« AnteriorContinuar »
as plainly show, that the bare want of culture is the principal, if not the only cause, of its present poverty and barrenness. We shall hiirt, as a fair proof of this, what a learned traveller hath written of it from his own observations.
“ The Holy Laid,” says Dr. Shaw,“ were it as well peopled and cultivated, as in former times, would still be more fruitful than the very best part of the coast of Syria and Phenice ; for the soil is generally much richer, and, all things considered, yields a preferable crop. Thus the cotton that is gathered in the plains of Rumah, Esdrælon, and Zebulun, is in greater esteem than what is cultivated near Sidon and Tripoli. Neither is it possible, that pulse, wheat, or any sort of grain, to be more excellent than what is sold at Jerusalem. The barrenness, or scarcity, which some authors may either ignorantly or maliciously complain of, doth not proceed from the incapacity or natural unfruitfulness of the country, but from the want of inhabitants, and the great aversion there is to labour and industry in those few who possess it. There are, besides, such per petual discords and depredations among the petty princes who share this fine country, that, allowing it was better peopled, yet there would be small encouragement to sow, when it was uncertain who should gather in the harvest. Otherwise the land is a good land, and still capable of affording its neighbours the like supplies of corn and oil, which it is known to have done in the time of Solomon,"
And Volney, in his travels in Egypt and Syria, observes, that though the whole of Palestine is almost an entire level plain, without either river or rivulet ia summer, and only watered by the winter torrents, the soil is yet good, and may even be termed fertile; so when the winter rains do not fail, every thing springs up in abundance, and the earth, which is black and fat, retains moisture sufficient for the growth of grain and vegetables during the summer. More doura, sesarum, watermelus, and beans, are sown here, than in any other part of the country. They also raise cotton, barley, and wheat; but though the latter be most esteemed, it is less cultivated, for fear of too much inviting the avarice of the Turkish governors, and the rapacity of the Arabs.
Judea, in its largest sense, was divided into maritime and inland, as well as into mountainous and champaign ; and again subdivided into Judea on this side, and Judea beyond Jordan. But the most considerable division is that which was made among the twelve tribes by lot, to prevent all murmuring and discontent among that
that stubborn ple, if these two and a half were seated beyond Jordan, and the rest on this side. The next remarkable division was made by king Solomon, who divided his kingdom into twelve provinces or districts, each under a peculiar officer, and every one of these was to supply the king with provisions in his turn, that is, each for one month in the year. But the most fatal division of all was that obtained under his imprudent son Jeroboam, who became head of this new monarchy, styled the kingdom of Israel, in opposition to that of Judah, the which distinguished the kingdom of Rehoboam. Under the second temple the distinction lasted a considerable time, and as the same bloody hatred and hostilities continued between these two kingdoms, that of Israel took the name of Samaria from its capital. The inhabitants were a mixture of the old Israelites, and of new colonics sent thither by the kings of Assyria after their conquest of it, till they were subdued by the Maccabces, and their metropolis destroyed. Under the Romans it began to be divided into tetrarchies and toparcbies; the larger were of Judea, Samaria, and Galilee Upper and Lower ; the lesser, those of the Geraritica, Sarona, and others of less note, all which lay on this side of the Jordan. The rest, on the other side, were of Gilead, Paræa, Gaulonitis, Auranitis, Betaneu, and Decapolis. Josephus mentious another division, in Gabinius's time, into five districts, or, as he styles them, suredria, or councils, agreeable to the Roman manner ; these were Jerusalem, Jericho, and Sephoris, on this side Jordan ; and Gadaris and Amathus on the other,
Before we proceed to consider the topography of this country, it will be proper to give some account of its principal mountains, seas, rivers, lakes, deserts, plains, &c. We begin with the mountains, of which Lebanon is the most distinguished.
