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thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude;" Ramah also, and Anathoth, the birthplace of the prophet Jeremiah. Gibeah of Saul was not only his birthplace, but was closely connected with the changing fortunes of that king. After Samuel had anointed him king in Mizpeh, "Saul went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched (1 Sam. x. 26). And he continued to live there; for on that memorable day when Saul disobeyed in sparing Agag, it is said (1 Sam. xv. 34), "Saul went up to his house to Gibeah of Saul. And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his death: nevertheless Samuel mourned for Saul: and the Lord repented that He had made Saul king over Israel." An even more fatal remembrance of this unhappy king is connected with Gibeah, when we read in 2 Sam. xxi. how the Gibeonites demanded, "Let seven men of the sons of Saul be delivered unto us, and we will hang them up unto the Lord in Gibeah of Saul. And David said, I will give them." Then follows the terrible episode of Rizpah, who watched the ghastly corpses day and night, driving away the beasts and birds of prey, until David out of pity ordered the bodies to be buried.
The ancient Nob lay in our route homeward, but some doubt remains as to its exact site. It was here that the sword of the Philistine Goliath was kept in the tabernacle, which was set up at Nob after its destruction at Shiloh in Eli's time (see 1 Sam. xxi. 9). In the same chapter, verse 6, we read how David did eat the shewbread in the tabernacle at Nob given him by Ahimelech the priest, and referred to by our Lord, without blame, in Matt. xii. 3, 4. With considerable show of reason this interesting locality has been fixed upon the northern summit of Mount Olivet. From Gibeah to Jerusalem the route is uninteresting, the scenery barren and desolate. A few stunted trees and wretched halfruined villages were all that we encountered, and recrossing the shoulder of Scopas we returned to Jerusalem, well pleased with the extreme interest of this excursion.
We had yet one concluding pilgrimage to make ere we concluded our journey in the Holy Land, and that was to Bethlehem. We had seen the place where the Lord lived, where He preached, where He suffered, and where He was buried; but we were yet to see where He was born, where glad tidings of great joy were to all people, and where the star in the east conducted the wise men to the feet of the infant Christ.
The route to Bethlehem is interesting and picturesque. Emerging by the Jaffa Gate, and crossing the valley, we passed the Montefiore
cottages, a monument of the benevolence of the Jewish baronet, and skirting the Hill of Offence, so called from being the scene of the idolatrous worship of Solomon, we passed for some time through a broad green plain, the plain of Rephaim. Here it was that David conquered the Philistine hosts, who had spread themselves more than once over this valley, a conquest which resulted in the recovery of the ark (2 Sam. v. 18, etc.). Rising now gradually between cultivated fields, our attention was drawn to a limestone rock by the wayside, with a rude natural impression, such as these rocks so often present, but which fanaticism has invested with a supernatural character. It is called Elijah's Bed, and is believed by the inhabitants to have been the resting-place of the prophet when he fled from Jezebel. A little farther on, however, is a more rationally interesting monument, one of the most touching and at the same time one of the most authentic in all Palestine. This is no other than the Tomb of Rachel, the loved and favourite wife of Jacob. We read the brief chronicle in Genesis xxxv. 18: "And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Ben-oni: but his father called him Benjamin. And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." The modern tomb of Rachel is not of course the pillar which Jacob set up, but it is the ordinary form of Eastern sepulchre, marking a spot which exactly agrees with the Scripture account, and moreover is corroborated by the fact that beneath the tomb a cave is known to exist.
This is at a place called Zelzeh, which is interesting also in connection with the journey of Saul when by the providence of God he went in search of his father's asses. When Samuel discovered him, he said to him, “When thou art departed from me to day, then thou shalt find two men by Rachel's sepulchre in the border of Benjamin at Zelzah; and they will say unto thee, The asses which thou wentest to seek are found" (1 Sam. x. 2).
We get from a little farther on the first view of Bethlehem crowning the opposite side of a wide ravine or valley, on the slope of which are fields not only interesting as connected with the birth of our Saviour, but also in relation to another event in sacred history, of which Ruth the Moabitess was the heroine. For it was to some of these fields that
"Boaz came from Bethlehem and said unto the reapers, The Lord be with you," and where he first saw Ruth; a circumstance which gave rise to that beautiful idyl which stands between the books of Judges
and of Samuel, a record of events which took place thirteen centuries before the birth of our Lord, who in lineal descent counted Boaz and Ruth among His most prominent ancestors.
