Chapter 37 - Gaza to Beit Jibrin

Beauty and fertility of Philistia.
Belt Jibrin or Eleutheropolis-Bethogabra?
Gerar — Wells — Lahai-roi
Country of Samson — Timnath.
Character of Isaac.
Lion — Bees — Treachery of wives.
Urn Lakis — Lachish.
David and Goliath.
“Gulgal”
David with Achish.
April 17th.
I am now more than ready to leave this rude and fanatical city. What sort of country have we before us today?
Road to Belt JibrîN
Beautiful in itself, but monotonous — wheat, wheat, a very ocean of wheat. Our road to Beit Jibrin leads diagonally across the whole territory of Philistia, and oilers an opportunity to become familiar with its physical features and its present productions; but there is not a single sight of much importance along the entire distance.
This I shall not regret, for I am almost disgusted with ruins, and fatigued by the effort to trace out the history of extinct races and magnificent cities among mud hovels and semi-savage Arabs. Give me for one day the open country, and soil unpolluted by these vulgar people, and unencumbered with shapeless heaps of unmeaning rubbish.
I cannot promise freedom from Arabs, not even from Bedawin robbers, for we ride along the very borders of their desert homes, and they frequently make inroads quite beyond our track. Neither is the country anything like what we mean by virgin soil in America. It has been plowed for thousands of years, and probably very much as it is at present; but in one very remarkable respect it is not what it once was. There was doubtless a time, long, long ago, when it was covered with dense primeval forests, and there have been ages of prosperity and peace since then, when it was crowded with towns and villages, enclosed in and surrounded by beautiful gardens and orchards.
Insecurity of the Country
But, ever since Moslem rule began, the land has become the property, not of the cultivator, but of the government; and while this ruinous regime lasts, this splendid country will remain as it is. No man will plant orchards and make improvements on land not his own; but give him a secure title, and, under the crude husbandry of even these ignorant peasants, Philistia will quickly be studded with villages, and beautified with vineyards, olive-yards, and orange-groves. This, however, will never be realized until a strong government subdue or drive back the Bedawin to their deep deserts. Neither vineyards, nor fig orchards, nor vegetable gardens can exist, while these people are allowed to roam at will with their all-devouring herds and droves of camels.
The first time I came into this region I was agreeably surprised to find it not a flat, barren country, approaching to a sandy desert; one must go much further south to encounter anything resembling that. From the distant mountains it indeed has the appearance of a level plain, but the view is so vast that even very considerable hills are lost to the eye. In reality, Philistia closely resembles some of the most beautiful regions of our own glorious West. True, it lacks our fine forests, and one misses our charming country-houses, with their orchards; but that is owing to the inhabitants.
Beauty and Fertility of Philistia
The country is equally lovely and no less fertile than the very best of the Mississippi Valley. Nay, owing to something in the nature of the soil, or of the climate, or both, the sources of its fertility are even more inexhaustible than in any part of our own land. Without manure, and with a style of plowing and general culture which would secure nothing but failure in America, this vast plain continues to produce splendid crops every year; and this, too, be it remembered, after forty centuries of such tillage.
Gerar
In what part of this plain was Gerar, where Isaac resided so many years? It seems to have been extremely fertile, for he reaped a hundred-fold in that valley: “And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great” (Gen. 26:12-1312Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the Lord blessed him. 13And the man waxed great, and went forward, and grew until he became very great: (Genesis 26:12‑13)) — as any other farmer would who reaped such harvests.
The site has not yet been discovered; but I doubt not it can and will be, just so soon as it is safe to travel in that region. It must be somewhere to the southeast of us, and not above fifteen miles distant. According to the “Onomasticon,” it was twenty miles to the south of Eleutheropolis. Beginning, therefore, at Beit Jibrin, and going southward about seven hours, the traveler encounters the great Wady Sheriah, called by some Wady Gaza; and in it, or in one of its fertile branches, there is little doubt but that the lost site will be found. Arabs who frequent Gaza from that neighborhood speak of a ruined city somewhere there, which careful examination may yet decide to be the ancient Gerar. Isaac went there from Beersheba, the site of which is now known to be a few hours to the east of this region. There was a Wady Gerar in ancient times, which no doubt took its name from the city; and, with such data to guide the future explorer, the place will surely be found.
Gerar — Mr. Lands’ Narrative
It is, perhaps, scarcely proper to speak of this site as even now absolutely unknown. The Rev. J. Rowlands believes that he not only found Gerar, but also the lost Kadesh-barnea. He thus writes to his friend Mr. Williams: “From Gaza our course was to Khalasa. On our way we discovered ancient Gerar. We had heard of it at Gaza under the name of Joorf el Gerar — the Rush or Rapid of Gerar, which we found to lie three hours south-southeast of Gaza. Within Wady Gaza, a deep and broad channel coming down from the southeast, and running a little higher up than this spot, is Wady es Sheriah, from the east-northeast. Near Joorf el Gerar are the traces of an ancient city called Khirbet el Gerar — the Ruins of Gerar. Our road beyond Khalasa lay along a plain slightly undulating. This plain must be the land of Gerar. Here we sojourned for two days (one of which was Sunday) with Abraham in Gerar.” This is rather a meager account of such a celebrated and unknown region and city, but it is the best we have at present. Mr. Rowlands then went southward to Suez, passing by Khalasa, or Khulasah as Dr. Robinson spells it, and identifies it with the Greek Elusa; but Mr. Rowlands thinks it marks the site of the Chesil of Joshua 15:3030And Eltolad, and Chesil, and Hormah, (Joshua 15:30), one of the cities in the south of Judah. Both may be correct. Mr. Rowlands does not seem to have been aware that Dr. Robinson not only visited the place, but gave an extensive description and history of it.
SebâTa-Zephath
Our fortunate traveler, passing in a direct line across the desert from Khalasa to Suez, came, in two hours and a half, to an old site called Sebâta, which he identifies with Zephath, called Hormah — “destruction” — in Numbers 21:33And the Lord hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah. (Numbers 21:3), where the Israelites vowed a vow to utterly destroy the place, on account of the attack of king Arad; and subsequently, in Judges 1:1717And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah. (Judges 1:17), after Judah and Simeon had utterly overthrown it, this name “Destruction” was attached to it a second time.
