by Cunningham Geikie, D.D.

Notes on Revelation Online Books

 

Chapter 31 | Contents | Chapter 33


The Holy Land and the Bible
A Book of Scripture Illustrations gathered in Palestine

Cunningham Geikie D.D.

With a Map of Palestine and Original Illustrations by H. A. Harper
Special Edition

(1887)

CHAPTER 32—TO EMMAUS AND KIRJATH JEARIM

The Convent of the Holy Cross—Malhah—Sherafat—Ain HanniyehBittir (Bether)—The Final Downfall of the Jews"Hewers of Wood"How Orientals SingBethshemesh—Timnath—EbenezerProbable Sites of Emmaus and Kirjath JearimArtufAin Karim and its MonasteryKolonieh—Festival on the Day of AtonementLand Tenure in Palestine: Division by Lot and LineLandmarksSalting Infants

As so many places famous in the Bible lie near Jerusalem, it seemed best to make a short excursion to some which were rather out of the way, before starting for the north. Leaving the city, therefore, by the Joppa Gate, and going westward, past a number of orchards belonging to Greek Christians, a quarter of an hour brought us to a height from which we had our last look, for the time, at the city of "the Great King." It had been raining, and the way was not only muddy, but crossed by large pools, so that our progress was neither rapid nor pleasant. Thanks to the Christians a fresh valley showed quite a number of flourishing orchards of mulberry-trees, where a few years ago all was desolation; and in a little side glen to the right we passed a lofty, well-built structure, reared by the Greek Patriarch, through the aid of Russia, as an upper school for both sexes, and also as a hospice for travellers. A monastery was erected on the site more than a thousand years ago, in the belief that the wood of Christ's cross was hewn from a tree on this spot, and even that it grew on the grave of Adam, our Saviour thus being linked in the most touching way, as the second Adam, with the first. From very early times myriads of pilgrims, accepting both legends, have streamed to this Convent of the Holy Cross to kiss the spot where the tree was supposed to have once stood. Simple they may be, but, let us hope, none the less sincere and earnestly humble in their devotion to the Blessed One. The old church is still standing, though now surmounted by a clock-tower built in the Russian style, which sounds out its invitation to prayer over the villages around, with little effect on their Mahommedan inhabitants.

Beyond the monastery the valley broadens, and is varied by rounded heights and side openings. Ere long the village of Malhah came in sight, on a fairly green hill, nearly 2,500 feet above the sea, but not very much above the surrounding country. South of it, Sherafat, another hamlet of mud houses, crowned another height a little more elevated—for here, as elsewhere, the villages are on hill-tops, for safety. Gardens of roses cheered the way from time to time, and fine olive-groves were frequent. This district is rich in springs, one—Ain Hanniyeh, about a mile beyond Ain Yalo—especially attracting attention by a structure over it, adorned with Corinthian pillars and a niche. From this the waters flowed at a height of about ten feet, in delightful fulness, forming a small pool below, from which a copious brook streamed pleasantly down the valley. A long wall ran along from both sides of the spring, about twenty feet above the path, to lead off water to irrigate terraces on the slope. Close to each other, an ass was drinking and a woman filling her water-jar at the pool. Fig-trees grew on the banks, and were just putting out their leaves; vines blending with them, as in the old Bible times when the vine and the fig-tree were planted together. Tulips, lilies, ranunculi, and cyclamens, lighted up the borders of the grain-patches beside the waters of the fountain, as these flowed dimpling on to water the gardens of the valley through which the road to Gaza ran in early times. With this fact as its groundwork, legend has very naturally created a story of this rich spring being that at which St. Philip baptised the eunuch. But though there is no basis for such a fancy, the road itself, which is at this place broad, and was once well made, may have been that by which the Chamberlain of Queen Candace road homewards from Jerusalem (Acts 8:36-39).

