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DOTHAN-BALM OF GILEAD.
cisterns about Dothaim, but there are very few ancient sites where they are not found; and, I presume, a careful search would reveal the very pit (Beer') into which Joseph was cast. It is in pleasing agreement with the narrative in Genesis to find that the great highway from Gilead to Egypt still passes near this place. The caravans come up the ghor Beisan, pass by Zer'in and Lejjûn, enter the hill country of Samaria by the wady of Dothaim, and thence go on to Ramleh, Gaza, and Egypt. The large caravansary north of Beisan, called Khan el Ahmar, marks one important station on this route. It was along this road that those "Ishmaelites came from Gilead with their camels bearing spices, and balm, and myrrh, going to carry them down to Egypt,” to whom the poor lad Joseph was sold by his cruel and envious brethren. It is worthy of remark that these modern Ishmaelites would not now hesitate to make just such a purchase, and actually do in certain parts of the country; and it is also interesting to find balm connected with Gilead at that early day. Jeremiah, long after, exclaims, Is there no balm in Gilead ? is there no physician there?"
What was this balm ?
Not known with any certainty. Josephus frequently mentions it, and says that the tree which bore it grew about Jericho, and there only. In this he must have been mistaken, or the balm, or balsam he speaks of, was of a different kind from that mentioned in the Bible; for that was gathered at Engedi, in Gilead, and at other places. Josephus also says that the Queen of Sheba first brought the balsambearing tree into the country as a present to Solomon, which must also be a mistake of our historian, if he means that the balm-tree was unknown in Palestine until her visit. However, it is probable that the balm he describes as so very scarce and precious, was a different kind from that which the Midianites were taking to Egypt. I was shown in the jungle about the fountain of Elisha, near Jericho, a rough thorn bush, like a crab or haw tree, which the monks said yielded balm, and I actually purchased some at the time, but with
1 Jer. viii. 22. VOL. II.-I
out supposing it to be the Biblical article. The Hebrew word has been translated very variously. According to the Septuagint, it may mean any kind of resinous gum; the Latin has opobalsamum; the Arabic has snubar (pine), meaning apparently the pine-nuts, still an important article of traffic. Some suppose it was the gum or juice of the turpentine-tree, which still abounds in Gilead, and the resinous distillation from it is much celebrated by the Arabs for its healing virtues. Josephus says that this balm of Jericho was “an ointment, of all the most precious, which, upon any incision made in the wood with a sharp stone, distills out thence like a juice." I suppose that the balm which Jacob sent to Joseph,' and that which Jeremiah refers to for its medicinal qualities,” was the same as that which our trading Ishmaelites were transporting to Egypt, and that it was some resinous extract from the forest-trees of Gilead.
Elisha was residing in this Dothan on that memorable occasion when the king of Syria sent horses, and chariots, and a great host to take him; and when the servant of the man of God was risen early and gone forth, behold, a host encompassed the city, and he cried out, Alas! my master, how shall we do? The position appeared desperate. The tell was completely surrounded by the army, and escape seemed impossible; but the mountains above were full of chariots of fire round about Elisha. Well might he say to the terrified servant, "Fear not: they that be with us are more than they that be with them.” And so it in reality is with the servants of God at all times; and they alone of all men have no reason to fear. However many or threatening their enemies, they that are with and for them are more numerous and more powerful. This narrative seems to draw aside for a moment the veil which conceals the spirit world, and affords us a hasty glimpse of those ministers of flaming fire which are sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation. At the prayer of Elisha the Syrian host were smitten with blindness, and then guided by the prophet himself into the midst of Samaria. I have traveled
3 2 Kings vi. 13-23.
Gen. xliii. 11.
? Jer. viii. 22.
Heb. i. 14.
HILL OF SAMARIA-DESCRIPTION OF IT.
along the path which this blinded army must have followed for several hours, and such a march has no parallel in history. Indeed, this entire transaction is replete with instruction to all of rebuke to proud enemies of God, and of delightful encouragement to those who put their trust in Him.
But we must not enter Samaria with this Syrian army, but go back and travel the road more leisurely. From Ků. batîyeh we ascend a very rocky hill, and then pass down through a low plain to Sanûr, which is two hours from Jenîn. In winter this plain is a lake many miles in circumference, but it dries up, and is sown with corn and vegetables in summer. The village of Sanûr is within a castle, on an isolated hill, at the southwest corner of this plain; and it is, and long has been, occupied by a rude, fanatical population, ever ready to insult travelers, and to stir up rebellion against the government. Jeba is another large village, about an hour farther on, strongly located on the brow of the mountain ; and there the road to Samaria parts from that to Nablûs, inclining to the right along the base of the hill of Jeba. The whole route is beautifully and endlessly diversified with hill, and dale, and fertile plain, even now well cultivated, and thickly settled. The villages stand out on every conspicuous position, and by the side of every gushing fountain. At the end of five hours from Jenîn you are at the base of the “hill of Samaria.”'
The site of this celebrated capital is delightful, by universal consent. It is a very large, isolated hill, rising, by successive terraces, at least six hundred feet above the valleys which surround it. In shape it is oval, and the smaller and lower end unites it to the neighboring mountain on the east. There is no fountain on the hill, and during a siege the inhabitants must have depended entirely upon cisterns. Water, however, is abundant in the neighborhood. There is a good spring a short distance below to the southeast, and a brook from the mountains in the same direction, large enough to drive a mill; and in winter a fine millstream also flows past the north side of the hill. All these unite at the bottom of the plain northwest of the city, and,