, David summoned the Gibeonites to his presence,
to ascertain the nature of the redress they demanded. They demanded the
surrender of seven of the descendants of Saul to be hung in Gibeah, and
their request was granted. Five of the victims were the sons of Merab,
whom Michal had brought up after her sister’s death, and the other
two were the sons of Saul by his wife Rizpah.[447] On the same day the
sons and grandsons of Israel’s first king were executed together, to
expiate the offense of a father long since dead. Less fortunate than
the offspring of Merab, the sons of Rizpah left a mother to mourn
their untimely end. For tenderness of affection, for the depth of
maternal grief, and for the lengthened period of watching and mourning,
the story of Rizpah has no parallel in the literature of any nation.
David’s sorrow for Absalom was sincere, keen, and overwhelming, but the
grief of Rizpah was the sorrow of a mother. “And Rizpah, the daughter
of Aiah, took sackcloth and spread it for her upon the rock, from the
beginning of harvest until water dropped upon them out of heaven, and
suffered neither the birds of the air to rest upon them by day, nor
the beasts of the fields by night.” Such was the mournful spectacle
that that broken-hearted mother presented to all who passed by, sitting
beside the bones of her dead sons all through the long Syrian summer,
from April till October, neither permitting the vulture to prey upon
them by day nor the hyena by night. Time had assuaged her grief, and
David ordered that the bones of her sons should be interred with those
of Saul and Jonathan, in the country of Zelah, in the sepulchre of

The identity of Gibeah as the scene of so many important events
is sustained by evidence no less abundant than indubitable. In his
description of the march of Titus to Jerusalem, Josephus informs us
that the Roman general halted at Gibeah, thirty stadia from Jerusalem,
which exactly corresponds with the distance between this hill and the
Jewish capital. During the night a Roman legion, coming from Emmaus,
joined the main army here, where is the point of junction between the
two great routes from the north and west, and on the following morning
the combined forces moved on to Scopus, from whence they beheld the
Holy City. Three centuries later, Jerome, in describing the journey of
Lady Paula to Jerusalem, represents her as coming up from Joppa _via_
the two Bethhorons, with Ajalon and Gibeon on the right, and stopping
at Gibeah, where “she called to mind the old story of the Levite and
his concubine.” Thus the crimes of a city perpetuate the memory of its

South of Gibeah is the field which contained the stone Ezel, where
occurred the affecting interview between David and Jonathan, and where
the latter discharged the signal arrow for the escape of the former.
Behind one of the many jutting rocks which here lift their naked crowns
on high the fugitive found a hiding-place, where he remained till,
according to a previous agreement, Jonathan came, shot an arrow beyond
a little lad, and cried, “Is not the arrow beyond thee?” which was
the signal that Saul was intent on killing David. The two friends
met, embraced, and wept; and, after renewing their covenant, Jonathan
returned to Gibeah, and David fled to Nob. His presence excited the
fears of the priest Abimelech, which he soon, however, allayed by a
plausible story, and from his hand received the sword of Goliath, and
the shew-bread to which our Lord alludes.[449] It was because of this
kindness to a public enemy that Abimelech was summoned to the presence
of the enraged king, and sentenced to death by him, with all of his
father’s house. Revering the sacred person of a priest, no Israelite
would execute the royal sentence. The work of executioner fell to the
lot of Doeg, the stranger, the shepherd, and the spy. Unappeased by
the slaughter of eighty-five innocent priests, Saul smote the city of
Nob with the edge of the sword.[450] Two places are designated as the
probable site of this ancient Levitical city――one containing the famous
tomb of El-Messahney, near the Tombs of the Judges, and the other a
conical peak less than a mile to the south from Gibeah. The former has
the advantage of an acknowledged Jewish sepulchre, while the latter has
that of location.

The view from the summit of Gibeah is as interesting as it is
commanding. Three miles to the southeast is Anâta, the Anathoth of the
Bible and the birthplace of Jeremiah. Never large, it still retains
its diminutive proportions. Standing on a low, broad ridge, surrounded
by green fields, twenty huts occupy the site of this once priestly city.
Of the ancient town all that now remains are portions of an old wall,
a spacious cistern, and fragments of marble columns. It was hither
Solomon banished Abiathar for attempting to raise Adonijah to the
throne of his father David.[451] But Anathoth is chiefly significant
as the native city of the greatest of prophets, whose courage was equal
to his danger, whose fortitude never forsook him, and whose zeal for
God was only excelled by the terribleness of his persecutions. In the
darkest hour of his country’s history, Jeremiah was called to lament
the desolations of Zion, to reprove kings, and to die for the truth.
Offended at the severity of his denunciations, his townsmen drove him
from the place of his birth, and, flying to Jerusalem for refuge, his
fidelity to God, his unblanched courage in reproving royal crimes, and
his horrid pictures of coming ruin, evoked the angry passions of those
whom he would have reformed, and the plaintive bard of Israel was added
to the long but honored list of martyrs.

Turning to the northwest, the tower of Geba of Benjamin was
visible,[452] and three miles beyond were the rocks of Michmash, where
Jonathan surprised and defeated the Philistines, and where are still
to be seen the famous rocks Bozez and Seneh.[453] After glancing at
other memorable places, which, together with those mentioned, we had
previously visited, we descended from the summit of the hill, and at
its base entered a noble field of lentiles or pottage, such as Esau
sold his birthright for.[454] When young it resembles a pea-vine. It
grows to the height of eight inches, and when harvested it is pulled
like flax. It is cooked like beans, with the exception that the water
is allowed to evaporate, when the softened grain is stewed with butter
and onions, making a delicious dish, and one worth a birthright to a
famishing hunter.

The sun was setting, and the shadow of the mountains darkened the
plains when we resumed our journey. The lateness of the hour required
dispatch, and Beeroth, the place where we were to spend the night, was
six miles to the north. Unfortunately we were without a guide, and our
path was simply a camel track, devious, stony, and uncertain. Though
we knew the general direction of Beeroth, yet the number of small
villages in the vicinity, the growing darkness, and the uncertainty
of the road, baffled all effort to find the place. Overtaking an Arab
belonging to Beit Untâh, he agreed for a present to serve us as guide.
Not suspecting deception, we followed him nearly to his own town, which
he assured us was the desired place. But knowing from our maps that
Beeroth was to the right of the path, and Beit Untâh to the left, we
refused to follow him farther. Truth is an unknown virtue in the Arab
character, and he who confides in it leans upon a broken reed. For the
paltry sum which a night’s lodging would bring, this man was leading us

A solitary light shone from a hut in Beeroth, when, turning eastward,
we traversed plowed fields, leaped ditches, crossed ravines, and rued
the day we had presumed to travel without a guide. Reaching a fountain,
the waters of which sparkled in the starlight, we regained the path.
Having a letter of introduction from Dr. Sandreczki, of Jerusalem,
to one Yûsef Shang, a Christian Arab, and the scribe of the town, we
inquired for him; but, to add to our mishaps, Yûsef was not at home.
There we were, homeless, foodless, friendless, and in the dark. An
old Arab dame, however (heaven pity her homeliness and reward her
kindness!), knew where Yûsef was, and called him to our aid.

