Page images
PDF
EPUB

of the fulfilment of the predictions in their most minute particulars are gathered into one view. We may as well, however, present here the substance of his observations respecting the words—"none shall pass through it for ever and ever, and “thus I will make Mount Seir desolate, and cut off from it him that passeth out and him that returneth."

He says that Volney, Burckhardt, Joliffe, Henniker, and Captains Irby and Mangles, adduce a variety of circumstances, all conspiring to prove that Idumea, which was long resorted to from every quarter, is so beset on every side with dangers to the traveller, that literally none pass through it; that even the Arabs of the neighbouring regions, whose home is the desert, and whose occupation is wandering, are afraid to enter it, or to conduct any within its borders. He says, too, that amid all this manifold testimony to its truth, there is not, in any single instance, the most distant allusion to the prediction-that the evidence is unsuspicious and undesigned.

A Roman road passed directly through Idumea from Jerusalem to Akaba, and another from Akaba to Moab; and when these roads were made, at a time long posterior to the date of the predictions, the conception could not have been formed, or held credible by man, that the period would ever arrive when none should pass through it. Indeed, seven hundred years after the date of the prophecy, we are informed by Strabo that the roads were actually in use. The prediction is yet more surprising, he says, when viewed in conjunction with that which implies that travellers should pass by Idumea"every one that goeth by shall be astonished.” The routes of the pilgrims from Damascus, and from Cairo to Mecca, the one on the east and the other towards the south of Edom, along the whole of its extent, go by it, or touch partially on its borders, without going through it.

the cases of Seetzen and Burckhardt can be urged against the literal fulfilment, although Seetzen actually did pass through Idumea, and Burckhardt traversed a considerable portion of it. The former died not long after the completion of his journey; and the latter never recovered from the effects of the hardships endured on the route-dying at Cairo. “ Neither of them,” we have given the precise words of Mr. Keith, “ lived to return to Europe. I will cut off from Mount Seir him that passeth out and him that returneth. Strabo mentions that there was a direct road from Petra to Jericho, of three or four days' journey. Captains Irby and Mangles were eighteen days in reaching it from Jerusalem. They did not pass through Idumea, and they did return.

he says,

Not even,

Seetzen and Burckhardt did pass through it, and they did not return."

“ The words of the prediction,” he elsewhere observes, "might well be understood as merely implying that Idumea would cease to be a thoroughfare for the commerce of the nations which adjoined it, and that its highly-frequented marts would be forsaken as centres of intercourse and traffic; and easy would have been the task of demonstrating its truth in this limited sense which scepticism itself ought not to be unwilling to authorize.”

Here is, no doubt, much inaccuracy and misunderstanding; and the exact boundaries of ancient Edom are, apparently, not borne in mind by the commentator. Idumea proper was, strictly speaking, only the mountainous tract of country east of the valley of El-Ghor. The Idumeans, if we rightly apprehend, did not get possession of any portion of the south of Judea till after the exile, and consequently until after the prophecies in question. They then advanced as far as Hebron, where they were arrested by the Maccabees. That "Seetzen actually did pass through Idumea," cannot therefore be asserted; and thus much is in favour of the whole argument of Dr. Keith, while in contradiction to a branch of that argument. The traveller in question (see his own Narrative), pursuing his route on the east of the Dead Sea, proceeded no farther in this direction than to Kerek, when he retraced his way-afterwards going from Hebron to Mount Sinai, over the desert eastward of Edom. Neither is it strictly correct that he “died not long after the completion of his journey.” Several years afterwards he was actively employed in Egypt, and finally died; not from constitutional injury sustained from any former adventure, but, it we remember, from the effects of poison administered by his guide in a journey from Mocha into the heart of Arabia. We see no ground either for the statement that Burckhardt owed his death to hardships endured in Idumea. Having visited Petra, and crossed the western desert of Egypt in the year 1812, we find him, four years afterwards, sufficiently well, at Mount Sinai. He did not die until the close of 1817, and then of a diarrhæa brought about by the imprudent use of cold water.

But let us dismiss these and some other instances of misstatement. It should not be a matter of surprise that, perceiving, as he no doubt did, the object of the circumstantiality of prophecy, clearly seeing in how many wonderful cases its minutiæ had been fulfilled, and withal being thoroughly imbued with a love of truth, and with that zeal which is becoming in a Christian, Dr. Keith should have plunged somewhat hastily or blindly into these inquiries, and pushed to an improper extent the principle for which he contended. It should be observed that the passage cited just above in regard to Seetzen and Burckhardt, is given in a foot-note, and has the appearance of an after-thought, about whose propriety its author did not feel perfectly content. It is certainly very difficult to reconcile the literal fulfilment of the prophecy with an acknowledgment militating so violently against it as we find in his own words—“Seetzen actually did pass through Idumea, and Burckhardt travelled through a considerable portion of it." And what we are told subsequently in respect to Irby and Mangles, and Seetzen and Burckhardi—that these did not pass through Idumea, and did return, while those did pass through and did not return--where a passage from Ezekiel is brought to sustain collaterally a passage from Isaiah—is certainly not in the spirit of literal investigation ; partaking, indeed, somewhat of equivoque.

