Images de page

morning-sacrifice arose on mount Moriah, and the sound of a solitary trumpet was heard from the hill of the Lord. All Helon's feelings returned with the associations of this sight and sound. "There is then,” he exclaimed, “one occupation in Jerusalem, which is a perpetual festival. It is theirs who dwell in the house of the Lord and minister at his altar. Why do I delay my resolution ?"

At this moment the door of the Alijah opened, and the venerable Elisama issued from it. He had been performing there his morning devotions. Helon went up to him, wished him peace, and with kindling looks thus addressed him; "My uncle, often hast thou told me that Israel is Israel only in the Holy Land, yet even here I cannot remain, unless I become a priest."

"Restless youth," said Elisama smiling, "is it not enough for thee that thou art in the city of Jehovah ?”

“But,” replied Helon, “even in the city of Jehovah, the priests alone keep a perpetual festival; and I fain would keep it with them."

Elisama looked at him in joyful surprise. It had been his own wish that Helon, whose dislike of commerce he perceived, should become a priest, but wishing that it should be his spontaneous choice, he had forborne to suggest it to him; and he had not hoped for so speedy and so decisive a declaration. Scarcely able to repress his joy, he replied, “ In a son of Levi the wish is natural; but what has suggested it?"

Helon related to him what he had felt on the second day of the Passover, when offering the burnt-offering; how the desire of entering into the sacerdotal order had ripened into resolution, and how ever since that time the words of the prophet,* ,*" the priest is an angel of the Lord,” had been perpetually before his mind, till at length his painful feelings on seeing the deserted city, and the joy which had revived in him on hearing the trumpet from Moriah, had convinced him that he could be happy only by entering into the priesthood.

* Mal. ii. 7.

Elisama embraced him, and both remained for a time weeping. At length Elisama, breaking silence, said, “We will go tomorrow to the high-priest; he knows our family and me. In truth," he continued, "Jehovah has blessed our house with much wealth in a foreign land, and thou, alas, art its only heir. It is right that thou shouldst revive the priesthood in our family, in which it has slept for four hundred years. This is the curse which rests on Israel in foreign lands. The privilege to be anointed to Jehoval by birth, and to have the right of ministering before him, is despised, and a Levite becomes but like another man. This I have often thought; the pursuits of commerce have indeed prevented my acting on this conviction, but all my wealth has been an inadequate consolation to me."

"My second father!" exclaimed Helon, "my heart overflows with joy to hear that you think so; and with gratitude, that you permit me to revive the priesthood in our family."

"Yes, Helon," said Elisama, "I feel, too, that the priest is an angel of the Lord of Hosts. In the hour in which thou didst resolve to make a journey to the Holy Land, I framed in my heart the blessing which my lips now pronounce upon thee. But let us go to the grave of thy father, that thou mayest received his blessing."

Without entering the house, they descended the staircase which led directly from the roof into the outer court, and so into the street. Passing along the Broad-street they came immediately from the Higher City into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and its cedars, and proceeded beneath their solemn shade, till they reached the well-known sepulchre of the Egyptian pilgrim.

Both stood before it awhile in silence, and seemed to expect that some voice should still issue from it, or that the spirit of the beloved father and brother should come forth.

"O! hadst thou lived to see this hour," at length exclaimed Elisama," how had thy paternal heart rejoiced!"

Helon wept, whether in joy or sorrow he himself scarcely

knew-but such tears are of a higher kind. He threw himself upon the grave, and long remained there praying and weeping. Elisama too gave free vent to his tears. "Arise," he said, at length, to Helon, "and let us repeat together the 90th psalm. Thy father will answer thee in this song of Moses, and bless thee in the words of the man of God."

Helon arose, and they both sang as proposed. When they had finished, "Does not this psalm," said Elisama, 66 seem to have been composed to suit our circumstances; beginning with lamentation on account of death, and confession of sin : yet even in the midst of these, calling on Jehovah, on him who has been our refuge from generation to generation? Yes, Helon, such has he been to the whole series of our ancestors even to him who, with the prophet Jeremiah, was compelled to flee into Egypt; and on this we found our prayer, Return to us O Jehovah! The Lord has heard thee, happy youth! Thou shalt behold the works of Jehovah ! And from the sepulchre of thy father, from beneath these primeval cedars, his spirit blesses thee and says, The favor of the Lord thy God be upon thee. May he prosper all the work of thy hands, yea, the work of thy hands may his goodness prosper. And now let us go. We will return home by Zion and by the spring of Siloah."