Rehoboth
Near this place is also a well, called Bir Rohebeh, and the ruins of a city with the same name, which he has no doubt was the Rehoboth of Genesis 26:2222And he removed from thence, and digged another well; and for that they strove not: and he called the name of it Rehoboth; and he said, For now the Lord hath made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land. (Genesis 26:22). The ruins are extensive, and in remarkably good preservation.
Beer Lahai-Roi
Ten camel hours (twenty-five miles) further toward Suez, Mr. Rowlands found Moilâhi, which he believes, for half a dozen reasons, to be Beer-lahai-roi, where Hagar found water, and called it after the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Lahai-roi — “Thou God, seest me” (Gen. 16:13-1413And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me? 14Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. (Genesis 16:13‑14)). Our traveler is now in the vast wilderness, plain, or desert of Paran, called also the wilderness of Kadesh, so famous in early Bible story, and he discovers more than one interesting locality.
Kadeshbarnea
We shall only refer to Kadeshbarnea. He finds it twelve miles east-southeast of Moilâhi; and as he stood at the base of the rock that was smitten by Moses, and gazed upon the beautiful brook of delicious water still gushing forth from it, and leaping down into the desert over many a lovely cascade, he was quite wild with enthusiastic excitement — and well he might be, with his firm faith in the identification.
Isaac in Gerar
The history of Isaac's sojourn in Gerar is very curious and instructive. Combining both pastoral and agricultural industry, it is not strange that he grew very great. The vas grazing plains around and south of his position enabled him to multiply his flocks indefinitely, while the “hundred-fold” harvests furnished bread for his numerous servants; and, in addition to these advantages, the blessing of the Lord was on the labor of his hands in a manner altogether extraordinary. These things made the Philistines envy and fear him; and therefore Abimelech, king of Gerar, demanded and obtained a covenant of peace with him. Just so at this day the towns, and even cities, such as Hamath and Hums in the north, and Gaza and Hebron in this region, cultivate with great care friendly relations with the sheikhs of prosperous tribes on their borders.
Scarcity of Water Wells
It appears that the country was deficient in water, and that wells, dug at great expense, were regarded as very valuable possessions. Isaac was a great well-digger, prompted thereto by the necessities of his vast flocks; and in those days this was an operation of such expense and difficulty as to be mentioned among the acts which rendered illustrious even kings (2 Chron. 26:1010Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry. (2 Chronicles 26:10)). The strife for possession of them was a fruitful source of annoyance to the peaceful patriarch, as it had been the cause of separation between Abraham and Lot before him; and such contests are now very common all over the country, but more especially in these southern deserts. It was the custom in former times to erect towers or castles to command and secure the possession of valuable watering-places; thus Uzziah built towers in connection with “his many wells” (2 Chron. 26:1010Also he built towers in the desert, and digged many wells: for he had much cattle, both in the low country, and in the plains: husbandmen also, and vine dressers in the mountains, and in Carmel: for he loved husbandry. (2 Chronicles 26:10)). And to stop up wells was the most pernicious and destructive species of vengeance — the surest way to convert a flourishing country into a frightful wilderness. Israel was commanded thus to destroy the land of the Moabites, by stopping all the wells of water (2 Kings 3:19,2519And ye shall smite every fenced city, and every choice city, and shall fell every good tree, and stop all wells of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones. (2 Kings 3:19)
25And they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and they stopped all the wells of water, and felled all the good trees: only in Kir-haraseth left they the stones thereof; howbeit the slingers went about it, and smote it. (2 Kings 3:25)
). It would be a curious inquiry for the explorer to seek out these wells, nor would it be surprising if they should be found still bearing the significant names which Isaac gave them. All travelers agree that water is so scarce and valuable in that region, that the places where it is to be found are as well known by the Arabs as are the most flourishing towns in other parts of the country.
Lahai-Roi
Isaac's place of residence was the well Lahai-roi, as we read in Genesis 25:1111And it came to pass after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac dwelt by the well Lahai-roi. (Genesis 25:11) and 24:62 — the same that was so named by Hagar (Gen. 16:1414Wherefore the well was called Beer-lahai-roi; behold, it is between Kadesh and Bered. (Genesis 16:14)). It may have been first discovered by her, or miraculously produced by “the God that saw her,” for the salvation of the maternal ancestor of the Arab race and her unborn son, as the fountain of Kadesh afterward was for all Israel (Num. 20:1111And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. (Numbers 20:11)), and perhaps that of Lehi for Samson (Num. 15:1919Then it shall be, that, when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall offer up an heave offering unto the Lord. (Numbers 15:19)). It seems to have been the usual mode to designate the dwelling-place in patriarchal times, and indeed long after, by some circumstance or fact which made it memorable. Abraham dwelt under the oak at Mamre; Isaac at this well; Jacob hid the idols of his family under the oak at Shechem (Gen. 35:44And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. (Genesis 35:4)); and long after, Joshua took a great stone and set it up under the same oak, as I suppose (Josh. 24:26-2726And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God. (Joshua 24:26‑27)). Thus, also, Deborah dwelt under the palm-tree of Deborah (Judges 4:55And she dwelt under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Beth-el in mount Ephraim: and the children of Israel came up to her for judgment. (Judges 4:5)); the angel of the Lord that was sent to Gideon came down. and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah (Judges 6:1111And there came an angel of the Lord, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites. (Judges 6:11)); king Saul is said to have tarried under a pomegranate tree in Migron (1 Sam. 14:22And Saul tarried in the uttermost part of Gibeah under a pomegranate tree which is in Migron: and the people that were with him were about six hundred men; (1 Samuel 14:2)); and it is yet quite common to find a village better known by some remarkable tree or fountain near it than by its proper name. The knowledge of these places and things is perpetuated from generation to generation; and I doubt not many of these wells in the south could be discovered, if one had time and liberty to explore.
