Page images

it is proper to mention that he, like other adventurers upon that dreary, dangerous, and appalling journey, found many things that appeared to show the literal, and in other cases the moral, fulfilment of the denunciations uttered by the Hebrew prophets. The route through the land of Edom, the visit to that wonderful city in the rocks, about to be referred to more particularly below, desolate and doomed as its singular aspect proves it for ever to be-offers, even in description, one of the most absorbing subjects which the Christian can contemplate. We have been at some pains, therefore, to collect what historians and the interpreters of prophecy have written concerning Edom and its ancient capital, to show what an importance ought to be attached to any recent accounts or facts made by such travellers as our American friend.

One or two names of preceding travellers in Edom, or Seir, the Idumea, or Arabia Petrea of the Greeks-as the land has been variously denominated-have been mentioned. We are now going to extract from the "Evidences of Prophecy," by the Rev. Mr. Keith, and from other authorities, regarding the desolated regions in question. Of these little appears to have been known in modern times, till within about half a century back, on the part of Europeans. Yet the mention of the district in the Bible is of such frequent occurrence as to impress every reader with the idea of bitter humiliation. Who can ever forget the appalling denouncement-" over Edom will I cast my shoe?"

Mr. Keith says there are many prophecies respecting Idumea, that bear a literal interpretation, however hyperbolical they may appear. Thus-" The cormorant and the bittern shall possess it; the owl also and the raven shall dwell in it; and He shall stretch out upon it the line of confusion, and the stones of emptiness. They shall call the nobles thereof to the kingdom, but none shall be there, and all her princes shall be nothing. And thorns shall come up in her palaces, nettles and brambles in the fortresses thereof; and it shall be a habitation of dragons, and a court of owls." These and other predictions by Isaiah are truly remarkable. Joel also says"Edom shall be a desolate wilderness." Others of the Prophets utter similar curses, such as-" I have made thee small among the heathen, thou art greatly despised. The pride of thine heart hath deceived thee, thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, whose habitation is high." Again-" I laid the mountains of Esau and his heritage waste for the dragons of the wilderness. Whereas Edom saith we are impoverished, but will return and build the desolate places; thus saith the Lord of Hosts, they shall build, but I will throw down; and they shall call them the border of wickedness." Now, Mr. Keith asks if there be any country once inhabited and opulent so utterly desolate? There is, and that land is Idumea; so that the territory of the descendants of Esau affords as miracu

lous a demonstration of the inspiration of the Scriptures as the fate of the children of Jacob.

It is worthy of remark that Volney was the first among travellers to point out how these prophecies have been realized. In his Travels, published about the year 1789, he observes, "This country has not been visited by any traveller, but it well merits such attention; for, from the report of the Arabs of Bakir, and the inhabitants of Gaza, who frequently go to Maan and Karak, on the road of the pilgrims, there are to the south-east of the lake Asphaltites (Dead Sea), within three days' journey, upwards of thirty ruined towns absolutely deserted. Several of them have large edifices, with columns that may have belonged to the ancient temples, or at least to Greek churches. The Arabs sometimes make use of them to fold their cattle in; but in general avoid them on account of the enormous scorpions with which they swarm.” Volney afterwards offers certain proofs of the ancient people of Idumea, saying, that at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, they were almost as numerous as the Jews, and that besides the advantages of being under a tolerably good government, the country enjoyed a considerable share of the commerce of Arabia and India. Petra, was the capital of this important country, and caravans from a variety of celebrated places and cities are stated by Mr. Keith, from a number of authorities which he quotes, to have pointed to it as a common centre, while from it the trade seems to have again branched out into every direction-to Egypt, Palestine, Syria, &c. At a period subsequent to the commencement of the Christian era, there always reigned at Petra, according to Strabo, a king of the royal lineage, with whom a prince was associated in the government. It was a place of great strength in the time of the Romans. Pompey marched against it, but desisted from the attack; and Trajan afterwards besieged it. The author we quote from says farther, that Petra was a metropolitan see, to which several bishoprics were attached in the time of the Greek emperors.

