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trial for the legs of our poor horses to carry us out of the valley, through among the huge masses of rock, up the ascent to the aqueduct. How the laden mules got through I can hardly conceive. But both they and we succeeded in doing so, and in half an hour we reached Solomon's pools. Here you may believe we dismounted, for there was much to be looked at. Maundrell, Robinson, and others, it is true, have copiously described the "great pools," and "the sealed fountain," but the best descriptions fail to give one the impression made even by a superficial view of the scene. With respect, now, to the details of these colossal waterworks, I hope you will be contented with what Robinson has said of them.* His statements are ample and curious. In order to give you a general idea of the whole, I have taken a sketch from the rocks on the south side of the pool. In this drawing you will see the Saracenic quadrangular castle, Kâlatel-Bûrak, on the north-west side of the pools, the uppermost and the middlemost of the three, and a part of the aqueduct; but the surface occupied by all the pools is of such extent that I could not find any point at which all three could be comprised within one angle of vision. The middle pool bears much the same relation, in point of position, to the uppermost, as the lowermost does to the middle one. This will, in some measure, give you an idea of the whole. The sketch you cannot well expect to accompany this letter, but I hope to get it ere long forwarded to you.†
* See Bibl. Res., vol. ii. p. 164, &c.
+ In the Record newspaper of 28th July 1853, an account given by a recent traveller may be seen of the vaulted chambers and passages under the pools, previously briefly mentioned by Maundrell.
HIGHWAY TO HEBRON.
The sealed fountain, of which, as it does not appear above ground, nothing is seen owing to the distance, you must, nevertheless, look for on the map on the upper side of the uppermost pool, close beside the castle.
After leaving this important place, we directed our course towards the south-west, away past the upper side of the pools, and there we found the highway from Jerusalem to Hebron, which we now followed going to the south. We here found ourselves on the lofty ridge of the hill-country of Judea, of which again the Hebron hills form the highest portion. Nevertheless you must not suppose that the hills run down here to the right and left, while the road is carried along a narrow crest. No, this ridge is itself a broad plateau, with undulating heights and hollows, and sometimes shut in to the right and left by still higher summits. It is only by going off, as it were, to the sides of the plateau, that one has a prospect, and a most extensive one, over the wilderness of Judea, the Dead Sea, the mountains of Moab, or away over the valleys of western Judea and the plain of the Philistines. The highest summits lie to the west of the road. Half an hour past Solomon's pools you strike across a wadi, which runs steep down on the left to Wadi-Urtas, and, according to Robinson, has a fountain and a water-course, which helps to supply water for the lowermost of the three large pools. This aqueduct shares in the general condition of the country-it is in ruins. The lowermost pool was quite dry, though the other two had some water in them. Among the brushwood of this wadi I saw a long fragment of wall,
HIGHWAY TO HEBRON.
unquestionably a relic of some considerable building. Tradition will have it that there stood the palace of Solomon's concubines. If this be true, those beauties could not have desired a more picturesque country residence.
The highway to Hebron runs along, wide and open. The further one advances, the more do the bare rocks disappear, here beneath wild brushwood there beneath corn-fields, and elsewhere broken, levelled and laid out in terraces for the cultivation of the vine. All testifies to an extraordinary fertility of soil. Here and there, too, villages and ruins meet the eye; as, for example, Fakhûr, a small village on the west side of the road, three quarters of an hour past Solomon's pools; Bir-el-Hadj-romedan, an old well, with some ruins around it, about half an hour further on, and close upon the road; half an hour further still, and also on the west side of the road, the hamlet BeitUmma, hid beneath a clump of olive-trees, and here I saw a number of stones from ancient ruins, that had been employed in building Moslem tombs; further on, were Beit-héran, 'Ain-ed-Dirweh, and Halhûl, all three on the eastern side of the road. But while natural beauty and antiquities occupied my attention, still more affecting circumstances spoke to our feelings, as we pondered the incidents in Holy Scripture that are associated with this highway. The silent "father of the faithful," with young Isaac, whom he loved, at his side, silent like his father, followed this road when he went to offer him up to the Lord on one of the summits of Moriah (Gen. xxii.) Abraham seems then to have dwelt at Beer-sheba, and it was a part of the
road from Beer-sheba, through Hebron to Moriah (Jerusalem), that I travelled over to-day. Thus I saw the self-same hills and valleys along which Abraham then journeyed; I was surrounded by the same, or at least by nearly the same external objects. O that I might have Abraham's faith as plainly and distinctly before my eyes! How strange is the feeling when the things we find related in God's Word become a reality! It proves to me that we, much more than we ourselves are conscious of, view the persons, and the incidents spoken of in the Bible as something imaginary and fantastical, as men and things above our comprehension, and differently organised from what we are. No, they were men "subject to the like passions as we are," having the same sinful nature to struggle with, the same temptations to withstand, the same burden to bear-but they had the same Almighty God also as their Deliverer and Redeemer. Therefore, then, as Abraham believed, "accounting that God was able to raise up his son even from the dead," let the path which he trod strengthen our faith, and make us think of the "cloud of witnesses" by whom we are encompassed, so that, while looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, we may run the race that is set before us, with greater patience than we have ever yet exercised.
Had not Robinson, and after him Wilson, so minutely described the topography of the road from Bethlehem to Hebron, I should have felt obliged to give you more details with respect to it. Among the many other things that remain to be mentioned, I pass over the ancient sites of the towns of Judah in this
district. In the first volume of the Lands of the Bible, pp. 381-389, you will find them fully spoken of. One of the most remarkable ruins is er-Râmeh, or, as the Jews, according to their tradition, maintain, "Abraham's House," forgetting that it was not granted to Abraham to have any settled residence in Caanan, but that he had to dwell in tents in the field of Mamre. Robinson fully describes the large masses of wall to be found in this Râmeh. Wolcott still more minutely examined this hill of ruins, and found it covered with extensive fragments of buildings. The attention of many has been directed to these ruins; but opinions differ concerning them, and, in short, people don't know what to make of er-Râmeh. This is neither the time nor the place for me to enter upon a critical examination of the point; yet I must add a few words in confirmation of my opinion, that Wolcott is in the right, when he holds er-Râmeh near Hebron (at scarcely an hour's distance) to be the Ramah of Samuel, in contradiction to what the Jews affirm with respect to Abraham's residence, and in contradiction to those also who are willing to admit that Abraham did not live there in a house built of stones, but who say that the huge masses of wall above referred to must have belonged to a church which the emperor Constantine caused to be erected over the spot which was then pointed out as Mamre. To this, both the high antiquity of the ruins, and the distance from the burial-cave of Machpelah, seem to me to be opposed.
The difficulty of determining where to place the Ramah of Samuel, lies in the apparent contradiction between 1 Sam. i. 1 and the contents of 1 Sam. chap.