« PreviousContinue »
BEIT JIBRÎN TO HEBRON.
BEIT JIBRIN TO HEBRON.
Distance from Beit Jibrîn to Hebron.—Wady el Feranj.-Terkûmieh, Tricomias. —'Ain
el Kûff.—Mandrakes.- Route from Beit Jibrîn to Hebron.—Idhna, Jedna.-Neby Nûh. -Dûra, Adoraim.-Et Teffûh, Beth-tappuah.--Approach to Hebron.—Earliest Patriarchal Times.—Death and Burial of Sarah.—Tomb of the Patriarchs.-Mourning of the Egyptians at Jacob's Funeral.-Ceremonies attending the Death and Burial of Modern Sheikhs.-Threshing.floor of Atad.— Prominent Part taken by Women at Funerals.Dirge.- Male Mourners.— Abraham's Negotiation for the Purchase of Machpelah.Weighing of Money. — Specifications in Contracts. — The Stranger. — Intermediary Agents.—Hebron built before Zoan in Egypt.-Biblical References to Hebron.--Caleb. - David King in Hebron.—Hebron rarely mentioned by Ancient Historians.-Crusaders.-Anakims.—Zamzummims.-Giants.-Og, Eliezer of Damascus.—Rabbi Jochanan.-Mutawâly Sheikh.-Red Pottage.—Lentiles.-Jacob and Esau.—Retributive Justice. — Jacob a Fugitive from his Home. — Domestic Habits of the Patriarchs and Sheikhs of Bedawîn Tribes.- Jacob and Moses at the Well.-Covered Cisterns and Wells.—Significant in Connection with the Open Fountain. - Procession in Celebration of the Rite of Circumcision.—Antiquity of the Rite.-Eliezer's Mission to Mesopotamia.
- Marriage restricted to Kindred. — Eliezer's Outfit with Provisions and Presents. — Women at the Fountain.—Rebekah at the Well.-Jewels and Ornaments.—Reception by Laban.—Rebekah and Isaac.—David reigns in Hebron.–Subjective Basis of many of his Lyric Compositions. The Eighteenth Psalm.— Natural Features of Southern Palestine suggestive Symbols of Jehovah.-Horn of Salvation.—Horns of the Altar.Hebron a City of Refuge.—Personal Adventure.- Nâblus a City of Refuge. -Purpose for which Cities of Refuge were Established.-Scant Justice accorded to the Innocent.Talmudical Traditions.-Refuge.-Transference from the Visible Symbol to the Spiritual Truth symbolized.
April 19th. The distance to Hebron, you say, is about eighteen miles, through a mountainous country, with but few inhabited villages.
Two roads lead over the mountains in that direction: one along Wady el Feranj, which our muleteers wish to take ; and another south of it, by the villages of Idhna and et Teffûh. I propose that we take the latter; but the men will go direct, and pitch our tents on the threshing-floor of Hebron. You will not lose much by the
choice of the more southern route, for there is very little along the other to see, and I can easily describe it, as I have traversed it more than once.
For some distance east of Beit Jibrîn Wady el Feranj is broad and fertile, and the ascent is very gradual. Side valleys come in from the right and left, opening up long. vistas in the heart of the mountains. One of them descends from the vicinity of Terkûmieh, the Tricomias of ecclesiastical celebrity. I remember that on my first visit to this region we found at the mouth of that valley a large encampment of Arabs, with whose goats, dogs, and half-naked children, we were both amused and annoyed. Escaping from the clamorous importunity of those Ishmaelites, we came in about two hours to 'Ain el Kûff, the only fountain in Wady el Feranj. Here were many people with jars and skin bottles, to carry water to their homes on the mountain-an unmistakable evidence that good water is scarce in that region; and had not the muleteers filled their own bottles, we would have suffered no slight inconvenience in the long ascent which followed, for we found no water from that fountain to the vineyards of Hebron.
We stopped to rest, about half-way up Wady 'Ain el Kûff, at a sheepfold under the southern cliff of the ravine; and there I saw the mandrake, with its broad leaves and green apples, and my curiosity was excited by the discussion which followed in our party about the singular contract between Rachel and Leah for Reuben's mandrakes.'
Into that we shall not now enter, nor question the motives which induced Rachel to make the purchase. I, for one, don't know. As to the mandrakes themselves something more may be said. The Hebrew name is dudâîm-love-plant; the Arabic, tủffâh el jan—apples of the jan, or evil spirits. It is the Mandragora officinalis of botanists, and of the family Solanceæ. It has a long and large tap-root, frequently forked, which was said to resemble the shape of a man. In early spring it puts forth many leaves, about four inches wide and a foot long, and lying nearly flat on the ground; in shape they are like the lettuce, but of a darker green. The flower-stalks are of unequal lengths, from three inches or more
1 Gen. xxx. 14-16.
THE MANDRAKE.—BEIT JIBRÎN TO HEBRON.