Coincidences in Patriarchal Life
There are some curious coincidences in the patriarchal connections with Gerar. Both Abraham and Isaac came from Beersheba to that city; both adopted the same prevarication in regard to their wives, for the same reason and with the same result. It would appear that these ladies must have been beautiful in comparison with the darker daughters of Philistia, and this even when they were far advanced in life. Both were taken into the harem of the king, and both rescued by similar divine interpositions. The king, in either case, was called Abimelech, and each had a chief commander called Phicol. Both Abraham and Isaac made covenants with these Abimelechs; the place of meeting in both cases was a well; and from the seven ewe lambs the well was called Beersheba — “the well of seven,” or “well of the oath.”
How do you account for these strange coincidences?
It is fair to conclude that Abimelech was the royal title, just as Pharaoh was in Egypt, and Caesar in Rome. Phicol may also have been a name of office, as mudîr or mushîr now is in this country. If one of these officers is spoken of, his name is rarely mentioned. I, indeed, never know any but the official title of these Turkish officers.
Coveting Wives
I suppose it was the custom of these Abimelechs to augment their state and glory by introducing into their harems illustrious ladies, and that often without respect to their age. To enable them to do this, they sometimes killed their husbands; and such things are not unknown even in our day. I could point to more than one such transaction among the emeers and sheikhs of this country. This was the temptation which led both Abraham and Isaac to that culpable deception which is recorded of them. As to the other repetitions of similar acts, there is no difficulty in understanding them. After the lapse of many years it would be quite in accordance with Oriental usages for the successors of the first Abimelech to renew the covenant of peace with Isaac, who had grown so great as to be both envied and feared. The mode of contracting alliance was the same, because in both cases an established custom was followed; and that the well should have been twice named Beersheba, from this double transaction made at it, is not surprising. It may have been intended also, by that divine providence which guided all such proceedings of the patriots, to settle, by these remarkable acts, a well-known point to determine in future ages the extreme southern border of the Promised Land.
Character of Isaac
The character of Isaac is very marked and peculiar. He never traveled far from this spot during his long life of one hundred and eighty years — probably never removed from Wady Gerar and its neighboring city. There are but few acts of his life on record, and several of these are not much to his credit. He seems to have been an industrious, quiet man, disposed to wander alone and meditate — at least when he had such an interesting theme to think about as the coming of the camels with his expected bride. He preferred peace to strife, even when the right was on his side, and he was “much mightier” than those who annoyed and injured him. This silent submission to injury was objected to by Abimelech in the question of the wells, and with much apparent justice. The king, when reproved about those which his servants had violently taken away, replied, in substance, Why did you lay up this grudge in your heart all this while? You should have had more confidence in my justice, and instead of tacitly implying that I was a party to this violence, you ought to have reported the case to me. I do not feel flattered by this concealment, nor very well pleased that it should be cast in my teeth on this particular occasion. The same injurious suspicion is more prominent in Isaac's conversation about his wife. He there distinctly states his apprehension that Abimelech was a lawless tyrant, who would not stick at murder in order to get Rebekah into his harem. Neither Isaac nor Rebekah appears to advantage in this discussion with Abimelech. I say appears, because it is by no means certain that the king was not capable of doing just what Isaac feared; while Isaac would sooner have lost his right hand, or even his life, than be guilty of such enormous wickedness. And it is often the case that a very bad man may be able to set his conduct in such a light as to seem more honorable and generous than those much better than himself.
Jacob and Esau
This should be remembered when we study the exhibitions of character made by Jacob and Esau at their meeting in Gilead. Esau carries off the whole credit of the interview, and his brother seems cold, suspicious, cunning, unbrotherly. And while I do not pretend to admire certain traits in Jacob's character, yet he was far more upright and religious than Esau. Jacob knew him and his four hundred men too well to venture into his society and power. Hence all the shuffling and backing out, and even deception, which he gave in return for his injured brother's forgiveness, warm-hearted welcome, and generous offers of assistance. Jacob dared not accept them, and yet to reject them under such circumstances could not but place him in great embarrassment.
Deception of Isaac
How could Isaac have been so grossly deceived by Jacob and his mother?
He was not only blind, but old, so that he could not distinguish with accuracy, either by the touch of his shriveled hand or by the ear, now dull of bearing. It must be further remembered that Esau was from his birth a hairy person. He was now a man, full grown, and no doubt as rough and shaggy as any he-goat. Jacob was of the same age, and his whole history shows that he was eminently shrewd and cunning. He got that from his mother, who on this occasion plied all her arts to make the deception perfect. She fitted out Jacob with Esau's well-known clothes, strongly scented with such odors as he was accustomed to use.
History of Isaac
The ladies and dandies in ancient times delighted to make their “raiment smell like the smell of a field which the Lord had blessed” (Gen. 27:2727And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed: (Genesis 27:27)); and at this day they scent their gala garments with such rich and powerful spicery that the very street along which they walk is perfumed. It is highly probable that Jacob, a plain man, given to cattle and husbandry, utterly eschewed these odoriferous vanities, and this would greatly aid in the deception. Poor old Isaac felt the garments, and smelled the still more distinguishing perfumes of Esau, and though the voice was Jacob's, yet he could not doubt that the person before him was — what he solemnly protested that he was his first-born. The extreme improbability of deception would make him less suspicious, and, so far as the hair and the perfume are concerned, I have seen many Arabs who might now play such a game with entire success.
All this is easy and plain in comparison with the great fact that this treachery and perjury, under most aggravating accompaniments, should he in a sense ratified and prospered by the all-seeing God of justice.
Retribution
It is well to remember, however, that though the blessing, once solemnly bestowed, according to established custom, in such cases, could not be recalled, yet, in the overruling providence of God, the guilty parties were made to eat the bitter fruit of their sin during their whole lives. In this matter they sowed to the wind and reaped the whirlwind.
