by Cunningham Geikie, D.D.
Notes on Revelation Online Books
Chapter 3 | Contents | Chapter 5
Cunningham Geikie D.D.
With a Map of Palestine and Original Illustrations by H. A. Harper
A deluge of sand, which elsewhere is generally confined to the coast and a narrow strip inland, has overwhelmed the country for four miles east of Cæsarea, to the edge of the oak forest, which, by the way, is the last remnant of the great forests of which Strabo speaks. The ruins of the once famous city lie low, amidst broad dunes of drifted sand, so that they cannot be seen more than a mile off on the land side.
Cæsarea must always have a profound interest from its connection with the early history of the Church. The devout centurion Cornelius, whose "prayers and alms had gone up for a memorial before God," was stationed here with his regiment, the Italian cohort, when the vision was granted in which an angel directed him to send to Joppa for Peter. To induce the apostle to set out, however, a vision to him also was needed, enforcing the lesson that "God is no respecter of persons; but that in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him" (Acts 10:34,35). That vision was the proclamation, in unmistakable symbolism, that the Gentile should be fellow-heir with the Jew of the "unsearchable riches of Christ." As the first convert from a non-Israelitish race, Cornelius is the representative of all who in every nation have since believed in the Crucified One. In his case the Holy Ghost was first poured out on the heathen, and his baptism was the first outside the chosen people. Henceforth, no man could any longer be called "common or unclean" (Acts 10:28), and it was made clear that "to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life" (Acts 11:18). To all the nations beyond the sea which laved the shores of Palestine, Britain among them, the gates of the Kingdom of Heaven were then proclaimed to be standing open.
It was at Cæsarea also that the evangelist Philip, with his four daughters, made his home (Acts 21:8). St. Paul passed through it on his way to Tarsus, and he landed at it from Ephesus and from Ptolemais (Acts 18:22, 21:8). In its prison, moreover, two years of his life were spent, before he finally left the East for Rome and Spain (Acts 24:27). The track by which he had been brought from Antipatris to Cæsarea, under cover of night, had been for the most part ours. In the theatre, built by Herod the Great, his grandfatherHerod Agrippa, in the fourth year of his reign was struck with mortal disease (Acts 12:21; Jos., Ant., xix. 8, 2). He had ordered public shows in honour of Cæsar to be exhibited in the theatre facing the sea, on the south of the city, and on the second day of these festivities, the day which had been fixed for his public appearance (Acts 25:23), presented himself in robes of silver tissue, in the early morning. The sun shone full on the amphitheatre, built as it was for open-air exhibitions, his beams striking back from Agrippa's glittering robes with a splendour that made him seem more than mortal. Nor were flatterers long in using the opportunity to hail him as a god, a form of blasphemous adulation long common towards kings in the East, and latterly introduced towards the Cæsars. Proud to be exalted like them, the king accepted the monstrous homage, but only to his ruin, for there and then a violent pain smote him in his body, so that he had to be carried to his palace, where, after five days, he died, worn-out with pain.* The Acts of the Apostles adds, "eaten by worms." So, the Jews held, Antiochus Epiphanes, the great persecutor of their religion, had died.**
* Jos., Ant., xix. 28.Cæsarea was one of the cities built by Herod the Great, a man of vast energy and ability. The site chosen was that of an old town known as Strato's Tower, the name being changed in honour of the Emperor Augustus: a form of flattery common in that age, when so many cities were rebuilt or founded to undo the havoc of the great civil wars, which had laid so many places in ruins. Samaria, Ascalon, Antipatris, and many other towns, owed much to the magnificent conceptions of Herod. But in Cæsarea his genius displayed itself in results surpassing the architectural triumphs of any of the old Hebrew kings, excepting perhaps Solomon, whose great walls at Jerusalem, to prepare a site for his Temple, must have been truly wonderful creations.
