Sinai and Palestine, in connection with their history
Our journey for the first two days was along the wide and desert valley of the 'Arabah. It is one great peculiarity of the whole of the passage through the Desert, that every day you pass over a battle-field of historical or topographical controversy; not the Forum of Rome is more fertile in such disputes. In this great valley there is no more question of the course of the Israelites. It is indeed doubtful whether they passed up it on their way to Canaan, but no one can doubt that they passed down it, when the valleys of Edom were closed against them. But the geographical controversy, of which the 'Arabah is the scene, though it has or ought to have been set at rest in its essential points by the comparative levels of the Gulf of 'Akaba and the Lake of Gennesareth, still remains unsettled in its lesser details.
[For this reason it may be worth while to give a few notes of its general features, taken at the time. After leaving 'Akaba, we entered the Wady 'Arabah, over the mounds, supposed by Dr. Robinson to be the remains of Elath. On the east is a low gap in the hills with three low peaks visible beyond. This is the Wady Ithm, which turns the eastern range of the 'Arabah, and through which the Israelites must have passed on their way to Moab. It is still one of the regular roads to Petra, and in ancient times seems to have been the main approach from Elath or 'Akaba, as it is the only road from the south which enters Petra through the Sik. The only published account of it is that of Laborde. These mountains appear to be granite. On the west are the limestone ranges of the Till, horizontal as before. Two remarkable Wadys appeared in the eastern range, after leaving the Wady Ithm. First, the Wady Tubal, where, for the first time, red sandstone appeared in the mountains, rising, as in the 'Wady El-'Ain, architecture-wise, above gray granite. Of these mountains, the most prominent is Gebel Shebibeh, with Wady Mokhil beneath. The next is Wady Ghurundel, a narrow gorge, with a slight brook forming small pools-rushes and dwarf palms around-innumerable goats and sheep crowded at the water, led by black-veiled Bedouin women. (This Wady must not be confounded with the more celebrated valley of the same name in the Peninsula of Sinai.)
It was about four hours after leaving the entrance of Wady Ghurundel, and one hour before arriving at the entrance of the Wady Abou-Sheykh (leading to Petra), that we arrived at what the Sheykh Mohammed [Sheykh Mohammed is the eldest son of the celebrated Sheykh of the Alouins, Hussayn. His father, now advancing in years, deputed his son to escort us; and I feel bound to mention the almost princely courtesy which he showed to us during the journey. I have purposely omitted all account of the often repeated, though to those concerned always interesting, negotiations with the old chief himself at 'Akaba.] pointed out to us as he had before, it seems, pointed out to Mr. Bartlett what he considered as the division of the waters between the Gulf of 'Akaba and the Dead Sea. Two circumstances always make it difficult for travellers positively to ascertain this point. First, the slope in the level of the 'Arabah from east to west, which distorts the course of the torrents, and makes it almost impossible to distinguish whether they descend in a northerly or a southerly direction; secondly, the difficulty of traversing the 'Arabah (when in a caravan) directly from east to west. The ridge in question was a long line of hills, formed apparently of a detritus of stone and sand, called "Chragi-er-Rishi" ("Saddlebags of feathers"), which ran due west along the 'Arabah. Just before reaching these was the first view of Mount Hor, and on ascending them we looked back for the last time over the southern 'Arabah, which from this point looks like a waste of sand; whereas, when in it, the shrubs at times give it almost the appearance of a jungle. The wide opening to the sea is also visible from hence, though not the sea itself. In the midst of these hills, or rather of the undulations formed by their summits, all intersected by lesser watercourses, is one broad watercourse, running from east to west, called Wady Howar, i.e., the division."
It is this which Sheykh Mohammed declares to be the water-shed, and which, he maintains, "shuts out" the waters of the Gulf of 'Akaba from side to side.
XV.-APPROACH TO PETRA.
The whole prospect changes at this point. We lose the opening of the valley into the Gulf of 'Akaba, and we gain the view of Mount Hor, -the "Mountain of Aaron," as it is still called. Behind it lies Petra, and to Petra, through fantastic rocks, we turned aside, and encamped at last at the entrance of the pass, and waited for the morning. One isolated rock, with an excavation inside, in front of the hill, indicated the region we were approaching, apparently an outpost for a sentinel, perhaps the very one which the Prophet had in his eye in that well-known text, "Watchman, what of the night ?"'
