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JOURNEY TO DAN
On the day which followed the feast of Pentecost, Helon stood upon the highest of the three summits of the mount of Olives, and with a heavy heart and weeping eyes watched the train of the pilgrims from Jericho, as they disappeared among the groves and gardens of Bethany, and listened to their songs, in which the voice of Sulamith seemed to warble to him a farewell, full of affection and regret. It had cost him many a struggle, to resolve to undertake this journey to Dan but Selumiel had determined to put his self-command to this proof, and Helon was forced to comply. There was a certain hardness in Selumiel's natural disposition, which the influence of an amiable wife had not entirely mollified; he had been compelled in his youth to practise much selfdenial and bear many mortifications, and he could not deny himself the pleasure of making even those he loved undergo a similar discipline, persuading himself perhaps that he was improving their tempers, while he was indulging his own. "The path of obedience is arduous and rough," said Helon with a sigh, as he turned from where the Jordan wound its way through the meadows of Jericho, to the northern hills of Ebal and Gerizim, over which his destined journey lay; "the path of obedience is rough, but it shall be trodden." He called to mind the first commandment with promise, and he thought that when he had made this sacrifice to the sense of duty, he should be able, without difficulty, to fulfil the rest of the commandments, and become a Chasidean. Ambition came to the aid of virtue, and he returned towards the city, resolved, though not satisfied.
On the following morning be took his departure, in company with the Governor of Samaria, whom Hyrcanus had
just appointed, and some Galilean Jews, who preferred returning into their own country by the nearer way. Iddo accompanied his friend as far as the gate of Ephraim. The travellers were mounted, and attended by such a train as became the rank of the principal person in the party. They entered the King's valley, and directed their course between Mizpa and Nob towards Geba, which lay not far from Rama, the city where Samuel judged,* called in latter tines Arimathea. The road was stony; the conversation of the party turned wholly on worldly topics. This Geba is also called Geba of Benjamin, to distinguish it from another of the same name: it was celebrated for David's victory over the Philistines. It lay on a rising ground, six sabbath-day's journeys from Jerusalem, and was one of the cities of the priests. they had been late in quitting Jerusalem, they halted here for their rest at noon, and as most of the party were disposed to consult their own ease, they remained till late in the afternoon. The road to Mishmash was more steep and rocky than that which they had travelled. Here they had to traverse a defile, between two abrupt and rugged rocks, in the mountains of Ephraim, forming a pass which had been rendered celebrated by the exploits of Jonathan in Saul's first expedition against the Philistines,§ and by the residence of the Maccabee prince Jonathan. They halted for the night at Bethel, a place of which the name often occurs in the sacred writings. This city was sixteen sabbath-day's journeys from Jerusalem, and Helon called to mind that from the mulberry-trees in its neighborhood it had been named Luz, when Abraham dwelt there; that Jacob here saw the vision of the ladder on which the angels ascended and descended, and that rising upon the following morning he built an altar to Jehovah, and called the name of the place Bethel. The ark of the covenant had long stood here; aud it was here too, alas, that Jeroboam had set up the worship of the golden calves which he had learnt in Egypt, causing Israel to sin.** The prophets so
* 1 Sam. vii. 17. +2 Sam. v. 25. +1 Chron. vi. 60, $1 Sam. xiv. 4. 1 Mac. ix. 73. ¶ Gen. xxviii. 19. ** 1 Kings xii. 29,
́much abhorred its idolatries that they changed its name into Bethaven, place of unworthiness; and to go to Bethel, came to signify the same thing as to apostatize from Jehovah to idolatry.*
On the following morning, instead of taking the usual road by Lebona and Gophna, they went by Shiloh, where the governor had business. Shiloh was the first town in Samaria, and peculiarly interesting to Helon, from the circumstance that Joshua came thither from Gilgal,f and that the tabernacle had long stood there. It was very pleasantly situated on a hill, whence the mountains both of Judah and Ephraim might be seen. For nearly three hundred years it was the place in which the tribes assembled, till the tabernacle was removed to Nob‡ and Bethel ; afterwards by Saul to Gibeon ;§ and finally by David to Jerusalem. It was here that in the times of the Judges the maidens were carried off by violence; here Eli had fallen from his scat, at the news of the capture of the ark by the Philistines. After the mid-day rest at Shiloh, the governor hastened to his residence at Sichem, which was sixteen sabbath-day's journeys from Shiloh, thirtysix from Bethel, and more than fifty from Jerusalem.
