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greatly obstructed with stones and rubbish that it is no easy matter to creep through; but having overcome this difficulty you arrive at a large room, seven or eight yards square, excavated in the solid body of the hill. Its sides and ceiling are so exactly square, and its angles so just, that no architect could form a more regular apartment; while the whole is so firm and entire, that it resembles a chamber hollowed out of one piece of marble. From this room you pass into six others, all of the same construction; the two innermost being somewhat deeper than the rest, and are descended to by a certain number of steps.
In every one of these, except the first, were cof fins of stone placed in niches formed in the sides of the chamber. They had at first been covered with handsome lids; but the most of them have been long broken to pieces, and either scattered about the apartment, or entirely removed. One of white marble was observed by Dr Clarke, adorned all over with the richest and most beautiful carving; though, like all the other sculptured work in the tombs, it represented nothing of the human figure, nor of any living thing, but consisted entirely of foliage and flowers, and principally of the leaves and branches of the vine. The receptacles for the dead bodies are not much larger than European coffins ; but, having the more regular form of paral lelograms, they thereby differ from the usual appearance presented in the sepulchral crypts of the country, where the soros is of considerable size, and generally resembles a cistern. The taste manifested in the interior of these chambers seems also to denote a later period in the history of the arts; the
skill and neatness visible in the carving is admir. able, and there is much of ornament displayed in several parts of the work.
But the most surprising thing belonging to these subterranean chambers is their doors; of which, when Mr Maundrell visited Jerusalem, there was still one remaining. “ It consisted,” says he, “ of a plank of stone of about six inches in thickness, and in its other dimensions equalling the size of an ordinary door, or somewhat less. It was carved in such a manner as to resemble a piece of wainscot: the stone of which it was made was visibly of the same kind with the whole rock; and it turned upon two hinges in the nature of axles. These hinges were of the same entire piece of stone with the door, and were contained in two holes of the im. movable rock, one at the top and another at the bottom.*
We are informed by Dr Clarke, that the same sort of contrivance is to be found among the sepul. chres at Telmessus; and, moreover, that the ancients had the art of being able to close these doors in such a manner that no one could have access to the tomb who was not acquainted with the secret method of opening them, unless by violating the abode of the dead, and forcing a passage through the stone. This has been done in several instances at the place just named; but the doors, though broken, still remain closed with their hinges unimpaired.† ;
In pursuing the road to Nablous, the ancient
* Journey, p. 76.
+ Pausanias, describing the Sepulchre of Helena at Jerusalem, mentions this device: It was so contrived that the door of the sopulchre, which was of stone, and similar in all respects to the sepulehre itself, could never be opened except upon the return of the same
Shechem, the first village which meets the eye of the traveller is Beer, so named from the well or spring where the wayfaring man stops to quench his thirst. The inhabitants, who appear to be chiefly Arabs, are in the greatest poverty, oppressed and alarmed by the incessant demands of their Turkish rulers. It is the Michmash of Scripture, celebrated as the place whither Jotham fled from the anger of his brother Abimelech. It presents, too, the remains of an old church, erected, as tradition reports, by the pious Helena, on the spot where the Virgin sat down to bewail the absence of her son, who had tarried behind in Jerusalem to commune with the doctors in the Temple.
Beyond this interesting hamlet, at the distance of about four hours, is Leban, called Lebonah in the Bible, a village situated on the eastern side of a delicious vale. The road between these two places is carried through a wild and very hilly country, destitute of trees or other marks of cultivation, and rendered almost totally unproductive by the bar. barism of the government. In a narrow dell, form. ed by two lofty precipices, are the ruins of a monastery, being in the neighbourhood of that mystic Bethel where Jacob enjoyed his vision of heavenly things, and had his stony couch made easy by the beautiful picture of ministering angels ascending and descending from the presence of the Eternal.
The next object of interest is connected with the
Tis cnfute sh do not namely, that
annivers vint sat upo ex of water At this poi
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tience, and 1
heavenly Hill the LO the land whi
day and hour in each succeeding year. It then opened of itself by means of the mechanism alone, and after a short interval closed agam. Such was th case at the time stated; had you tried to open it at an other time, you would not have succeeded, but broken it first in the tempt. Páus. in Arcad. cap. xvi.-Clarke's Travels, vol. iv. p. 300.
name of the same patriarch. It is Jacob's Well,—the scene of the memorable conference between our Saviour and the woman of Samaria. Such a locality was too important to be omitted by Helena while selecting sites for Christian churches. Over it, accordingly, was erected a large edifice; of which, however, the “ voracity of time, aided by the Turks,” has left nothing but a few foundations remaining. Maundrell tells us that “ the well is covered at present with an old stone vault, into which you are let down through a very strait hole; and then removing a broad flat stone you discover the mouth of the well itself. It is dug in a firm rock, and extends about three yards in diameter and thirtyfive in depth ; five of which we found full of water. This confutes a story, commonly told to travellers who do not take the pains to examine the well, namely, that it is dry all the year round except on the anniversary of that day on which our Blessed Lord sat upon it; but then bubbles up with abundance of water."*
At this point the traveller enters the narrow Valley of Shechem, or Sychar, as it is termed in the New Testament, overhung on either side by the two mountains Gerizim and Ebal. These eminences, it is well known, have obtained much celebrity as the theatre on which was pronounced the sanction of the Divine law—the blessings which attend obedience, and the curses which follow the violation of the heavenly statutes. “ And it shall come to pass, when the Lord thy God hath brought thee in unto the land whither thou goest to possess it, that thou
* Journey, p. 63.
shalt put the blessing upon Mount Gerizim, and the curse upon Mount Ebal. Are they not on the other side Jordan, by the way where the sun goeth down, in the land of the Canaanites, which dwell in the champaign over against Gilgal, beside the plains of Moreh?”*
Every reader is aware that the Samaritans, whose principal residence since the captivity has been at Shechem, have a place of worship on Mount Geri. zim, to which they repair at certain seasons to perform the rites of their religion. It was upon the same hill, according to the reading in their version of the Pentateuch, that the Almighty commanded the children of Israel to set up great stones covered with plaster, on which to inscribe the body of their law; to erect an altar; to offer peace-offerings; and to rejoice before the Lord their God. In the Hebrew edition of the same inspired books, Mount Ebal is selected as the scene of these pious services ;-a variation which the Samaritans openly ascribe to the hatred and malignity of the Jews, who, they assert, have in this passage corrupted the sacred oracies. In the immediate vicinity of the town is seen a small mosque, which is said to cover the Sepulchre of Joseph, and to be situated in the field bought by Jacob from Hamor, the father of Shechem, as is related in the book of Genesis, and alluded to by St John in the fourth chapter of his gospel.t.
The road from Leban to Nablous, or Naplosa, is described by Dr Clarke as being mountainous, rocky,
* Deut. xi. 29, 30.
* « Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's 'Well was there.”-St John iv. 5, 6.