Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

SAMARITAN TEMPLE ON GERIZIM.

213

Mr. Stanley had traveled over those interminable plains of Philistia and Sharon as I have, he would not select this route for Abraham on his sad errand. Let us rejoice in being permitted to rest with entire confidence in the correctness of our received tradition, that the priest of the most high God reigned in Jerusalem, and that Abraham made that typical sacrifice of his son on Moriah and not on Gerizim.

In regard to the famous temple of the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim, little need be said in addition to the information addressed to the eye by the plan of the existing foun

[blocks in formation]

dations. The main edifice (I.) was nearly a square, being two hundred and forty-one feet from east to west, and two hundred and fifty-five from north to south. In the centre

1

of the court was an octagon (II.), and near it a small but beautifully-rounded tank or cistern (XIV.). On the corners were square rooms (III.), and the one on the northeast (IV.) is covered with a white dome, and is used as an oratory. (V.) is a passage up from a lower platform on the northeast. (VI.) entrance to the grand court. (VII.) an open terrace, a few feet lower than the main court. (VIII.) used apparently as a cemetery. (IX.) a room about eighteen feet lower than No.(VII). (X.) portico or passage to the room (IX.). (XI.) shapeless ruins. (XII.) now unoccupied, perhaps originally a yard or outer court. (XIII.) a room in ruins, object of it doubtful.

The walls are about six feet thick, and from seven to fifteen feet high. There are no ornamental carvings on any of the stones, but they are well cut and beveled after the Jewish or Phænician manner. On the north there is a lower terrace of the mountain, covered with ruins, as of a village, and west of the main edifice is a smooth plat, now used by the Samaritans for their tents, when they go there to celebrate their feasts. For vastness and variety the prospect from this temple is not surpassed by any in Palestine, unless it be the view from Tabor, and many visitors think this from Gerizim the most interesting.

It was doubtless to this mountain, with its ruined temple, that our Saviour pointed when he enunciated that cardinal truth in religion, Woman believe me, the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain nor yet at Jerusalem worship the Father. God is a spirit, and they that worship bim must worship him in spirit and in truth.' Josephus tells us that this temple was destroyed about a hundred and twentynine years before the birth of Christ; but the site of it has been the place where the Samaritans have continued to “worship the Father” from that day to this, not in spirit nor in truth, it is to be feared, but in form and fanaticism, according to the traditions of their elders.

There are not now two hundred Samaritans, all told, in the world. They themselves mention one hundred and fifty

I John iv. 21, 24.

SAMARITAN PENTATEUCH,

215

as the correct census. They are a strange people, clinging to their law, and to the sepulchres of their fathers, with invincible tenacity. Their chief priest will show you, with any amount of sham reverence, their ancient copy of the Pentateuch; but though, like all other travelers, I have given my būksheesh for the privilege of turning over its time-stained pages, I have no faith in their legends in regard to it, estimate its real value at a very low figure, and leave to others the minute description of this curious relic of antiquity.

But it is time we should return from our long digression, and give some attention to this great plain through which we are led by our indefatigable guide and protector. The central parts of Esdraelon seem to be entirely destitute of water, and this is the reason, I suppose, why it was never thickly inhabited.

That may have been one reason; another is that it is hot in summer, and unhealthy. As to water, I believe that it could be obtained in any quantity by digging, as in all other great plains of this country. But it is by no means certain that the central parts were always sparsely inhabited. There are traces of many mud villages in it, and some of these have names, and a traditional history among the Arabs. There is a Lûd far down to the left, which was probably settled by a colony from the Lûd which is near Jaffa; and perhaps Jaffa, or Japhia, yonder on the hill-side below Nazareth, and Beit Lahm, in the woods farther west, were also colonized from the celebrated cities of the same name in the south of Palestine.

