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hair. Behind him were the witnesses whom he had brought with him; and who, before they delivered their testimony, took an oath, and replied Amen, Amen, to the imprecations which the judges laid upon them, if they should not speak the truth. They bore witness that Elisama had harbored no malice against the deceased, and had not intended to smite him, but had been provoked by the insult of a young heathen. The judges did not immediately decide, but on the following morning a second sitting was held, at which they pronounced that Elisama, of Alexandria, had committed an involuntary homicide, and that the privilege of the city of refuge was decreed to him. As he had already taken refuge in Ramoth Gilead, a Levite was sent with a letter to the judges and elders of that place, commending him to their protection.
Selumiel who had remained behind to attend to judicial proceedings, determined to go and see Elisama; and Sulamith could not be dissuaded from accompanying him. Ramoth Gilead lay on the other side of the Jordan, in the country called in ancient time Gilead; a country not so fruitful as this side, from its many mountains and sandy deserts, yet rich in pasturage for cattle, and watered by two considerable streams, the Arnon and the Jabbok; the former empties itself into the Dead Sea, and the latter into the Jordan. The bills of Bashan, Gilead, and Abarim, extending from Antilibanus, send their branches through this country. It was given on the conquest of Canaan to the tribes of Gad and Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh,* as their residence. Ramoth, situated on the Jabbok, was the principal city, celebrated in history by the vow of Jephthah, and the battle between Ahab and Jehoshaphat and the Syrians.‡
On their arrival they learned that Elisama was dangerously ill. The agitation of mind and fatigue, attending on his flight, had overpowered his feeble frame; he had been attacked by a fever, under which he was hourly sinking. A Levite, who was the physician of Ramoth, and possessed great
* Numb. xxxii, Josh. i. 12. + Judg. xi. 29. +1 Kings xxii.
knowledge of the human frame and the virtues of plants, had been summoned. Strengthening baths had been employed, and the precious balm of Gilead applied externally and internally. These were the two chief remedies of the Hebrews.* But here they had lost their power; Elisama fell into a deathlike slumber. When he was delirious, the image of Myron seemed to be constantly before his eyes; and he upbraided him with his ingratitude, and warned Helon to beware of him, as it would not be the last of his misdeeds. On the following day his reason returned for some hours, and he spoke calmly and clearly. It was the last revival of the flame of life. He requested Helon to repeat to him the prayer of Moses, the man of God. “Lord thou hast been our refuge in all generations." Ps. xc. He heard it with great attention, and the emotions of his heart were visible, at many passages, in his looks and his clasped hands. He lay for a long time with closed eyes, but his lips were in motion, and it was evident he was addressing himself to God, probably in a penitential psalm; for once, when his voice grew stronger, he was heard to say,
My days pass away as a shadow,
And I wither as grass;
But thou, Jehovah, shalt endure for ever,
And thy name remaineth from generation to generation;
Thou wilt arise and have mercy on Zion,
For the time is come that thou shouldest favor her,
The appointed hour is come.
His voice again became faint, and it was after some interval that he was heard to say
He weakeneth my strength in the way,
And then with a firmer tone
The children of thy servants shall continue,
*Jer. viii. 22. xlvi. 11.
He turned with an expression of the deepest affection to Helon, and said, "Greet thy mother from me - when the high-priest dies, carry my bones to the valley of Jehoshaphat, and lay them beside thy father's wait on the Lord, and thou shalt obtain"- his words became inaudible. Helon held his cold hand, and bathed it with his tears; and all who stood around his bed in mournful silence, thought him already dead. But the dying eye opened once more,-gazed around on them all - then fixed itself on heaven. His head sunk back in Sulamith's arms. Twice the mouth was distorted in the bitterness of pain-then once again. The body lecame rigid-respiration ceased.