Lebanon is a famous chain of mountains, which serves as a common boundary to Syria and Palestine. They have been distinguished by the names of Libanus and Antilibanus, the former name being derived from the whiteness of the snow with which the tops of these mountains are covered, during the greatest part of the year ; and the latter, from the situation of thai ridge, which is supposed to run in a sort of parallel apposition to the other. It is computed about one hundred leagues in compass, and hath Mesopotamia on the east, Armenia on the north, Palestine on the south, and the Mediterranean on the west. It consists of four ridges of mountains, which rise one above the other ; the first of which is very fertile in grain and fruit; the second is barren and rocky, producing nothing but briars and thorns; the third, though still higher, is said to enjoy a constant verdure and spring, the gardens and orchards producing such a variety of fruits, herbs, &c. that it hath been styled an earthly paradise ; this presents a striking contrast to the fourth and highest region, which is utterly uninhabitable by reason of the cold. There are several considerable rivers that have their source on this mountain, viz. the Jordan, Rocham, Nahar-Rossian, and Nahar-Cadicha ; the first only of which runs through Palestine, and will be spoken of in its place. Besides these are several others of a lesser stream that run between the valleys, particularly that of Abonali, which flows down into the Romantic valley, so called, because surrounded, on all sides, with high rocks. This river runs with a rapid course and great noise, and is so covered with trees that it is hardly to be seen. These rivers, in coming down from such heights, form several beautiful cascades, like those of the Nile. Some antient fathers, as St. Jerome and Eusebius, have described the Liban and Antilaban as one continued ridge, winding about in the form of an horse-shoe, which begins about three or four leagues from the Mediterranean, a little above Smyrna ; and running southward, towards Sidon, began, there, to take an eastern course towards Damascus ; bending thence northward, towards Laodicea Cabiosa. The western ridge is what is properly called Libanus, as the eastern is Antilibanus, and the hollow between Calosyria. The worst of this mountain is, that it has mostly been, and is still to this day, a place of retreat and refuge for vast numbers of robbers and other desperate people.
The next in dignity for height is mount Hermor, which, like Lebanon, appears capped with snow, and was once famed for an ancient temple held in great veneration, and much resorted to by the superstitious heathens from all the neighbouring countries; and, in the Psalms, it is celebrated for its refreshing dews, which descended on the adjoining one of Sion. St. Jerome tells us, that its snow was carried away to Tyre, Sidon, &c. to be mixed with the drink of the inhabitants ; and that the Chaldees and Samaritans style it the mount of snow.
Mount Tabor has its name from the Hebrew, Thabur, which signifies the navel, on account of its eminent form, and rising, as it were, from a plain ; and it is admired for its beauty, regularity, fertility, and constant verdure. It is supposed to be here that our Lord was transfigured.
Carmel stands on the skirts of the sea, and is the most remarkable head of land in all that coast. It extends, eastward, from the sea, as far as the plain of Jezrecl, lately mentioned ; and from the bay of its name quite to Cæsarea, on the scuth. It seems to have been so called on account of its fertility. Carmel is the name of the mountain, and of a city built on it, and of an beathen deity worshipped in it, but without either temple or statue ; though some temple there jõust have been on it, since Tamblichus tells us, this place was the favourite retreat of Pythagoras, who spent a good deal of time in the temple without any person with him. But what had rendered it most celebrated and revered, both by Jews and Christians, is, its having been the residence of Elijah, who is supposed to have lived in a cave, which is there shewn, before he was taken up into heaven ; as it was also the scene where that great prophet, by calling for a miraculous fire from heaven, which consumed the divine sacrifice, convinced the Israelites of their folly, in balting between their God and Baal. On which account, the Christians began, from the earliest ages, to shew a more than ordinary veneration for it ; and both the mountain and cave of Elias, as well as the place where they tell you was his garden, are visited and reverenced, not only by Christians and Jews, but by the very Mohammedans.
The mount of Olives stands about a mile distant from Jerusalem, and commands the prospect of the whole city, from which it is parted by the brook Kidron, and the valley of Jehoshaphat. It is not a single hill, but, rather, part of a long ridge with three (or, according to Mr. Pocock, four) heads or summits, extending from north to south, the middlemost of which is that from the top of which our Saviour ascended up into heaven, and which, it is pretended, still wears the print of his foot.
Mount Calvary, alias Golgotha, is held in the greatest veneration, on account of our Saviour's crucifixion upon it. It had those two names, probably, from its roundness, or resemblance to an human scull, and stood, antiently, without the walls of the city, it being the place where the criminals used to be put to death according to the Mosaic law. But Constantine the Great, after his conversion, caused it to be inclosed within the new walls, and erected a magnificent church over it ; and it has continued a place of as great veneration among the Christians, as ever the temple was among the Jew's.
Mount Moriah, on which the famous temple of Solomon was built, stands southeast of Calvary, having Millo on the west, so called, from the filling up of that decp valley, in order to raise it to a level with the rest.
