Page images
PDF
EPUB

CAVES SAFE IN EARTHQUAKES.

103

But war was not the only terror which drove people to such abiding places. The earthquake, which rendered every other habitation insecure, left the cave still a safe asylum. Hence Zechariah (xiv. 5) predicts :

-“ Ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains . yea, ye shall flee like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, king of Judah :" and hence, also, Isaiah in that fine passage where he likens the approach of Jehovah to an earthquake, says: “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty and they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth. . . . In that day a man shall cast his idols ... to the moles, and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the rugged rocks” (ii. 10, 19-21). Hence also, we read in Rev. vi. 15-17, that after the earthquake, which attended the opening of the sixth seal :-“ The kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman and every free man hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come, and who shall be able to stand ?”.

From the nature of the circumstances which led men to take up their dwelling among the rocks, it became a sign of distress, and hence it is said of the oppressed : They are wet with the showers of the mountains, and embrace the rock for want of a shelter (Job xxiv. 8); and again :—“They were driven forth from among men

to dwell in the cliffs of the valleys, in caves of the earth, and in the rocks ” (Job xxx. 6). The same idea is conveyed in St. Paul's account of the sufferings of the saints : “They wan

[ocr errors]

104

DWELLING IN THE CLEFTS.

dered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth” (Heb. xi. 38).

Caves were also selected as the scenes of heathenish rites, and particularly of the inhuman worship of Moloch. To this Isaiah refers, when he speaks of the idolaters, as "slaying the children in the valleys under the clifts of the rocks” (lvii. 5).

The caves to which reference is made in the above passages were frequently situated in very inaccessible situations, either in the face of cliffs or on great heights. Hence one who takes up his abode there is compared to “the dove that maketh her nest in the sides of the hole's mouth” (Jer. xlviii. 28); and one who was unapproachable is thus addressed :—“my dove ! that art in the clefts of the rock, in the shelter of the precipice;" for this is the rneaning of the words rendered in our version “in the secret places of the stairs” (Cant. ii. 14). The security of such an abode was of course very great, and therefore David's prayers : “Be Thou to me for a rock of habitation, whereunto I may continually resort : Thou hast given commandment to save me; for Thou art my rock and my fortress” (Ps. lxxi. 3, see margin): and Isaiah describes the security of the righteous man in the following terms :—“He shall dwell on high : his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks” (Is. xxxiii. 16): and, lastly, Jeremiah employs a similar image to describe the false security of the Edomites :-" Thy terribleness hath deceived thee, and the pride of thine heart, O thou that dwellest in the clefts of the rock, that holdest the highest of the hill; though thou shouldest make thy nest as high as the eagle, I will bring thee down from thence, saith the Lord(Jer. xlix. 16).

Perhaps in the passage last quoted, there may be a reference to that remarkable city of the Edomites, which was actually hewn out of the rock, and was hence named by the Hebrews, Sela, i. e. “the rock,”

BUILDINGS AT PETRA.

105

and by the Greeks, Petra, which has the same meaning. We have undoubted reference to this place in Isaiah (xvi. 1):—“Send ye the lamb to the ruler of the land from Sela to the wilderness ;” and again, in xlii. 11 : “ Let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.” In the historical books of the old Testament it is “the cliffs which Amaziah took by war,” and whence the children of Judah cast down the ten thousand captives, so that “they were all broken into pieces” (2 Kings xiv. 7; 2 Chron. xxv. 12). This town and the surrounding mountains were occupied by the old race of the Horites (noticed in Gen. xiv. 6, and Deut. ii. 12, 22), whose very name implies that they were “ dwellers in caves.” The description of the position of this remarkable town does not fall within the scope of the present work. The excavations were applied to three sorts of buildings-temples, tombs, and dwellings.

As an example of the former, we give some extracts describing the beautiful temple called “ El-Khúzneh.

“ The name El-Khûzneh, given by the Arabs to this edifice, signifies the treasure ;' which they ascribe to Pharaoh, and supposed to be contained in the urn crowning the summit of its ornamental front, a hundred feet or more above the ground.” “ Hence, whenever they pass through the ravine, they stop for a moment, charge their guns, aim at the urn, and endeavour by firing at it to break off some fragments with a view to demolish it altogether, and get at the treasure which it is supposed to contain. The urn, however, resists all their attacks, and when they have discharged their pieces in vain, they go away murmuring at the giant king who had the cunning to place his treasure at a distance of a hundred and twenty feet above their heads.”

The “Khûzneh” is cut in the rock, and bears at the present day a freshness and beauty as great as when it first was chiselled by the hand of the skilful workmen

[blocks in formation]

of Petra. Dr. Robinson remarks, “I had seen various engravings of it, and read all the descriptions ; but this was one of the rare instances where the truth of the reality surpasses the ideal anticipation. It is, indeed,

[graphic][merged small]

most exquisitely beautiful; and nothing I had seen of architectural effect in Rome, or Thebes, or even Athens, comes up to it in the first impression. ... Its position as a portion of the lofty mass of coloured rock

.. its wonderful state of preservation, the glow and tint of the stone, and the wild scenery around—all are unique, and combine into a power of association and impression, which takes complete possession of the mind. ... I was perfectly fascinated with this splendid work of ancient art in this wild spot. There it stands, as it has stood for ages, in beauty and loneliness; the generations which admired and rejoiced over it of old

CAVES USED BY ROBBERS.

107

have passed away; the wild Arab, as he wanders by, regards it with stupid indifference. Its rich, roseate tints, as I bade it farewell, were lighted up and gilded by the mellow beams of the morning sun; and I turned away from it, at length with an impression which will be effaced only at death.”Researches, ii. 132. LABORDE, p. 176.

[graphic][merged small]

Caves were also used as the resort, of banditti, who thus secured an almost impregnable retreat. Josephus narrates the capture of some robbers who dwelt near Arbela in Galilee, and whose cave has been identified with a spot called Kul at Ibn Maan, which is thus described by Burckhardt :-“I visited a fortress in the

« PreviousContinue »