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had spoken to him: and Lot went with him. And Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their property which they had gathered, and the souls that they had acquired in Haran, and they went out to go into the land of Canaan; and they came
cluded them distantly and indirectly in the blessings; the obedience of Abraham's race was intended to counteract the disobedience of Adam, and to effect, in the progress of ages, a re-union of all nations to be interrupted or broken no more.
There is scarcely any feature in the history of Abraham which is not intended to illustrate one of the two great objects to which we have alluded: the incidents either point to the future destinies of Israel, or to the advance of religious truth among the heathens; that which has no reference to either, was deemed unimportant, and omitted We have here, therefore, no complete biography of Abraham, which was neither intended, nor would have been in accordance with the spiritual tendency of the Pentutench; it would have caused the introduction of extraneous matter, in no way bearing upon universal theocracy, which was regarded as the final aim of universal history. But the consistency of the facts narrated is so complete, that abruptness or deficiency are utterly excluded; the narrative dis. plays even a certain abundance and copiousness; and the chief ideas are sometimes emphatically repeated under modified forms. The Hebrew historian clearly considered all those facts and incidents as possessing full objective truth; and though we must, in this part also, occasionally admit an analogy with the poetical or ide ilizing form of ancient historiography, it is just this independent elaboration of the form which constitutes the chief value of the narrative, since it converts barren events into truths and lessons. Abraham is an historical person; but, like almost all Biblical individuals, he represents a religious idea also; and as the former is often necessarily subordinate to the latter, we are not always allowed pedantically to insist upon the external details; as in the varrative itself, so in the interpretation,
the spirit must decidedly predominate over the letter.
When Abraham, not by human interests but by a Divine call, and even with an effort to overcome the struggling sympathies of his heart, left the paternal house and his aged father, he was encourageil, not by promises of personal wealth anii glory, but of a blessing which would ultimately prove the benediction of the human family. Abraham's emigration was a sacrifice unhesitatingly brought for an end concealed in an indefinite future, and scarcely fully understood by himself. Whilst the address of God was explicit and emphatic in describing the domestic felicity which he was commanded to renounce (ver.1); it did not point out the least social compensation which he miglit expect in the strange land (vers. 2, 3). No allusion was made to the possession of Canaan; it was only after he had reached the aim of his long journey, that God for the first time promised it to his descendants (ver.7); whilst Abraham himself, seeing it was in the hands of mighty heathen tribes (ver, 6), could during his life call no part of it his own, and was obliged to secure, by a heavy sum, a resting place after his death. This was the first deed of Abraham's pious obedience. The assurance of a powerful progeny enjoying the undisputed possession of the whole land, was given to Abraham only when in the inidst of wanderings and privations; when it scarcely promised a rational realization.
Although Lot accompanied Abraham into the unknown land (ver. 4), he fol. lowed him merely as his protector, just as Sarah and the members of his household were "taken” by him (ver, 5); he was not included in the command of God (ver. 1); nor was his sacrifice comparable with that of Abraham, since his father had died long since in Ur. It is, perhaps, for this purpose of showing the less degree of meritoriousness of Lot's emi
gration, that the notice of Haran's death the Hivites, is situated in a narrow but was inserted in the text, the economy of beautiful valley, between 1,200 to 1,600 which scarcely permits the mention of any feet wide, seven miles south of Samaria, irrelevant fact. But the journey of Lot was not far from the confines of the ancient necessary, not only on account of his con- provinces of Ephraim and Manasseh, and nection with the awful fate of Sodom and in the range of the mountains of Ephraim, Gomorrah, but on account of the ethno- at the foot both of Mount Ebal and graphic relation in which his descendants, Gerizim, which enclose it north and south, the Ammonites and Moabites, stand with which were themselves famous by early Mesopotamia.
