Page images



the northern extremity of the lake. At the same point are some ancient reservoirs, situated close to the water's edge. A number of fountains, still furnishing a, copious supply of water, burst forth from the earth, and the cisterns were evidently made to collect and retain their water, either for ordinary uses or for bathing. They are circular, and may be twenty feet in diameter.

The rocky shore-a continuation of the plain around Tiberias—appears susceptible of tillage, but is not cultivated, with the exception of a miserable garden, with some neglected plants near the fountains. The mountain soon after approaches very near to the sea, and the road winds along for some distance, over and among rocks, directly under the cliff.

After one hour and twenty minutes another plain opened before us, extending several miles to the north and west. A miserable-looking village of thirty or forty huts stands in the entrance, and we stopped to make some inquiries of the pale, sickly-looking inhabitants, who resembled the people of Jericho in their aspect and bearing. This region has, in some respects, a striking resemblance to that near the mouth of the Jordan. The thorn of Jericho, which I have so fully described, reappears upon this plain. A few scattering palm-trees adorn the dreary precincts of Tiberias, while the stagnant atmosphere and oppressive heat prevailing in this deep valley are probably the chief causes, here as well as at Jericho, of the sickliness of the climate. This poor village, however, possesses a special historical interest. The people, of whom we inquired its name, called it Mejdal; and it is evident, from the name, as well as from its position here, that this is the Magdala of the New Testament and the Migdal of the Old.* At the northern extremity of this village is a large quadrangular edifice, now in a ruinous state. It may have been a khan.

* Joshua, xix., 38, and Matthew, xv., 39.

[blocks in formation]

The southern part of the plain, which commences at this village, is under cultivation. We saw some inconsiderable fields of wheat, and the villagers were employed with their oxen in ploughing for a summer crop-of millet, I presume. The plain is but little elevated above the sea, and is almost a perfect level. In some places it has the appearance of being marshy, and it is, for the most part, untilled, and covered with rank grass and a variety of running plants. We crossed two small streams, which come down from the mountain on the west and pass on rapidly to the sea. Upon one of them are several ruinous mills, only one of which had the appearance of being in tolerable repair, or capable of being restored. This plain, which, I think, is about four miles in length by two and a half in breadth, is bounded eastward by the sea and on the west by the mountain, which recedes from the shore at Mejdal, and, having made the compass of that side of the plain, again returns to the beach at its northern end. The two extremities of the plain are thus contracted to a point, while the western boundary along the mountain is curved, and the eastern, on the sea, is a nearly straight line. The soil is of a dark colour, very deep, and evidently of the greatest fertility. This plain is universally regarded to be the Genesareth of the New Testament, and the Gennesareth of whose marvellous productiveness Josephus speaks in such unmeasured language. He says it is thirty stadia long from north to south, and twenty broad, which agrees nearly with my estimate. Wady Hymam comes down through the mountain northwest of Mejdal, and distant from it about one third of the length of the plain.

We left this beautiful region at half past 2 o'clock, and began to ascend the mountain, our road here bearing to the left. The crossing of the plain had occupied us one hour and ten minutes, and its northern termination, as indicated by the return of the mountain to the sea, was only a few minutes before us I did not know at the time that



the precise spot, marked by a fountain, an old khan, and other ruins, adopted by the most judicious writers and trarellers as the probable site of Capernaum, was within five or ten minutes of the place where we turned up the mountain. Yet such was the fact. I had already passed the sites of Bethsaida and Chorazin, the villages so peculiarly favoured by our Lord's ministry, and so terribly denounced on account of their unbelief, in coming from Mejdal.

The arguments which go to establish the identity of this plain with “the land of Genesareth,” and, consequently, to fix here the sites of Capernaum, Bethsaida, and Chorazin, appear, to my mind, satisfactory. All the notices of Genesareth in the New Testament concur to demonstrate that it lay upon the western shore of the sea, and there is no other tract of country upon this coast, besides the plain in question, which can possibly answer to the description of Josephus already referred to.* A comparison of Matthew, xiv., 34, and Mark, ví., 45 and 53, with John, vi., 17 and 21, shows conclusively that both Capernaum and Bethsaida were situated in the plain of Genesareth, so that sailing to these towns is said to be going to the land of Genesareth. Chorazin is only mentioned in connexion with Bethsaida, to which it was, no doubt, adjacent or very near.

