Page images


JULY, 1845.


“ Ask now of history's authentic page,

And call up evidence from every age;
Display with busy and laborious hand
The blessings of the most indebted land ;
What nation will you find whose annals prove

So rich an interest in Almighty love?”- COWPER. At length, after long vicissitude of travel and rest, Abram arrives at the promised land, called at that time Canaan, from Canaan, the youngest son of Ham, and grandson of Noah. He had settled here after the confusion of Babel, and had divided the country amongst his eleven children, each of whom became the head of a numerous tribe. His eldest son, Sidon, was the father of the Sidonians, or Phænicians. From his other ten sons sprang the idolatrous nations who were in possession of Palestine and Syria in the days of Abram; and who were afterwards conquered by his descendants, under Joshua, when the measure of their idolatries was full. It must have been a strong faith which led the patriarch to believe the promise that that land should one day be his.

He passed on till he came to Sichem, in the

[ocr errors]

plain or valley of Moreh, on the west of Jordan, between the mountains of Ebal and Gerizim

“I see his tents
Pitch'd about Sechem, and the neighbouring plain
Of Moreh : there by promise he receives

Gift to his progeny of all that land ;" — thence to a mountain between Beth-el and Hai, where he pitched his tent in a billy country to the north of Jericho, which has since been called the Desert of Quaratania.* There he built an altar, and again called on the name of the Lord; for so, from the very first beginning of time, it had pleased God to consecrate certain places to the acknowledgment and manifestation of himself. Thus Cain and Abel brought their offerings to some place where God's presence was more peculiarly confessed ; Noah, on coming out of the ark, “builded an altar unto the Lord ;” and Abram, when called to acknowledge the one true God, erected altars wherever he pitched his tent.

Abram moved still towards the south, probably as the pastures were exhausted by the cattle, until he was driven by famine into Egypt, which, even in that early day, was a famous corn country.

The rich valley of Egypt, watered by the overflowing of its river, the

* “ The Hebrews, by 'a desert,' mean an uncultivated place, particularly if mountainous. Some deserts were entirely dry and barren; others were beautiful, and had good pastures. Scripture speaks of the beauty of the desert, Psalm lv. 12, 13, and mentions several deserts in the Holy Land; and there was scarcely a town without one belonging to it that is uncultivated places, for woods and pastures ; like our English commons-common lands.” -Calmet's Dictionary.

“The Arabs, to this day, give the name of desert to any solitude, whether barren or fertile.”

[ocr errors]

Nile, is still most productive. Mr. Jowett, * in a voyage down the river in 1819, thus notices it. He quotes the Scripture expression in Gen. xli. 47,- The earth brought forth by handfuls," and says :-“This I witnessed : I plucked up, at random, a few stalks out of the thick corn fields. We counted the number of stalks which sprouted from single grains of seed, carefully pulling to pieces each root, in order to see that it was but one plant. The first had seven stalks, the next three, the next nine, then eighteen, then fourteen. Each stalk would bear an ear."

Egypt, when Abram came thither, was under the rule of a rich and powerful king, with a great retinue of minor princes about him, whose power Abram seems to have dreaded. And not without some reason; for, when they saw the beauty of Sarai, they seized upon her, and carried her to Pharaoh's house. And Abram, out of fear for his own life, was tempted to the sin and folly of bidding Sarai call herself his sister, and not his wife. This was not wholly untrue, in so far as Sarai was indeed his half-sister, but quite wrong in so far as it was meant to deceive. But God interposed, and made it known to Pharaoh that she was Abram's wife; upon which Pharaoh commanded him to take her, and


waynot, however, without reproving him for his deceit.

Abram does not appear to have remained very long in Egypt. He returned again to Canaan, and, by easy journeys, reached Beth-el, one of his former resting-places. Up to this time Lot had journeyed with him ; but the time was come when God was about to renew the promise • Christian Researches in the Mediterranean,

made to Abram before he left Chaldea. Hence, to secure the unmingled descent of the family of Abram, Lot was to be parted from him.

That which led to this separation was a quarrel between their herdsmen. Abram, we are told, had much silver and gold, obtained probably by traffic in Egypt. They were both rich in cattle, “so that the land was not able to bear them.” How beautiful is the forbearance of Abram under these circumstances ! He was the elder, and might have made his own terms, but he only says, “Let there be no strife between' me and thee". “ for we be brethren.” They agree to separate, and Abram gives Lot the choice of departing to the right hand or to the left. Lot, tempted by the rich valley of the Jordan, took up his abode in one of the cities of the plain ; whilst Abram, although yet childless, with unfailing faith continued his wandering life, sojourning in the land promised to him and to his children, dwelling in tents, “For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

After the departure of Lot, the Almighty renewed his promise to the patriarch, of a race countless as the dust of the earth. He was bid to look northward and southward, eastward and westward to arise and walk through the land in the length and in the breadth of it, for that it should all be given to him and to his seed. “ Then Abram removed his tent, and came and dwelt in the plains of Mamre.”

The residence of Lot in Sodom, one of the cities of the plain, whose inhabitants, we are told, " were wicked, and sinners before the Lord exceedingly," brought him into much danger. The five kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim, and Zoar had, for thirteen years, paid tribute to Chederlaomer and his allies, who lived on the shores of the Tigris and the Euphrates, but at length they rebelled, and Chederlaomer came up to battle against them. “Whether a considerable monarchy had already grown up on the banks of the 'l'igris, or whether this was a league of several small predatory tribes, does not appear from the Hebrew annalist;" but the kings of the plain were routed, their army dispersed, and many inhabitants of the cities taken captive, amongst whom was Lot-he, and all that was his. One who had escaped came and told Abram. Then Abram collected his people, arined his trained servants, three hundred and eighteen of them, born in his own house, and, joined by three neighbouring chiefs, pursued the conqueror, attacked him by night, rescued Lot, and conducted him, with the rest of the prisoners, safely home again.

As he returned home, the king of Sodom went out to meet him in the valley of Shaveh, which is the king's dale, and Melchizedek, king of Salem, brought forth bread and wine. He was the priest of the Most High God, in whose name he blessed Abram, and Abram gave him tithes of all; but Abram would not share in the spoils, nor take from the king of Sodom anything, save that which the young men had eaten, and a portion for Aner, Eschol, and Mamre, the three chiefs who had accompanied him.

« PreviousContinue »