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of the country greatly increases the difficulties and the dangers of exploration. I am not sure but that my talkative guide from Sheikh Mahmood was induced to watch us so strictly under the idea that we either had or were intending to carry away their coveted treasure, and this absurd superstition might have cost us our lives if we had fallen into their hands in Wady Mendhour. Doubtless, too, it is this apprehension that induces Arabs often to conceal interesting localities from the traveler, or to refuse to accompany him to them; and, indeed, they have been known to mislead by false directions. This is one reason of the ridiculous blunders and topographical errors of certain tourists. Only this last
the British consul of Damascus (who had more influence over the Arabs of this country than any other man), in furnishing me with letters of protection to a large number of sheikhs in these mountains east of the Jordan, informed me that I must not take any instruments with me, nor be seen to take drawings, for it would certainly endanger my life, in spite of all the protection which the British government could throw around me. These remarks, of course, apply chiefly to the remoter parts of the land—to routes and sites entirely under the control of the Bedawîn. Other places can be visited with but little annoyance from this cause, and yet, even in the most civilized districts, the people are provokingly pertinacious in ascribing our visits to old ruins to this, the only intelligible motive to their minds. The idea of coming far, toiling hard, and spending money merely to examine historic sites is to them absurd and ridiculous.
Before we bid a final adieu to these mournful ruins, let us take a glance at their neighbors, some of which are not wanting in historic interest. That fortified rock on the north is called Nkeib, and the ruins upon it are evidently of the same age as these of Gamala. That sharp pinnacle farther north, which resembles a church steeple, is Kureîn el Jerady. East of us about two miles is Fîk, a considerable village on the top of the mountain, occupying the site of the ancient Aphek, the city to which Benhadad fled after
one hundred thousand of his soldiers had been slain in battle by Ahab. The city, however, proved almost as destructive as the army of Israel, for a wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left. This tremendous destruction was caused, as I suppose, by an earthquake; and after having seen the effects of the earthquake in Safed and Tiberias, I can easily understand and readily credit this narrative. We are not required to limit the catastrophe to the falling of a single wall, or, if this be insisted upon, we have only to suppose that it was the wall of the city, and a little consideration will convince any one familiar with Oriental fortifications that it might overwhelm a whole army. Those ramparts were very lofty and massive. An open space was always left along their base, and this would be packed full and tight, from end to end, by the remnants of Benhadad's mighty host, and escape from the falling towers would be impossible. The peculiar character of the site would render the destruction only the more extensive and inevitable. I have not visited it, but Burckhardt passed through it in 1812, and he informs us that the town is built around the base of a hill in the shape of a crescent, not unlike the topography of Safed, and it was this circumstance which rendered the overthrow of that place so destructive. The Fîk of our day is a mere village, containing about two hundred families, dwelling in huts built out of the rubbish of the ancient city.
Burckhardt seems to have visited Kūl'aet Hủsn, or, at least, he heard of it, and supposed that it marked the site of Argob, the capital of the kingdom of Og. This is not very probable; indeed, it is not certain, from the various notices of Argob, that it was a city at all. In Deut. iii. 13, 14, we read of the region of Argob, and of all the country of Argob, and the same in first Kings iv. 13; but nothing is said of a city of that name, nor can I hear of any such ancient site. It is worthy of note, however, that the Bedawîn familiarly speak of this whole district as Arkoob or Argoob. Thus they call the mountain on which Um Keîs stands Argoob
1 Kings xx. 26–30.
Um Keis, and this mountain above us Argoob Húsn; and although this word is applied to any rough, mountainous country, I have nowhere else heard it thus used in common conversation; and since the kingdom or district of Argob was in this immediate neighborhood, I think it nearly certain that we have the identical name still preserved among these primitive inhabitants. And as this province is very wild and broken, may not its own proper name have been transferred, as an adjective, to all similar districts ?
Burckhardt speaks of a plain which extends from Fîk far into the interior of the Jaulan, and I myself passed over a portion of it, and thought it beautiful and very fertile. Josephus, in his account of the defeat of Benhadad, says he pitched his camp in the great plain,' a phrase often applied to Esdraelon, the valley of the Jordan, and other places. In the present case he probably means this very plain north of Fîk, since the remnants of his army fled into this city.