Yûsef Shang was a noble specimen of the Arab race. He was of medium
height, well built, of full habit, with towering brow, large black eyes,
handsome nose, a large, joyous mouth, and a heavy, flowing beard, which
was white as snow, and beautifully contrasted the deep olive hue of
his manly face. His countenance was at once benignant and intelligent.
Besides, Yûsef was a clean Arab――a rarity worth a pilgrimage to see.
His red boots, light-colored petticoat-trowsers, embroidered jacket,
broad girdle, flowing robes of yellow Broussa silk, and a bright
checkered turban, were neat enough for a picture. In his silken girdle
he wore a brass inkhorn, a foot in length, with a small square bulb of
the same material on the side near the end, rendered perfectly tight by
a thin plate of the same metal, and containing in the long part a case
for the reed pens, which are secured by a brass cap. His appearance
recalled Ezekiel’s description of the man clothed with linen, with a
writer’s inkhorn by his side.[455]

In the East there is a class of men, called scribes, who write for
the common people. They sit at the corners of the streets, and persons
wishing a letter written dictate the matter, while the scribe performs
the penmanship. Deeming it an inelegance to write upon a table, the
paper is placed upon the left hand, and the writer forms the graceful
characters of the Arabic language, writing from right to left. Yûsef
was such a scribe, and had risen to eminence in his profession. Having
read our letter with an air of great consideration, he saluted us
in the most gracious manner, and invited us to his abode. Following
him through a narrow lane to the gate of his court, we dismounted,
and, after removing saddles and saddle-bags, led our horses through
a covered stone passage-way to the entrance of his dwelling. Yûsef’s
superb dress and elegant bearing had prepared us to expect an
entertainment not unlike the festive scenes so wondrously described in
the Arabian Nights. But never were two things more unlike, and never
was the outside of the plates cleaner nor the inside filthier. His
house was a wretched stone hut, entered by a low doorway. The interior
consisted of a single room, divided into two apartments by a raised
platform a foot high. The platform served the triple purpose of kitchen,
chamber, and parlor, the walls and ceiling were dingy with smoke and
dirt, and a few old mats spread upon the floor were the only furniture
of his home. At the foot of the platform, beneath the same roof, was
his stable, and in one corner stood Yûsef’s favorite ass.

“Come in, come in, gentlemen,” cried our host, “and bring your horses
with you; there is plenty of room, and you are welcome.” Leading my
horse, I entered; but the ass brayed so furiously, and kicked with
such rapidity and violence, that I was compelled to retreat. Despite
my protest, Yûsef refused to turn his ass into the cold, and calmly
suggested that I could take my horse on the platform with me. Refusing
to turn Arab, I declined, and turned to procure quarters elsewhere.
The power of money upon an Arab’s soul is above calculation. Fearing
that he might lose the customary present in return for his hospitality,
Yûsef led his ass forth, braying and kicking as it went. Our host had
previously sent the female members of his family away, lest the eye of
a stranger should fall upon them, and left us the sole occupants of his
dwelling. Spreading our blankets upon the platform, we commenced our
frugal repast, but the fleas of Beeroth came upon us in such numbers
as to force another retreat. We were again houseless. The sky was clear
and the stars shone softly upon us, and we determined to sleep beneath
the pure starlit heavens. Yûsef, however, succeeded in procuring
for our use the council-room of the town, which was a large square
apartment, with heavy arched ceiling, fireplace, and niche. The walls
were black with the smoke of years, and the atmosphere stale and
noisome. Here we spread our mats, and, with a saddle for a pillow,
spent the night. The ground floor of the building was occupied by a
family, who, for a few piastres, sheltered my horse. It was here I
had an illustration of the story of Bethlehem. The same room served
as a dwelling and a stable, divided by a platform, on which an Arab
woman was kneading bread and a lad was tending an infant child. The
occupants’ ass having been turned out, I led my horse in. In one corner
of the stable was a large stone manger, excavated in the living rock.
Such, probably, was the internal arrangement of the inn at Bethlehem;
and as the platform was occupied by other guests, Joseph and Mary
lodged in the stable, and cradled the infant Savior in the stone manger.

Beeroth is situated on a rocky ridge, and contains a population of
800 Moslems and thirty Christians. It is mentioned in connection with
the league formed between the embassadors of Gibeon and Joshua, but
aside from this it has no scriptural significance. During the reign of
the Latin kings it rose to importance, and the remaining ruins attest
the antiquity of the site and the former elegance of the place. In the
northwest part of the village is the old Gothic church, built by the
Knights Templars centuries ago. It is a beautiful ruin, and reminds
one of the ruined abbeys of Southern Scotland. The walls, the eastern
apse, and the sacristy are standing, and inclose an area 100 feet
long and sixty-three wide. The material is limestone well dressed,
and the interior may have consisted of a nave, two lateral aisles,
and three recesses in the eastern end. The finish of the architecture
is exquisite. The apses are crowned with beautiful domed roofs, and
the partition walls are ornamented with pilasters, the capitals of
which are well preserved. The side walls are divided into sections by
pilasters, and are decorated with a rich cornice. But it is now a green
ruin. The grass grows where, of old, knights knelt in prayer, and where
robed priests chanted their Ave Marias.

On leaving the church I witnessed a beautiful illustration of our
Lord’s parable of the “good shepherd.” Three shepherds were leading
their flocks to pasture, and, though near each other, there was
neither confusion nor intermingling. Such is the richness of the native
language in adjectives, that a shepherd gives to each member of his
flock a name descriptive of some characteristic, which is as familiar
to the sheep as to himself. A lamb had lingered behind picking the
fresh grass of spring, and, though other voices were sounding at the
time, the truant lamb heard its shepherd’s voice and ran to the fold.
“The sheep hear his voice, and he calleth his own sheep by name.”[456]

Three miles to the north is ancient Bethel. As we advanced the country
grew in richness and beauty, reminding us that we were approaching the
favored inheritance of Ephraim. Passing a small fountain gushing from
the foot of a cliff, in less than half an hour we knelt in prayer where,
twenty-five centuries ago, Jacob slept to dream of angels. The silence
of desolation now reigns where once was heard the voice of gladness.
Quietly a few maidens came to the fountain, as in the days of the
patriarchs, whose homes stand amid the débris of former glory. The
ancient city occupied a low ridge between two small valleys, which
converge on the southeast and run into Wady Suweinît, the great
thoroughfare to Ai and Jericho. Portions of foundations, fragments
of walls, and heaps of hewn stone cover an area of four acres. On the
summit of the hill are the remains of a square tower, and to the south
of it are the walls of a Greek church. Beyond the town, to the east, is
the mountain on which Abraham pitched his tent and built an altar unto
the Lord, having Bethel on the west and Ai on the east;[457] and there,
three years later, he and his nephew stood, choosing different portions
of the land for their respective flocks.[458] From the summit of that
ridge, the whole plain of the Jordan, which so charmed the eyes of Lot,
is seen; and the possessions of six of the tribes lay before the vision
of Abraham, to whom the Lord on that occasion repeated the promise to
give the whole land to his servant.

A few feet from the hill, located in the western valley, is the great
Fountain of Bethel. It is inclosed with an oblong basin 314 feet long
and 217 wide, which is constructed of large stones, many of which are
yet _in situ_. The southern wall is still entire, but, owing to long
disuse, the others are nearly gone. Grass now covers the bottom of the
reservoir, and beautiful flowers bloom around the crystal spring.