From hence, then, we see the grey flat-roofed village of Bethlehem, and standing apart from it the massive building of the Convent of the Nativity. But we do not purpose riding directly thither, but make a détour with the object of visiting some important works connected with the prosperous reign of King Solomon. Here were the pools and gardens of Solomon. "I made me great works," says the Preacher (ii. 4); "I builded me houses; I planted me vineyards: I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits: I made me pools of water, to water therewith," etc. In the nature of things the gardens and the fruit-trees have not come down to our day; but the pools still remain, venerable monuments of the power, and we may also add of the wisdom, of this great king. The pools are three very extensive reservoirs, so arranged, one below the level of the other, as to be best adapted to secure all the water which drained into them from the neighbouring springs; and the masonry of which, even at this day, strikes the beholder with a certain astonishment. The uppermost of these pools is 380 feet by 230, and 25 feet deep; the middle is larger, viz. 423 feet by 236 feet, and 25 feet deep; while the lowest is the most capacious, being 582 feet by 207 feet, and no less than 50 feet deep. The water runs from one into the other, and the lowest must always have been well supplied. From it an aqueduct ran to Jerusalem, more particularly for supplying the Temple, and remains of this are still visible; and it is remarkable that this aqueduct, originally constructed by command of King Solomon, was in later days repaired by Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judæa. Josephus states that the pools and gardens were so much beloved by Solomon that he was wont to drive out from Jerusalem every morning to visit them. And indeed it must have been in the gardens, situated more on the side of Hebron, in the glen called Wady Urtas, that Solomon obtained his extensive knowledge of the plants and trees of which he spake, from the cedar that is in Lebanon (and brought here from thence) to the hyssop that springeth out of the wall.
Leaving the Pools of Solomon, to which we had somewhat diverged in our route, we pass through the wilderness of Engedi (Judæa), where in his early days David was wont to keep his father's sheep (1 Sam. xvi. 11); a wild ravine full of those dens and caves of the earth, in which in later times, before his prosperity, he was obliged to hide himself
from the fury of the jealous Saul. Here we saw the mouth of a cave from some little distance, which is believed to be that Adullam to which David escaped after Achish king of Gath had let him go, believing him to be mad. And here "every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them" (1 Sam. xxii. 2). In a similar limestone cleft near here, in the vale of Etham, Samson took shelter (Judges xv.) from the three thousand men of Judah who wished to deliver him over to the Philistines.
At length we once more approach Bethlehem, and repair straight to the great pile of buildings known as the Convent of the Nativity. Here, before any examination of the places of interest, we sat down to lunch in the refectory of the convent, and fortified ourselves after the long ride of the morning. The great structure is really divided into four portions, viz. the Church of the Nativity, and the three convents belonging to the Greeks, Latins, and Armenians respectively. The whole is built upon the site of an undoubted basilica founded by the Princess Helena, daughter of Constantine, in the year 327 A.D. The nave of the church indeed is a still standing portion of that edifice, said by the best authority to be "the most ancient monument of Christian architecture in the world." The ceiling of the nave was once made of beams of the cedars of Lebanon; but, as now standing, it is supported by British oak, supplied for repairs and restoration by our own King Edward IV. Here, of course, all shows the ravages of time, and of its former splendour nothing but a sober dinginess and an air of faded antiquity now remains. Still there is a certain grandeur in the forty-eight Corinthian columns of granite, each seventeen feet high and two and a half feet in diameter. The whole convent was more or less destroyed by the Moslems in 1236, and afterwards restored by the Crusaders.
The church itself is cruciform, but the arms of the cross are walled up, and at its head we find a staircase which descends to what is really the point of central interest in Bethlehem, viz. the Grotto of the Nativity. The long intricate descent leads us into a subterranean chamber, in which are ever burning silver lamps, which throw a somewhat dim and doubtful radiance over this justly celebrated holy place. In this chamber are two niches or recesses; in one on the north side it is said that the Virgin's delivery was accomplished, and over the slab of marble marking the spot is a silver star and the words, “HIC DE VIRGINE
MARIA, JESUS CHRISTUS NATUS EST. Still the cynosure of the place remains to be noticed, and that is the manger, or præsepe, as it has always been named by the monks. This spot is situated upon a still lower level, and is upon the opposite side of the tapestried chapel, where, descending three steps, we find ourselves in a somewhat dark recess, which it would be difficult to explore without the little lighted taper which the monks placed in my hand, as they did in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre for the examination of the place of crucifixion. By the aid of this I could now perceive a small marble trough, which occupies the place of the original wooden manger, this latter having been long ago removed and deposited in the great basilica of Sta. Maria Maggiore at Rome.
Of course there are plenty of supplementary legends surrounding the great central one of the birth of Christ having taken place here; just as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is full of fantastic adjuncts to the sites of the crucifixion and entombment. We need not refer to them, however, because the Nativity is itself quite sufficient to stamp this spot and Bethlehem with an importance which is at once real and intense. For the truth is that there are few better authenticated sites than this, which has been regarded as the place of Christ's birth, certainly since the time of Constantine the Great; and that so ancient tradition appears to have been based upon one still older, which was current in the second century. No similar tradition has so high an antiquity. Of course there are objections, textual and historical, which those who have endeavoured to throw discredit upon the site have routed up; such there are for every place; but the cave at Bethlehem has undoubtedly been regarded as sacred by Christians of all ages ever since the beginning of the second century, beyond which period no traditional record extends. Nor have there here, as unfortunately elsewhere has been the case, been rival sects who have done all they could to throw discredit on each other and their traditions; but all, by wonderful unanimity, agree in regarding this as the one and only genuine site. There is a sort of silent witness of the authenticity of the place in the fact that the celebrated St. Jerome of Stridon, who was born about the year 340 A.D., took up his abode here in a cell close beside the Grotto of the Nativity. It was here that he lived for thirty years, and we were shown his study, in which during this long period he composed those theological treatises and commentaries on the Holy Scriptures which have rendered his name so great among patristic writers. It was here too that the translation of the Bible known as