Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

excellent soil were seen rising gradually from the bottom to the top of the mountains, where the vine and the olive, shading the intermediate rocks with the liveliest verdure, and bending under the load of their valuable produce, amply rewarded the toils of the cultivator. The remains of those hanging gardens, those terrace plantations, after the lapse of so many centuries, the revolutions of empire, and the long decline of industry among the miserable slaves that now occupy that once highly favoured land, may still be distinctly traced on the hills and mountains of Judea.* Every spot of ground was in this manner brought into a state of cultivation; every particle of soil was rendered productive; and by turning a stream of water into every field where it was practicable, and leading the little rills into which they divided it, to every plantation, every tree, and every plant, they secured for the most part a constant succession of crops.

* Thus much is certain,' says Volney, and it is the advantage of hot over cold countries, that in the former, wherever there is water, vegetation may be perpetually maintained, and made to produce an uninter

* Richardson's Travels, vol. ii.

+ Dr Clarke describes the road from Lebanon to Nablous as mountainous, rocky, and full of loose stones, and yet the traces of cultivation are every where marvellous, affording one of the most striking pictures of human industry, that it is possible to behold. The lime-stone rocks and abrupt valleys of Judea are entirely covered with plantations of figs, vines, and olive trees; not a single spot seemed to be neglected. The hills, from their bases to their utmost summits, are overspread with gardens, all of them free from weeds and in the highest state of improvement. Even the sides of the most barren mountains have been rendered fertile by being divided into terraces, like steps rising one above another, upon which soil has been accumulated with astonishing labour. A sight of this ter. ritory can alone convey any adequate idea of its surprising produce ; it is truly the Eden of the East, rejoicing in the abundance of its wealth. Under a wise and beneficent government, the produce of the Holy Land, it is asserted, would exceed all calculation. Its perennial harvests, the salubrity of its air, its limpid springs, its rivers, lakes, plains, hills, and vales, added to the serenity of its climate, prove this land to be indeed a 'field which the Lord hath blessed."

Editor.

p. 348

fatal repose.

rupted succession of fruits to flowers, and flowers to fruits. In cold, nay even in temperate climates, on the contrary, nature benumbed for several months, loses in a sterile slumber the third part, or even half the year. The soil which has produced grain, has not time before the decline of summer heat to mature vegetables: a second crop is not to be expected; and the husbandman sees himself condemned to a long and

Syria is exempt from these inconveniences; if, therefore, it so happens that its productions are not such as its natural advantages would lead us to expect, it is less owing to its physical than to its political state.

On this question we have to add the temperament of the people to the physical powers of the country. The Israelite lived upon his own farm, in all the simplicity of rural life ; was content with the produce of his own fields; a little wheat in the ear, or in meal, a few

grapes and olives, dates or almonds, generally constituted his repast: and the great heat of the climate imperiously required him to lead a frugal and abstemious life. It is well known that the inhabitants of warm countries subsist on much less and much lighter food than the people of colder latitudes, and by consequence are capable of living in more crowded habitations. If all these circumstances are duly considered the countless numbers of people, which according to the Old Testament writers once inhabited the land of promise, will neither appear incredible nor exaggerated. I

The extraordinary fruitfulness of Canaan, and the number of its inhabitants during the prosperous times of the Jewish commonwealth, may be traced to another

* Travels, vol. ii. pp. 234, 235.

+ See this statement confirmed by Maundrell, Travels, p. 100. [The population of Palestine in the time of David was upwards of five millions, or between 6000 and 7000 to the square league. See Michaelis' Comment. on the Laws of Moses, vol. i. art. 26.)-Editor.

and still more powerful cause than any that has been mentioned—the special blessing of Heaven, which that favoured people for many ages exclusively enjoyed. We know from the testimony of Moses that the tribes of Israel reposed under the immediate care of Jehovah, their covenanted God and King, enjoyed his peculiar favour, and were multiplied and sustained by a special compact, in which the rest of the nations had no share :

- The Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee.'* But the blessing of Jehovah converts the desert into a fruitful field: for thus it is promised (and what God promises he is able also to perform) :-- The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing ; the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God; for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert, and the parched land shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitations of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass, with reeds and rushes.'+ In this

passage

the blessings of salvation, as exhibited in the present dispensation of grace, are certainly intended; but the use of these figures would be quite improper if the special favour of God could produce no such important changes on the face of nature.

