Images de page
PDF
ePub

looks, uttering the words, Unclean, unclean!* "They are lepers," said Helon, with a look of horror, and turning his horse's head, fled with precipitation, followed by the others.

The huts in which these unhappy victims of a loathsome disease elt were hard by in the desert. As our travellers were hastening from the scene, they met the relations of the lepers, who dwelt in Bethsaida, and who were bringing them the food by which their miserable existence was to be protracted. The lepers set down their vessels and retired out of sight; the others then came, placed provisions in them with the greatest caution, and carefully avoiding to touch them; and then hastened away, as from the region of death. Father and mother, brother and sister, children and wife, all forsake the miserable leper; scarcely will one of those who are clean venture to bid him peace from afar; and when the provision is no longer fetched away, they rejoice that his sufferings are terminated.

These men had been attacked by the elephantiasis, the most virulent of all the kinds of leprosy. It is gradual in its approaches, a scaly scurf overspreading the body; the nervous system loses its sensibility, the touch grows duller and duller, till it is lost altogether. Little pain is felt by the afflicted person, but dejection and despondency take possession of his mind. The breath becomes corrupt, swellings of the size of a nut are formed, and ulcers cover the body. The nails fall from the fingers and the toes; in some cases these parts themselves drop off'; the hair turns gray and falls; all the joints become stiff; and yet, while the unhappy person becomes a burthen to himself and loathsome to all around him, he eats and drinks as usual. This terrible disease is not only in the highest degree contagious, but also hereditary, sometimes continuing in a family to the fourth generation. No wonder that it should be regarded as a judgment of God for some enormous crime.

Helon and his companions continued their basty flight, till * Lev, xiii. 45.

they reached the Jordan, which soon conducted them to Bethsaida, which stood at the place where it falls into the lake of Genezareth. Bethsaida is almost wholly inhabited by fishermen, whom they found busily employed with the angle and the net. They called some of them, and were conveyed in one of their boats across the lake to Magdala. The lake of Genezareth, called also the lake of Chinnereth,* and the lake of Galilee, is twenty sabbath-day's journeys long, and six broad. Its waters abound in fish, and are so clear that the stones at the bottom can be seen. Aromatic bulrushes and reeds grow along the shores. The form of the lake is nearly oval, and it lies in a deep vale, which on the east and west is closed in by high mountains, on the north and south expands into a plain. As Helon and Myron sailed on its transparent waters, they saw first of all, on its western side, Capernaum, which, as its name implies, was delightfully situated, between the lake and the hills; lower down to the east Chorazin, and a multitude of smaller places. The celebrated region of Decapolis lay on the eastern side, beyond

the hills.

Arrived at Magdala, they quitted their boat, and traced the shore as far as where the Jordan issues from the lake, crossed the river, and being joined by the slaves with the horses and camels, took the road to Tabor, which lies at the end of the plain of Jezreel, over against Carmel. Notwithstanding Helon's impatience, he could not pass so celebrated a mountain without a nearer examination, and Myron willingly came into his plans.

This lofty bill rises out of the middle of the plain, wholly unconnected with any other. Its base is composed of an ash-colored stone, and as the upper part is covered with trees, it has the appearance of a lofty truncated cone. The ascent to the summit is nearly five sabbath-day's journeys, and on the top is a plain of about four in circumference. Wild animals and birds abound on it; and Hosea alludes to

* Josh. xiii. 27; Numb. xxxiv. 11:

