Page images
PDF
EPUB

close of the sixth century, and St. Willibald in the eighth, passed down through the whole length of the valley from Tiberias to Jericho; and in the year 1100 King Baldwin I. accompanied a train of pilgrims from Jericho to Tiberias ;* but we have nothing more than a mere notice of these journeys. In like manner the various excursions of the crusaders across the Ghôr throw no light upon its character. In the year 1799 the French penetrated to the south end of the lake of Tiberias, but no further. In 1806 Seetzen crossed the valley just south of the same lake ; but describes it only in very general terms. Burckhardt in 1812 was twice in its northern part; and travelled along it from Beisân to a point several hours below, on his way to es-Salt. $ Six years later, in the winter of 1818, Irby and Mangles passed down from Tiberias to Beisân; thence crossed over into the country around Jerash, and returned from es-Salt to Nabulus, fording the Jordan several miles above Jericho.Ş About the same time Mr. Bankes, accompanied by Buckingham, crossed the valley obliquely from Jericho, passing the river apparently at the same ford (or very near it) as Irby and Mangles.||

According to Burckhardt, the Ghôr at the upper end runs in a course from N. by E. to S. by W., and is about two hours broad. I Opposite Jericho we found its general course to be the same; but in consequence of the retiring of the mountains on both sides, to which I have already alluded, its breadth is here much greater, being not less than three and a half or four hours. The Jordan issues from the lake of Tiberias near its S. W. corner, where are still traces of the site and walls of the ancient Tarichaea.** The river at first winds very much, and flows for three hours near the western hills; then turns to the eastern, on which side it continues its course for several hours, to the district called

* Fulcher. Carnot. 21, p. 402.
† Zach's Manatl. Corresp. XVIII. p. 350.
İ Travels, etc. pp. 274, 344, seq.
$ Travels, pp. 300—305, 326.

Buckingham's Travels in Palest. p. 313, seq.
TT Page 344.

** Seetzen, l. c. p. 350. Irby and Mangles, p. 300. See Reland's Palest. p. 1026. Comp. Pocoke, II. p. 70, fol.

1

Kůrn el-Hemår, · Ass's Horn,' two hours below Beisân : where it again returns to the western side of the valley.* Lower down the Jordan follows more the middle of the great valley; though opposite Jericho and towards the Dead Sea, its course is nearer to the eastern mountains; about two thirds or three quarters of the valley lying here upon its western side. A few hundred yards below the point where the Jordan issues from the lake, there is a ford, close by the ruins of a Roman bridge of ten arches.t About two hours further down are the ruins of another bridge, called lisr elMejami, consisting of one arch in the centre with small arches upon arches at the sides ; and also a ruined Khân upon the western bank. I Somewhat higher up, but in sight of these ruins, is another ford.Ş That near Beisân lies in a direction S. S. E. from the town.|| Indeed, “the river is fordable in many places during summer; but the few spots where it may be crossed in the rainy season are known only to the Arabs."

The banks of the Jordan appear to preserve everywhere a uniform character, such as we have described them above. “ The river flows in a valley of about a quarter of an hour in breadth, (sometimes more and sometimes less,] which is considerably lower than the rest of the Ghôr;" in the northern part about forty feet.** This lower valley, where Burckhardt saw it, was “covered with high trees and a luxuriant verdure, affording a striking contrast with the sandy slopes that border it on both sides." Further down, a portion of this lower valley is also naked sand; and the verdure is confined (in some parts at least) to a still lower strip along the river's brink. So we saw it; and so also it is described by Pococke near the convent of St.John.ft

* Burckhardt, pp. 344, 345. Irby and Mangles, l. c.
| Irby and Mangles, pp. 296, 301.
#

Ibid. p. 301. Seetzen, 1. c. p. 351.

Buckingham, 1. c. 448. Burckhardt, p. 275. || Burckhardt, p. 344. 1 Ibid. p. 345. ** Ibid. pp. 344, 345.

tt. “From the high bank indeed of the river, [meaning the usual level of the lower valley,] there is a descent in many places to a lower ground, which is four or five feet above the water, and is frequently covered with wood;" Pocoke II. p.33, fol.

The channel of the river varies in different places; being in some wider and more shallow, and in others narrower and deeper. At the ford near Beisân on the 12th of March, Irby and Mangles found the breadth to be one hundred and forty feet by measure ; the stream was swift and reached above the bellies of the horses. When Burckhardt passed here in July, it was about three feet deep.* On the return of the former travellers twelve days later, (March 25th,) they found the river at a lower ford extremely rapid, and were obliged to swim their horses. On the 29th of January in the same year, as Mr. Bankes crossed at or near the same lower ford, the stream is described as flowing rapidly over a bed of pebbles, but as easily fordable for the horses. I Near the convent of St. John, the stream at the annual visit of the pilgrims at Easter is sometimes said to be narrow and flowing six feet below the banks of its channel. At the Greek bathing place lower down, it is described in 1815 on the 3d of May, as rather more than fifty feet wide and five feet deep, running with a violent current; in some other parts it was very deep://

