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to the depth of winter. Thus it has pleased a beneficent Deity to temper the heat of the day by the coolness of the night, without which the greatest part of the East would be a parched and sterile desert, equally destitute of vegetable and animal life. This account is confirmed by a modern traveller. When Campbell was passing through Mesopotamia, he sometimes lay at night in the open fields, rather than enter a town; on which occasions, he says, “I found the weather as piercingly cold as it was distressingly hot in the day time.'* The same difference between the days and nights has been observed on the Syrian bank of the Euphrates; the mornings are cold, and the days intensely hot. † This difference is distinctly marked in these words of the prophet :- Therefore, thus saith the Lord of Jehoiakim, king of Judah; he shall have none to sit upon the throne of David; and his dead body shall be cast out in the day to the heat, and in the night to the frost.'I So just and accurate are the numerous allusions of Scripture to the natural state of the oriental regions; and so necessary it is to study with care the natural history of those celebrated and interesting countries, to enable us to ascertain with clearness and precision the meaning, or to discern the beauty and force, of numerous passages of the sacred volume.
[Notwithstanding the general salubrity of the atmosphere in Palestine, this country was anciently, as well as in modern times, liable to be visited by the plague, which, as it still does, made its silent and insidious approaches from Egypt and the adjacent countries, and which is often alluded to by the sacred writers, and particularly the Psalmist.§
[Palestine was also frequently subject to earthquakes, as might have been expected from its physical character and situation; and it is a remarkable cir* Journey over Land, p. 101.
+ Harm. vol. i. p. 114. # Jeremiah xxxvi. 30.
§ Psalm xi. 6, where a horrible tempest is in the margin better rendered a burning tempest,' i.e. the plague.
cumstance, that although all other parts of the land seem to have been occasionally the scene of those terrible convulsions, the capital was almost wholly free from them.* It was not merely the shaking of the ground that gave to these occurrences their alarming character, but they were frequently attended with land slips,-large tracts of ground, especially such as lay on declivities, on which a large portion of the land of Palestine was situated, being suddenly swept away with all they contained. To such tremblings and removals of the earth the Scriptures contain frequent striking allusions.t
[Volcanoes, too, were among the other phenomena of nature which an angry Providence sometimes employed to bring the inconstant people of this land to faith and duty. It has been already mentioned that on the bed of the Dead Sea, and along the plain of the Jordan northwards, there are traces of volcanic action. An extinct crater has been lately discovered not far from Tiberias, and still farther north we are informed by an intelligent and most observant traveller, that from the bridge of Jacob to Jana, on the road to Damascus, the whole way is composed of nothing but lava, basaltes, and other volcanic productions ;-all is black, porous, or carious. These are evident signs, he adds, that all this country was formerly filled with volcanoes, for we beheld several small cratersin traversing the plain. I The inspired writers unquestionably had these subterranean furnaces of fire in view when they employed the striking images contained in the passages quoted below.g]
General Fertility of Palestine.—The soil, both of the maritime and inland parts of Syria and Phænicia, is of a light loamy nature, and easily cultivated. Syria may be considered as a country consisting of three long strips of land, exhibiting different qua
* Psalm xlvi. 2-5.
+ Psalm cxiv. 6; Isaiah xxiv. 1. # Travels of Ali Bey, vol. iii. p. 263. $ Isaiah Ixiv. 1-3; Jeremiah li. 25; Micah i. 3; Nahum i. 5.