Iddo had strongly recommended Helon to the good offices of the governor, who, to do honor to the recommendation, invited him to take up his abode in his own house, which displayed every luxury of furniture, and a numerous train of servants. The pompous condescension, the free life and licentious conversation of the governor, who was a Jew by birth, but a Samaritan in sensuality and worldly mindedness, were so displeasing to Helon, that he would instantly have departed; but his host would not allow him to go without passing a few days with him. He endeavored to console himself by exploring every object of interest in the neighborhood, for which purpose the governor furnished him with attendants and guides.
* Hos. x. 5; Amos iv. 4.
† Josh. xviii. 1. Judges xxi. 16.
+1 Sam. xxi. 1. T1 Sam. iv. 18.
Sichem lay in a plain, or to speak more accurately, in a valley, which extended to the east and west. On the northern and southern sides of the long line of the city rose the two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim, separated by so small an interval, that the voice might be heard from the summit of the one to the summit of the other. Thus sheltered from the pernicious winds of the north west and southwest, it lay stretched out in picturesque beauty, at the feet of the gigantic guards that seemed stationed for its protection. It was half a sabbath-day's journey in length, but so narrow, that it consisted only of two parallel streets, with an open space between them. The fruitful plain into which the valley expanded was watered by several mountain streams, and diversified by vineyards and olive-yards, plantations of mulberries, and orchards of figs, citrons, and pomegranates. About a sabbath-day's journey from the city on the road to Jerusalem, was the well of Jacob, situated in the field or plain which Jacob had purchased from the children of Hamor.* The well is uine feet in diameter, and a hundred deep, with five feet of water. It was cut in the rock, and a flight of steps descended to the water. In the midst of this lovely plain stood the grove of Moreh.†
From every part of the plain, Sichem and its hills of Ebal and Gerizim were seen. The city seemed more closely connected with Gerizim which lay on the south, than with Ebal on the north. Gerizim was fruitful, abounding in springs and covered with vines and olives; its principal face being turned to the north, it escaped that parching heat which made Ebal scorched and bare. The latter, on the side adjacent to the city was full of caverns, which served the inhabitants as sepulchres.
The natural beauties of this exquisite scene were combined with a multitude of historical associations. The grove of Moreh had been the first resting-place of Abraham, when he entered the land of Promise. Jacob had dug the well, pur+ Gen. xii. 6.
* Gen. xxxiii. 19; Josh. xxiv. 32.
chased the plain, and buried the idols of his wives beneath the terebinth.* The outrage committed by his sons Simeon and Levi had compelled him to retire to Bethel, through fear of the men of Sichem.† Joshua had called the tribes together for the last time to this place,‡ and had caused a stone to be erected on Ebal, as a memorial of the renewal of the covenant with Jehovah. It was Sichem which proclaimed Abimelech king, after he had murdered his seventy brethren; it had also been the first to revolt from him, in consequence of which it was destroyed and sowed with salt.§ At Sichem the schism between Israel and Judah was consuminated, and Jeroboam made it the metropolis of the new kingdom. After the erection of the temple on Gerizim, which Hyrcanus had destroyed, Sichem had been for three hundred years the chief seat of the Samaritan idolatry.
Helon dismissed his guides as soon as they had pointed out to him the particular spots, and every morning wandered alone for several hours over the neighborhood. Now he lingered beside the well of Jacob, or traversed the field of the patriarch, or rested in the grove of Moreh; now, from the lofty side of Ebal or Gerizim, beheld the whole landscape spread at his feet. His hours flowed on without his being conscious of their lapse, while, in the dreams of thought, he pictured to himself his approaching happiness, not without a secret feeling of pride in his virtuous resolution, in having quitted Sulamith for a time, in compliance with her father's command. He returned unwillingly towards evening, to take his place among the guests at the luxurious table of the governor, and hear their heartless jests.
Once, however, during his rambles, he found the governor's protection of great importance to him. He had joined some Samaritans who had laid themselves down in the shade of some olives on the sloping side of Gerizim, and were conversing about their temple and their worship, the rites of
† Gen. xxxiv.
* Gen. xxxv. 4.
Josh. xxiv. 1.