Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

After some days' experience of the des- the conjunction of these four valleys, an ert, where a muddy sandpool and the stunt- extensive plain is formed, in the centre of ed ghurkud were unusual luxuries, the which there is a low broken hill, some sixty verdant grass beneath our feet, the thick or seventy feet in height, called the hill shrubbery of tamarisk and broom around Hěrěrât. Upon this hill, according to the our tents, the feathery palm gracefully tradition, Moses stood while the battle of waving some fifty or sixty feet above Rephidim raged around it. Certainly do our heads, and, above all, the gentle music place could more perfectly correspond to of the bubbling brook at our tent door, the circumstances of the history. The grateful as the voice of home, were very de- Amalekites would naturally wish to defend licious. Life was everywhere luxuriant their fertile vale against the invasion of a and beautiful. Amid her countless nooks host like that of Israel. Concealing themand varieties of beauty, the earth has none selves, therefore, as they easily might, in perhaps more fascinating and fanciful than the sides of the mountains, and behind the this. It is a wilderness of tropical fertility, hill Hěrěrât, they permitted the Israelites sequestered by rich and lofty mountains of to advance to the centre of the plain, and granite; a Happy Valley, where Rasselas then, bursting forth from their ambush, might have hoped for unsophisticated and attacked them both in front and rear. In virtuous dwellers, hardly to be found, how this way Moses would be able to ascend the ever, in the squalid huts and semi-savagery little hill,' as in the original it is emphatiof the Bedouins. To us, it was a place of cally called (132n), and thus he would delicious repose, long and pleasantly to be command the entire field of battle. Here remembered.

then we may picture to ourselves the wonTwo other parties of travellers were al- drous, rod uplifted, — bâton serving as a ready encamped in the palm grove. The standard to Joshua's army, and also a mute flickering light of the camp-fires reflected appeal to the God of battles; as the arms from Oriental foliage, with groups of Arabs of the venerable law-giver grow weary, and camels reposing round them, and they are upheld by Aaron and Hur, and at thrown into strong relief; the bright moon length are supported by two stones for pilcalmly shining above; the gurgling brook lows. And from morning till evening, acserenading us with its home music; the cording to the firmness of the uplifted rod, grand ranges of mountain on either side, the impetuous tide of battle swayed, swellcrowned on the western side by the awful ing and breaking, and angrily dashing domes of Serbâl, which almost overhang against the rocky pedestal upon which the the valley, made the scene one of the most sublime figure of Moses stood. After the impressive and memorable of our journey. victory the same rocky eminence would Nor were we without Arab music. The doubtless be an altar in the midst of this ministrel of the grove serenaded us with a grand temple of nature, upon which sacrimost melancholy love ditty, sung to the ac- fices of thanksgiving would be offered in companiment of a still more melancholy vio- sight of all the people. It is now covered lin, of the rudest and most primitive con- with the ruins of the ancient church and struction.

episcopal palace of Feirân, while round its We did not get much sleep, one noise or base are ruins of the old ecclesiastical city, another disturbing us all the night. Not- houses, chapels, and tombs. The mounwithstanding this, before the morning, a tains all round are honeycombed to the hyæna from Mount Serbâl made free with very summit with hermits' cells, and tombs. the foal of a camel three days old, the be- P and F being cognate and interchangereaved mother of which carried me the able letters, Feiran and Parân are identical next day.

words. Feirân is the Phara of Ptolemy, At this junction of the sterile and fertile from which in his day the entire district parts of the valley, there are two lateral was called the Pharanitic Peninsula. It is valleys opening out of it like the transepts most probably also the Parân of Scripture of a cathedral, each forming a cul-ile-sac : history and poetry, the El Parân to which that to the west, the Wady 'Aleiyat, is a Chedorlaomer an his allies chased the wild picturesque glen, two or three miles Horites of Mount Seir,' the Mount Parân' in length, blocked up by the vast mass of from which the Holy One came. In this Serbål ; it is utterly sterile, and is little place Christian altars were once erected, more than the rugged bed of mountain and Christian worship was offered. These torrents. That to the east is shorter; it is mountain echoes, that once reiterated the simply a deep amphitheatre of mountains, a terrible sounds of battle, also responded bellying out of the side of the valley. By to the voice of Christian song. These dark