altars and sanctuaries, and were of the The first place in Canaan where Abra- highest religious interest by the blessing ham halted with his family and his house- and the curse proclaimed on them for the hold, was at Shechem, near a celebrated observance or the neglect of the Law. The oak-tree. As we might have expected, town was not only important in the histhe first recorded encampment of the tory of the patriarchs, but in the theocrapatriarch is not without significance. tical and political history of the Israelites; Shechem is situated in the very centre of it was a city of refuge and a Levitical Palestine; it is in the Bible even called town; here Joshua delivered his last sothe “navel of the land,” and was the lemn address to all the tribes of Israel; natural place of assembly for all the tribes it was, in the time of the Judges, the of the country; the oak was, in the time principal town of Abimelech's kingof the Judges, still famous under the dom; here Rehoboam was proclaimed name of“ oak of sorcerers," and near it was king, and promulgated to the delegates a rich temple of the idol Baal-Berith; but of the people his insulting policy; and the region in and around Shechem was even when the ten tribes declared their indepenat that time still partly occupied by the hea- dence of his despotic rule, it became the thens. Only by remembering these facts, residence of the new empire. It was not our text will appear in its full and deep unimportant in the time of the captivity, and meaning. Abraham proceeded at once became after its expiration the celebrated to the central town of the land intended centre of the Samaritan worship, whose as the future habitation of his descend- temple was only destroyed by John Hyrants; a town obviously too important canus (B.C. 129). In the first century of by its position to be left in the hands the Christian era it lay in ruins; but on of the enemies; and there that pro- its ancient site, or in its immediate vicinity, mise of the land was for the first time a new, though smaller town, Neapolis, made (ver. 7). The place of the ancient was built, probably by Flavius Vespatree, which so long witnessed superstitious sianus; it was the birth-place of Justin and cruel rites, was hallowed by a Divine Martyr, and the seat of Christian bishops; vision, and converted into a sacred spot; although captured by the Moslems and and at the side of the idolatrous temple the Crusaders, it suffered but little, or rose an altar dedicated to the God of temporarily; after several vicissitudes, heaven and earth. Thus the facts related which could not annihilate its prosperity, obtain a prospective and didactic force for it fell finally into the hands of the Turks which we have prepared the reader by (1242 A.c.), and the present Nablous, some of the preceding remarks.-Shechem, though enclosed by no walls, counting perhaps one of the oldest towns of Pa- only about 8,000 inhabitants, and containlestine, and in early times inhabited by ing no more than fifteen to twenty Sama.
into the land of Canaan.–6. And Abram passed through the land to the place of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land. 7. And the Lord appeared to Abram, and said, To thy seed shall I give this land. And he built there an altar to the Lord who appeared to him.– 8. And he removed from thence to the mountain in the east of Beth-el, and pitched his tent, having Beth-el in the west, and Hai in the east : and there he built an altar to the Lord, and invoked the name of the Lord. 9. And Abram journeyed farther and farther toward the south.