And now arose the strange feeling of arriving at a place which it was possible we might be prevented by force from entering, or have by force to enter. Fifty years hence, when our friend Sheykh Mohammed has put down the surrounding tribes, Petra will have lost half its interest; but now the failures and dangers are sufficiently recent to form part of the first impression of the place. It is literally "paved with the good intentions" of travellers, unfulfilled. There, was Mount Hor, which Robinson and Laborde in vain wished to ascend; there, the plain half-way, where Burckhardt was obliged to halt without reaching the top; here the temple which Irby and Mangles only saw through their telescope; here the platform from which the Martineau party were unable to stir without an armed guard; and, lastly, on the very plain of our encampment, at the entrance of the pass, travellers with our own dragoman were driven back last year without even a glimpse of the famous city.
XVI.-ASCENT OF MOUNT HOR.
We ascended the pass early in the morning; and leaving the [Isaiah xxi. 11.] He calleth to me out of Seir." camels and tents to go on to Petra, turned to climb the summit of Mount Hor.
It is one of the very few spots connected with the wanderings of the Israelites, which admits of no reasonable doubt. [The proofs of the identity of " Gebel Haroun," as it is now called, with Mount Hor, are (1). The situation " by the coast of the land of Edom," where it is emphatically "the mountain" (Hor). Numb. xx. 23, (2). The statement of Josephus (Ant. IV. iv. 7), that Aaron's death occurred on a high mountain enclosing Petra. (3). The modern name and traditional sanctity of the mountain as connected with Aaron's tomb.] There Aaron died in the presence of Moses and Eleazer; there he was buried; and there Eleazer was invested with the priesthood in his stead. The mountain is marked far and near by its double top, which rises like a huge castellated building from a lower base, and on one of these is the ,Mahometan [Muslim] chapel erected out of the remains of some earlier and more sumptuous building, over the supposed grave. There was nothing of interest within, only the usual marks of Mussulman [Muslim] devotion, ragged shawls, ostrich eggs, and a few beads.
These were in the upper chamber. The great High-priest, if his body be really there, rests in a subterraneous vault below, hewn out of the rock, and in a niche now cased over with stone, wood, and plaster. From the flat roof of the chapel we overlooked his last view-that view which was to him what Pisgah was to his brother. To us the northern end was partly lost in haze; but we saw all the main points on which his eye must have rested. He looked over the valley of the 'Arabah, countersected by its hundred watercourses, and beyond, over the white mountains of the wilderness they had so long traversed; and at the northern edge of it, there must have been visible the heights through which the Israelites had vainly attempted to force their way into the Promised Land. This was the western view. Close around him oil the east were the rugged mountains of Edom, and far along the horizon the wide downs of Mount Seir, through which the passage had been denied by the wild tribes of Esau who hunted over their long slopes. A dreary moment, and a dreary scene,such at any rate it must have seemed to the aged priest.
The peculiarity of the view was the combination of wide extension with the scarcity of marked features and points on which to observe. Petra itself is entirely shut out by the intervening rocks. But the survey of the Desert on one side, and the mountains of Edom on the other, is complete ; and of these last the great feature is the mass of red bald-headed sandstone rocks, intersected, not by valleys, but by deep seams. In the heart of these rocks, itself in-visible, lies Petra. Beyond spreads the range of yellow downs, tufted with vegetation, now called Sherah. And now to Petra let us descend.
I have to apologize for adding another account of a place so well-known as Petra now is, through the descriptions of Burckhardt, Dr. Robinson, and Miss Martineau, But it was too important a stage in the journey to be altogether omitted and two or three points in the previous descriptions seemed to me to require corrections or additions.
The first thing that struck me in turning out of the 'Arabah up the defiles that lead to Petra was, that we had suddenly left the Desert. Instead of the absolute nakedness of the Sinaitic valleys, we found ourselves walking on grass, sprinkled with flowers, and the level platforms on each side were filled with sprouting corn; and this continues through the whole descent to Petra, and in Petra itself.
