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we not perhaps suppose, that these massive walls are indeed the work of Jewish hands, erected here in ancient days around the spot where the founder of their race had dwelt? On such a supposition, the structure would have corresponded to that around his sepulchre in Hebron."-ROBINSON's Researches, vol. i. pp. 317, 318.
The Haram, or Mosque of Hebron.
“ The great Haram, or rather the exterior wall which encloses the Mosk, constitutes the most remarkable object in Hebron, and one of the most so in all Palestine. It is also one of the most sacred places of the Muhammedans; being held to cover the sepulchre of Abraham, and the other patriarchs .
“ The exterior has the appearance of a large and lofty building, in the form of a parallelogram?... The walls are built of very large stones, all bevelled and hewn smooth; and similar in all respects to the most ancient parts of the walls around the Haram at Jerusalem ... There are no windows in any part of these walls. The places of entrance are at the two northern corners, where a long and broad flight of steps, of very gentle ascent, built up and covered along each side of the building externally, leads to a door in each wall opening into the court within ...
According to all accounts, the structure here described, including all that is visible from without, is merely an exterior enclosure of walls around a court within. In this court stands the much smaller mosk, which is said to have been once a christian church. Here, in different parts, the Muhammedans have built tombs for the patriarchs; while their actual place of sepulchre is held to be in a cavern below, which even the faithful are not permitted to enter. But as the jealous bigotry of the Mussulmans of Hebron precludes all admittance to Franks and Christians, and the height of the exterior wall prevents any view of the interior ... we are yet without any intelligible description of the mosk ... and know nothing at all of the cavern which thus represents the cave of Machpelah.
(1) A long suare.
“ The outer structure thus described, evidently belongs to a high antiquity; and the resemblance of its architecture to that of the remains of the ancient temple at Jerusalem, seems to point to a Jewish origin ...
* I know of nothing that should lead us to question the correctness of the tradition, which regards this as the place of sepulture of Abraham, and the other patriarchs, as recorded in the book of Genesis. On the contrary, there is much to strengthen it. Josephus relates, that Abraham and his descendants erected monuments over the sepulchres in question, which implies, at least, that, in his day, the place was marked by some ancient memorial. In another passage he says, expressly, that the sepulchres of the patriarchs were still seen in Hebron, built of marble, and of elegant workmanship. In the days of Eusebius and Jerome, the monument of Abraham was yet pointed out; and the Bourdeaux Pilgrim, in A. D. 333, describes it as a quadrangle, built of stones of admirable beauty. This description appears to me, without much doubt, to refer to the exterior structure, as we see it now; and I venture to suppose that this existed already in the days of Josephus, and, probably, much earlier; and was either itself the monument referred to by him, or, perhaps, the sacred enclosure within which the tombs of the patriarchs were erected. The whole appearance of the building, as well as its architecture, leads decidedly to such a conclusion ... It appears to me, we may rest with confidence in the view, that this remarkable external structure of the Haram is indeed the work of Jewish hands, erected long before the destruction of the nation around the sepulchre of their revered progenitors, the friend of God,' and his descendants. The cave of Machpelah is described in Scripture as at the end of the field,' over against Mamre, the same as Hebron ; and all the later writers above-quoted, speak of the sepulchre of the patriarchs as at, or in, Hebron, not near it. Here, then, the Father of the faithful,' as also Isaac and Jacob, rested from their wanderings !
“ Just at the left of the principal entrance of the Haram, is a small hole in the massive wall, through which the Jews are permitted at certain times to look into the interior. Here several Jewish women were reading prayers and wailing, although the hole was now closed by a shutter froin within. Little did the Jews of our Saviour's day, who gloried in their descent from Abraham, and when the Lord of Life offered to free them from the slavery of sin, proudly answered, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man'-little
did they imagine the time would ever come, when their despised, degraded children would only be suffered by their bigoted foes to gaze through a small opening, at certain times, towards the sepulchre of Abraham! Little did they know the fearful import of the curse, “ His blood be on us, and on our children !”–Robinson's Researches, vol. ii. pp. 433-439.
The “ Desert,” near Gaza. It is most probable that the expression in the book of Acts which might at first seem to apply to Gaza itself, and to describe it as then “ desert," is to be referred to the particular road from Jerusalem to Gaza, on which the Evangelist was to find the eunuch, viz. the southern road, leading from Eleutheropolis to Gaza, through the “ desert,” or region without villages, as is the case at the present day.
