Page images



broken columns show that it was also adorned with superb temples and other large edifices; but how utter the desolation that has laid these proud towers in the dust! It can not be less than half a mile in circuit and a hundred feet high, after the degradation of many generations. There is one equally large farther north, called Birweh, and others even larger to the south. From the situation of these once fortified Tells, I suppose they were originally erected to command the passes into the interior. This is on the regular road to Nazareth. Tell Birweh is at the entrance into the district of Shaghûr, and Tells Daûk and Haruthîeh shut up the highway into the great plain of Esdraelon. They may have been held sometimes by the Gentiles of the sea-coast, and at others by the Jews of Galilee, or both may have held such castles at the same time, to watch each other.

Landscapes like this can never lose their charm, and the memory of this one will not be displaced by others, be they ever so grand or striking.

We have made a long detour not merely to see this tell, but also to escape the mud, for at this season a large part of the plain is wet and marshy. We must now hasten on to Shefa 'Amer. What an infinite array of flowers, fragrant and gay, adorn the plain! The anemones, and fiery poppies, and elegant orchises are specially conspicuous; and the humbler but sweeter hyacinths perfume the air with their spicy odors. The birds, too, are merry and musical as spring and love can make them. Every prospect pleases, and only man is vile. There is something peculiarly sinister in the looks and ways of these peasants, and from this southward they bear a worse character than those of Leba

One reason no doubt is, that they are more oppressed by government, by wild Arabs, and by those who farm the country. These latter extort from them nearly all the produce of their lands in return for the doubtful advantage of having them stand between them and the officers of government. To secure this, they give these remorseless farmers of the revenue thirty, forty, and even fifty per cent. on money thus advanced on their account. This kind of extortion has long cursed the country, for we find many allusions to it in the Bible. The farmer of a village has great powers accorded to him by contract, and enforced by government; he is, in fact, a petty tyrant, who takes all if he can not otherwise get back what he has spent, and the iniquitous interest also. It is not strange, therefore, that these poor peasants, long subjected to such oppression, are a crabbed, ill-conditioned, and dishonest race. Treated without respect or mercy themselves, they are cruel to every body and thing under their power.


This system of tax-gatherers greatly multiplies the petty lords and tyrants, who eat up the people as they eat bread. And something of the same sort has always been known in the East. Solomon says, For the transgression of a land many are the princes thereof. And the Arabs have a current anecdote of a wise man who used this imprecation upon his enemies: “Allah kether mesheîkh kûm”—“May God multiply your sheikhs”—a fearful malediction! No more certain or expeditious plan to ruin one's enemies could be devised. The people familiarly ascribe such a calamity to the greatness of their sins. The multiplication of these lazy, licentious, and greedy rulers is, indeed, a sore visitation of God. One must have long and very closely observed the working of this mischief before he can even dream of the numberless ways in which these bad men corrupt, oppress, and ruin the people. Though the proverbs of the wise king and the wise Arab are identical in meaning, it is not probable that the latter borrowed from the former. Experience and observation of the same calamity originated the identity of thought. And the very next proverb of Solomon repeats almost the same idea: A poor man that oppresseth the poor is like a sweeping rain which leaveth no food. The illustrative comparison here is most impressive. It is founded upon a phenomenon which I have frequently seen, and sometimes felt. A small black cloud traverses the sky in the latter part of summer or the beginning of autumn, and pours down a flood of rain that sweeps all before it. The 1 Prov. xxviii. 2.

2 Prov. xxviii. 3.



Arabs call it sale; we, a water-spout, or the bursting of a cloud. In the neighborhood of Hermon I have witnessed it repeatedly, and was caught in one last year which in five minutes flooded the whole mountain side, washed away the fallen olives—the food of the poor-overthrew stone walls, tore up by the roots large trees, and carried off whatever the tumultuous torrents encountered, as they leaped madly down from terrace to terrace in noisy cascades. Every summer threshing-floor along the line of its march was swept bare of all precious food, cattle were drowned, flocks disappeared, and the mills along the streams were ruined in half an hour by this sudden deluge. Wherever it came it "left no food behind it," and such is the oppression of a poor man that oppresseth the poor. These landlords, and sheikhs, and begs, and emirs are generally poor, hungry, greedy, remorseless, and they come in successive swarms, each more ravenous than his predecessor. On a gigantic scale, every hungry pasha from the capital is such a sale, sweeping over the distant provinces of the empire. Vast regions, formerly covered with golden harvests in their season, and swarming with people full of food and gladness, are now reduced to frightful deserts by their rapacity.

