Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the ebb, except a narrow winding channel, by which small vessels come quite up to the town.

Our minds were satisfied, in general, that the Israelites must have journeyed from the land of Goshen to the Red Sea, along the valley of the ancient canal, this being the only route on which they could obtain water; and, also, that they must have passed through the sea at or near Suez, directly from the great desert plain which extends for ten or twelve miles west and north behind the city. Of course it is impossible to fix the exact point of their passage ; but it may not improbably have taken place lower down, and near the edge of the present shoals; where, even now, at very low tides, the Arabs sometimes wade across. It must be remembered, that the miracle was wrought through the instrumentality of a strong east or north-east wind, which here would act directly to drive out the waters, but would not so act in any

other part of the gulf. There are also great difficulties connected with the rapid passage of so great a multitude through the sea at any point where it is wider.

Leaving Suez late the next day, we took our course around the head of the gulf, the better to observe the features of the country. We pitched our tent at night over against Suez, but somewhat lower down, not far from the place where the Israelites probably came out upon

the eastern shore. Here, at our evening devotions, and near the spot where it was composed and first sung, we read, and felt in its full force, the magnificent triumphal song of Moses :-" The Lord hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he hath thrown into the sea !” A desert plain extends along the eastern shore of the gulf for nearly fifty miles, bounded on the east by a range of hills or mountains twelve or fifteen miles from the coast.

We took the upper road to Sinai, which leads across a portion of the great sandy tract lying between the high northern ridge Et-Tih, and the more southern clusters of Sinai. Et-Tib is a long level ridge of sandstone, stretching across the whole peninsula. We turned aside also to the right a short distance, to visit the solitary and mysterious monuments of Surabit el-Khadim. Travellers have supposed these monuments to be tombstones. They are evidently of Egyptian origin, being covered with hieroglyphics indicating a high antiquity, but they have nothing of the character of an Egyptian cemetery. We approached the central granite mountains of Sinai, directly from

N. N. w. through a steep, rocky, and difficult pass, between rugged, blackened cliffs, 800 to 1000 feet high. Approaching in this direction, we were surprised and delighted to find ourselves, after two hours, crossing the whole length of a fine plain, from the southern end of which that part of Sinai now called Horeb, rises perpendicularly, in dark and frowning majesty. This plain is over two miles in length, and nearly two-thirds of a mile broad, sprinkled with tufts of herbs and shrubs, like the wadys of the desert. It is wholly enclosed by dark granite mountains, - stern, naked, splintered peaks and ridges, from 1000 to 1500 feet high. On the east of Horeb a deep and very narrow valley runs in like a cleft, as if in continuation of the south-east corner of the plain. In this stands the convent, at the distance of a mile from the plain, and the deep verdure of its fruit-trees and cypresses is seen as the traveller approaches,-an oasis of beauty amid scenes of the sternest desolation. On the west of Horeb, there runs up a similar valley, parallel to the former. It is called El-Leja, and in it stands the deserted convent El-Erbayin, with a garden of olive and other fruit-trees, not visible from the plain.

The name Sinai is at present applied, generally, to the lofty ridge running from N. N. w. to s. s. E. between the two narrow vallies just described. The northern part, or lower summit, is the present Horeb, overlooking the plain. About three miles south of this, the ridge rises and ends in a higher point; this is the present summit of Sinai.

The plain above mentioned, is, in all probability, the spot where the congregation of Israel were assembled to receive the law; and the mountain impending over it, the present Horeb, was the scene of the awful phenomena in which the law was given. As to the present summit of Sinai, there is little reason to suppose that it had any connection with the giving of the law. I know not when I have felt a thrill of stronger emotion, than when in first crossing the plain, the dark precipices of Horeb rising in solemn grandeur before us, I became aware of the entire adaptedness of the scene to the purposes for which it was chosen by the great Hebrew legislator.

We were kindly received at the convent, after being hoisted to its narrow entrance; and remained there five days, visiting in the interval the summits of Sinai, Horeb, and St. Catharine.

We left the convent March 29th, on our way to Akabah.

