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THE EAGLE-HIS HABITS.
Now take the glass, and see how they divide among their gross and greedy chicks the prey which they have brought from far. Come to Blāt, vain man, and answer thy Maker. Doth the eagle mount up at thy command, and make her nest on high? She dwelleth and abideth on the rock, upon the crag of the rock, and the strong place. From thence she seeketh the prey; her eyes behold afar off. Her young ones also suck up blood, and where the slain are, there is she.
Moses, in that beautiful ode which he spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel, refers to the habits of the eagle in a way which I have never understood: As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord did lead him.? Do you suppose that the parent eagle literally beareth her young on her wings?
It is not necessary to press every poetical figure into strict prosaic accuracy. The notion, however, appears to have been prevalent among the ancients, that the eagle did actually take up her yet timid young, and carry them forth to teach them how, and embolden them to try their own pinions. To this idea Moses seems to refer in Exodus xix. 4: Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagle's wings, and brought you unto myself. The fact is not impossible: the eagle is strong enough to do it, but I am not aware that such a thing has ever been witnessed. I myself, however, have seen the old eagle fly round and round the nest, and back and forth past it, while the young ones fluttered and shivered on the edge, as if eager, but afraid to launch forth from the giddy precipice. And no wonder, for the nest “is on high," and a fall from thence would end their flight forever. If Moses was not the author of Job, they seem both to have been familiar with this bird and his habits. One allusion is very striking: Her eyes behold afar off. The power of vision in the eagle is amazing, almost incredible. No sooner does a kid fall in the wilderness among the thick bushes, than some of these keen-sighted hunters after prey notice it from their pathway in mid-heaven, and, circling round and round, they pounce down upon, and bear it away to their nest. This appears to be done purely by sight.
1 Job xxxix. 27-30. 2 Deut, xxxii, 11, 12, 3 Job xxxix. 29.
To what fact in the life of the eagle does the Psalmist refer in the promise to the righteous that they shall renew their youth like the eagles ?
Perhaps merely to his coming forth in a fresh costume, and in youthful beauty after the moulting season; or it may refer to the fact that this royal bird is long-lived, and retains his vigor to extreme old age.
But we have not yet done with our river. Turning westward, below Blāt, it has cut a channel across the southern end of Lebanon, at a place called the Khătweh, some two hundred feet long, and so very narrow that I have sat on the west side and laid my hand on the opposite precipice, which rises at least one hundred feet perpendicular above the water. The river darts, swift as an arrow, through this groove, and, like the shuddering visitor, seems to hold its breath in terror. From this onward for a few miles the scenery is less wild, until it turns the corner, south of the castle of Shủkîf, and makes hitherward toward the sea. This last descent of eighteen or twenty miles abounds in noble scenery, but it must be seen to be appreciated. The whole length of the Litany, with its countless doublings, can not be less than one hundred and twenty miles, and in that distance it descends full four thousand feet. European engineers have entertained the idea of carrying a railway up the Litany to the Būk'ah, from whence it could easily pass to Hamath, Aleppo, and the Euphrates, and also to Damascus, Palmyra, and Bagdad; but no one will dream of such an enterprise who has explored the long, wild gorge, and found out what it really is. This river is not mentioned in the Bible. Perhaps it is too far north to come in the way of Biblical narrative. It seems to have formed the northern boundary of the territory actually subdued by Israel, for I can not find a single city on this side of it inhabited by
1 Ps. ciii. 5.
KASIMIEH-PLAIN OF TYRE.
either Naphtali or Asher, though David and Solomon may have held
a temporary and not very well defined sway over some places farther north than even Sidon. Thus Josephus seems to imply that Arca, beyond Tripoli, was subject to Asher; but the identity of the place referred to with the seat of the Arkites may well be doubted. Nor does the fact that the border of Asher reached to Zidon prove that the line of actual possession crossed the Litany, for no doubt Zidon extended her rule down to it, and thus the border would reach that of Sidon on the banks of this river. Whether the line of permanent possession corresponds with the utmost limits included in the original promise, is a question which we may examine at some future stage of our pilgrimage.