lities: one extending along the Mediterranean, forming a warm humid
valley, the salubrity of which is doubtful, but which is extremely fertile; the other, which forms its frontier, is a hilly rugged soil, but more salubrious: the third, lying beyond the eastern hills, combines the drought of the latter with the heat of the former. We have seen by what a happy combination of climate and soil this province unites in a small compass the advantages and productions of different zones, insomuch that the God of nature seems to have designed it for one of the most agreeable habitations of this continent. The soil is a fine mould, without stones, and almost without even the smallest pebble. Volney himself, who furnishes the particulars of this statement, is compelled to admit, that what is said of its actual fertility, exactly corresponds with the idea given of it in the Hebrew scriptures.* Wherever wheat is sown, if the rains do not fail, it repays the cultivator with profusion, and grows to the height of a man. The mount of Olives near Jerusalem, and several other districts in Judea and Galilee, are covered with olive plantations, whose fruit is equal to any produced in the Levant. The fig trees in the neighbourhood of Joppa are equally beautiful and productive as the olive.t Were the Holy Land as well inhabited and cultivated as formerly, Dr Shaw declares it would still be more fruitful than the very best part of Syria or Phænicia; for the soil itself is generally much richer, and all things considered, yields a preferable crop. I Thus, the cotton, which is
* Volney's Travels, vol. i. p. 215, and vol. ii. pp. 190, 213, et seq. [The language of other writers is to the same purport :- How some authors have described this goodly land,' says Wilde, ' as so unfertile, as to warrant the assertions of Voltaire, that he would not receive a present of it from the sultan, I know not, as the appearance of the plain of Sharon alone would refute so gross a misstatement.') -Editor.
| Hasselquist's Travels, p. 117-119.
gathered in the plains of Rama, Esdraelon, and Zebulun, is in greater esteem, according to that excellent writer, than what is cultivated near Sidon and Tripoli; neither is it possible for pulse, wheat, or grain of any kind, to be richer or better tasted than what is commonly sold at Jerusalem. The barrenness, or scarcity rather, of which some authors may either ignorantly or maliciously complain, does not proceed, in the opinion of Dr Shaw, from the incapacity or natural unfruitfulness of the country, but from the want of inhabitants, and from the great aversion to labour and industry in those few by whom it is possessed. The perpetual discords and depredations among the petty princes who share this fine country, greatly obstruct the operations of the husbandman, who must have small encouragement to sow, when it is quite uncertain who shall gather in the harvest. It is in other respects a fertile country, and still capable of affording to its neighbours the like ample supplies of corn and oil, which it is known to have done in the time of Solomon, who gave yearly to Hiram twenty thousand measures of wheat for food to his household, and twenty measures of pure oil. *
The parts about Jerusalem particularly, being rocky and mountainous, have been supposed to be barren and unfruitful; yet, granting this conclusion, which is, however, far from being just, a country is not to be characterized from one single district of it, but from the whole. And besides, the blessing which was given to Judah, was not of the same kind with the blessing of Asher or of Issachar, that ‘his bread should be fat or his land pleasant, but that ' his eyes should be red with wine, and his teeth should be white with milk.'+ [Joliffe tells us that he was particularly struck, in passing through the ancient territories of Judah, with the extremely white teeth of the shepherds, aris
* See also Dr Clarke's Trav. vol. iii. part 2, chap. 16.
ing from their diet consisting almost wholly of prepartions of milk, without animal food.] In the estimation of the Jewish lawgiver, milk and honey (the chief dainties and subsistence of the earlier ages, as they still continue to be of the Bedouin Arabs), are the glory of all lands; these productions are either actually enjoyed in the lot of Judah, or, at least, might be obtained by proper care and application. The abundance of wine alone, is wanting at present; yet the acknowledged goodness of that little, which is still made at Jerusalem and Hebron, clearly proves, that these barren rocks as they are called, would yield a much greater quantity, if the abstemious Turk and Arab would permit the vine to be further propagated and improved.
Wild honey, which formed a part of the food of John the Baptist in the wilderness, may indicate to us the great plenty of it in those deserts; and that consequently, taking the hint from nature, and enticing the bees into hives and larger colonies, it might be produced in much greater quantity.* The great abundance of wild honey is often mentioned in Scripture; a memorable instance of which occurs in the first book of Samuel :— And all they of the land came to a wood, and there was honey upon the ground; and when the people were come the wood, behold the honey dropped.'+ This circumstance perfectly accords with the view which Moses gave of the promised land, in the song with which he closed his long and eventful career: ~He made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.'. That good land preserved its character in the time of David, who thus celebrates the distinguishing bounty of God to his chosen people : - He would have fed them also with the finest of the wheat, and with honey out of the rock would I have satisfied thee.'s In these holy strains, the sacred poet
* Josephus, accordingly calls Jericho Melittotpopov xwpav, the honey-bearing country. † 1 Sam. xiv. 25, 26. # Deut. xxxii. 13. § Psalm lxxxi. 16.