The next peculiarity was when, after having left the summit of the pass, or after descending from Mount Hor, we found ourselves insensibly encircled with rocks of deepening and deepening red. Red indeed, even from a distance, the mountains of "Red" Edom appear, but not more so than the granite of Sinai and it is not till one is actually in the midst of them that this red becomes crimson, and that the wonder of the Petra colours fully displays itself. Two mistakes seem to me to have been made in the descriptions. All the describers have spoken of bright hues-scarlet, sky-blue, orange, &c. Had they taken courage to say instead, dull crimson, indigo, yellow, and purple," their account would have lost something in effect, but gained much in truth. Nor really would it have lost much any way. For the colours, though not gaudy,-or rather because they are not gaudy,-are gorgeous. You are never, or hardly ever, startled by them. You could never mistake them for anything else but nature; they seem the natural clothing of the place.
Another mistake is, that the descriptions lead you-or, at least, they led me-to suppose that wherever you turn at Petra, you see nothing but these wonderful colours. I have already said, that from a distance one hardly sees them at all. One sees the general contrast only of the red sandstone cliffs standing out against the white limestone and yellow downs, which form their higher back- ground. But when one comes in face of the very cliffs themselves, then they are, as I have said, a gorgeous, though dull crimson, streaked and suffused with purple. These are the two predominant colours," ferruginous,". perhaps, they might best be called, and on the face of the rocks the only colours. But one striking feature of the whole scenery is, that not merely the excavations and buildings, but the rocks themselves, are in a constant state of mouldering decay. You can scarcely tell where excavation begins and decay ends. It is in these caves, and roofs, and recesses, whether natural or artificial-very numerous it is true, but not seen till you are close within them-that there appears that extraordinary veining and intermixture of colours, in which yellow and blue are occasionally added-ribbon-like-to red and purple. Of the three comparisons usually made-mahogany, raw-flesh, and watered-silk-the last is certainly the best.
This brings me to the third great feature of Petra - its excavations. Here again the same error has been committed. I had expected to be surrounded by rocks honeycombed with caves. By no means. I do not doubt, that by calculation of all in the out- lying ravines, you might count up thousands; but in the most populous part that I could select, I could not number in one view more than fifty, and generally much fewer. It is their immense ramifications, rather than their concentrated effect, that is remarkable, and this of course can no more be seen in one view than all the streets of London. The larger excavations are temples; the others may be divided between modern (i. e., Roman or Arab) tombs, and Edomite or Horite [The name of the "Horim," who preceded the Edomites (Deut. ii. 22) signifies, "dwellers in caves."] habitations. Round about, or rather east and west, are masses of crumbling rock, their faces immediately above this mass of ruins cut out into holes, and some- times with Grecian fagades. Of these, the most remarkable are in the eastern cliffs, where four of these great excavations, apparently not tombs or houses, but temples, stand close together with tiers of pillars one above another, giving to that cliff an embattled appearance, which, architecturally speaking, is the only remarkable feature in the basin of Petra, taken by itself.
But Petra, that is, the mere site of the city, is by far the least striking part of Petra. There any one, I think, with highly-raised expectations will feel disappointment. In the two points I am going to describe, I believe no one.
First there is the famous defile which, in ancient times, was the chief-the only usual-approach to Petra ; and I feel so strongly the loss of interest which Petra suffers by the present gradual entrance, that I would strongly recommend all travellers-even at the cost of another day's journey-to come round by this eastern approach, through which, though we only saw it reversed, I mean now to conduct you, as if entering from the east.