ritan families, “the oldest and the smallest sect,” carries on a not inconsiderable commerce, is celebrated for the manufacture of soap, and maintains a spirit of independence against the Egyptian government. Its neighbourhood, highly pictaresque by its position, and abundantly watered by fountains, rills, and watercourses, is distinguished by beautiful olivegroves, a blooming vegetation, and a carefully cultivated soil; the delight and the praise of all modern travellers. About two miles east of Shechem lies the little village Abulnita, and here in an enclosure of plastered walls, without roof, the grave of Joshua is believed to be; and at a little distance south-east from there the well of Jacob” is pointed out, celebrated by an incident in the New Testament. The few Samaritan Jews at present inhabiting Nablous, are marked for their noble physiognomy and stately appearance.” They boast the possession of some very ancient manuscripts and commentaries of the Pentateuch. When, a few years since, Abbé Bargès on the spot enquired about the date of the celebrated scroll shown to him, he received the reply, that "it was copied at the door of the Tabernacle, on the skin of a lamb killed for a peace-offering by Abishua, the son of Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, in the thirteenth year after the settlement of the Israelites in Canaan"! They have some other works on the history of the Jews, and ascribe especial authority to a “ Book of Joshua,” mostly composed in a highly legendary style. But they admit that the race of the priests descending direct from Aaron is extinct since more than 500 years; and the present ecclesiastical chief, Shalmah ben Tobiah, traces his rigin to Uzziel, the son of Kohath and grandson of Levi! Inoffensive and peaceful as they are, they were made the objects of civil and religious oppressions, which in 1842 they unsuccessfully attempted to alleviate by
an appeal to the government of France. About 50 years since they were forbidden access to Mount Gerizim, on which they centre all their religious emotions and sacred reminiscences; which is hallowed by traditions of millenniums; where are pointed out the still considerable remains of the great Samaritan temple, the ten or twelve stones, the erection of which they ascribe either to Joshua or to the twelve tribes, and the famous rock on which they maintain the ark rested, Abraham tied his son for the sacrifice, and Jacob saw in his dreams the angels and the mystic ladder; where they assert the holy Tabernacle is hidden, and the pontifical robes of the last High-priest before the captivity are deposited in a cave, together with the treasures of their temple, which in the time of Pontius Pilate (36 A.c.) became the cause of a great carnage and of the deposition of that governor. Before the prohibitory decree was issued, they offered on the mountain their sacrifices, and observed the other rites of their worship; the paschal lamb especially was killed with great solemnity, and on the seventh day of Passover an imposing service was there performed: at present the altar and the sanctuary are a heap of stones, the ambush of reptiles and wild beasts; and the paschal sacrifice is the only one they now offer, but they kill it in the town itself. Their little synagogue, which contains their literary treasures, is situated at the foot of the mountain. The heights of Gerizim command a magnificent view in the four directions, to the valley of the Jordan and the waves of the Mediterranean, to the mountains of Judah and of Galilee: a circumstance which contributed not a little to render the mountain dearand important to the Israelites.--Nablous shows still the portal of its ancient cathedral; and many fragments of marbles, columns, and other remains bespeak the threefold domi. nion successively exercised by the Hebrews, the Romans, and Mohammedans. Christianity is at present there represented by about 120 taxable individuals; and by a school recently established by the Church Missionary Society.
The great age which oak-trees attain makes them appropriate mediums for the description of localities, especially in districts which offer few other peculiarities; and the more so, as oaks are by no means frequent in Palestine except in hilly regions; they were generally designated after the name of the individual on whose property they stood; and thus we read of the “oak of Tabor," and in our passage of the" oak of Moreh,” which is elsewhere also called “the oak which is in Shechem," or, as we have above observed, “the oak of sorcerers.” But though the neighbourhood of Shechem might have boasted of one majestic oak of peculiar grandeur and celebrity, it possessed many specimens of the kind, and we read of the “ oaks or grove of Moreh"; as in the vicinity of Hebron were the “oaks of Mamre.” The high antiquity of the trees was alone sufficient to endow them, in the eyes of the Orientals, with a considerable degree of sanctity; they were distinguished by appellative names; and in the time of Josephus there was near Hebron a terebinth which was believed to date back to the creation of the world. It is therefore natural that they should have been selected for solemn purposes; great national meetings were held near them; the dead were buried under their branches; prophets pronounced here their advice and their exhortations; temples and altars were erected, and incense and sacrifices offered, under their mysterious shade; and the hymns, which celebrated the deities, not seldom included the praise of the refreshing places of their worship; reasons enough why the “oak of Moreh” should be the spot for Alraham's first
altar, as it was the place where Joshua erected the sacred monument intended for ever to remind the Israelites of their pledges of obedience and piety. The oak forests of the mountains of Bashan were particularly celebrated; they furnished the materials for the rudders of the Tyrians, and the idols of the Canaanites. At present also those elevated parts, more than the other districts, are distinguished by noble oaks, “scattered like orchards upon the bills, much like the olive-trees on the west of the Jordan"; though even there the finest species (Quercus robur) does not appear, and the trees seldom attain the imposing dimensions which sometimes astonish us in our northern forests. They occur, however, in various other species, in the slopes of the Lebanon, near the sources of the Jordan, and along its eastern side so far south as the territory of the ancient Ammonites; their leaves, often broader than those of our oaks, afford a grateful shade, and their branches are frequently used for the construction of the flat roofs of houses. On the hills of southern Judæa, about Hebron, they are seen in great quantities, although they have here more the appearance of shrubs than of trees; but they are finer the more we proceed northward, between Samaria and Mount Carmel, on the banks of the Kishon, on Mount Tabor and its valleys, and beyond the plain of Acre.
