Jesus in Ramoth-Galaad
From Ennon Jesus went with twelve disciples to the Jabok and the neighboring places. Andrew, James, John, and some other disciples remained at Ennon, in order to baptize at the pool of Baptism east of the hill. The water ran from the hill into the baptismal basin, formed a little lake behind it, watered some meadows as a little brook, and then fell into a reservoir on the north of Ennon from which it could be turned at pleasure into the Jordan.
I saw Jesus with the disciples teaching in a city about one hour east of Socoth and on the south side of the Jabok. Among the numerous sick that He healed was a man who since his birth had one eye closed, Jesus moistened it with His saliva. The eye opened, and the man enjoyed perfect sight.
Jesus crossed the Jabok, which flows through a valley, and turned to the east until He came into the vicinity of Mahanaim, a nice, clean city in two sections. He sat down by the well outside, and soon out came the Elders of the synagogues and the chief men of the city with goblets, food, and drink. They bade Jesus welcome, washed His and the disciples’ feet, poured ointment on Jesus’ head, gave Him and the disciples a little luncheon, and conducted Him with great love and simplicity into the city. Jesus delivered a short discourse upon the Patriarch Jacob and of all that had happened to him in those parts. Most of these people had been baptized by John. A patriarchal simplicity reigned in all the cities around this region, and many of the ancient customs were still observed. Jesus did not tarry long here, only time enough to receive the honors paid Him on His route.
From Mahanaim He went along the northern bank of the Jabok for about an hour eastward to the place where Jacob and Esau met. The valley here sinks deep. During the whole way Jesus taught His disciples. After some time they recrossed to the southern bank not far from where two little streams united to form the Jabok. Then they continued their journey for about a mile to the east with the desert of Ephraim on their right.
After traversing the valley they found, upon a mountain ridge to the east of the forest of Ephraim, Ramoth-Galaad, a beautiful city, clean and regularly built. In it the heathens had their own quarter and temple. The sacred services were celebrated by Levites. One of the disciples went on ahead to announce Jesus’ approach. The Levites and others of distinction were already awaiting Him in a tent near the well outside the city. They washed the newcomers’ feet, gave them the usual refreshments as a pledge of hospitality, and conducted them into the city. There they found a crowd of poor sick gathered on an open square to implore Jesus’ help. He cured many of them. That evening He taught in the synagogue, for it was the beginning of the Sabbath that commemorated the sacrifice of Jephte’s daughter, which in this city was celebrated as a mourning and national festival. There were crowds of young maidens and other people from the country around.
Jesus and the disciples took a repast with the Levites and stayed overnight in a house near the synagogue. There were in these parts no special inns prepared for Jesus. In Ennon, Kamon, and Mahanaim they were hired in advance, and the number of guests limited. Ramoth was built in terraces on a hill behind which, in a little vale flanked by a steep, rocky wall, was the quarter of the city inhabited by the pagans. They had a temple. One could always recognize their abodes by the figures erected on the roofs. On the roof of this temple was a whole group. The central figure wore a crown and stood in a reservoir or fountain, holding a basin in its hand. Around it were several figures of children dipping up the water and pouring it from one to another until at last it fell into the basin held by the middle finger.
The cities in this region were more beautiful, more neatly built than the old Jewish ones. The streets were laid off in the form of a star, all verging to a central point, and the extremities were rounded, thus making the circumference assume something of a zigzag form, as did also the city walls. Ramoth-Galaad was formerly a city of refuge for criminals. ( 4:43, 20:8). There was a large solitary building in which they were lodged, but at the time of Jesus’ visit it had fallen to ruin and appeared to be no longer used. They made tapestry here, embroidered with figures of all kinds of animals and flowers, partly for trade, and partly for the use of the temple. I saw numbers of women and young maidens working at it in long tents. The costume of the people resembled more the patriarchal style, and they were very clean. Their clothing was of fine wool.
