Images de page

to begin. Refreshments were offered to the travellers, and especially to Elisaina, but he declared with earnestness, that, even amidst the idolaters of Egypt, he had scarcely ever allowed himself to taste food early in a morning, and much less would he do so in Israel, and in the city of David, and on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The commotion in the streets became greater and greater, and it was scarcely dawn when they set forth. All the doors of the houses were open, all the roofs were covered with persons watching their departure. Helon, as he passed through the streets of Hebron in the ruddy light of the dawn, and by the palm trees at the gate, was reminded that Hebron was one of the oldest cities in the world, even older than Zoan in Egypt; that it had been conquered by Joshua, and given as a portion to Caleb, the bravest and most faithful of the explorers of the land; that it had afterwards become a city of the priests, and had been for seven years the residence of David; that it had been taken by the Idumeans, and reconquered by the Maccabees, and once more incorporated with Juda. But when he had passed the gate, and gained a view of the lovely valley in which it stands, full of vineyards and corn-fields, and looked around on the region where patriarchs had tended their flocks and pitched their tents, and lived in friendly communion with Jehovah, all the high and enthusiastic feelings of the preceding day were renewed in his mind. From all the cross-roads, men, women and children were streaming towards the highway that led to Jerusalem. They had scarcely proceeded a Sabbath-day's journey, when they saw the grove of terebinths; cymbals, flutes and psalms resounded from the midst of it, and hundreds were standing under the turpentine tree of Abraham, a tree of immense size and wide-spreading branches. Helon entered the grove of Mamre with feelings of religious veneration. Here Abraham had dwelt; here the angels had appeared to him; beneath these trees Isaac had been promised, and the rite of circumcision instituted; here Ishmael had been born and driven from his father's tent; and not far off was the cave of Macpelah, where Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob and Leah

were buried. And on the spot conse-
crated by so many recollections, the
children of these patriarchs were now
preparing to depart on their festal
pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The occa
sion and the place seemed to banish
from all hearts every other feeling but
piety and good-will: mutual greetings
were exchanged, friends and relatives
sought each other out, and associated
themselves for the journey, and all
faces beamed with joy. The priests
and elders led the procession; the
people followed, and the slaves with
the camels were placed in the midst
of them; the Levites had distributed
themselves with their instruments
among the multitude, and as they
set forward they sung this Psalm

'How am I glad when they say unto


O Jerusalem!

We will go up to the house of Jehovah !
My foot hath stood already in thy gates,
Jerusalem, thou beautifully built,
Chief city, where all unite together!
Thither do the tribes go up,
The tribes of Jehovah to the festival of
To praise the name of Jehovah.
There are the thrones of judgment,
The thrones of the house of David.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem,
May they prosper that love thee!
Prosperity in thy palaces!
Peace be in thy walls,
For my brethren and companions' sake,
I wish thee peace.

For the sake of the temple of our God,
I bless thee with good,'

"It is impossible to conceive of the soul-felt exultation with which this Psalm was sung, and of its effect on old and young. Now the voices rose like the notes of the mounting lark upon the summits of the hills, now. sunk again in the depths of the valleys. How differently did it operate now upon the heart of Helon, and when he had sung it before to his solitary harp on his roof in Alexandria! How did he bless the memory of Samuel, who had given his schools of the prophets the harp and the flute; and of David, who, bred up among them, did not forget them even when seated on his throne, but appointed. Levites for the cultivation of music, and himself often laid down his sceptre to assume the harp!"

In this way the train of pilgrims to the Passover proceeds; they halt at inid-day beside the pools of Solomon, the reservoirs of an aqueduct by which Jerusalem had formerly been supplied. In the evening they enter the Holy City, and are hospitably received by Iddo, an old friend of Elisama's family. The description of the City and Temple, of the day of Preparation, the feast of the Passover itself, the Sabbath and the remaining days of the solemnity, occupy the remainder of this volume. The following description of the Paschal meal may serve as a specimen of the antiquarian part of the work.

"In the middle of the room stood the table, which in the East is always low, because the guests either lie around it on divans, or sit on cushions. On this occasion, however, there was neither divan nor cushion, and the table stood apart, as if the preparations were but half finished. It was about the middle of the second hour of evening (half-past seven) when the company, consisting of nineteen persons, assembled around the table. Every one, though splendidly clad, appeared prepared for a journey. With sandals on their feet, which at other times were not worn in a room, but given to the slaves to be placed at the door, with their garments girt and a staff in their hands, they surrounded the table. A large vessel, filled with wine immediately from the cask, stood upon it, and the meal began by the master of the house blessing it. He laid hold of it with both hands, lifted it up with the right, and said, 'Praised be Thou, O Lord our God, Thou King of the world, who hast given us the fruit of the vine;' and the whole assembly said, Amen.' Next he blessed the day, and thanked God for having given them his passover; and then, drinking first himself from the cup, sent it round to the rest. When this was over, he began again; Praised be Thou, O Lord our God, Thou King of the world, who hast sanctified us by thy precepts, and commanded us to wash our hands.' He and the whole company then washed their hands in a silver bason, with water poured from an ewer of the same metal. This was the emblem of purification, and implied, that every one should come with a pure heart, as well as clean

