Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

only one hundred and eighty yards, or about the tenth part of a mile broad.* Most of the smaller streams are dry during the drought of summer.

As in other limestone countries, the springs, though not very frequent, are sometimes so copions as to form small rivulets. Though many of these springs are dry during summer, yet when compared with the neighboring countries with which the Hebrews were acquainted, as Egypt and Arabia, the land was greatly distinguished for its plentiful supply of water. This peculiar blessing was accordingly urged by Moses upon the children of Israel as they were entering the Promised Land, contrasting as it did with Egypt, where it never rains, and where all the supplies of water are confined to the Nile: “The Lord thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, that spring out of valleys and hills.”—(Deut. viii, 7.) Palestine was the only country known to the Psalmist where it could have been said, “He sendeth his springs into the valleys, which run among the mountains." +

Keeping in view these pecnliar and remarkable characters of the physical geography of Palestine, let us next turn to the Meteorological phenomena, which, in a still more remarkable degree, characterize the same wonderful country, in its variety of temperature, and its prevailing winds; in its atmospheric precipitations, its dew, clouds, rain, snow, and hail; and in its storms and tempests.

In the first place, Palestine exbibits an extraordinary range and diversity of natural temperature. Lying between the lati: tudes of 30° 40' and 33° 35', it corresponds in this respect to the southern states of this Union, being nearly opposite to the state of Georgia. Jerusalem is nearly 1° south of Charleston, and nearly east of Savannah. Hebron, the ancient capital of Palestine, has nearly the same latitude as Natchez. The geographical position of the Holy Land, therefore, would place it decidedly among warm countries. It will not, however, account for its diversities of climate, which are unknown to other countries lying in the same latitude, as South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama. As early as the month of May, the

* Lynch's Exploration of the Jordan, p. 268.

7 Stanley, p. 123.

learned traveler, Dr. Clarke, found the heat near Cana of Galilee, not far from Nazareth, 100° in a cave, and sufficiently intense in the noon-day sun to bake bread ;* and, at the same time of year, Lieut. Lynch found the heat in the valley of the Jordan, on the banks of the Dead Sea, 106° degrees in the shade.

On the other hand, the inhabitants of the Holy Land are familiar with a degree of cold, more intense than is usual in places situated in so warm a latitude. Their highest mountains, Hermon and Lebanon, rise into the region of perpetual congelation, and have their summits covered with snow nearly or quite the year round. Moreover, it is to be remarked that, on account of the small extent of this territory, the places presenting at once these extremes of climate, are very near to each other, so as frequently to be both in view at the same time. Dr. Clarke and his party were forced to take shelter in a cave to avoid the insupportable heat of the sun, and when even there the thermometer stood at 100°, while to the north appeared the summits of Lebanon entirely covered with snow, not lying in patches, but investing all the higher part with that perfect white and smooth velvet-like appearance which snow exhibits only when it is very deep; "a striking spectacle (the Dr. remarks) in such a climate, where the beholder, seeking protection from a burning sun, almost considers the firmament to be on fire." + The maritime cities on the west enjoy, most of the year, a mild and agreeable climate. The elevated districts, embracing Jerusalem, have usually but a small annual range of temperature, the thermometer being seldom so low as 30°, or so high as 80°. $ They generally have a little frost and snow during winter, but the cold is seldom intense or lasts long. Dr. Barclay, in his recent work on Jernsalem, states the extreme annual range of temperature at 54°.8 At New Haven the extreme range is 120°. But it must be recollected that our sensations of heat and cold are greatly affected by relative circumstances, especially by a sudden transition from

[ocr errors]

* Clarke's Travels, Vol. II, 495–496.

| Clarke's Travels, Vol. II. † Whiting, Miss. Herald; Barclay's City of the Great King, p.49. Ib. p. 418

one temperature to another. Arctic travelers, after their systems have become adjusted to a temperature of 50° or 60° below zero, find a temperature of 20° or 30° below, quite comfortable, and that of zero almost oppressive for its heat. Captain Parry, after wintering at Melville Island, where the thermometer was frequently as low as 40°, says that when it rose to zero, his men were basking in the warm atmosphere; and Dr. Kane remarks, “I have myself slept in an ordinary canvas tent without discomfort, yet without fire, at a temperature of —52°; while Lieut. Lynch, on emerging from the valley of the Jordan, and ascending the hills of Jerusalem, found the air at 60° above zero, piercingly cold. Hence the words of the Psalmist, “Who can stand before his cold ?" uttered at Jerusalem, have a peculiar significancy even there, although he might have had reference to the cold of the highest mountains, as Mount Hermon, which was vastly more intense than was experienced at Jerusalem. Dr. Robinson informs us that the climate of Jerusalem is generally so mild and uniform that the ground seldom or never freezes, and, except in a sirocco, the thermometer is seldom as high as 80°.*