You descend from those wide downs and those white cliffs which I have before described as forming the background of the Red City when seen from the west, and before you opens a deep cleft between rocks of red sandstone rising perpendicularly to the height of one, two, or three hundred feet. This is the Sik, or "cleft ;" through this flows-if one may use the expression-the dry torrent, which, rising in the mountains half an hour hence, gives the name by which alone Petra is now known amongst the Arabs-Wady Mousa. "For,"-so Sheykh Mohammed tells us- "as surely as Gebel Harun (the Mountain of Aaron) is so called from the burial-place of Aaron, is Wady Mousa (the Valley of Moses) so called from the cleft being made by the rod of Moses when he brought the stream through into the valley- beyond." It is, indeed, a place worthy of the scene, and one could long to believe it. Follow me, then, down this magnificent gorge-the most magnificent, beyond all doubt, which I have ever beheld. The rocks are almost precipitous, or rather, they would be, if they did not, like their brethren in all this region, overlap, and crumble, and crack, as if they would crash over you. The gorge is about a mile and a half long, and the opening of the cliffs at the top is throughout almost as narrow as the narrowest part of the defile of Pfeffers, which, in dimensions and form, it more resembles than any other of my acquaintance. At its very first entrance you pass under the arch which, though greatly broken, still spans the chasm-meant apparently to indicate the approach to the city. You pass under this along the bed of the torrent, now rough with stones, but once a regular paved road like the Appian Way, the pavement still remaining at intervals in the bed of the stream-the stream, meanwhile, which now has its own wild way, being then diverted from its course along troughs hewn in the rock above, or conducted through earthenware pipes, still traceable. These, and a few niches for statues now gone, are the only traces of human hand. What a sight it must have been, when all these were perfect!
A road, level and smooth, running through these tremendous rocks, and the blue sky just visible above, the green caper plant and wild ivy hanging in festoons over the heads of the travellers as they wind along, the flowering oleander fringing then, as now, this marvellous highway like the border of a garden-walk. You move on; and the ravine, and with it the road,---and with the road in old times the caravans of India,-winds as if it were the most flexible of rivers, instead of being in truth a rent through a mountain-wall. In this respect, in its sinuosity, it differs from any other like gorge I ever saw. The peculiarity is, perhaps, occasioned by the singularly friable character of the cliffs, the same character that -has caused the thousand excavations beyond; and the effect is, that instead of the uniform character of most ravines, you are constantly turning round corners, and catching new lights and new aspects, in which to view the cliffs themselves. They are, for the most part, deeply red, and when you see their tops emerging from the shade and glowing in the sunshine, I could almost forgive the exaggeration that calls them scarlet. But in fact they are of the darker hues which in the shadow amount almost to black, and such is their colour at the point to which I have brought you, after a mile or more through the defile-the cliffs over-arching in their narrowest contraction-when, suddenly through the narrow opening left between the two dark walls. of another turn of the gorge, you see a pale pink front of pillars and sculptured figures closing your view from top to bottom. You rush towards it, you find yourself at the end of the defile, and in the presence of an excavated temple, which remains almost entirely perfect between the two flanks of dark rock out of which it is hewn ; its preservation, and its peculiarly light and rosy tint being alike due to its singular position facing the ravine or rather wall of rock, through which the ravine issues, and thus sheltered beyond any other building (if one may so call it) from the wear and tear of weather, which has effaced, though not defaced, the features, and tanned the complexion, of all the other temples.
This I only saw by degrees, coming upon it from the west; but to the travellers of old times, and to those who, like Burckhardt in modern times, came down the defile, not knowing what they were to see, and meeting with this as the first image of the Red City, I cannot conceive anything more striking. There is nothing of peculiar grace or grandeur in the temple itself-(the Khazne, or Treasury, it is called)-it is of the most debased style of Roman architecture; but under the circumstances, I almost think one is more startled by finding in these wild and impracticable mountains a production of the last effort of a decaying and over-refined civilisation, than if it were something which, by its better and simpler taste, mounted more nearly to the source where Art and Nature were one.
Probably any one who entered Petra this way, would be so electrified by this apparition (which I cannot doubt to have been evoked there purposely, as you would place a fountain or an obelisk at the end of an avenue,) as to have no eyes to behold or sense to appreciate anything else. Still I must take you to the end. The Sik, though it opens here, yet contracts once more, and it is in this last stage that those red and purple variegations, which I have before described, appear in their most gorgeous hues; and here also begins, what must have been properly the Street of Tombs, the Appian
Way of Petra. Here they are most numerous, the rock is honey-combed with cavities of all shapes and sizes, and through these you advance till the defile once more opens, and you see-strange and unexpected sight!-with tombs above, below, and in front, a Greek Theatre (like that of Tusculum) hewn out of the rock, its tiers of seats literally red and purple alternately, in the native rock. Once more the defile closes with its excavations, and once more opens in the area of Petra itself; the torrent-bed passing now through absolute desolation and silence, though strewn with the fragments which show that you once entered on a splendid and busy city gathered along its rocky banks, as along the quays of some great northern river.