A slight descent leads from this spot to the hamlet of El Welejeh, which lies in the midst of cultivated ground high on the western side of a deep but short valley. Shepherds and peasants, with their flocks or at their work, enlivened the way, though our track was again impeded by the pools left by the late rains. About a mile beyond Welejeh lay the village of Bittir, on the south-west, high on a slope pleasantly banked with fine green terraces, a sparkling rivulet flowing down from it towards us, while the ancient road to Gaza ran up the hill through the village street. Nothing could be more inviting than this quiet nook, with its richly irrigated grain-patches and gardens, dotted with olive- and fig-trees, and fitted beyond many for the vine and mulberry. We may readily suppose that in ancient times its charms made it attractive, but now the hills around are left to nature, are rough with the stunted trees and bushes familiar in Palestine, and are haunted only by birds and wild beasts. They may, however, have been the same in early days, for the sacred poet in Canticles cries, "Turn, my beloved, and be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of Bether" (Song 2:17). But there are other memories of the place. It was the scene of the final destruction of the Jewish power in the Holy Land, by the Romans, in the reign of Hadrian. Surrounded on every side except the south by deep and rugged gorges, and supplied with water by a spring rising in ground above it, Bether was a position immensely strong. The north side especially, with its steep cliffs springing from the bottom of the ravine, was virtually impregnable. At a quarter of a mile to the south of the present village, a shapeless mass of ruin preserves the memory of the great struggle, in its name, Khurbet el Yehud—"Ruin of the Jews." Perhaps it is a part of the strong citadel of the town. The leader in this tremendous struggle (see ante, pp. 82,83) was the pretended Messiah, Bar Cochba, who had at least the merit of tenacity, whatever his other shortcomings. The Rabbis, with their usual exaggeration, tell us that Bether was so large that it had four hundred synagogues and as many schools, each with four hundred children, but it is at least certain that it was a considerable place, even before the fall of Jerusalem, and rose to great prosperity after that event; not, perhaps, without a secret comfort in the thought that the destruction of the capital was the fortune of the rival community. Rabbi Akaba, the standard-bearer of Bar Cochba, was taken prisoner and flayed alive when the city fell, repeating, as he died, the grand words of the morning prayer of the Temple, "Hear, O Israel! the Lord our God is one Lord." Eighty thousand men are said to have fallen when Hadrian's soldiers rushed through the breaches of the walls, and the extinction of Jewish hope by the catastrophe was so complete—for the nation had been decimated in the revolt—that those who had hitherto hailed the leader of the insurrection as Bar Cochba—"the Son of a Star"—henceforth reviled him as Bar Cosiba—"the son of a lie."* But, discarding all legendary matter, there is something unspeakably touching in the presence of such a memorial of the death of an ancient nationality. For here, undoubtedly, in the year 136 of our era—sixty-four years after the destruction of Jerusalem—Israel fought its last despairing battle with its giant foe, and its last band of heroes perished with their leader, the Star-son, after having resisted the legions of Rome for three years and a half.

* Hamburger, ii. 107.
It was pathetic in the extreme to notice the frequent ruins in this neighbourhood. Every hill had its own pile, speaking of a dense population in happier times, ages ago. Rough bushes and scrub, mixed with beds of sage and thyme, dotted the chalky rocks, multitudinous fragments of which covered the path and made progress far from pleasant. It is from such places in the hills that the people get their fagots and charcoal for fuel. There are no trees, but only dwarfed brushwood, netting the hill-sides in wild brakes. The smoke of charcoal-burners' fires frequently rose, marking one great cause of the absence of trees, for these "hewers of wood," still poor landless creatures as of old (Deut 29:11; Josh 9:21,27), do not content themselves with lopping off branches, but dig up even the roots of what wood there is.

Two miles and a half west from Bittir, the village of Er Ras broke the monotonous desolation, though it appeared that we had passed one small mud hamlet on the south without seeing it. The rounded summits, all alike grey and barren, were still about 2,400 feet above the sea, but valleys of all sizes ran in every direction among them, and the terraces on the slopes near the village showed that only labour was needed to make the desert break into fruitfulness. Cattle and goats fed on the slopes; and in the hamlet old and young gathered round to look at the rare sight of a stranger from the West.

