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are troubled and of a yellow hue, and its course impetuous.*
[The original words which, in our translation are rendered - overflows its banks,’ should be more properly rendered 'fills all its banks—has them full to the brink,' a translation which, while it is perfectly accordant with the original, gives the best and only true description of the state of Jordan in harvest, as observed by modern travellers, and thus its appearance at that season now will be found exactly the same as it was in the times of ancient Israel.
[Arnon, a small stream, rising at the foot of a hill of the same name in the Gilead range, on the east of Jordan, winds along the northern extremity of Moab, which it separates from the territories of Ammon and the tribe of Reuben, after which it discharges itself into the Dead Sea. On the banks of this rivulet a decisive battle was fought between the Israelites under Moses, and the Amorites under Sihon, the result of which was the complete discomfiture of that heathen prince.t "The river of Gad,' # as it is also called, still continues to flow in its ancient channel over a course estimated at about sixty miles, which, though in summer almost constantly dry, exhibits very evident traces of being swept over by an impetuous torrent in winter,
[Jabbok, a brook, though sometimes styled by the sacred penmen a river, issues from the m tains of Gilead, and passing Aroer takes a north-westerly course, washes the city of Ramoth-Gilead, and enters the Jordan eight miles below the lake of Gennesareth. It is distinguished for its rapidity. Its channel is very rocky, its breadth about thirty feet, and yet, when full, it is generally deeper than the Jordan. Its banks are well wooded. Anciently it formed the boundary between the kingdom of the Amorites and Gaulonitis, the dominions of Og. § Jacob, on his return from * Volney's Travels, vol. ii. p. 104. # 2 Sam. xxiv. 5.
§ Deut. ii. 37 ; iii. 16.
+ Deut. ii. 26.
Mesopotamia, came to this brook, a little to the north of Jericho. Here he wrestled with the angel, and here he met Esau.*]
Climate and Weather.—[The scriptural division of the year into six seasons of two months duration, was early adopted by the children of Israel, to regulate their domestic habits as well as their occupations in the field; and as the same mode of reckoning still obtains among the Arab population of the Holy Land, it is highly probable that experience has proved it to be peculiarly adapted to the physiological character of a country where, as in most countries of the East, the seasons succeed each other with undeviating regularity. Seed-time extends from the beginning of October to the beginning of December. Winter from the beginning of December to the beginning of February. The cold season, or winter solstice, from the beginning of February to the beginning of April. Harvest from the beginning of April to the beginning of June. Summer from the beginning of June to the beginning of August. Heat, or the summer solstice, from the beginning of August to the beginning of October. Generally speaking, the atmosphere of Palestine is serene and clear to a degree of which our humid and variable climate can give no idea ; and although it is situated so near the equator, the Mediterranean on the west, and the numerous mountains and lakes that diversify its interior, contribute to preserve a salubrity of air even over the more level and exposed plains, unknown to other countries in the same latitude.] But from the mountainous nature of the country, and its diversified exposure, it seems to experience a great variety of temperature. From Tripoli to Sidon, the country is much colder than the rest of the coast farther to the north and to the south, and has a less regular change of seasons. The same remark applies to the mountainous parts of Judea, where the vegetable productions are much later than on the
* Genesis xxxii. 3, 22.
sea coast, or in the neighbourhood of Gaza. The air of Saphet, in Galilee, is, from its elevated situation, so fresh and cool, that the heats which, during the summer, are very great in the adjacent country, are hardly
Josephus takes notice of the same differences of climate in his time; stating, that it was warm near Jericho, while it snowed in other parts of Judea. Egmont and Hayman found the heat in the plain of Jericho extremely troublesome, and for some hours in the day quite insupportable.+ So early as the month of March, the heat actually proved fatal to several persons in the plain of Jericho, the year before these travellers arrived. In the great battle which Baldwin IV., King of Jerusalem, fought with the Saracens, not far from Tiberias in Galilee, a situation considerably more to the north than Jericho, many of his troops died by the heat. The archbishop of Tyre, who writes the narrative, asserts, that the heat at that time, which appears to have been the middle of summer, was so great, that as many died by the heat in both armies as by the sword. After the battle, in their return to their former encampment, an ecclesiastic of some distinction in Baldwin's army, unable to bear the vehement beams of the sun, was carried in a litter, yet he expired under mount Tabor, near the river Kishon.I Reland, in his Palestina, shows that Shunem was in the vicinity of Tabor ;8 and at Shunem, as we learn from the sacred historian, the heat proved fatal to a child in the days of the prophet Elisha, in the time of harvest. How desirable then, how necessary to the comfort, and even to the very existence of life in those scorched regions, must be a covert from the heat, or the shadow of a great rock,' which at once excludes the sun-beam, and
* Shaw's Travels, vol. ii. p. 134; Reland. Palestina, p. 387.
