My Palestine Recollections. 9. Bethlehem, "The House of Bread."

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COME with me, dear reader. The horses are at the gate, and the faithful Monsoul is conning them with a practiced eye, to see that their trappings are in good order, and that we do not forget to take the parcel of cold meat and bread which his kind mistress has given into his care, that we may have bread as well as water if we stop to drink at the brook by the way. We are on our way to Bethlehem, called in Micah 5:22But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2), Bethlehem-Ephratah, which two names mean “House of Bread” and “Fruitful.”
As we hold on our way southward towards Bethlehem, and meet occasionally some villagers, their asses laden with corn, poultry, or other commodities, which they are taking to Jerusalem, these interpretations of the names Bethlehem-Ephratah are strikingly brought to remembrance. The history in the book of Ruth gives very pointed illustration of their meanings. The famine mentioned in chap. 1:1-2, when Elimelech and his family went to sojourn in the country of Moab: and verse 7, “how that the Lord had visited His people in giving them bread.” What a warning does the case of Orpah supply: she, when Naomi returned to the country of Judah, remained in the land of Moab; and what a beautiful example of the blessing of a right choice we have in that of Ruth. Let us listen once more to the moving language with which she addressed her mother-in-law, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest I will go: and where thou lodgest I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” Blessed resolution, and with what rich blessings was it accompanied! The Moabite by birth is received into the families of Israel and becomes the mother of Obed, who was the father of Jesse, who was the father of David. As we draw near to Bethlehem, a building comes into view. It is a tomb, known by all in that country as the “tomb of Rachel.” There can be little doubt but it occupies very nearly, if not exactly, the spot where Rachel was buried, as we read in Gen. 35:19, 2019And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. 20And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day. (Genesis 35:19‑20). Here, having rested awhile, we must remount and go to Bethlehem. On our way we come to Solomon’s pools. The pools have long been empty, but the fountain from which they were filled is still flowing. The entrance is where our little party is shown with the horses and mule resting.
As the town comes into view, with its fruitful fields and gardens, and the neighboring pastures for sheep, how we think of David the shepherd boy, whom the Lord chose to be His servant, and took him from the sheep-folds: from following the ewes great with young, He brought him to feed Jacob His people, and Israel His inheritance (Ps. 68:70, 71). In one of the lovely gardens we find the owner busily tilling the soil. We speak to him, and he invites us in to dine with him. He is a missionary, and has made some of the rooms of his house into shelter for the little orphans of Bethlehem. What a delight we find it to be to see the happy faces of these well-cared-for fatherless little ones, to inspect their sleeping rooms with their comfortable cots, in the town where Jesus Himself, for whose sake all these things are done, had no cradle but a manger. Let us, as we lister to these dear children, singing their sweet hymns; join in the praise of Him who though He was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, that we, through His poverty, might be rich. The parents of these little orphans may have been known as Mahometan, Jewish, Greek-Church, Copt, Maronite. One most interesting case was that of a bright young child of the wilderness, a true descendant a Ishmael, who, with a penetrating glance in his eagle eye, now outvied his companions in answering questions about Yesu el Messeiah—The Lord Jesus. We think of the scene in Jerusalem or the day of Pentecost, when all alike heard the wonderful works of God: Parthians, Medes Elamites, dwellers in Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia: also of that day to come when the Lord shall fulfil His promise, “I will come again and receive you unto Myself, that where I am here ye may be also:” and, again when out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation, they shall sing the new song of glory to the Lamb who redeemed them.
T. J.