Mount Gihon stood west of Jerusalem, and at a smaller distance than Calvary, viz about two furlonigs distance froin Bethlehem's gate. It was here that Solomon was, by his father's express command, anointed king, by the prophet Nathan, and Zadok the high-priest. There was a celebrated pool of that name upon it, whose water king Hezekiah caused to be brought, by an aqueduct, into the city. It is still a stately pool, one hundred and six paces long, and sixty-seven broad, lined with a wall of plaster, and well stored with water. We shall conclude this description of the mountains with observing, that those in the kingdom of Judah mostly stand southward of it, towards the land of Edom, but those of the kingdom of Israel are interspersed within it.
There are, also, many other mountains of inferior note.
The most distinguished plains are two; that which is commonly called the plain of Jordan, otherwise, the wilderness of Jordan, that is comparatively barren with some other of the more delightful parts of it, of which we may have farther occasion to speak. The other is styled the great plain of Esdraelon, or great plain and valley of Jezreel, the fields of Esdrela, and the plain of Legion, the first of which names it had from the capital city Jezreel, or Esdrelon, and reached from Scythopolis to mount Carmel. Mr. Reland thinks this great plain to have reached partly into Galilee, and partly into Samaria. Besides these two, which are the most remarkable plains in all Palestine, we may add, that the whole coast, from mount Carmel down to the southermost borders of it, towards Idumea, is, altogether, a plain, level ground, excepting here and there some small and gentle hills, or sandy heaps This great extent, however, was not all known, or called by the same name, after the second temple ; for the northern part of it, from Joppa to Cæsarea, and no further, was called Sharon, Snron, or Sarora; and was
very fertile in pasture grounds, in which, Mr. Reland thinks, the Gadites fed their numerous herds and flocks, and bred such vast quantities of cattle. The southern part of it was called Sephelah, or the plain, and extended westward and southward of Eleutheropolis, which name was given still, in Eusebius and St. Jerome's time, to all that tract. The plain of Jericho, though rather a part of the great plain, properly so called, is likewise much celebrated in scripture, for its fine palm-trees, its balm-shrub, as well as for its famed rose and rose-tree, with which the whole plain was said to be almost covered ; and several wonderful virtues, are, without any foundation, attributed to it, by authors, and by the inhabitants of those plains : one of them, however, is certain, viz. that it is incorruptible ; and being kept sonie little while in water, will blow, and appear in full bloom, and being taken out, it closes up again, and this it will do at any scason of the year.
We find a great many deserts and wildernesses in this country, mentioned in the sacred books, by which, however, must not be understood places quite barren, destitute, or uninhabited, there being several of them which had cities and villages, rich, and well peopled, and few cities there were here that had not some desert, according to the scripture idiom, belonging to it, for the feeding of their cattle : so that the word commonly meant no more than a land or tract, that bore neither corn, winc, or oil, but was left to its spontaneous production. Accordingly we find in the desert of Judah, where the Baptist preached, no less than six cities, besides the villages belonging to them, to wit, Bethabara, Middin, Secacah, Nibshan, the city of Salt, and that of Engaddi.
To ihese we may add some woods or forests, mentioned also in holy writ, such as, particularly, those of Hareth, in the tribe of Judah, to which David withdrew from Saul ; of Ephraim, where Absalom received the due reward of his unnatural rebellion, (this stood on the other side Jordan, not far from Mahanaim, where David aboda while the battle was fought ;) that of Lebanon, where Solomon built a stately palace, so calle:1, in all probability, on account of the many stately trees that shaded it ; the forest of Bethel, supposed to have stood near the city of that name, whence the two. she bears came, and devoured the children who wisulted the prophet Elisha. Others of less note we pass over, to come to the seas, lakes, and rivers, of the country.
