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time that the Arabs punish with death any one who sets fire to a wheat-field, even though done by accident, we will not greatly wonder that the Philistines should have thus dealt with the family whose injurious conduct had excited their dreaded enemy to this ruinous exploit.
In wandering over the ruins of this curious city I came upon a large serpent, which had just caught one of those pretty crownlarks. The screams and Auttering of the poor captive drew me to the spot, and I succeeded in killing the snake; but the bird was dead. This adventure reminded me of the curse pronounced upon the serpent in Eden: "Dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life." Are there any snakes in the East that eat dust or earth? In our country they are carnivorous or insectivorous, gathering their food from the grass, the rocks, the trees, the water-insects, worms, frogs, birds, and mice, while the larger devour squirrels and hares. We know that in Africa and the East the gigantic anaconda and boa crush to death and swallow down whole gazelles and other animals, but I never heard or read of any that eat dust.
A large black serpent, from four to five feet in length, and at least four inches in circumference, is found in all parts of the country, and is frequently exhibited by gypsies and serpent-charmers in their strolling expeditions. In its food and mode of life it does not differ from those of its kind in other lands. The phrase eat dust, perhaps, has a metaphorical meaning, equivalent to bite the dust, which from time immemorial has been the favorite boast of the Eastern warrior over his enemy. To make him eat dust, or, as the Persians have it, dirt, is the most insulting threat that can be uttered. In pronouncing sentence upon the serpent, we need not suppose that the identical Hebrew words were used which Moses wrote some thousands of years afterwards, but the Jewish law-giver was guided to a proverb which fully expressed the purport of that divine commination.
We may paraphrase it after this fashion : Boast not of thy triumph over a weak woman, proud, deceitful spirit; you shall be overthrown, and reduced to the most abject degradation. The seed of this feeble victim of thy treachery shall yet plant his heel upon thy accursed head, and make thee bite the
i Gen. ii. 14.
FIERY FLYING SERPENTS.
189 dust. This explanation agrees well with the metaphorical manner in which Isaiah uses the proverb. Speaking of the triumph of the Redeemer's kingdom, he says, “ The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat." Then shall this most ancient and glorious prophecy and promise receive its full accomplishment, and the old serpent, with all his evil brood, be made to bite the dust.
May we not find in all this an allusion to the manner in which the serpent has always been killed-by crushing his head into the earth?
Moses speaks repeatedly of fiery serpents,' and Isaiah mentions fiery flying serpents:' are there any such which can properly be said to fly?
The Egyptians seem to have had no hesitation about accommodating serpents with wings. Nothing in their land of wonders astonished me more than the sight of the serpents portrayed on the
9 Numb. xxi. 6.
3 Isa. xxx. 6.
i Isa. Ixv. 25.
stuccoed sides of the sepulchres of the kings in the valley west of Medînet Haboo. As one gropes his way down the ever-descending tunnels to reach the final resting-place of those august potentates, four hundred feet below, the eye gazes upon the endless convolutions of those winged monsters, running in unbroken, horrid folds from the top to the bottom of those dismal galleries; strange, indeed, and suggestive as strange, to find this exaggerated symbol of sin and death inwreathed around the funeral cortege, as if conducting its victim “down to hell, to the sides of the pit," where lie all the kings of the nations, every one in his own house. Isaiah may have seen similar pictures and representations, for they are far older than his day, and from them elaborated his tremendous “proverb against the king of Babylon."
The Hebrew word for these fiery flying serpents is in every case seraph, and Arabic scholars identify it with a kind that darts with great velocity upon its victim, and, when enraged, against its enemies. It would be an endless and useless task to notice all the Oriental fables in regard to these darting seraphs but that there are now, or ever have been, serpents that flew in any but a figurative sense, I do not believe. I put no more faith in modern accounts of such phenomena, however respectable their authors, than I do in the astonishing fables of Herodotus, the marvels of Ælian and Plutarch, or the tales of Admiral Anson, M. Le Blanc, and other like travellers, ancient and modern. Moses probably meant nothing more than that the rebellious Hebrews were attacked in the wilderness of the Red Sea by serpents, whose fatal bite occasioned intense pain and burning heat. But whatever may have been the kind of serpent, the occasion was designed to bring about the exhibition of a most striking and significant type of that promised seed of the woman who was to bruise the head of that Old Serpent whose subtlety beguiled the Mother of Mankind and brought ruin on our race, with loss of Eden, and all else of evil signified thereby.
