Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors]

it. All this district from very early times had belonged to the rulers of Babylonia, of whose kingdom Haran was the frontier town, commanding the high-road that led to Syria and Palestine. It was a region shut in by mountains and rivers, and offering a great variety of soil and climate depending upon elevation and water supply. Haran itself lay in the centre of a rich, allus ial plain of marvellous fertility. One who visited the country a few years ago writes thus : “At every step from Oorsa on the way to Haran, the hills on the right and on the left of the plain recede farther and farther until you find yourself fairly launched on the desert-ocean-a boundless plain, strewed at times with patches of the brightest flowers, at other times with rich and green pastures, covered with flocks of sheep and of goats feeding together, here and there a few camels, and the son or daughter of their owner tending them. One can quite understand how the sons of this open country, the Bedaweens, love it, and cannot leave it ; no other soil would suit them. The air is so fresh, the horizon is so far, and man feels so free, that it seems made for those whose life is to roam at pleasure, and who own allegiance to none but to themselves. . . . The village of Haran itself consists of a few conical houses, in shape like beehives, built of stones laid in courses one over the other, without either mud or mortar. These houses let in the light at the top, and are clustered together at the foot of the ruined castle, built on the mound that makes Haran a landmark plainly visible from the whole plain around. The principal inhabitants of the place are the Bedaween tribes, which haunt the neighbourhood in search of pasture.

One of these tribes, the Anazeez, had spread their tents of black goat's-hair at the foot of the mound, between that and Rebekah's well ; and I pitched my tent among them. That same day I walked at even to the well I had passed in the afternoon, coming from Oorfa ; the well of this, the city of Nahor, ' at the time of the evening, the time that women go out to draw water. There was a group of them, filling no longer their pitchers-since the steps down which Rebekah went to fetch the water are now blocked up—but filling their water-skins by drawing water at the well's mouth. Everything around that well bears signs of age and of the wear of time ; for, as it is the only well cf drinkable water there, it is much resorted to." Some time after that Abram and his father had taken up their

* Malan, “ Philosophy or Truth," p. 93 ff.



abode in Haran, the brother who had been left behind at Ur removed to their new settlement. The cause of his migration and the date of his arrival are not given in the sacred record; but it is altogether in accordance with the habits of these Eastern tribes, and, indeed, with all roving nations who are not fixed to one spot by physical peculiarities or the possession of great cities, that an advance of one portion of the people should be followed by another section. The report of the discovery of an advantageous locality, with plenteous pasturage and undisturbed occupancy, quickly awoke the desire of change. Nahor and his wife Milcah followed the steps of Terah, and arrived at Haran, bringing with them the superstitions of their old home, and only half weaned from the idolatry which Abram had spurned at so great a sacrifice. Here they met with much worldly prosperity ; their substance greatly increased ; numerous sons were born to them. They became a powerful clan, from which wives were sought in after years for the heirs of the chosen race.

Thus the re-united family remained for a time at Haran. The connecting link seems to have been their father Terah. As long as he lived Abram had duties to perform which he could not relinquish ; but when Terah's long life of two hundred and five years came to a close, this reason no longer operated, and the two branches of the clan again divided the one remaining where it had settled, the other accomplishing its destiny by seeking a new home. Was it because the God of Nahor (Gen. xxxi. 53) was not the same divinity as the God of Abram, that the latter separated himself from his brother's family ? Secular history, looking at the matter from an external point, would call this simply a second migration, produced by the causes that occasioned the former movement. Holy Scripture, describing the world as God's world, gives the hidden actuation of events, and shows behind the apparent fact the finger of an overruling Providence.



The second call with its promise-Departure from Haran ; Necessity of

this movement-Route to Canaan ; Tadmor ; Kuryetein; Damascus -Arrival in Canaan-Encampment at Moreh-Shechem described.