The Sik is unquestionably the great glory of Petra; but there is another point, on the other side, which struck me very much also, and which, if thoroughly explored, would, I think, be the most instructive and interesting spot in the place, You turn up a torrent-bed in the western cliffs (for torrent-beds from all sides pour down into this area in the heart of the hills), but soon leave it to ascend a staircase hewn out of the rocks, steps not absolutely continuous now, though probably they once were; broad steps glowing with the native colours, which conduct you through magnificent rocks, and along the banks of an almost second Sik, high up into the vast cluster of rocks which face Mount Hor on the north. This staircase is the most striking instance of what you see everywhere. Wherever your eyes turn along the excavated sides of the rocks you see steps, often leading to nothing; or to something which has crumbled away; often with their first steps worn away, so that they are now inaccessible ; sometimes as mere ornaments in the fagades, but everywhere seen even more than the caves themselves. High up in these rocks, withdrawn like the Khazne between two gigantic walls of cliff, with a green platform before it, is another temple of the same kind, though not of the same singular colour. In fact, it has the appearance of yellow stone, but in form it is more perfect than the Khazne, and its whole effect is so extremely modern, that I cannot better describe its impression on me than by comparing it to a London church of the last century. That is to say, you must imagine a London church, of the most debased style of ornament and taste, transplanted into a mountain nook as wild and solitary as the Splugen. I call it solitary-but it was not always so. The Arabic name, El-Deir, - "the Convent,"-implies their belief that it was a Christian church. Crosses are carved within it. The Sinaitic inscriptions are carved on the steps by which it is approached. Ruins lie above, below, and around it. Everything, in short, tends to indicate that this was a specially sacred spot, and that it was regarded so by Christians afterwards.
With the departure from Sinai, or at least from Hazeroth, the geographical interest of the Israelite history almost ceases till the arrival in the table-lands of Moab, and the first beginning of the conquest. Not only is the general course of their march wrapt in great obscurity, but even if we knew it, the events are not generally of a kind which would receive any special illustration from the scenes in which they occurred.
No attempt shall here be made to track their course in detail. It is possible that some future traveller may discover the stations recorded in the itinerary of the 33rd chapter of the Book of Numbers. At present none has been ascertained with any likelihood of truth, unless we accept the doubtful identification of Hazeroth with Huderah, [A list of possible identifications may be seen in the Descriptive Geography of Palestine by Rabbi Joseph Schwarze, p. 212-214.] of which I have already spoken. All that is clear is that they marched northward from Mount Sinai, probably over the plateau of the Tih-which seems to be designated as " the wilderness of Paran "-then that they descended into the 'Arabah-designated, apparently, as " the wilderness of Zin." Thence, on the refusal of the king of Edom to let them pass through his territory, they moved southward, encamped on the shores of the Gulf of 'Akaba, at Ezion-Geber, and then turned the corner of the Edomite mountains, at their southern extremity, and entered the table-lands of Moab at the "torrent of the willows," ("the brook Zared ") at the south-east end of the Dead Sea.