** 2 Macc ix 5-9.
Till Herod's day the plain of Sharon had been simply a broad tract of pasture, forest, and tillage, with no history, but he raised it to the foremost place in the land. The want of a port to receive the commerce of the West had always been felt, and the closer relations of all countries, under Rome, had deepened the feeling. The shore offered no natural harbour, but there was a rocky ledge at Strato's Tower, as at Ascalon on the south, and Dor on the north, and this Herod chose as the seat of a projected port. In twelve years a splendid city rose on the ledge and its neighbourhood, with broad quays, magnificent bazaars, spacious public buildings and courts, arched sailors' homes, and long avenues of commodious streets. A double harbour had been constructed, of about 200 yards each way, and also a pier, over 130 yards in length, built of stones fifty feet long, eighteen broad, and nine thick. This great structure was raised out of water twenty fathoms deep, and was 200 feet wide, a wall standing on it, and several towers, the largest of which was called Drusus, after the step-son of Augustus. The pier was adorned, moreover, with splendid pillars, and a terraced walk extended round the harbour. On an eminence, beside a temple of polished stone, near the shore, rose a colossal statue of Augustus, as Jupiter Olympus, visible far out at sea, and another of Rome, deified as Juno. A huge open-air theatre was built on the slopes of the hills, some miles north of the city, as well as a great amphitheatre, 560 feet in diameter, and capable of containing 20,000 spectators. A hippodrome, or as we might call it, a circus, over 1,000 feet long, rose in the east of the city, the remains of a goal-post of granite, still seen on its site, showing the magnificence of the whole structure, for the three blocks of which it consists originally formed a conical pillar, seven feet six inches high, standing on a mass of granite proportionately massive, and all resting, apparently, on a base formed of a single granite block, thirty-four feet long, brought from Egypt. The walls of the Herodian city enclosed an area of 400 acres, but gardens and villas, it may be presumed, stretched far beyond them in the centuries of the Roman peace. Besides the theatres, a grand palace, afterwards the residence of the Roman governors, was erected for himself by Herod; and he had the wisdom, so unusual in the East, to provide for the city a complete system of underground sewerage, after the Italian plan. To supply the city with water two aqueducts were built; one, with a double conduit of great size, stretching away, for the most part on arches, but in part through a tunnel,* first north, then east, for over eight miles, to the great springs issuing all over this district from the Carmel hills, which slant down beyond Cæsarea, on the other side of the plain. The second aqueduct, on the level of the ground, ran three miles north, to the perennial stream of the river Zerka.
* Long staircases leading down to this are cut in the rock.The ruins now left have seen a strange history. It was in Cæsarea that the conflict arose between Jews and Greeks which led to the last Jewish war, and it was in the circus, which has long since perished, that Titus, after the fall of Jerusalem, celebrated splendid games in which over 2,000 Jewish prisoners were killed, as gladiators, in the arena. Two centuries later Cæsarea was the seat of a Christian bishop. Here the illustrious Father, Origen, found an asylum, and here the Church historian, Eusebius, a native of Palestine, wore the mitre.*
* Consecrated AD 315.With the Crusades a new Cæsarea rose amidst the wreck of that of Herod, but it has long since shared the fate of its predecessor. The shattered skeleton of the mediæval castle rises high above the ancient mole on the south side of the harbour, the ends of rows of marble pillars, from the city of Herod, protruding from the walls in which they have been embedded to give additional strength. Others lie on the strand, the wall into which they were built having perished. Still others, sixty or seventy in number, and from five to nearly twenty feet long, lie side by side, on a reef or ancient mole, once the north side of the harbour, and form a kind of jetty about 200 feet long. Huge masses of granite lying about tell the same tale of ruin. Of Herod's temple only the foundations remain, the buildings which they adorned having long since disappeared; but the whiteness of these foundations, contrasting strongly with the brown sandstone of later builders, shows that, as Josephus tells us, they were brought from a distance at great expense. The defences of the old Roman city have long since perished, but the sandstone walls of the Cæsarea of the Middle Ages still show massive fragments, some of them from twenty to thirty feet high, their buttresses and moats here and there still perfect. Over the whole site, amidst a wilderness of thistles, wild flowers, and thorny growths, lie scattered fallen pillars and heaps of masonrythe wreck of palaces, temples, churches, mosques, and public buildings. On the top of the hill, in the south part of the Crusading city, are the foundations of the cathedral, and on the north are the ruins of a second church, of much smaller dimensions. Once gay, Cæsarea, which even in the Middle Ages was famous for the running streams in its streets, its date-palms, and oranges sweet and bitter, has for many generations been at best only a place where the passing shepherd folds his flocksfor the walls and buildings were destroyed by the Sultan Bibars in 1265. But the prosperity of the city has always depended on artificial sources. Since it was without a natural harbour, the destruction of the mole cut off trade by sea, and the breaking of the aqueducts stopped the supply of water, for there is only one brackish well within the walls. Man withdrawn, the restless sand was free to spread its shroud over all his works, and create the desolation that now reigns far and near.