It was after his father's death that a second and more definite call came to Abram with a magnificent promise attached to it. And this was the Divine intimation (Gen. xii. 1, 2): Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee ; and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great ; and be thou a blessing ; and I will bless them that bless thee, and him that curseth thee will I curse : and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Here was a threefold blessing promised-partly temporal, partly spiritual. He was to be brought unto a land where he should make his home; he was to become a great nation; and in and through him all the families of the earth should be blessed. The full meaning of this announcement time alone could develope. How much of it Abram understood we cannot tell ; but he must from it have learned a new lesson concerning God. He now saw in the Lord, not merely the great Creator, but also a moral Governor; he recognized His ruling Providence ; he knew that it was God's will that he should settle in the land to which he was directed, that in this new home he and his posterity should receive some extraordinary blessings, and that from his seed should spring some wonderful good to all mankind. This solemn promise filled his soul, directed all his conduct, made

[ocr errors]

him cling with such affection to the land of Canaan with which the blessing was inseparably connected. He was now of mature age, seventy-five years old. Fifteen years had passed since the Lord had appeared to him in Ur, and he had obediently set out on his pilgrimage. He had had time for meditation on this call, and for fortifying his resolve to follow the guiding hand. In giving himself up to God he had done so unreservedly. Of the old superstitions in which he was brought up not a trace remained. Some of his family long retained a regard for heathenish practices, as Laban had his teraphim ; but Abram once and for all abandoned everything inconsistent with his faith in God; he received his new creed wholly and implicitly, and acknowledged the duties which it imposed upon him. A living faith involves action ; its result is practice. So Abram recognized the moral obligation arising from a more perfect revelation, and went out, not knowing whither he

, went.” More than this, he left his kindred and his father's house. Lot indeed accompanied him in his new venture, but Nahor with all his dependents and family stayed behind in or near Haran, in a locality called “Nahor's city” (Gen. xxiv. 10; xxvii. 43 ; xxviii. 5, 10), in whose neighbourhood for many years afterwards, as Assyrian inscriptions witness, names of a Canaanitish and Hebraic type were commonly found. From all these ties he tore himself asunder. He was comparatively a solitary man when he set forth on his journey to the promised land, with only his wife and nephew out of his own immediate relations. But he took with him all the substance that he and Lot had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; flocks, herds, slaves, dependents, all accompanied the pilgrim on his way.

It was rather the migration of a tribe, than the removal of a family from one place to another. As purposing never to return, he left nothing behind ; he fared forth into the wilderness as a wanderer who for ever had forsaken his old home, and would see it no

An imposing spectacle must this caravan have presented. It has been computed by Kitto, from calculations grounded on the stock acquired by Jacob in Padan-aram, that Abram and Lot's possessions in cattle must have been at least equal to those of Job, and we are told that “his substance was seven thousand sheep, and

Schrader, p. 110.
“ Antediluvians and Patriarchs," p. 192; “Bible Educator," i. 39.



three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household” (Job 1. 3). Some few years later, after Lot had left him, Abram could at shortest notice put himself at the head of three hundred and more well-trained slaves, which would imply more than twice as many incapable of bearing arms; so that we may reckon his whole company to have numbered not less than a thousand souls. The tents for such a multitude must have been at least one hundred, made probably of black goat's-hair, such as the Bedouin tribes use at the present day. Thus we have a picture of the migration of the patriarch, which affords us a vivid notion of his wealth and power. And this large household had doubtless learned true religion from their master. That “he had gotten souls in Haran” is explained both by Jewish and Christian commentators to signify that he had converted them to the worship of Jehovah and taught them his own faith. It was a wrench doubtless thus to cut himself loose from old ties. A man with ambitious motives, a warrior fired by the lust of conquest, a chieftain with a family to provide for and a home to win, might have felt a call to emigrate from this peaceful spot; but Abram was none of these. Looking at the matter in a worldly point of view, he had nothing to gain and much to lose by this pilgrimage. But obedience implies selfsacrifice. The journey was difficult and dangerous, the future was utterly unknown, the coming benefit was intangible; what then ? God commanded and must be obeyed. This break up of family ties was necessary ; it was part of the heavenly plan thus to isolate the holy race. Abram saw this necessity of being free from old associations, of tearing himself away from the evil influences of superstition, and he committed himself to the guiding hand in utter and unquestioning faith. The further he went from home and kindred, the closer he came to God; the less dependence he could place on others, the more he clung to the everlasting arm which upheld him. All was leading him to perfection ; every trial was but smoothing the way for the final “temptation." A new starting-point was here taken for the promotion of the true religion. To have hung back at this juncture would have been fatal to the plan, as it would have been contrary to Abram's previous conduct. It was a kind of renunciation of the world which he had to make. Here was a foreshadowing of the stern lesson which the gospel

« AnteriorContinuar »