It was probably in this lovely valley that Jacob had his wondrous
vision. He had come from Beersheba, a distance of seventy miles. This
long journey, however, is not in harmony with the common belief that
the dream occurred on the first night after leaving his father’s house.
Urged on by the dread of an injured brother, he slept the first night
beside the graves of his ancestors at Hebron, thirty-six miles from
the patriarchal groves of Beersheba; rising early and passing through
the vineyards of Eshcol, he rested at noon the next day at Bethlehem,
seventeen miles from Hebron, and near the spot where, twenty years
later, he buried his beautiful Rachel; six miles beyond he passed
Jerusalem on the right, the future capital of his mighty posterity; and
late in the evening of the second day, the stranger and weary traveler
reached Bethel, eleven miles farther northward. The gates of the city
were closed, and, like the pilgrim Arab of to-day, he selected a stone
for his pillow, and, wrapping his capote or cloak about him, lay down
to peaceful slumber. In a land where customs never change, such beds
and pillows are not uncommon now, and thus are explained not only the
story of the fugitive, but also our Lord’s command to the sick of the
palsy, “Arise, take up thy bed, and walk.”[459] The bed was simply a
coarse thick cloak of camel’s hair.

In this retired vale, and beside this same fountain, Jacob dreamed of
the Invisible, and awoke exclaiming, “How dreadful is this place! This
is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.”
Here the shining ones came down, and here Jehovah calmed the troubled
spirit of the sleeper by the promise of protection. Cheered by the
gracious promises of the Almighty, Jacob awoke, and, as a memorial
monument, set up the stone that had served as a pillow, and anointed
it with oil to seal the covenant he had made. Whether he was the first
to conceive of building a church to God, and whether that is the sense
of the text, Bethel became a sanctuary for his descendants.[460] When
he returned after an absence of twenty years, here the faithful Deborah
died, and he buried her under an oak, to which he gave the name of
Allon Bachuth――“the oak of weeping.”[461] Destined to live in history
in all coming time, Bethel became the scene of many great and thrilling
events. It was the place where Samuel held his circuit court, in
connection with Mizpah and Gilgal.[462] Subsequently to the death of
Solomon, and the rending in twain of his vast empire, Bethel became the
imperial rival of Jerusalem, and was polluted with an idol temple, in
which Jeroboam placed a golden calf. It was against this abomination
the prophet cried: “O altar, altar, thus saith the Lord, Behold, a
child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon
thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense
upon thee, and men’s bones shall be burnt upon thee.”[463] Offended
at the boldness of the seer, the king sought to smite him, but in the
attempt his arm was smitten with paralysis.[464] On this slope lived
the old prophet who over-persuaded the Lord’s servant to enter his
house, contrary to the divine injunction, and by the wayside is the
tomb in which both were interred.[465] Chosen for its central location,
years later Bethel became a school for the prophets, and hither Elijah
came on the day of his translation.[466] And three centuries and a half
after the utterance of the prediction, Josiah destroyed the temple and
altar of Jeroboam, but spared the tomb of the Judæan seer.[465]

To-day Bethel is a witness against herself. Her hills and valleys are
barren, and her ruins are the evidences of her decay. God has forsaken
her; his will is done; his word is fulfilled. “Seek not Bethel, nor
enter into Gilgal; for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and
Bethel shall come to naught.”[466] The roll of twenty-five centuries
has confirmed the prophetic announcement, and time and ruins are the
credentials of the prophet. In vain we searched for the memorials of
the past. Neither Abraham’s altar, nor Jacob’s pillar, nor Deborah’s
oak, nor Jeroboam’s temple, nor the school of the prophets, could be
found. These all have perished, and Bethel mourns her departed glory.
The heavens are sealed; the ladder is withdrawn; the angels descend no
more; and faith, hope, and charity are the only remaining steps by
which to reach the heavenly world.

From the brow of a western hill, and through the dim distance of
twelve miles, I saw the dome of Omar’s Mosque, the lofty minaret of the
Haram, and the Tower of Hippicus. With this last and unexpected view
of Jerusalem we resumed our tour to the north. For a mile the country
was broken, but beyond were olive-groves and fig-orchards, extending
for miles on either hand. The path soon descended a steep, narrow, and
rough torrent-bed, and, after an hour’s ride, it entered the charming
valley of El-Jîb. Unsurpassed for the beauty and romantic character
of its scenery, it abruptly contracts into a wild gorge, and, two
miles from its mouth, it contains a gem of a fountain, called ’Ain
el-Haramîyeh, or “The Robbers’ Fountain.” Here the glen is as lovely
as it is wild, and as bloody in its history as it is dangerous to the
unwary traveler. The mountains rise in solemn grandeur on the right
and left, shutting out the world, and casting a melancholy shade on the
scene below. High up on a jutting cliff is an old castle, gray with age,
and covered with moss and creeping vines. Through the bottom of the
glen a fierce winter torrent has cut a deep and narrow channel, leaving
a broad level space on either side. On the right runs the road to
Shiloh; on the left is a small plateau, level and green, and extending
inward to the mountain’s base. Down the sides of the western cliff
the water trickles, through trails of fern and over beds of velvet
moss, into an artificial basin. The plateau is covered with grass, and
beneath it is a large reservoir, now a garden. Charmed with the spot,
desire inclined us to linger, but prudence warned us to depart. The
waters of El-Haramîyeh have washed the bloodstained hands of many a
highwayman, and the native of to-day hurries on conscious of danger
nigh. A band of robbers were encamped upon the lawn when we reached
the fountain. Some were whiffing their narghilehs; others were testing
their strength in gymnastic sports, while around the captain of the
band two girls were dancing to the music of timbrel and castanets.
They returned our salutations, and, after drinking of the cool, sweet
water, and plucking a few ferns as mementoes, we recrossed the channel,
and began to ascend toward Shiloh. As we advanced the scenery assumed
higher forms of sublimity. The mountains approached each other, and
rose to the clouds; but when, in turn, the hills receded and the
valleys opened, the former were terraced and clad with vineyards,
and the latter planted with wheat and corn. Attired in gay costumes,
peasant-girls were at work on the terraces, singing merrily; shepherds,
with long guns thrown across their shoulders, were winding with their
flocks around the loftier cliffs; while far away to the northwest,
following the devious mountain-paths, were trains of camels and asses,
whose tinkling bells awakened the echoes of the everlasting hills. More
than once we dismounted to gather the tempting wild-flowers, and press
the pretty anemones, poppies, amaranths, and white-thorn roses.

Reaching the head of the valley, we left Sinjil on the west to visit
ancient Shiloh. Before us lay a broad fertile plain, running toward the
Jordan, and in the midst of which stands the Arab town of Turmus ’Aya.
To the north of the village the path leads up a gentle acclivity, and
then, descending into a narrow valley, it gradually ascends through
cultivated fields to the hill on which the renowned city of Samuel
stood. At the southern base of the hill stands an old square tower,
originally a mosque, and over it a large oak spreads its ample branches.
The surrounding hills are round and naked, the valleys narrow and stony,
and the landscape featureless and forbidding. Covering a low ridge,
projecting from the central chain of mountains, are the scattered ruins
of Shiloh. Consisting of heaps of hewn stone, with now and then a
broken column, the remains are embedded in rank weeds and tall grass,
and destitute of the ordinary attractions of a fallen city. Near them
is an old ruined church, which, in the age of the Crusaders, served as
a fortress. The walls, four feet thick, are supported by buttresses.
Over the entrance is a sculptured _amphora_, between two wreaths, and
within the inclosure are a few fallen Corinthian columns. Half a mile
to the east, in a wild glen, is the famous fountain of Shiloh, issuing
from the rocks, and flowing into a deep reservoir, where shepherds
water their flocks.