North of Cæsarea, the Carmel hills approach within a little more than a mile of the shore, close to which there is a lower range, leaving only a narrow strip of plain between the two. To the east, however, before this narrower strip begins, the hills retire three or four miles, to trend southwards at that distance. At the foot of this bay of heights, steadily rising till they become the central mountains of the land, the whole plain is more or less marshy and unsafe. Treacherous bogs and spongy turf, dotted with bushes and tall reeds, characterise the whole region, which we carefully avoided, for our horses would infallibly have sunk every here and there to their girths. All the hill-slopes are covered with a sprinkling of oaks, which are like those to the south, on the plain, but that they grow more openly. It is, indeed, a nearly universal feature of trees in Palestine that they stand thus apart; the interval being, as a rule, covered with a tangle of thorns or undergrowth. Scrub is much more prevalent, as I have already said, west of the Jordan, than trees of any height, though there are a good many fairly well-grown oaks and other trees beyond Nazareth and round Cæsarea Philippi, but they always stand like trees in a park rather than in a wood. Tabor is one mass of scrub and stunted growths, and Carmel is much the same; while the hills of Ephraim and Benjamin have scarcely any wood on them at all. Indeed, the whole region east of the watershed at Nablus is very bare, from Gilboa to the wilderness in the south. West and north-west of Hebron, on the other hand, the hills are rough, once more, with scrub. The numerous herds of goats are in great part the cause of this dwarf timbering, but the charcoal-burners, who dig out the very roots of the bushes for charcoal, are even more guilty of creating the treeless desolation.
It may be that the Bible word "yaar" once meant woods in our sense, and that the Arab "waar," now used for stunted, scraggy thickets, has come to be so used from the disappearance of trees worthy of the name. It is at least certain that we read of Kirjath Jearim, "the Town in the Woods," or "yaars," and that there was even in the now barren valleys east of Bethel a "yaar" in which bears found shelter (2 Kings 2:24). Jeremiah and other prophets (Psa 50:10; Isa 56:9; Jer 5:6, 12:8; Amos 3:4; Micah 5:8) speak of lions, boars, and other wild beasts haunting the "yaar" in their day; while the murmur of the leaves in a great wood when stirred by the wind (Isa 7:2), the stripping of the trees by the violence of a storm (Psa 29:9), the hewing down with the axe, which is used as a figure of the havoc with which an invader hews down a widespread population (Isa 10:34), and the grand spectacle of woods on fire, are frequently introduced in prophetic imagery (Psa 83:14; Isa 9:18; Jer 21:14). If not abounding with lofty, umbrageous woods like our own, the landscapes of Palestine must have been richer long ago than they are now with some form of scrub, or trees of moderate growth, such as are still seen in some places.
The Zerka in part drains the wide, marshy ground along the foot of the hills, but a dam built about a mile from the sea, to give a full rush of water for mills, has by neglect overflowed a large district north and south till it is a mere swamp, in which, strange to say, it is affirmed that crocodiles are still found, though very rarely. One was, indeed, killed in it some years since, and sent to the English missionary at Nazareth, where Furrer saw the preserved skin;* but in any case they are exceedingly rare. A huge lizard, measuring from three to five feet, found at times in Palestine, and common in Egypt and the Sinai peninsula, may have passed muster as a crocodile in some cases where these hateful saurians are supposed to have been seen elsewhere; but in the Zerka at least the prophets could find materials for their introduction of the crocodile as their symbol of Egypt, as so frequently happens (Isa 27:1, 51:9; Eze 29:3, 32:2). The village of Kefre Saba** seems to owe its name to the commonness near it, in old times, of a grass-green lizard, sometimes eighteen inches long, still called "Sab" by the Arabs.
* Schenkel, Bib. Lex., iii. 612.On the heights over the winding course of the Zerka, about three miles from the sea, are copious fountains, now called Ma-mas, which were utilised by Herod to supply the great aqueduct of Cæsarea. Near them, on the slope of a hill, in a wilderness of lusty weeds and grass, amidst what seem to be the ruins of a considerable town, are the remains of an open-air theatre, in which the good folk of Christ's day, no doubt, often gathered from the neighbouring city, and from the houses and villas then thickly covering many nearer spots. It is built in the form of a half-circle, the front measuring 166 feet across. The stone seats have long since been carried to Joppa, Jerusalem, or Beirout, as building material, like the wreck of Cæsarea itself; but the vaults beneath, and the chambers, from which the horses and other animals introduced in the displays were brought into the arena, are still used as stables and granaries by the peasants. The spectators must have enjoyed varied delights in such a spot, for, apart from the excitement of the games, the beauty of the view over the plain before them, with the mountains on the one hand and the sea on the other, is bewitching even now. From Cæsarea the best road to this outlying country resort of its citizens is along the top of the double high-level aqueduct; but though not, perhaps, actually dangerous, the journey is such as to need steady nerves.
