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prayer, had his
the public authorities, as well as the vengeance of the exasperated populace, till Herod at length succeeded in ridding the country fora time of these daring marauders.* In the days of our Lord, as appears from the parable of the good Samaritan, down to the present day, these caverns, especially near Bethlehem, have been the hidingplaces of such outlaws; and, it is supposed, by many commentators, that our Lord, when, in reproving the Jewish leaders for their mercenary and unscrupulous profanation of the temple, he charged them as robbers with defrauding God of his claims to that house of
eye upon those dens of thieves.' [Valleys.—The vast chains of mountains that diversify the surface of Palestine are naturally accompanied by large tracts of low and level ground; and from the regular course in which these continuous ridges run from north to south, the principal valleys and plains of this country extend also in a parallel direction. But as many a break occurs in the numerous arms of the mountains, many a narrow gorge, opening through those towering eminences, seemingly to afford only a pass to the traveller, or a channel to some paltry brook, stretches out into a wide and fertile wady. An infinite number of small natural basins, of great beauty and productiveness, are concealed in the heart of the highland solitudes, and these generally lie in a dir rom east to west, or from west to east. In a hilly region, level tracts, even of inconsiderable extent, attract more notice, and are held in greater value, than in a champaigne country; and accordingly
* ' As the caves,' says Josephus, ' were in the middle of craggy and perpendicular cliffs, which could not be approached either by climbing up or creeping down, Herod caused iron chains to be suspended from an engine erected at the top of the mountain, and chests full of armed men to be lowered down to the mouth of the cave, who, with long hooks, drew out the robbers and killed them, some by the sword, others by dashing them down amongst the sharp rocks.-Antiq. b. xiy. ch. 15, sect. 5: see also Clarke's Trav. vol. iv. 421; Robinson's Bib. Resear. vol. ii. p. 211.-Editor.
every one of the paltriest plains in Palestine is distinguished by its appropriate name in the present day, as seems to have been the case also in ancient times, many of these having been preserved in the sacred record, more from the events of historic interest with which they are associated, than from their natural fertility or political importance.
[The territory that lies between the shores of the Mediterranean and the western chain of Lebanon, which, under various appellations, runs through the length of the land, from Antaradous to the most southern boundary of Palestine, a distance of about four degrees of latitude, may be described generally as an extensive plain, with a low and undulating surface. Its greatest breadth may be estimated at twenty miles, but in some places it is indented into narrow valleys by bays of the sea, and in others its continuity is interrupted by arms of the hills which stretch out westward, and form bold promontories as at Carmel. This seaward plain is distinguished for its extraordinary productiveness; and were it not for the inauspicious influence of Turkish ignorance and oppression, would be one of the most fertile and lovely spots in all Syria.
[The valley of Abilene, which lies on this western coast, between Râs en Nakûra and Acre, is a narrow strip of land, bounded on all sides except one by an amphitheatre of low hills, and is exceedingly fertile.
[The valley of Zebulun, which commences immediately south of Acre, and stretches in a south easterly direction, including the plain of Acre on the coast, is environed by hills which give it an elliptical form, and is about four miles long and one broad. The numerous springs and rivulets, which diffuse a perennial moisture, as well as the thick plantations of oak and carob-trees which cover the tops of the adjoining hills, render this plain exceedingly fruitful, and yield the finest pasturage in the land. In ancient times, it was possessed by an
industrious rural tribe, who kept it in a high state of cultivation; and even still, in spite of the inauspicious influence of Turkish ignorance and oppression, the luxuriant crops of vegetables and fruits, with which its level fields are adorned, bear testimony to the strong natural capabilities of the soil.
The valley of Sepphoris, or Dioccesarea, now Sephùrieh, lies on the east of the former, from which it is separated by a ridge of hills, and is nearly of the same extent. This vale, which is always beautiful, is said to be invested with incomparable charms in the spring season, presenting the appearance of one rich, well cultivated, continuous garden, embellished with an inexhaustible profusion of flowers of the loveliest tints, and dressed with the most careful industry, rather than of an open plain, that owes all its gay luxuriance to the liberal and artless hand of nature. What has given additional importance to this little plain, is, that it has frequently been the scene of military encampments,immediately before the time of Christ, when the city from which it derives its name fell before the arms of Herod,-in 399 of the Christian era, when this city, in consequence of a rebellion of the Jews, was laid in ashes by the Roman army,—in the time of the Crusaders, when those fanatic warriors assembled their troops in this valley previous to the fatal battle of Hattîn,-and a few days after, when Saladin, the conquering hero of that field, halted his men on the same valley on their march to Akka.