Jesus assisted at a solemn memorial feast of the sacrifice of Jephte’s daughter. He went with His disciples and the Levites to a beautiful open square outside the city to the east where preparations for the festival had been made. The inhabitants of Ramoth-Galaad were already assembled and ranged in large circles. Here were still the hill and the altar upon which Jephte’s daughter was immolated. In front of it was a semicircle of grassy seats for the maidens, and nearby were seats for the Levites and magistrates of the city. All went in a long and orderly procession to their places. The young girls of Ramoth and many from the neighboring cities assisted at the feast in robes of mourning. One young girl, clothed in white and veiled, personated Jephte’s daughter herself. A troop of others clad in somber robes, their faces veiled to the chin and wearing black, fringed sashes on the forearm, represented her lamenting companions. Tiny girls scattering flowers and playing on little flutes mournfully headed the procession in which three lambs were led. The ceremonies were long and of the most touching nature. They comprehended different parts, chanting, religious instructions, and representations of the sad drama, while Psalms and songs commemorative of it were sung. The maiden that personated Jephte’s daughter was comforted and lamented in chorus by her companions, though she herself was sighing only after death. Among the Levites also in some of the choirs of singers, there seemed to be held a conference upon the heroine’s fate; but she presented herself before them and in earnest words begged to be allowed to accomplish the vow. They made use of different rolls of writing in the different scenes, some parts being recited from memory, others read from the rolls.
Jesus took an active part in the celebration. He personated the supreme Judge, or High Priest, and besides the speeches assigned His role, He delivered instructions before and during the ceremonies. Three lambs were sacrificed in memory of Jephte’s daughter, their blood sprinkled around the altar, and the roasted flesh given to the poor. Jesus gave the young maidens some words of instruction on the danger of yielding to vanity. I understood from it that Jephtias would have been liberated had she not been so vain.
The feast lasted until afternoon. During the whole celebration, the maidens successively replaced one another in personating Jephtias. As soon as one finished her part, the next in order rose from the stone seat upon which she had been sitting in the midst of the circle, retired with her into a tent nearby, and assumed the costume of the victim, that worn by her at the moment of immolation.
The tomb of the young heroine was on a neighboring hill, and on it the lambs were sacrificed. It was a four-cornered sarcophagus opening on top. When the fat of the lambs and the other portions to be sacrificed were almost consumed, what was left of the victims was introduced slantingly into the opening, that with the ashes it might fall into the tomb. When the lambs were slaughtered, I saw the blood sprinkled around the altar, and the maidens putting, with a little rod, a drop of it on the end of the long, narrow veil hanging over their shoulder. Jesus said: “Jephtias! Thou shouldst have thanked God in the retirement of thine own home for the victory He had granted thy people. But becoming vain and seeking praise as a hero’s daughter, thou didst with frivolous ornaments and festive sounds go forth boasting before the other daughters of the land.”
When the festive ceremonies were ended, all retired to a pleasure garden nearby where arbors and tents had been erected and an entertainment prepared. Jesus took part in it. He placed Himself at the table at which the poor were fed, and related a parable. The maidens ate in the same tent, but separated from the others by a screen about three feet high. Lying at table, one could not see over it, though to one standing, it did not obstruct the view. After the meal Jesus with the Levites, the disciples, and many others returned to the city, where numbers of sick were patiently awaiting His coming. He cured them, as well as some lunatics and others afflicted with melancholy. He taught in the synagogue, taking for His subject Jacob and Joseph and the selling of the latter to the Egyptians. He said: “One day another also shall be sold by one of His brethren. But He will pardon His penitent brethren and in the time of famine feed them with the Bread of Eternal Life.” On that same evening, some of the pagans outside the city accosted the disciples very humbly, asking them whether they too might hope to share in the great Prophet’s teachings. The disciples informed Jesus of their desire, and He promised to go to them in the morning.
Jephte was the natural son of an idolatrous mother. Driven by his father’s legitimate children from Ramoth, called also Maspha, he lived in the neighboring land of Tob. He joined some military adventurers and led a life of brigandage. His pagan wife died young, leaving him an only daughter, who was beautiful and extraordinarily talented, but rather given to vanity. Jephte was an exceedingly rash, absolute, and determined man, eager for victory, and strongly wedded to his own word. He was more like a pagan hero than a Jew. He was an instrument in the hand of God. Fired with desire to conquer and rule the land from which he had been expelled, he made that solemn vow to offer to the Lord as a holocaust the first one that should come out of his own house on his victorious return. He dreamed not that it would be his only daughter; as for the rest of his family, he had no love for them.