the fowling which was carried on here to a great extent. Barak assembled an army of 100,000 men on Tabor from Zebulon and Naphthali, before he engaged with Sisera ;† and indeed a fitter position for a camp can scarcely be imagined. Helon and Myron were astonished at the extent of the view. The snowy peak of Hermon and the dark exhalations of the Dead Sea can both be discerned from it. "And there," exclaimed Helon, transported with delight, “are the towers of Jericho!" The sea of Galilee, the Jordan and the Peræa, spread themselves on the east; on the west the prospect reached to the Mediterranean and to Carmel; near which the Kishon, which rises in Tabor, falls into the sea; a small branch of it discharges itself into the lake of Galilee. Near Tabor, to the northwest, was Nazareth, situated on the slope of a hill and extending into a little valley, shut in on every side. To the south lay Endor, famed in the history of Saul; and near to each other Shunam, the scene of Elisha's miracle, and Jezreel, fifteen sabbath-day's journeys from Samaria, on which was the vineyard of Naboth. From this place the whole plain derives the name of Jezreel, or Esdraelon. Further in the distance, a dark shade lowered on the hills of Gilboa. Helon called to mind the lamentation of David for Jonathan and Saul, who had been slain in battle here against the Philistines; and he repeated it to Myron, assuring him that he had never heard a more pathetic elegy.

And David spoke this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son ; "Is the pride of Israel fallen on thy high places?

So are the mighty fallen.

O tell it not in Gath,

Publish it not in the streets of Askelon,

Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice,

Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph!

Ye mountains of Gilboa,

No dew, no rain be on your field of slaughter!

For there has the shield of the mighty been thrown away,

The shield of Saul, as though he had not been anointed with oil.

* Hos, v. 1. † Judg. iv. 12.

2 Kings iv. § 1 Kings xxi.

From the blood of the slain, from the marrow of the mighty,
The bow of Jonathan turned not back,

The sword of Saul returned not empty.

Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives,
And in their death they were not divided.

They were swifter than eagles,

They were stronger than lions.

Ye daughters of Israel, weep for Saul!

He clothes you no more in purple,

Nor puts ornaments of gold on your apparel.

How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle!

O! Jonathan, thou wast slain on thine high places;

I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan ;

Very dear wast thou to me:

Thy love to me was wonderful, surpassing the love of women.

How are the mighty fallen!

How are the weapons of war cast away!"

Myron did justice to this pathetic elegy; and they descended Tabor together.

Their journey was now directed to Bethshan or Scythopolis, the place at which the Galilean pilgrims were wont to cross the Jordan, in order to avoid the Samaritans, by keeping on the other side as low down as Bethabara, where they crossed it again. The line from Dor on the Mediterranean to Bethshan formed the boundary between Samaria and Galilee. Galilee contained two hundred larger and smaller towns, some of the latter having as many as 15,000 inhabitants. Agriculture, fishing, and pasturage, the culture of the vine and the olive, all were carried on with success in this country, which is diversified with hills and plains, both of them abounding in water. The inhabitants were character-ised by their love of freedom, though both their language and their manners were corrupted by their great intercourse with foreign nations.

They quitted Galilee at Bethshan, and crossing the Jordan pursued their journey along the numerous windings of the stream, which from Bethsaida to the Dead Sea has a course

of seventytwo sabbath-day's journeys. Succoth,* where Jacob built huts, near Mahanaim,f a town on the Jabbok, (so named by him from the vision which was granted to him there) Debirt and Bethabara, were hastily passed. At length the Jordan opened into the plain of Jericho; they passed through the city gate and soon reached the hospitable mansion of Selumiel. The gate, with its pious inscriptions,§ opened to receive them; Myron was astonished at the splendor of the house; while Helon thought only that this was his happy home.

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE NUPTIALS.

HELON found no one in the front court, and hastily entered the inner court, followed by Myron. The slaves came to tell them, that there was no one in the house.

"Where are they, then ?"

"In Helon's house," said the slave with a smile; and informed him that Selumiel, Elisama, Iddo, the wife of Selumiel, Sulamith, and Abisuab with his wife, had gone out a few hours before, in order to receive him in the newly-purchased house. They had justly calculated that he would return this evening.

Helon heard this intelligence with joyful surprise, and easily divined the fact, that out of his affection for Sulamith, who wished not to be separated from her parents, Elisama had purchased a house for him in Jericho; and if not in Jerusalem, where could he be better pleased to dwell than in the City of Palms? The splendid mansion was to be a nuptial present to his beloved nephew. It is true that the

* Gen. xxxiii. 17. + Gen. xxxii. 2.

Josh. xiii. 26.

§ Deut. xi. 29.

« PrécédentContinuer »