From the days of Jerome to the year 1838 the site of Shiloh
remained unknown, when the analogy between the ancient and modern
names, together with a single verse in the Book of Judges, enabled a
distinguished American traveler[467] to determine its long-lost site.
Called by the Arabs Seilûn, he judged it the Arabic rendering of the
more euphonious name of Shiloh, and, guided by the minute and accurate
description of the location by the elders of Israel, he succeeded in
identifying the place. Nothing can be more artless and correct than
that remarkable passage, “Behold, there is a feast of the Lord in
Shiloh yearly, in a place which is on the north side of Bethel, on the
east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on
the south of Lebonah.”[468] Though destitute of those monuments which
have given historic significance to its name, the pleasures of a visit
to this celebrated city are to be derived from the recollections of the
past rather than from the grandeur of its antiquities.

Memorable as the place where the Tabernacle was first permanently set
up in Canaan, and where the Ark remained from the days of Joshua till
near the close of Eli’s life, it was here the Israelites assembled
to divide the land into tribal possessions according to lot.[469] To
fulfill a solemn vow, hither the pious Hannah brought her infant Samuel
from Ramah to serve in the Tabernacle.[470] As the custodians of the
Ark, from here Hophni and Phinehas went forth to the fatal battle
of Ebenezer, and here by the wayside the venerable Eli expired when
he heard of the capture of that Ark and the death of his sons.[471]
Here the son of a mother, overwhelmed with grief at such calamities,
received the name of I-chabod, “The glory is departed from Israel.”[471]
In a glen to the east of the town was held that feast at which the
daughters of Shiloh were dancing when the 200 Benjamites rose suddenly
from the encircling vineyards, and, rushing on the unsuspecting damsels,
captured each man a bride, whom he bore in triumph to his home.[472]
Disguised like a peasant, hither came the wife of Jeroboam from Tirzah
to inquire of the Prophet Ahijah concerning the life of her son.[473]

Having become the seat of impiety, the city fell under the curse of the
Almighty, and, in the words of Jeremiah, it was doomed to its present
shapeless and desolate condition: “Go ye now unto my place which was in
Shiloh, where I set my name at first, and see what I did to it for the
wickedness of my people Israel.”[474]

It was amid the recollection of such events that the robbers of
Shiloh made their appearance and commenced an unprovoked assault upon
our party. We had been forewarned of the turbulent character of the
people, and of the danger a visit involved. At Sinjil we had discussed
the prudence of a detour to this place, and, though it was a bold
and hazardous step, as the sequel proved, yet we resolved to advance.
We were in search of the most important knowledge, and, trusting
to a gracious Providence, we felt justified in making the attempt.
Unfortunately, our servant at the time was at Nablous, awaiting our
arrival there, and, being without escort or guide, we were compelled
to employ a peasant whom we had chanced to meet in a neighboring field.
He was a simple, inoffensive, unarmed man, and was of no advantage to
us except to guide us to the site of Seilûn. Having seen us from their
mountain fastnesses, the robbers rapidly congregated around the old
stone tower, where, at the moment, we were reading the inspired story
of the place, and recording those reflections suggested by the hour.

Such another band of villainous-looking men Nature has scarcely ever
suffered to dwell upon the earth. Some were without a nose, others
without an eye, while all bore scars of previous fights, and wore a
vicious countenance which promised us no good. Each ruffian was armed
with a long gun and a missile not unlike an Indian tomahawk. One, more
reckless than the rest, began the fray by plundering my saddle-bags;
but, seeing with what determination I drew my revolver, he immediately
desisted. Wishing, if possible, to avoid another collision, we
attempted to cross a corn-field to the hill on which Shiloh’s ruins
lay scattered, but they seized us and drove us back. Knowing that every
moment’s delay diminished our chances of escape, we concluded to resume
our journey――peaceably if possible, but forcibly if we must. But we
had no sooner mounted our horses than the brigands seized the bridles
and demanded our money. Another exhibition of our well-conditioned
revolvers――which by them is a dreaded weapon――again saved us from their
hands, and, putting spurs to our horses, we descended a narrow valley
on the south of Shiloh, keeping an eye upon the robbers, who were after
us at full speed. But the bottom of the valley soon became so rough
that it was impossible to proceed faster than a walk. Having overtaken
us, they still clamored for money, and evinced their purpose to renew
the attack. At that moment my horse stumbled, throwing me on his head;
but, springing back into the saddle, and jerking the reins with all
the strength at my command, I saved him from going down. My haversack,
however, had fallen off, and one of the ruffians, having picked it up,
refused to return it without a reward. Fortunately, the small amount
I gave him satisfied him, and to that man I owe my life. Among the
plants I had gathered at Shiloh was one of curious structure, which I
desired to preserve. Its large bright green leaves were so folded as to
resemble an embossed star, but it was a deadly poison. Having dropped
it, I called to the Arab to pluck another, but he refused, assuring me
in Arabic that it was poisonous.

We now dismissed the peasant previously employed, giving him the
promised sum. This proved our misfortune, as the robbers, becoming
exasperated at the favor shown their neighbor, came upon us with
renewed fierceness in a solitary mountain pass. They had the advantage
in numbers, and a base indifference to human life. Sixteen against
four gave us but little hope of successful resistance; but, unwilling
to yield even against such odds, we determined to resist to the last.
Rushing upon us with the utmost fury, they seized our bridles, and,
raising their tomahawks over our heads, demanded our money or our lives.
Refusing to give the former, we resolved to protect the latter. Having
never seen the countenance of a bandit in the act of violence, I shall
never forget the expression of the ruffian who assailed me. His face
was livid with rage, and his solitary eye blazed with murderous intent
as he grasped the bridle firmly with one hand and with the other raised
the weapon of death over me. Undaunted either by his rage or threats,
I held a parley with him for several minutes, he demanding, and I, in
turn, refusing. Trying the power of religious fear, I pointed him to
heaven, and repeated the sacred name of “Allah,” but he smiled like a
demon, and fiercely replied, “Give me your money!”

Our firmness would have saved us from violence had not a member of
our party, in an unguarded moment, struck one of the brigands with a
riding-whip, which precipitated the assault, and it was now baksheesh
or death. Aware that by this act we had become the aggressors, we
concluded to give each a few piastres. Happily for myself, I had not
a piastre in change, but, borrowing half a one (two cents) from a
companion, I gave it to the villain, whose fury had been cooled by firm
looks, strong words, a Damascus blade, and a good revolver.

Grouping together, they counted the spoils, but, finding the booty
less than they had expected, they attempted another pursuit, but we
had eluded their grasp. Dashing down the glen, we reached in safety the
small village of Lubbân――the Lebonah of the Judges,[475] grateful to
divine Providence that, through Arab cowardice and Christian grace, no
blood had been shed.