The people of this country have an intense hatred of usury and the usurer, possibly connected with these farmers and their unrighteous exactions. But the mere taking of interest, and not the rate, is regarded as a sin by most people. It is prohibited altogether by Mohammed, who seems to have understood the Mosaic precepts in this strict and literal sense, as, indeed, nearly all Oriental Christians do. We read in Exodus xxii. 25, 26, 27, If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as a usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury. If thou at all take thy neighbor's raiment to pledge, thou shalt deliver it to him by that the sun goeth down; for that is his covering only, it is his raiment for his skin; wherein shall he sleep? But, notwithstanding this abhorrence of both the deed and the doer, nothing is more common. Every body borrows who can, all loan money who have it, and the rate is enormous. Twenty-five per cent. is common. I have known fifty, sixty, and even a hundred per cent. asked and given. The taking of pledges, even “from the poor,”, is equally common, but I never knew them to be restored " by that the sun goeth down;" though for the very poor, who sleep in their 'aba or outer garment, and have no other "raiment for their skin," it would be a very humane requisition. During the day, the poor, while at work, can and do dispense with this outside raiment, but at night it is greatly needed, even in the summer. The people in this country never sleep without being covered, even in the daytime; and in this, experience has made them wise, for it is dangerous to health. This furnishes a good reason why this sort of pledge should be restored before night; and I could wish that the law were still in force. In Deut. xxiv. 10-13 we have these precepts repeated, with some additions, as, thou shalt not sleep with his pledge; also, thou shalt not go into his house to fetch his pledge; thou shalt stand abroad, and the man to whom thou didst lend shall bring out the pledge abroad to thee. A most kind and admirable precept, given to secure the poor man from having the priyacy of his family rudely violated by these remorseless usu

The strict laws regulating Oriental intercourse sufficiently guard the harems of all but the very poor. When the money-gatherer goes to any respectable house, he never rudely enters, but stands “abroad” and calls, and the owner comes forth to meet him, and, if convenient—if there are no women in the way—he is invited in. The divine law here throws its shield over the poor debtor's habitation, and protects his family from insolent intrusion, a thing intolerably humiliating in the East.

No wonder that people oppressed and robbed as these epasants are, become dishonest and cruel, and even vent their pent-up rage on every thing under their control. Observe that plowman armed with his long goad, with which he be. labors and pricks his tiny oxen, as if it afforded peculiar pleasure to torment them.

I have examined this implement of husbandry with much




curiosity, and no longer wonder that Shamgar could convert it into a destructive weapon of war. His was, no doubt, very large, made so purposely in those days when the Jews were not allowed to provide arms for defense. A strong pole ten feet long, with a sharp chisel at the butt end, would be a formidable spear, wielded by the strong arm of the son of Anath. But he must have been a giant to kill six hundred Philistines with such a weapon, or, indeed, with any other.

This goad is an indispensable accompaniment of the plow. The upper end, with its pointed prick, serves instead of rein and lash to guide and urge on the lazy ox; and the other end, with its chisel, as you call it, is used to clean off the share from earth and weeds, and to cut the roots and thorns that catch or choke the plow. It was to sharpen this part of the goads that the Philistines permitted the Jews to have a file in the early days of Saul.? The references to the goad in the Bible are numerous and interesting. Solomon says that "the words of the wise are as goads” to guide and keep in the right path (or furrow), and to stimulate the indolent to exertion. Our Lord, in his address to Saul, says, “It is hard for thee to kick against the pricks”—a proverbial expression, taken from the action of an unruly ox, which, when pricked by the goad, kicks back in anger, and thus wounds himself more deeply. Commentators on this passage have collected many examples of the use of this exact figure by classic authors. Thus Euripides says, “I, who am a frail mortal, should rather sacrifice to him who is a god, than, by giving place to anger, kick against the goads.And so Terence: "These things have come to my recollection, for it is foolishness for thee to kick against a goad." The proverb is exceedingly expressive, and one which conveys to all the world where the goad is known a most important lesson. The particular force of the expression is unhappily lost by our translation. It is folly, certainly, to kick even a stone against which one may have dashed his foot, and still more so to do this against thorns that may have pierced us. But

11 Sam. xiii. 21; Eccl. xii. 11.

« PreviousContinue »