But in regard to the possibility of the actual passage through Edom, we might now consider all ambiguity at an end, could we suffer ourselves to adopt the opinion of Mr. Stephens, that he himself had at length traversed the disputed region. What we have said already, however, respecting the proper boundaries of that Idumea to which the prophecies have allusion, will assure the reader that we cannot entertain this idea. It will be clearly seen that he did not pass through the Edom of Ezekiel. That he might have done so, however, is sufficiently evident. The indomitable perseverance which bore him up amid the hardships and dangers of the route actually traversed, would, beyond doubt, have sufficed to ensure him a successful passage even through Idumea the proper. And this we say, maintaining still an unhesitating belief in the literal understanding of the prophecies. It is essential, however, that these prophecies be literally rendered ; and it is a matter for regret as well as surprise, that Dr. Keith should have failed to determine so important a point as the exactness or falsity of the version of his text. This we will now briefly examine, Isaiah xxxiv. 10.

? _" For an eternity," Diny?_"of eternities,"

לְנַצַח

I'X_“not,"

may_“moving about,"
In"in it."

לִשְׁמָמָה

“For an eternity of eternities (there shall ) not be any one ) moving about in it.” The literal meaning of “-2” is “ in it,“ not through it.” The participle “ na j” refers to one moving to and fro, or up and down, and is the same term which is rendered “current," as an epithet of money, in Genesis xxiii. 16. The prophet means that there shall be no marks of life in the land, no living being there, no one moving up and down in it; and are, of course, to be taken with the visual allowance for that hyperbole which is a main feature, and indeed the genius of the language. Ezekiel xxxv. 7. inny?_" and I will give,”

_“ the mountain,"
n'ye 4 Seir,"

_" for a desolation,"
ORION_"and a desolation,”
'???!“and I will cut off,"
192_“from it,"
724_“him that goeth,"

JV1_“and him that returneth." “And I will give mount Seir for an utter desolation, and will cut off from it him that passeth and repasseth therein." The reference here is the same as in the previous passage, and the inhabitants of the land are alluded to as moving about therein, and actively employed in the business of life. The meaning of “passing and repassing” is sanctioned by Gesenius, s. v. vol. 2. p. 570, Leo's Transi. Compare Zachariah vii. 14, and ix. 8. There is something analogous in the Hebrew-Greek phrase occurring in Acts ix. 28. Και ήν μετ' αυτών εισπορευόμενος και εκπορευόμενος εν Ιερουσαλήμ, “And he was with them in Jerusalem coming in and going out.” The Latin "versatus est " conveys the meaning precisely; which is, that Saul, the new convert, was on intimate terms with the true believers in Jerusalem, moving about among them to and fro, or in and out. It is plain, therefore, that the words of the prophets, in both cases, and when literally construed, intend only to predict the general desolation and abandonment of the land. Indeed, it should have been taken into consideration, that a strict prohibition on the part of the Deity, of an entrance into, or passage through, Idumea, would have effectually cut off from mankind all evidence of this prior sentence of desolation and abandonment; the prediction itself being thus rendered a dead letter, when viewed in regard to its ulterior and most important purpose-the dissemination of the faith.

Mr. Stephens was strongly dissuaded from his design. Almost the only person who encouraged him was Mr. Gliddon, our consul ; and but for him the idea would have been abandoned. The dangers, indeed, were many, and the difficulties more. By good fortune, however, the sheik of Akaba was then at Cairo. The great yearly caravan of pilgrims for Mecca was assembling beneath the walls, and he had been summoned by the pacha to escort and protect them through the desert as far as Akaba. He was the chief of a powerful tribe of Bedouins, maintaining, in all its vigour, the independence of their race, and bidding defiance to the pacha, while they yielded him such obedience as comported with their own immediate interests.

With this potentate our traveller entered into negotiation. The precise service required of him was, to conduct Mr. Stephens from Akaba to Hebron, through the land of Edom, diverging to visit the excavated city of Petra,-a journey of about ten days. A very indefinite arrangement was at length made. Mr. Stephens, after visiting Mount Sinai, was to repair to Akaba, where he would meet the escort of the Bedouin. With a view to protection on his way from Cairo to the Holy Mountain, the latter gave him his signet, which he told him would be respected by all Arabs on the route.

The arrangements for the journey as far as Mount Sinai had been made for our traveller by Mr. Gliddon. A Bedouin was procured as guide who had been with M. Laborde to Petra, and whose faith, as well as capacity, could be depended upon. The caravan consisted of eight camels and dromedaries, with three young Arabs as drivers. The tent was the common tent of the Egyptian soldiers, bought at the government factory, being very light, easily carried and pitched. The bedding was a mattress and coverlet: provision, bread, biscuit, rice, macaroni, tea, coffee, dried apricots, oranges, a roasted leg of mutton, and two large skins containing the filtered water of the Nile. Thus equipped, the party struck immediately into the desert lying between Cairo and Suez, reaching the latter place, with but little incident, after a journey of four days. At Suez, our traveller, wearied with his experiment of the dromedary, made an attempt to hire a boat, with a view of proceeding down the Red Sea to Tor, supposed to be the Elino, or place of palmtrees mentioned in the Exodus of the Israelites, and only two VOL. I.-NO. II.

47

« PreviousContinue »