We set out on this line of remark by saying that in several of the known incidents of Isaac's history, few though they be, he does not appear to advantage. Even in this transaction, where he, now old, blind, and helpless, was so cruelly betrayed by his wife and deceived by his son, he is unfortunately at fault in the main question. He was wrong and Rebekah was right on the real point of issue; and, what is more, Isaac's judgment in regard to the person most proper to be invested with the great office of transmitting the true faith and the true line of descent for the promised Messiah was determined by a pitiful relish and longing for “savory meat.” Alas, for poor human nature! There is none of it without dross; and mountains of mud must be washed to get one diamond as large as a pea.
We have taken no note of time during this long digression, nor have I even noticed the face of the country.
Not much lost thereby, for our track has been the ordinary road to Beit Jibrin. After emerging from the great olive-grove north of Gaza, we had Beit Hanûn e' our left; then Demreh, on the same side, upon the bank of Wady Simsim, and Nejid on the south of our path. The village we have just passed is Simsim, and this one to which we are coming is Burier. Time from Gaza three hours; direction, northeast; country, a rich, rolling, agricultural plain.
Um Lakis
Our next village is Um Lakis, which, I have little doubt, derives its name from the Lachish so celebrated in Bible story and prophecy. The city itself seems to have been more to the south, and nearer Beit Jibrin, according to the “Onomasticon” and other notices. Even that is not certain, however, and the great similarity of name, for a site so close to the locality of the ancient city, is not to be forgotten. My company at Mesmia gave me names of villages, ruins, old sites, tells, and wells sufficient to fill two pages. None in this direction, however, seemed to be of any historic interest except 'Aglan and this Lakis.
Brick Buildings
We shall come to 'Aglan in half an hour. There are no ruins at either of these places to remind one of ancient glory; but the same remark applies to all the sites on this plain, and that for two reasons: the cities were built chiefly of unburned brick; and such parts as were of stone were either taken from that soft arenaceous formation which is found all along the coast, or from that cretaceous rock which is so characteristic of all these southern hills of Judea, and which is often nothing more than indurated marl. We are not, therefore, to expect ruins; and the name, with a tell of greater or less height, composed of such debris, pottery scattered over the neighborhood, and a well or two, with a sarcophagus or a stone trough — these are the things by which we identify old sites in Philistia.
The plain from this to Beit Jibrin is destitute of villages and barren of historic interest; and, after taking our lunch at this 'Aglan, we must quicken our pace, or we shall be out on this desert later than is exactly safe. The whole distance, at our rate of riding, is nine hours, and this may be taken as the utmost breadth of the proper territory of the Philistines. The great Wady Simsim branches out to the northeast and south, but it is everywhere destitute of water except in winter. The largest of these branches, called Wady el Hasy, wanders about in a general direction toward the southeast, and drains the western slopes of the mountains of Hebron.
What sort of vegetable is this whose stems our muleteers are cutting up and chewing with so much relish?
Wild Artichoke
It is the wild artichoke. We can amuse ourselves with it and its behavior for a while, and may possibly extract something more valuable than the insipid juice of which our men are so fond. You observe that in growing it throws out numerous branches of equal size and length in all directions, forming a sort of sphere or globe a foot or more in diameter.
Vegetable Globes
When ripe and dry in autumn, these branches become rigid and light as a feather, the parent stem breaks off at the ground, and the wind carries these vegetable globes whithersoever it pleaseth. At the proper season thousands of them come scudding over the plain, rolling, leaping, bounding with vast racket, to the dismay both of the horse and his rider. Once, on the plain north of Hamath, my horse became quite unmanageable among them. They charged down upon us on the wings of the wind, which broke them from their moorings, and sent them careering over the desert in countless numbers. Our excellent native itinerant, A– F–, had a similar encounter with them on the eastern desert, beyond the Hauran, and his horse was so terrified that he was obliged to alight and lead him.
Gulgal
I have long suspected that this wild artichoke is the qulgal, which, in Psalm 83:1313O my God, make them like a wheel; as the stubble before the wind. (Psalm 83:13), is rendered wheel, and in Isaiah 17:1313The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters: but God shall rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing before the whirlwind. (Isaiah 17:13), a rolling thing. Evidently our translators knew not what to call it. The first passage reads thus “O my God, make them like a wheel (gulgal), as the stubble before the wind”; and the second, “Rebuke them, and they shall flee far off, and shall be chased as the chaff of the mountains before the wind, and like a rolling thing (gulgal) before the whirlwind.” Now, from the nature of the parallelism, the gulgal cannot be a “wheel,” but something corresponding to chaff. It must also be something that does not fly like the chaff, but, in a striking manner rolls before the wind. The signification of gulgal in Hebrew, and its equivalent in other Shemitic dialects, require this, and this rolling artichoke meets the case most emphatically, and especially when it rolls before the whirlwind. In the encounter referred to north of Hamath, my eyes were half blinded with the stubble and chaff which filled the air; but it was the extraordinary behavior of this “rolling thing” that rivetted my attention. Hundreds of these globes, all bounding like gazelles in one direction over the desert, would suddenly wheel short round, at the bidding of a counterblast, and dash away with equal speed on their new course. An Arab proverb addresses this rolling thing thus: “He! 'akkûb, where do you put up tonight?” to which it answers as it flies, “Where the wind puts up.” They also derive one of their many forms of cursing from this plant: “May you be whirled, like the 'akkûb, before the wind, until you are caught in the thorns, or plunged into the sea.” If this is not the “wheel” of David and the “rolling thing” of Isaiah, I have seen nothing in the country to suggest the comparison.
April 18th.
Beit Jibrin, or Eleutheropolis
How is it ascertained that this Beit Jibrin is the site of the ancient Eleutheropolis?
The identification is due to the skill of Robinson and Smith, and the process of discovery and verification is detailed with great care in their “Researches.” Owing to the fact that Eusebius and Jerome take this as the central station from which to mark the direction and distance of many other places, there are few geographical points in the country of greater value, and Dr. Robinson very justly magnifies its importance. Having myself derived the highest gratification in following out his results in my own excursions in this region, I gladly embrace every opportunity to express my obligations.