and comfortless cells were once filled with of Sinai as the highest of all the mounliving men, and witnessed all the strange tains that are in that country;' but this tragedy of anchorite life, — the struggle of is quite in accordance with his exaggerating human passion, the fervour of wrestling habit : it is more applicable to Jebel Mousa prayer, the unutterable desolateness of hu- than it is to Serbál, but is literally true of man solitariness, the weary weakness of neither. Importance has been attached to sickness, the dark solitude of death. These the fact that the episcopal city of Parân hoary walls once felt the touch of human existed prior to the time of Justinian; but hands, and were sanctified by the holy this proves, not that Serbâl was Sinai, but worship of human hearts. Here lived only that the Wâdy Feirân was the most Theodosius, the Monothelite Bishop of fertile spot in the neighbourhood of Sinai. Feirận, who was excommunicated for his Serbâl was undoubtedly a sacred mountain, heresy. Here, too, the Tyrians once trad- and a place of religious pilgrimage, even ed: so that all the interests of human life, prior to the Exodus. Its name points to all the play of human passion, were once the worship of the Phænician Baal. vital here. Now, all is solitary and deso- Further, it is clear from the narrative of late; a few Bedouins wander about the Scripture, and is also implied by Josephus, place by day, the jackal and the hyæna that Rephidim was some distance from roam over it at night.

Sinai, — certainly one day's march, proMount Serbâl is seen from Feirân in all bably more. Feirân is as near to Serbal its magnificence. It rises from its base in as the people could come, while it is at the five great sections, blended together like least sixteen or eighteen hours distant from the clustered columns of a cathedral: some the modern Horeb. It is further urged one has happily compared it to a clus- that the plain Er Râhah, at the foot of ter of inverted stalactites, distinguished, Horeb, and the Wadys round the modern but not parted, by deep ravines. The as- Sinai, are destitute of vegetation, and of cent is commonly made from Feirân; it is the means of supporting a great multitude ; arduous, but not otherwise difficult. It and that Moses, who int mately knew the occupies about four hours. Dean Stanley whole district, would naturally select for describes the view from the summit as very the place of their prolonged encampment magnificent.

the Wâdy Feirân, which abounds in luxuA most interesting and important ques- riant vegetation. To this it may be retion respects the identity of Serbâl with plied, that while Sinai is not so fertile as the mountain of the law-giving. This is Feirân, it is by no means without vegetavery strenuously and elaborately maintain- tion and water; that after the victory at ed by Lepsius, Mr. Bartlett, Dr. Stewart, Rephidim, the resources of Feirân would and others. Burckhardt, Dean Stanley, be available for the people encamped on Dr. Wilson, and most modern travellers, Er Râhah, and that, in all his movements, more successfully contend for the modern Moses was manifestly under the explicit Sinai. The Jewish traditions are in favor of guidance of Jehovah, and was not left to Sinai, and we can hardly conceive of these the simple dictates of his own unassisted as doubtful. The early Christian traditions judgment. If the history be true at all, of the time of Eusebius and Jerome down the question can hardly be argued on the to Justinian are in favour of Serbål. On ground of mere natural probabilities. We the other hand, the church of Justinian are necessarily restricted to such intimawas built at the foot of Jebel Mousa with tions as are furnished by the sacred narrathe concurrence of the whole Christian tive. The place of the law-giving would world. Even the monks of Serbâl never doubtless be determined by a comparison thought of disputing the claims of Sinai; of various considerations. and these have been admitted by almost all It is conclusive against the claim of Serlater writers. The inscriptions which are bål, that there is no open space near its found upon Serbâl, even to its summit, are base where a host like that of Israel could adduced in its favour; but there is no encamp before the mount, and whence its proof that these are Israelitish in their its summit could be seen. From the palm origin: their strange character is presump- grove of Feirân, the nearest possible camption to the contrary. It is, moreover, al- ing-place, the actual base of the mountain most impossible to conceive of the Israel cannot be seen at all. A turn of the Wâdy ites graving any inscription upon the holy 'Aleiyat at its entrance completely interand awful mount of God; besides, there cepts it, and, according to Dr. Stewart, it are inscriptions almost all over the penin- is five miles distant. The Wâdy 'Aleiyat sula. Josephus (Ant. iii. c. 5, § 1) speaks ) itself is a narrow ravine, little more than a rocky watercourse; it affords no conveni- across the rocky plateau, in a direct line to ence for the encampment of a multitude of Horeb. We had thus to cross, first the people, and no possibility of their retiring Wâdy Solâf on the other side of the plaafar off, according to the narrative, and at teau, and then a grand range of mountains the same time maintaining their connection on the farther side of it, which stands like a with the mountain. On the other hand, all vast cathedral screen before the inner sancthe required conditions are fulfilled at Sinai tuary of Sinai. Fron the plateau this outer with almost startling exactness.