Esdraelon is far from being a dead level, the western half having a decided dip toward the sea, while its different parts roll up in long swells like gigantic waves, terminating in Jebel ed Dûhy in the centre, and the rocky ridges of Zer'in, and Em Gabileh toward the south. I have seen nothing to compare it with except some of our rolling prairies in the West, and these lack Tabor, and Little Hermon, and Gilboa, and Carmel, and a hundred other natural beauties and historic memories with which this is every where surrounded and glorified.

The French engineer who proposed to dig a ship canal from the Bay of Acre, fill up the ghor, and thus open a channel to the Gulf of Akabah, must have been profoundly ignorant of the topography with which he was dealing. The

cuttingfor this canal along the bed of the Kishon would gradually deepen, until, at the water-shed of the valley of Jezreel, it would be several hundred feet. This gigantic difficulty overcome, the sea must rush in with volume sufficient to fill up the ghor from near Jisr Benat Yacobe to the Gulf of Akabah, burying Tiberias six hundred feet deep, and all below it deeper still, until, over the Dead Sea, it would be more than thirteen hundred feet, and even then there would be required enormous excavation at the south end before the connection with the gulf could be effected! We may safely conclude that if there is no other way to unite the Red Sea and the Mediterranean than this, the thing will never be done, and Tiberias, Gennesaret, and the splendid valley of the Jordan are safe from this desolating inundation. What is the name of this ruined castle which we are

approaching?

Fûleh, and west of it is 'Afûleh, both now deserted, though both were inhabited twenty-five years ago when I first passed this way. Fûleh was occupied by the French in the time of Bonaparte, and about it were fought many skirmishes with the Turks and Arabs. Many years ago, I spent a night at Sejera, in the oak woods north of Tabor, and found several old men there who remembered the battle of Kleber, and the wild rout of the Turks at the close of it, when Bonaparte, with a troop of horse, came galloping up from Acre to the scene of action. These people of Sejera spoke in the most exaggerated terms of the desperate daring of these French cavaliers, a party of whom was stationed at their village. This castle of Fûleh was circular, with a high wall and a deep ditch. There was no water inside, but directly below it small fountains ooze out of the ground in sufficient quantity for the demands of the garrison, which could not have been large. The Bedawîn now resort to

DESOLATION OF ESDRAELON,

217

them with their flocks and camels, and it was to secure this privilege that they sacked and destroyed the castle; and by the same process the whole of Esdraelon will soon be abandoned to them. Their system of desolation is worked out after this fashion. They pitch their tents in the vicinity of a village, and in such numbers as to bid defiance to the inhabitants. Of course, their camels and flocks roam over the unfenced plain, and devour a large part of the grain while growing; and when it is ripe, they either steal it, or compel the farmers to present them a heavy percentage as the price of their protection. From the village itself chickens, eggs, sheep, cows, and even horses disappear, and can never be recovered. Many of the inhabitants soon move off to escape from these annoyances, and the village being thereby weakened, the Arabs provoke a quarrel; some one is wounded or killed, and then the place is sacked and burned. The end aimed at is now reached, and the land belongs henceforth to the lawless Ishmaelite. In ten years more there will not be an inhabited village in Esdraelon, unless this wretched work is checked; and even now it is unsafe to traverse this noble plain in any direction, and every body goes armed, and prepared to repel force by force.

But a small portion of the plain is under cultivation, and there are scarcely any traces of antiquity upon it.

That is true, particularly in the centre and western part of it, and there never were any very substantial buildings in those farming villages, I suppose. The houses appear to have been made of unburnt brick, and, of course, it is useless to look for them in our day. From the nature of the country and its relative position it was always subject to invasion, as the great highway for armies, the battle-field of contending nations. The plain, therefore, was mainly cultivated by those who resided in towns upon its border, and there you will find ruins, as at Ksalis, Debûrieh, Nain, Endor, Beisan, Solam, Zer'in, Jenîn, Lejjun, Tell Caimon, and many other sites. At this place directly ahead of us, now called El Mezrah, there are many sarcophagi of a most antique fashion, yet there is no other trace of an extinct city

VOL. II.--K

« AnteriorContinua »