[The valley of Nazareth, situated a little to the south-east of Sepphoris, is a small but extremely beautiful basin, enclosed by a circle of dwarfish hills. “It seems,' to use the words of Richardson, as if fifteen mountains met to form one enclosure for this delightful spot; they rise around it like the edge of a shell, to guard it from intrusion. It is a rich and beautiful field in the midst of barren mountains. It abounds in fig-trees, small gardens, and hedges of the prickly
pear; and the dense grass affords abundant pasture.'*
[South of Carmel, and reaching along the coast as far as Jaffa, is the valley of Sharon, proverbial in ancient times for the beauty of its scenery, and the uncommon excellence of its pasturage; and the white clover, the dwarfish tulips, the cistus roseus, and the infinite variety of wild shrubs and flowers, that spring spontaneously on every side, displaying a scene of surpassing beauty, amply support its claims to ancient renown. • It was covered,' says Buckingham, 'with a carpet of the richest verdure we had seen. « This tract of land, says Mr Monro, 'glorious as it is to the
eye, deficient in water, in its central part, and, for this reason, appears not to be frequented even by the Arabs ; I traversed it for hours without noticing a single tent. The grass and the flowers spring to waste their sweetness and to fall unseen. The soil is light, and the surface elastic; and the uneven foreground swells into hills to the east, which are backed by the mountains of Samaria beyond. I could not help thinking how many & Leicestershire gentleman would cast a covetous eye over this country, would mark it out with posts and rails, root up the cistus, and plant a little gorse.'+
[The seaward plain from Jaffa to the borders of the desert, possesses the general character of low and level sand, and, except a few tracts towards the shore, is very fertile, and frequently beautified with fields of grain, and orchards stocked with olive, pomegranate
, orange, lemon, and fig trees. The soil consists of a fat brown garden mould, and is so extremely light, that almost the only tillage required is the scratch of a plough, whose simplicity of construction is such, that the husbandman carries it on his shoulder to and from the scene of his labours. [The plain of Esdraelon, which is sometimes called
* Trav. in the Levant, vol. ii. p. 434.
also in Scripture, the plain of Jezreel and the valley of Megiddo,* and is now known among the Arabs by the name of Merj Ibn Amir, is a very noble expanse, lying between the mountains of Galilee and Samaria. The boundary which separates it from the great southern plain on the coast, is the prolongation of Carmel, which extends in a south easterly direction, till it is joined by a range of low hills, which gradually rising to a greater height and importance form the mountains of Samaria. Its northern barrier from the lofty peak of Tabor on the east is formed by an abrupt and precipitous ridge, which sinks into a range of lower hills, as it approaches Carmel, and forms the narrow valley through which the Kishon flows to the Mediterranean. Its eastern portion is too irregular to be traced by any definite boundary, and in that quarter it shoots out into three branches or offsets, which run into the valley of the Jordan. The most southerly takes its course by Jenin, along the southern wall of Gilboa. The middle one forms the valley between Gilboa and Little Hermon, and stretches as far as Beisan (Bethshean), while the northern arm, which is the longest and most circuitous, runs up by the eastern side of Tabor to Hattîn. What is singular, the waters of the northern and southern branches of the plain of Esdraelon direct their course westward, and swell the Kishon, while the middle one, sloping by a rapid declivity to the east, pours its stream into the Jordan. This great plain, which is thirty miles long, and about twenty at its greatest breadth, thus traverses nearly the whole breadth of Palestine. Toward the eastern extremity, as already described, the surface is slightly undulating, especially where the various and far-spreading ramifications of Gilboa extend, and on the west it declines towards the Mediterranean. But all over its spacious bosom it is perfectly level, and presents from the adjoining eminences, as far as
* Joshua xvii, 16; 2 Chron, xxxv. 22.