The day was now far spent. Three hours of hard riding were before
us, and it was necessary to reach Nablous before sundown or the gates
would be shut. Riding through ancient towns, over plantations of figs,
and amid the most enchanting scenery, we passed, in less than half an
hour, the hamlet of Sâwieh, perched on a lofty ridge on the left, and
a short distance beyond we came to an old castle on the right, shaded
by a noble oak, whose vast dimensions and majestic form recalled the
famous oaks of Mamre. Descending into a deep valley running at right
angles with the great northern route, on the north was Kubalân, and
on the south Yetna, high up in the eternal hills, amid gardens of
figs and olives, as if suspended in the air. Such a view is worth a
pilgrimage to see. Toiling up the opposite side of the valley, in half
an hour we gained the summit, and the beauties of Ephraim lay like a
landscape of glory before us. Interjections were faint symbols of the
joyous emotions awakened by the scene. The white limestone rocks and
verdureless mountains of the south had given place to the vine-clad
hills of the north, crowned with the benediction of the dying patriarch,
“God make thee as Ephraim.”[476] At our feet lay the great plain of
El-Mukhnah, unbroken by fence or tower, dotted with groves, and rich
in fields of wheat and corn. Spreading out more than a mile and a half
in breadth, and extending more than seven miles north and south, it is
bounded on the east by a range of low, dark hills, and from its western
border rise Gerizim and Ebal, the former crowned with a small white
chapel reflecting the setting sun. Far away to the northeast, rising
like a column of alabaster against the calm blue sky of Damascus, was
Mount Hermon, the symbol of a purer world. Rapidly descending into
the plain below and turning northward, we soon passed the large town
of Hawâra, built on the mountain slope, and inhabited by a turbulent
community. Just beyond the village the road branches; the path to
the left, after winding round the base of Gerizim and crossing a
mountain spur, enters the Vale of Shechem near Nablous; the other path,
continuing up the plain, leads to the city by way of Jacob’s Well.
Choosing the latter, we found it the best road in Palestine. After
following the base of the mountain for a while, the path diverges to
the centre of the plain and passes through the most enchanting scenery.
Like a thing of beauty, the memory of that evening’s ride still
lingers in my mind. The deepening shadows of Gerizim had thrown their
lengthened forms over the plains; shepherds were returning with their
flocks; peasants were plodding homeward their weary way; and in the dim
twilight of departing day, and amid that solemn silence which awakens
profound reflections, we reached the patriarchal well. Intending to
visit this interesting spot again, we ascended the Vale of Nablous
and entered the ancient city of Shechem just as the old gate-keeper
was turning the ponderous key. Gladly dismounting after the exploits
of such a day, we led our jaded horses over the flag-paved streets of
the city, exciting the curiosity of an idle crowd of Shechemites, and
affording them fresh materials for village gossip. It was nine o’clock
when we found our host, who was the Christian school-teacher of the
Protestant Mission. Receiving us with great politeness, he led us up
a long flight of stone steps into a large clean room, where, after a
simple repast, we spread our mats and blankets for the night.

Illustration: NABLOUS.

Ranking with Damascus, Hebron, and Jerusalem in the antiquity of
its origin and the importance of its history, Shechem, or the modern
town of Nablous, is among the oldest cities in Palestine. Coming from
Chaldea, Abraham pitched his tent on the fertile plains of Mukhnah, “in
the place of Sichem, in the plain of Moreh.”[477] Nearly two centuries
later his grandson Jacob came from Mesopotamia to “Shalem, a city of
Shechem, and pitched his tent before the city, and bought a parcel of a
field, at the hand of the children of Hamor, for one hundred pieces of
money, and erected there an altar, and called it El-Elohe-Israel.”[478]
Here Simeon and Levi plotted the murder of the whole male population
of the town to avenge their dishonored sister, and, exposed by this act
of indiscretion to the insults and attacks of the adjacent villagers,
Jacob was compelled to remove to Hebron.[479] Retaining possession of
these pasture-fields, hither he sent Joseph to search for his brethren,
whom “a certain man found wandering in a field,” and directed him to

Four hundred years afterward, having achieved the conquest of Ai,
Joshua led his triumphant hosts over the Jordan into this vale; upon
Ebal he reared the first Jewish altar in Samaria; and from this and its
companion mountain caused to be read the blessings and cursings of the
Law.[481] Two and a half centuries later, Abimelech seized this city
and was proclaimed king, which gave rise to the beautiful parable of
Jotham.[482] Hither came Rehoboam to be crowned king of Israel; and
in the same year here occurred the coronation of Jeroboam, under whom
the twelve tribes revolted, and Shechem became the royal city of the
new monarchy.[483] During the long captivity of the Jews in Assyria,
Nablous rose to be the chief city of the Samaritans, who were destined
to act such a conspicuous part in sacred history. Being instructed
in the Jewish religion, they reared upon the summit of Mount Gerizim
a rival temple to that in Jerusalem, and became the religious and
political enemies of the Jews. Four hundred and fifty years after
the erection of this temple, the Vale of Shechem was hallowed by the
presence and teachings of Jesus and his twelve apostles. In the year
89 A.D. it was the birthplace of Justin, the philosopher and martyr,
one of the earliest and most learned of the Christian fathers. From the
days of the Roman conquest to the present time it has shared the varied
fortunes of the Crescent and the Cross, and to-day is subject to the
sceptre of the False Prophet.

Nablous is situated in one of the most delightful vales in Palestine.
A garden-like valley opens from the Plain of Mukhnah and runs nearly
east and west, with Ebal on the north and Gerizim on the south.
Standing less than two miles up the vale, the city covers the roots
of Gerizim, extending toward the opposite mountain. Of its 8000
inhabitants, 50 are Jews, 150 Samaritans, 500 Christians, and over
7000 Moslems. Its narrow streets, thronged with a busy multitude――its
stone dwellings, crowned with small domes――its mosques, with their
graceful minarets――and its numerous bazars, filled with fruit and
other commodities, remind the traveler of Jerusalem; but the streets
are less light and airy than those of the Holy City, as the buildings,
projecting over them, supported by arches, impart to them a tunnel-like
appearance. Except a spacious Saracenic doorway, now the portal of a
mosque, a marble sarcophagus, now a water-trough, and a few prostrate
columns of granite, limestone, and marble, there are no antiquities
worthy of a moment’s attention. The modern Shechemites are the chief
cotton-growers, oil-makers, and soap manufacturers of Palestine. The
valleys and hill-sides are covered with olive-trees, from the berries
of which is extracted the precious oil. In the adjacent fields cotton
is raised in large quantities for home consumption and exportation.
Regarded as the best quality grown in the dominions of the Turkish
empire, thousands of bales are yearly exported to Europe. The present
citizens of the town afford another illustration that the character of
a people, no less than their names and social customs, are handed down
from generation to generation. They are infamous for their turbulent
and fanatical reputation in the past, and more street-fights occur in
Nablous than in any other Syrian city. The rebellious spirit that rose
three thousand years ago against the government of Rehoboam is still
dominant, and the Shechemites are among the most troublesome of the
sultan’s subjects, obeying or rebelling as interest dictates or passion
inclines. It required the powerful and cruel arm of Ibrahim Pasha
to crush them, though not without a long and bloody struggle. Jews,
Samaritans, and Christians live among those turbulent children of
the Prophet only by sufferance, and the crimes of theft and murder
perpetrated on them are seldom punished by the weak and timorous
Turkish officials.

The Jews have a small synagogue within the walls, the picture of
poverty and wretchedness. Of the 500 Christians, most are of the
Greek Church, and worship in an edifice at once old and filthy. The
Protestant Christian Mission is under the protection of the English and
Russian governments, and is accomplishing much good in the education
of the young. The mission school, under the care of our host, was held
in a room adjoining the one we occupied. Accepting his invitation, we
spent an hour with his pupils: there were present from forty to fifty
boys, from three to fifteen years of age. Attired in Syrian costume,
they were clean and pretty in their appearance, and modest and obedient
in their behavior. Sitting on their heels, they were engaged in writing
with a reed not unlike, in form and size, our common pencils. Calling
up one by one, from the least to the greatest, the master exhibited
specimens of penmanship which, as far as I was capable of judging of
the graceful Arabic characters, were creditable to the young penmen. As
they seemed anxious to know about the schools and children of America,
I made them a brief speech, which was interpreted by our polite host.

