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VESPASIAN AT EL MUKHRAKAH.
Have you any confidence in the tradition which fixes the site of these scenes at the place called El Mukhrakah, near the ruined village of El Mansûrah?
I have, and for many reasons. From the very nature of the case, it is nearly incredible that such a site should have been lost or forgotten. The narrative itself locates the scene on Carmel, and, by necessary implication, on the southeastern end of it, looking off toward Jezreel. Within these nar'row limits there is not much room for uncertainty or mistake. Again, it is clear from the 30th1 verse that the place was sacred to the worship of Jehovah before the days of Elijah. There had been an altar there, which some one, most likely Jezebel, had caused to be thrown down; and, after these stupendous miracles, it is not to be believed that the scene of them would be forgotten. They took place before all the people, and not in some far-off desert, difficult of access and rarely visited, but in the most conspicuous portion of a densely-inhabited country, and one which has never ceased to be inhabited from that day to this. Accordingly, I believe it can be proved that the tradition of this site has never died out of the country. I have little doubt that this was the spot of the oracle on Carmel mentioned by Tacitus in his history of Vespasian, p. 410. His description is very remarkable: "Between Syria and Judæa stands a mountain known by the name of Mount Carmel, on the top of which a god is worshiped under no other title than that of the place, and, according to the ancient usage, without a temple or even a statue. An altar is erected in the open air, and there adoration is made to the presiding deity. On this spot Vespasian offered a sacrifice," etc., etc. Let us carefully consider this bit of history.
1. As to the precise place. The historian tells us that after their sacrifice Vespasian went to Cæsarea. Now I have already given my reasons for believing that the great Roman road down the coast from the north passes round the southeastern end of Carmel. This conclusion I had reached long before I thought of its bearing on the point before us. 1 1 Kings xviii. 30.
But, whether it did or not, the road from the interior did certainly follow this route to Cæsarea, and Vespasian marched along it. This would bring him directly beneath this Mûkhrakah.
2. The place is simply designated as "the spot." There was no temple, no image, only an altar in the open air, and this was according to the ancient custom of the place. All this is precisely what we should expect at the seat of Elijah's wonderful miracle, and in striking agreement with what we now actually find there. There is no temple, and no evidence that there ever was one. There is only a "spot" on a natural platform of naked rock, surrounded by a low wall, which, from appearance, may have been there in the days of Elijah, or even before. Within this uncovered inclosure is the sacred spot, without a mark, without a title, as Tacitus has it.
3. It is mentioned by pilgrims in subsequent ages, briefly according to their custom, yet in such a way as to leave no doubt that the site was still kept in remembrance. One of the "stations" of ancient pilgrimage derived its name from it.
4. It is still well known and reverenced by all the inhabitants of this neighborhood, Jews, Christians, Moslems, Druses, and Bedawîn, and as the site of these miracles of Elijah. My guide to it, a Druse, approached it with great reverence, and even awe; and this present veneration of all sects tallies admirably with the history of Tacitus. It was then in the hands of heathen priests or of corrupt Samaritans, but was so celebrated that pilgrims and worshipers of all nations resorted to it. This is natural, and in agreement with even the present customs of this country. Very many shrines of the Moslems, and other races, owe all their sanctity to events recorded only in Biblical history. In this particular case it is highly probable that those mingled people who were transported hither from Assyria, "who feared the Lord and served Baal," would immediately appropriate to the uses of their superstitions this most celebrated "spot." Their descendants may have held possession of it when Ves
EL MUKHRAKAH-SOURCES OF THE KISHON. 225
pasian passed this way, and the fame of its oracle induced even him, the master of the Roman world, to consult it.
5. The name Mukhrakah, signifying the place that was burned, or the place of burning, is so far confirmatory of the tradition. Such native and significant names do not fasten upon any spot without an adequate reason, and there is, in almost every case, some foundation in truth for them. In this instance it is the very name we should expect, and is applied to the spot most likely of all to be the true one.
6. Lastly, there is no other place with opposing claims. It has no rival. This is remarkable in a country where there are so many conflicting traditions in regard to almost every celebrated site. But not only is there nothing to contradict its claims or disturb its title, but the closest scrutiny into the history, even to the most minute incidents and implications, will corroborate and confirm them. Why, therefore, should there be a doubt about the matter? I confess, with hearty good-will, that I am troubled with none.