# The sun-beam often strikes the European soldier with instant death.- Forbes' Orient. Mem. vol. ii. p. 70. See Man. & Cust. ij. p. 385.
§ Harmer's Observations, Dr Clarke's edition, vol. i. p. 4, note.
diffuses a refreshing coolness all around ?* It is not without a strict regard to natural phenomena, that the spirit of inspiration directs the spouse to exclaim, “I sat down under his shadow with great delight.'+ Beautiful and striking as these figures are, they give us but a faint idea of that protection and comfort which the true believer derives from the favour of his Redeemer. When the storms of life beat keen and heavy upon his head; when the fires of persecution kindle and blaze around him ; when Satan desires to have him, that he may sift him as wheat, and an accusing conscience fills his bosom with dismay,—he seeks and finds repose in the atoning blood of his Saviour, in the efficacy of his intercession, and in the power of his omnipotent arm. The spreading tree may wither, and the stupendous rock may be tumbled from its base, and the weary traveller may find shelter under them no more; but the mercy of the Lord endures for ever, and he is in every age, and in every place, a present help in the time of trouble.
The fields of Canaan are refreshed with frequent and copious rains, while some of the neighbouring countries are scarcely ever moistened with a shower. In the winter months, the rain falls indiscriminately; but seldom in the summer.
Soon after the heats commence, the grass withers, the flower fades, every green thing is dried up by the roots, and the fields, so lately clothed with the richest verdure, and adorned with the loveliest flowers, are converted into a brown and arid wilderness. To the uniform withered appearance of the fields during the reign of an eastern summer, and not to any particular year of drought, the psalmist refers in these plaintive terms :- My moisture is turned into the drought of summer.'* When conviction slept, and conscience was silent, the soul of David resembled a field refreshed by the genial showers of heaven; but the moment God in anger entered into judgment with
* Isaiah xxxii. 2. † Song ii. 3. # Psalm xxxii. 4.
him, and set his sins in order before his face, his courage failed, his beauty was turned into corruption, and his strength into weakness; the commandment came, sin revived, and he died.' Though the summ
mer in Syria is commonly dry, the heavens are sometimes overcast, and a smart thunder shower suddenly rushes down to refresh the parched soil.* One of these fell at Aleppo in the night between the first and second of July 1743 ; but it was regarded as a very uncommon occurrence at that season. It is probably still more extraordinary at Jerusalem ; for Jerome, who lived long in Palestine, denies, in his commentary on Amos, that he had ever seen rain in those provinces, and expecially in Judea, in the end of June, or in the month of July. It may, however, occasionally fall, though Jerome had never seen it, as it did at Aleppo, while Dr Russel resided in that city. But such an occurrence by no means invalidates the proof which the prophet Samuel gave of his divine mission, when he called for thunder and rain from heaven in the time of wheat harvest ;t since a very rare and unusual event immediately happening without any preceding appearance of it, upon the prediction of a person professing himself to be a prophet of the Lord, and giving it as an attestation of his sustaining that character, is a sufficient proof that his affirmation is true, although a similar event has sometimes happened without any such declared interposition of God, and therefore universally understood to be casual and without design. Nor should it be forgotten that this thunder storm in the book of Samuel, seems to have happened in the day time, while the people of Israel were celebrating the accession of Saul to the throne; a circumstance which, from its singularity, added considerable energy to this event, and, perhaps, was to them a sufficient proof of the miraculous interference of Jehovah. Dr
* Russel's Hist. of Aleppo, vol i. p. 172, and vol. ii. p. 285.