Page images

If the reader will suppose himself to have ascended the lofty eminences bordering the Lake of Galilee on the east, he will find that the ground soon forms itself into a plateau or level table-land, extending far before him and giving evidence of the greatest natural fertility. Crossing over this plain eastwardly, for about thirty-five miles, he will come suddenly to a region of some extent, looking as if the earth had opened itself and shot upward huge masses of black volcanic rocks, pitching them together in a very fantastic and irregular manner, mostly crowded, but sometimes with small spaces between. It may be called a volcanic island lifted up and left to rest on this great level, alluvial plain ; and no rocky shore of any island is better defined than is the boundary of this mass of black, hard and sharp rocks. This is the Lejah: it is an irregular oval in shape, and is about twenty-two miles from north to south, by fourteen in width, or about sixty-seven in circuit. Its general surface is from twenty to thirty feet above the plain, but this surface is covered all over with those jagged, crowded rocks having the appearance that would be presented, says Graham, "if a vast quantity of molten metal were confined in some vessel and its surface violently agitated by some powerful agent, and while in that state the mass were suddenly cooled.” Burckhardt describes the rocks as sometimes twenty feet in height, and “cleft asunder so that the whole appear shivered and falling down." Porter remarks, “It is wholly composed of black, basalt rock. The cup-like cavities from which the liquid mass was projected are still

There are in many places, deep fissures and yawning gulfs with ragged, broken edges, while in other places are jagged heaps of rock that seem not to have been sufficiently heated to flow, but were forced upward by the mighty agency

and then rent and shattered to their centre. The rock is filled with little pits and protuberances like airbubbles, is hard as flint and emits a sharp, metallic sound


when struck.Here and there occur small patches of grass,

, and there are a few trees; but, with such slight exceptions, it is only a labyrinth among molten rocks where a stranger is immediately lost, and in which only the Arabs have the clue. From a hill in the centre, three hundred feet in height, the eye wanders over this singular scene, and also discovers several towns within the Lejah, the houses scarcely distinguishable from the masses of rock. Their inhabitants now, as in the time of Josephus (Antiq. xv. 10, § 1), are a savage set of robbers, at war with all the neighboring country. Burckhardt, disguised as a native, ventured into the Lejah ; Porter and his companion entered a city on its edge, and were near forfeiting their lives by the act; Graham went in boldly with a large escort well armed, and met everywhere savage looks, but was left unhurt.

On the west side of the Lejah, about half way along its edge, is a projection about two miles long by a mile and a half in width, having the same character as all the rest, of jagged basaltic rocks and defiles; and here at present is the city of Edhra, doubtless on the site of the former Edrei,' the capital of Og, the king. Remains of the ancient city still cover a space there of a mile long by two-thirds of a mile in width Porter and his party ascended to the city by a winding, rugged path on which the horses kept their footing with difficulty ; and from the terrace of the sheikh's house he had a view of the wilderness of rocks adjoining. As seen from this spot, the huge masses of masonry forming the houses could scarcely be distinguished from the rough basaltic masses by which they were everywhere surrounded; and he says that houses and rocks were black alike, as if scathed by lightning.

We are now prepared to coincide with the words of the It is,

1 There is another claimant for this in Dera, ten miles southwest of this on the great plain, but the probabilities are altogether in favor of this one at the Lejah.

distinguished geographer, Carl Ritter, respecting the Haurán, that, these buildings remain as eternal witnesses of the conquest of Canaan by Jehovah."

