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"Here, then, are the details of what we observed on the burnt place.'
"Having seated ourselves beneath the shade of a huge oak, we once more opened our Bibles at chap. xviii. of 1st Kings, and examined what was required in the place of sacrifice, in order to its agreement with the account given in the Bible. According to verses 18th and 19th, it must have been ample enough in size to contain a very numerous multitude. El-Mohhraka must at that time have been quite fitted for this, although now covered with a rough dense jungle. Indeed, one can scarcely imagine a spot better adapted for the thousands of Israel to have stood drawn up on than the gentle slopes. The rock shoots up in an almost perpendicular wall of more than two hundred feet in height on the side of the plain of Esdraelon. On this side, therefore, there was no room for the gazing multitude; but, on the other hand, this wall made it visible over the whole plain, and from all the surrounding heights, so that even those left behind, and who had not ascended Carmel, would still have been able to witness, at no great distance, the fire from heaven that descended upon the altar. According to verse 30th, there must have been an altar there before, for Elijah repaired the altar of the Lord that was broken down.' It is well known that such altars were uniformly built on very conspicuous eminences. Now, there is not a more conspicuous spot on all Carmel than the abrupt rocky height of Mohhraka, shooting up so suddenly on the east. Verses 31st and 32d point to a rocky soil, in which stones were to be found to serve for the construction of the altar, and yet where the stones must have been so loose or so covered with a thick bed of earth, that a trench' could have been made round the altar, whilst not of so loose a composition of sand and earth as that the water poured into it would have been absorbed. The place we were examining met these requisitions in every respect; it showed a rocky surface, with a sufficiency of large fragments of rock lying around, and, besides, well fitted for the rapid digging of a trench. But now comes the grand difficulty of both believers and unbelievers, who have not seen this place Whence could Elijah have procured so much water as to have it to pour over the offering and the altar in barrelfuls, so that he filled the trench also with water, at a time when, after three years of drought, all the rivers and brooks were dried up, and the king in person, and the governor of his house, divided the land between them to pass through it, to see if, peradventure, any fountains
of water might be found, and grass to save the horses and mules alive? (Verses 1-6). To get rid of this difficulty, some pious travellers, with imaginations stronger than their judgments, have said, O, as for that water, the thing speaks for itself; it must evidently have been got from the sea.' But less religious persons, who were sharp enough to perceive that the place where Elijah made the offering could not have been at the seaside, have rightly remarked, that it must have been impossible, from every other point of Carmel lying more inland, on account of the great distance from the sea, to go thither and return on an afternoon, much more to do this three several times, as is expressly stated in the 34th verse. Such persons, therefore, have rejected altogether this absurd explanation, without, however, themselves arriving at any better solution of the difficulty; and this has led unbelievers, in their prejudiced haste, to assert that the Bible narrative is a mere fiction, that being the view which best suited their purpose. Dr Kalley and I felt our mouths shut in the presence of this difficulty. We saw no spring, yet here we were certain the place must have been; for it is the only point of all Carmel where Elijah could have been so close to the brook Kishon, then dried up, as to take down thither the priests of Baal and slay them, return again to the mountain and pray for rain, all in the short space of the same afternoon after the Lord had shown, by His fire from heaven, that He, and He alone, was God (see verses 40-44). El-Mohhraka is 1635 feet above the sea, and perhaps 1000 feet above the Kishon. This height can be gone up and down in the short time allowed by the Scripture. But the farther one goes towards the middle of the mountain, the higher he ascends above the Kishon, because Carmel rises higher then, and the plain through which the river flows rung lower down. Add to this that the Kishon takes a course more and more diverging from the mountain, and the ravine by which people descend to the river's bed is exceedingly difficult to pass through, so that three full hours are thought necessary for traversing the distance from Esfieh to the stream. where does the Kishon run so close to Mount Carmel as just beneath El-Mohhraka. Pious expositors, who would transfer the scene to the seaward side of the mountain, seem quite to have left out of sight the required condition—that it must be near the brook Kishon.
"Well, then, we went down to the Kishon through a steep ravine, and, behold, right below the steep rocky walls of the height
on which we stood—250 feet, it might be, beneath the altar plateau-a vaulted and very abundant fountain, built in the form of a tank, with a few steps leading down into it, just as one finds elsewhere in the old walls or springs of the Jewish times. Possibly the neighbourhood of this spring may have been the inducement that led to that altar which Elijah repaired, having been built to the Lord in former times. Possibly, too, the water of this spring may have been consecrated to the Lord, so as not to be generally accessible to the people, even in times of fearful drought. In such springs the water remains always cool, under the shade of a vaulted roof, and with no hot atmosphere to evaporate it. While all other fountains were dried up, I can well understand that there might have been found here that superabundance of water which Elijah poured so profusely over the altar. Yes, the more I consider the matter, the more am I convinced, that from such a fountain alone could Elijah have procured so much water at that time. And as for the distance between this spring and the supposed site of the altar, it was every way possible for men to go thrice thither and back to obtain the necessary supply.
