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three thousand.”* Volney accounts for the populousness of Palestine and other countries of the East in ancient times, by the following considerations: “First, because the lands of Asia, in general, are more fertile than those of Europe ; secondly, because a part of these lands are capable of being cultivated, and, in fact, are cultivated, without lying fallow or requiring manure; thirdly, because the Orientals consume one-half less for their subsistence than the inhabitants of the western world, in general; for all which reasons it appears that a territory of less extent may contain double and treble the population. . Admitting only what is conformable to experience and nature, there is nothing to contradict the great population of high antiquity; without appealing to the positive testimony of history, there are innumerable mondments which depose in favor of the fact. Such are the prodigious quantity of ruins dispersed over the plains, and even in the mountains, at this day deserted. On the most remote parts of Carmel are found wild vines and olive-trees, which must have been conveyed thither by the hand of man; and in the Lebanon of the Druzes and Maronites, the rocks, now abandoned to fir-trees and brambles, present us in a thousand places with terraces, which prove they were anciently better cultivated, and consequently much more populous than in our days.”
This candid testimony of a disbeliever in divine revelation, recalls the allusion of the prophet to “ the glory of Lebanon,” and “the excellency of Carmel and Sharon.”+ The facts adduced by Volney contradict the ignorant and invidious statement of his contemporary Gibbon—" that Palestine was a territory scarcely superior to Wales, either in fertility or extent,” I a comparison which M. Guizot regards as “exaggerated with the intention of attacking the authority of the Bible, which extols the fertility of Palestine.” Mr. Osborn, after citing both the English and the French historian, forcibly remarks that " what Gibbon's intentions were is a matter of
* This was in 1785, and had reference only to Judea proper. + Isaiah xxxv, 2.
| Decline and Fall, Cbap. I.
little importance, for the fact is that history is against the historian; and quoting the familiar testimony of Josephus, Tacitus,* Ammianus, Marcellinus, and other early writers, to the extraordinary fertility of Palestine, he adds, that “the medals stamped with the impress of grapes, as the coin of Herod, the figure of the palm-tree so frequently seen on other medals, stamped by Vespasian and Titus, and the medal of young Agrippa holding fruits, all indicate the excellence of the country.t”
There are two quite opposite yet equally important particulars in which the soil and the general aspect of Palestine confirm the representations of the Bible concerning the land; these are, its remaining capacity for fertility after ages of neglect, and its appearance of desolation according to “ the burden” of prophecy. The two facts are by no means inconsistent, and both serve to illustrate the truth of the Bible in its references to the physical geography and the natural products of the country. The spies brought from the vicinity of Hebron pomegranates, figs, and grapes in clusters of extraordinary size and richness, and they reported concerning the land, “Surely it floweth with milk and honey.”+ Dr. Thomson speaks of the vineyards of Hebron, as "the most extensive and best kept in the country,” and adds: “I have been here in the season of grapes, and they are larger than in most localities, and the clusters very long." The writer measured several clusters in these vineyards in the month of April, when the grapes were barely set, and found them from eighteen to twenty inches in length. As the Moslems do not cultivate the grape, and both Jews and Christians in Palestine are the victims of oppression and poverty, we cannot now look for the most perfect production of an article of luxury. But the vineyards and gardens of Hebron still confirm the favorable report
* Tacitus, (Hist. B. V, C. 6,) speaking of Judea and its inhabitants, says, Corpora hominum salubria et ferentia laborum ; rari imbres, uber solum ; fruges nostrum ad morem, præterque eas balsamum et palma. Palmetis proceritas et decor."
of the spies. Again, Moses said to the people, “the land whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot as a garden of herbs; (referring probably to a water-wheel turned by the foot, sometimes used in Egypt for irrigation]—but the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven; a land which the Lord thy God careth for. I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn, and thy wine, and thine oil.” It is the prevailing opinions of meteorologists that the yearly quantity of rain in Palestine has diminished since the country was denuded of forests. Dr. Barclay* is of opinion that either the rainy season of Palestine was formerly of much longer continuance than the average winter rains of that country, or there was another rainy season, which occurred after harvest, but is now entirely withheld. More rain now falls yearly in Palestine than in the United States, but it is very unequally distributed through the twelve months. The average fall of rain at Jerusalem during seven successive years was 56.5 inches per annum; the greatest amount in one year being 85 inches and the lowest 26.9 inches.t Dr. Thomson represents the rainy season of Palestine as uncertain both in its commencement and in its duration. I have seen the rains begin early in November and end in February; but they are sometimes delayed until January and prolonged into May.” As a consequence of these variations, “all kinds of crops, including silk, fail more frequently in Syria and Palestine than in America.” This fact Dr. Thomson regards as in entire correspondence with the Biblical record of “sore famines,” frequently alternating with fruitful seasons. This writer, to whom as a permanent resident of Palestine more weight is due than to any transient observer, does not appear to think that there has been any material diminution of rain in the country, or any important meteorological changes since it was peopled by the Israelites. Tacitus,
* City of the Great King, p. 542.
