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led by Jehovah's direct hand ? was he brought from the Euphrates actually by the divine voice ? was he now, somehow or other, in direct communication with Jehovah ? Did a glory of that kind shine through Isaac? Were all these things dreams, fancies, things of a heated imagination in the father, and told falsely about the son? and were they all to fade away with the individuals themselves ?
Nay, we cannot believe it. For we in our day, so distant from theirs, have only to look at the Jewish people among us and at our own religious institutions, to see the demonstrations before our eyes—facts tangible by our outward senses—of an amazing power of some kind or other then concentrated on those two individuals, and of which they were to be the medium for centuries to come, if not for eternity itself. The strongest unbeliever must acknowledge this much; the believer feels and knows the influence of that power in himself. What histories of the world, facts, strange, great, life-giving, death-giving facts and histories, have come from those two individuals, whom we have just been contemplating on that plain of Beersheba !
Therefore what can be known and told of them, and of things consequent on them, must be the greatest of all histories. So it actually is, as told in the Bible. So it should be to us.
We are now trying, here, to clothe that long past with fullness, and to give it, as far as may be, the freshness and vividness of the present. We look at that scene, the two men in front, the wife of Abraham sitting by the tent-opening, and probably gazing also at the son; and we will make them, for a while, the central point in our first efforts at resuscitating those long-buried things.
A LARGE portion of the scenes to be brought forward M in this book will be connected with nomads, people moving about with flocks, and whose life is in tents. It is a very peculiar life, and the incidents to be introduced are tinged by those peculiarities. Consequently it will be well to study that mode of living; and while we shall find the materials for such study to be ample, the subject will also have the charm of novelty, so different are the scenes it presents from those to which we are accustomed in our own condition of society.
The nomadic life at the present day appears not to differ from what it was in the very ancient times. Travellers through such countries tell us that, in what they see, they are continually carried back to the days of the patriarchs; and the scenes which they depict seem indeed to be often only a transcript of what comes before us incidentally in
the Bible. From the present we are able to learn therefore, without difficulty, respecting the past; and the tent-life to be now presented to the reader may probably be considered as photographing to us pretty accurately the tent-life of thirty-eight hundred years ago.
Indeed, in such a condition of society there can be little motive and little room for change. Each tribe of people stands by itself, isolated and sufficient in itself. Wants are very few in number; life is as simple as possible, and from the necessities of the case can never be complicated. What reason is there for change? Indeed, there can be no change where every one is compelled at the outset to reduce his necessities to the smallest possible amount, and has so to keep them, and where any multiplication of wants must only be a multiplication of constant embarrassments. The whole household must be such as to be easily moved, and the removals are so frequent that only the simplest items of domestic use can be retained. All is simple, plain, to our eyes often meagre; and yet there is, with this simplicity of life among these people, a stateliness of manner as well as courtesy, and often a dignity, which command our respect as well as win our admiration to a degree which no luxurious appliances of gorgeous palaces could do.
There is in the nomad a sense of unbounded freedom which gives its impress to all his bearing and to every feeling and thought. Mr. Porter, author of “Five Years in Damascus," says, “It is only within the bounds of his own undisputed domain that the Bedawy' can be seen to advantage. In a city he is like a caged bird. His countenance is uneasy and restless, his gait constrained, and his whole mien betrays anxiety. When not engaged in business, he generally squats in some quiet corner of a khan or street, peering from beneath the ample folds of his kefîyeh' at the busy crowd around him. But he is a different being when he breathes the desert air; his eye dilates, his spare, wiry frame becomes erect and commanding, and his step is firm and free.” That writer had engaged for an intended visit to Palmyra, the protection of 'Amer, the sheikh of the great Bedawy tribe of the 'Anezy, whose pasture-grounds were in that direction, and he thus describes him: “He was a man of middle stature and seemingly of middle age. His frame was spare but wiry. There was no evidence of strength, but there was evidence of capability to endure great fatigue. His eye was quick, with more of shrewdness than fierceness in its glance. The whole expression of his countenance was mild and soft, and in this respect different from that of the generality of his race." A part of the journey, just after they had reached the desert, is thus described : “With silent footfall and sweeping step and ship-like motion, our dromedaries sped onward. There was no path to follow, and no barrier reared by nature or human hand to retard or turn them aside. Their course was direct and regular as if guided by compass. Often did I scan the country around in the vain endeavor to descry some solitary wanderer, or even some animal, on this dreary waste. None could be seen. About the hour of afternoon prayers, 'Amer, who had for some time ridden in silence with Mohammed the Ageily behind him, pulled off his heavy boots and Arab cloak and thrust them into his capacious saddle-bags. Thus disencumbered, he leaped lightly from the dromedary and ran at a quick pace to an eminence a little on the right. He now looked a new man; the transformation was truly wonderful. In the city he appeared like one over whose head near sixty summers had passed, leaving their impress in form and face. But now, in the desert, his form was erect and his step elastic, and his eye bright as a youth of twenty. His picturesque costume, too, added to the juvenile appearance. His brilliant silk robe of alternate stripes of red and white descended in graceful folds to the middle of his leg ; it was confined at the waist by a girdle of red morocco leather, round the front of which were little brass tubes for cartridges. The sleeves of the robe were wide and open to the elbow, and from beneath them hung down those of his shirt, long and pennon-like, so that as he walked the points swept the ground. His silk kefîyeh was of the most brilliant colors, and had a fringe of plaited cord more than a foot in depth. His finely-formed feet and limbs were naked. Such was ’Amer as he now lightly and joyfully trod the desert soil; and such is the ordinary undress of the Bedawy sheikhs. Those however, who are of the ruling family in a tribe, wear over this a short cloak of scarlet cloth, faced and trimmed with black.”
i Bedawy, singular; plural Bedawín. This is the more correct way of spelling these words (instead of Bedouin and Bedouins), and will be used in the original matter in this book.
* Kefiyeh is a handkerchief, usually of brilliant colors, doubled and thrown over the head, so that the long points fall down on each side of the face. Usually it is kept in its place by a fillet of wool around the head.
The abeih is a square-shaped cloak, generally made of goat's hair or fine wool, but sometimes of the richest silk, interwoven with gold and silver, and embroidered on the shoulders. It is universally worn by the Bedawîn, and very generally by the inhabitants of villages bordering on the desert. Many of the desert tribes have a peculiar pattern for the cloth. See Porter.
Some further extracts will be interesting, as showing the resemblances between the present and the very ancient tentlife of the East. Having proceeded for several hours, they saw at a great distance some specks on the landscape, which gradually developed themselves; and,
“At four o'clock we were in the midst of great herds of camels scattered over plain and mountain for many miles on every side, and soon after, overtopping an eminence, we saw before us black tents almost innumerable. We met an Arab wandering among the flocks; but he passed close to us without a salutation, and almost without a look at us. Some time after another passed near us, to whom 'Amer addressed a single question, receiving a brief answer. I gave him the