This khan is now much dilapidated, and was ancient two hundred and forty years ago, when Sandys passed this way. It has been a castle as well as khan, and served not merely to protect the traveler, but to command the road and the bridge over the river. In its present form it may have been built by the Crusaders, but there are traces of more ancient work about it. The name suggests, or rather coincides with, the idea that this river, with its most impracticable gorge, was the dividing line between the territory of the Jews and that of Sidon. Kasimîeh signifies division, or that which divides, and it appears always to have separated the governmental districts from each other, and does so now. There is no ascertained Jewish site in Belad es Shukîf, whereas Belad Besharab, on the south of the river, abounds in them. Asher and Naphtali came to the Kasimîeh, and we can trace their actual possessions thus far, but no farther; and we have, therefore, in this river, the Divider, a sort of second Jordan to the Holy Land.
To avoid the mud in the plain, we will take down to the shore, and follow its windings to Tyre, a pleasant ride of not more than two hours. How the river meanders and doubles, as if reluctant to lose itself in the sea. Were not this low plain unhealthy, there would be a large town near the mouth of the river. It is the best fishing-ground in all this part of the coast, and the markets are often supplied from here, even so far north as Beirût. The direct road to Tyre passes below some ruins on the hill side, called Mûhaibeeb, and there are many evidences thereabout of a former population thick as bees.
Farther toward the city is the fountain Babûk, which Pocoke calls Bakwok, and around it are traces of an ancient city. An aqueduct once carried the water over the southern plain, but, like most other works of utility in this land, it is now destroyed. Here we have a considerable ruin on the shore, and another ahead of us, which must have been a large city. These fragments of unfortunate ships along the beach show that this celebrated mart of trade has but an insecure roadstead. The only protection for vessels, except the island itself, is that wall of rocks, which extends from the northwest corner of the island mile or more into the sea, in a line parallel to the coast; but they are not continuous, and are too low to present any adequate obstacle to the waves during a storm. In 1834 I lay eleven days behind them in a crazy Italian brig, and found it a most insecure berth. We were often in the utmost danger of coming on shore. In ancient times, however, the smaller shipping then in use found shelter in a harbor within the city, where boats still ride in perfect safety during the wildest gales. Benjamin of Tudela, in his usual style of exaggeration, says that this was the finest harbor in the world. It was, no doubt, larger in the eleventh century, when that traveler saw it, than at present; deeper also, and much better protected; still, it must always have been too confined and shallow for any but small coasting craft.
Look now at Jebel es Sheikh, towering above the mountains to the northeast. This is one of the most striking and impressive views of Hermon you will ever have. You observe that the north end is much higher than the south, and the centre is lower than either. The old Sheikh, therefore, seems to have at least two heads, and this may be the reason why the name is sometimes plural, or dual, in the poetic books of the Bible.
Who can realize that yon insignificant village is Tyre, the city that said, I am a god; I sit in the seat of God ?i
It is all that remains of her. But weep not for Tyre. This very silence and solitude are most eloquent and emphatic on themes of the last importance to the repose of Christian faith. True, indeed, the imagination is disappointed. There is nothing here of that which led Joshua to call it the strong city more than three thousand years ago — nothing of that mighty metropolis which baffled the proud Nebuchadnezzar and all his power for thirteen years, until every head in his army was bald, and every shoulder peeled in the hard service against Tyrus:—nothing in this wretched roadstead and empty harbor to remind one of the times when merry mariners did sing in her markets no visible trace of those towering ramparts which so long resisted the utmost efforts of the great Alexander. All have vanished utterly like a troubled dream. But the Christian would not have it otherwise. The very veracity of Jehovah stands pledged, or seems to be, to keep it so. Behold, I am against thee, O Tyrus, and will cause many nations to come up against thee, as the sea causeth his waves to come up; and they shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers. I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. And it shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea, for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God. As she now is, and has long been, Tyre is God's witness; but great, powerful, and populous, she would be the infidel's boast. This, however, she can not, will not be. Tyre will never rise from her dust to falsify the voice of prophecy. Nor can I make any lamentation for her; she is a greater blessing to the world now than in the day of her highest prosperity.
. Josh. xix. 29.
1 Ezek. xxviii. 2.