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42), ten miles from the southern end of the Lejah, a mutilated colossal head, three feet in width and standing out three feet from the block of stone on which it was cut. A copy of his drawing of it is here presented to the reader, and we can have little difficulty in recognizing, by means of the crescent and rays, the representation of the horned Ashteroth.
Head in alto-relievo, believed to be of "' Ashteroth Karnaim" (Gen. xiv. 5). recently
discovered in the ancient Bashan.
This goddess, as has already been remarked in this work, was the Astarte of the Syrians and the Venus of the Greek mythology; and the most disgusting and demoralizing obscenities were practised in her temples as a part of her worship. We shall have occasion soon to advert again to this subject in connection with Baal and the efforts made to corrupt the Israelites before crossing the Jordan. In addition to the hurtful influence which heathenism possesses in any form, there was in the worship of Baal and Ashteroth the additional wickedness of such gross obscenities, with an effort to excuse or gloss them over by subtleties of reasoning about the principles of life. It was therefore the most dangerous of all the systems of heathenism, because it had the strongest appeals, and most artful apologies in favor of the worst forms of human deprayity. We have thus the reason for the divine decree of extinction, commenced here east of the Jordan, and to be executed still more widely in Canaan.
TT was with a feeling of intense satisfaction and of gratiI tude to God that the venerable leader of the Israelites, after the battle of Edrei and the subsequent rapid occupancy of that country, returned now to the general encampment from which he had set out on this expedition. To the whole of these great multitudes the late successes were also a subject of the warmest congratulations, for not only had they come into possession of rich territories, but they had also a most cheering warrant for the future. They were now on the immediate borders of Canaan, only the Jordan separating them from that promised land. They could look over a large extent of that country, and just below them, across that stream, was a great plain, so rich in verdure, and so marked with all the signs of plenty and beauty, that they were anxious to cross over and take immediate possession. Therefore, now that their arms had been so miraculously successful over the warlike Amorites, and the populous and strong region of Bashan, they were confident of easy conquests on the other side of Jordan, and they were watching the cloudy pillar with eagerness, to see it move and lead them on. But as yet it gave no signs of moving; and
although a feverish excitement of expectancy prevailed, they had to be contented for a few more weeks in their present condition, their leader in the mean time arranging for the permanent occupancy of their new possessions. To his people it soon became a time of trial, and through their perversities of a fearful lapse from purity and fidelity to God, and of a frightful retribution. Strange that a nation, so favored, bound so closely to Jehovah by strongest ties, could be so quick to forsake him for Baal and Ashteroth!
The country of the conquered Amorites which they were now occupying, the reader will remember, was just north of the Arnon, and was bordered westwardly by the northern end of the Dead Sea and the lower course of the Jordan. It was a continuation of the high table-land which they had traversed east of Edom, and beyond it on the eastward still lay the great sandy desert stretching to the Euphrates. But the place of their present occupancy on this high plateau was fertile, and had a pleasant variety of grounds, with some prominences or hills rising above the other portions. At its western edge, the ground suddenly subsides toward the Dead Sea and the banks of the Jordan, leaving, however, by the latter, an interval or plain about three miles wide, and extending some distance northwardly along its banks. This was called the “Plain of Shittim," from the numbers of Shittim or Acacia trees, which, fed by the streams from the higher lands, flourished here, and by their shade formed an agreeable retreat. A great many of the Israelites were encamped among these trees, while others occupied the plateau, which was three thousand feet above, and was fanned by breezes in a more healthy atmosphere.
The surface of the Dead Sea as already noticed is thirteen hundred and twelve feet below the level of the Mediterranean: consequently the Jordan flows as in a deep chasm, and this Plain of Shittim on the banks, both from its great depression and the reflections of heat from the steep ascents adjoining has a genial temperature, even when the weather above is unpleasantly cool. But it is enervating, and the Israelites found it to be so. Directly opposite the plain of Shittim, on the western bank of the river, is the plain of Jericho, about seven by twelve miles in extent, watered by many streams from copious fountains, and blessed with a soil of exuberant fertility. Its position in a basin, as if scooped out in the earth, produces a climate which we have already noticed as proverbially called “Egyptian," and the spot might well remind the younger portion of the Israelites, gazing upon it across the Jordan, of the country by the Nile; for here were palms in such abundance that the city, Jericho, on that plain, was in those days of Moses called “ the city of palm trees."
We have thus a view of the physical appearance of the country amid which the Israelites were now situated; but we can have no idea of the polluting influences produced even by the very names of places there, or of transactions and scenes which the mere designations of spots must have soon made familiar to their minds. For the chief god of this region was Baal, and on those heights above the vale of Shittim was the city of Beth-peor, so named after scenes in which the lowest orgies between the two sexes, which in our cities are carefully concealed, were there publicly enacted as a part of the worship of that god.
It was probably during the absence of Moses in Bashan, or if not then, it was immediately afterward, that the Moabites put in practice a singular plan for the discomfiture of Israel. These people had been jealous and keen observers of what was transpiring to the north of that deep glen of the Arnon, which was separating them from the new and formidable invaders. They had, it is true, been in no wise molested, but they were distressed and anxious. The Amorites had been conquered; the great hordes of Bashan had also yielded, or were yielding, before the mysterious Power which was sustaining the Israelites; a subtle, unseen influence seemed to be at work for these invaders. The Moabites resolved on trying to set charm against charm, and to have the Israelites cursed. It was the belief in that country, that sorcerers and prophets had power to curse persons and places, so as to confound all hostile designs, to enervate strength and fill their enemies with fear and dismay.'
1 Deut. xxxiv. 3.
In this purposed effort the Moabites were joined by the Midianites, to which people it is difficult for us to assign any habitation or definite country. They seem to have been wandering Arabs, like the Arabs of the present day, nomads sometimes, sometimes traders, occasionally occupying permanent habitations, and very rich in flocks and herds. They were the descendants of Abraham by Keturah, and appear to have intermarried with their neighbors from the same original stock, the Ishmaelites.3 · Such nomadic tribes are often very large, and the owners of great movable wealth. Mr. Graham encountered one which he estimated to consist of one hundred and twenty thousand persons, including twenty-five thousand horsemen. They migrate from the Haurán to the Euphrates and to Arabia ; and the traveller alluded to, on one occasion wishing to get the assistance of a tribe in his explorations, was disappointed by finding them just ready to start suddenly for the latter distant country. The Midianites and Ammonites appear to have been of this class of movable people ; but both drawn by ancient family affinities and by religion to the Moabites,
—for all three were worshippers of Baal—and seem to have had their common rallying-point in Moab. All now joined in a common cause against the Israelites, for all
i See Gen. ix. 25; Josh. vi. 26. • See Gen. xxxvii. 28; Num. xxxi. 10. 8 In Jud. viii. 24 both seem to be comprehended under the same name,