“ In Acts viii. 26," observes Dr. Robinson, Philip is directed to go from Samaria toward the south, unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert ... Here desert may refer either to the way, or to Gaza. The facts in the history of Gaza ... render it improbable that the city is here meant; although there is a possibility that Luke might have written just after the destruction of Gaza, about A.D. 65; and thus have been led, from the novelty of the event, to mention it. (Thus understood,) the words must belong to Luke. . . as a mere parenthetic remark. If attributed to the angel, and understood in this sense, it is difficult to see what bearing they could have upon his instructions to Philip; since the latter was not to go to Gaza, but only upon the road leading to it; and this road was the same, whether Gaza was desolate or not.
“ More probable therefore is it, that the term desert is to be referred to the road on which Philip should find the Eunuch; and was indeed meant as a description, to point out to him the particular road where he should fall in with the latter. This was the more necessary, because there were several ways leading from Jerusalem to Gaza. The most frequented at the present day, although the longest, is the way by Ramleh. Anciently, there appear to have been two more direct roads; one down the great (valley) Es-Sărâr, by Beth
Shemesh, and then passing near Tell Es-Sâfieh ; the other, through (the valley) El-Musărr, to .... Eleutheropolis, and thence to Guza, through a more southern tract. Both these roads exist at the present day; and the latter now actually passes through the desert; that is, through a tract of country without villages, inhabited only by (wandering) Arabs .
“ If we may suppose the case to have been the same, or nearly so, when the book of Acts was written, the explanation becomes easy; for the chief difficulty has ever been, to show how this region, in itself so fertile, could be called 'desert.' That the district was at that time in like manner deserted, is not improbable. In the days of the Maccabees, the Idumeans had taken possession of Judæa, as far north as to Hebron, Adora, and Marissa, cities lying on or near the mountains ; where they were subdued, and compelled to embrace Judaism ... This serves to show that the southern part of Judæa was no longer occupied by the Jews themselves; nor is there any mention of cities or villages in the plain between Gaza and the mountains, later than the time of Nehemiah. It seems, therefore, probable, tha even then the migratory hordes of the southern desert had spread themselves further to the north ; and thus connected this tract, as at the present day, with their
• desert.' While travelling from Gaza to Eleutheropolis, Dr. Robinson visited a place so well corresponding in situation and character with the circumstances of the eunuch’s baptism, that he particularly describes it. The place is called “Wady,” (or valley,) “El-Hasy."
“ The land from Tell (or Hill,) El-Hasy,” he writes, “ descends gradually towards the wady of the same name, which we reached in about forty minutes. The way led us through the open fields, where the people were in the midst of the wheat harvest... The wady El-Hasy is a broad tract of fine meadow lands, on which (horses were pasturing)... The gravelly bed of the wady winds through this lower tract, and in it a little water springs up at intervals. It can hardly be said to flow, but rather soaks along through the gravel ... On the south-west side (of the valley), Tell El-Hasy rises steeply, directly from the bed, to the height of two hundred feet or more ... The summit commands a rich and pleasing prospect, over a wide extent of undulating country, low swelling hills, and broad valleys, all of the finest soil; yet without a single village or ruin rising above the ground, on which the eye can rest ... In the language of Scripture, such a region, with
out fixed habitations, (would be accurately called desert.) Still“ there was not here wanting the charm of busy life. Several Arab encampments ... were in sight, surrounded by flocks and herds, and troops of camels and asses ... and multitudes of reapers and gleaners (were) scattered over the fields.
“ When we were at 'Tell El-Hasy, and saw the water standing along the bottom of the adjacent valley, we could not but remark the coincidence of several circumstances with the account of the eunuch’s baptism. This water is on the most direct route from Beit Jibrîn (Eleutheropolis) to Gaza, on the most southern road from Jerusalem, and in the midst of the country now desert,' i.e. without villages, or fixed habitations. The thought struck us, that this might not improbably be the place of water described. There is at present no other similar water on this road; and various circumstances—the way to (aza, the chariot, and the subsequent finding of Philip at Azotus—all go to show that the transaction took place in or near the plain.”—Robinson's Researches, pp. 380, 389–391, 640, 641.
Eleutheropolis (Beit Jibrîn). The city of Eleutheropolis is not mentioned in Scripture, but it was anciently of much importance in Palestine. It was built by the Romans, was an episcopal city, and the determinate point whence Eusebius and Jerome estimated the distances and positions of other places. The site of Eleutheropolis has been fixed by Dr. Robinson, after much careful and diligent investigation, at Beit Jibrîn, the ancient Betogabra." Beit Jibrîn is a village of moderate size, the capital of a district in the province of Gaza. It is situated among low hills, and so shut in by them, that no other places are visible from it. “ Like most of the villages in this region, it is surrounded with olive-trees; and beneath one of these, north-west of the ruins, we spread our carpets, and, after a few minutes of rest
(1) For Dr. Robinson's arguments respecting the identity of Betogabra and Eleutheropolis, the reader is referred to the second volume of his “Researches."