Page images

have filled his belly. The “husks"-a mistranslation—are fleshy pods somewhat like those of the honey-locust-tree, from six to ten inches long and one broad, lined inside with a gelatinous substance not wholly unpleasant to the taste when thoroughly ripe. I have seen large orchards of this kharûb in Cyprus, where it is still the food which the swine do eat. In Syria, where we have no swine, or next to none, the pods are ground up, and a species of molasses expressed, which is much used in making certain kinds of sweetmeats. The tree is an evergreen, and casts a most delightful and refreshing shade to the weary traveler. In this country they do not yield large crops, but in Cyprus, Asia Minor, and the Grecian Islands, you will see fullgrown trees bending under half a ton of green pods. The kharûb is often called St. John's Bread, and also Locust-tree, from a mistaken idea about the food of the Baptist in the wilderness. It is the Ceratonia siliqua of Linnæus.

That noble tree before us, with giant arms low down and wide open, must be the Syrian sycamore. I once heard an itinerant preacher in the “back woods” puzzle himself and his hearers with an elaborate criticism about the tree into which Zaccheus climbed to see the Saviour. He and his audience were familiar only with the sycamores of our flat river bottoms, tall as a steeple, and smooth as hypocrisy. “Why,” said the orator, “a squirrel can't climb them.” The conclusion reached was that the sycamore must have been a mulberry-tree. But nothing is easier than to climb into these sycamores; and, in fact, here is a score of boys and girls in this one; and as its giant arms stretch quite across the road, those on them can look directly down upon any crowd passing beneath. It is admirably adapted to the purpose for which Zaccheus selected it.

True; and, moreover, it is generally planted by the way. side, and in the open spaces where several paths meet, just where Zaccheus found it. This sycamore is a remarkable tree. It not only bears several crops of figs during the year, but those figs grow on short stems along the trunk 1 Luke xv. 16.

? Luke xix. 4.

id the othed was nothing here is a

[merged small][merged small][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][graphic]

best, very insipid, and none but the poorer classes eat them. This agrees with, and explains an allusion in Amos. He had aroused the wrath of Jeroboam by the severity of his rebukes, and, being advised to flee for his life, excuses himself by a statement which implies that he belonged to the humblest class of the community. I am no prophet, neither am I a prophet's son; but I am a herdman, and a gatherer of sycamore fruit. None but the very poor consent to be herdmen, and only such, at this day, gather sycamore fruit or use it.

The natives say that the sycamore bears seven crops a year. I think it is irregular in this matter. Some bear oftener than others, and the same tree yields more crops one year than another. It is easily propagated merely by planting a stout branch in the ground, and watering it until it has struck out roots into the soil. This it does with great rapidity, and to a vast depth. It was with reference to this latter fact that our blessed Lord selected it to illustrate the power of faith. If ye had faith as a grain of mustard-seed, ye might say unto this sycamine-tree, Be thou plucked up by the root, and be thou planted in the sea, and it should obey you.? Now look at this tree—its ample girth, its widespread arms branching off from the parent trunk only a few feet from the ground; then examine its enormous roots, as thick, as numerous, and as wide spread into the deep soil below as the branches extend into the air above -the very best type of invincible steadfastness. What power on earth can pluck up such a tree? Heaven's thunder-bolt may strike it down, the wild tornado may tear it to fragments, but nothing short of miraculous power can fairly pluck it up by the roots.

I have but faint ideas of a faith that could pluck up and plant in the sea such a tree as that; and these facts certainly add great emphasis to the.“ parable." You are doubtless aware, however, that other critics besides our orator of the back-woods maintain that the sycamore of the New Testament is actually the mulberry-tree, and others that the 1 Amos vii. 14.

2 Luke xvii. 6.



sycamine of this passage and the sycamore are different trees; and there is a slight difference in the Greek.

I know it; but the word sycamine seems to be derived from the Hebrew name for sycamore, and I know no reason why their identity should be questioned. As to the mulberry, it is yet to be shown that it was then known in Palestine, although our translators have mentioned it in one or two places; and, farther, the mulberry is more easily plucked up by the roots than any other tree, of the same size, in the country, and the thing is oftener done. Hundreds of them are plucked up every year in this vicinity, and brought to the city for firewood. It is not to be supposed that He who spake as man never spoke would select this tree, with its short, feeble roots, to illustrate the irresistible power of faith.

The wood of the sycamore is soft and of very little value. This is implied in various places in the Bible. Thus in Isaiah, the people say in pride and stoutness of heart, ... the sycamores are cut down, but we will change them to cedars. And so, in the days of Solomon, when even silver was nothing accounted of, he made cedars to be in Jerusalem as the sycamore-trees that are in the vale for abundance.? It is a tender tree, flourishes immensely in sandy plains and warm vales, but can not bear the hard, cold mountain. A sharp frost will kill them; and this agrees with the fact that they were killed by it in Egypt. Among the wonders wrought in the field of Zoan, David says, He destroyed their vines with hail, and their sycamores with frost.3 Čertainly, a frost keen enough to kill the sycamore would be one of the greatest “wonders” that could happen at the present day in this same field of Zoan.

We shall not reach the city to-day if we stop at every tree and shrub that is strange, Oriental, or Biblical.

Very likely. Here, for example, are the almond, the olive, the fig, and the pomegranate, all together; but we shall meet them every where in our pilgrimage, and can afford to pass them by at present. And, besides, we have be

Isaiah ix. 10. ? 1 Kings x. 27. 3 Psalm lxxviii. 43, 47. VOL. I.-B

fore us a more interesting study — a scene not witnessed in all places in such perfection. See those men on that elevated terrace. One has spread his cloak, others their Persian rugs toward the south. They are Moslems, preparing to say prayersperform them rather, in this most public place, and in the midst of all this noise and confusion.

Let us stop and watch the ceremony as it goes on. That man next us raises his open hands till the thumbs touch the ears, exclaiming aloud, Allah--akbar"God is great.” After uttering mentally a few short petitions, the hands are brought down, and folded together near the girdle, while he recites the first chapter of the Koran, and two or three other brief passages from the same book. And now

he bends forward, rests his hands upon his knees, and repeats three times a formula of praise


to “God most great." Then, standing erect, he cries Allah-akbar, as at the beginning. Then see him drop upon his knees, and bend forward until his nose and forehead touch the ground, directly between his expanded hands. This he repeats three times, muttering all the while the same short formulas of prayer and praise. The next move

« PreviousContinue »