The vastness of the ruins of the capital in question have been represented by Burckhardt as "entitled to rank among the most curious remains of ancient art." It is perfectly desolate, yet the proofs of its former opulence and grandeur are manifest, consisting of sepulchres, the vestiges of a theatre, truncated pyramids, all cut out of the rock! Indeed the name Petra points out the nature of its locality and excavations, the word signifying a rock. Other designations, in other languages than the Greek one now most usually applied, convey precisely the same meaning. Thus, Sela (the very word used in the original) is synonymous with Petra.

We must take notice of a strictness of literal interpretation, which Mr. Keith seems to think has been fulfilled with regard to

Edom, but which according to our opinion, is neither called for on the part of such sacred texts, as we have already quoted, nor corroborated by facts. After citing from Isaiah these denunciations"None shall pass through it (Edom) for ever and ever.-I will cut off from Mount Seir him that passeth out and him that remaineth," the Rev. expounder says, on a reference to Volney, Burckhardt and other travellers, that they "not only give their personal testimony to the truth of the fact which corroborates the prediction, but also adduce a variety of circumstances, which all conspire in giving superfluity of proof that Idumea, which was long resorted to from every quarter, is so beset on every side with dangers to the traveller, that none pass through it. But what says our Trans

atlantic friend

"I cannot (he says) leave this interesting region without again expressing my regret at being able to add so little to the stock of useful knowledge. I can only testify to the existence of the ruins of cities which have been known only in the books of historians; and I can bear witness to the desolation that reigns in Edom. I can do more, not with the spirit of scoffing at prophecy, but of one who, in the strong evidence of the fulfilment of predictions uttered by the voice of inspiration, has seen and felt the evidences of the sure foundation of the Christian faith; and having regard to what I have already said in reference to the interpretation of the prophecy, None shall pass through it, for ever and ever,' I can say that I have passed through the land of Idumea. My route was not open to the objection made to that of Burckhardt, the traveller who came nearest to passing through the land; for he entered from Damascus, on the east side of the Dead Sea, and struck the borders of Edom at such a point that, literally, he cannot be said to have passed through it. If the reader will look at the map accompanying these pages, he will see Burckhardt's route; and he will also see that mine is not open to the critical objections made to his; and that, beyond all peradventure, I did pass directly through the land of Idumea lengthwise, and crossing its northern and southern border: and, unless the two Englishmen and Italian before referred to, passed on this same route, I am the only person, except the wandering Arabs, who ever did pass through the doomed and forbidden Edom, beholding, with his own eyes, the fearful fulfilment of the terrible denunciations of an offended God. And, though I did pass through and yet was not cut off, God forbid that I should count the prophecy a lie; no, even though I had been a confirmed sceptic, I have seen enough, in wandering with the Bible in my hand in that unpeopled desert, to tear up the very foundations of unbelief, and scatter its fragments to the winds. In my judgment, the words of the prophet are abundantly fulfilled in the destruction and desolation of the ancient Edom, and the complete and eternal breaking up of a great public highway: and it is neither necessary nor useful to extend the denunciation against a passing traveller."

Our author's explanation seems to us quite satisfactory by confining the prediction-" None shall pass through it for ever and ever," to the circumstances of habitual, frequent, and commercial,


Besides the passers through are numerous, if we consider the courses of the wandering Arabs, however few those visitors may be who come from civilized and christianized countries.

It will be now necessary to run rapidly through the second volume of the author's work, and to be contented with two or three separate sketches, though every page furnishes something amusing or curious. We have before seen some account of the customs of the wild sons of Ishmael. Here the American is again among the children of the desert.

"The life of the Bedouin, his appearance and habits, are precisely the same as those of the patriarchs of old. Abraham himself, the first of the patriarchs, was a Bedouin, and four thousand years have not made the slightest alteration in the character or habits of this extraordinary people. Read of the patriarchs in the Bible, and it is the best description you can have of pastoral life in the East at the present day.