[ocr errors]

hands, to partake of the paschal meal. The unleavened bread, (flat cakes with many small holes in them,) the bitter herbs, a vessel with vinegar, the paschal lamb, were then placed upon the table, and last of all the charoseth, a thick pottage of apples, nuts, figs, almonds and honey, boiled in wine and vinegar, and not unfrequently made in the form of a brick or tile, to remind the Israelites of their Egyptian slavery, and strewed with cinnamon in imitation of the straw which was mixed with the clay. The master of the house then spoke again, ‘Praised be Thou, O Lord our God, who hast given us the fruits of the earth.' He dipped one of the herbs in vinegar, and the whole company did the same. At this moment, the mistress touched her little grandson, a child of ten years old. Children were always present at this festival, and one design of its establishment was, that the son should learn from the lips of his father the events to which it referred, and the remembrance of them might thus be propagated to the most distant posterity. The child understood the hint, and asked his grandfather why on this night only unleavened bread and bitter herbs were to be eaten; why on this night alone the guests stood around the table, instead of sitting or lying. With dignity and solemnity, the grandfather, turning to the child, related to him how their forefathers had been oppressed in Egypt, and how the Lord had brought them out thence with a mighty arm. He described to him the evening which preceded their flight from Goshen, their busy preparation, and their anxiety to conceal it from the Egyptians. The lamb was slain and the blood sprinkled on the door-posts, that the destroying angel of the Lord might pass by their houses, when he slew the first-born of the Egyptians. It was to be roasted, not boiled, that it might be sooner ready, and strengthen more those who partook of it; it was to be eaten in a standing posture, as by men prepared for instant departure; it was to be consumed entire; for the whole people were to quit their dwellings and never to return to them: and no bone of it was to be broken; for this is the act of men who have time and leisure for their meal. The bitter herbs and unleavened bread were then caten, and

the exiiith and cxivth Psalms sung. This formed the first half of the great song of praise which was called emphatically the Hallel, consisting of six Psalms, from the cxiiith to the cxviiith, and was sung on all great festivities. A second washing of the hands followed, the cup was a second time blessed and sent round. The master broke off a piece of the unleavened bread, wrapped it in the bitter herbs, and, having dipped it in the charoseth, ate it and then distributed a portion to each of the company, who did the same; and now the eating of the Lamb began, in which the Paschal feast properly consisted."

When the festivities of the Passover are concluded, and the crowds returned home, Helon feels an irresistible desire to enter into the order of the priests, that he may renew and perpetuate the delight which he has felt from the services and offerings of the Temple. Being Levitically born, he presents himself to the HighPriest, and seeks admission into the sacerdotal order; his request is granted, but he is told that he must produce the genealogical register of his family, and to obtain this he makes a journey first to Joppa, and, not finding the genealogist there, afterwards to Ziklag, to find him. This gives the author an opportunity of describing these parts of Palestine; and Helon and Elisama return to Jerusalem in time to witness the triumphal entry of the sons of Hyrcanus, after their victories over the Samaritans. Helon, after due probation by the Sanhedrim, is admitted as a priest, and all the ceremonies and offerings which attended such an initiation are described, perhaps, with too much of monotonous repetition. We are next called to attend him in a visit to Jericho, the abode of Salumiel, the brother of Iddo; he becomes enamoured of his lovely daughter Salamith, and, on his marriage, takes up his residence there in a splendid house purchased for him by Elisama. They visit Jerusalem together at the Feast of Pentecost, and all seems to promise pure and lasting happiness, when the indiscretion of Myron, who had accompanied them to Jericho, occasions a fatal accident, and plunges the whole family in the deepest distress. In a moment of thoughtless gaiety, he has plucked

[blocks in formation]

Elisama by the beard, as he sat one evening among the citizens at the gate of Jericho. The consequences of the old man's wrath are terrible.

[ocr errors]

"Elisama arose, with glowing cheeks and a look in which the expression of the wildest rage grew every moment stronger. His limbs trembled; his features were distorted, his hair stood on end, and his breast heaved with a feverish gasp. Accursed Heathen!' he exclaimed in fury; accursed Heathen!' he repeated, and drawing his sword, aimed a blow at Myron. The offender, awakened to a consciousness of what he had done, saw the weapon about to fall on him and evaded the stroke; a citizen of Jericho, whom the tumult of the assembly had pushed forward, received it and fell mortally wounded at Elisama's feet. In silent horror all stood around, and looked by turns on the murderer, the corpse and the author of the mischief. The whole city hastened to the spot; Myron escaped, and Salumiel, taking the unconscious Elisama by the hand, led him home. Helon preceding them, burst with a cry of horror into the house, exclaiming, 'Woe, woe-homicide-Elisama!' The women hastened from their apartments, and knew not the cause of the confusion. Salumiel entered with Elisama -one.n eager haste, the othe bewildered, with fixed eyes and open mouth. 'Bring horses, bring camels, bring any beast of burden,' exclaimed Salumiel.