Sacred Sites
There is a whole nest of sacred sites scattered around this important center. On the east we have Beit Nusib-Nezib; and further over the hills to the northeast Jeb'a — the Gibeah of Judah; and north, a little east, we find Shochoh in Shuwiekeh; and beyond it Jarmuth in Yarmuk. 'Ain Shemsh is Beth-shemesh; and northwest of this, Tibneh is the Timnath of Samson's wife. Northeast of this is Zorah, the city of his father; and southeast of that is Zanuah. The wady in which Zorah lies is called Wady es Sumpt, and this is probably the battlefield of David and Goliath of Gath. Dr. Robinson thinks that Gath may have been at or near Deir Dubban, where are very remarkable excavations and other indications of an ancient city.
Bethogabra Query, Gath?
It appears to me that Bethogabra-Eleutheropolis-Beit Jibrin, and Gath are all one and the same city. Khurbet Get — ruins of Gath — is the name now applied to one of the heaps of rubbish a short distance westward from the castle of Beit Jibrin. The Hebrew word Bethogabra and the Arabic Beit Jibrin may be rendered house of giants — which reminds us of Goliath of Gath and his family.
Mareshah-Gath
And further, I think that the Mareshah of Joshua 15:4444And Keilah, and Achzib, and Mareshah; nine cities with their villages: (Joshua 15:44), which was rebuilt by Rehoboam, and is repeatedly mentioned in connection with Gath (2 Chron. 11:88And Gath, and Mareshah, and Ziph, (2 Chronicles 11:8)), was a suburb of this great capital of the Philistines. Benjamin of Tudela makes Mareshah and Beit Jibrin identical, and Jerome places them so near each other that they may be regarded as one and the same place. Micah probably wrote “Moresheth-gath” in order to fix the location of the suburb by the name of the main city (Micah 1:1414Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moresheth-gath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel. (Micah 1:14)). All these identifications lend additional interest to this vicinity. Not only did Goliath and his family of giants reside here, but in this beautiful valley king Asa achieved that grand victory over Zerah the Ethiopian, with his host of “a thousand thousand, and three hundred chariots”; for the battle was at Mareshah, in the valley of Zephathah. These facts and suggestions will be sure to quicken your zeal for this day's explorations, notwithstanding your growing disgust with old ruins. There are, in fact, many things about Beit Jibrin which merit a careful examination. The most striking is this immense quadrangular enclosure which marks out the boundaries of an old castle. It is about six hundred feet square, and was built of large heavy stone.
Castle of Beth Jibrin
Then, too, the castle within this inclosure has points of interest. Some parts of it appear very ancient, while this confused mass of arches, vaults, and broken walls speaks of Saracenic and crusading times. Besides this building there are immense artificial caverns hewn out of these cretaceous hills, and some of them carefully ornamented. They are found chiefly in the wady which runs up south by east, and in which is situated the ruined church called Mar Hannah. Dr. Robinson has given a detailed account of these remarkable excavations, the object of which he is at a loss to comprehend. Some of them were undoubtedly cisterns, and it is not impossible that all were originally such, but subsequently some of them may have been enlarged into temples and underground chapels, and others made into granaries.
In traveling through this sacred territory, few things please me more than to light upon those circumstances which prove the accuracy of ancient Bible narratives even in the most incidental remarks and the minutest allusions.
Country of Samson
We are now not far from Zorah, the birthplace of Samson (Judg. 13:22And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. (Judges 13:2)), and it is pleasant to find his home still in existence, in that secluded mountain village above 'Ain Shemsh. On one of the hard rocks of that village Manoah placed his sacrifice, and the angel of the Lord did wondrously while Manoah and his wife looked on; “for it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame” (Judg. 13:2020For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. (Judges 13:20)).
Josephus has a curious addition to the Bible narrative of these transactions, in which, after extolling the beauty of Manoah's wife, he says that her husband was exceedingly jealous; and when he heard her expatiate upon the beauty of the man who had appeared to her and announced the birth of a son, he was so consumed with this terrible passion that he besought God to send the messenger again, that he might see him — and much more to the same purport. But to return to the history. It is said that Samson went down to Timnath, and there saw the woman whom he desired to marry.
Timnath
Now Timnath still exists on the plain, and to reach it from Zorah you must descend through wild, rocky gorges — just where one would expect to find a lion in those days, when wild beasts were far more common than at present. Nor is it more remarkable that lions should be met with in such places than that fierce leopards should now maintain their position in the thickly settled parts of Lebanon, and even in these very mountains, within a few hundred rods of large villages. Yet such I know is the fact.
Lion. Bees
There were then vineyards belonging to Timnath, as there now are in all these hamlets along the base of the hills and upon the mountain sides. These vineyards are very often far out from the villages, climbing up rough wadies and wild cliffs, in one of which Samson encountered the young lion. He threw the dead body aside, and the next time he went down to Timnath he found a swarm of bees in the carcass. This, it must be confessed, is an extraordinary occurrence. The word for bees is the Arabic for hornets, and these, we know, are very fond of flesh, and devour it with the greatest avidity. I have myself seen a swarm of hornets build their comb in the skull of a dead camel; and this would incline me to believe that it was really our debabir — hornets — that had settled in the carcass of Samson's lion, if it were known that they manufactured honey enough to meet the demands of the story. However, we find that not long after this, bees were so abundant in a wood at no great distance from this spot, that the honey dropped down from the trees on the ground; and I have explored densely wooded gorges in Hermon and in southern Lebanon where wild bees are still found, both in trees and in the clefts of the rocks. It keeps up the verisimilitude of the narrative that these are just the places where wild beasts still abound; and though bees ordinarily avoid dead carcasses, it is possible that they on this occasion selected that of the lion for their hive.