From Shechem, Abraham proceeded towards Bethel, situated in the direct thoroughfare of Palestine. The text does not allude to the cause which induced or compelled him to resume his wanderings; but it is evident, from the aim and purport of this portion of Genesis, that Abraham is here designedly described as migrating through the land without finding a permanent or convenient resting-place. He had cheerfully left the rich pastures and the domestic comforts of Haran to be a stranger in a distant land, satisfied by building altars on his journeys, to leave the traces of his piety as marks and admonitions for his descendants. These anticipations are, with regard to Bethel, even more distinct than with reference to Shechem; and they must be considered the more decisive, as Jacob also experienced here occurrences of the most extraordinary nature. In the period of the Judges, the Ark and the holy Tabernacle were, for a time, in Bethel; and Samuel chose it as one of the towns which he annually visited for the decision of litigations. But the sacred character wbich Bethel thus gained was, in the time of the Kings, converted into a perfect abomination; for Jeroboam made it the centre of the idolatrous worship of Apis, introduced by him, in opposition to that of the temple of Jerusalem; his successors preserved his arrangements; and it was only in the time of Josiah that the town was purified from its pagan rites. The consequence of that perversion was a vehement abhorrence against Bethel on the part of the earlier prophets; and the house of God” was called “the house of iniquity.” The altar which Abraham here erected, and the prayers which he here offered up to God, are a rebuke and a reproach for the heedless iniquity which so long prevailed in Bethel. — The original name of the town Bethel was, however, Luz; the former appellation was introduced by Jacob after the extraordinary dream which there occurred to him; but, as Luz and Bethel were later distinguished as two different localities, we must suppose that the sanctuary of Luz, perhaps surrounded by other buildixgs, stood on a hill in its vicinity; this was the holy place, and was called Bethel (“the house of God"); the latter name was gradually attributed to the town also; though both were inaccurate or
geographical descriptions, separated from each other. This explanation is not only borne out, but required, by the various passages in which both names occur. The place "between Bethel in the west, and Hai in the east" may be that very elevation near Luz which was properly called Bethel.- In the time of Joshua, Bethel was a royal town of the Canaanites; it was, however, conquered and fixed as the frontier town between Benjamin and Ephraim; although it was, by Joshua, assigned to the former, it was, in the period of the divided empire, in possession of the latter tribe, which perpetrated the desecration of the holy place to which we have alluded. But after the captivity, it belonged to Benjamin; in the time of the Maccabees, it was fortified by the Syrian king; and was conquered by Vespasian, in the Roman war. Since that time it is seldom mentioned, and but very recently traces of its existence have been ascertained in the little place Beitin, in the mountain of Ephraim, between the heads of two shallow brooks, twelve Ro. man miles from Jerusalem; the greater part of the considerable ruins are on the top of a low hill, which is in accordance with the supposition above ventured; and the massive fragments of walls, of a large square tower, of a very extensive water reservoir, and of several churches, indicate its existence and importance down to the
Hai, likewise a royal town of the Canaanites, in the east of Bethel (ver. 8), was among the first towns which Joshua took and destroyed; but later it was rebuilt, and was, after the exile, inhabited by the Benjamites. The ruins which were, already in Jerome's time, inconsiderable, are, by Robinson, believed still to exist south of Deir Diwan, one hour of Beitin or Bethel.
10–20. Abraham continued his aim