range of mountains is seen to great advanOur way now lay up the Wâdy Feirån, tage, and over the lower parts of it glimpses and through the entire length of the palm of the summits of the inner mountains are grove, which extends for about three miles, obtained, among them of that of Jebel the regal palm gradually giving place to Mousa. On the right we had very fine the tamarisk and to the broom.

distant views of the crown of Serbâl, alThis fairy grove was thickly peopled with ways grand and imposing, from whatever the rude huts and the tents of the Bedouins, point it is seen. their flocks herding near them, and their The vegetation of the Wâdy Feirân had children - innocent of even a palm leaf, given place to the rough sterile desert surand brown as a chestnut, half curious, half face with which we had become familiar. fearful - venturing to the side of the path, The descent from the plateau into the desoor hiding behind the foliage, to get a fur-| late bed of the Wâdy Solâf was rough and tive glimpse of our white faces and wide- steep; the valley itself seemed a region of awakes, as we passed. We were the strange slimepits and limekilns. It contains numerobjects there. The valley is richer as we ous graves, more numerous than are easely ascend. A considerable accumulation of accounted for in such a place. Dr. Stewsoil is fertilized by the living stream that art * says that he saw here traces of a ruinruns through it; and even corn is grown in /ed town, of which this may have been the it; but lower down, around Parân, the con- necropolis. flicting torrents are too violent to permit such The pass across this mountain breastwork accumulation, -- all débris from the moun- of Sinai is the Nûkb Hâwy, or • Windsadtains is entirely swept away. Dr. Lepsius dle,' the most arduous and most magnificent speakes of the traces of an ancient lake in in the peninsula. A rough camel track has the higher part of the valley : these we did been made among the huge boulders and not see; but if his observation be accurate, débris of fallen granite, probably by the it is important, as indicating the former monks, to facilitate communication between fertility of it. Lakes in similar positions Sinai and Feirân. If, as some suppose, are frequent enough in Switzerland, and in this was the directer route to Sinai, taken the mountain districts of Wales and York- by Moses and the elders, their way must -shire.

have been rough indeed. Doubtless Moses At the head of the Wâdy Feirân the had been long familiar with it. valley is divided into two branches. The We were about three hours in crossing, one bending to the east is the Wâdy Es- our camels laboriously following us. In Sheikh, the most extensive of the valleys some respects it is the grandest mountain of Sinai. From the head of the Wâdy pass that I have seen. It has no single spot Feiran, formning nearly a semicircle, it of overpowering sublimity like some of the leads by a broad and easy way to the passes of the Alps, but it has a sustained very foot of Horeb: this, doubtless, would magnificence of its own, for which it would be the route taken by the host of Israel. be difficult to find a parallel. The path The valley bending to the west is the Wâdy skirts no fathomless abyss, the traveller Solâf; it is a continuation of the same hangs over no toppling precipices; throughsweep, but is less circular than the Wâdy out, his way lies along the saddle of ihe Sheikh; bending round more abruptly, it mountain, and on a level with what in the forms, as it were, the flat side of a circle, rainy season must be a terrific torrent, but which it would complete by opening into which now, owing to the long drought, is the Wady Sheikh near its termination at but a trickling nd intermitten Horeb, did it not cease by running up into The sublimity is above rather than below: a kind of mountain ravine. The two val- wonderful granite peaks, rent, rugged and leys thus form a kind of irregular circle or time-worn; piled-up granite masses, disinteellipse, enclosing a plateau of low bills. grated, perilously balanced, and grotesque

Leaving the Wady Feirân, we turned a beyond all description, rise a thousand little way down the Wâdy Sheikh, and feet on either side, sometimes overhanging then turning suddenly to the right struck *The Tent and the Khan,' p. 121.

stream.

