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preparations for the journey. The slaves were equipping three stately dromedaries, which, young, high spirited and fleet, deserved the name of" ships of the desert." They had taken a long draught at the well, while the slaves laid in order the baggage which contained the food and clothing of the travellers, and presents for their host in Jerusalem. In the East, the expressions of friendship were made by deeds rather than by words, and the travellers destined for their host* costly caftans, Egyptian linen, a robe of thread of gold, and some books written on papyrus. The camels, kneeling down, received the burthen on their backs.
Helon's uncle, Elisama, who was to be his guide on the pilgrimage to the Holy Land, arrived, examined the preparations, and appointed to the slaves the hour of departure. Helon and he then went together into the inner court, where the elders were sitting under the palms beside the fountain, and enjoying the refreshing coolness of the evening. This inner court, around whose sides ran a portico and a gallery, was paved with green, white, yellow and black marble. An awning of various colors was stretched over it to shelter it from the burning rays of the sun; and in the middle was the fountain with its lofty palms. In Alexandria, as in the East generally, this was the place for the reception of visitors.
The meal was prepared, and the elders rose from beside the fountain to place themselves on cushions around the table. A venerable man with hoary locks took the place of honor, the middle place, on the middle cushion. The seven-branched lamp shed a bright light around, from its one and twenty flames. The slaves had strewed the table, the cushions and the floor with the flowers of spring. Sallu came with a silver basin, poured water on the hands of the guests, and when he had wiped them, sprinkled on them the fragrant nard. The most delicate productions of fertile Egypt were served up; among which the mother had not forgotten the fish of the
* The person whose hospitality they should enjoy while at Jerusalem. A rich Persian outer garment.
Nile, that her son might taste them once more before his departure. Helon lay* before Elisama, or, as it was called in the East, in his bosom.
Elisama, acting as father of the house, blessed the bread. He spread both his hands over it, and said, "Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, who causest bread to grow out of the earth;" and the rest answered "Amen." As this was an entertainment, the wine also was blessed. Elisama took the cup with both hands, then holding it with the right, at the height of a yard above the table, he praised the Lord and said, "Blessed be thou, O Lord our God, who hast given unto us the fruit of the vine;" and the rest again replied, "Amen." This done, he repeated the twentythird psalm;
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He refresheth my soul,
He leadeth me in the straight path
For his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for thou art with me ;
Thy rod and thy staff comfort me.
Thou anointest my head with oil;
Surely goodness and mercy follow me all my life;
I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
This was the prayer with which the festive meal was usually hallowed in Israel. The guests helped themselves and enjoyed the feast. When the last dish was removed, Elisama began: "It is long since I repeated that beautiful psalm, with such a feeling of devotion as today. One might think that it had been written expressly for the feast on the evening before our departure for the Holy Land. 'Happy the people that know the sound of the trumpet!'
*Lay-leaned or reclined according to the eastern custom.
Helon's kindling glance thanked Elisama for thus expressing the sentiment of which his own heart was full. But one of the elders replied, "The sound of the trumpet is heard also in Leontopolis, and the psalm might be repeated with equal propriety, before a journey to the nome* of Heliopolis." "I always maintain," said Elisama, "that Israel is Israel nowhere but in the Holy Land."
"But does not the law itself declare,” said the elder, “Thou shalt not abhor an Egyptian, because thou wast a stranger in his land? Did not the patriarchs of our nation always repair to Egypt in their distress, and did not the land of Ham almost always show a brotherly compassion for the children of Shem? Why did our forefathers always resort to this land of wonders, rather than to Syria or Mesopotamia? Does it not appear as if some secret guiding of Providence had always impelled Israel to unite himself with his brethren of Mizraim? Was not our father Abraham himself in Egypt? "And well did Pharaoh reward him by his treatment of Sarah," interrupted Elisama. "Jehovah himself forbad Isaac to go down to Egypt."‡
"Yet," replied the elder, "Jacob came hither with seventy souls; Joseph was proclaimed the father of the land, and Pharaoh said to him, I am Pharoah, and without thee shall no man lift up his hand or foot in the land of Egypt.§ Moses was born here and brought up at court, and Jeremiah also was here.|| When Alexander founded this city, he brought a multitude of our nation hither; the first Ptolemy settled a hundred thousand of them in different parts of the land and because the king thought us to be the brethren of the Egyptians, we have obtained the privileges of the highest rank of citizens, and are called, like the conquerors themselves, Macedonians. The Lord has moved the heart of the king and queen, and Onias, the son of Onias, has built us a temple in Leontopolis, which is an exact copy of that on
* Nome- province, or territorial division. + Gen. xxvi. 2.