Indeed, the divine blessing has not bestowed the same degree of fruitfulness on every part of Canaan. This fertile country is surrounded by deserts of immense extent, exhibiting a dreary waste of loose and barren sand, on which the skill and industry of man are able to make no impression. The only vegetable * Deuteronomy xxviii. 11.

+ Isaiah xxxv. 1, 2, 6, 7.

productions which occasionally meet the eye of the traveller in these frightful solitudes, are a coarse sickly grass, thinly sprinkled on the sand; a plot of senna, or other saline or bitter herb, or an acacia bush; even these but rarely present themselves to his notice, and afford him little satisfaction when they do, because they warn him that he is yet far distant from a place of abundance and repose.* Moses, who knew these deserts well, calls them great and terrible,' 'a desert land,' the waste howling wilderness. But the completest picture of the sandy desert is drawn by the pencil of Jeremiah, in which, with surprising force and brevity, he has exhibited every circumstance of terror, which the modern traveller details with so much pathos and minuteness :— Neither said they, Where is the Lord that brought us up out of the land of Egypt, that led us through the wilderness, through a land of deserts and of pits, through a land of drought, and of the shadow of death, through a land which no man passed through, and where no man dwelt.'+

Besides these inhospitable deserts which environ the land of promise, the inspired writers mention several wildernesses within its proper limits. In sacred language, a mountainous or less fruitful tract, where the towns and villages are thinly scattered, and single habitations few and far between, is distinguished by the name of the wilderness. The forerunner of our Lord resided in the wilderness of Judea till he commenced his public ministry. We are informed in the book of Genesis, that Ishmael settled in the wilderness of Paran; and in the first book of Samuel, that David took refuge from the persecution of Saul in the same desert, where it appears the numerous flocks of Nabal the Carmelite were pastured. Such places, therefore, were not absolute deserts, but thinly peopled or less fertile districts. But this remark will scarcely apply to the wilderness where our Lord was tempted of the devil. * Bruce's Travels, vol. iv. p. 580, &c. + Jeremiah ii. 6.

It is a most miserable, dry, and barren solitude, "consisting of high rocky mountains, so torn and disordered, as if the earth had here suffered some great convulsion, in which its very bowels had been turned outward.'* A more dismal and solitary place can scarcely be found in the whole earth. About one hour's journey from the foot of the mountains which environ this wilderness, rises the lofty Quarantania, which Maundrell was told is the mountain into which the devil carried our blessed Saviour, that he might show him all the kingdoms and glory of the world. It is, as the evangelist styles it, “an exceeding high mountain,' and in its ascent both difficult and dangerous. It has a small chapel at the top, and another about half way up, founded on a prominent part of the rock. Near the latter are several caves and holes in the sides of the mountain, occupied formerly by hermits, and even in present times the resort of religious devotees, who repair to these lonely cells to keep their lent, in imitation of our Lord's fasting in the wilderness forty days.

Original Inhabitants. The descendants of Canaan, the original possessor of this highly interesting country, are thus enumerated by Moses :—Canaan begat Sidon his first born, and Heth, and the Jebusite, and the Amorite, and the Girgashite, and the Hivite, and the Arkite, and the Senite, and the Arvadite, and the Zemarite, and the Hamathite. All these families were settled at first within the limits of Canaan ; but the increase of population, or what is more likely, the spirit of emigration and adventure, which is strongly felt in countries where much land remains to be occupied, soon carried them beyond the prescribed limits of their paternal inheritance. The original extent of the land of Canaan, is accurately stated by Moses in these words : _The border of the Canaanites was from Sidon, as thou comest to Gerar, unto Gaza ; and as thou goest unto Sodom, and Gomorr and Admah, and Zeboim, even

* Maundrell's Travels.

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »