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To this day the “law of Abraham," as it is called, an unwritten code handed down from primitive times, is preferred by the Fellaheen to that of the Koran, and is administered by the sheikh and the elders of each tribe. The women of the patriarch's tent were not the degraded creatures of the peasantry around him. Though they are found drawing water at the public well, and preparing food for honoured guests, this was only in agreement with the primitive simplicity of their habits, and showed no marked inferiority or debasement. The mutual love of Abram and Sarai, of Isaac and Rebecca, of Jacob and Rachel, and the respect with which each treated the other, are beautiful pictures upon which we ponder with pleasure, and which present a very high idea of the place which women held in these households.

And now that his feet trod the soil of Canaan, Abram received a new revelation, and the object of his pilgrimage was at length announced to him. Obedience came first, then knowledge. Again the Lord appeared unto him, and made the definite promise to this childless man: “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Gen. xii. 7). And he believed the word. The accomplishment was beyond human control, would have seemed incredible to the carnal mind; but he staggered not in unbelief ; here, as everywhere, faith was triumphant over sight; and to mark his trust and to show his devotion, he built an altar unto Jehovah. This was his practice wherever he paused in his wanderings. No house for himself he reared, no permanent habitation where he might gather round him the comforts of a settled home, but he prepared a place for Divine worship. As Noah, emerging from the Ark, offered his eucharistic sacrifice on the renovated earth, so here the father of the faithful proclaimed his faith and consecrated the land by raising his lowly altar to the Lord who had appeared to him. Here was his witness to the true religion which he embraced with his whole heart; here was his protest against the polytheism and idoiatry which surrounded him. More tolerant, or more indifferent than his own countrymen, the Canaanites offered no opposition to this act of worship ; they saw not that it was a preparation for a mighty future, a taking possession of the land in the name of the Lord.

The special means ordained by God for preserving the know. ledge of Himself in a world which had lost its primeval faith was not merely the selection of one family to maintain the great truth, but also the appropriation of one territory to be the nursery of true religion and the habitation of the true believers. The position of Canaan made it most suitable for this great purpose. It was isolated ; it was nowhere in immediate contact with the great idolatrous nations, yet not so remote as to be secluded from sight or knowledge. It lay in the midst of mighty empires whose struggles for pre-eminence raged around, but yet did not necessarily affect its existence. The routes of merchants and of warriors both by land and water passed its borders ; caravans and armies, journeying from the Euphrates to the Nile, skirted its confines ; but no great highway led through its centre. Natural barriers, difficulties of position, held it apart from contact with the stranger, left it at liberty to establish relations with foreign countries or to maintain its isolation and thorough independence. It touched, as it were, the three divisions of the world. Europe, Asia, Africa met therein. “I have set her in the midst of the nations, and countries are round about her” (Ezek. v. 5). It was a centre from which at the appointed time might radiate the light which should illumináte the heathen darkness. Its national independence was not difficult to defend. The country itself fought for its inhabitants ; the thirsty wilderness on the south, the hill barrier on the north, the harbourless sea on the west, and the marvellous ravine, the Arabah, together with the great Syrian desert, on the east, rendered it almost impregnable under circumstances of ordinary prudence and watchfulness. Here might true religion flourish unchecked by adverse influences ; hence might emanate a spiritual force which should reach to the sons of the stranger"; far beyond the narrow limits of Israel. This house of God should be a house of prayer for all nations. And if this high ideal was never realized, if the people were drawn away to follow the evil customs of the remnant of the nations which were left in their land, if internal dissensions often exposed them to foreign invaders and left them helpless in times of emergency, these are only instances of the weakness and sinfulness of man which mar the merciful intention of God and bring to nought the Divine purpose. Neither in the case of nations nor of individuals does God do violence to man's free will. It is always possible to resist grace.

Isa. lvi. 6.