When passing through that great and terrible wilderness, I saw many places well fitted to be the theatre of that unique and mysterious occurrence. And what a scene for the artist does the brief narrative in the twenty-first chapter of Numbers suggest! A high, 1 Isa. xiv. 15.
2 Isa. xiv. 4, 9.
isolated tell—and there are many such—with the vast congregation wide-spread abroad over the face of the burning desert, perishing with thirst, calling in agony and despair, and finally in wrath and rebellion, for water; for “the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way. And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness ?" Then came amongst them those fiery serpents, and much people of Israel died; but the divine remedy was at hand, and what a strange one it was! A brazen figure of their enemy was lifted up upon a pole, and every one that was bitten when he beheld it lived. And now what wonder and joy throughout the camp. All that were bitten hasten from their tents to look and live. Parents fly with their little ones, and lift their languishing eyes to the miraculous symbol. The aged, the feeble, the dying even, are borne along by relatives and friends from every quarter, and every one that looked upon it revived and lived. See, too, the happy groups returning with shouts of joy and triumph to their distant tents.
There is no call upon us to assume the chair of the critic or the pulpit of the preacher to discover and illustrate the significance of this symbolic transaction. The interpretation of the whole is made sure and perfectly plain by a single sentence of Him who could not be mistaken, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." And so lifted up, may He speedily draw all our sin-smitten race unto Him to look and live. I Numb. xxi. 4, 5.
John iii. 14, 15.
GAZA TO BEIT JIBRIN.
Road to Beit Jibrîn.—No important Ancient Sites.-Altered Condition of the Country and
the People.-Bedawîn Arabs.-Natural Features of Philistia.- View from Tell el Mun. târ.-Er Ruhaibeh to Gaza.–Settled Pastoral Arabs.-Their Manners and Customs illustrative of Patriarchal Life.-Arabs at the Well.-Gerar.–Wady esh Sheri'ah. Discovery of the Site of Gerar.—Tell Jemia.— Jŭrf el Jerrâr, possible Site of the Patriarch’s Encampment.—Themâil, Water Pools.—Wady Ghủzzeh. — Mounds of Broken Pottery. — Peculiar Cisterns. — Strife between the Herdsmen of Gerar and those of Isaac.- Wells of Rehoboth and Beer-sheba.-Covenant between Isaac and Abimelech. —Permanent Withdrawal of Isaac from Gerar.-He dwells in the Negeb.-Muweilih, Beer-lahai-roi.-Wady Jerûr.-Khủlasah, Elusa, Chesil.–Sebâita, Zephath, Hormah.Kadesh-barnea.-Et Tih, Wilderness of Wandering.–Wady Gadîs.—'Ain Gadîs, Kadesh-barnea.—Does the Site meet the Requirements of the Biblical Narrative ?—Eshcol.-Biblical References to Eshcol.–Traditional References to Eshcol.—Isaac's Sojourn in Gerar.-Friendly Relations between Cities and Bedawîn Tribes.-Wells dug by the Patriarchs and Kings.-Towers and Castles to command valuable Wateringplaces.-Stopping up of Wells.- Names of Ancient Sites perpetuated by Remarkable Trees and Fountains.-Refusal of Edom to allow Israel to pass through his Border.Purchase of Water with Money:—Washing with Sand.-Scarcity of Water in the Tîh and in Edom.—The Land where the Patriarchs dwelt. Strange Coincidences in the Life of the Patriarchs at Gerar.-Royal Titles.--Harem.-Domestic Tragedies.—Covenants at Beer-sheba.-Character of Isaac.—Isaac, Rebekah, and Abimelech.- Jacob and Esau. -Isaac deceived by Jacob and his Mother.—Gaza to Beit Jibrîn.-Villages along the Route.—Um Lâkis, Lachish.—'Aijlân, Eglon.—Eglon and Lachish captured by Joshua. -Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar besiege Lachish.—Lachish connected with More. sheth-gath.-Breadth of Philistia.—Road from 'Aijlân to Beit Jibrin.—Tell Zeita.Khărbet Jett.-Shephela, or Low Country.—The Negeb, or South Country.—Tenacity of Ancient Names in the Negeb.—'Akkûb, Wild Artichoke.—The Galgal of Scripture.
April 17th. WHAT sort of country have we before us to-day?
Beautiful in itself, but monotonous—wheat, wheat, a very ocean of wheat. Our road to Beit Jibrîn leads diagonally across the territory of Philistia, and offers an opportunity to become familiar with its physical features and its present productions; but there are no