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between them; and each is equally esteemed by the respective purchasers.
As we proceeded to the northward, we had on our left a lofty peak of the range of hills which border the plain of Jordan on the west, and end in this direction the mountains of Judea. This peak is conceived to be that to which Jesus was transported by the devil during his fast of forty days in the wilderness, “ after which he was an hungred." *
Nothing can be more forbidding than the aspect
of these hills : not a blade of verdure is to be seen over all their surface, and not the sound of any living being is to be heard throughout all their extent. They form, indeed, a most appropriate scene for that wilderness in which the Son of God is said to have “ dwelt with the wild beasts, while the angels ministered unto him." +
In this mountain of the temptation, there are many grottoes of the early anchorites, which
* St. Matthew, iv. 2.
“And the devil, taking him up into an high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them, for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine." St. Luke, iv. 5–7.
+ St. Mark, i. 13.
were visible to us as we passed.
The grottoes below are in long ranges, consisting each of several separate chambers; those higher up are in general isolated ones, all in the cliff of the
and on the summit of the hill itself is a small Greek chapel, erected on the supposed spot of the temptation. The grottoes were all formerly inhabited, and one of the uppermost of them, which is approached by a flight of steps cut out of the solid rock behind the immediate front of the cliff, has still its decorations of Greek saints painted on the walls, with the colours perfectly fresh. All are, however, now deserted, and the enthusiasm which, in past ages, filled these cells with hermits, is now scarcely sufficient to induce Christian pilgrims even to visit them.
While we were talking of the scriptural and traditional history of the holy places within our view, as the country here abounds with them, our guides mentioned to us, that, about a day's journey to the southward of Jericho, and, like it, seated at the foot of the mountains of Judea, was a place called Merthah, supposed to be the site of a city of the giants, and, consequently, of very great antiquity. They added, that there were at this place many sepulchral caves, from which human skulls and bones had been taken out, that were at least three times the size of
those of the human race at the present day. They offered the unanswerable testimony of their having seen these with their own eyes, and handled them with their own hands, so that we were reduced to the necessity of believing that they had really deceived themselves in these particulars, or that they had invented the falsehoods, or that these were really the remains of the skeletons of that race of giants which both sacred and profane history place in this country.
It is probable, from the reported situation of Mertha, or Mersha, as one of our guides pronounced it, that it was the Maresha or Marissa of Josephus, seemingly both one place, and corresponding to this in position. Mareshah is first enumerated among the strong and large cities which Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, built in the tribe of Judah, in contradistinction to those which he also built in the tribe of Benjamin. It is soon afterwards again mentioned as a city that belonged to the tribe of Judah ; and it was at this place that Zerah, the king of Ethiopia, halted, when he came with an army of nine hundred thousand footmen, and one hundred thousand horsemen, and three hundred chariots, to go up against Asa, the king of Jerusa
* Joseph. Ant. Jud. I. viii. c. 10. s. 1.
lem, * Marissa, too, was in the same tribe of Judah, and, from all the details given of it, was probably the same place, as Cellarius has considered it to be. When Judas Maccabeus, and Jona. than his brother, defeated Georgias, the general of the forces of Jamnia, at that place, which is near the sea-coast on the west, they are said to have pursued the fugitives of the defeated army to the very borders of Judea, naturally in the opposite quarter, or on the east, and there to have taken from them the city of Hebron, and demolished all its fortifications, and set its towers on fire, and to have burnt the country of the foreigners, and the city Marissa. † This same city is said, in another place, to have been in the middle of the country, in distinguishing it from the cities of the sea-coast. I
D'Anville has placed the sites of these as of two separate places, near to a city, which, as he himself says, we do not find mentioned until after the ruin of the second temple of Jerusalem, but which, under the Greek name of Eleutheropolis, or the Free City, appears to have presided over a great district, though it is now unknown. Il
* Josephus, Ant. Jud. I. viii. c. 12. s. I.
|| D'Anville, Compendium of Ancient Geography, tom i. p. 405. 8vo.
Cellarius thinks it to have been somewhere near the sea-coast of Judea, from its being enumerated with Keilah and Achzib, in the catalogue of the cities of Judah. * In a passage of Eusebius, quoted by St. Jerome, it is mentioned with Eleutheropolis ; but as it is still considered to be the Maresha, or Marissa, of Josephus, as before described, the probability still is, that it was in the central, or towards the eastern borders of Judea, and near the spot where this Mertha, or Mersha, is said to be, about a day's journey, or thirty miles, to the south of Jericho.
This, too, was in the part of the country reputed to abound with giants, as is frequently mentioned in the Scriptures. Josephus, in describing the taking of Hebron, whose inhabitants, according to the Jewish mode of warfare, were all put to the sword, says, that in this part of the country there were, till then, left the race of giants, who had bodies so large, and countenances so entirely different from other men, that they were surprising to the sight and terrible to the hearing. The bones of these men, he adds, are still shown to this very day, unlike to any credible relations of other
“ Elia and Arihhah, or Jerusalem and Jericho, according to the Arabian writers, were
* Joshua, xv. 44., and Cellarius, Geog. Ant. I. iii. c. 13.