and threatening an imminent repetition of sion, but we could not resist it. Our prethe stony avalanche which has filled the vious reading had led us to the conclusion, bed of the stream with Titanic boulders and our observation confirmed it ; for nothand inextricable débris. Among these the ing can be more perfect than the corresponpathway winds and climbs as best it can. dence between the place and the history. Here and there a stunted palm tree, or a The summit of Horeb can be seen from diminutive acacia, relieves the stony deso- every art of the plain, so that the cloud lateness. An occasional spring refreshes which rested upon it would be visible to all the hot and weary traveller, and preserves the people. At the south-east corner is the the little rill from annihilation. A new broad opening of Wâdy Sheikh, from which plant or flower, or a curious fossil may oc- also Horeb is visible; we may imagine it, casionally be picked up, and a few mysteri- therefore, also covered with the tents of ous inscriptions may be seen. Throughout Israel. its length of six or seven miles it is a scene The mountain mass of Sinai, of which of vast and wild desolation, utterly incon- Râs Súfsâfeh is only the northern end, corceivable by those who have not seen it, ut- responds in shape and area to the plain Erterly indescribable by those who have. Rahah. Roughly speaking, it is rectangu

A short distance beyond the summit of lar, its southern end being a little the broadthe pass the peaks of Sinai rise into view. We er, and having its corners rounded. It is had long been looking for them, with an about the same average width as the plain, intensity of feeling that imposed silence and perhaps a little longer. It stands a upon us all, and that deepened into awe, little more to the west, so that the boundwhen we really saw the mountain that God ary lines of the mountain are not exactly a had touched, and from which He had spoken. continuation of the boundary lines of the Photographs had made me acquainted with plain. Thus, on the eastern side of the the face of Horeb, and I at once recog- mountain, the opening of the narrow Wâdy nized its pillared peaks with an almost Deir, also called the Wâdy Shu'eib, or Valstartling familiarity.

ley of Jethro, in which the Convent of St. We descended from Nûkb Hâwy upon a Katherine stands, is included within the large plain, which gradually opened before southern end of the plain, from which the

It is about two miles in length, and path to the convent leads in a straight line. three quarters of a mile in average width. A similar valley, the Wâdy Lejâ, -a traIt is grandly framed in lofty mountains; dition, possibly, of Jethro's daughter, the range which we had just crossed formed forms the western boundary of Sinai. This its northern end, receding a little, so as to is entered from Er-Râhah by turning a little form a large space at its north-north-west to the right. The Wâdy Lejâ divides the

Its western side is the Jebel Ghủb. isolated mass of Sinai from the irregular sheh ; its eastern the Jebel Fureiâ, a moun- and more lofty range of Jebel Katherine tain plateau lying in the angle formed Jebel Katherine itself being to the southby the plain and the Wâdy Sheikh; the west of Sinai. In the Wady Lejâ the Conedge next the plain extending to the point vent of El-Arba'în stands, whose gardens is called the Jebel Sena, probably a tradi- of fruit-trees and cypresses relieve the destion of the old name Sinai. The southern olateness of the scene and mourn over it. end of the plain is formed by the almost At the southern end of Sinai these two side perpendicular cliffs of Râs Sufsâfeh, the valleys are connected by a broad, irregular, Horeb of Scripture, extending right across and rugged valley, the Wâdy Sebảyeh ; it, and rising from it to the height of 1500 and as this valley is commanded by Jebel feet. About the middle of the plain is a Mousa, Ritter and others have supposed watershed, one part of it sloping gently that this was the place of the encampment, down to the north, the other to the south or and that Jebel Mousa was the mountain of south-east. This is the plain Er-Rabah, Divine manifestation. This is not impos

the plain of rest. And the first view of sible, but for many reasons it is improbable. it strongly excited the feeling that Dr. Rob- It is much rougher and more broken than inson describes. We could none of us re- Er-Rabah, and uch less convenient for the sist the conviction, that here, sequestered encampment of a great multitude, who from the world, and as in the mighty nave would have to spread out laterally. It is of a cathedral, – a temple not made with much more difficult of access, only one or hands,'— the host of Israel stood before two narrow valleys, little more than mounGod, the awful pile of Horeb being the tain passes, leading to it; nor is it easy to altar upon which the Divine glory rested. conceive why the people should have turned Of course this was matter of mere impres- away from the broad, level plaiu Er-RÂhah,

us.

corner.