In this general obscurity, one place stands out prominently. There can be no question, that next to Sinai, the most important of all the resting-places of the Children of Israel is Kadesh. [Although Reland (Palasstina, p. 115, ff.) is probably mistaken in supposing that there were two halting-places of Israel called Kadesh, yet it does appear that in Gen. xvi. 14 ; xx. 1 ; Josh. xv. 23, another Kadesh may be intended on the northern plateau of the Tih ; and, if so, this may be the one found by Mr. Rowlands (Williams' Holy City, vol. i. App, p. 466,) under the same name, in a place corresponding with those 'indications, but too far northward and west-ward to be identified with Kadesh-Barnea. The fact of the affix of "Barnes" may indicate that there was another. Whether Israel was twice at Kadesh seems extremely doubtful. The difficulty of reducing the second part of the wanderings of Israel to distinct chronological order, will be evident to any one who compares Numb. xxxiii. 30 -36 with Dent. x. 6-7.] It is the only one dignified by the name of " a city." Its very name awakens our attention -the " Holy Place "-the same name by which Jerusalem itself is still called in Arabic, " El-Khods." It is probably the old oracular "Spring of Judgment," mentioned as existing in the earliest times of Canaanite history ;' as if, like Mount Sinai itself, it had an ancient sakctity before the host of Israel encamped within its precincts. The encampment there is also distinct in character from any other in the wilderness, except the stay at Sinai or perhaps at Rephidim. The exact time is not given ; but it is stated generally that " they abode in Kadesh many days . They were there at least forty days,3 during the absence of the spies. In its neighbourhood, two bat-tles were fought with the southern Canaanites-one a defeat, the other a victory.4 There arose the demand for water, which gave to the place its new name of Meribah-Kadesh ; 5 there also the rebellion of Korah, and the death of the sister and the brother of Moses.
All these indications compel us to look for some more definite locality than can be found in the scattered springs and pools in the midst of the Desert, with which travellers have usually endeavoured to identify it-such, for example, as Ein El-Weibeh, on the eastern side of the 'Arabah, which Dr. Robinson selected as the spot, and which, but for the reasons just given, would not be an inappropriate scene.
1 Gen. xiv. 7. "'En-Mishpat (the spring of judgment), which is Kadesh." Compare for the combination, Exod. xv. 25, !' He made for them (at Marab) a statute and a 'judgment' (mishpat)." Jerome; however, distinguishes Kadesh-'en-Mishpat from Kadesh-Barnes, making the former to be a spot in the Valley of Gerar, well known in his days as Beer-dan,-" the well of the judge." De Loc. Heb. voc. Puteus judicia.
2 Dent. i. 46.
3 Numb. xiii. 25.
4 Numb, xiv. 45 ; xxi. 1. s Dent. xxxii. 51.
6 Numb. xxvii. 14; xxxiii. 36; Dent. xxxii. 51. In one passage, Kadesh appears to be placed in " the wilderness of Paran." Numb. xiii. 26. The spies re-turned "unto the wilderness of Paran to Kadesh," (cf. xii. 16.) It is possible that the other Kadesh (before noticed) may be here meant. But, however it is explained, a passage of this kind,-with the liability to mistakes which seems to have beset the whole text of the wanderings,-cannot avail against the emphatic contrast elsewhere drawn between the two wildernesses of Paran and of Zin, and the close connexion of Kadesh-Barnes with Zin.
7 The 'edge,' Numb. xx. 16, is the same word as is used in Numb. xxxiii. 37, of Mount Her, To represent Edom as extending west of the 'Arabah in the time of Moses is an anachronism, borrowed from the times after the Captivity, when the Edomites, driven from their ancient seats, occupied the " south" of Judea as far as Hebron ; 1 Mace. v. 65.
The geographical notices of its situation are unfortunately too slight to be of much service. Yet thus much they fix, that it was in the wilderness of Zin,"6 that it was " on the `edge' of the border of Edom " 7-that it was near 11 Mount Hor,"-that it was at the southern point to which the territory of Judah afterwards reached.
Is there any place to which these indications correspond? Possibly, if the country were thoroughly explored, there might be found several in the deserted cities of Edom, known only to the very few travellers who have entered Edom by the Wady Ithm. At present one only is known, and that is Petra.
An oasis of vegetation in the desert hills ; scenery only second in grandeur to that where the Law was delivered ; a city of which the present ruins are modern, but of which the earlier vestiges reach back to the remotest antiquity -these are some of the points which give Petra a claim to be considered as the original sanctuary of the Idumean wilderness. It is moreover one of the few facts localised by anything like an authentic tradition,-in this case preserved by Josephus, the Talmudists, Eusebius, and Jerome, --that Kadesh was either identical, or closely connected with Petra. With this the existing names (though capable of another origin) remarkably, harmonise. The mountain which overhangs the valley of Petra has been known as far back as the knowledge of travellers extends, as the " mountain of Aaron." The basin of Petra is known to the Arabs by no other name than °' the Valley of Moses." The great ravine through which the torrent is admitted into the valley, is called " the Cleft of Moses "-in distinct reference to the stroke of the rod of Moses .