§ Gen. xli. 44.
+ Deut. xxiii. 7. Jer. xlii.
Mount Moriah. Soon shall we be still more highly exalted. You know that let the schemes of Ptolemy Lathyrus be what they may, his mother Cleopatra, who is joint regent with him, has the administration in her hands, and by her means (a thing unheard of in any other country) two of our nation, Hilkias and Ananias, the sons of Onias, are at the head of the army."
"The God of Israel bless Cleopatra our queen! May he increase her a thousand fold, and cause her seed to possess the gate of their enemies," exclaimed the elders.
"What thou hast said of our fathers and of their journeys into Egypt is true; but acknowledge also," said Elisama, "that they never failed to return to the Holy Land, when they had an opportunity; and we will do the same."
"No," said the elder, "we have our own temple in Egypt, our Oneion."
"But," said Elisama, "it is contrary to the law of the Lord; on Moriah only should the temple and the altar stand. Jehovah spoke to Moses saying,* To the place which the Lord your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither shall ye come, and thither shall ye bring your burnt-offerings: but take heed that thou offer not thy burnt-offerings in any place that thou seest; in the place which the Lord shall choose there shalt thou offer thy burnt-offerings, and do all that the Lord thy God requires of thee.' And five hundred years after, when the temple was built, he said to Solomon, when he appeared to him in the night, 'I have heard thy prayer and have chosen this place to myself, as a house of sacrifice.'t And this place is Moriah where Abraham was about to offer up his own son."
“Knowest thou not," continued the elder, "what Isaiah, the greatest of all the prophets, said two hundred years later? Our high priest wrote the passage to the king and queen at the building of the Oneion. "In that day shall five cities in
* Deut. xii. 1-14.
+2 Chron. vii. 12.
the land of Egypt speak the language of Canaan and swear to the Lord of Hosts; one shall be called Irhaheres, that is Leontopolis."*
Elisama replied, "I adhere to the words of the psalm, 'The Lord hath chosen Zion and delights to dwell therein.'t To Isaiah also the Lord spoke, saying, 'I will comfort you as one whom his mother comforteth and ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem.' We might say to you of Alexandria what the Lord said by the mouth of Jeremiah, ' Go up into Gilead and take balm, O virgin daughter of Egypt ! "§
"Yet Jehovah, in the same chapter calls Egypt a fair heifer."
"True, but he threatens her; 'destruction cometh from the north,' and in us will his words be fulfilled, 'ye shall be ashamed of Egypt as thou was ashamed of Assyria." "||.
"Now accursed be he who reviles the Oneion, the temple of the Lord, and Egypt and the queen,” exclaimed the elder, in vehement indignation. They had long ceased to eat, as their conversation became more animated, and sat upright upon their cushions. The elder started on his feet, and seemed about to offer some violence to Elisama; but a grayheaded elder, who had hitherto only listened, interposed between them, and with the calmness of age said to them both, 66 Peace, my children! There is enough of strife in Israel; let not us increase it. Do thou remain in Egypt, and thou, Elisama, take thy way to Jerusalem. The Messiah cometh and will teach us all things."
The mother entered the room. "What sayest thou, dejected mother in Israel?" continued the aged man. "She could not," she said, "divest herself of the fear that one of the travellers would never return. So it had been six years before. Her only comfort was, that her deceased husband had been buried in the valley of Jehoshaphat, and nothing would have induced her to consent to Helon's departure, but
* Is. xix. 18.
+ Ps. cxxxii. 13.
§ Jer. xlvi. 11, 20.
Is. lxvi. 13.