The Israelites after their conquest as far north as the Jabbok, saw across that stream the edge of this very populous and powerful country. What could they effect against a people and against cities such as these ;—they a pastoral race, scant in even the common appliances for war? When at Kadesh, thirty-eight years previously, their spies had brought them intelligence about walled cities and the giant race in Canaan, they had been thrown into such trepidation as led to a mutiny; but here were before them sixty walled cities, which must now be taken, and the king of that country was remarkable for size even among the giant race. true, that their recent victories over the Amorites were adapted to inspire them with courage, but we can imagine the chill of dread which pervaded the vast Israelite hosts when Moses marshalled his warriors for the crossing of the Jabbok. Even he could not be confident except only in God. The Deity, it was true, was able to give them strength to subdue this people ; but how often had the Israelites shrunk from God, how often rebelled against him, and how often, in return, had he left them to be a prey to their enemies ! A similar case respecting similar people had already occurred: could Moses trust his countrymen now? If they should fail in this present instance, what an utter horror of defeat and almost of extinction must be before them and him !

The aged man, with one hundred and twenty years upon him, and head white as snows of Hermon close adjoining, yet still vigorous, and looking in hope to God, conducted them across the stream and into Bashan. Their march led them very soon, close by the strong walls of that large city now called Um el Jemal, still one of the most remarkable for its stone houses, and thence by Bozrah, and not far from


Kerioth and Salehah, all of them large walled cities, while in every direction were evidences of a very dense population and of a flourishing country. They could see the inhabitants looking down upon them from the city walls, as they passed one strong place after another; and they might easily perceive how utterly desperate was any effort by their own unassisted power against fortified places like these. Such a populous country, they also could readily conjecture, would be able to produce a large armed force which must be encountered somewhere; for such a land as this would not be yielded unresistingly. With such thoughts as these the Israelite armed hosts followed their aged leader past the cities and towns of these rock-houses, onward toward the

and then at last they came in sight of that wonderful region, the Lejah—then called Argob,—bristling with its black pinnacled rocks rising above the island-like formation which rested on the wide plain.

On that plain was also soon before them an immense host prepared for battle; for Og and “all his people were there." Along on the edges of that black promontory running out from Argob, where the whole region as far as their sight could reach, was like a natural fortress, spears were seen glittering and from it defiant cries were heard, while below on the open ground, as if scorning to seek such help, and confident of success, the giant king had marshalled his many thousands for the fight.

Og had judiciously chosen the borders of the Lejah for the place of combat. If he were defeated, that labyrinth of rocks, he believed, would be a place of safe retreat; for one man, knowing its recesses is a match for a dozen in a place where a stranger, even if unimpeded, is soon confused and lost. So he had drawn up his army on the edge of his capital at Edrei, and there was awaiting the approach of Moses and his host. The latter host came on with strangely agitated feelings. Their leader probably was calm. His heart had reason to be quiet in its entire confidence; for however unworthy might be his own people, and however weak he was himself, even now with his doom from such weakness resting upon him, God had just spoken to him and said, respecting this heathen king, “ Fear him not : for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people and all his land, and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.”

In confidence from such a promise, the heart of Moses might well be calm; and we may believe that the word of assurance had been promulgated widely among his people. But still, as they saw this strange region and this immense armed force, and the form of the giant king towering far above all others, they came on with most agitating emotions, among which, in many hearts, fears doubtless had place. They could trust God's power, but they had learnt to distrust each himself and all others in respect to God.

But the power of God was with them ; and against it all armed hosts and walled cities and natural or artificial defences are of no avail. The Israelites triumphed, and soon had possession of the whole country. God only could have given them the supremacy in a region like that. Og was slain in this battle at Edrei. He was the last of the giant race in that country: his bedstead (of iron) was sixteen and a half feet long by seven feet four inches in width.'

It is singular that in this wonderful country, we have to this day, united with the proofs of the miraculous power exhibited in subduing it, also evidence cut on those same rocks of the cause of divine interference for the extinction of this people of Bashan. Og, we are informed, “ dwelt at Ashteroth in Edrei."? In the time of Abraham we read of Ashteroth Karnaim, Ashteroth of horns, or horned Ashteroth, as a city in this country of the Rephaim or giants. Mr. Porter discovered at Kunawat (Kenath, Num. xxxii.

i Deut. üi. 11.

· Deut. i. 4.

3 Gen. xiv. 5.

« PreviousContinue »