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No comment is more lively, or more sure, than this, on those that speak of the burying the kings of the house of David within Jerusalem ; those sepulchres, and that of Huldah the prophetess, being the only ones to be found there.' But it is not a perfect comment; for it is to be remembered that a peculiar holiness belonged to Jerusalem, as well as the dignity of being the royal city, but no particular sanctity is aseribed to Algiers, by those people that buried Hali Dey there.
Sepulchral Memorials used in the East. Curious
Account of the written Mountains.
This burying persons in their cities is a very extraordinary honour paid the dead ; sepulchral memorials are a much more common one: they are, however, attended with circumstances that want illustration, consequently to be considered in this chapter.
I would here examine those words of Job, O that my words were now written !
O that they were printed in a book! That they were graven with an iron pen and lead, in the rock for ever ! Job xix, 23, 24.
The sense of these words, according to the translation of the celebrated Schultens, and Dr. Grey's notes extracted from him, is this:
Lightfoot, rol 4, p. 21.
Who will write
words! Who will record them in a book! Let them be engraven on some sepulchral stone, with an iron pen, and with lead, so as to last for ever!
The word rock, which our translators have made use of, seems to me to be more just than that used by Schultens. It is certain that the word - tzur, which is in the original, signifies in other places of the book of Job, a rock , and never there, or any where else in the Scriptures, that I am aware of, (and I have with some care examined the point) does it signify a small sepulchral stone, or monumental pillar. On the other hand I am sure, the words that are used for this purpose, when the sacred writers speak of the sepulchral stone Rachel's grave; of the pillar erected by Absalom to keep up his memory; and of that monument which marked out the place where the Prophet was buried that prophesied against the altar of Jeroboam, and which continued to the days of Josiah ; are different.
Nor can the using this term appear strange, if we consider the extreme antiquity of the book of Job; since it is easy to imagine, that the first inscriptions on stones were engraved on some places of the rocks which were accidently sinoothed, and made pretty even. And, in fact, we find some that are very ancient, engraved on the natural rock, and what is remarkable, in Arabia, where it is supposed Job lived. This is one of the most curious observations in that account of the Prefetto of
Egypt, which was published by the late Bishop of Clogher; and is, in my apprehension, an exquisite confirmation of our translation, though there is reason to think, neither the writer, nor editor of that journal, thought of this passage, and so consequently claims a place in this collection.
The Prefetto, speaking in his journal of his disengaging himself at length from the mountains of Faran, says, they came “to a large plain, surrounded however with high hills, at the foot of which we reposed ourselves in our tents, at about half an hour after ten. These hills are called Gebel el Mokat nb, that is, the Written Mountains : for, as soon as we liad parted from the mountains of Faran, we passed by several others for an hour together, engraved with ancient unknown characters, which were cut in the hard marble rock, so high, as to be in many places at twelve or fourteen feet distance from the ground: and though we had in our company persons who were acquainted with the Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, Coptic, Latin, Armenian, Turkish, English, Illyrican, German, and Bohemian languages, yet none of them had any knowledge of these characters; which have nevertheless been cut into the hard rock, with the greatest industry, in a place where there is neither water, nor any thing to be gotten to eat.
“ It is probable, therefore, these unknown characters contain some very secret mysteries, and that they were engraved either by the Chaldeans, or some other persons long before the coming of Christ.”
The mention of the English, the Illyrican, the German, and the Bohemian languages, might at least have been spared out of this enumeration of particulars: it would have been sufficient to have remarked, they were in none of the characters now in use in the East, or in any of those in which ancient inscriptions before known are found written in those countries.
The curious Bishop of Clogher, who most laudably made very generous proposals to the Antiquarian Society, to engage them to try to decypher these inscriptions, was ready to imagine they are the ancient Hebrew characters, which the Israelites (having learned to write at the time of giving the law) diverted themselves with engraving on these mountains, during their abode in the wilderness.
The making out, upon what occasion these letters were engraven, might probably be very entertaining to some of the inquisitive; I very much question, however, whether we naturally suppose, this laborious way of writing was practised for diversion. The Prefetto says, they were an hour passing by these mountains, by which, however, I do not imagine he designs to insinuate that this whole length of rock is engraven, but only that every now and then there is an inscription, and that from the first which they observed, to the last, was
an hour's journey, or thee miles; but cutting the letters of these inscriptions into the hard marble, and sometimes at twelve or fourteen feet from the ground, which is the Prefetto's account, could not surely be mere diversion.
When, on the contrary, I consider the nature of the place, there being neither water, nor any thing to be gotten to eat; and compare it with the account Maillett gives us' of the burying-place of the Egyptians, which called the plain of Mummies, and which, according to him, is a dry, sandy, circular plain, no less than four leagues over ; and when I recollect the account that Maundrell gives of figures and inscriptions, which, like these, are engraven on tables plained in the natural rock, and at some height above the road, which be found near the river Lycus,' which figures, he tells us, seemed to resemble mummies, and related, as he imagined, to some sepulchres, thereabouts; I am ready to suppose this must be some very ancient burying-place." Such a
i P. 37. " Either of the Israelites when in the wilderness, in which case the examining the inscriptions will answer the same end, as if the Bishop of Clogher's supposition were just; or of some warriors belonging to other nations, who lay buried there; or made use of upon some other occasion, of which the memory is now lost. I must not however conceal from my reader, that since the first edition of this book, a paper of Mr. Wortley Montague's has been pub. lished in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. 56, in which he seems to ascribe these engravings to pilgrims, in their journies from Jerusalem to mount Sinia. But would they in that case have been so numerous ? Or at least, would they have been engraven by such persons at the height of twelve or fourteen feet? Perhaps there is a mixture of
s Lett. 7.