Jephte’s vow was not pleasing to God; nevertheless He permitted it, decreeing that its fulfillment should be a chastisement upon both father and daughter and cut off the posterity of the former from Israel. His daughter would perhaps have been perverted by the success and elevation of her father; but as it was, she did penance during two months and died for God. It is probable that she also influenced her father to a better way of thinking and made him more faithful to God. The daughter went out followed by a long train of maidens with songs and flutes and timbals to meet her father. It was at a whole hour’s distance from the city that she met him, still she was the first whom he saw belonging to his own family. When she discovered her misfortune, she entered into herself and asked for a reprieve of two months, that she might retire into solitude to prepare by penance for her sacrifice, and to mourn with her companions over her virginal death, which would deprive her father of posterity in Israel. With several of her young companions she went into the mountains opposite the valley of Ramoth, where for two months she dwelt under a tent in prayer, fasting, and sackcloth. The maidens of Ramoth took turns in staying with her. She mourned especially her vanity and thirst for glory. The rulers held council as to whether she could be freed from death, but it was not possible since her father had sworn a solemn oath. It was consequently a vow that could in nowise be commuted. I saw too that the daughter herself desired its fulfillment, and petitioned for it in words both wise and touching.
Her sacrifice was accompanied by every mark of grief, her companions chanting songs of mourning around her. She was seated on the same spot upon which the memorial feast was celebrated. Here again a council was held for the purpose of delivering her from death, but stepping forward, she expressed her wish to die, just as I had seen at the feast. She was clothed in a long, white garment that closely enveloped her from the breast to the feet; but from her head to her breast she wore a transparent, white veil through which could be seen her face, neck, and shoulders. She walked courageously to the altar. Her father hurried from the scene without bidding her adieu. Then she drank something red from a vessel presented her. I think it was something to render her unconscious. One of Jephte’s warriors was deputed to give the deathblow. His eyes were bandaged as a sign that he did not incur the guilt of murder, since he would not see the blow that was to kill the victim. She was then laid on his left arm, and he pierced her throat with a short, sharp weapon. She had no sooner drunk the red liquid than it produced its effect, for she was perfectly unconscious when laid on the warrior’s arm. Two of her young companions, who also were in white and appeared to act as bridesmaids, caught the blood in a dish and poured it on the altar. She was afterward enveloped by her companions in a winding sheet and laid at full length on the altar, the upper surface of which was grated. A fire was kindled below and, when her garments were burned and the whole looked like a blackened mass, some men raised the grate with the corpse upon it. They rested the grate upon the
edge of an open tomb nearby, and then gently raising the grate, let the body slide down into it. The tomb was then closed. It was still to be seen even in Jesus’ time.
The companions of Jephtias and many of the assistants steeped their veils and handkerchiefs in her blood, while others gathered up the ashes of the holocaust. Before Jephtias made her appearance in her sacrificial habiliments, her young companions had retired with her into a tent where she bathed and was prepared for the ceremony.
It was to the north of Ramoth, over two hours’ distance in the mountains that Jephtias and her companions met her father. They were mounted upon little asses adorned with ribands and hung with tinkling bells. One rode in front of Jephtias, one on either side, and the rest followed with songs and music. They sang the canticle of Moses upon the defeat of the Egyptians. As soon as Jephte descried his daughter, he rent his garments and became inconsolable. Jephtias herself did not give way to grief, but learned with calmness the fate that awaited her.