"Further, the place of Elijah's offering -the same, probably, where he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, in offering thanks to the Lord for the divine power He had hitherto displayed, to beseech Him for the further fulfilment of His promises, that of rain for the parched-up groundthe place of Elijah's offering, I say, behoves to have been so screened by a rising ground on the west or north-west side as to intercept a view of the sea; for he said to his servant, Go up now, and look toward the sea.' Moreover, the distance to that height must not have been great; for the passage runs-Go again seven times,' (verses 42-44). Now, such is the position of El-Mohhraka, that these circumstances might all quite well have been united there. On its west and north-west side the view of the sea is quite intercepted by an adjacent height. That height may be ascended, however, in a few minutes, and a full view of the sea obtained from the top."
There is nothing we hear of more frequently than of the great additional light thrown upon the Bible by modern researches; and with Scripture geography and Scripture botany, with Eastern usages and ancient customs, this modern time professes a much clearer apprehension of the Bible than did the elder age, which was
ignorant of all this minutiæ of illustration. But the science is overdone. The illustration smothers the text, and we become suspicious of every teaching which toils to bring the new attempt of that over-explanatory material and framework of the sacred record down to "the meanest capacity," almost wearying us into incredulity where, if left alone, we could not choose but believe. Holy Writ, by far the truest and most life-like picture of its own time, explains itself with small assistance-but we are glad always to light on such an illustration as this, which brings before us, in all its striking features, the locality of one of the most striking scenes of the old dispensation.
Like every other traveller in this singular country, M. Van de Velde is struck by the evident tokens everywhere of long-restrained and dormant milk and honey. Folded into the unfertility. The land is still a land of seen recesses of Carmel, where there is scarcely an eye to look on it, the soil matted with plants and flowers; is lavish of the richest vegetation, and everywhere the same teeming fruitfulness peers through the uncultivated waste, which notwithstanding is a barren waste bound with the visible restrictions of Providence, forbidden and interdicted to spread forth its riches, and waiting solemnly, with the life pent up in its great bosom, till the call of God shall wake it into the luxuriance of old.
A grand romance is in the position of this desolate but unexhausted land -ruled by strangers, inhabited by an alien race, and desecrated by an idolatrous worship, yet with all its rich faculties hidden in its heart, and its heirs, scattered yet indestructible, waiting for return to it as it waits for them. restrain his impatience with Turkish M. Van de Velde cannot rule in Palestine. Disgusted with the universal corruption, universal chafes at the idea of the Christian mismanagement and oppression, he Powers upholding the effete and tyrannical government of the Porte, under whose sway, he says, everything withers, from commercial enterprise to family comfort, and in whose hands everything becomes a failure. Setting political motives aside, it is
indisputably a singular position which England and France hold in this contest. A few hundred years ago, Christendom resisted with desperation on these very boundaries the invasion of the Turk, and it is strange to see the leading powers of Christendom crossing the very same line in these days to fight under the banner of the Crescent, and mingle the knightly symbols, whose fame has been dearly won in the battles of the faith, with the ensigns of the unbeliever. Well, letting alone the balance of power and such imperial considerations, show us the Englishman who will stand by and see the poor heathen Hindoo, whose pathetic silence craves alms upon our streets, fall into the hands of some big Saxon bully, without lifting hand or voice for the rescue of the weak, and we will say that such a man, but no other, has a right to stigmatise this crusade of right against might, and condemn the Christian nation for defence of the Infidel. But for our ally, with his magnificent indifference, his passive fatalism, his misgovernment, and all his sins, let us be thankful that we do not need to adopt his faults when we vindicate his right-rather that our vindication of his rights, our association with himself, our help and brotherliness, are better modes of vanquishing the Oriental, who has proved his mettle in these days, than a new crusade, such as M. Van de Velde longs for, to restore to the Hebrews their old inheritance. With God, and not with us, does it remain to decide when the Jew is ready for his new existence-when the time of prophecy shall be accomplished, and that revolution begun which is to call out of all lands and places the wandering nation, the great pilgrim of centuries, and bring Israel home. It is not easy to realise the possibility of such an event, and there is no wonder in all past history equal to what this will be-but the work is manifestly out of man's hands. At this moment, find him where you will, the qualities for which the Jew is distinguished are not those which win the respect or admiration of his neighbours-he is barren and desolate like his country, and has no beauty in him. Harsh sounds and unmelodious-at the best,
a wail of blind inquiry, and long suspense-are all the harp of Judah is capable of now; and till the hand of the Divine musician touch the strings, it is a vain hope that any human finger can wake them to the measure of David or of Solomon, the lofty strains of old.