6

and the wide opening of the Wâdy Sheikh, Almost unconsciously we fell apart, that to reach a camping-ground in every respect we might surrender ourselves to the thoughts inferior, and even less impressive. The top and feelings which the almost awful soliof Jebel Mousa, moreover, where Moses tude of this moonlight approach to Sinai incommuned with God, would, contrary to spired. The cleft face of Horeb looked the statement of the narrative, have been down grandly and majestically, just as visible to all the people, and their idolatry 3,000 years ago it did, upon the scene of and dancing would have been seen by Mo- the people's fear and vows; the scene also ses at every step of his descent. Nor is there of their licentious idolatry. And there down any possibility of the people removing and its eastern side Moses, with the tables of standing afar off,' nor is there any brook the Law in his hands, descended from Jethat descended out of the niount,' as there bel Mousa, and heard the riotous shouting is at Săfsâfeh. The mountain itself, more- and singing. over, does not overhang the plain, but is Proceeding up the Wâdy Deir on the protuberant and broken, from the top to east side of Horeb, we at length reached the bottom. The only reason for the theory the Convent of St. Katherine, more strictly is the gratuitous supposition that Jebel of the Transfiguration, which is about a mile Mousa was the mountain of Divine mani- up the valley, which it fills. The awful festation to the people, a supposition buttresses of Jebel Mousa a thousand feet which really perplexes and confuses the high, overhang it, and look into every cornarrative. To understand the narrative of ner of it. The convent itself is 5,000 feet law-giving, it must be borne in mind that above the level of the sea. We thundered there are two principal summits of Sinai, long and loudly at the door, but no one anRâs es-Süfsâfeh at its northern, and Jebel swered: it seemed a dwelling of the dead. Mousa at its southern extremity. The for- At length a monk appeared at a narrow mer rises like a castellated wall, crowned loop-bole, in the upper part of the building, by three principal turrets or peaks, from and, after a while, a second, upon the parathe plain Er-Rabah. The latter is not seen pet of the roof. It being an hour or more affrom the plain, being upwards of two miles ter sunset, we were refused admission; the behind Râs Sufsâfeh. All the conditions of vociferations of our Arabs, the arguments of the history are fulfilled, if we suppose that our dragoman, and our own loudly-expressed it was Jebel Mousa to which Moses ascend- remonstrances notwithstanding. In vain ed to commune with God, out of sight of we proffered our letter from the Patriarch the people; and that it was Râs Sufsâfeh at Cairo; in vain we told them that we had upon which the Divine glory was manifest- made a forced march of some fourteen hours ed to the people, and from which the ten in order to spend Sunday in the convent; in

words' of Sinai were spoken in their hear- vain we told them that, having sent our tents ing.

round by the Wâdy Sheikh, they could not The sun was setting as we descended arrive before noon the next day, that one of upon the plain from the Nûkb Hâwy, and a of our number was unwell, that we had but flush of wondrous crimson clothed the front little provision, and no bedding. The holy of Horeb with fire; this rapidly faded into brotherhood were inflexible: they would a dusky twilight brown; then the moon throw us down coverlids; they would give arose on the south-east across the Jebel / us bread and olives; they would even adFureiâ, and the whole scene was gradually mit us into a kind of garden-court, where touched and lighted by its pale radiance, we might make a fire, and where the stones until it ultimately rested in a luminous silver were not quite so hard, and where, if we grey, which, by the time that we reached preferred it to sleeping, we might have acHoreb, suffused the whole masss in solemn cess to the convent garden and walk among splendour. At that moment, singularly its olives and cypress trees : but admission enough, some light, fleecy clouds upon its to the convent itself was impossible. We top assumed the form of rays shooting up- were very angry at first, but soon asljusteil ward, as if some faint lingerings of the old- ourselves to the situation, and ultimately en glory still streamed from it. And thus made ourselves very comfortable; the rowe rode across the plain, scarcely a single mance of the circumstance giving a zest to feature altered, where for twelve months our enjoyment, and an indelibility to the the Hebrews were encamped, where they memory of it, which none of us would willheard the sound of the awful trumpet, and ingly forego. Our Arabs soon made a fire, the voice of God, and saw the mountain and cooked a dinner of such as they had. • altogether on a smoke, because the Lord The coarse brown bread of the monks was descended

upon
it in fire,'

very grateful, their olives very nauseous,

« VorigeDoorgaan »