+ Ib., p. 428.
as before cited, speaks of the rains of Judea as infrequent. However this may be, the land of Palestine is to-day, as of old, in wide contrast with Egypt as a land “that drinketh water of the rain of heaven."
Although Dr. Thomson does not discuss at length the agricultural resources of Palestine, he makes frequent allusions to the fertility of the soil in certain districts. Indeed the modern fruits and flora of the country surpass in richness and variety those enumerated in the Bible. “We read of grapes and figs, pomegranates, olives, dates, apples, and almonds, and these cover almost the entire list. But in Sidon we have all these, and in addition, oranges, lemons, citrons, pears, peaches, apricots, plums, quinces, bananas, prickly pears, and many smaller berries and fruits, none of which are once named in the Bible. The same superiority characterizes the modern Flora."* “The fruits of Jaffa are the same as those of Sidon, but with certain variations in their character. Sidon has the best bananas, Jaffa furnishes the best pomegranates. In March and April the Jaffa gardens are, indeed, enchanting. The air is overloaded with the mingled spicery of orange, lemon, apple, apricot, quince, plum, and China trees in blossom.”+ One of the most pleasing memories of Palestine photographed upon the mind of the writer, is of a night spent at the hospital villa of an American gentleman who formerly filled the office of American vice-consul at Jaffa. This villa was walled in by the flowering cactus, and surrounded with groves of oranges, pomegranates, lemons, and apricots, with whose mingled fragrance every breath was burdened. A deep well in the court yard, yielding its treasures to the ever-revolving sakia, supplied a reservoir from which were fed murmuring fountains and the canals for irrigation, which intersected the gardens of melons and cucumbers. At even-tide we went upon the house-top, and saw the sun sink into the waters of the great sea," and watched the stars as one by one they shone forth till the whole canopy was aglow with the matchless splendors of a Syrian night. We
* Vol. I, p. 161.
+ Vol. II, p. 280.
could believe all that Moses, and prophets, and psalmists, had uttered of the beauty and glory of the land.
These gardens of Jaffa are quite profitable. Dr. Thomson gives the following example of the pecuniary profits of modern horticulture in Palestine. “A watered garden which costs 100,000 piastres will produce annually 15,000; but 5,000 of this must be expended in irrigation, ploughing, planting, and manuring. This allows the proprietor 10,000 piastres, which is a very fair percentage on capital invested in agricultural pursuits.”* Dr. Thomson compares the plain of Philistia to our western prairies, and describes it in general as a rolling country of surpassing fertility. Traces of rich soil are to be found even in that “desert of moving sand” which now lines the Philistine coast. His beautiful description of the plain of Sharon as seen from the old tower of Ramleh, does not at all exaggerate the fertility of that region, even under the present imperfect mode of cultivation.
“ The view from the top of the tower is inexpressively grand. The whole plain of Sharon, from the mountains of Judea and Samaria to the sea, and from the foot of Carmel to the sandy deserts of Philistia, lies spread out like an illuminated map. Beautiful as vast, and diversified as beautiful, the eye is fascinated, the imagination enchanted, especially when the last rays of the setting sun light up the white villages which sit or hang upon the many shaped declivities of the mountains. Then the lengthening shadows retreat over the plain and ascend the hillsides, while all below fades out of view under the misty and mellow haze of sum. mer's twilight. The weary reapers return from their toil, the flocks come frisking to their folds, and the solemn hush of nature shutting up her manifold works and retiring to rest, all conspire to sooth the troubled heart into sympathetic repose. At such an hour I saw it once and again, and often lingered until the stars looked out from the deep sky, and the breezes of evening shed soft dews on the feverish land. What a paradise was here when Solomon reigned in Jerusalem, and sang of the roses of Sharon!' Better still will it be when He that is greater than Solomon shall sit on the throne of David his father, for in bis days shall the righteous flourish and abundance of peace, so long as the morn endureth. The mountains shall bring peace to the people, and the little hills by righteousness.”+
Mr. Osborn appropriates a chapter to the discussion of the agriculture of Palestine. After describing several varieties of soil to be found in the country, he gives a careful analysis of
* Vol. II, p. 280.
+ Vol II, p. 299, 300