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prophet Jeremiah. Elisama agreed, and as soon as the sabbath was ended, preparations for the journey were hastily made.
THE Crowing of the cock had already announced the near approach of morning, yet all was still in the streets of Jerusalem and in the temple, when Elisama, Helon, and the faithful Sallu, their upper garments girt short around them, with sandals on their feet, and staves in their hands, passed through the gate of Ephraim, and took the road to Anathoth.
They entered the territory of the tribe of Benjamin as soon as they had passed the gate. Jerusalem lay on the confines of Judah and Benjamin, as the metropolis of the whole people, and not belonging to any one tribe exclusively. Since the return from the captivity, the distinction of the tribes had been obliterated, with the exception of that of Levi, and, strictly speaking, only the name remained in the case of the others, as a cherished memorial of former times.
A beautiful and fruitful plain, yet with something of declivity, lay before them, the only level ground in the immediate vicinity of the city. On whichever side you quit Jerusalem, the ground falls, for Jerusalem stands elevated and conspicuous on the surface of the earth, as it does in the history of the world. It was growing light when they came into the King's valley, so called because it was here that Melchisedec, priest of the Most High God and King of Salem had met Abram,* returning triumphant from his battle with Chedorlaomer and his confederate kings, and brought wine and bread to the
* Gen. xiv, 18.
patriarch and blessed him. Here too the king of Sodom came to meet Abrain. They passed along this beautiful valley, which was beginning to be brightened by the first beams of the sun; the sickle of the reapers was heard on every side, and they congratulated themselves on being permitted to visit scenes where holy men had walked. "These," said Elisama," are truly consecrated spots; the memory of the events which passed here lives from generation to generation, and has outlasted the pillar which Absalom raised yonder, hoping to perpetuate his name by this monument, when he had no son to preserve it.* He had no son, because he had shown that he could not teach him to honor a father; his monument has disappeared; no man mentions the pillar of Absalom; but the friendly meeting of the kings will be handed down to the latest posterity, in the name which this valley bears."
Helon was silent; for he perceived that his uncle had involuntarily awakened a thought in his own mind, which never failed to give him pain. Elisama had no children, and he regarded this as a grievous punishment from heaven, for some unknown sin which he had committed. With an agitated voice he turned to Helon and gave him his hand; "Be thou," he said, "my son! Like Absalom I have sinned. I did indeed honor my father to his dying day; but the ways of the Lord are unsearchable; he is righteous, and it becomes me to say with David, 'Who can tell how often he transgresseth! Cleanse thou me from secret faults."
"I am thy son," replied Helon, and pressed Elisama's haud. "But here while Israel rejoices around us, in this lovely valley, in the blessing of the harvest, let joy and thankfulness alone occupy our minds."
They proceeded on their way. The fields of barley stood,golden ripe, on either side of the road; troops of reapers were on their way to the harvest, and the sound of the sickle, the song of the laborer, and the rolling of the threshing-wain
*2 Sam. xviii. 18.
resounded through the air. While rows of the reapers were busy in cutting down the grain, others were binding up the sheaves, tying the stalks not far from the ears. Here a corner of the field was left for the poor;* there a field already reaped was affording them a gleaning. Some were carrying their sheaves to the threshing-floor, others were loading them on wagons to convey them thither. They passed one of these threshing-floors: it was an open place in the field where the soil had been made hard and smooth by stamping; the width was on an average from thirty to forty paces, and oxen, unmuzzled, according to the law, were treading out the grain. In another, which belonged to a rich man, a servant sat upon the threshing-wain, guiding the beasts, who dragged this machine, with its iron-shod wheels, over the sheaves, while another, following behind, shook up the straw with a fork. All were enlivening their various labors with a song; and such passages as these might frequently be heard,
He watereth the hills from his chambers,
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of his works.
He causeth grass to grow for cattle,
And herb for the service of man,
Bringing forth bread out of the earth.-Ps. civ,
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness;
They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness,
And the little hills rejoice on every side.
The pastures are clothed with flocks,
The valleys also are covered over with corn,
The travellers joined in these festive songs, and, according to ancient custom, pronounced, at every field which they passed, the benediction,
The blessing of Jehovah be upon you!
We bless you in the name of Jehovah.-Ps. cxxix. 8.
* Lev. xiv. 9.
+ Deut. xxv. 4.
Helon felt now the full force of the prophecy of Jehovah by Isaiah :* "They joy before thee, according to the joy in harvest." They had travelled about three sabbath-days' journeys through this exhilarating scene, when they reached the little town of Anathoth; their road to Joppa did not necessarily take them through it, but it was the birth-place of Jeremiah, and Elisama and Helon could not refuse themselves the pleasure of hallowing the remembrance of the prophet, who had been the guest of their family, on his own natal soil. It was here that this man of God had spent his childhood here, as a youth, he had received the call of Jehovah ; and when Helon, in his boyish days, had heard from his father or his mother, or his uncle, any anecdote of their prophet, the names of Jeremiah and of Anathoth had always been connected together.
They halted at the gate, and asked to be shown the field of Hanameel, which Jeremiah bought from the son of his father's brother, when the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, a transaction which Jehovah designed to be an omen that the people then dispersed should be again collected together, and return to occupy their ancient possessions. "For thus saith Jehovah of Hosts, the God of Israel, they shall still buy houses, fields, and vineyards in this land.” One of the severest denunciations of the prophet, was that delivered against Anathoth, in which, as his own city, he was least held in honor.
Thus saith Jehovah against the men of Anathoth,
Therefore thus saith the Lord of Hosts,
The young men shall die by the sword;
Their sons and their daughters shall die by famine,
For I will bring evil upon the men of Anathoth
In the time when I visit them.-Jer. xi.
* Isaiah ix. 3.
† Jer. xxxvii. 7.
It was fearfully accomplished on this city of the priests; but so was also the word spoken at the purchase of the field of Hanameel; for at the return from the captivity one hundred and twentyeight men undertook to rebuild the city of their fathers.*
Helon's ancestors, strictly speaking, derived their extraction from this city of the priests in the tribe Benjamin, and therefore he regarded this as his own city. He imagined a resemblance between himself, as he was now about to assume the sacerdotal office, and the calling of the prophet Jeremiah, and repeated the account of it to his uncle, as they returned from seeing the field of Hanameel.†
He left this remarkable place with regret; but it had ceased for several generations to be the abode of his ancestors; Elisama had neither kindred nor even acquaintance there, and they had a long journey still before them.
They left Mizpah, Emmaus, Rama, and Kirjathjearim to the north. Helon lamented that they could not visit them all, but must bend their course directly from Anathoth to Bethshemesh. Bethshemesh is the ancient city of the priests in Judah, to which the alarmed Philistines brought back the ark of the covenant, and where blameable curiosity respecting sacred things was severely punished.‡
From Bethshemesh they followed the road to Modin, a spot which their admiration and loyalty towards the Maccabees would not allow them to pass without notice. What could be more interesting to sons of Israel, who had just come from a land which was still a house of bondage to their nation, than the place where the heroes, who had emancipated Judah, had begun their work in the might of Jehovah, and with his blessing. In this little village of Modin lived the pious father with his five valiant sons, whose family bore the name of the Hammerer, Maccabæus. When the frenzy of Antiochus Epiphanes had risen to the highest pitch, and Jerusalem bent beneath his oppression, the aged Mattathias, in this insignifi
* Ezra ii. 23.
† Jer. i.
2 Sam. vi. 19.