For more than an hour after leaving the sea and entering the mountain region our general direction was towards the northwest. The ascent, though rapid, was hardly anywhere precipitous, and the mountain-sides were covered with grass, still green and flourishing. At a quarter past 3 P.M., we turned aside to examine some ruins situated a few rods from our route on the left. Here is a deep chasm in the mountain, which in this place rises several hundred feet above the road. The sides are formed of perpendicular cliffs, which rise with much regularity from the bottom of the chasm, thirty or forty feet, perhaps, above the

* Wars, book iii., chap. x., sect. vi.



level of the ravine by which we were advancing, quite to the top of the mountain. They appear to be nearly parallel for a considerable distance into the mountain, when they gradually approach each other, and finally meet, thus forming two sides of a triangle, which is completed by a wall across the mouth of the gorge. It was this wall which attracted our attention in passing along the road. Though in a ruinous state, it is still a massive pile, and might easily be repaired, so as to render this stronghold nearly impregnable. In the northern cliff are entrances to a great number of caverns, whether natural or artificial I could not determine, as they appeared to be at present inaccessible ; but they are probably artificial, as the square windows by which they communicate with the great area are evidently the work of man. At the time, I took this to be the Kalaat Hamam of Burckhardt, and the Valley of Doves of Pococke, the precise situation of which in Wady Hymam, west of Mejdal, had escaped my notice. It has a strong resemblance to that ancient fastness in its general character.

The perpendicular cliffs rise on all sides but that occupied by the wall to a great height, so as to render the approach of an invader impossible; while the narrow entrance, fortified by this massive bulwark, could easily be defended by a handful of men against the largest force. *

The entire route from the Sea of Tiberias to Safet is ascending, and the traveller, finding little variety in the form and general appearance of the limestone ridges which he

* The suggestion of Dr. Robinson is probably correct, that the similar fortress in Wady Hymam was a stronghold of the robbers whom Herod the Great destroyed by letting down from the top of the cliffs, where they were secured by long chains, capacious boxes filled with soldiers, who, thus suspended in mid air, attacked the bandits through the entrances of their caves, dragging them out with long hooks, and dashing them down the precipice. - Antiq., book xiv., chap. xv., sec, xlv. The historian speaks of these caves as numerous in this mountains 19 part of Galilee : all of them were finally captured by Herod.



successively encounters in the laborious and rather tedious ride, is often tempted to look back upon the picturesque and beautiful region of which he must soon make his last survey. The sea is almost continually in sight, and the. different elevations and ever-shifting points of view from which it was seen gave to this lovely expanse of water, reposing in its deep bed, lustrous and glittering in the sunbeams like molten silver, an endless variety of interesting forms and aspects. Sometimes it was visible throughout almost its entire length, but so overshadowed and straitened is it by the high mountain barrier which forms its westem shore as to appear only a broad river, flowing on quietly and imperceptibly towards the lower southern region. Again the interposition of a point of the mountain, or some slight change in our course, interceptod our view of some portion of the shining tract, leaving visible only the nearer or remoter parts, and sometimes no more than an inconsiderable section across the middle of the lake. Our increasing elevation brought the magnificent plain that spreads out beyond its eastern shore, more and more under the dominion of the eye, and gave a vast enlargement to its visible extent, as well as greater distinctness and depth to the form and outlines of the graceful, green hills that rise in such numbers upon the broad expanse of its fruitful bosom. I thought some of these views the most exquisitely beautiful of any I had enjoyed of this deeply interesting region, but perhaps it was because they were parting views of a region so honoured and hallowed by the presence and ministry of the adorable Saviour. My eye rested upon the “Sea of Galilee,” the “ coast of Magdala," and the “ land of Genesareth ;” upon the site of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum—"the cities where most of his mighty works were done." It “passed over to the other side,” and traced in various directions across the shining lake the probable track of “the little ships” in which he “ went about doing

« PreviousContinue »