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STREETS AND PLACES.
the audience of all that went in at the gates of the city, : and the field of Ephron and the cave which was therein were made sure unto Abraham for a possession ... before all that went in at the gates of his city” (Gen. xxiii. 10, 18); the king of Israel, and Jehoshaphat king of Judah, sat either of them on his throne ... in a void place at the entering in of the gate of Samaria ; and all the prophets prophesied before them” (2 Chron. xviii. 9). There, too, the publicans sat for the receipt of custom :
“And as Jesus passed forth from thence (i. e. out of the city) he saw a man named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom, and he saith unto him, follow me. And he arose and followed him” (Matt. ix. 9). Any person may see this ancient custom exemplified to this day at the gate of Smyrna. The collector of customs sits there in the house allotted him, and receives the money which is due from various persons and commodities entering into the city. The exactions and rude behaviour of these men are just in character with the conduct of the publicans mentioned in the New Testament. See HARTLEY's Researches, pp. 216, 217.
The interior of an Oriental town is far from prepossessing to our ideas. The thoroughfares of the old towns were of two sorts, viz. : streets, which were generally narrow and winding, and places broad and open, which were generally found near the gates or before the public buildings. These two are noticed in Cant. iii. 2; “ I will rise now and go about the city, in the streets, and in the broad ways, I will seek him whom my soul loveth.” Each street was generally occupied by shopkeepers of a particular trade, and hence we find one described as Bakers' street : “ Then Zedekiah, the king, commanded that they should commit Jeremiah into the court of the prison, and that they should give him daily a piece of bread out of the bakers' street" (Jer. xxxvii. 21).
“ The bazaars are one of the curiosities of Damascus.
They are all in one quarter of the town, but are separated according to the different wares sold, or the different trades carried on in them. They are usually covered arcades, with a row of narrow shops on each side. There is a separate bazaar for almost every commodity of trade, from the most sumptuous articles of luxury down to the most ordinary necessities.”Robinson's Researches, iii. 454, 456.
“ The great thoroughfare streets of Cairo generally have a row of shops along each side; commonly a portion of a street, or a whole street, contains chiefly, or
solely, shops appropriated to one particular trade, and is called the market' of that trade. Thus a part of the principal street of the city is called the market of the sellers of copper ware; another part is called the market of the jewellers," &c.-LANE's Modern Egyptians, ii. 145.
Describing the market at Kano, in Africa, Major Denham writes: “Particular quarters are appropriated to distinct articles; the smaller wares being set out in booths in the middle, and cattle and other commodities being exposed for sale in the outskirts of the marketplace: wood, dried grass, bean-market for provender, beans, Guinea corn, Indian corn, wheat, &c., are in one quarter; goats, sheep, asses, bullocks, horses, and camels, in another; earthenware and indigo in a third ; vegetables and fruit of all descriptions in a fourth, and so on.”-DENHAM's Travels.
The streets were for the most part badly paved : it was only in very rare instances that fine pavement was found, as, for instance, in the main street of Antioch, which Herod paved with polished stone, and the streets of Jerusalem, which were paved in the time of Agrippa II. with white stone (Joseph. Ant. xvi. 5, § 3, xx. 9, § 7). Hence it is given as one of the great beauties of the heavenly Jerusalem that “the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass” (Rev. xxi. 21).
Occasionally, however, the streets were described after some peculiarity in their form or direction : thus we read in Acts ix. 11, of “the street which is called Straight,” and which is still one of the great thoroughfares in Damascus. “ This morning we went,” says Maundrell, “ to see the street called Straight. It is about half a mile in length, running from east to west through the city. It being narrow, and the houses jutting out in several places on both sides, you cannot have a clear prospect of its length and straightness.” -Journey, p. 133.
Dr. Robinson also describes it :—“The principal street of the city extends from the eastern gate, in a tolerably straight direction, quite through the city to one of the western gates. It usually presents a busy scene of comers and goers, and of oriental commerce. This street has various names in different parts among the Muslim inhabitants; but the Christians regard it as
the street which is called Straight' of the New Testament."-Researches, iii. 454.
Sometimes the streets of an Eastern town are built parallel to the course of a stream, and have avenues of trees or columns in them; and from this circumstance the imagery in the book of Revelation may be borrowed :-“He shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it (the city), and on either side of the river was the tree of life” (Rev. xxii. 1, 2).
Dr. Robinson states, with regard to the street called Straight,” at Damascus :—“ It is reported and believed that a colonnade, or row of columns on each side, formerly ran along the whole extent of the street; and the remains of the columns are said to be still found within the adjacent houses."-Researches, iii. 455.
Among the important features of an Eastern town or village, may be reckoned the public well, which was not only the general resort of all who needed a supply of that essential article, water, but was also the centre to which the idlers of the place flocked for the sake of gossip or amusement. The wells are variously constructed, and in the absence of any particulars respecting them in the Bible, we must refer to the accounts of modern travellers.
“We encamped for the night (at Doulis), a considerable village placed upon a rock. While the servants were pitching the tents, we wandered through the place, and sitting down by the well, observed the women coming to draw water. The well is very deep, and the
mode of drawing up the water curious. A rope is attached by one end to a large bucket, made of skin, and let down over a pulley; while the other end is attached to a bullock, which is driven down the slope of the hill; the skin of water is thus hauled
to the top, where a man stands ready to empty it into the trough, from which women receive the water in earthenware jugs. To us this was a novel and amusing sight.” - Narrative of a Mission to the Jews, p. 111.
“ At the entrance of the town (Khanounes), stands the chief object of interest, the public well, at which we drank large and refreshing draughts of delightful water. A camel turned the wheel, and the water was brought up in small earthen jars, which emptied themselves into a trough. The well is evidently the rendezvous for idlers, gazers and talkers, and as much a place of public resort as the market. Old and
young, cattle and camels, were gathered thither. The coolness of the spot, and the prospect of meeting others, no doubt induces many to take their seat by the well's side.”—Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews,
66 We stood a little to observe the common manner of drawing water at the wells. A wheel is moved round by oxen and buffaloes, whose neck is yoked to a pole. Everywhere we saw the slow-pacing animal moving round, and heard the creaking of this clumsy apparatus.”—Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews,
pp. 51, 52.
“We came to a resting-place, and our camels kneeled down beside a fine well, out of which the water is drawn by a large wheel. This resting at wells called vividly to mind many Scripture events. Jacob found Rachel, and Moses found Zipporah, at the well. It was by a well of water that Eliezer, Abraham's servant, made his camels to kneel down at the time of the evening ;' and many a time did we realize that scene." — Narrative of a Mission of Inquiry to the Jews, p. 80.