[Josephus (Ant. IV. iv. 7) speaks of Mount Hor as lying above Arke, which he identifies with Petra. Arke is evidently the same word (perhaps with the prefix of 'Ar' for "mountain"-as in Armageddon) as "Rekem," the Syriac name for Petra (Jerome, De Loc. Heb. voc. Petra and Rekem) and the Talmudist name for Kadesh,-see also the Syriac and Arabic versions,-derived (says Jerome, voc. Rekem, and Josephus, Ant. IV. vii. 1) from the Midianite chief Rokan. Abulfeda (Tabula Syria;, p. 11,) speaks of Ar-Ra-kem as near Al Balk& (the Arabic name of the country east of the Ghor), and remarkable for the houses cut in the rock. There may be other places on the east of the Ghor to which this description would apply, but none to which it would so well apply as Petra. The Targums of Onkelos, Jonathan, and Jerusalem, call Kadesh-Barnes "Rekem Giah,"-'of the ravine,' probably alluding to the Sik. See Schwarze, p. 23, 24, who has, however, his own explanations.]
["Cades Barnes in deserto, quw con. jungitur civitati Petrce in Arabift." He notices the tomb of Miriam as still shown there, not that of Aaron. (De Loc. Heb. )]
[See p. 90. This also agrees with Jerome's description of Mount Her. "Or Mons, in quo mortuus est Aaron, juxta civitatem Petram, ubi usque prcesenten diem ostenditur ropes quti percumd magnas aquas populo dedit. De Loc. Heb. voc. Or.]
In accordance with these confirmations are the incidental expressions of the narrative itself. The word always used for "the rock" of Kadesh, [Numb. xx. 5-11. See Appendix.] in describing the second supply of water, is "sela" or " cliff " in contradistinction to the usual word " tziur "-"rock," which is no less invariably applied to " the rock" of Horeb-the scene of the first supply. [Exod. xvii. 6.] It may be difficult to determine the relative meaning of the two words. But it is almost certain that of the two, "sela," like our word " cliff," is the grander and more abrupt feature ; which is of importance as excluding from the claimants to the name of Kadesh, such spots as 'Ein El-Weibeh, where the rocks are merely stony shelves of three or four feet in height. But the name "Sela" is also the same as that by which in later times the place now called " Petra" was designated. As the southern boundary of Judah is described as reaching over the " ascent of scorpions " to Kadesh, so the Amorite boundary is described as "from the ascent of scorpions, from `the cliff' (sela), and .upwards." [Joshua xv. 3 ; Judg. i. 36.] "Amaziah took `the cliff' (sela) by war." " Other ten thousand did the children of Judah carry away captive, and brought them up to the top of `the cliff' (sela), and cast them down from the top of I the cliff' (sela), that they were all broken into pieces." [2 Kings xiv. 7 ; 2 Chron. xxv. 12. The use of this word in these passages makes it probable that the denunciation of Psalm exxxvii. 9, is aimed not against the "daughter of Babylon," but against "the children ofs Edom."-"Happy shall be be that rewardeth thee as thou bast served us ; happy shall he be that taketh and dasheth tby little ones against the `cliff' (sela)."] The name of Kadesh almost entirely disappears from the Sacred Books before the name of Sela appears, and it is therefore possible that the latter, taken from its natural peculiarity, may have been given to it by the Edomites or later settlers, after the recollections of its earlier sanctity had passed away. That a sanctuary of this kind should have been gradually transformed into an emporium and thoroughfare of commerce, as was the case with Petra during the Roman empire, would be one out of many instances with which oriental and ancient history abounds.