Mr. Van de Velde, who visited this place in company with Dr. Kalley, was the first in our day, so far as I know, who has published a description of the Mukhrakah, and his account is sufficiently accurate. I can not agree with him, however, that the water poured upon the sacrifice was procured from the fountain he mentions. That fountain was nearly dry when I saw it, nor do I think it could hold out through the dry season, even of one ordinary summer. How, then, could it last through three years and a half of total absence of rain? Nor are there any marks of antiquity about it. The water was obtained, as I suppose, from those permanent sources of the Kishon, at the base of Carmel, which I have before mentioned. It is even doubtful whether any of these, except the great one of Saadîeh, could stand such a protracted drouth, and the distance even to that is not so great as to create any difficulty. Perhaps there might have been water in the marshes about Tell Thora, east of Tell Kussîs. The path from the place of sacrifice brought me to the Kishon at this great tell, and, from the nature of the mountain, the priests must have been
brought down the same track. They were, therefore, in all probability, actually put to death near it, and, naturally enough, the act would fasten its name to the tell as the most conspicuous permanent object in the neighborhood. If Elijah returned to the place of sacrifice after the slaughter of the priests, his servant would have to go but a short distance to obtain an extensive view of the sea, both toward Cæsarea, and also over the plain of Acre to the northwest. I suppose that both Elijah and Ahab did return to the Mukhrakah: Ahab to partake of the feast prepared and spread somewhere near at hand, which always formed part of these sacrifices, and Elijah to pray for rain. This is implied by the words of the prophet to the king, Get thee up, eat and drink; and again, Get thee down, that the rain stop thee not.
The best way to reach the Mukhrakah is to go from Haifa, along the base of Carmel, past Tell Harothîch, to Tell Kussîs, and then ascend the mountain by some ruins on a bold swell of Carmel, which my guide said bore the name also of El Mansurah, the same as on the southeastern end of the mountain. But without a guide it is next to impossible to find the spot, so dense is the jungle of thorn-bushes on that part of Carmel. I once undertook to reach it from the southwest, got lost, and finally had to procure a guide from Idjzîm, and then scramble across frightful gorges and up steep precipices, to the no small danger and fatigue of both horse and rider.
How large a portion of these wonderful actions are we to suppose took place on the day of the sacrifice?
The whole of them after the people assembled to the return of the king to Jezreel.
This reminds me of the feat performed by the prophet at the winding up of this wonderful drama. The hand of the Lord was upon Elijah, and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel. This has always appeared to me most extraordinary conduct for a man of his age, character, and office.
And yet, when rightly understood, it was beautiful, and full of important instruction. Elijah, as God's minister, had
RUNNERS BEFORE CHARIOTS.
overwhelmed the king with shame and confusion in the presence of his subjects. The natural tendency of this would be to lower him in their eyes, and lessen their respect for his authority. It was not the intention, however, to weaken the government nor to encourage rebellion. The prophet was therefore divinely directed to give a testimony of respect and honor to the king as public and striking as from necessity had been the opposition and rebuke to his idolatry. The mode of doing honor to Ahab by running before his chariot was in accordance with the customs of the East, even to this day. I was reminded of this incident more than twenty years ago at Jaffa, when Mohammed Aly came to that city with a large army to quell the rebellion of Palestine. The camp was on the sand-hills south of the city, while Mohammed Aly stopped inside the walls. The officers were constantly going and coming, preceded by runners, who always kept just ahead of the horses, no matter how furiously they were ridden; and, in order to run with the greater ease, they not only "girded their loins" very tightly, but also tucked up their loose garments under the girdle, lest they should be incommoded by them. Thus, no doubt, did Elijah. The distance from the base of Carmel across the plain to Jezreel is not less than twelve miles, and the race was probably accomplished in two hours, in the face of a tremendous storm of rain and wind. It was necessary that the "hand of the Lord should be upon" the prophet, or he would not have been able to achieve it.
It is easy to fancy the place of meeting between Elijah and the angry king of Israel. The prophet was returning from Sarepta along the common highway which led up this wady of Kishon to Megiddo, and had reached that immediate neighborhood where the permanent fountains of the river begin. There he found Obadiah, with part of the "beasts" seeking grass to keep them alive. It is evident. that Ahab himself was not far off. Probably he had gone out on that marshy part of the plain, near Tell Thora, hoping also to meet with grass. The only other part of this region where grass could be sought at the end of such a