In the second place, the winds of Palestine are characterized by some remarkable peculiarities. On the coast of the Mediterranean the sea-breezes prevail with much regularity, blowing, as usual, towards the land in the day-time, and off the land at night. At Jerusalem, however, the northwest winds blow with all the steadiness of the trade winds. This is strikingly indicated by the figure of the olive trees, a great part of which grow with their tops leaning towards the southeast, as we are told by Rev. Mr. Lanneau, late Missionary to Palestine.t The same writer adds, that in winter the southwest wind on the coast, and the north west wind in the interior, generally accompany a rain.”

The sirocco prevails occasionally in all parts of Palestine, but is especially frequent and intense in the valley of the Jordan. On the Dead Sea, Lieut. Lynch met it the latter part of April.

[ocr errors]

Robinson, Vol. I, p. 430. + Lanneau, quoted by Prof. Coffin ; Smithsonian Contributions, Vol. VI, p. 192.

Its approach was announced by a thin purple haze over the neighboring mountains, increasing every moment, and presenting an awful appearance. The eyes could not remain open against the hot wind that followed, and the eye-lids were blistered.* One of the party mounted spectacles to protect his eyes, but the metal became so heated that he was obliged to remove them. The party bathed in a pool of water, but in an instant the moisture on the surface evaporated, and left the skin dry and parched. The sun was of a blood-red color, as when seen through smoked glass. The heat rather increased than lessened after the sun went down, the thermometer, at 8 o'clock in the evening, standing at 106°. Thirst was not allayed by drinking water. They threw themselves on the earth with eyes smarting, skin burning, lips, tongue, and throat parched and dry. The water of the Dead Sea, twelve inches below the surface, was at the temperature of 90°. Before such a wind the vegetable kingdom is withered and burned up, and every green thing is seared.

The qualities of the several winds that prevail in Palestine, are recognized in various passages in the Bible. The dryness of the north wind in Proverbs: “ The north wind driveth away rain, so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue. (Prov. xxv, 23.) The humid and rainy quality of the west wind, that came over the sea, in Luke: “When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, there cometh a shower, and so it is.”—(Luke xii, 54.) The hot character of the south wind, which came from the desert of Arabia, is referred to in the same passage : “And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say there will be heat; and it cometh to pass.”—Luke xii, 55.) The desolating character of the hot wind is referred to in Jeremiah: “ The wind shall eat up all thy pastures.” (Jer. xxii, 22.)

The clouds brought by the sirocco are not composed of watery vapor, but of sand and such other solid particles as are raised from the surface and sustained by powerful winds. Hence they fill the air with a purple haze, and assume forms and colors peculiarly strange and threatening.

* Lynch, 312.

In the third place, the watery precipitations from the atmosphere are attended by many peculiar circumstances. The dews are remarkably copious, and the rains are periodical, being for the most part confined to the winter months, and scarcely falling at all during the summer months. The thunder storms, contrary to the experience of most other countries, also occur only in winter, and are often very violent, accompanied by whirlwinds and tornadoes, and all the usual attendants of hail storms.

All travelers agree in describing the dew as remarkable in quantity. Dr. Clarke remarks that “Jews, Gentiles, Saracens, Crusaders, Frenchmen, Egyptians, Persians, Druses, Turks, Arabs, warriors out of every nation under heaven, have pitched their tents upon the plain of Esdraelon, and have beheld the various banners of their nations wet with the dews of Tabor and Hermon.”* Maundrell says, that in the neighborhood of Mount Hermon “their tents were as wet with the dew, in the morning, as if it had rained all night.”+ Lieut. Lynch also speaks of similar dews in the valley of the Jordan. In the total absence of rain during the summer months, these copious dews were far more useful than in countries like ours, where the rain is more uniformly distributed. Hence in the sacred writings dew becomes a peculiar mark of the Divine favor.

The rains of Palestine are divided into two periods, the early and the latter rain. The early rain, according to Dr. Robinson, commences the latter half of October, or beginning of November, first coming on by occasional showers, affording the husbandman opportunity to sow his wheat and barley. It is of no avail to sow before the rains commence, since, after the long summer drought, the ground is too dry for the seed to germinate. These showers also fall mostly in the night--a circumstance still further propitious to the husbandman. The rains of Palestine are impetuous beyond anything known in our climate, falling upon particular spots like a water spout, suddenly swelling the brooks, before dry,

* Clarke, II, 499.

† Maundrell, p. 57.

« ПредишнаНапред »