These are the most definite notices which I have been able to find respecting the Jordan and its channel; and I have collected them here, because they have a bearing on another question of some interest, viz. the annual rise and supposed regular overflow of the waters of the river. It is indeed generally assumed that the Jordan of old, somewhat like the Nile, regularly overflowed its banks in the spring, covering with its waters the whole of its lower valley, and perhaps sometimes large tracts of the broad Ghôr itself.** It seems however to be generally admitted, that no such extensive inundation takes place at the present day; and all the testimony above adduced goes to establish the same fact. It is therefore supposed that some change must have taken place, either because the channel has been worn deeper than formerly, or because the waters have been diminished or diverted.* But although at present a smaller quantity of rain may fall in Palestine than anciently, in consequence of the destruction of the woods and forests, yet I apprehend that even the ancient rise of the river has been greatly exaggerated. The sole accounts we have of the annual increase of its waters, are found in the earlier scriptural history of the Israelites; where, according to the English Version, the Jordan is said to "overflow all its banks” in the first month, or all the time of harvest.t But the original Hebrew expresses in these passages nothing more, than that the Jordan " was full (or filled) up to all its banks,” meaning the banks of its channel; it ran with full banks, or was brimfull. The same sense is given by the Septuagint and Vulgate. I

* Irby and Mangles, p. 304. Burckhardt, p. 345.
+ Travels, pp. 304, 326.
| Buckingham, l. c. p. 315.
Ś Maundrell, March 30th. Hasselquist Reis. p. 152.
i Turner's Tour, etc. II. p.

224. ** Reland's Palest. p. 273. Bachiene I. p. 140, seq. Raumer's Palaest. p. 61, ed. 2.

Thus understood the Biblical account corresponds precisely to what we find to be the case at the present day. The Israelites crossed the Jordan four days before the passover (Easter) which they afterwards celebrated at Gilgal on the fourteenth day of the first month. Then, as now, the harvest occurred during April and early in May, the barley preceding the wheat-harvest by two or three weeks. Then, as now, there was an annual rise of the river, which caused it to flow at this season with full banks, and sometimes to spread its waters even over the low banks of its channel so as to fill the tract covered with trees and vegetation along its sides.|| Further than this there is no evidence that its

* Maundrel, March 30th.

† Josh. iii. 15. 1 Chron. xii. 15. The only other allusion to a rise of the Jordan in harvest, is in Eccles. xxiv. 26 or 36 ; where, however, an inundation is not necessarily implied. The phrase “ swelling of Jordan,” English version, Jer. xii. 5, xlix. 19, 1. 44, should be rendered “pride of Jordan,” as in Zech. xi. 3, where the original word is the same, referring to the verdure and thickets of its banks. The phrase has no allusion to a rise of its waters.

| Heb. [?] . xo@' zgntido avtoň. Vulg. "Jordanis autem ripas alvei sui tempore messis impleverat.' Luther also gives the same sense correctly : “Der Jordan aber war vollanallen seinen Ufern."

§ Josh. iv. 19 ; v. 10.

|| Burckhardt says loosely, that the Jordan in winter (meaning generally the rainy season) “inundates the plain in the inundations have ever extended; indeed the very fact of their having done so, would in this soil and climate necessarily have carried back the line of vegetation to a greater distance from the channel. Did the Jordan, like the Nile, spread out its waters over a wide region, they would no doubt everywhere produce the same lavish fertility.

Although therefore the Jordan probably never pours its flood beyond the limits of its green borders, yet it is natural to suppose that the amount of its rise must vary in different years, according to the variable quantity of rain which may annually fall. This consideration will account in a great measure for the various reports and estimates of travellers. It may also appear singular, that this annual rise should take place near the close of the rainy season, or even after it, rather than at an earlier period, when the rains are heaviest. This is sometimes referred to the late melting of the snows on Jebel esh-Sheikh or Hermon ;* but at this season these snows have usually long been melted, and only the mighty head of Hermon is decked with an icy crown. The fact however may be easily explained, I apprehend, upon ordinary principles.

In the first place, the heavy rains of November and December find the earth in a parched and thirsty state; and among

the loose limestone rocks and caverns of Palestine a far greater proportion of the water is under these circumstances absorbed, than is usual in occidental countries, where rains are frequent. Then too the course of the Jordan below the lake of Tiberias is comparatively short ; no living streams enter it from the mountains, except the Yarmûk and the Zúrka from the east ; and the smaller torrents from the hills would naturally, at the most, produce but a sudden and temporary rise. Whether such an effect does actually take place, we are not informed; as no traveller has yet seen the Jordan during the months of November and December. Late in January and early in March, 1818, as we have seen, nothing of the kind was perceptible.

But a more important and perhaps the chief cause of the

bottom of the narrow valley.” But this whole lower plain, where he saw it, was covered with high trees and a luxuri. ant verdure.” Travels, etc. pp. 344, 345.

* Bachiene I. p. 141,

« PreviousContinue »