** Kefr or Caphar means "village."
The Zerka, which must have had crocodiles in its marshes in former times, since its ancient name was the Crocodile River,* is mainly fed by the great springs of Ma-mas, and flows into the sea over a stony bed, with a strong current, from five to ten yards across and about two feet deep. The damming back of its waters higher up forms a broad, deep, blue pool, passing into wide marshes, quite impassable on both banks. In these the tamarisk grows luxuriantly, and along the stream below the dam the Syrian papyrus is found, the course, higher up, being hidden in wide stretches of cane-brake and rushes. It can only be crossed by a low foot-bridge at the mill, leading over the damunless one be near the sea, where it is generally fordable. Ages long dead are brought back again for the moment by noticing that its mouth is guarded by a narrow Crusading fort, near which are the remains of a bridge of the same date.
* Reland, Pal., p. 730.From the Zerka, north, there is only a very narrow plain, cultivated, in part, with olive-groves, hanging on the hill-slopes to the east, while a low range of rocks, about sixty feet high, runs parallel with the sea on the west. It is a wearisome ride of about nine hours from Cæsarea to the northern extremity of the plain, at Carmel, but there is at the same time a special interest in the evidences one sees of a long-past prosperity, strikingly in contrast with the present condition of the district. About nine miles from Carmel, to the south, lie the ruins of Athlit, one of the chief landing-places of pilgrims during the thirteenth century. A rocky promontory shooting out a quarter of a mile into the sea was made use of by the Templars in 1218 as the fitting site for a great fortress, which they forthwith raised on the old foundations of some town, of which nothing even then was known. An outer wall, once strongly fortified, can still be traced for 800 yards north and south, and for 300 yards thence to the sea on the west, though only a few fragments of the masonry, sufficient to show the huge size of the stones used, have escaped being carried off to Acre as ready-made building materials. Outside this great wall ran a deep ditch, into which the sea flowed, completely surrounding the stronghold.
In the centre of the promontory rises the citadel, with walls of sandy, porous limestone, fifteen feet thick and thirty feet high, now much ruined; the remains of a magnificent church in one corner of the enclosure attesting the fervour of the old champions of the faith, as the citadel itself shows their energetic valour. The eastern wall of one of the old towers of the city still rises proudly to a height of eighty feet, but it stands alone. Huge vaults honeycomb the interior of the citadel; one, which is cemented, being said to be an oil-vat capable of containing 260,000 gallons. Another has been explored to the distance of 264 feet; a third has a groined roof, with ribbed arches; illustrations, all of them, of the spirit and the lavish expenditure of means and skill which the Crusaders displayed in their structures.
Six or seven miles south of Athlit lie the ruins of Dor, now known as Tanturah; the ancient chariot-road running outside the low coast-hills, near the sea, but separated from it by a strip of land and marsh. A few goat-herds watering their flocks at a clay trough were the only human beings seen most of the way, but, along the edges of a tiny stream, oleanders, lupins, grass, and tall bushes, relieved the tameness of the view. The tribe of Manasseh was to have had this part of the land, but could not, for centuries, drive out the "Canaanite," though in the end it compelled him to pay tribute (Judg 1:27,28). Four miles south of Athlit, near the small village of Sarafend, a pleasant relief from sand and marshes was offered by fields of sesame, millet, and tobacco, as well as by some palm-trees near the shore, and fig-orchards, for which the spot is famous. Indian corn, vegetables, olives, figs, and other fruit, are grown here and there in these parts by the industry of the people of one or two villages. Old quarries, tombs, ruins, and bog, are, however, more frequent than cultivated fields or gardens, reaching up to the ruins of Tanturah, which stand on a rough promontory, with a tower thirty feet high, showing the site of an old Crusading fortress. The modern village is a little farther south, on the site of Dor (Josh 17:11), afterwards the Dora of the Romans, memorials of which, in the shape of pillars and sculptured capitals, slabs of marble, and hewn stones, strew the shore. A few mud huts, two or three better than the rest, make up the hamlet, which looks miserable enough in its environment of sand and marshy flat. One of the principal houses consisted of a single square room, of good size, plastered with mud, and roofed with branches long since varnished black by the smoke. These hung down roughly over one half of the room; the other half was hidden by a canvas ceiling. The door had no hinges, but was lifted to its place, or from it, and the windows were only square holes in the mud walls. A clay bench, joined to the wall, ran along one side of the room, serving for chairs by day and sleeping-places by night. A rough cooking table of clay and stone, from the ruins, was at one corner, with a little charcoal glowing on the top of itchiefly, as it seemed, to roast coffee-berries and boil water in which to infuse them, when they had been duly pounded in a stone or wooden mortar.