If there be any ground for this conclusion, Petra assumes a new interest. Its rock-hewn caves may have served in part for the dwellings, in part for the graves of the Israelites; it is dignified as the closing scene of the life both of Miriam and Aaron ; its sanctity may account for the elevation and seclusion of some of its edifices, perched high among almost inaccessible rocks, and evidently the resort of ancient pilgrims ; its impressive scenery well accords with the language of the ancient hymns of Israel, in which Kadesh with the surrounding rocks of Edom is almost elevated to the rank of a second Sinai : " Lord, when thou wentest out of Seir, when thou marchedst out of the field of Edom "[Judg. v. 4.] "God came from Teman, and the Holy One from Mount Paran." [Habak. iii. 3] " He brought them to Mount Sinai and Kadesh-barnea." [Dent. xxxiii. 2.] " The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Mount Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran, and He came with ten thousands of saints," [Jude 14.] (if we take the Hebrew as followed in the Authorised Version-but more probably with the Septuagint)-" with the ten thousands of Kadesh ; " or (perhaps more probably still, with Ewald, [Geschichte, 2nd edit., ii. 257.]) " from Meribala-Kadesh."
And if any point is to be selected in Petra, as especially the seat of this primeval sanctuary, it is that which I have just described, commonly known by the name of the "Deir," or "Convent." Its present form is of the same modern character as that which deprives all these monuments of any deep interest-a facade, with a vast urn on the summit; the interior, one large hall. But its situation and its accompaniments indicate the great importance, if not sanctity, with which it was invested at some period by the inhabitants of Petra. Removed as it is from the sight not only of the town, but of the numerous sepulchres or excavations with-which the cliffs which surround the town are perforated, it must have had some special purpose of its own. The long ascent by which it is approached, mostly along the edge of a precipitous ravine, is carefully hewn, wherever the rocks admit, into a continuous stair-case, of which the steps are in more than one instance marked by the unknown inscriptions in the so-called Sinaitic character. The walls of the interior of the Deir itself, as well as the steps, are sculptured with the usual accompaniments of these inscriptions,-crosses and figures of the wild goat, or ibex. Immediately opposite is a hill, with a large chamber below, partly natural, partly artificial; containing a sculptured niche at the end of it for a statue ; and bases of columns lie strewed around. A staircase leads to the roof of the Deir, which is again inscribed with a rude character ; and on the rocky platform with which the roof communicates, [This last feature I derive from Miss Martineau (Eastern Life, 2nd ed., p. 410), who is the only person who has left a record of its existence. From an oversight I omitted to see it on the spot.] is a circle of hewn stones, and again still beyond is a solitary cell hewn in an isolated cliff, and oined to this platform by a narrow isthmus of rock.
In the absolute dearth of records of Petra, it is impossible to decide the reason of the selection of this lonely spot for a sanctuary, thus visited, as it would appear, by the same pilgrims, who have left their traces so often elsewhere in the Peninsula. Yet its situation inevitably suggests some relation to Mount Hor. From the threshold, indeed, of the Deir, Mount Hor is not visible . [By a not unnatural confusion of an intervening mountain with Mount Hor, Dr. Robinson (ii. 536) has asserted the contrary. It is one of the very few inaccuracies he has committed.'] But the whole of the upper story, and the roof-to which, as I have said, a staircase ascends as if for the express purpose of commanding a wider view,-both look upon the sacred mount of the High Priest's tomb, and are seen from thence. It is in fact the only building of Petra included in the view from Mount Hor, through which alone, in its deep seclusion, it was first revealed to the eyes of travellers.
Is it too much to suppose that this point and Mount Hor were long regarded as the two sacred spots-of Petra ; that the scene of the death and sepulture of Aaron was designedly fixed in view of this, the innermost sanctuary of the Holy Place of " Kadesh ; " that this sanctity was retained through the successive changes of Pagan and Christian worship; and that the pilgrims of the Desert mounted these time-worn steps, and traced their inscriptions upon the rock, on their way to the only spot, whence they could see the grave of Aaron?
(Sinai and Palestine, in connection with their history, Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, 1856 AD, p84-99)
By Steve Rudd: Contact the author for comments, input or corrections.
Go To Start: WWW.BIBLE.CA