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Samuel came once a year to Bethel to judge the people. In later times it became notorious as a seat of idolatrous worship, after Jeroboam had erected here one of his golden calves. This was denounced at the time by a prophet of the Lord, who then transgressed, and was destroyed by a lion. Bethel came afterwards into the possession of Judah ; and king Josiah destroyed its altars and idols, burning upon them dead men's bones from the sepulchres. After the exile, the place was again inhabited by the returning Jews, and was subsequently fortified.” (Ezra ii. 28 ; Neh. vii, 32, seq.)
In the New Testament Bethel is not mentioned; but we learn that it still existed, and was captured by Vespasian. The last notice of Bethel, as an inhabited place, is by Eusebius and Jerome in the fourth century, who speak of it as a small village in their day. Yet the present ruins are greater than those of a small village-; and the ruined churches upon the site, and beyond the valley, betoken a town of importance even down to the middle ages,—so that it probably revived, and was enlarged.
The site of the ancient Bethel was long supposed to be entirely lost, but has been discovered by Dr. Robinson and some friends at Beitîn ; the name and site of which, there is little room for question, are identical with it. “ The ruins lie upon the point of a low hill, between the heads of two shallow valleys, which unite below, and run off ... into the deep and narrow valley Es Suweinît,” (probably “the passage of Michmash, mentioned in Scripture.) “ The spot is shut in by higher land on every side.
Perceiving some ruins across the valley, on the higher ground, we immediately proceeded thither, and came in eight minutes to what the Arabs called ... (the) · Castle of Beitîn. It is the ruin of a small square fortress of hewn stones, including a Greek
1 2 Chron. xxiii. 15, &c.
church. Several columns were lying among the ruins, on one of which a cross was carved ... We came in ten minutes more to the ruins of another larger Greek church, situated on the highest point of ground in the vicinity. The lower walls are still very distinct, and many columns are lying about . . . We now returned to the site of Beitîn, and took a nearer survey of its ruins. They occupy the whole surface of the hillpoint, and cover a space of three or four acres. They consist of very many foundations and half-standing walls of houses and other buildings ... the broken walls of several churches are to be distinguished. In the western valley are the remains of one of the largest reservoirs we saw in the country. . . . The walls are built of massive stones ; the southern one is still entire ... the bottom was now a green grass-plat, having in it two living springs of good water. Here we spread our carpets on the grass for breakfast, by the side of these desolations of ages. A few Arabs, probably from some neighbouring village, had pitched their tents here for the summer, to watch their flocks and fields of grain ; and they were the only inhabitants. From them we obtained milk and also butter of excellent quality, which might have done honour to the days when the flocks of Abraham and Jacob were pastured on these hills. It was, indeed, the finest we found anywhere in Palestine.—See ROBINSON's Researches, vol. ii. pp. 125-130.
AI, OR HAI.
“ AND he (Abram) removed from thence unto a mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west, and Hai on the east ; and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord.”—Genesis xii, 8.
“ And he went on his journeys from the south even to Bethel, unto the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Hai ; unto the place of the altar which he had made there at the first : and there Abram called on the name of the Lord.”—Genesis xiii. 3,
And the men went up and viewed Ai, and they returned to Joshua, and said unto him . . . Let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai ... So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men : and they fled before the men of Ai.
And Joshua rent his clothes, and . . . said ...0 Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies?”...-Joshua vii. 2, &c. (See whole chapter, the account of the death of Achan, &c.)
“ And the Lord said unto Joshua, Fear not . take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land ... And Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night ... saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city ... and I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them, (for they will come out after us,) till we have drawn them from the city ... Then ye
from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the Lord your God will deliver it into your hand ... And they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai ... And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and ... went up... before the people to Ai ... and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai ... and Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley. And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle ...
before the plain . . and Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them ... and there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel that went not out after Israel; and they left the city open . And the Lord said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thine hand toward Ai... And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand : and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted, and set the city on fire. And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers.
And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city ... then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai. And the other issued out of the city against them: so they were in the midst of Israel ... and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape.
And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua ... And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it a heap for ever, even a desolation, unto this day. And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until even-tide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day."-Joshua viii. 1, &c.
... Ai is spoiled.”—Jeremiah xlix. 3.
“The city of Ai is chiefly celebrated in Scripture his. tory for its capture and destruction by Joshua. It lay on the east of Bethel. Abraham, on his arrival in Palestine, pitched his tent between the two cities, and they were not so far distant from each other, but that the men of Bethel mingled in the pursuit of
the Israelites, as they feigned to fly before the king of Ai, and thus both cities were left defenceless. Yet they were not so near, but that Joshua could place an ambush on the west, or south-west, of Ai, without its being observed by the men of Bethel ; while he himself remained behind in a valley on the north of Ai. At a later period, Ai was again rebuilt, and is mentioned by Isaiah, and also after the exile. In the days of Eusebius and Jerome, its site and scanty ruins were still pointed out, not far distant from Bethel, towards the east.”
Dr. Robinson found ruins at a place just south of the village of Deir Dîwân, at about an hour's distance from Bethel, which he supposed might have been those of Ai. The name, however, has utterly perished. These ruins have, near by, on the north, a deep valley, called El Mútyâb ; and other smaller valleys towards the S.W., in which the ambuscade of the Israelites might easily have been concealed.—Robinson's Researches, vol. ii. p. 313.
JERICHO, (ERÎHA, RİHA, OR RIHHAH.)
ROAD FROM JERUSALEM TO JERICHO.
“ A CERTAIN man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side ... But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”—Luke x. 30–34.
1 Ezra ii. 23.