Wedding Feast in Timnath
The circumstances of the wedding-feast in Timnath are also in keeping with such occasions at the present day. Even the weddings of ordinary people are celebrated with great rejoicings, which are kept up several days. Samson, however, was not an ordinary peasant, but the son of an emeer or nobleman, and the marriages of such are attended with quite as much display as that of Samson. The games and sports also, by which the companions of the bridegroom pass away the time, are not unlike those mentioned in the 14th chapter of Judges; and such occasions frequently end in quarrels, and even bloodshed. I have known many fatal feuds grow out of the sports of these boisterous festivals. And yet one thing more: Samson's wife was a weak and wicked woman, who had no real love for her husband; and this is certainly common enough at the present day. Wives are procured now as then by the intervention of parents, and without any of that personal attachment between the parties which we deem essential. They are also very often ready to enter into any treacherous conspiracy against their husbands by which they can gain some desired advantage either for themselves or their friends.
Treachery of Wives
Indeed, there are very many husbands in this country who neither will nor dare trust their wives. On the contrary, they watch them with the utmost distrust, and keep everything locked up for fear of their treachery. And yet these distrusted but cunning wives have wonderful power over their husbands. Though uneducated in all that is good, they are perfect masters of craft and deceit. By their arts and their importunity they carry their point, often to the utter and obvious ruin of their husbands, and this, too, when there is really no love between them. It is not at all contrary to present experience, therefore, that Samson's wife should conspire against him in the matter of the riddle, nor that she should succeed in teasing him out of the secret.
David and Goliath
We are now in the neighborhood where David began his illustrious career by slaying Goliath of Gath. The Philistines went up against Judah and pitched near Shochoh — which site is ascertained to be at Shuwiekeh, about six miles to the northeast of us. Beit Netif is on a hill some three miles nearly north of it, and between them is the deep Wady es Sumpt, which passes down the plain, by Timnath, to the great Wady Surar. Dr. Robinson identifies this Wady Sumpt with the Elah of 1 Samuel 17:22And Saul and the men of Israel were gathered together, and pitched by the valley of Elah, and set the battle in array against the Philistines. (1 Samuel 17:2), by which Saul encamped, probably on the north side, opposite the Philistines; and it was into this wady that the champion of the “uncircumcised” descended every day to defy the armies of the living God: his height nearly ten feet, his proportions enormous, his visage terrible; covered with a shining coat of mail weighing five thousand shekels, a helmet of brass on his head, a target of brass between his shoulders, and greaves of brass on his legs, he appeared like a brazen statue of colossal size, holding a spear whose staff was like a weaver's beam. No wonder the stoutest heart quailed, and that “all the men of Israel, when they saw the man, fled from him and were sore afraid.”Forty days did this terrible giant come into the valley, morning and evening, to defy the hosts of Israel, exclaiming, with impious insolence, “Give me a man, that we may fight together.” Thus he stood and cried in the morning when the youthful David drew nigh with the parched corn and the ten loaves which his father had sent to his elder brothers. He bears the tumult, and the defiance, and his heroic soul takes fire. Eagerly he inquires into the case, and, undeterred by the rebukes of his envious brothers, he offers to meet the dreadful champion. He is brought before Saul, who said unto him, “Thou are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; thou art but a youth.” David modestly replies that, though young, he had already performed, by God's aid, deeds as daring and desperate as this could be. He had killed both a lion and a bear with his empty hands: “And the Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine” (1 Sam. 17:3737David said moreover, The Lord that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine. And Saul said unto David, Go, and the Lord be with thee. (1 Samuel 17:37)). Declining armor and helmet, coat of mail and sword, he took merely his shepherd's staff, and the sling with which he had often practiced while tending his father's sheep on the mountains. He came down into the wady, put five smooth stones into his scrip, and went on boldly to meet the giant. One of these, hurled with his whole force and with unerring aim, sank deep into the giant's insolent forehead. He staggers convulsively, and with a mighty clang falls prostrate upon his face. David is upon him in a moment, and with his own great sword strikes off his head, which he bears back to Saul in triumph. Thus were verified David's confidence and piety. He fought “that all the earth might know that there is a God in Israel.”
David Not Recognized
How do you account for the fact that neither Saul nor Abner, either before or after the battle, recognized David? In the verses immediately preceding the account of Goliath, we are informed that David had been summoned from Bethlehem to play on his harp before Saul, when the evil spirit from the Lord came upon him; and Jesse had sent him upon an ass, laden with bread, and a bottle of wine, and a kid. It is added that “Saul loved David greatly, and he became his armor-bearer” (1 Sam. 16:2121And David came to Saul, and stood before him: and he loved him greatly; and he became his armorbearer. (1 Samuel 16:21)). He also requested his father to leave David with him, for he had found favor in his sight. But the very next notice is that David is quietly tending sheep at Bethlehem, and his three older brothers are with the army. David reappears before the king, and is not recognized either by him or by his servants. To me this has always appeared very strange.
Order of Incidents
It is, indeed, so strange as to suggest the query whether the incidents in this part of David's life are arranged in the exact order of time in which they occurred. The account in the 17th chapter has throughout the air of a first. acquaintance. Abner said, in reply to the inquiry of the king, “As thy soul liveth, O king, I cannot tell who he is.” David himself gives not the slightest hint, either before or after the fight, that he had ever seen the king before. This is a reserve, a stretch of modesty unparalleled, upon the supposition that he had not only been with him before, but had been greatly beloved by him, and selected to be his armor-bearer — implying the closest intimacy and largest confidence. It is no part of Oriental character to refrain, through modesty, from claiming previous acquaintanceship with superiors, and the present instance is so far beyond the bounds of probability that I hesitate to believe it while there is any other possible explanation. How could the king, and Abner, and all the other attendants of the royal household, have so utterly forgotten the wonderful harper, who had charmed away the evil spirit, and had been so beloved? It seems to me much more probable that this incident of playing on the harp before the king belongs to some period subsequent to the battle with Goliath. This is rendered more credible from the fact that there are some circumstances introduced into the account of that day's adventures which could not have taken place until long after; as, for example, in the 54th verse, where it is said that “David took the head of the Philistine and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his armor in his tent.” Now David had no tent at the time, and did not go to Jerusalem until after the lapse of many eventful years.
If, however, we were shut up to the necessity of accepting the narrative as to time just in the order in which it is recorded, I have only to remark that we do not know how long a period intervened between the return of David to his father's house and his appearance before the king on the morning of the duel with Goliath.