When she and her companions left her father’s house for the wilderness, taking with them such food only as was allowed for a fast, Jephte spoke to his daughter for the last time. This was in a certain manner the beginning of the sacrifice. At the moment of parting, he laid his hand, as was customary in offering sacrifice, upon his daughter’s head with the simple words: “Go forth! Thou wilt never have a spouse!”—to which she responded: “No, I shall never have a spouse!”—and he never again spoke to her. After his daughter’s death, Jephte had a beautiful monument erected in Ramoth and a little temple built over it. He ordered a memorial festival to be annually celebrated on the anniversary of his daughter’s immolation as a remembrance of his sad vow and a warning to others against such rashness. ( 11:39-40).
Jephte’s mother was a pagan who had been converted to Judaism. His wife was the daughter of a man born from the illicit union of a Jew with an idolatress. On his expulsion from his native place, his daughter did not accompany him. She remained in Ramoth where, meanwhile, her mother died. When, in time of danger, Jephte was recalled to Tob by his compatriots, he did not return into the city of his birth. He assembled the people and concerted measures with them in the camp outside of Maspha. His own home and his only daughter he did not see. When he made that vow, he never thought of her, but of his other relatives who had repudiated him, and therefore God punished him.
The feast lasted four days. Jesus with His disciples visited also the pagan quarters in Ramoth. The people met Him with marks of reverence at the head of their street. Not far from their temple was an open-air space used for public discourses. Several of the sick and aged had been brought thither, the former of whom Jesus healed. They that had solicited a visit from Him appeared to be learned men, priests, and philosophers. They knew about the journey of the Three Kings, and of their having seen the birth of the King of the Jews in the stars, for they, too, had a similar expectation and were likewise engaged in the observation of the stars. Not far from here was a kind of observatory similar to that in the land of the holy Three Kings, and from it they gazed at the stars. They had long sighed for instruction, and now they received it from Jesus Himself. He spoke to them of very profound mysteries, even of the Most Holy Trinity. I heard these words that especially astonished me: He spoke of the Fall of man, of the promised Redeemer, of the guidance of mankind, of the Deluge, of the passage through the Red Sea and the Jordan, and of Baptism. He told them that the Jews had not obtained entire possession of the Promised Land, that many heathens still dwelt therein, but that He was now come to take possession of all that remained and unite it to His Kingdom—not, however, by the sword, but by charity and grace. His words made so deep an impression upon many of His hearers that He sent them to Ennon to be baptized. Seven aged men that could no longer travel, Jesus allowed to be baptized at once by two of the disciples. A basin was brought and placed before them while they stood up to the knees in the water in a bathing cistern near at hand. Above the basin was placed a railing upon which they could lean. Two of the disciples laid their hands on the neophyte’s shoulders while Mathias, a disciple of John, poured on their heads, one after another, water from a shell at the end of which was a handle. Jesus dictated to the disciples the form of words they should use. The old men were clothed in beautiful white garments, all very neat and clean.
Then Jesus gave an instruction to the people in general, taking for His subject chastity and marriage. To the women He spoke especially of obedience, of humility, and the education of their children. These people were well-disposed. They conducted Jesus most affectionately back to the Jewish quarter, where He went to the synagogue and healed the sick that He found before it. The Levites were not well pleased at Jesus’ having visited the heathens. In the synagogue, where Jephte’s festival was still being celebrated, Jesus taught of the call of the Gentiles. He said that many of them would rank higher in His Kingdom than the children of Israel, and that He was come to unite with the rightful possessors of the Promised Land, by grace, instruction, and Baptism, the idolaters whom the Israelites had not expelled. He spoke also of Jephte’s victory and vow.
While Jesus was preaching in the synagogue, the maidens were celebrating their feast at the monument that Jephte had erected to his daughter. It had been rebuilt, and every year at the recurrence of the festival was beautified by the contributions of the young girls. It stood in a round temple with an opening in the roof. In the center of this temple was a smaller one of the same form. It consisted of a kind of cupola supported by columns, in one of which was concealed a staircase leading up to it. Around the cupola wound a spiral walk upon which was a representation of the triumphal procession of Jephtias, the figures being the height of a child. This piece of workmanship was of light material, but shining like polished metal. The base supporting it was of open work, through which the figures appeared to be gazing down into the little temple. The top of the cupola was crowned by a circular, metal platform from which a kind of ladder, consisting of a pole with projecting rods on either side, led up to the roof of the exterior temple. From this roof the view over the city and surrounding country was very extended. The platform at the top of the ladder was wide enough to allow two girls holding on to the pole to make a turn around it hand in hand. A pedestal in the center of the smaller temple supported a white marble figure of Jephte’s daughter seated on a chair of the same material, just as she appeared before her immolation. Her head reached to the first coil of the spiral shaped cupola. Around the base of the statue, there was space enough for three men to walk abreast.