Thou hast slain him, Elisama, and must flee before the avenger of blood.' 'Whither?' asked Helon. To a city of refuge,-to Hebron in Juda-to Bezer in Reuben-to Ramoth Gilead best of all.' At these words Elisama awoke from his trance. Tears flowed from his aged eyes as he exclaimed,

[ocr errors]

Merciful God, must I in my old age flee as a murderer, and die by the hands of the avenger?' His voice was choked with sobs. Two rapid dromedaries, ships of the desert, were brought. Helon accompanied the unhappy man. It was already night, and they passed unobserved out of Jericho. Without a salutation or an adieu they urged their flight, in dread least the avenger should be on their traces, Elisama with his hair loose, his turban floating on the wind, and death on his countenance.

"It was one of the most terrific

customs of the East, that the next of kin of any one who had been slain, even unwittingly, was deemed infa mous if he did not avenge him by putting to death the man who had killed him. Moses, unable to eradicate this custom, had mitigated it by the appointment of six cities of refuge, three on each side of the Jordan, in which the unintentional homicide might be safe from the vengeance of the Goel. In these cities, and for a thousand yards around, he could not be touch ed-if he ventured beyond these limits, before the death of the High-Priest, the Goel might lawfully kill him. The roads and hedges leading to the city of refuge were to be kept in repair, that the fugitive might not be impeded in his flight. The son of the citizen of Jericho, whom Elisama had killed, had been fetched from the fields and had gone forth to avenge his father; but he was too late; Elisama had already reached Ramoth Gilead in safety. Salumiel, who had remained behind to attend the judicial proceedings, determined to go and see him, and Salamith could not be persuaded to remain behind. Ramoth Gilead lay on the other side of Jordan, in the country called in ancient times Gilead; a country not so fruit ful as this side, from its many mountains and sandy deserts, yet rich in pasturage for cattle, and watered by two mighty streams, the Arnon and the Jabok, which empty themselves into the Dead Sea and the Jordan. The hills of Basan, 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 Jabok, was the principal city, celebrated in history by the vow of Jephtha, and the battle between Ahab and Jehoshaphat and the Syrians.

On their arrival, they learnt that Elisama was dangerously ill. The agitation of mind and fatigue attendant 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 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 death-like 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 his son 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 that he was addressing himself to God, probably in a penitential Psalm; for once, when his voice grew stronger, he was heard to say, (Ps. cii. 10,)

[ocr errors]

My days pass away as a shadow, And I wither as grass,

But thou, Jehovah, shalt endure for ever, And thy name remaineth from genera

tion to generation. Thou wilt arise and have mercy on Zion; For the time is come that thou shouldst favour her,

The appointed hour is come.'

it was after some interval that he was "His voice again became faint, and heard to say

'He weakeneth my strength in the way, He shorteneth my days.'

"And then with a firmer tone

The children of thy servants shall continue,


their seed shall prosper before


"He turned with an expression of the deepest affection to Helon, and said, Greet thy mother from mewhen the High-Priest dies, carry my bones to the valley of Jehoshaphat and lay them beside thy fathers' wait on Jehovah 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 round on them all-then fixed itself on heaven. His head sank back in Salamith's arms. Twice the mouth was distorted in the bitterness of pain -then once again. The body became rigid the 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, least, being a priest, he should contract pollution from the dead body. The eyes of the corpse were closed, and it was carried into the Alija (a small chapel on the roof of the house) by the nearest relatives. As it had been the custom in Judea, since the Captivity, to bury very soon, the night was past in making preparations. The body was wrapt 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 neighbours and friends, expressing their sympathy. Salamith ran about, weeping and wringing her hands above her head. The men sat in another apartment upon the ground and mourned in silence. Salamith was conducted to the apartment of the women, where she placed herself on a carpet in the middle, and the rest of the females of the family sat round her, The hired mourners formed a wider 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 virtues and calamities of the deceased. Salamith 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 Salamith, 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, and 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 part in the cries of the women.

"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 dishonourable 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 remained standing awhile before the closed sepulchre, then bowed themselves thrice to the earth and preyed: 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 proces sion returned with a repetition of the funeral lamentations. On reaching home they washed their hands, and the neighbours 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 neighboursand friends came with costly 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 Salamith went with the women of the family to lament, at the tomb of the

« PrécédentContinuer »