At the southeast corner of Jerusalem, near the termination of the Kedron, lies the valley of Hinnom, where once sacrifices were offered to Moloch on Tophet. They bent their course around the Water-gate and went through this valley which lies on the southern side, along the aqueduct of Siloah, which had been erected by Solomon. They came first to the lower pool, then to the remains of a noble garden, and at last, opposite to the southwest side of the city, to the upper pool, near which was the highly-prized fountain of Siloah, which Manasseh on his return, had connected with the city by means of a well. Isaiah describes the waters of Siloah as "flowing softly."

Passing by the Fuller's Field,* as it was called from ancient

* 2 Kings xviii. 17. Isaiah vii. 3.

times, and bending round the western side of the city, by the ruins of the aqueduct of Hezekiah, they entered the valley of Siloah. Between the gate of the Fountain and the Valley they saw the tower of Zion, formerly called the tower of the Jebusites, and now the city of David, rising in the midst of the Higher City which had been built around it. The Higher and Lower City were separated by a valley, which was called the Tyropœon (valley of the cheese-makers.) They entered by the gate of the Valley and thus reached again the house of Iddo, in the Higher City, and in the Broad-street.

How did Iddo sympathize in the joy with which Elisama announced to him the determination of Helon! He was standing in the outer court, and had just taken leave of some acquaintance, when they entered. Leading them with exclamations of joy to the inner court, he called his wife from the apartment of the women, made the slaves place cushions around the fountain, and repeatedly exclaimed, “What a happiness for a family! The priest is indeed an angel of Jehovah of IIosts."

The day was spent in domestic festivity, but Helon could not be present at the evening sacrifice, because he had made himself unclean by contact with a grave.* It seemed somewhat strange to him, that he should have been defiled by a visit to his father's tomb and be unfit to appear in the temple of Jehovah, because he had shed there tears not of earthly sorrow but of heavenly hope. But he consoled himself with the thought that the priest was more secure even in this respect.

Helon purified himself in the evening, by the prescribed ablutions. Still he was not permitted to enter the temple for seven days to come; for so long the uncleanness lasted which was produced by touching a sepulchre. But the prohibition applied only to the temple.

The following day was a sabbath. Elisama took the presents which he had designed for the high-priest, and Helon

*Numb. xix. 16.

and he went together to the castle of Baris. It was a stately edifice erected by Hyrcanus. It stood at the northeast corner of the temple, on a steep rock fifty cubits high, and formed a quadrangle, in the midst of which stood a splendid palace. Besides a court, it was surrounded with a wall, on the four corners of which were towers, that on the southeast side being the highest, for the purpose of commanding the temple from it.

The high-priest received the strangers sitting in the inner court, by the fountain, and bade them welcome. Elisama had been known to him before, and Hyrcanus rejoiced to see him after an interval of many years. With lofty panegyrics of his government, and the heroic deeds of himself and his progenitors, Elisama laid his Egyptian presents at his feet, consisting of valuable or curious productions of nature and art from that country, and then made application for Helon's admission into the priesthood. The high-priest lent a favorable ear to the request, but observed, that as the triumphal entry of his sons was to take place on the approaching new moon, he could not before that time adınit Helon to the temple service, and he recommended it to Elisama to employ the interval in examining the genealogical table of the young candidate. Having promised them all necessary aid in carrying their purpose into effect, he dismissed them.

The first step had now been taken. Helon left the castle, full of exultation, and congratulating Israel that such a hero as Hyrcanus sat upon its throne. On their return home, Elisama announced to Iddo his intention of making a journey with Helon to Joppa, where the keeper of the genealogical register of their family dwelt. "Since you are now to be an inhabitant of the Promised Land," said he to Hielon, "it is right that you should become acquainted with it, and with your kinsmen who dwell in it. We shall return in time to witness the triumphal entry." Helon requested that they night take Anathoth in their way, a place which he felt an indescribable longing to see, as being the native town of his

« PrécédentContinuer »