From their wealth, social position, and historic importance, the
Samaritans are by far the most interesting religious body in Nablous.
The Bible account of their origin and history invests them with
a peculiar charm, and imparts to the seat of their ancient empire
an interest seldom equaled in the stories of romance. Hoping to
effectually subdue Palestine to their powerful sway and restore it
to the rites of idol worship, the Assyrian conqueror led the Jews of
Samaria into captivity, and repeopled their depopulated cities with
colonists from the distant East. During the long period that intervened
between the captivity and the colonization, the bears, panthers, wolves,
and jackals from the Heights of Hermon and the jungles of the Jordan
had so far penetrated into the heart of the country, and had multiplied
to such a degree, as to endanger the lives of the colonists. Being
polytheists themselves, they ascribed the evil to the local divinities,
whose worship they knew not how to perform. Complaining to their king,
he sent them a Jewish priest, who taught them the name and worship of
Jehovah. With a curtness that savors of irony, the inspired historian
adds, “They feared the Lord and served their own gods.”[484] National
pride, and contempt for their origin and mixed religion, led the Jews,
in after years, to despise the colonists, and being thus scorned by
those from whom they had reason to look for truth and righteousness,
the Samaritans in turn became exclusive. Multiplying in numbers and
increasing in wealth, in process of time they erected a temple on
the summit of Gerizim. To them this mount became their Moriah, and in
the lapse of ages an invented tradition designated it as the scene of
the offering of Isaac. By a better title it shared the solemnity and
significance of Mount Sinai, as from its slopes Joshua proclaimed the
Law; and the vale beneath became a second Râhah, since the hosts of
Israel gathered there to hear the blessings and cursings of the divine
commandments. With honest pride they contemplated their surrounding
plains as the camping-ground of the patriarchs prior to their
pilgrimage to the south, and as the scene of the coronation of the son
of Solomon. Turning their attention to commerce, they became merchants
in Egypt, and, traveling westward, in the fifth century they had a
synagogue in Rome. Continuing to live under the varied fortunes and
vicissitudes of empire, the existence of this present remnant is one of
the most remarkable instances of the tenacity of national life in the
annals of the world. Numbering 130 souls――the sum of all that remain
of a once proud and mighty kingdom――they cling to their ancient seat of
empire with undying fondness. Adhering to the Jewish law, which forbids
marriage with foreigners, and numbering more males than females, not
less than twenty men are doomed to involuntary celibacy. Industrious
and thrifty, they dwell in their own houses, pursuing their vocations
and maintaining their community with comparative ease. In their
physique and apparel, in their intelligence and morals, in their
social happiness and general behavior, they are the superior class
among the citizens of Nablous. Possessing a solitary synagogue in
the western part of the town, they observe their religious rites with
much regularity. They have a school, under the direction of a shrewd,
intelligent Samaritan. Their high-priest is a venerable man, who is
assisted in the duties of his sacred office by two sons, the elder
of whom will succeed his father to the office and rank he now holds.
Besides a collection of hymns, they have in their possession the Book
of Joshua in manuscript, with commentaries on the Law, and a copy of
the Pentateuch in the original character. They claim for the latter
that it is 3300 years old, and was written by “Abishua, the son
of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron.” Regarded as a
treasure of incalculable value, it is preserved in a metallic case,
and deposited in their synagogue under the care of the high-priest. The
tattered, patched, and soiled parchment forms an immense scroll, the
ends of which are attached to two rollers. Such is their superstitious
reverence for this antique manuscript, that they deem it a pardonable
offense to exhibit a duplicate as the veritable one, and many a
traveler has left with the impression of having seen the five books
of Moses written by the son of Phinehas. Though destitute of a temple,
they ascend their sacred mount three times a year, and celebrate with
much display the Feast of the Passover, the Day of Pentecost, and the
Feast of Tabernacles.

The clouds that had overcast the sky, and the fogs which had hung upon
the mountains like floating curtains in the morning, had been lifted up
by noon, and Nature smiled in all the beauty of spring. Passing out of
the eastern gate of the city, I entered the Vale of Shechem. It extends
from the Plain of Mukhnah on the east to the city on the west, and is
two miles in length and something over 200 yards in width. It gently
ascends from Jacob’s Well, and for half a mile its entire breadth is
one vast and glorious grove of olive, fig, and almond trees, presenting
at times the density of a forest. Beyond the orchards are vineyards
and fields of grain, through which flows a crystal brooklet. Rising
like massive walls from this garden valley are Mount Gerizim on the
south and Ebal on the north, attaining an altitude of nearly 1000 feet.
Standing midway the vale, and looking upon these celebrated mountains,
one is impressed with their singular companionship. Of equal height,
with rugged sides and flattened summits, they remind one of twin
brothers. Equally renowned in sacred history, the honor bestowed
upon the one was only equal to the glory conferred upon the other. If
Gerizim was the mount of blessing and Ebal the mount of cursing, it was
upon the latter that Joshua reared the first altar to the living God in
Central Palestine. But, less impartial than history, Nature symbolizes
the benedictions and maledictions of the law by causing flowers to
bloom on Gerizim and thorns to grow on Ebal. Midway the vale are
corresponding nooks in the mountain sides, resembling well-formed
recesses, and increasing its breadth to nearly 400 yards. Standing out
from the base of the mountains are perpendicular ledges of rock, not
unlike grand pulpits, from which the whole vale is distinctly seen.
Somewhere in this expanse the hosts of Israel assembled to hear all
the words of the Law. Divided by the centre of the vale, the tribes of
Simeon and Levi, of Judah and Issachar, of Joseph and Benjamin, were
gathered around the base of Gerizim, and the tribes of Reuben and
Gad, of Asher and Zebulun, of Dan and Naphtali, were congregated over
against Ebal. Standing above the people on these great pulpits, which
the Creator had reared for an occasion so august, the priests read
the Law, while to each blessing and to each cursing the vast multitude
responded their assent.[485] So firmly does Nature retain her ancient
features, and so exact is the correspondence between the inspired
account and the scene as it now appears, that, standing within this
venerable church of God’s own construction, thirty centuries unfold
their mighty scroll, and the past comes back with the actuality of the
present. Before the eye of a sublime faith the tribes reassemble, the
priests take their stand, and in sonorous tones slowly and distinctly
read, one by one, each command and each prohibition, while from either
side, in alternate responses, beginning at the mountain base and
rolling outward to the centre, rises the full, deep, responsive “Amen!”
like the sound of many waters breaking in alternations of musical
thunder against the opposite wall of the everlasting mountains. The
area was sufficient for that grandest of human assemblies; and such is
the profound silence of the vale, the human voice was heard then, as it
is heard now, from mountain to mountain.

