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eyes, as of her mistress, or no pitying looks as from the menials, should witness the last scenes !
The two wandered on, they hardly knew whither, or why they went, except that in motion there seemed to be relief to angry, feeling. But exhaustion came, and also a terrible thirst. When Hagar had once before been sent off in a similar manner, she was alone, and her passion could sustain her better. Now, the appealing eyes of her loved boy were on her; his complaints stung her anger now into greater force of pain; his moanings filled her with wretchedness; but she still dragged herself and him along, passion giving her strength, which it failed to do in him. Still on, now with words of rage toward those left behind, now with words of encouragement and kindness, and perhaps of passion toward him, till at last that hot, burning sun dried up his strength, and he sank exhausted and gasping and asking faintly for drink. There was none to give. She believed he must die—both probably must die; probably she wished it quickly for both. She laid him in such shade as a retem bush could give, and went off “a good way, as it were a bow-shot; for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lifted up her voice, and wept.” Wrath had broken down. Affection alone had rule at last, and sobs and tears came to her relief.
Help was nearer than she had imagined. In that country the wells have sometimes no marks by which they can be distinguished, and one such was now not far off, but hitherto unseen by her. A heavenly voice was heard in
1 Van de Velde, in describing his late journey over this very region says, “We were among the wells of Ar-ârah before we were aware of it. No stone walls or other masonry surrounds them, and nobody is aware of them until they are seen close at hand. .... The wells of Beersheba too are just as little visible at a distance as those of Ar-ârah. I can now fully understand how Hagar, when her child seemed likely to die of thirst, found herself near such a well, without being aware of it until the Lord opened her eyes and enabled her to see it."
her extremity, directing her attention to it, and encouraging her with the promise that the lad should become the progenitor of a great nation. She felt the strength of the sustaining power; she was not alone now, and an outcast and abandoned, for Abraham's God had promised her help. So she and the lad lived and prospered as much as could be in the district of Arabia, which they finally reached. He “ became an archer;" his mother in due time procured for him a wife from Egypt, and from him have sprung that singular Arab race, whose “hand is against every man, and every man's hand against them.”
Abraham felt that this present home at the southern end of the pastoral region in Canaan, about thirty miles nearly south west from Hebron, was well adapted to his unique condition in that country, where he and his people were to be an isolated race, distinct from all others in the land ; and he prepared accordingly to make this his more permanent home. He planted here a grove, not probably of the oak or terebinth, which are not found as far south as this, but of the tamarisk, a tree of moderate size with feather-like, graceful branches; and here also he proceeded to have the wells dug which, through the long series of years to this day, have continued to assuage the thirst of the flocks in these extensive pasture-grounds. They have been a far better memorial respecting him than if he had piled up a mountain for his monument, greater even than the pyramids of Egypt, the wonder of the world. A dispute arising here connected with one of these wells, and threatening to make a disruption between him and Abimelech, he and the king, together with Phichol, chief of the host of the latter, both of whom had come to visit him, entered into a covenant of harmony and friendship, which they confirmed by mutual oaths. The place took from this incident its name, Beersheba, the well of the oath. Abimelech had said to him, some time previously, “Behold, my land is before thee; dwell where it pleaseth thee.” So this became his home.
We may presume that here also he built an altar, probably by his grove; and he “called there on the name of the Lord, the everlasting God."
THE TRIAL OF FAITH.
W E return now to the scene depicted in the first chapter
W of this book; for the reader will notice that we have, in the intervening remarks, been reviewing the history of Abraham from his departure from Ur down to that period of time.
He had got to be an old man, even according to the reckoning of age in those early histories of our race. He had now advanced by several years beyond the age of one hundred, but was yet a hale, vigorous man; and we may picture him like one of the present sheikhs of that country, erect, of grave but benign aspect, gray-haired and venerable in appearance; to which we may doubtless add a strange, querying expression in his eye, as he gazed on that evening scene at Beersheba. His face did not show that full complacency which the view before him was adapted to produce ; for this view took in vast herds and flocks, all his own, gathering now from the rich pastures for their evening refreshment at the wells. From far off they came, some rising over the distant low hills, some dotting the sides of the varied undulations or scattered over the widespread plains; while the setting sun was throwing its brightness on every object and filling all the air with amethystine hues. Amid this was heard the lowing of cattle, the bleating of
sheep, the shouts of herdsmen, the merriment of gay hearts among the hundreds of retainers gathering now for the social evening enjoyment and full of gladness and jokes at the reunions. Camels were lifting their long necks above all other gathering groups and looking in grave, sober dignity over the moving panorama; and the young camel progeny could afford amusement by their very grave sobriety of manners, in which no attempt at liveliness or play is ever known. Such was the scene on this evening about the several wells at Beersheba, and on which the old man was gazing with a pleased, and yet half-troubled eye. For his thoughts went, very often, after that cast-off son, his first-born and muchloved, from whom he had parted so unwillingly, and who had been lost to his sight amid those distant southern stretches of the desert. The second-born and heir was now here before him, the darling of the mother's satisfied heart, and well-beloved also of the father, as he truly might be; for the young man, Isaac (“Laughter”), was gentle, amiable in disposition, lacking in the activity and hardihood of character in Ishmael, but yet winning, obedient in every duty, and well adapted, if not to force admiration, yet to produce toward him from all an earnest and tender love. The father's eyes, therefore, amid the troubled thoughts that came trooping to him from that far southern desert, and amid which he could find no consolation of manliness and firmness in himself, rested for comfort on Isaac and on the future which was covenanted from heaven for this second son. A great nation was to come from him—such had the heavenly promise been—descendants were to be in number like the stars or like the dust of the earth; and through him were all the families of the earth to be blessed.
Abraham felt that his life had been a very strange one. He had not from the first been like other men; for amid the heathenish associations and surroundings at Ur, he had looked directly up to God with a pure, clear eye. He knew
that God had in return come nearer to him than to other men, and he felt the full glory and the full power of the covenant between God and himself. He knew too that he had been set apart in the world for mysterious, he did not doubt, for good and glorious, purposes. In his many weaknesses, in his perplexities from long delay in the fulfilment of heavenly promises, in his troubles at home, where his heart found little support in duty but rather embarrassments and vexations, he still kept himself unmixed with idolatry and untainted. In Ur, in Egypt, at Hebron, his heart in this one thing was sound. This soundness had not always kept him from the want of integrity in life and even at times from baseness; yet still he had that great merit that he looked directly up to God, saw Him with a clear eye, called directly to Him, felt assured that He was always by. And although in his extremity when before Pharaoh and Abimelech, he ought to have known that God would protect hi! but felt his faith there give way, still his faith always rallied again and was true to itself and to God. In judging also of his sins, which no one can think of without sternest condemnation toward him, and which the Bible history gives with simple clearness of narrative, we are to consider the world all around him, what were its sins and its codes of morals, and how a man would be insensibly influenced by these. Truth undoubtedly is always the same, and righteousness always the same, and our obligations to both are unswerving; but our judgment of the heinousness of a man's swerving from either must be modified by the circumstances of his education, the influences of society around him, and the nature of moral sentiment in that society. We are to form our estimate therefore of the wickedness sometimes seen in the lives of pêrsons put forward even in Scripture as generally worthy men, not by our codes purified by eighteen centuries of Christianity, but in part by the codes and sentiments of all the world at the times in