Passing first west and then north, the track led up a long wady, to which a number of carob-trees lent a rare charm; but there were no human habitations near them. A spring flowing to the north was the secret of their presence, and, indeed, springs are numerous in all these Judæan highlands. They are, as Deuteronomy says, "a land of hills and valleys, that drinketh water of the rain of heaven" (11:11): a land, as the Psalmist tells us, in which God "sendeth the springs into valleys, which run among the hills" (104:10).

The Wady Ismain, which is the name of this part of the great Wady Surar, or Sorek (see ante p. 92), opened before us, after an ascent of about two hundred feet from Deir-esh-Sheikh, showing a stream, fed by the late rains, whirling on, grey and brown, some hundreds of feet below, between high walls of rock. Following this, though on the heights above it, a bend to the south brought in view the village of Beit Atab, which crowns an isolated hill rising some hundreds of feet above those around. The ridge along which our track lay, seamed with larger and smaller wadys, was a picture of desolation. Great lizards darted out and in among the stones: partridges flew up from among the bushes of Spina Christi and scrub of all kinds with which the white stony hill was thickly sprinkled. A shepherd in one of the wadys watched his sheep and goats, attended by his dog; mallows and other plants on the slopes giving a kind of thin pasture. About two miles east of Deir-esh-Sheikh lay the village of El Hawa, on the top of a hill 2,100 feet above the sea, looking far and wide over the frontier hills of Judah, and down into the great Philistine plain. Descending by very rough and often steep tracks, we reached Wady Najil, which runs north and south across the great Wady Surar. Hedges of prickly pear surrounded the gardens of Deir Aban, a small village. It was pleasant to see Zorah once more, its sweeping length and broad bosom rich with tender green. Shepherds were driving home herds of cattle as it drew near sunset; peasants, carrying home their ploughs on their backs, wended their way to their village, some singing in their own nasal manner as they plodded on. All Orientals seem to sing through the nose. Did David do so? Most likely, for in the East manners never change.

I was once more on the borders of Samson's country. There were the grey houses of Sura, on the steep hill-top where the hero was born and grew up, with the great valley winding down to the Shephelah at his feet. Bethshemesh, 250 feet below it, lay on the other side of the wady, about to miles off. It was here that King Amaziah of Judah was beaten by Jehoash, the King of the Ten Tribes, who thus justified the contemptuous message he had sent his foolhardy foe—"The thistle that was in Lebanon sent to the cedar that was in Lebanon, saying, Give thy daughter to my son to wife: and there passed by a wild beast that was in Lebanon, and trod down the thistle" (2 Kings 14:8-14). About three miles rather south-east from Bethshemesh, lay Timnath, famous in Samson's story (Judg 14:5ff), and three miles and a half due south from it was the Ashkelon where he slew the thirty Philistines, to get their "abbas," in payment for the riddle treacherously revealed by his Philistine wife (Judg 14:19).

Captain Conder thinks he has identified in this neighbourhood another spot famous in Bible story, the rock Etam, in a cleft or chasm of which—not on its "top"—Samson "hid himself" (Judg 15:8) when hotly pursued by the Philistines. The substitution of B for M by the modern population of Palestine, as in Tibneh for Timneh—is so common, that the name Atab—a hamlet about five miles south-west of Bethshemesh—is thought to be, very probably, a corruption of Etam, especially as the locality exactly suits the details of the Old Testament narrative. Etam means the "Eagle's Nest," and this even the village might well be called, as it lies more than two thousand feet above the sea. There is, besides, a tall cliff of hard limestone, without a handful of arable soil on it, rising up from amidst three ravines, and marked by three small springs bubbling from its foot. In this hill there is a long narrow cavern into which Samson might naturally have "gone down," and which bears the significant name of Hasuta, or "Refuge," the word being Hebrew, not Arabic.* It is 250 feet long, eighteen feet wide, and five to eight feet high, with its one end under the centre of the modern village, and its other within sixty yards of the principal spring; the entrance, here, being by a hole in the rock, ten feet deep. In such close proximity to other places associated with Samson's name, such a spot seems to have strong claims to be added to their number.