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From his encampment at Sichem, Abram removed by easy stages' to the neighbourhood of Bethel, then called Luz. The Canaanites may have regarded with suspicion this stranger from a far country, and made his position in the open valley insecure; or the necessity of finding fresh pasturage for his numerous flocks and herds may have obliged him to change his quarters to the mountainous district between Bethel and Ai, towns about two miles apart. The site of Bethel, now Beitin, has never been lost. The village stands some ten miles north of Jerusalem on the great watershed which divides the country, and from it a steep incline leads down to Jericho eight miles distant. There are some perennial springs in the neighbourhood welling from the chalky rocks and keeping the herbage green amid the stony soil. The site of the altar which Abram built here has been placed by the late survey at the ruins of Burj Beitin on a little plateau, stony but fertile, east of the village.? In after times how many a solemn thought must have clustered round these altars thus witnessing to God in different localities ! Memories of ancestral achievements not committed to writing were preserved by these visible tokens. The tales of tradition were certified and represented in these external objects. Children yet unborn would recognize them as the work of their great forefather ; they would see that the land was dedicated to the worship of Jehovah, and that it was destined to be their possession. They would realize the unseen; they would acknowledge the hand Divine that had guided him who erected these shrines, and they would trust their own future to its leading. Desolate and miserable as is now the appearance of Bethel, it has always been held in the highest honour as a sacred spot. The very scanty covering of soil on the rocks deprives it of verdure; and though there is an abundant supply of water in the valley collected into an immense reservoir which seems to be of great antiquity, yet it could never have been a good pasturage. “All the neighbourhood,” says a late traveller,3 “is of grey, bare stone, or white chalk. The miserable fields are fenced in with stone walls, the hovels are rudely built of stone ; the hill to the east is of hard rock, with only a few scattered fig-gardens; the ancient sepulchres are cut in a low cliff, and a great reservoir south of the village is excavated in rock. The place seems as it were turned to stone, and we can well imagine that the lonely patriarch (Jacob] found nothing softer than a stone for the pillow under his head, when on the bare hillside he slept and dreamed of angels.” In that most ancient religious sanctuary Abram pitched his tent; he watered his cattle at the springs in the reservoir, his maidens filled their pitchers at the same. From the heights above in after years the summit of Solomon's temple could be discerned ; and this spot, badly eminent for the base worship of the calf, was in sight of the mountain of Moriah, where the shrine of the true God of heaven and earth offered its silent protest against the novel idolatry of Jeroboam. The Bethel had then become Bethaven -the “ House of God” had turned into a “ House of Vanity.” Whether Luz in Abram's days was a royal city is not ascertained. It is mentioned in Joshua (chap. xiii. 16) as the seat of a Canaanitish king, but of its history before it came into the possession of the Israelites we know but little.

* For “ removed” (Gen. xii. 8) the Hebrew is "plucked up,” i.e. his tent pegs. He made frequent encampments.

2 “Survey Memoirs," ii. 295, 307.
3 C. R. Conder, “Tent Work," p. 252.

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CHAPTER V.

EGYPT.

Famine in Canaan-Ahram in Egypt-Condition of that country—The

Hyksos; their civilization-Abram's policy-Sarai taken to Pharaoh's house ; rescued by God's intervention.

A QUIET pastoral life Abram continued to lead, staying in one spot as long as food and water lasted, and when these failed removing to some more favoured locality, but “going on still toward the south,” that southern tract of Palestine, which is called in the Hebrew Negeb. And everywhere as he went, he offered his sacrifice, and “called upon the name of the Lord.” He bade his own household to the worship of Jehovah, and, doubtless, as far as was possible, acted as a missionary to the benighted heathen around, preaching true religion and showing the faith that animated all his actions.

But now a new trial beset him. God's athlete,” as St. Ambrose says, “is exercised and hardened by adversity.” The land which was promised to him, to which he clung as his future heritage, to which he had been so marvellously guided, could support him no longer. A mighty famine arose. He must leave his present position or starve for lack of water and grass. A country such as Canaan, only partially cultivated, with no artificial irrigation, and greatly dependent on the annual rainfall for the very existence of its pasture, often suffered from drought. Similar great famines are recorded as happening in the days of Elijah and Elisha ;? such are the visitations mentioned by the prophet Amos (iv. 6,7): “I have given you cleanness of teeth in all your cities, and want of bread in all your places;

'1 Kings xvii., xviii. ; 2 Kings viii. 1-6.

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