It cannot be said that this neighbourhood is a very inviting one to the traveller, the natives being so savage and rude that their local feuds often give great trouble. Rock-hewn tombs are common, but the only use to which they are now put seems to be to hide away the bodies of men who have been robbed and killed. In one case Captain Conder found in an old Jewish tomb six corpses, belonging apparently to strangers recently murdered. The number of skulls and bones in other tombs, he adds, astonished him, till he found that many of them were fractured, and was told that they had belonged to persons murdered by the villagers.
A little south of Tanturah is another perennial stream, like the rest in the district in being only a few miles long, and fed by the marshes. The road is unspeakably desolate: sand on one side, bog on the other; while the element of danger adds to the eagerness with which it is left behind. A guard is a wise precaution in this part, whether for property or for person.
Recrossing the Zerka, and keeping the coast-road by Cæsarea, the sand stretches inland for miles, a few stunted oaks being the only prominent vegetation. Not a house or living being was to be seen. Passing the harbour of Abu Zabura, at which fragments of broken pottery tell of a village or town once in existence on the spot, we come to the stream Iskanderuneh, which empties itself into the sea. In a dry season it can be forded at its mouth, but sometimes it needs much trouble to get across. A little way back from the shore it is, indeed, impracticable to approach it, on account of quicksands and treacherous marsh. The deep sand on the shore was very fatiguing as we toiled on under the perpendicular cliffs, which for the time shut out all view of the country. It was better, therefore, to take advantage of an opening in the ridge on our left and turn inland to Mukhalid, the first village on our way, lying on the track to the south, about a mile from the cliffs. It is in the heart of the chief melon-growing district of Palestine, and must present a striking scene when the crop is being harvested. Hundreds of camels then wait their turn to be loaded with the huge fruit, or stalk away with a full burden of it. Peasants in their white turbans and shirts, the latter duly girt round them by a leather strap, assiduously gather the different kinds of melon, while the tent of the tax-collectors, pitched in the fields, shows that these oppressors are on the look-out to lay a heavy hand on the produce, for the Government. How is it that great vegetable globes like these melons, so full of water, thrive thus wonderfully on so hot and sandy a soil? The camel-loads of them taken to the shore fill a thousand boats each summer. Indeed, if it were not for fear of the Bedouins, there might be no limit to the quantity grown.
The secret of this luxuriant fertility lies in the rich supply of moisture afforded by the sea-winds which blow inland each night, and water the face of the whole land. There is no dew, properly so-called, in Palestine, for there is no moisture in the hot summer air to be chilled into dewdrops by the coolness of the night, as in a climate like ours. From May till October rain is unknown, the sun shining with unclouded brightness day after day. The heat becomes intense, the ground hard; and vegetation would perish but for the moist west winds that come each night from the sea. The bright skies cause the heat of the day to radiate very quickly into space, so that the nights are as cold as the day is the reversea peculiarity of climate from which poor Jacob suffered, thousands of years ago, for he too speaks of "the drought consuming him by day, and the cold by night" (Gen 31:40). To this coldness of the night-air the indispensable watering of all plant life is due. The winds, loaded with moisture, are robbed of it as they pass over the land, the cold air condensing it into drops of water, which fall in a gracious rain of mist on every thirsty blade. In the morning the fog thus created rests like a sea over the plains and far up the sides of the hills, which raise their heads above it like so many islands. At sunrise, however, the scene speedily changes. By the kindling light the mist is transformed into vast snow-white clouds, which presently break into separate masses and rise up the mountain-sides, to disappear in the blue above, dissipated by the increasing heat. These are the "morning clouds and the early dew that go away" of which Hosea speaks so touchingly (6:4; rather, the "dew which early goes away"). Anyone standing at sunrise on a vantage-ground in Jerusalem, or on the Mount of Olives, and looking down towards the Dead Sea, must have seen how the masses of billowy vapour, filling the valleys during the night, sway and break up when the light streams on them from over the mountains of Moab; their shape and colour changing each moment before the kindling warmth as they rise from the hollows of the landscape, and then up the slopes of the hills, till they pass in opal or snowy brightness into the upper air, and at last fade into the unclouded sky.