Change of Appearance
If it were two or three years, it is possible that David had, in the meanwhile, suddenly shot up from boyhood to youth, tall and robust, and his personal appearance might have so changed as to bear little resemblance to the ruddy lad who played skillfully on the harp. It is a fact that lads of this country, particularly of the higher classes, are often very fair, full-faced, and handsome, until about fourteen years of age, but during the next two or three years a surprising change takes place. They not only spring into full-grown manhood as if by magic, but all their former beauty disappears; their complexion becomes dark, their features harsh and angular, and the whole expression of countenance stern, and even disagreeable. I have often been accosted by such persons, formerly intimate acquaintances, but who had suddenly grown entirely out of my knowledge, nor could I, without difficulty, recognize them. David had become a shepherd after leaving the king's palace — an occupation which of all others would most rapidly change his fair complexion into a dirty bronze. He appeared before Saul in his shepherd's attire, not in the gay dress of a courtier in the king's palace, and he may, therefore, not have been recognized. But, as before remarked, if this were so, it is not only remarkable in itself, but it follows that David was at an early age possessed of a wisdom, modesty, and self-control, without a parallel in the history of mankind.
David Is Gath
In after life, David had much to do with this part of the country. Twice he fled to Gath for fear of Saul. Is it not strange that he should select the city of Goliath for his asylum?
He was hard pressed, and had only a choice of dangers. Gath was near his native mountains, and, probably, had more friendly relations with the Israelites than the more distant cities of the Philistines. King Achish, also, appears to have been an open-hearted, unsuspecting, and generous character, probably of that chivalrous temperament which led him to admire such a hero as David. At any rate, he treated him very kindly, and presented him with Ziklag, a village which seems to have been long retained and highly prized by the royal family.
Deceiving of Achish
How do you dispose of the deception practiced by David toward his protector in the matter of the excursions against the Amalekites and others down south of us?
That David acted under the pressure of very powerful motives, and was by them urged aside from the plain, open path of rectitude. We are under no obligation to justify all his conduct. It is but common justice, however, to give him the benefit of all palliating circumstances; and when these are duly weighed we shall not find occasion to pass a severe judgment upon him. He was an exile, hunted out of his home like a partridge on the mountains, and obliged to reside among enemies — was surrounded on all sides by difficulties and dangers, and with a large troop of friends and followers, for whom he must find the means of support; he had also been set apart by God himself to be the deliverer of his people from these very Amalekites, who had been condemned to total destruction for their enormous wickedness by the Sovereign Ruler of all nations. David, therefore, felt that he had a divine warrant for attacking and exterminating them; and they were actually within the borders of his own tribe of Judah as settled by Joshua. The wrong, therefore, if wrong there were, was in the deception practiced upon Achish, and not in the invading and destroying of the Amalekites. This God had sternly enjoined upon the Israelites to do. Let it be remembered, however, that Achish had no real right to know where David went, nor was David under any obligation to tell him the whole truth. What he did say was true in the letter of it, for David did really make an inroad into those places which he mentioned, though not against the Jews.
Ziglag
Ziklag, you suppose, was somewhere in this neighborhood?
We infer this from the notices of it in the Bible, but the site has been long lost. Connected with it is one of the most remarkable incidents in the life of David. While he was with Achish and the Philistine army in the plain of Esdraelon, these bordering Amalekites invaded the south, and Ziklag, which they burned with fire, and carried all the inhabitants away captive. This terrible calamity threw David and his whole company into the most violent transports of grief. “They lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep”; and the people, in their madness and despair, even talked of stoning David (1 Sam. 30:3-63So David and his men came to the city, and, behold, it was burned with fire; and their wives, and their sons, and their daughters, were taken captives. 4Then David and the people that were with him lifted up their voice and wept, until they had no more power to weep. 5And David's two wives were taken captives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite. 6And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God. (1 Samuel 30:3‑6)). He, however, succeeded in inspiring them with courage to pursue their enemies. They overtook them in the night some distance south of the brook Besor, and falling suddenly upon them while they were eating, and drinking, and dancing, because of the great spoil they had taken, the victory was complete, and all that had been taken from Ziklag were recovered, together with a vast amount of booty which these Amalekites had gathered up from the land of the Philistines. There is a remarkable resemblance between this victory of David and that of Abraham over the kings who had carried Lot away captive.
I was reminded of the poor Egyptian whom David found half dead, and brought to life again by giving him “a piece of a cake of figs and two clusters of raisins” to eat, and water to drink, by an incident which occurred to me when crossing the plain to Askelon.
Sick Egyptian
Far from any village, a sick Egyptian was lying by the road side in the burning sun, and apparently almost dead with a terrible fever. He wanted nothing but “water! water!” which we were fortunately able to give him from our traveling-bottle; but we were obliged to pass on and leave him to his fate, whatever that might be.
This victory over the Amalekites was probably achieved on the very day that Saul was defeated and slain on Gilboa; and David, when he had heard of that event — by which the way to the throne of Israel was open to himself — took of the spoils, and sent presents to all the towns and villages where he used formerly to resort. He acted in this matter upon a principle which his wise son has expressed after this fashion:
Gifts
“A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men” (Prov. 18:1616A man's gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men. (Proverbs 18:16)). His gifts speedily made room for him in Hebron, and prepared the hearts of all Judah to welcome him as their king.
It seems to have tasked all David's firmness and tact in government to control his heterogeneous troop of followers.