to scarcely any stem, each bearing a single purple flower, similar in form to that of the potato. In size and shape the fruit resembles
the average plum, while in color it is of a dull orange-yellow, fading into green. It lies in the
centre of the leaves, like an egg in a nest, and, when ripe, contains a soft fleshy pulp, possessing a peculiar but not very unpleasant smell, and a sweetish taste. They are said to produce dizziness, but I have seen the natives eat them with
out experiencing any such effect. The Arabs, however, believe
them to be stimulating and exhila
rating, even to insanity; and hence the name, Apples of the Evil Spirits. They appear to have been held in
higher estimation in ancient times than at present. Even
the wise King Solomon mentions them in his Song of
Songs, in connection with the choice productions of his
vineyards: “The mandrakes give a smell, and at our gates
are all manner of pleasant fruits, new and “Reu
ben went in the days of wheat-harvest, and found man
drakes in the field, and brought them unto his mother
Leah ;” and it is then that they are still found ripe and
eatable on the lower ranges of Lebanon and Hermon,
where I have frequently seen them. They grow also in
great numbers in the fields around the desolate ruins of old Shiloh.
We have paid no attention to the country through which we have been passing for the last two hours.
It is one of the most forsaken and desolate routes in Palestine. From the church of Santa Hanneh the path follows the valley for an hour, then rises over a considerable ridge, and again descends down a narrow glen in front of the village of Idhna, which we are approaching. There is little to detain us at this place; for though
the site is no doubt that of the Jedna mentioned in the Onomasticon, there are no remains of antiquity about it, nor can it be mentioned in connection with any Scriptural name. The village is small, divided by a shallow wady, and, as in many other places, the inhabitants-rude Moslem peasants-are separated into two antagonistic clans, occupying opposite quarters, and each headed by their sheikh, with his kůsr, or tower. In the oft-recurring neighborhood feuds they take sides, following their leaders much as did the Highland clans of Scotland in former times. The surrounding country is broken up by ravines, which run down northwards, and unite with Wady el Feranj.
The road from Idhna to et Teffûh passes through a wilderness of rocky ridges and barren hills, and we shall find the ascent tedious and fatiguing. Here and there one sees in the distance a whitedomed wely, generally near a modern village or the indistinct ruins of an ancient one. On a hill far to the south we see the tomb of Neby Nûh, the Prophet Noah, which indicates the position of Dûra, a place identified with the Biblical Adoraim. It is mentioned in 2 Chronicles xi. 9 amongst the places fortified by Rehoboam, and associated with Maresha, which is many miles to the west of it.
Teffûh is undoubtedly the Beth-tappuah mentioned in Joshua as amongst the “cities with their villages" in the inheritance of Judah, and one of nine, including Hebron.' Its Hebrew name sig. nifies place or house of apples, and it may have been celebrated for this fruit even in the time of Joshua.
It occupies a very lofty position, and is surrounded by fine olivegroves, vineyards, and fig-orchards-a very agreeable contrast to most of the region which we have traversed to-day. Are there any remains of antiquity there?
Built into the walls of some of the rude habitations of the natives, and scattered about the place, are a few large stones and old foundations, which belonged to ancient edifices, houses or castles, perhaps both-enough to justify the claim to its significant name. The descent from et Teffûh to Hebron will take nearly two hours, and for the last half-hour the road leads through the vast vineyards of that city.
| Josh. xv. 20, 53.
APPROACH TO HEBRON.-BURIAL OF SARAH.
Whatever may be true in regard to the road hither, the appearance of Hebron itself, lying in deep repose along the vale of Mamre, is quite beautiful. The time of our visit is, doubtless, most favorable, for Nature upon these mountains is now in her holiday dress; and when we began to descend towards the city, the lengthening shadows of the western hills had just dropped their sober curtains over the scene, softening its somewhat rugged features, and thereby greatly enhancing its charms.
Seen under other circumstances, the impression might be much less agreeable; but, apart from natural scenery, no intelligent traveller can approach Hebron with indifference. No city in Palestine so carries one back to earliest patriarchal times. Manners and customs, and modes of action, and even idioms of speech, have changed but little since the day when Abraham dwelt here amongst "the sons of Heth.” Take the account of the death and burial of Sarah, found in the twenty-third chapter of Genesis, as an example. “Sarah died in Kirjath-arba; the same is Hebron: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her.” There is something formal in this remark; but the act is in perfect accordance with present customs, which demand that there should be loud, boisterous, uncontrollable weeping, mourning, beating of the breast, waving of the arms, and every other external manifestation of great sorrow. Such was this funeral mourning made by the great emeer Abraham in manifestation of his affection for his beloved wife, and his great grief at her death ; but, besides this public tribute to the memory of Sarah, he no doubt sincerely lamented her loss in the privacy of his own tent.
The manners and customs of any people form a very interesting study, and it is especially gratifying to meet with anything that illustrates those of Bible times.
There is no lack of examples in the Sacred Scriptures which furnish occasion for such illustrations; and in reference to the three great epochs in human life—marriage, birth, and death-Oriental customs, always numerous, have ever been singularly striking and suggestive, and perpetuated in this country from age to age, down to our own time. Our present position and surroundings, in full view of Machpelah, naturally calls attention to the close of life, and