The amount of moisture thus poured on the thirsty vegetation during the night is very great. Tent coverings are often soaked with it as if there had been a heavy rain, and a bright moon frequently creates the striking spectacle of a lunar rainbow. "Dew" seemed to the Israelites a mysterious gift of Heaven, as indeed it is. "Who has begotten the drops of dew?" is one of the questions put to Job by the Almighty Himself (38:28). That the skies should be stayed from yielding it was a special sign of Divine wrath (Hagg 1:10; 1 Kings 17:1), and there could be no more gracious conception of a loving farewell address to his people than where Moses tells them that his "speech" should "distil as the dew." Gideon's fleece, out of which a bowlful of dew was wrung, was a symbol familiar to the great citizen-soldier; and no imprecation more terrible could be uttered against Mount Gilboa, defiled by the death of Saul and Jonathan, than that no "dew" should fall on it henceforth (2 Sam 1:21). Hushai, in his subtle, misleading counsel to Absalom, could suggest no more striking image of the silent surprise of David by irresistible numbers than that the gathered multitude of Israel would fall upon him as the "dew" falleth on the ground (2 Sam 17:12). Job pictures his hopes of abiding prosperity by the prayer that "his root" would spread out beside the [irrigating] waters, and that the "dew" would lie "all night on his branch" (29:19). The youths of Israel, as of all nations, were her "dew" (Psa 110:3). The favour of an Oriental monarch could not be more beneficially conceived than by saying that, while "his wrath is like the roaring of a lion, his favour is as dew upon the grass" (Prov 19:12). The "head" of the Beloved "is filled with dew, and his locks with the drops of the night" (Song 5:2). Isaiah, speaking of the advance of the Assyrians against Jerusalem and Judah, shows that he too had noticed the mists that rest on the wide plains and sweeping valleys during the nights of the hot months, for he says, if we may expand his words so as to give their force more clearly than it appears in the Authorised Version: "I will keep my eyes on them through the whole summer, while the unclouded sunshine ripens the herbs, and the night mists temper the heat of harvest."*
* Isa 18:4. Geikie, Hours with the Bible, vol. iv., p. 445.Anyone who has watched the morning fog in harvest-time, in Palestine, when it was impossible to see any distance round, and the villagers, driving their flocks afield, could only with infinite trouble prevent their being lost; shouts and uproar rising on all sides, as camels, horses, donkeys, cows, goats, and sheep, were urged off through the hazy sea of vapour; must have felt that, though painfully chilly by night, it tempered the air in the early day, till the fierce sun had drunk up the moisture. "Awake and sing," cries Isaiah, "ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead!"* He thinks of the sad condition of Palestine when the exiles return from Babylon, its slaughtered multitudes lying asleep in the dust around them; and in a burst of patriotic fervour, clothed in poetical metaphor, cries out, "O that thy dead bodies could arise! Awake and sing, ye dwellers in the dust of the grave! For thy dewthe favour of Jehovahgives life, as the dew of herbs revives the glebe, and through its mighty power the earth shall bring to life the dead!" How blessed the assurance, finally, in the precious promise, "I will be as the dew unto Israel!" (Hosea 14:5)
* Isa 26:19. Geikie, Hours with the Bible, vol. v., p. 44.The melon district reaches to the stream El-Falik, a short perennial river, little more than a mile in length, issuing from great marshes behind. Just above it a tongue of sand runs two miles inland, the low hills farther east being thinly dotted with oak-trees of good sizethe remains of the old Crusading forest of Assur. North of Mukhalid the country belongs to a tribe of Arabs, who, though few in number, claim to have formerly held all the land between Tiberias and Cæsarea, Carmel and Beisan. To the south of the village, however, the Nefeiah, or Club-bearing Arabsa rough setswarm in the marshes and woodlands. The landscape round is a great rolling plain, with low slopes varying its monotony; its height above the sea from 150 to 200 feet, while hills of blown sand stretch all along the shore, to varying distances inland, except where streams force their way through them. At some points, however, the shore rises in bluffs nearly to the level of the plain behind, and these, where they occur, are a great preservative of the soil, preventing the sand from blowing over it. Round the marshes the pasturage is excellent in spring, and hence Sharon was famous in Jewish history as the feeding-ground for the royal flocks and herds. In David's time these were under a head shepherd, himself a Sharon manone Shitrai (1 Chron 27:29). The pastures of Sharon were, indeed, famous from the earliest times, and had a king in Joshua's day (12:18), while after the Hebrew invasion they seem for a time to have been in the hands of the tribe of Gad (1 Chron 5:16; for "suburbs" read "pastures"), but the desolation spread over them by the "overflowing flood" of Sennacherib's invasion is bewailed by Isaiah (33:9), who, by the way, like all Old Testament writers, always speaks of "the Sharon," meaning the whole plain from Carmel to Joppa. Before this ruin by the Assyrian it must have been specially prosperous, for "the excellency of Carmel and Sharon" is the prophet's ideal of luxuriant fertility (Isa 35:2), and the full joy of the Messianic kingdom is, in part, imaged by Sharon being so restored that it would become once more "a fold of flocks" (Isa 65:10:.