* Tent Work, 142.
Half way between Atab and Bethshemesh is another site, very interesting, if Christian tradition dating from the fourth century can be trusted—that of Ebenezer, where Samuel called back the Hebrews from their pursuit of the Philistines, and set up a memorial stone, commemorating the help vouchsafed them by God (1 Sam 7:12). Captain Conder thinks it also probable that the Emmaus of the New Testament has been identified by him in this district, in the ruin called Khamasa, about three miles and a half south-east of Atab. This spot has certainly the advantage of being nearly "threescore furlongs from Jerusalem," as Emmaus is said to have been, both by St. Luke and Josephus, * and the name is not unlike Ammaus, if the first letter be dropped. The narrow valley in which the ruin lies has copious springs, and gardens shady with the dark green and gold of orange and lemon trees; and the remains of an old Roman road from Jerusalem passes close by. On the western slope stands a modern village, the hill behind which rises bare and rocky, showing ancient tombs cut in it, now used as storehouses. Vespasian, when he left Judæa, settled eight hundred veterans at Emmaus, and if this were the place, it must have been a grateful retreat from the dangers and exposures of war.
* Luke 24:13; Jos., Bell. Jud. vii. 6, 6.
Other sites, however, have been regarded as having claims to the dignity of representing Emmaus. The village of Amwas, for example, slightly northwest from Jerusalem, has been thus honoured from a very early period, but it is a hundred and sixty furlongs from Jerusalem, which would make the journey to and from it on the same day quite beyond the distance usually walked at one time by the ancient Jews, the two ways making between them no less than forty miles, which would require at least sixteen hours' walking at the ordinary rate of the country. That it is called Amwas is no proof of its claim, for the name may easily have followed the erroneous identification. "Emmaus" is a corruption of the ancient Hebrew word "Hammath," implying the presence of a hot spring, as Josephus notices, for he says—"Now Emmaus, if it be interpreted, may be rendered 'a warm bath' useful for healing,"* and Amwas has in its favour the fact of having been celebrated, in early Christian times, for its healing spring; a local feature still perhaps recognised in the name, "Well of the Plague," applied to a well in the village. But Amwas and Khamasa may fairly claim equal nearness to the Hebrew "Hammath," so that little rests on this detail. There is a third site for which claims have been urged—Kulonieh, which fulfils the condition of being sixty furlongs from Jerusalem. I shall notice it hereafter.
* Jos., Bell. Jud. iv. 1-3; Ant. xviii. 2, 3.
In this region, so thickly sown with Scripture memories, the Palestine Surveyors suppose that they have discovered yet another site famous in Bible history—Kirjath Jearim, which Captain Conder identifies with a heap of ruins called Khurbet Erma.* It is about four miles nearly east of Bethshemesh, but a thousand feet higher above the sea. Approaching it from the east, by the great gorge which, under different names, runs from near Gibeon to Bethshemesh, and ascending the slopes on which is the little ruined village of Deir-esh-Sheikh, you see the white bed of a torrent far beneath, twisting in wide bends beneath steep hills, which rise fully a thousand feet above it. The slopes on both sides are stony and seamed with outcrops of rock, and both, but especially the southern, are covered with a dense brushwood of dwarfed oak, hawthorn, carob, and other trees, no higher than well-grown shrubs; every vacant space adding to the pleasantness of the view by a carpet of thyme, sage, and other aromatic plants. On a bold spur running out from the southern slope, and marked by a curious platform of rock which rises in the
centre, above the olive-trees round, lie the ruins of Erma, built up against scarps, natural or artificial. They have all the appearances of the site of an ancient town, some of the walls showing traces of mortar, others being only rude blocks piled on each other. There is a fine rock-cut wine-press to the east, and on the south a great cistern covered with a large hollowed stone which forms the well-mouth, and looks so old and weathered that it may easily have lain there since the time when David came to the town to bring up the Ark to Jerusalem.
* Palestine Memoirs, 4to, iii. 43.
Kirjath Jearim was anciently known also as Kirjath Baal (Josh 15:60): may the platform, which appears to have been raised artificially, have been that of the high place where the Sun-god was worshiped? David is said to have found the Ark "in Gibeah"—the Hill or Knoll: was this smooth rock the floor of the sanctuary in which it was kept? (1 Sam 7:1). Certainly it stands on a knoll, and "the house of Abinadab" may have been that of the guardian of the holy place. "Erma" does not seem very like Arim or Jearim, but the consonants—for the vowels are late additions—are the same in both, while the "thickets" or "yaars" from which the town got its name, "Jearim," still clothe the slopes around to a degree rare in Palestine. There are other grounds of identification, but they require too much acquaintance with local details to be useful for popular statement, though their concurrent weight speaks strongly in favour of the site having really been here. In this quiet nook, then, we may think of the Ark as sacredly guarded for twenty years, after the destruction of the men of Bethshemesh for daring to look into it (1 Sam 6:19). On this platform we may fancy David standing as the sacred chest was brought out from its long seclusion, amidst chants of Levites and the shouts of the multitude.