"The woman whom we had pursued belonged to the tent of a Bedouin not far from our road, but completely hidden from our view; and when overtaken by Toualeb, she recognised in him a friend of her tribe, and in the same spirit, and almost in the same words which would have been used by her ancestors four thousand years ago, she asked us to her tent, and promised us a lamb or a kid for supper. Her husband was stretched on the ground in front of his tent, and welcomed us with an air and manner that belonged to the desert, but which a king on his throne could not have excelled. He was the imbodied personification of all my conceptions of a patriarch. A large loose frock, a striped handkerchief on his head, bare legs, sandals on his feet, and a long white beard, formed the outward man. Almost immediately after we were seated he took his shepherd's crook, and, assisted by his son, selected a lamb from the flock for the evening meal. * While we were taking coffee the lamb lay bleating in our ears, as if conscious of its coming fate, and this was not particularly gratifying. The coffee drunk and the pipe smoked, our host arose and laid his hand upon the victim; the long sword which he wore over his shoulder was quickly drawn; one man held the head and another the hind legs; and, with a rapidity almost inconceivable, it was killed and dressed, and its smoking entrails, yet curling with life, were boiling on the fire.

"I was the guest of the evening, and had no reason to complain of the civility of my entertainer; for with the air of a well-bred host, and an epicure to boot, he drew from the burning coals one of the daintiest pieces, about a yard and a half in length, and rolling one end between the palms of his hands to a tapering point, broke off about a foot and handed it to me. Now I was by no means dainty. I could live upon the coarsest fare, and all the little luxuries of tables, knives and forks, were of very little moment in my estimation. I was prepared to go full length in this patriarchal feast. But my indifference was not proof against the convivial elegances of my Bedouin companions; and as I saw yard after yard disappear, like long strings of macaroni, down their capacious throats, I was cured of all poetical associations and my appetite together." Our American was intent on visiting the most sacred and renowned spots in the course of his travels, whether they were

Mounts or cities. We shall in the next extract find him at the summit of Mount Hor and at the tomb of Aaron, having got the Bedouins persuaded that he wished to offer a sacrifice there.

"On the very top of the mount,' reverenced alike by Mussulmans and Christians, is the tomb of Aaron. The building is about thirty feet square, containing a single chamber; in the front of the door is a tombstone, in form like the oblong slabs in our churchyards, but larger and higher; the top rather larger than the bottom, and covered with a ragged pall of faded red cotton in shreds and patches. At its head stood a high round stone, on which the Mussulman offers his sacrifices. The stone was blackened with smoke; stains of blood and fragments of burnt brush were still about it; all was ready but the victim; and when I saw the reality of the preparations, I was very well satisfied to have avoided the necessity of conforming to the Mussulman custom. A few ostrich eggs, the usual ornaments of a mosque, were suspended from the ceiling, and the rest of the chamber was perfectly bare. After going out, and from the very top of the tomb surveying again and again the desolate and dreary scene that presented itself on every side, always terminating with a distant view of the Dead Sea, I returned within; and examining once more the tomb and the altar, walked carefully around the chamber. There was no light except what came from the door; and, in groping in the extreme corner on one side, my foot descended into an aperture in the floor. I put it down carefully, and found a step, then another, and another, evidently a staircase leading to a chamber below. I went down till my head was on a level of the floor, but could see nothing; all was dark, and I called to Paul to strike a light. Most provokingly he had no materials with him. He generally carried a flint and steel for lighting his pipe with; but now, when I most wanted it, he had none. I went back to the staircase, and descending to the bottom of the steps, attempted to make out what the place might be; but it was utterly impossible. I could not see even the steps on which I stood. I again came out, and made Paul search in all his pockets for the steel and flint. My curiosity increased with the difficulty of gratifying it; and in a little while, when the thing seemed to be utterly impossible, with this hole unexplored, Petra, Mount Hor, and the Dead Sea, appeared to lose half their interest. I ran up and down the steps, inside and out, abused Paul, and struck stones together in the hope of eliciting a spark; but all to no purpose. I was in an agony of despair, when suddenly I found myself grasping the handle of my pistol. A light broke suddenly upon me. A pile of dry brush and cotton rags lay at the foot of the sacrificial altar; I fired my pistol into it, gave one puff, and the whole mass was in a blaze. Each seized a burning brand, and we descended. At the foot of the steps was a narrow chamber, at the other end an iron grating, opening in the middle, and behind the grating a tomb cut in the naked rock, guarded and reverenced as the tomb of Aaron. I tore aside the rusty grating, and, thrusting in my arm up to the shoulders, touched the hallowed spot."

After what has formerly been published by Laborde and others respecting the city of Petra, and the few references we have already made to that now dreary and deserted place, we do not think it necessary to trace the ruins along with the present writer. His

« PreviousContinue »