After a solemn pause, each reading in the countenance of the rest the confirmation of his fears, all uttered at the same moment a piercing shriek of grief. The men rent their upper garments, beat their breasts, threw their turbans on the ground, strewed dust and ashes on their head, put on sackcloth, covered their chins, and went barefoot. Helon was hurried away, lest, being a priest, he should contract pollution from the dead body.* The eyes of the corpse were closed, and it was carried into the Alijah by the nearest relatives. As it had been the custom in Judea, since the captivity, to bury very soon, the night was passed in making preparations. The body was wrapped in a large sheet, the head bound with a napkin, and then the whole from head to foot swathed with a broad bandage, and each foot, each hand, each finger separately. At midnight came the Levites with their musical instruments: the female mourners began their office by lifting up their voices and lamenting, strewing ashes on their heads and singing a dirge. On the following morning the house was filled with neighbors and friends, expressing their sympathy. Sulamith ran about weeping and wringing her hands above her head. The men sat in another apartment upon the ground and mourned in silence. Sulamith was conducted to the apartment of the women, where she placed
* Numb. xix. 14.
herself on a carpet in the middle, and the rest of the females of the family sat round her. The hired mourners formed a wide circle at a little distance. Each of the women held a handkerchief in her hand by two of the corners. The mourners, who knew a variety of funeral songs, began one which expressed the virtue, and calamities of the deceased. Sulamith gave them a sign and they ceased; and all the females of the family began to weep along with her. They arose, twisted their handkerchiefs together, and ran shrieking round the room, while Sulamith, sitting motionless in the middle, wrung her hands and tore her beautiful dark hair. When she ceased, the mourners resumed their song, till she again gave them a signal, the relatives renewed their lamentations. This lasted till towards evening, when the inhabitants assembled at the door, and the corpse was carried to the grave. Those who carried the bier proceeded with such hasty steps that they seemed rather to run than walk -an usage which was said to bear this meaning,—that death is the most terrible punishment of sin. Every one who met the procession joined the mourners, and bore a part in the cries of the
Before the gate of the city, in a garden planted with trees, stood the sepulchre of Elisama's host, hewn out of the rock; and in this the corpse was deposited; for burning was deemed dishonorable by the Jews, and regarded with abhorrence. The bearers threw aloes, myrrh, and other fragrant substances, upon the body, so as to cover it, and the sepulchre was closed with a stone, which was annually whitened with lime. The friends and relatives having remained standing awhile before the closed sepulchre, bowed themselves thrice to the earth and prayed; then taking up a sod threw it behind them, and said, "Remember, O man, that dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return." The procession returned with a repetition of the funeral lamentations.
On reaching home they washed their hands, and the neighbors brought them the bread of mourning; a beautiful and
humane custom in Israel! No victuals were prepared in the house which death had visited, but the neighbors and friends came with delicate viands and invited the mourners to partake of them, to recruit their strength and spirits. This was called the bread of mourning; and the cup which was handed round, the cup of consolation. The mourning lasted seven days, during which it was held indecorous to wash the garments, to bathe or anoint the body, or to wear the sandals or the turban. Every day Sulamith went with the women of the family to lament, at the tomb of the deceased, his true affection and his calamitous fate. When the days of mourning were ended, suitable presents were made to the friendly host, and Helon, Sulamith, and Selumiel returned from the Peræa over the Jordan to Jericho. The bones of Elisama were to repose in the precincts of Ramoth Gilead till the death of the high-priest, when they should be transferred to the valley of Jehoshaphat, to rest there till the joyful morning of the resurrection.
THE WATER OF
In the mean time the joyous season of the vintage, and the gathering of the olives and the fruit began. With shouts of joy they climbed the lofty palms, of which the plain of Jericho was full, and gathered the dates, which grew in large bunches of fifteen to twenty pounds in weight. They were afterwards divided according to their different degrees of ripeness; some were eaten fresh, others were pressed to obtain from them the celebrated palm-wine. This was done amidst festive shouts, and the praises of the tree were celebrated, of which every part is applicable to some use of man.