Round the few villages in the plain there are generally patches of corn, vegetables, or olives; but by far the greater part of the soil is uncultivated. El-Falik is approached through a wild tangle of hawthorn, dwarf oak, arbutus, and rue, and its short course is fringed by the Syrian papyrus reed, which looks at a distance like a dwarfed palm-tree, and by thickets of oleanders and other shrubs. The name of the place means "the Cutting," and has been given it from its being only an artificial drain, made to lower the water in the marshes. An uninhabited sandy ground with undulating surface succeeds, stretching nearly five miles south in a treeless and houseless desolation. Reeds and rushes spring beside stagnant pools; patches of thistles and coarse grass are the main growths. Some pines, indeed, are to be seen on the sandy slopes; but they are rare and small. A few mud huts here and there, offering shelter to shepherds from the heat by day and the cold by night, when they choose to take advantage of them, are the only apologies for human habitations.
Arsuf, the Apollonia of Josephus,* lies on the shore between five and six miles south of El-Falik; but there was nothing to detain us at its ruins except a tunnel near it, cut for 535 feet through the rocks, by the Romans, I suppose, with an air-shaft half-way; the object being to drain a great marsh behind. Now, however, it only shows the difference between the past and the present in Sharon, for ages ago it became useless, the sand having choked it up for centuries. Between this point and the river Aujeh, five or six miles north of Joppa, there was only one small village, a poor place, with a well and a rain-tank, near which stood two or three trees, a carob or locust-tree among them. It was from the pods of this that the Prodigal sought a poor sustenance when feeding his master's swine (Luke 15:16), the lowest possible occupation for a Jew, since the employer must have been a heathen, and the swine were, in themselves, an abomination to an Israelite. The thick foliage of the tree, of a deep green, with very dark, glossy, evergreen leaves, rising to a height of about twenty or thirty feet, like a large apple-tree, makes it a striking object in the bare landscape of Palestine. In February it is covered with innumerable purple-red pendent blossoms, which ripen in April and May into huge crops of pods from six to ten inches long, flat, brown, narrow, and bent like a horn,** with a sweetish taste when still unripe. Enormous quantities of these are gathered for sale in the various towns, and for exportation; England, among other places, taking large consignments, their name in this country being locust beans. I have often seen them on stalls in Eastern cities, where they are used as food by the very poorest, but chiefly to fatten pigs if there be Christians in the neighbourhood, or for horses and cattle. That they were eaten as human food, though only by the poorest of the poor, in the time of our Lord, is incidentally proved by their being mentioned by both Horace and Juvenal*** as thus used. The Prodigal very likely drove his herd below the trees, as is still frequently the custom, to let them eat the pods, which fall off as soon as they are dry. It is curious to remember that the bean found in the pod gave its name to the smallest Hebrew weightthe gerah, twenty of which made a shekel (Exo 30:13; Lev 27:25; Eze 45:12).
