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THE PLAIN OF THE PHILISTINES.

'AKIR (EKRON), 4th April.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,-It begins to be more and more my Sunday's work to tell you my adventuresnot by choice, but of necessity-for my daily travelling becomes, from its long endurance, so fatiguing that I heartily rejoice if I can but each evening, while seated on my travelling rug in the tent, write out my journal from the memoranda noted down in my pocket-book while on horseback during the course of the day. It is usually late before I can begin to do so. Visitors always take up my time, and to drive them off is out of the question. Their talk, too, is always important to me, if not for the pieces of geographical information it furnishes, at least in order to my making myself acquainted with the character of this people. At Beit-Jebrîn, however, with all their courtesies, they made their visits excessively troublesome. I was hardly allowed to eat in peace; and here, had I not taken the liberty to beg of Yousif, the Shech of 'Akir, to leave me for a time to myself, I should not have had a single moment the whole day to call my own. Although the tent remained pitched, and although we remained at rest, still the Lord's-day was disturbed by much that I could well have wished to be otherwise. But we have at all times, and in all circumstances, many wishes that must remain unfulfilled. Hence also I must keep

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the Lord's-day unto the Lord as I can, and not as I would.

I am now in quite another district. The wild naked mountains of the Dead Sea and the desert solitudes of Beer-Sheba are succeeded by a gently undulating tract, -a meadow stretching as far as the eye can reach, and clothed in the loveliest garniture of grass and flowers that the eye can behold.

But I must not make so sudden a leap over the twenty-four hours spent at Beit-Jebrîn, and bring you at once to Ekron, without saying something of what I saw between the two places.

Well, then, you will remember that my tent last stood pitched on the grass field at Beit-Jebrîn. Saleh had gone off to Hebron, and I found myself again in a more civilised world than that in which I had been wandering during the last week. The kindness of Shech Mosleh had provided us, too, with the needful refreshment of good food, and after I had for some hours, while enjoying pipes and coffee, had my tent full of visitors, there remained a pleasant afternoon for walking round the place and examining the important antiquities which Robinson has so copiously described.* With his book of travels in my hand, I walked along the wall, 600 feet in length, a wall built of heavy hewn stones, and forming the north side of the ancient and renowned Roman fortress, Eleutheropolis. I stood long at the beautiful large gate, gazing in silent admiration at the architect's work. After that, I visited the castle, now presenting truly no more than a heap of rubbish, a medley of dilapidated walls, arched *Bib. Res. vol. ii. p. 355, &c.

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vaults still standing, and among them the huts of some poor villagers. The American travellers heard something said here of a church with paintings in the southern wing of the castle, but which was enclosed and buried among the ruins. With the help of some of the villagers, I succeeded in creeping in by a hole in the wall, and getting a sight of the so-called church. It is a small passage extending the full length of the south wall of the castle, with six pillars adorned with beautifully carved marble capitals. I saw no paintings, or even hewn ornamented work. That this gallery ever served for a Christian church I doubt, on account of its form; but that the Mohammedans have used it as an oratory is very likely, and agrees with the testimony of the inhabitants. Hence what was originally probably a hall of state, or a gallery of the Roman general who commanded the castle, now passes among the villagers as the church (el-keneiseh).

I examined, also, the subterranean chambers and caves in the hills to the west of the village, but not the much larger caves, ornamented with sculpture, in the rocks close to the ruin of the church Mar-Hannah, and situated half an hour to the south-east of Beit-Jebrîn. The sun began to decline, and I had to choose between the two, to visit Mar-Hannah, of which the villagers told me great things, or to take a sketch of the ruins of the ancient Eleutheropolis, which was just then in the best light it had been in for the whole day. I gave my preference to the latter, that I might preserve both for you and myself a lively memorial of Beit-Jebrîn. While busy with While busy with my sketch,

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the herdsmen came down the hill-slopes with their herds to drink at the pond on the foreground close beside me. Objects of a better effect for my sketch I could not desire.

The author of the Biblical Researches has devoted a great many pages of his three octavo volumes to the identification of Beit-Jebrîn with the Beto-Gabra of Ptolemy, the Eleutheropolis of the Romans, the episcopal city Beit-Geberin, or Gibelin, of the Crusaders -the fort that, after being destroyed by the Saracens, was, in 1134, rebuilt under King Fulco of Jerusalem, yet, in 1244, was lost for ever when taken by the Sultan Bibars. This discovery has been of the highest importance for Bible geography, as Eusebius and Jerome have assumed Eleutheropolis as the chief station from which the distances of a number of other large and small towns are reckoned. Eleutheropolis had become altogether unknown. To this the change of name had not a little contributed, and so strange was even the Roman fortress to the Crusaders, that they confounded Gibelin with Beer-Sheba, which lies a degree further to the south. A discovery of such importance I may well recommend you to study in Robinson's own words. I shall merely add, that while we do all homage to the acute and learned American traveller, we must not forget that a moiety of the honour belongs to his countryman, the Rev. Dr Eli Smith, whose knowledge of the Arabic was a beacon to Robinson, without which he would have groped about in much darkness. The difficulty that I myself have experienced from ignorance of the language, leads me

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to consider the combination of two such men as Eli Smith and Robinson as the most auspicious circumstance that could have happened for Biblical geography. We may well thank God for its occurrence.

Want of great power teaches a man to make the best use of the little he has. This is my daily experience with respect to those pieces of information which I obtain from the natives. For although both the abovenamed travellers have discovered much, especially in these districts, there yet remains a wide field for investigation. In the short space of time available to me, I can but half satisfy myself in many places, and had to leave Beit-Jebrîn, too, with the wish that I might once more have an opportunity of visiting it, or that others would ere long come thither to trace out in these regions the cities inhabited by Israel in the days of old. It is true I obtained, by means of questioning and cross-questioning, during the evening in the tent, a list of ancient places in which at first sight I recognised some of the hitherto unknown names of Joshua's register of cities, and which I hope hereafter to communicate to you on my map; but such places as Gath, Makeddah, Adullam, Libnah, and others, still remain quite unknown.

Meanwhile I found it necessary to obtain a new guide. Shech Mosleh undertook to find me one. "The man who is best acquainted with the whole country," said he, "is old Tahir, on account of his repeated pilgrimages to Mecca called Hadj Tahir, a goodhumoured corpulent Arab, with a handsome gray beard, stately appearance, and of great repute on account of his sanctity." Hadj Tahir, however, with all

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