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Sihon at his capital. “Let me pass through thy land : we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well : but we will go along by the king's highway, until we will be past thy borders.” The answer was a stiff negative; and this negative was supported by a marshalling of all the forces of the Amorite king, men inured to battle and accustomed to victory. God came to the help of the Israelites. They were encamped just south of a small easterly branch of the Aruon, still beyond the Amorite territory ; but the injunction came to Moses, “Rise ye up, take your journey, and pass over the river Arnon: behold I have given into thy hand, Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land : begin to possess it, and contend with him in battle. This day will I begin to put the dread of thee and the fear of thee upon the nations that are under the whole heaven, who shall hear report of thee, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of thee."
A battle ensued, and the Israelites were victorious. They immediately followed up their victory with a conquest of all the land from the Arnon up northwardly to the mountains of Gilead and to the river Jabbok: in the heat of passion, as they spread over the country beating down all resistance, they were themselves carried into excesses, for neither age nor sex was spared. They ended with gaining full possession of the country of the Amorites.
A VERY SINGULAR COUNTRY. UT before these armed hosts of Israel was now a BUT
country which might well bring them to a sudden stand, and to a questioning of their hearts respecting their faith in God as a helper. For clearly no other help could be of any avail to men so unprepared as they were in military appliances for the species of warfare now seemingly before them.
Their conquest of the Amorites gave them possession of a region extending north wardly to the river Jabbok, which empties into the Jordan about midway between the Lake of Galilee and the Dead Sea. Beyond that was the kingdom of Bashan; and we have the means, from recent examinations, of knowing what was the kingdom of Bashan in those times. Present observations seem to carry us personally back to just that period, and to place this country before us with its houses and cities and walled strongholds, exactly as they were then. As the buildings were in the days of Moses, just so we see them presented now ;—the dwellinghouses standing as they were then, the cities as they were then, only now all are deserted, solitary and silent.
No one can visit that country without being filled with astonishment at the perfect preservation of all the houses, and also at the utter solitude among them-great cities now just as they were three thousand years ago, except that they have not an inhabitant among them. It is more like a place of enchantment than a reality. Streets are perfect, houses are perfect; they look as if they might have been great hives of human beings only yesterday, so complete is everything; but all living forms have vanished,
leaving the structures alone to tell of generations buried long ago; and these structures so solid that they look as if they might have been erected previous to the Flood. Indeed, we are there in contact with an antiquity oppressive by its vastness of extent, and by the questions which it starts without helping us to an
The traveller walks along the streets and into the houses or across the public squares, all so full of meaning respecting former active, busy scenes : the echo of his foot-fall is all he hears, and he is startled by the sound : his own shadow affrights him in the utter solitude: he is alarmed, at last, at the universal death which has crept over the land, and which seems as if, by its absorbing power, it might seize also upon himself. There is a sense of relief when he gets away, and yet he is drawn back to it as by a kind of enchantment.
There are a hundred Pompeiis here in a small compass of country; not buried cities preserved because entombed, but cities for many ages open to the sun and rains, yet all still fresh and perfect, and with a country of richest soil around them: yet all is deserted; all seems dead.
The secret of this perfect preservation is in the material used in building and the mode of building, the former being indestructible, and the latter being such as to make a house, although a regularly built and convenient structure, be also like a hill of rock. The former is the black basalt of the country, as hard as iron, and even more durable ; it is the only substance used about the buildings, which are thus great masses of stone,—the roofs, the doors and gates all of stone. Only the bars inside of these latter have perished, but the morticed apertures for them are as fresh as if made but yesterday. The doors stand yet in their places, the floors and roofs are whole and sound; and a stranger has only to go in and swing to the door, and he is in a rockcastle, safe from any outward assaults by man, secure also from the weather, and in a home all his own. There are many thousands of such houses in cities and country; all of them empty and deserted.
One of these houses, a specimen of the ordinary kind, is described by Mr. Porter, a late traveller in that region. It was the first one he entered, and was in Burak, on the edge of this singular country. He describes it as having walls four feet in thickness, composed of large blocks of squared stones put together without cement; the roof of regularly formed stones eighteen feet long, six inches in thickness and eighteen in breadth, their ends resting on other stones which projected about a foot beyond the walls on the inside, so as to form a cornice. The door of entrance was four and a half feet high, four feet wide and eighteen inches thick ; these doors are of stone, and made to move on pivots which are projecting parts of the door itself, and work in sockets in the lintels and thresholds, as do all the modern doors and gates in Syria. Sometimes the doors are as much as nine feet in height, and many of them are ornamented with figures of scrollwork cut in relief on their faces. In this house at Burak, the first apartment was twenty feet by twelve, and ten feet in height. From it, a low door opened into another room behind it, of the same dimensions and character; and from this a larger door admitted to a third, to which was a descent by a flight of stone stairs. This last was a spacious hall equal in breadth to the other two, and about twenty-five feet long by twenty in height: the stone door so large that “ a camel could go out and in with ease.” “Such,” he says, “is a specimen of the houses in Burak, and such a fair specimen of all the houses throughout nearly the whole of the Haurán. Some of them are larger, with spacious courts in the interior, into which the chambers open; others again are small and plain; but all are massive and extremely simple in their plan, thus denoting high antiquity.” Some of the doors and gates are double ; inside of all are large sockets in the walls for the heavy bars by which they were secured.
This large region of country, now called The Haurán,in the time of Moses, Bashan, lying between the Jabbok and Damascus on the north and south, and between the Sea of Galilee and the great desert on the east, has long been known to be one of very great interest, but also on account of the wild Arab tribes claiming it and at enmity with each other, so dangerous that few modern travellers have dared to attempt to enter it. Burckhardt explored some portions of it in disguise: Buckingham saw a small part of it in 1816; Mr. Porter in 1855, under the protection of some powerful sheikhs, explored it more largely, but at last he and his party were set upon at the ancient capital Edhra, and barely escaped with their lives. A few years afterward Mr. Cyril Graham, well armed and strongly protected made a wider journey and came back unhurt, having penetrated defiantly even to the centre of the stronghold of the country, the Lejah, the Argob of ancient times. The half-savage tribes of this desert scowled on him and flashed fury from their eyes, but hung back before his boldness and circumspection and the strength of his escort.
All these travellers have been struck with the extreme antiquity evident in those stone houses, and attribute them to the very earliest times. The Romans, it is true, had possession of the country (for this was the region called Gaulanitis, Auranitis, etc., of our Saviour's time); and those universal conquerors have left numerous proofs of their dominion, still to be seen in the columns and inscriptions in these cities; but the stone houses referred to are of a different type of architecture, and evidently long anterior to that of the Romans, and with a simplicity and massiveness never seen in the structures of that comparatively modern people. All travellers give them an age of at least three