* Jos. Ant., xiii. 15, 4.The monks in the Middle Ages, unwilling to believe that John the Baptist fed upon locusts, came to the conclusion that this pod* was meant, and gave the tree the name of St. John's Bread. There can, however, be no doubt that the well-known insect was really intended, since it is still eaten extensively by the Arabs and others. "The Bedouins eat locusts," says Burckhardt, the greatest of travellers, "which are collected in great quantities in the beginning of April, when the sexes cohabit, and they are easily caught. After having been roasted a little on the iron plate on which bread is baked, they are dried in the sun, and then put into large sacks with the mixture of a little salt. They are never served up as a dish, but one takes a handful of them when hungry. The peasants of Syria do not eat locusts, nor have I myself had an opportunity of tasting them; there are a few poor fellahs in the Hauran, however, who sometimes, pressed by hunger, make a meal of them; but they break off the head and take out the entrails before they dry them in the sun. The Bedouins swallow them entire."**
** Hence the Greek name of the tree, keratia, from keration = "a little horn."
*** Horace (born BC 65, died BC 8), Epist., Bk. II., i. 123; Juvenal (born about AD 40, died about AD 120), Sat., xi. 58. Bochart in his Hierozoicon, i. 708, has a very learned article on the carob.
* Maundrell: 8th edition, Lond. 1810, p. 124.Writing elsewhere of the Arabs of other regions, the same authority says, "All the Bedouins of Arabia, and the inhabitants of towns in Nejd and Hedjaz, are accustomed to eat locusts. I have seen, at Medina and Tayf, locust shops, where these animals were sold by measure. In Egypt and Nubia they are only eaten by the poorest beggars. The Arabs, in preparing them for food, throw them alive into boiling water, with which a good deal of salt has been mixed. After a few minutes they are taken out and dried in the sun; the head, feet, and wings, are then torn off; the bodies are cleansed from the salt and perfectly dried, after which process whole sacks are filled with them by the Bedouin. They are sometimes eaten boiled in butter, and they often contribute materials for a breakfast, when spread over unleavened bread mixed with butter." Dr. Kitto, who tried locusts, says they taste very much like shrimps. St. John may well have eaten them, since the wilderness afforded him no richer food. Wild honey he could obtain from trees and clefts in the rocks.
** Burckhardt, Syria, 4to, p. 239.
The river Aujeh is the largest stream in the plain of Sharon, winding across it from beneath the mound of Ras-el-Ainthe ancient Antipatris, close to the hills, which are about ten miles off, in a straight line. It is strong enough to have made a permanent opening through the sand-hills, and is never dammed up by them like some weaker streams on the plain, which become marshes in the dry season, though in winter, when swollen by the rains, they gain force enough to break through again to the sea. A dam over the river turns aside a powerful current, which drives twelve pairs of stones, most of them busy when I passed, grinding flour for customers. The splash of the water as it fell in white waves from the restless wheels and rushed to join the main stream was delightful in such a climate. The river is perhaps twenty yards broad, and of a good depth.
A short distance outside Joppa lies the German village of Sarona, called after the plain in which it stands. On the way we passed two long strings of camels, one laden with oil in black skin bottles from Nablus; the other with bags of rice from the same town. It was doubtless in similar skin jars, if I may use the word, that King Menahem of Samaria, while professing to be loyal to Assyria, sent gifts of oil to Pharaoh, in Egypt, the hereditary foe of the Assyrian,* to secure his support. They are made of the entire skin of a he-goat, the places where the legs and tail have been, being carefully sewn up, and an opening left at the neck, large enough to form a mouth, for filling and emptying. To enable them to resist the heat of the sun, and to keep them soft, they are smeared with oil.
* Hosea 12:1. Geikie, Hours with the Bible, iv. 265.The German colony is now firmly established and prosperous, but as many as fifty poor Teutons died before they could be acclimatised. A "town-house" of wood, a windmill used for pumping, a town clock, wheeled vehicles, a forge, European ploughs guided by native peasants but drawn by horses, a factory for all kinds of wooden machinery and implements, from waggons to plough-handles, a manufactory of tiles and of artificial stone, and other forms of Western energy and skill, showed the difference between Europeans and Asiatics.
I rested at the house of one of the chief settlersa large commodious stone building, with a deep well under a shed close by, supplying abundant water, which was raised by oxen in an endless chain of buckets, set in motion by a horizontal wheel, as already described (see ante, p. 7); It is used for household purposes, as well as for irrigating the garden and contiguous ground. Vines from American plants are extensively grown in the settlement, those of the country being liable to disease. A welcome, simple and hearty, was accorded me, and I left for Joppa not a little refreshed by the home-made bread and butter, both excellent, with milk. My friend had some of the local wine, and pronounced it excellent. The sandy road, nowhere "made," was at times pretty rough, in the hollows washed out by winter storms. Red anemones, bunches of lupins from last year's sowing, and tufts of squills brightened the open ground as we drove on; but Sharon, at its best, is very far from coming up to English ideas of fertility and beauty.
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