Viewed from this point, Gerizim is not unlike a cone with ridged sides
and a broken base, while Ebal seems not so high nor steep, but rougher,
with its top receding with gentle slope. In the centre of the vale
opposite the nooks is the cool, clear, sweet fountain of ’Ain Depneh,
whither, as of old, the maidens come for water, and around which
shepherds linger with their flocks. In numberless rills the waters flow
to the eastward, in pearly brightness and perennial music, the livelong
day. From the fig and almond bowers birds of elegant plumage awaken
the gentler echoes of the vale. Less than half a mile to the east of
the fountain is the wretched hamlet of Belât, presenting a melancholy
contrast between the beauty of nature and the deformity of man. Two
hundred yards beyond, situated on the point of a spur from Gerizim,
is Jacob’s Well. On a mound of shapeless ruins, 20 feet above the
Plain of Mukhnah, are fragments of granite columns, the remains of
a Christian church. Measuring 75 feet in depth and nine in diameter,
this patriarchal well is excavated in the solid rock with regular and
smoothly-hewn sides. Originally, a vaulted chamber, 10 feet square and
as many deep below the surface of the ground, formed the entrance to
the well, the walls of which have fallen in, rendering access difficult.
Leaping down into the ruined vault, I found two openings into the well
through heaps of limestone blocks. Attaching a cord to a small tin
bottle, I lowered it to the depth of 65 feet, but found no water;
on lowering it, however, through the other aperture to the depth of
75 feet I reached the water, which was from three to five feet deep.
Imagine my joy in drinking from the Well of Sychar, whose waters were
sanctified by the lips of the gracious Redeemer! It is clear like unto
crystal, having the softness of oil and the sweetness of honey.

Illustration: JACOB’S WELL.

Returning to the surface of the ground, and sitting beside the well
whither the sons and daughters of the patriarchs had often come for
water, and perchance where the Master had sat, I read its thrilling
history as recorded by Moses and by John. With an accuracy that must
claim the faith of every candid mind, all the facts of the sacred
narrative are in harmony with the physical features of the scene.
Stretching out to the north, east, and south is the parcel of a field
Jacob bought of Hamor for a hundred pieces of money,[486] and on its
western border is the well. The three great religious sects agree as
to its identity, and its site has been preserved in the memory and
affections of man through an unbroken tradition to our own time. To one
not conversant with Eastern customs it would appear improbable that a
man as shrewd and prudent as Jacob would be at the expense and labor of
excavating a well so near the living springs in the upper valley, which
have always poured their irrigating waters down the Vale of Shechem.
But the reflection on the prudence and economy of the patriarch is
removed by the consideration of the well-known fact that in the East
water is more valuable than land, and a higher value is set upon a
well or spring than upon fields of pasture. “Pasture your flocks on
my hills and plains, but let my wells alone,” is the only request
the Oriental makes of the stranger. In a land where water is scarce,
every proprietor aims to have a well of his own, which he guards with
peculiar vigilance. The custom of digging wells on a newly-purchased
estate is as old as Abraham and Isaac; and as in their times, so now,
there are more quarrels over wells of water than over fields of grain.
Subject to the same social laws, Jacob but indicated his wisdom and
conformed to an acknowledged usage in first purchasing a field and then
digging a well. Accepting a tradition so venerable, I yielded to the
full enjoyment which such a scene is calculated to afford, and the week
I spent at Nablous I never wearied in my journeyings to drink of these
delicious waters.

Interesting as were the patriarchal associations of the place,
it was with unmingled delight I read the beautiful story of our
Lord’s conversation with the woman of Samaria. Had St. John written
the incidents of the Savior’s journey from Jerusalem to Sychar with
a previous knowledge that his narrative would be subjected to a
searching criticism by the enemies of Divine truth, he could not have
written with greater accuracy. As the facts of topography on which the
traveler relies for the credibility of the story are recorded merely as
incidents to the story itself, the correspondence between the statement
and the fact is the more wonderful and convincing. Deeming it prudent
to escape the snare of the Pharisees, “Jesus left Judea and departed
again into Galilee.” To reach his destination “he must needs go through
Samaria.” Reaching Jacob’s Well at noon, he rested, it being on the
direct road to Galilee by way of Tirzah, while his disciples, turning
to the left, passed up the Vale of Shechem to the city to purchase
refreshments. During their absence came the “woman of Samaria,” with
cord and pitcher, to draw water. He who had made the fountains of earth
and sky requested, “Give me to drink.” As at most Eastern wells there
is neither wheel, chain, nor bucket, and surprised at his promise to
give living waters, her reply was no less natural than truthful: “Sir,
thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep.” Hoping to divert
his attention from the irregularities of her life, she introduced the
relative claims of the Jews and Samaritans to religious superiority.
Rising up before them was Mount Gerizim, to which in turn each pointed
in their allusions to the noble sanctuary crowning its summit. Looking
with compassion upon the Samaritans, anticipating the great work to
be wrought among them, and impressed with the necessity of immediately
laboring in their behalf, he pointed to the ripe Plains of Mukhnah,
warning his disciples not to say, “There are yet four months and then
cometh harvest; behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes and look on
the fields, for they are white already to harvest.”[487]

While Jews and Samaritans, Christians and Moslems, agree that this is
the Well of Sychar, the ever-restless skepticism of modern times has
called in question its otherwise undisputed identity. Because it is two
miles from the city of Shechem, it is judged too far away for the woman
to have come for water. Nothing, however, is said in the text to cause
us to suppose she came from the city; and if she had come from what is
now known as Nablous, there are reasons for supposing that the ancient
city extended farther east than the present one. Like the village of
Belât, her native town might have been adjacent to the spot; or at
the noon hour she might have come from an adjoining field, where,
with other peasant women, she had spent the morning in the toils of

But, in the unmistakable fulfillment of our Lord’s prophecy, time has
furnished even a stronger proof of Bible inspiration than the exact
correspondence between the narration of the event and the description
of the scene. The woman of Samaria is dead; the disciples, one by one,
have all passed to their reward; the Redeemer has ascended to glory;
Gerizim is a desolation; Moriah is the shrine of Mohammed; and the
prophetic words of Jesus, that first fell from his lips on the soft air
of the Vale of Shechem, and were whispered back by the winds from Ebal
and Gerizim, are now heard in all the valleys and on all the mountain
summits in two hemispheres.

The tomb of Joseph is in sight of his father’s well, around which he
was wont to play when young. When dying in the palace of Pharaoh, he
had taken an oath of the children of Israel that they should “carry up
his bones from hence;”[488] and, true to their solemn vow, “the bones
of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of the land of
Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought
of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem.”[489] Crossing a stream
on which stands an old mill belonging to the village of Belât, we
descended into the plain, and, passing through rich corn-fields half a
mile to the north, we came to a small square area inclosed by a white
plastered wall, marking the spot where sleeps in peace he who was the
darling son, the wandering shepherd, the captive youth, Potiphar’s
slave, Asenath’s betrothed, Pharaoh’s prime minister, the preserver of
his country, the joy of a dying father, the exemplary saint, and the
model man. How strangely the lines of human actions cross each other
in the orderings of Providence! What beautiful coincidences transpire
beneath his benign sway! The parcel of land his father purchased
of Hamor is now the place of Joseph’s sepulchre, and in the very
field where he was lost he now rests in death. And though the spot is
unmarked by stately granite or marble shaft, Ebal, the mountain of his
boyhood, is his imposing tomb-stone, and over the whitened wall a vine
is now creeping, the symbol chosen by his dying father to preintimate
the prosperity of a beloved son: “Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a
fruitful bough by a wall, whose branches run over the wall.”[490]

It was five o’clock on a bright spring morning when, attended by a
solitary guide, I descended the Vale of Nablous to where the valley
widens, and began to ascend the Mount of Cursing. The sun was just
peering over the hills of Ephraim, transforming the dew-drops into
sparkling jewels, and awakening the matin notes of unnumbered songsters.
In an hour we gained the summit; and though the horizon was misty,
limiting the view, the familiar peaks of Moab rose above the fog-clouds
like islands in the ocean. The sides of Ebal are rough, and its summit
broad and stony. A solitary goat-path leads over the mountain to
the valleys beyond. Shepherds were roving with their flocks in quest
of pasture, and peasants were hastening to their daily toil. The
attritions of time and the sacrilegious hand of plunder have destroyed
the altar Joshua reared to Jehovah. From its highest peak a noble
view is obtained of the fertile hills and valleys to the east, and of
the lofty Tellûzeh, the renowned Tirzah, whose beauties Solomon has
embalmed in immortal song,[491] and which was once the rival of Shechem
as the seat of royalty.[492]