We begin with the seas, of which there are commonly reckoned five ; viz. the Mediterranean, called, by the sacred writers, the Great sea. 2. The Dead sea, or lake of Sodom. 3. The sea of Tiberias. 4. The Samachonite sea, or lake. And 5. The sea of Jazer; which last was but a small lake near the city of that name : so that only the first of them deserved the name of sea, and this they distinguished, not only with the title of Great, but of Salt sea, sea of the Philistines, and also the Hinder sea, or sea behind one, from its situation with respect to the land. The Dead sea, called also, from its situation, the East sea, the Salt sea, the sea of Sodom, the sea of the desert, and sea of the plain, by the sacred writings, ; and by other authors, the Asphaltite lake, on aecount of the vast quantities of that bituminous drug, which are thrown up by its wayes, and thence, by the wind, towards the shore. Josephus assures us, it rises in lumps, as big as an ox without its head. Some are even larger, and others smaller, and in great request among physicians and embalmers. Many things have been said and written of this famous, or, if they were true, rather infamous lake ;.snch as, that it arose from the submersion of the vale of Siddim, where once stood, as is commonly reported, the three cities which perished in the miraculous conflagration, with those of Sodom and Gomorrah, for their unnatural and detestable wickedness ; on which account, this lake hath been looked upon as a lasting monument of the just judgment of God, to deter mankind from such abominations. Hence, it is added, that the waters of the lake are so impregnated with salt, sulphur, and other bitumizous stuff
that nothing would sink or live in it; and that it casť such stench and smoke, that the very birds died in attempting to fly over it. The description, likewise, of the apples that grew about it, fair without, and only ashes and bitterness within, which were looked upon as a farther monument of God's anger: so, likewise, the description which travellers give, not only of the lake, but of all the country round about, of the whole appearing dreadful to behold, all sulphurous, bituminous, stinking, and suffocating ; and, lastly, what hath been farther affirmed of the ruins of the five cities, still being to be scen in clear weather, and having been actually seen in these later times ; all thcse surprising things, and ill-grounded notions, though commonly, and so long received emong Christians, have been of late so much exploded, not only by the testimony of many credible witnesses, but even by the authority of scripture, that we must be obliged to give them up as pious inventions, unless we will suppose the face and nature of all these things to have been entirely changed.
As to the water, it is, though clear, so impregnated with salt, that those that dive into it come out covered with a kind of brine. There is one remarkable thing relating to this lake, generally agreed on by all travellers and geographers, viz. that it receives the waters of Jordan, (a considerable river we shall speak of in the sequel,) the brooks of Jabok, Kishon, Arnon, and other springs, 'whicl flow into it from the adjacent mountains, and yet never overflows, though there is no visible way to be found by which it discharges the great influx. The common opinion is, that it hath some subterraneous vent, either in the Mediterranean or the Red sea. It is inclosed on the east and west with exceeding high mountains, many of them craggy, and dreadful to behold : on the north has the plain of Jericho; and, if we take in both sides of the Jordan, it has the great plain, properly so called, on the south, which is open, and extends beyond the reach of the eyo. Josephus gives this lake five hundred and eighty furlongs in length, from the mouth of the Jordan, to the town of Segor on the opposite end, that is, about twenty-two leagues, and about an hundred and fifty, or five leagues, in its largest breadth : but our moderni' accounts commonly give it twenty-four leagues in length, and six or seven in breadth. On the west side of it is a kind of promontory, where they pretend to shew thie remains of Lot's metamorphosed wife. Josephus says it was still standing in his time ; but when prince Radziville inquired after it, they told him there was no such salt pillar or statue to be seen in all that part. However, they have found means, about a century after him, to recover, as they pretended to assure Mr. Maundrell, a block, or stump of it, which may, in time, grow up, with a little art, to its antient bulk.
The sea of Tiberias, or Galilee, is, in most respects, quite opposite to that of Sodom, and is highly commended, by the Jewish historian, amongst other things, for the sweetness, coolness, and excellency of its water, and the abundance and variety of fine fish that breed in it, contrary to the other, which suffers nothing to live in it, and whose waters are represented as altogether distasteful and horrid. The river Jordan rung quite through it, and supplies it with fresh water ; and here it was that St. Peter, Åndrew, John, and James, exercised their profession of fishermen. Josephus gives it an hundred furlongs in length, and about forty in breadth.
None of the rivers of Palestine, except Jordan, deserve any particular description, the others being chiefly brooks which are dried up in the summer.
The Jordan has its source among the mountains of Lebanon, and taking a southerly direction, it passes through the Samaehonite lake, a place of water mentioned in the scriptures. After this, it pursues a course of about eighteen or twenty miles more, exclusive of its windings, enters into the sea of Tiberias on the north side of it, and comes out again on the south side, at a small distance from the city of that name. It then flows still south-westward,