The view from the ruins is very striking. The valley winds, hither and thither, six or seven hundred feet below; its northern side hollow with caves and scarped into cliffs. Beyond these caves and cliffs the great corn vale of Sorek, in ancient times "The Camp of Dan," reaches away to the west, past all the sites famous in the border history of Judah. From the top of the lofty hill on the north, moreover, one can see how naturally the Ark might have been sent up from the lowlands of Bethshemesh to a place so strongly posted, high in the rough hills.

From Bethshemesh to Artuf, down the slope of Wady Surar and up the side of the opposite Wady Muttuk, the soil varied greatly in its fertility. In one place the grain was thin and stunted; in another, so close and high that it was wearisome to make one's way through it by the narrow path. Near Artuf, indeed, it was more than two feet above the ground, though the season was only the end of March, and we were more than nine hundred feet above the Mediterranean. Yet the soil here was very stony, so that the only explanation of the difference in the crops must have been the later or earlier sowing. There is little system among the peasants, as much as a month, in some cases, intervening between the seed-time of one man and that of his neighbour. There was no water in the deep trench of Wady Sorek, though the late rains had not only filled but overflowed the channel, as might be expected from the great number of side valleys that open on this great central glen. A few days before the water had been rushing on its way down the upper part of this very strath, and now it was gone; the very ideal of "a deceitful brook," so often used by the prophets as an image of inconstancy. So Jeremiah thought when, in his despairing weakness, he cried out, "Why is my pain perpetual, and my wound incurable, which refuseth to be healed? Wilt thou indeed be unto me as a deceitful brook, as waters that fall?" (15:18 [RV]). So, too, Job lamented, "My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook, as the channels of brooks that pass away;...what time they wax warm, they vanish; when it is hot they are consumed out of their place" (6:15-17).

Artuf lies on a hill at the mouth of two wadys, north and south of it, that wind with countless side openings throughout Judæa—for it is impossible to say where any wady really ends, so entirely is the country made up of hills and glens, running in every possible direction, like the lines in a brain coral. On a hill three hundred feet lower than Zorah, on the other side of a wady, above a grove of olives, lay Eshuah,* Samson's home at one time; about a mile from Zorah and Artuf, respectively. The hills on all sides of us were rough with stunted "bush," and abounded in partridges, while the home-like voice of the cuckoo sounded near at hand. At one place some black swine broke out of the cover on the slope, and ran hastily off, for safer shelter, whence, it may be, they sallied, after a time, to seek what they could get in any cultivated land in the neighbourhood, as in the days when "the boar to of the wood wasted the vineyard of Israel, and the wild beast of the field devoured it" (Psa 80:13). The hill-sides as we passed were utterly stony, and could never have been tilled, though occasionally a small island of green showed itself in some hollow, as when we came to the hamlet of Akur, seated in just such a fertile nook, entirely surrounded by high hills. Some water still remained in the wady, and there were signs of the stream having recently been from four to six feet deep, and even of its covering the whole bottom of the narrow glen at times. Woe to the traveller caught in such a place in heavy rains. "The waves of death" would soon compass him about (Psa 18:5). Many women and girls passed, carrying on their heads huge bundles of thorns and fagots, having come miles to gather them, as women and girls used to do in ancient times (Isa 27:11; Jer 7:18).

* The modern name of the ancient Eshtaol.
The strip of country across which we had passed was barren enough, but to the north, over the hills, it was much better, very large olive plantations covering the slopes of not a few valleys. The belt of comparative fruitfulness stretched down to the next village on our course—Ain Karim—which lies beside a confluence of valleys, the hills over which were crowned with hamlets, while the valleys themselves were green with crops, and their slopes fair with waving olive-trees. The exceptional fertility around was, we found, a tribute to Western energy, for a colony of Franciscan monks had long been established at this spot, in the belief that the parents of John the Baptist lived here; and it was their industry, and that which they had roused or paid for in others, that had made things as they were. There is a fine spring, the Spring of the Blessed Mary, to which one goes down by two flights of stone steps, through the roofless arches of an old church. There is also a well dedicated to Zacharias and Elizabeth, the water of which is raised by the unusual aid of a rope and pulley. Old walls and arches mark this spot also, but in the village new houses were actually being built; a strange sight in Palestine. The large monastery built in honour of John the Baptist has a very fine position on a low, isolated hill, surrounded by others much higher. From the west it looks like a mediæval castle; its strong, castellated wall, enclosing a wide circuit, supports the illusion, though, outside, everything is of the ordinary local type. For centuries the church built over the place where tradition alleges the Baptist to have been born had been used by the Mahommedans as a cow-shed and sheepfold, but it was regained by that pious monarch, Louis XIV of France, for the Franciscans, and has since then been elaborately restored. The Greek Church sends its pilgrims to Jutta, near Hebron, as the place where St. John saw the light; the Latin Church patronises Ain Karim. But the Greek locality has far the better claims to honour.

The village of Kolonieh, which lies about two miles north of Ain Karim, is reached through a charming valley sprinkled with olives, the gift of springs flowing from the hill-sides. It has been thought by some to be the Emmaus of the New Testament, the name, as is supposed, having been changed to Colonia after Vespasian had settled a number of his veterans in the neighbourhood, though the Talmud simply tells us that it was a "colonia," or place free from taxes. It lies on the treeless side of a hill, but has, for Judæa, a very beautiful appearance, amidst the sweet refreshment of green patches of grain that surround it. The windings of the wady prevent any distant views, but heighten so much the more a felling of happy seclusion. No wonder that a place so attractive is said to have been the scene of a strange festival on the Day of Atonement; the girls of Jerusalem coming out to meet the young men who were celebrating their absolution from the sins of the past year, and rejoicing before them in merry dances, not without a view, one may suppose, to subsequent matrimonial results. No wonder that such a meeting was so pleasant as to be renewed half-yearly, the twelve months' delay for the "atonement" taxing patience too severely.

Remains of strong walls of large bevelled stones are found in the little glen, and part of the channel of the spring, made into a plastered tank, which still holds water, had the top of a pillar lying near it. No place near Jerusalem has charms which were more likely to have made it a favourite haunt of the citizens from the earliest times. The spring, the watered gardens, the orchards, with their varied green and their different blossoms, the terraces along the slopes, with their vines and their alleys of olives, unite to make it an idyllic home. Was it to this place that the two disciples came, accompanied by their unrecognised Master, and could it be that in some humble room in the village, as it then was, He made Himself known to them, and then vanished from their sight? (Luke 24:31). So some think; yet Kolonieh does not meet the requirements of distance from Jerusalem, from which it is less than four miles off, while Emmaus was nearly eight. It seems, therefore, as if Captain Conder's identification of Khamasa as the site has more to be said in its favour.

An old, almost ruinous, bridge of four arches, the centre ones a patchwork of beams, the masonry having long fallen, spans the channel in which the winter rains flow off; showing a great bed of stones for most of the year, but wild enough when the "rains descend, and the floods come, and the winds blow" (Matt 7:25).

The land round Jerusalem, and in the south of Palestine generally, except on the plains, is held in permanent ownership; but in the north, and in the Philistine country, each cultivator has so much land assigned him, at fixed intervals of a year or two, the amount being measured by a cord of a certain length, and determined by the size of his family and the acreage he can work. This system must be very ancient, for it was thus that the land was distributed at first among the Hebrews, their "inheritance" being then "divided to them by line" (Psa 78:55); and it was the custom also of other nations, for the kingdom of Samaria was to be "divided by line" among the Assyrians (Amos 7:17), and the ruin of Judah is painted in its deepest colour by Micah, in the fatal words, "Thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot [for thee] in the congregation of the Lord" (2:5).* In such a subdivision it is of great moment where one's ground may be assigned, the change of temporary ownership leaving everything undecided in each case. The "lines may fall" to him in a place far from his dwelling, so that it will take hours to reach it in the morning or return from it at night; or they may fall on a bare, rocky spot, where his utmost toil will be unproductive. To secure fairness, all is decided by lot, and thus, if unlucky one year, the peasant bears his disappointment, in the hope that the next drawing may be more fortunate. The Psalmist speaks of the happiness of his position in words he must often have heard from those who, in the division of the ground, had been so favoured: he rejoices that "his lines have fallen to him in pleasant places" (16:6)—perhaps on a gentle slope of rich soil, near the well or fountain, and not far from his home.

* Geikie, Hours with the Bible, iv. 355.
Landmarks to indicate the limits of each man's ground are very simple matters in the East. In Galilee I have seen portion after portion marked by an ordinary stone of moderate size, laid at each corner; nor will anyone think of removing even so slight a boundary. To do so would not only be unlucky, but the most abhorred of crimes (Deut 19:14, 27:17; Job 24:2; Prov 22:28, 23:10).* It is interesting, however, to notice the strange way in which the land is divided in some places. Frontage on the road being especially desirable, only a small breadth of it can be allowed to each man—a half-line, or perhaps two lines—while the strip seems to run back almost indefinitely, so that a farm may be a rod or two wide, and two or three miles deep; very much as it is in America, where a small piece of river frontage has a great stretch of land behind it to make up the "lot." But, narrow as the strips are, especially in northern Palestine and Syria, they are religiously honoured; the peasant, in ploughing time, starting in the old furrow with the greatest care, along his line of a mile or two. How long it is, in any given case, few but the man himself know, for it is a sore trial to patience to wait till the small, slow oxen have gone to the end of the almost interminable furrow. A friend in Beyrout, indeed, told me that he had never been able to wait till the cattle turned, though he could not help admiring the straightness of the lines for so great a distance. In the rich plains of Lebanon it matters little where one's lines may fall, but it was very different with David in a district like that round Bethlehem, where he might either have a strip of the fertile valley or a belt of stony hill-side.
* The word translated "landmark" in the AV means in Hebrew the cord by which the land is measured.
I was reminded in Jerusalem, by the use of salt in the baptismal service of the Greek church, of the wonderful tenacity with which Orientals continue the customs of their ancestors, even in trifling details. Ezekiel, it will be remembered, speaks of Jerusalem as an infant that "was not salted at all" (16:4); an expression not easily understood till it is known that in Syria and Palestine it is still the custom to "salt" infants. Common coarse salt is pulverised in a mortar when the child is born; and as soon as the poor little creature is washed, it is covered all over with it and wrapped up, like a mummy, in swaddling clothes. This process is repeated daily for three days. In some places they are humane enough to melt the salt and bathe the infant with the brine. After the third day the child is bathed in oil, and then washed and dressed as usual. A native mother cannot imagine how European children are not thus favoured. "Poor thing," she will say, "it was not salted at all!"

 

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