« PreviousContinue »
of fire and a general conflagration of the bitumen which abounded in the plain. I shall ever regret that we were not authorized to explore the southern Ghôr to the Red Sea.” 1
The lack of information implied in the regret of this distinguished explorer is supplied by Dr. Robinson, whose researches fully sustain the sagacious conjecture of Lieutenant Lynch. A “break-down” south of the Dead Sea is found corresponding remarkably with that on the north, except that the southern break is more marked and decisive. At the distance of eight or ten miles from the sea, a line of high cliffs of chalk and marl runs across the gulf constituting the ascent to the higher plains of the Arabah. These cliffs “ form an irregular curve, sweeping across the Ghôr in something like the segment of a circle, the chord of which would be six or seven geographical miles in length, extending obliquely nearly from northwest to southeast.”2 These cliffs
vary in height, from fifty to one hundred and fifty feet. The face of them, though very steep, is not perpendicular; and they are much furrowed by the rains, so that the upper part presents a jagged appearance.” They are doubtless the Akrabbim, scorpion rocks, which marked the southern boundary of the tribe of Judah. In a geological point of view they are of great interest. Compared with the northern offset described by Lieutenant Lynch, they exhibit “ like volcanic characters” and geological features. In the neighborhood of the northern “ break-down," chalk formations are found on either side of the Jordan, corresponding to the chalk cliffs of the southern break. We may therefore regard these corresponding offsets as marking the limits of a great convulsion of earthquake and volcano, which may have sunk the sea itself, with the cities of the plain, into that deep and dreadful abyss in which they now lie, at the depth of more than one thousand three hundred feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea, and four thousand feet below the city of Jerusalem.
In this connection the discovery of a late English traveller 1 Expedition, pp. 378, 379. 2 Researches, Vol. ii., p. 501 (1st edition).
becomes exceedingly pertinent and significant : " At the northern end of Jebel Usdum, the mountain of salt, is the Wady Muhawât which exhibits some very remarkable features. Its sides are cliffs of old limestone, showing here and there traces of post-tertiary marl ; but since the marl has been washed out, there has been a second filling in of an extraordinary character, which is only now in a course of denudation. There are exposed on the sides of the wady, and chiefly on the south, large masses of bitumen mingled with gravel. These overlie a thick stratum of sulphur, which again overlies a thicker stratum of sand, so strongly impregnated with sulphur that it yields powerful fumes on being sprinkled over a hot coal. Many blocks of bitumen have been washed down the gorge, and lie scattered over the plain below, along with huge boulders and other traces of tremendous floods. The layer of sulphurous sand is generally evenly distributed on the old limestone base ; the sulphur, evenly above it, and the bitumen in variable masses. In every way it differs from the ordinary mode of deposit of these substances as we have seen them elsewhere. Again, the bitumen, unlike that which we pick up on the shore, is strongly impregnated with sulphur, and yields an overpowering sulphurous odor; above all, it is calcined, and bears the marks of having been subjected to extreme heat.”
This discovery of our traveller is exceedingly interesting and important; and his remarks upon it will be read with the deepest interest by all students of the Bible : “So far as I can understand this deposit, if there be any physical evidence left of the catastrophe which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, or of similar occurrences, we have it here. The whole appearance points to a shower of hot sulphur, and an irruption of bitumen upon it, which would naturally be calcined and impregnated by its fumes; and this at a geological period quite subsequent to all the diluvial and alluvial action of which we have such abundant evidence. The catastrophe must have been since the formation of the wady, since the deposition of the marl, and while the water was at
its present level ; therefore, probably during the historic
If we may accept the theory here proposed respecting this great crevasse of the Jordan and of the Red Sea, it must stand acknowledged the most extensive and extraordinary on the surface of the earth. What a sublime conception it gives of those stupendous convulsions by which our globe must have been rent and torn in the remote periods of its geological formations.
The writer is not a proficient in the details of geological science. With great diffidence he proposes this theory respecting this great crevasse, awaiting, respecting it, with profound deference, the opinions of the learned, more worthy of public confidence. The crude conception of this vast fissure was suggested several years since, while traversing the desert of Sinai, and alternately the bed and the margin of the chasm itself. Reading and reflection have matured this hypothesis into a settled conviction, to which expression is given in this form to invite the consideration of those who are more competent for such profound, recondite speculations. What then of the theory under consideration? Is it altogether fanciful and unfounded, or may it claim some consideration among the generalizations of science for which that of geology is so remarkable ?
1 Tristram, The Land of Israel, pp. 355-357, cited in Kitto's Biblical Cyclopaedia, Vol. iii. p. 797.
following lines appeared, addressed to the thief:
GNOMOLOGICAL VERSES. BY REV. LEONARD WITHINGTON, D.D., NEWBURYPORT, MASA. EXAMPLES of gnomological of poetry have been handed down to us from antiquity. It is not more true that mankind have delighted to record their moral observations in proverbs than it is that they have endeavored to preserve those observations in verse. There is a collection of such yvuar from the Greek poets, called Gnomici, in which vitae praecepta utilissima traduntur, which have a point and a pith to them always interesting. They are to be distinguished from the epigrams, though they often resemble them, the border being somewhat indistinct and varying. Indeed the ancient and modern epigram differs. In modern times it must have wit; it must convey a sarcasm; it must raise a smile ; but among the ancients it was only a well-turned sentiment, concisely expressed. One of the most beautiful of the old epigrams is the following; it is what almost every worldling has experienced : “ When I was young I was poor ; when old I became rich; but in each condition I found disappointment. When the faculties of enjoyment were bright, I had not the means ; but when the means came, the faculties were gone.” Which may be thus versified :
O life, unfriendly still to human joy,
And closed in disappointment, as begun. The following may serve as an example of a modern epigram. A poor man had his Bible stolen from him. The
“ You saint and scamp! In vain my fancy tries
To find the true meridian of your zeal:
And if you prized the book, how could you steal ?” We have specimens of gnomological verses, modern as well as ancient. There used to be a book taught in the schools called Cato's Distichs, of which the following is a specimen :
“ Donec eris felix, multos numerabis amicos;
Tempora si nubila, solus eris.” 1
“I never saw an oft removed tree,
That throve so well as those who settled be."
“When you have most explored your winding heart,
Set down as unknown land the largest part.”. Many of the poets whose intention has not been directly to produce gnomological verses or epigrams, have come very near this kind of writing. Thus Shakespeare:
“ To mourn a mischief that is past and gone,
OTHELLO, Act i. Scene 3d.
“ Small honor can be got with gaudy grave,
Nor it thy rotten name from death can save.
1 In a catalogue of books entitled, “ Selections from the stock of John Pennington and Son," is the following notice : Cato (Dionysius), Disticha, GraecLat. scholiis Erasmi, notis Scaligeri et aliorum, cura Arntzenis. Trag. ad Rhenum, 1735. The book has received the attention of great men ; but of its character and history, I confess ignorance.
2 The thought is in Rochefoucault No. III. Maxims : Quelque découverte que l'on ait faite dans le pays de l'amour-propre, il y reste encore bien des terres inconnues.