One thing these modern times, with all their fairy works of science and mighty rush of "progress," ought to do for both Mahommedan and Jewto convince them that there is but one faith, which never becomes obsoleteone religion, which, all independent of climate or temperature, is from God, and embraces all mankindwhich is abashed by no discovery, and thrown into the shade by no improvement. The creed of Mahomet is antiquated, and in its dotage. To live a Jew in these days is to live among the tombs. Paganism is dead and gone long centuries ago. Only Christianity, in its sublime unfailing youth, is never out of date, but works as handily with the instruments of today as with those of a thousand years ago, and, knowing neither culmination nor decadence, is perpetually the same.
But to M. Van de Velde, the charm of attraction which binds the devout mind to the children of Abraham, the chosen people, is very strong. He cannot sufficiently execrate the Turkish occupancy, which gives this historic country to the race of all others most indifferent to its holiest memories, and when he sees the soil itself indicating, by many evidences, its inherent riches, yet lying scorched and barren under the eye of heaven-when he sees a government which discourages every exertion, a people who have no heart to make any, conscious, as he says, of the usurpation of these lands, which are not their own-our fervent pilgrim burns with natural impatience to accelerate the slow course of events, and can scarcely bring himself to tolerate the support given to this "Empire of Turkey," which he apostrophises, with all its tyranny at home and impotence abroad. Far better service, as he thinks, these same victorious European arms would render, if they expelled the Crescent from Palestine, and established the Hebrew in his
immemorial fatherland; but it is a hard thing for a man to set about accomplishing prophecy-the work is above his hand. M. Van de Velde mentions, however, almost with enthusiasm, the enterprise of a small American colony which, established at Bethlehem, professed an intention to prepare the soil, to "break up the fallow-ground," in preparation for the return of the banished Israelites. The idea gratifies his eager mind; but the colonists, after all, turn out but indifferently, and the enterprise is found to fail.
The present questio vexata of these sacred localities occupies some space in the journals of M. Van de Velde. This controversy, originating in the real or alleged discoveries of M. de Saulcy, calls up one of the most remote and mysterious events ever brought under human discussion-the destruction of the cities of the plain, Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Zeboim. The original idea, touching these guilty objects of the Divine wrath, wrapt in awe and mystery as their fate was, seems to have been, that the Dead Sea, itself the gloomiest and most appalling object in creation, had been called into existence by the same miracle which annihilated the condemned cities, and that its deadly waters swept every trace of them out of sight for ever. But modern travel has taken from the Dead Sea much of its mysterious desolation; it is found that sweet fountains spring, and luxuriant vegetation flourishes, within sight of its waters, and that itself bears no evident trace of its deadly qualities, but appears, as one and another of its visitors say, only a "splendid lake," an inland sea, mirroring clear skies and picturesque mountains, sublime, but not terrible. Traces of the most frightful convulsions of nature surround it on every side; extinct volcanoes and tremendous chasms, mountains dislocated and shattered in pieces, and tracts of unparalleled desolation; but still it is impossible to regard the lake itself as the fatal object which former ideas held it to be. As the subject clears from the superstitious veneration of less informed times, a new theory is propounded. Near the end of the present Dead Sea, a peninsula strikes
into the water, almost cutting off into a separate lake the southmost portion of the sea. This portion, beyond the promontory El-Lisan, is found to be extremely shallow, and in more than one spot fordable, presenting a striking contrast, in this particular, to the main body of the water, which reaches the depth of 1300 feet. This shallow end of the lake, guarded by its broad peninsula, Dr Robinson, the eminent American traveller, takes to be an inundated plain; in other words, the vale of Siddim, the ancient site of the condemned cities. According to the Scripture narrative, the soil of this fertile valley was "full of slime-pits," a bituminous underground to the surface of tropical luxuriance; and Dr Robinson's theory holds, that the fire which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah broke up the superficial soil, ignited the bitumen, and lowered the surface of the plain below the level of the lake, which immediately flooded over the sunken valley, and formed the shallow piece of water at the south end of the Dead Sea. A glance at the map will show how the form of the lake justifies this theory, in which many travellers, and among them Lieutenant Van de Velde, fully concur.