Directly south of el Húsn, on the mountain, is an inhabited village called Kefr Hârib, and below it are the ruins of a castle, said to have belonged to it in olden times. The plain, between the shore and the mountain, you observe, widens as we advance, and becomes more fertile. The thickness of the superincumbent trap also decreases, and yellow calcareous rock crops out nearer and nearer the surface, until, at the valley of the Jermuk, the former ceases altogether, and cretaceous limestone takes its place. The scenery becomes less savage and more picturesque, the soil richer, the pastures more luxuriant, and noble forests of oak, terebinth, and other trees adorn the hills and valleys. All tourists agree in representing this as one of the most charming regions of the East, and we draw the same conclusion from the incidental references to it in Bible history. I long to explore Gilead and Bashan, and hope to do it on some future occasion, but at present we must continue the even tenor of our way round the southern shore of this lake. Here are traces of an old village called Dueir Ban, and a little farther south is Khurbet Samra. A long low ridge di
| Ant. viii. 14, 4.
vides the plain of the Ghor quite down to the Jermuk. It is called Tell et Talib, and also Kusr el Kelb, from an old castle of that name. Khan 'Agaba, mentioned by Burckhardt, is on the side of it. He says that this Khurbet Samra was inhabited when he passed this way in 1812, but, to judge from present appearances, he must have been mistaken, for it seems to have been an utter ruin for generations. It may have been occupied by a few Arab huts, and certainly there could have been nothing here forty years ago of a more substantial character. We should not be too positive, however, because the peasants in all this region build very ephemeral habitations with small stones and mud, which, if deserted, soon fall and melt away like summer snow on the mountains. It is surprising to see how quickly houses which no man inhabiteth become heaps, as Job has it,' and Solomon noticed the same thing. By much slothfulness the building decayeth, and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through. The roof of any of these huts, forsaken or neglected through idleness, will "drop through" in a single winter, and then the unprotected walls wash down by the rain, and speedily become mere shapeless "heaps.” The cause is easily explained. The roof is made by heaping a thick stratum of earth over the brush, thorns, and cane which are laid on the beams to receive it. This earth, if not constantly rolled, or carefully plastered so as to shed the rain, absorbs it, until the weight breaks the beams, and then the whole mass drops through, bursting out the feeble walls, which now have nothing to bind them together. The mortar used is without lime, and, when thoroughly saturated by the rain, becomes as slippery as soap,
and thus the whole fabric tumbles into a dismal ruin. Indeed, such frail houses often fall suddenly during great storms, and crush the inhabitants to death. This is particularly the case where there is much snow, and the people can not properly roll their terraces.
It was such facts as these, perhaps, that suggested to Ezekiel the terms of that terrible rebuke to the prophets of Is
1 Job xv. 28.
2 Eccl. x. 18.
FRAIL HOUSES-UNTEMPERED MORTAR.
rael: Because, even because they have seduced my people, saying Peace, and there was no peace; and one built a wall, and lo, others daubed it with untempered mortar. Say unto them that daub it with untempered mortar that it shall fall. There shall be an overflowing shower, and ye, O great hailstones, shall fall, and a stormy wind shall rend it.
Yes, these are the very agencies by which the Lord now overthrows in a night whole villages thus built with untempered mortar. "So will I break down the wall that ye have daubed with untempered mortar, and bring it down to the ground, so that the foundations thereof shall be discovered, and it shall fall, and ye shall be consumed in the midst thereof.” A calamity, this, of very frequent occurrence. I have known many such during my residence in this land, and this whole passage is so graphic and true to experience, that the prophet, beyond a doubt, drew the picture from scenes with which he was personally familiar. This Samakh which we are approaching is a striking specimen of walls built and daubed with such mortar, and not a few of the houses threaten to crush their inhabitants beneath their ruins. It is at present the only inhabited village in this fertile delta formed by the lake, the Jordan, and the Jermuk, and it probably marks the site of the ancient Hippos. One or two of the houses, and the menzûl for strangers, are partly built of cut stone which belonged to the old city, but the remainder are made of small cobble-stones from the shore and untempered mortar, loosely laid up, and daubed on the outside with the same.
The plain is some twenty feet above the lake, quite level, but declines rapidly to the junction of the Jordan and the Jermuk, some six miles to the south. It is a mere mud deposit, and indicates that the level of the lake has been, at some former period, much higher than it is now. The people of the village informed me that in very rainy years the water rises several feet above its present low mark, and should any thing dam up the narrow exit of the Jordan, it would, of course, rise at once to the level of the plain.
1 Ezek. xiii. 10-16.