Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

by his brother Moses and his son Elcazar, ascended the mountain. Arriving on the top, Moses stripped the first High-priest of his splendid garments, and invested with them Eleazar, his successor in the holy office. What a view met his dying eyes! How strange must have been his emotions when he gazed around him! He looked over the valley of Arabah, countersected by the hundred watercourses, and beyond over the white mountains of the wilderness they had so long traversed, and at the northern edge of it there must have been visible the heights through which the Israelites had vainly attempted to force their way to the Promised Land. This was the western view. Close around him on the east were the rugged mountains of Edom, and far along the horizon the wide downs of Mount Seir, through which the passage had been denied by the wild tribe of Esau who hunted over their long slopes.' (Stanley.)

The news of Aaron's death spread grief and wailing in the Hebrew camp. “When all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.' With these few and simple words the Bible takes leave of the man who next to Moses had played the most important part in the events that preceded and followed the exodus from Egypt. He had been the mouth-piece of Moses, the eloquent speaker. He had been chosen as the spiritual intercessor between God and the people; he was appointed the chief of the nation of priests, and had been endowed with the spirit of God. Yet, though truthful and dignified, his character lacked the manly firmness so essential in troubled times and among a fickle people. Though endeavouring to follow in the footsteps of his brother, he yielded in critical moments to the threats or entreaties of the infatuated multitude. He fades in grandeur beside the imposing figure of Moses.

As a pun

When the days of mourning were over, the Israelites left their encampment and resumed their wanderings. Their object was now naturally to avoid the territory of the Edomites, who had shown so hostile a disposition, and to penetrate into the Promised Land from the eastern side of the Jordan. What long and circuitous marches lay before them! But they had no choice, and therefore they first journeyed south-eastward, back in the direction of the Red Sea. No longer in view of the hills of Judah, but oppressed by the dismal and dreary sight of the wilderness, they had no hope or bright anticipation to cheer them on. Their courage and patience failed them. They murmured bitterly against Moses: “Wherefore hast thou brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness ? for there is no bread, neither is there any water.' ishment, the Lord sent fiery serpents, from whose sting many of the people died. Then they repented, and implored Moses to entreat for pardon: he interceded, and his prayers were accepted by God. He was commanded to make a serpent of brass, and to place it upon a pole; any man bitten by the fiery serpent should look up to the brazen figure, as a symbol of his reliance on the Divine power and assistance ; then he would be healed. And so the continuance of the calamity was averted.

Once more the Hebrew hosts went forth; they travelled southward till they reached Eziongeber on the shores of the Red Sea ; then turning northward, but steadily keeping on the eastern side of Mount Seir, they passed along the border of the Arabian desert, halting at stations few of which have left a trace to prove their identity-Zalmonah and Punon, Oboth and Ije-abarim, Dibon-Gad and Almon-Diblathaim. They passed the plains of Moab, crossed the river Arnon, proceeded through the territory of the Ammonites, resting at Beer (Well), where the famous song was sung: “Spring up, 0 well, sing to it:

The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. They halted at Mattanah, Nahaliel, and Ramoth, at the mountain range of Abarim, at the ridge of the Pisgah, and encamped at one of its loftiest peaks, the Nebo, whence a fine and commanding prospect opened westward over the Jordan, reaching to the beautiful plains of Jericho and beyond them. The camp spread along the Jordan from Beth-jesimoth to Abel-shittim in the plains of Moab.'

59. CONQUESTS IN THE EAST OF THE JORDAN.

[Num. XXI.) When the Israelites had crossed the river Arnon, they found themselves in the very midst of the populous and powerful east-Jordanic tribes, whose land they knew they would have to wrest from them inch by inch. These nations, prepared for attack and defence, and trusting in their idols Baal and Ashtarte, Chemosh and Moloch, mocked the God, and despised the invading hosts, of the Hebrews. The first hostile people they had to encounter were the Amorites, whose valiant king Sihon resided in Heshbon. Sihon had before distinguished himself by remarkable feats of bravery and daring; he had conquered all the land north of the Arnon, had driven back the Moabites southward beyond this river, and had firmly established his empire. When, therefore, the Hebrews sent messengers to him, praying to be allowed to pass through his dominions, under the same conditions they had proposed to the Edomites, he haughtily and contemptuously refused the request, as the king of Edom had done before, and like him he marched out against them with a large army. At Jahaz, on the borders of the desert, a sanguinary battle was fought, in which

Sihon was utterly routed. The Hebrews took possession of the whole country between the Arnon and the more northern river Jabbok, leaving, however, untouched the territory of the Ammonites which lay also between those two rivers. These deeds were celebrated in heroic songs, and lived long in the mouth of the Hebrews; a fragment of such a lay has fortunately been preserved to us :

• Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared: for there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon ; it has consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon. Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, 0 people of Chemosh! he has given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity to Sihon, king of the Amorites. We have shot at them; Heshbon has perished even to Dibon, and we have laid them waste even to Nophah, which reaches to Medeba.'

Other conquests in the same districts were now easily accomplished, but Og, the powerful king of the fertile land of Bashan, offered an obstinate resistance. Og was indeed a formidable foe. He ruled over a large country with many fortified cities stretching northward to the foot of the Hermon, and eastward to the regions of the Euphrates. He descended from the giant race of the Rephaim, and was of huge stature. He at once marched out to meet the Hebrews at Edrei, one of his principal towns. But God said to Moses, · Fear him not, for I will deliver him, and all his people, and his country, into thy hand, and thou shalt do to them as thou didst to Sihon, king of the Amorites.' The Hebrews, thus encouraged, advanced boldly, and were victorious; and they smote Og, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none of them left alive, and they took possession of his land.' It is a tale of bloodshed on which we do not care to dwell; carnage and extermination marked each advancing

step of the conquering Hebrews; thus only could the promises given to them and to their ancestors be fulfilled.

60. BALAAM'S PROPHECIES.

[NUMB. XXII.-XXIV.] The Israelites now pitched their camp once more in the south-eastern plains of the Jordan. Balak, the king of Moab, had seen the defeat of two of his most powerful neighbours, and he trembled at the approach of the apparently invincible invaders. Might he not be the next to feel their impetuous attack? He tried to effect an alliance with the adjoining Midianites, whose apprehensions it was not difficult to rouse. Now will this host,' he said to them, devour all that are around us, as the ox devours the grass of the field.'

He bethought himself, besides, of another device. At that time a heathen prophet, Balaam, the son of Beor, who lived in Pethur, a town on the Euphrates, was famous for his wisdom and his inspired speeches prompted by Jehovah, the God of the Hebrews. To him Balak sent distinguished men from Moab and Midian with presents, and with this message : “Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt ; they cover the face of the earth, and they encamp over against me. Come now, therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people, for they are too mighty for me: perhaps I shall prevail that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.'. The men arrived and delivered their message. Balaam begged them to stay over night in his house, and to hear his answer on the morrow. During that night the Lord appeared to Balaam in a vision, and said : “ Thou shalt not go with these messengers; thou shalt not curse the people, for they are blessed. On the following morning, therefore, he declared to his guests

« AnteriorContinuar »