On the other hand, M. de Saulcy affirms positively to finding extensive ruins at a place called Kharbet Sdoum (ruins of Sodom), at the foot of Djebel Sdoum, or Mountain of Sodom; and on the edge of this submerged plain he finds also other ruins bearing the name of Sebaan, which he concludes to be Zeboim, and still others called by the Arabs Zouera, or Zuweirah, which he reckons Zoar. These consist of walls, of now and then a distinct building, and of masses of fallen stones, to such extent as to merit the term "stupendous ruins." Here the reader, who can only compare testimony, is put completely at fault; for, as confidently as M. de Saulcy affirms his discovery of these ruins, does M. Van de Velde deny the existence of any such. No former traveller has lighted upon them; no after traveller has confirmed the story; but what shall we make of the distinct assertion of M. de Saulcy, with his little band of companions, who declared themselves to have twice visited and examined these extraordinary remains,
and to be perfectly convinced of their authenticity? Limestone rocks, corrugated and channelled by winter torrents, and worn into the resemblance of layers of building, explains M. Van de Velde-stupendous ruins, veritable remains of the cities of the
Pentapolis, says his adversary: both produce battalions of testimonywhich is right?
In real locality, we apprehend, the controversy makes little difference, since both sides of the question mutually agree in choosing this southern end of the Asphaltic Lake for the position of the destroyed cities. M. De Saulcy places Zoar on the western side; Dr Robinson and M. Van de Velde, and all preceding travellers, settle its position on the eastern coast, upon the peninsula. The Frenchman finds his tangible memorials of Sodom, and the wonderful event which destroyed it, his large burned stones, and destroyed buildings, recognised by Arab tradition, on the still remaining soil; the American and the Netherlander cover these awful remnants of Almighty vengeance with the bitter waters wherein no life can be. The former proposition may admit of proof palpable to the senses, since "stupendous ruins" are not things to be ignored by an honest examination; but the waters of the lake, if they contain it, will not open to disclose their secret ;-so all the advantages of proof are on M. de Saulcy's side. As it is, however, the question does not seem to us a question for ordinary discussion, but simply one of comparative credibility of testimony-are there ruins, or are there not? Has there been glamour in M. de Saulcy's eyes, or has obstinate scepticism obscured the vision of M. Van de Velde? The question is not one on which we are prepared to give a judgment. Our impetuous Gallic champion stands alone, defying the civilised Bedouin Criticism, as he defied the Ishmael of the desert; but an army of heavy artillery fights on the side espoused by M. Van de Velde. What shall we say? - in prospect of a magnificent duel pending between the head of the one party and the sole and indivisible representative of the other, only that our present author boldly throws himself into the discussion, flings his glove
manfully in the face of the Frenchman, denies his premises, scouts his conclusions, and is thoroughly convinced in his own mind that not a vestige remains above ground of the submerged cities of the plain.
M. Van de Velde, who travels economically, without thinking it necessary to secure the attendance of sheikhs of half a dozen tribes, seems to meet with a very much less degree of annoyance and obstruction than is common to travellers in Palestine. We cannot fail to observe, in the midst of many complaints of the rapacity and perpetual exactions imposed by the tribes of the desert upon wandering pilgrims, that every traveller has at least one faithful Arab, who, if not entirely superior to baksheesh, does yet deport himself with exemplary conscientiousness, and gain the entire confidence and friendship of the party he conducts. A good omen this, for a race so completely beyond the rules of ordinary law. There are some cases, too, where, cast almost upon their charity, sick, exhausted, and undefended, with no greater retinue than two unwarlike servants and one Bedouin guide, M. Van de Velde meets with unexpected kindness and hospitality from these children of Ishmael, and in his experience the Bedouins seem to contrast rather favourably with the resident villagers through whose domains his former course had been. Notwithstanding, though the unobtrusive traveller, who trusts himself without a guard among them, may meet with less annoyance than the richly-equipped expedition, prodigal of piastres, one does not see how controversies, historical or geographical, touching this mysterious territory, can ever be rightly determined so long as the investigators are compelled to hurry from point to point, and are kept in terror of the least divergence from their projected course, lest an enemy pounce upon them in the wilds where no help is. A railway to the shores of the Dead Sea is scarcely to be feared or hoped for these few centuries, but there surely might be an expeditionary band, strong enough to disregard the wild inhabitants of this land, which piques and tantalises with imperfect revelations the curiosity of science.