We left Akabah late in the afternoon of April 5th, and recrossing the plain of wady Araba, began to ascend the western mountains by the great Hadj route. We soon encamped for the night; and from this point we had seven long days' journey to Hebron. The ascent afterward is steep and difficult. The way is almost literally strewed with the bones of camels, and skirted by the graves of pilgrims; all testifying to the difficulty of the pass. On arriving at the top of the pass, we soon came out upon the great plateau of the western desert, and found ourselves higher than the mountain peaks which we had seen from below, and through which we had just ascended. Not far from the top of the pass we left the Hadj route; and turning off in a direction about n. N. w. we launched forth again into the great and terrible wilderness.

For the first two days, the general character of this desert was similar to that between Cairo and Suez,-a vast unbounded plain, a hard gravelly soil, irregular ridges of limestone hills in various directions, the mirage, and especially the wadys or water-courses. gave to this part of the desert the name Et-Tih, the desert of wandering. The wadys are here frequent ; at first they all ran north-west into the main water-course of this part of the desert, wady Jeråfeh ; which, having its head far to the south, runs in a north-east course to join the

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

All our Arabs

en

As we ap

valley El-Araba, nearly opposite to wady Mûsa. We crossed wady Jerâfeh about the middle of the second day, and were struck with the traces of a large volume of water which apparently flows through it in the winter season. On the morning of the third day we reached the water-summit (wasser-scheide) of the desert; after which all the wadys run in a westerly direction into the great water-course which drains the more western part of the desert, and flows down to the sea near El-Arish.

Almost from the time we entered upon this vast plain, we had before us, as a land-mark, a high conical mountain, apparently isolated, along the western base of which we were to pass. It bears the name Araif

-Nakah, and a lower ridge extends from it eastward. For nearly three days this mountain of the desert was before us. proached it on the third day, the country became rolling and uneven, and the hills more frequent. After passing the mountain, our course turned more toward the N. N. E, and the character of the desert was changed.

From this mountainous district many broad wadys flow down towards the west; and between them are elevated ridges of table land, which the road crosses. Early on the fourth day we crossed a broad wady called El-Lussân, marking perhaps the site of ancient Lysa, but we could discover no trace of ruins. In the forenoon of the fifth day, we diverged a little to the left, to visit ruins which had been described to us under the names Aujeh and Abdeh, and which are doubtless the remains of the ancient Eboda. They consist of the walls of a large Greek church, and an extensive fortress, both situated upon a long hill or ridge overlooking a broad plain covered with shrubs and tufts of herbs. Connected with the fortress are cisterns and deep wells, walled up with uncommonly good masonry. On the south side of the hill and below, are the ruins of houses, surrounded by traces of extensive ancient cultivation.

We were now crossing a more sandy portion of the desert; and in the afternoon of that day, we had our first specimen of the Simùm, or south wind of the desert. It came over us with violence, like the glow of an oven, and filled the air with fine particles of dust and sand so as to obscure the sun, and render it difficult to see objects only a few rods distant. This continued for about four hours. We encamped in the wady Ruheibeh, where we had never heard of ruins. ascending the hill on our left, we discovered the remains of a city not much less than two miles in circuit. The houses had been mostly built of hewn stone; there were several public buildings and many cisterns. But the whole is now thrown together in unutterable confusion; and it would seem as if the city had been suddenly overthrown by some tremendous earthquake. What ancient city this can have been, I have not yet been able to learn. The Arabic name suggests the Rehoboth of Scripture, the name of one of Isaac's wells, (Gen. xxvi, 22 ;) but the other circumstances do not correspond.

The wady Ruheibeh opens out towards the north into a fine plain, covered with grass, and herbs, and bushes; in crossing which our ears

But on

were regaled with the carols of the lark and the song of the nightingale, all indicating our approach to a more fertile region. Towards noon of the sixth day, we reached Khulasah, the site of ancient Elusa. It was a city, of at least two miles in circuit. The foundations of buildings are every where to be traced; and several large unshapen piles of stones seem to mark the site of public edifices. Fragments of columns are occasionally seen, but no cisterns; a public well, which is still in use, seems to have supplied the city.