Returning to Nablous, we passed out of the western gate to ascend the
Mount of Blessings. At the portal stood a group of lepers, perhaps the
descendants of Gehazi, who was cursed with the leprosy of Naaman.[493]
Poor creatures, how sad they looked! Their ulcered faces, dull,
restless eyes, languid, husky voices, and tattered garments presented
a mournful spectacle of fallen humanity. Excluded from society like
those of Jerusalem, they live distinct, to grieve, rot, and die in
their wretched hovels. Standing afar off and arranging themselves in a
semicircle, twenty men and women, in tones of pity, asked our charities.
No sight among living things that meets the traveler’s eye recalls the
days of the benevolent Savior so vividly as the appearance of lepers.
Perhaps it was in this same city that “there met him ten men that were
lepers, which stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said,
Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.”[494] Distributing bread among the
poor creatures, we turned to the left and began the ascent. Our path
led up a glen of rare beauty, and from a ridge to the south of the town
we looked down upon the noble site of the city stretching nearly across
the valley, and from amid palms and trees of exquisite foliage rose
domes and minarets. Just above the ridge, in a sequestered spot, is
the large fountain of ’Asal. Its clear waters, being first gathered
into immense troughs, are then conducted by an aqueduct to a mill, from
which they flow down the hill-side into a quiet dell rich with shrubs
and flowers. Crossing the stream, we followed the path trodden by many
ancient pilgrims, and passed through groves of figs and almonds, in the
branches of which birds were singing merrily. Here the hill-sides were
terraced, supporting groves of fruit-trees and also vineyards. Beyond
the orchards the path was steep and stony, and turning abruptly to
the left, after half an hour’s hard climbing we reached the summit of
Gerizim. The top is a broad, irregular plateau, covered with heaps of
stones and the remains of vast structures. Crowning a rocky knoll is
the white wely seen from the Heights of Ephraim. From the roof a view
is obtained rivaling that from Neby Samwîl in the extent and variety
of the prospect. Far to the east, like a massive wall, stand the
trans-Jordanic mountains; on the south a succession of green hills
appear as far as the eye can reach; on the west are seen patches of the
Plain of Sharon, and through openings in the hills are caught glimpses
of the Mediterranean; while dimly in the hazy northern sky Hermon rises,
covered with snow and tinged with a purple hue. In all its wealth and
beauty, at the mountain base lies the Plain of Mukhnah, stretching
eastward a broad green arm amid the dark hills of Ephraim. Indistinctly
the modern town of Sâlim appears on its western border, supposed to
mark the site of Shalem, where Jacob pitched his tent. Seen in the
rays of the setting sun, the plain resembles a magnificent carpet
of vast dimensions, of curious figures, and of variant hues, the
chocolate-color of the soil, the light green of the corn, the sombre
hue of the olive, the dull gray of the protruding rocks, and the purple
and azure tints of the hills harmoniously blending.

Of the nature and origin of the immense ruins covering the summit
of Gerizim but little is known. There is one vast structure, now in
ruins, consisting of two adjacent parts, measuring 400 feet in length
and 250 in breadth, with the remains of square towers at each corner.
Consisting of blocks of limestone with beveled edges and rough centres,
they are regarded by some as the remains of the once grand temple of
the Samaritans, and by others as portions of the great fortress here
erected by the Emperor Justinian. Though the Samaritans reject these
ruins as part of their temple, yet they point to many of their sacred
places. Beneath the western wall of what is now called the castle are
twelve flat stones, and under them are said to be the veritable twelve
stones that Joshua brought up out of the Jordan as memorials of the
miraculous dividing of the water. A few yards to the south is their
“Holy of Holies.” Irregular in form, it is a smooth-faced natural rock,
measuring 45 feet in diameter, and gently declining toward a deep-hewn
pit called their _sanctum sanctorum_. Regarding it as holy ground, they
always remove their shoes before stepping upon it; and as truly as the
Moslem turns toward Mecca in the moment of prayer, and the Jew toward
Jerusalem, so truly do the Samaritans turn toward this rock-hewn cavern
in the time of devotion. Contrary to all history and to all tradition,
they claim it as the scene of the offering of Isaac, of Jacob’s vision,
as the place where the Tabernacle was first set up, and where the
Ark rested. Sacred and profane history is too explicit to countenance
either of these assumptions; and, besides the unanimous voice of
history, the distance from Beersheba to Gerizim is too great to have
been accomplished in three days by Abraham and his son. Even had the
Father of the Faithful followed the Plain of Philistia, and on the
morning of the third day from the Plain of Sharon seen Gerizim, the
difficulty of distance would not have been obviated by such a route, as
it would have required him to travel thirty miles a day for the first
two days and twenty miles of heavy mountain-climbing for the third; and
as he and Isaac returned to the young men the same day, the distance
would have been much greater. Not far from these ruins is a rectangular
area, surrounded with a low stone fence, called the Temple of the
Samaritans. Here they annually assemble, pitch their tents, and eat the
Passover. Near the inclosure is a circular pit, three feet in diameter
and ten deep, in which the paschal lambs are roasted. I was fortunate
enough to be present on the 23d of April to witness the celebration of
the feast of the Samaritan Passover. According to their custom, their
whole community, to the number of 130 souls, consisting of men, women,
and children, had ascended the mount and pitched their tents, some of
which were white and others of variegated colors, upon its broad summit.
The day being regarded by them as a gala-day, all were attired in their
gayest costumes, and all rejoiced in the historic significance of the
occasion. Occupying an elevated position, the ceremonies were conducted
by the venerable high-priest, assisted by his two sons. The male
portion of the congregation stood in a group on a small mound, chanting
psalms and reciting portions of the Pentateuch, while the females
remained in and around the tents. In a group stood seven Levites clad
in white garments, each holding by the head a lamb without spot or
blemish; near them were large caldrons of boiling water, to scald the
sheep like swine, instead of flaying them, as in the ordinary way; and
beyond was the circular furnace, already heated, to roast the offering.
The going down of the sun was the appointed time to slay the paschal
lambs. As the day declined, each face was turned toward the west,
eagerly watching the last ray of the setting sun. At length the solemn
moment came; the high-priest waved his hand as the signal for the
slaughter; in an instant each lamb was slain and lay bleeding at the
Levite’s feet. Not a sound was heard. Each worshiper bowed his face
to the earth, his forehead touching the ground. After an interval of
silent prayer, all arose, greeted each other with a holy kiss, and
parents sprinkled the blood of the victims upon the forehead of their
first-born. The scalding of the sheep followed, and after the fleece
had been removed, the seven lambs were suspended on heavy oaken spits,
and with much ceremony placed in the heated furnace. It was night
before the feast was ready. The paschal moon had risen in unclouded
beauty upon the rugged summit of Gerizim, and many a one had fallen
asleep, like the three disciples in Tabor. At length a shout is
heard――the feast is ready! The lambs being removed from the furnace,
the priest’s portion was first presented to him, and then the whole
company, except those women ceremonially unclean, ate the flesh with
bitter herbs and with unleavened bread, in haste, with their loins
girded, their shoes on their feet, and their staffs in their hand.[495]