« PreviousContinue »
Therefore in speaking of these remains now evident to our eyes, in the Haurán, we can safely go beyond the Romans, and can consider them as belonging to the Bible
A. Part of the Lake of Galilee.
The river is the Hieromax. Fifty miles east of the Lejah is a similar spot called es-Safah, examined by Graham.
account of the times of Moses, when Оg, king of Bashan, had there threescore cities" “ fenced with high walls, gates and bars; besides unwalled towns a great many."
That scriptural account of possessions in those days, in a region so comparatively small, might in the minds of persons disposed to doubt, give rise to much skepticism ; for those times were so very remote, and walled cities were so rare, and this region was so incompetent apparently to support such populations : but, strange as it may all seem, we have here the proof before us in that very strange land. Mr. Porter says, speaking of such startling accounts in the Bible history, “[In former times,] I had myself turned to my atlas where I found the whole of Bashan delineated and not larger than an ordinary English county. I was surprised, and though my faith in the Divine Record was not shaken, yet I thought some strange statistical mystery hung over the passage. That one city, nurtured by the commerce of a mighty empire, might grow till its people could be numbered by millions, I could well believe,--and that two or even three might spring up in favored spots, clustered together, I could also believe. But that sixty walled cities, besides unwalled towns a great many, should be found in such a remote age, far from the sea, with no rivers and little commerce, appeared quite inexplicable. Inexplicable and mysterious though it appeared, it was strictly true. spot, and with my own eyes, I had now verified it. Lists of more than one hundred named cities and villages in these mountains (Jebel Haurán] alone I had tested and found correct, though not complete. More than thirty of these I had myself either visited or observed so as to fix their position on the map. Of the high antiquity of these ruins scarcely a doubt can be entertained, and the extent of the more important among them has already been estimated. Here, then, we have a remarkable record more than three thousand years old, containing incidental statements and statistics which few would be induced to receive on trust and not a few to cast aside as glaring absurdities, and yet which close eramination shows to be minutely correct."}
Among those visited by him were,
Sulkhad (Salchah, Josh. xiii. 11; Deut. iii. 10; Josh. xii. 5), two to three miles in circumference. Here, "on the plain extending from the south to the east," he says, “I counted fourteen towns or large villages, none of them more than twelve miles distant, and almost all of them, as far as I could see by the aid of the telescope, still habitable like Sulkhad, but completely deserted."
Kureiyeth (Kerioth, Jer, xlviii, 23, 24; Amos ii. 2), same size as Sulkhad.
Busrah (Bozrah, Gen. xxxvi. 33; Isa. xxxiv. 6; lxiii. 1; Jer. xlix. 13), one and a quarter by one mile in extent.
Suweideh, four miles in circuit.
Kunawat (Kenath, Num. xxxii. 42), one mile, by half a mile.
Shubhka, two miles in circuit.
Graham went further than Porter, and saw more, and yet he had to leave much of the country unexplored. Among the places visited by him was Um el Jemal, “an enormous city,” probably Beth-gamul of Scripture.? “ This,” he says, “ is perhaps amongst the most perfect of the old cities that I saw. It is surrounded by a high wall, forming a rectangle, which seems to enclose as much space as the walls of the modern Jerusalem. ... The houses are some of them very large, consisting usually of three rooms on the ground floor and two on the first story, the stairs being formed of large stones, built into the house walls, and leading up outside; sometimes there were folding doors, and some of them were highly ornamented.” ...“ Taking my rifle with me, I
wandered about quite alone in the old streets of the town, entered one by one the old houses, went up stairs, looked into the rooms, and, in short, made a careful survey of the whole place; but so perfect was every street, every house, every room, that I could almost have fancied, as I was wandering alone in this city of the dead—seeing all perfect, and yet not hearing a sound—that I had come upon one of those enchanted places that one reads of in the 'Arabian Nights, where the population of a whole city had been petrified for a century.” He says again,
“Og, we are told, was of the remnant of the Rephaim, and that he was indeed a giant the length of his bedstead shows. We are told his cities were cities of stone, with high walls, bars and gates; these are the cities which the Israelites took from him ; these are the cities which, in later times, the Romans occupied and adorned, and these are the very cities which still are standing, and bearing testimony to the truth of God's word.
“Suppose, for a moment, that no one had ever yet travelled in the Haurán, on reading the different passages in the Old Testament which refer to that country, should we not, when we read the account of such prodigious numbers of stone cities, have expected to find at least some remnant of them now? And when we read in Deut. ïïi. of 'threescore walled towns, and unwalled towns a great number,' and we see how small a space Og's kingdom occupies on the map, we might almost feel tempted, as many have been, to think that some mistake with regard to the numbers of these places had crept into the text. But when we go to the very country, and find one after another great stone cities, walled and unwalled, with stone gates, and so crowded together that it becomes a matter of wonder how all the people could have lived in so small a tract of country; when we see houses built of such huge and massive stones, that no force that could ever have been brought against them in that country would have been sufficient to batter them down; when we find rooms in these houses so large and so lofty that many of them would be considered fine rooms in a large house in Europe; and lastly, when we find some of these towns bearing the very names that cities in that country bore before the Israelites came out of Egypt, I think we cannot help feeling the strongest conviction that we have before us the cities of the giant Rephaim, the cities of the land of Moab. These cities have become gradually deserted, as the Arabs of the desert have increased in number, and now south and east of Sulkhad not one of these many towns is inhabited.
“I am now more than ever convinced that among the evidences of the truth of Scripture, there are few stronger than those—undesigned—coincidences which arise out of the examination of the topography. Before the present century little was known of these countries; but now, each few years, some researches bring to light more and more facts connected with the early history of the places with which we are so much concerned in Holy Writ. And we may be quite sure that every certain extension of our knowledge in this respect will afford us additional conviction of the scrupulous accuracy of the Holy Scriptures. At the same time, such knowledge is not to be attained without some difficulty and risk, but I think that one may well be justified in incurring these, where there is hope of such important and valuable results being attained.”
But, if the whole country of the ancient Bashan was so remarkable, still more so was its central spot, the Argob of Scripture, where was the capital of Og, the king. This spot, called now the Lejah, is worthy of a particular description by itself.
1 “Explorations in the Desert east of the Haurán and in the ancient land of Bashan, by Cyril C. Graham, Esq., F.R.G.S. &c.," (In Journal of the Royal Geographical Society, vol. xxviii.).