After crossing another elevated plateau, the character of the surface was again changed. We came upon an open rolling country; all around were swelling hills, covered in ordinary seasons with grass and rich pasturage, though now arid and parched with drought. "We now came to wady Seba; and on the north side of its water-course we had the gratification of discovering (April 12th) the site of ancient Beersheba, the celebrated border city of Palestine, still bearing in Arabic the name of Bir-seba. Near the water-course are two circular wells of excellent water, more than forty feet deep. They are both surrounded with drinking troughs of stone, for the use of camels and flocks; such as doubtless were used of old for the flocks which then fed on the adjacent hills.- Ascending the low hills north of the wells, we found them strewed with the ruins of former habitations, the foundations of which are distinctly to be traced. These ruins extend over a space half a mile long, by a quarter of a mile broad. Here then is the place, where Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, often lived ! Here Samuel made his sons judges ; and from here Elijah wandered out into the southern desert, and sat down under the Rethem, or shrub of broom, just as our Arabs sat down under it every day and every night! Over these swelling hills the flocks of the patriarch roved by thousands ; we now found only a few camels, asses, and goats.

From Bir-seba to Hebron we travelled about thirty miles. The general course was north-east by east. After an hour and a half we came out upon a wide open plain, covered with grass, but now parched with drought. Fields of wheat and barley were seen all around ; and before us were hills, the beginning of the mountains of Judah. At Dhoheriyeh, the first Syrian village, our good towara left us; and we parted from them not without the kindest feelings and deep regret. For thirty days they had now been our companions and guides, and not the slightest difficulty had occurred between us.

The hills and pastures around Dhoheriyeh were covered with mingled flocks of sheep and goats, and herds of neat cattle, horses, asses, and camels, in the true patriarchal style of ancient days.

We took other camels and proceeded to Hebron. Here the pool, over which David hung up the assassins of Ishbosheth, still remains, and fixes the site of the ancient city. The cave of Macphelah cannot well have been within the city; and therefore the present mosque cannot cover its site. We could not but notice the fertility of the surrounding vallies, full of fields of grain, and of vineyards yielding the largest and finest clusters of all Palestine ; and likewise the rich pas, turage of the hills, over which were scattered numerous flocks and

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

herds. Yet to a careless observer, the country, in general, can only appear sterile; for the limestone rocks everywhere come out upon

the surface, and are strown over it in large masses to such a degree, that a more stony or rocky region is rarely to be seen.

We took the direct road to Jerusalem. It is laid with stones in many places, and is doubtless the ancient road, which patriarchs and kings of old have often trod. But it is only a path for beasts; no wheels have ever passed there. We hurried onward, and reached the HOLY CITY at sunset, April 14th, just before the closing of the gates on the evening before Easter-sunday.

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

[Extracted from the American Biblical Repository, in an article entitled A Secular View of the Social Influences of Christianity,' by the Hon. Caleb Cushing, Member of Congress, Newburyport, Mass.]

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

How contradictory and inconsistent with itself is the human mind! We perceive the blessings which peace brings with it, leaving all the energies of man to be exerted in the development of the natural resources of the country, and his affections to flow in a deep stream of prosperity unbroken by violence,-of beauty undefiled by blood. In the smiling presence of peace, life seems to be lighted up with gladness, reflected from fair eyes, which speak only of joy and of hope. No dread alarms disturb the night, -no anxious perils harass the day. Boon nature yields to us ungrudgingly the wealth of land and sea, which is to be expended in the cultivation and adornment of the earth, --not in its devastation. Monuments of religion, of education, of the fine arts, and of humanizing commerce, rise around us, instead of the ramparts and citadels, whose frowning masses bear witness only to rapine, treachery, cruelty, and bloodshed. How blissful might be the condition of a nation, which, possessing within itself all the elements of greatness and power, a broad and rich territory opened to internal commerce by numerous natural avenues of communication,ma soil teeming with agriculture and mineral wealth,--a congenial climate,-free institutions of government, and a high-spirited, intellectual, civilised, and christianised people,-how happy might be the condition of that people, if, under the blessing of God, its own disposition, or the conduct of others, would suffer it to dedicate itself for ever, to the lovely arts of peace!

Yet how few and brief are the intervals of time, in which, throughout all the civilised world, the gates of the temple of Janus have been shut, the sword sheathed, the panoply of war laid aside, and man has

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
« VorigeDoorgaan »