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CASTLE OF BANIAS.
the world. But let us tie up our horses, for it will take hours to explore the place to your satisfaction. The site is admirably adapted for a castle. The ridge is high, sharp, and isolated, and at least seven hundred feet long from east to west. The two ends are much broader than the middle, and the whole summit is included within the walls. The east end is far the highest, and the fortifications there are exceedingly strong, commanding most effectually the steep declivity up which the road was cut. On the south and west the mountain sinks down steeply for a thousand feet to the plain of Banias, and on the north yawns the frightful gorge of Khushaib. It is thus unapproachable by an assailing force on all sides, and, until the invention of cannon, it could have been taken only by treachery or starvation; nor would it have been easy to starve the place into surrender, if properly victualed. There is space sufficient for a strong garrison, and they might even raise vegetables for their table, as the shepherds grow fine crops of tobacco at present; and, though there is no fountain, these immense cisterns would afford an abundant supply of good water. The native tradition is, that the dark stairway here at the west end, down which we groped our way into the vaults beneath, was a subterranean, or, rather, submontane path to the great fountain of Banias, by which the garrison could obtain both water and provisions; but as that is two miles distant, and a thousand feet below, the thing is scarcely credible. A respectable man of Hasbeiya, however, assured me that he once descended it a long distance, to where it was blocked up by the falling in of the roof. By my aneroid, the top of this castle is 2300 feet above the Mediterranean, being nearly the same elevation as that of Shukîf.
Is there no history of this remarkable place?
None that reaches much farther back than the time of the Crusaders. Under the name Subeîbeh it figures largely in the wars between the Saracens of Damascus and the Templars of Jerusalem, and these long Arabic inscriptions speak of repairing and rebuilding by Melek et Dâhar and others, some six or seven centuries ago; they, however, were not
the original architects of this great fortress. As it commands the pass from the Hûleh and the plains of the Jordan over Hermon to Damascus and the east, it must always have been a place of great importance. I have long suspected that this is the site of Baal Hermon mentioned in Judges iii. 3, and 1 Chronicles v. 23. From these notices it appears that Baal Hermon was at the south end of the general mountain of Hermon, and there is no other point in this whole region so important or so conspicuous as this. It is not possible, however, to identify some of these ancient sites with certainty, and this is one of the most doubtful. By leading our horses down the terraces through this olive grove, we shall shorten our distance to the town more than half. What a noble view over plain, and marsh, and lake, and mountain ! and how sweetly reposes the village of Banias in this verdant and sheltered nook of Hermon! Its fifty tottering huts, however, form a wretched representative of ancient grandeur, and the place is now very unhealthy, especially in autumn. During the hot months the people erect booths on their roofs, elevated on poles, to escape from scorpions, of which there are countless numbers among the ruins. I have had them tumble down upon me while sitting under the terebinth-tree near our tent, and never pitch there in summer without carefully turning up every stone in search of those dangerous reptiles.
should like to see one of these stinging scourges. They not a little celebrated in the Bible. An insolent alluthe boys may have something on their hands or in the wax which “charms" or stupefies it. The pain from its · Rev. ix. 5. 2 Luke xi. 12.
sion to them cost Rehoboam the loss of ten tribes. They magnified the horrors of that "great and terrible wilderness," and are standing types of the wicked, whose torment is as the torment of a scorpion when he striketh a man.
Return here three months hence, and your wish can easily be gratified. You may chance to get even more than you seek for.
Is there any resemblance between a scorpion and an egg, to suggest the antithesis in our Lord's question, If he ask an egg will he offer him a scorpion ??
There is no imaginable likeness between an egg and the ordinary black scorpion of this country, neither in color nor size, nor, when the tail is extended, in shape. But old writers speak of a white scorpion, and such a one, with the tail folded up, as in specimens of fossil trilobites, would not look unlike a small egg. Perhaps the contrast, however, refers only to the different properties of the egg and the scorpion, which is sufficiently emphatic.
Our Lord says, Behold, I have given you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, etc. Is this fact, literally understood, necessarily miraculous ?
I have seen little boys draw out scorpions from their holes by thrusting in small sticks with wax on the end, into which their claws fasten. They then catch them in their fingers, and stick them on to a rod of bird-lime or common wax, until they cover the rod with them; nor do they seem to be afraid, but rub their hands up and down this string of scorpions without hesitation. We also hear of fanatics who actually crush them in their mouths and pretend to eat them. But it is to be remembered that the scorpion's sting is in its tail, with which it strikes its victim (as is correctly implied in the quotation from the Revelations), and that it can not strike sideways. If, then, it be properly held between the fingers, or so stuck into the bird-lime as not to admit its longitudinal stroke, there is no danger; and, moreover,
3 Luke x. 14.
stroke is very intense, but never fatal in Syria. Those on the northern coast of Africa are said to be larger, and the poison so virulent as frequently to cause death. At any rate, it is a hateful creature, crabbed and malicious in the extreme. I have tried the experiment of surrounding one with a ring of fire, and, when it despaired of escape, it repeatedly struck its own head fiercely, and soon died, either from the poison, its satanic rage, or from the heat, I could not be certain which, perhaps from all combined. For a minute description of this reptile you must apply to books of natural history, and to drawings of them, which can easily be procured.
We shall sleep all the more safely because, from hibernating instincts, they are now buried deeply beneath the rubbish of old Banias.
KUDES-BANIASTELL EL KADY.
XVIII. TELL EL KADY.
Our camp-ground to-night is at Kūdes, the Kadish Naphtali of the Jews, and we are again favored with a superb day. It might have been otherwise, as I know by sad experience, and then the ride round this marsh is gloomy and disagreeable, as it is now bright and cheerful.
From the plateau south of the Sāāry I saw the world wake up this morning about old Hermon, and it was an hour never to be forgotten—universal nature at worship, harping on ten thousand harps the morning psalm.
Banias and her surroundings do in fact form one of nature's grandest temples, in whose presence those made by men's hands are a mere impertinence. These oak glades and joyous brooks, these frisking flocks and happy birds, all bear their parts in the service; and so, also, the mountains preach, the hills and valleys sing, and the trees of the field clap their hands. Thus the ancient prophets heard and interpreted the manifold utterances of nature: Praise the Lord from the earth, mountains and all hills, fruitful trees and all cedars, beasts and all cattle, creeping things and flying fowl, kings of the earth and all people, both young men and maidens, old men and children: let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is excellent, his glory is above the earth and heaven. In these scenes and scenery of Hermon, there is not only poetry, but solemn mystery and suggestive types, and rich spiritual adumbrations; and he that hath an ear for such heavenly discourse may ever hear with ravishing delight. And now we are at Tell el Kady-Hill of Dan—the Judge—to translate both the Hebrew and the Arabic names at once.
And is this circular, semi-concave mound the site of that famous city? How utterly desolate!
Josephus calls it the source of the Lesser Jordan, with reference to others more distant, I suppose, for this is far the largest of them all. Look southward, and you see that the
i Ps. cxlviii. 7-13.