David’s Troop
There were certainly some churlish sons of Belial among them, but this was not their general character. The servants of Nabal, in Carmel, gave a very different testimony concerning them: “The men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, nor missed we anything as long as we were conversant with them when we were in the fields” (1 Sam. 25:1515But the men were very good unto us, and we were not hurt, neither missed we any thing, as long as we were conversant with them, when we were in the fields: (1 Samuel 25:15)). They were, therefore, in no sense a lawless set of robbers. Nabal's taunt to the messengers, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now-a-days that break away every man from his master” (1 Sam. 25:1010And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. (1 Samuel 25:10)), was as unjust as it was insolent; but he was, in fact, “such a son of Belial that a man could not speak to him”; or, as his not very polite wife has it, “As his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him” (1 Sam. 25:2525Let not my lord, I pray thee, regard this man of Belial, even Nabal: for as his name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him: but I thine handmaid saw not the young men of my lord, whom thou didst send. (1 Samuel 25:25)). It does not follow that because “every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented,” or, rather, bitter of soul, “gathered themselves unto David” (1 Sam. 25:1010And Nabal answered David's servants, and said, Who is David? and who is the son of Jesse? there be many servants now a days that break away every man from his master. (1 Samuel 25:10)) that therefore they were the refuse and offscouring of the land, like a troop of irregular Turkish cavalry, or the followers of an outlawed Druse sheikh. The government of Saul had degenerated into a cruel despotism. David himself, and all his relations, had been obliged to flee from his outrageous and murderous jealousy, and there is abundant evidence that they were honorable and respectable people. Nor is it any wonder that many were in distress, and bitter of soul, under a king who could employ a savage Edomite to kill the whole family of the chief priest of the nation, merely because David had been innocently entertained for a day by them. The madness and ferocity of such a king would compel the noblest spirits in the land to flee unto David, and a large proportion of his retinue was actually composed of such men.
Debtors
Even the debtors, in such a time of misrule, were, in most cases, better men than their creditors. Nearly everybody is in debt in these Oriental countries, and, owing to the tenure of land, the modes of raising taxes, and the claims of feudal chiefs, it is impossible for the villagers to keep free from it, either personally or as part of a community loaded with heavy liabilities; and, even in the cities, the number who are more or less involved is far greater than those who stand square with the world. I hardly ever knew an estate in this country which was not found thus encumbered when the death of the owner brought out the truth; and very generally those who are the creditors are cold, cunning usurers, hated and hateful. The fact, therefore, that a man is in debt is no reflection on his character; and in times of misrule and apprehension like that of Saul, the best families are suddenly reduced by extortion to utter poverty. To raise the enormous sums demanded of the head of the house, and enforced by the bastinado, the wife and children sell and pledge everything they possess to those lenders, and raise money at ruinous rates of interest. The tyrant, also, from motives easily understood, enforces the collection of such debts with a rigor that knows neither delay nor mercy. That some of David's company fled from just such extortion is highly probable, and they may have been the most estimable people of the land. It is pleasant to believe that the noble and generous David was surrounded by a fair proportion of kindred spirits, and that in the midst of his sore trials and perplexities his heart was sustained and comforted by the reflection that he was able to furnish an asylum to many innocent victims of regal oppression. This is distinctly stated in the case of Abiathar, who escaped from the slaughter of the priests at Nob, and must have been equally so in regard to his own father and all his family.
These modern dwellers about old Gath appear to be actually taller and more warlike than the average inhibitants of this region.
Modern Weapons
The sheikh and his family might well be the descendants of the ancient giants, for they are rough, fierce-looking fellows; and, indeed, the whole population now make a very savage display of guns, pistols, crooked swords, double-edged khan-jars, long knives, and whatever else can aid them to cut, stab, and hack the human body to pieces. The sheikh says that they are thus armed in order to keep at a distance the Bedawîn Arabs, who would otherwise eat up their ripening harvests. This may be so, though I have never seen them without arms; and those who can get nothing better carry tremendous clubs, like the weaver's beam of the giant, and in handling them they are as expert as any Irishman with his shillalah, and far more dangerous.
The Sling
Do these people now make any use of the sling, which, in the hand of David, was so fatal to their famous townsman?
The only place where I have seen the sling used is at Hasbeiya, on Mount Hermon, and there merely in mimic warfare, waged by the boys of the town. The deep gorge of the Busts divides Hasbeiya into two parts, and when the war-spirit is up in the community, the lads collect on opposite sides of this gorge, and fight desperate battles with their slings. They chase one another from cliff to cliff, as in real warfare, until one of the parties gives way, and retreats up the mountain. I have seen the air almost darkened by their ringing, whizzing pebbles, and so many serious accidents occur that the “authorities” have often interfered to abolish the rude sport; but, whenever there occurs a fresh feud, or a revolt against the government among the old folks, the young ones return again to the fight with slings across the Busts.
The Seven Hundred Benjamites
It must have required careful drilling and long practice before the seven hundred left-banded Benjamites “could sling stones at a hair-breadth, and not miss” (Judg. 20:1616Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss. (Judges 20:16)); but this is a region where such a mode of warfare would be cultivated in ancient times, and be very effective. The stones for the sling are everywhere at hand, and the country is cut up by deep gorges, with impracticable banks; and, before the invention of guns, there was no other weapon that could carry across these profound depths and reach the ranks of the enemy. David, while following his flocks over these rough mountains, practiced other arts besides that of playing on the shepherd's pipe, for he became as expert in the use of the sling as any of the chosen men of Benjamin. He was manifestly one of nature's noblemen, born to excel in everything he undertook.
David’s Strength
Not only was he the most skilful musician, but the greatest poet; not only the most daring shepherd, but the bravest soldier and the most successful general. It is nowhere stated in so many words that he possessed great physical strength, but this is implied in several anecdotes of his life. Without this he could not have wielded the sword of Goliath, and yet he chose that of all others for himself; and again, none but the very strongest could kill a lion and a bear in fair fight.
The Lions and the Bear
What the lion is we all know, or at least imagine, and yet David says, “I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him” (1 Sam. 17:3535And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him. (1 Samuel 17:35)). The Syrian bear — still found on the higher mountains of this country — is perhaps equally to be dreaded in a close personal encounter. The inhabitants of Hermon say that when he is chased up the mountain he will cast back large stones upon his pursuers with terrible force and unerring aim. The stoutest hunter will not venture to attack him alone, nor without being thoroughly armed for the deadly strife. David, however, caught him as he was running away with a kid from his flock, and slew him; and this when he was but a youth, ruddy, and of a fair countenance, so that Goliath disdained him as an antagonist. It is interesting to remember that these personal adventures of David, both with giants and with wild beasts, took place in these mountains immediately above us.