The columns surrounding the little temple were connected together by beautiful grates. The exterior was of stone veined in different colors. The coils of the cupola varied in degrees of whiteness from bottom to top, the upper ones of the purest white.
In the temple around this monument, the young girls now celebrated Jephtias’ feast. The maiden’s statue held a handkerchief to the eyes with one hand as if shedding tears, while the other hanging listlessly at her side held a flower or broken branch. The young girls’ celebration was conducted with order. Sometimes they stretched curtains from the outer circle of the temple to the interior of the monument and took their places in little groups apart to pray and sigh and mourn in silence, their eyes fixed on the statue. Sometimes they sang together in chorus, sometimes in alternate choirs. Again, they passed two by two before the statue, strewing flowers, adorning it with wreaths and, as if to console Jephtias, chanting hymns on the shortness of life. I remember the expressions: “Today for me! Tomorrow for thee!” Then they sang the praises of Jephtias’ fortitude and resignation, lauding her highly as the price of their victory. Then they mounted in groups by the serpentine walk up to the top of the cupola where they sang triumphal songs. Some went up to the roof of the exterior temple, looked out over the country as if to catch a glimpse of the conquering hero, and pronounced the fearful vow. The procession then returned lamenting to the monument, mourned over the young virgin, and consoled her on the privation of the privileges of maternity. The exercises were interspersed with canticles of thanksgiving to God and reflections upon His justice, the various scenes being accompanied by very touching pantomimes, expressive by turns of joy, grief, and devotion. A grand entertainment was prepared for the young girls in the temple. I saw them not reclining at one table, but sitting in tiers of three, one above another, all around the temple, with little round tables at their side. They sat cross-legged. They had all kinds of wonderful dishes and viands made up into figures-for instance, that of a lamb lying on its back and filled with fruit and other eatables.
Jesus Leaves Ramoth and Goes to Arga, Azo, and Ephron
After assisting at an entertainment given Him by the Levites, Jesus with seven disciples and some people belonging to Ramoth went northward and crossed the Jabok. After climbing the mountains westward for about three hours, they arrived at the ancient kingdom of Basan and reached a city with two very steep mountains on one side and a long one on the other. It was called Arga and belonged to the district Argob, in the half-tribe Manasses. An hour and a half or two hours eastward from Arga, near the source of the brook Og, was situated a great city named Gerasa. To the southeast of this and on an elevated site one could see Jabesch-Galaad. The country around was stony. At a distance one might think there were no trees in these parts, but many sections were covered with low, green bushes. The kingdom of Basan commenced here, and Arga was its first city. The family of the half-tribe of Manasses extended a little farther to the south. About an hour northward of the Jabok, I saw a boundary marked off by stakes.
Jesus stayed overnight with His companions about half an hour from the city in a public inn situated on a grand highway that ran from the east toward Arga. The disciples had food with them. In the night when all were asleep, Jesus arose and went alone into the open air to pray. Arga was a large, populous, and extraordinarily clean city. Like most of the cities in these parts where pagans form a portion of the population, it was built in the form of a star, the streets wide and straight. The mode of life was quite different from that observed in Judea and Galilee, the customs being much better. Levites were sent hither from Jerusalem and other localities to teach in the synagogue. They were changed from time to time, for if those sent did not give satisfaction, the people had the right to complain, and thus get others. People of bad conduct were not allowed to go at large. They were sent to a place of punishment and there detained. The inhabitants did not carryon private housekeeping, that is, they did not prepare their food in their own houses. They had large public kitchens where all was cooked and whither they went either to get their food and carry it to their homes, or to partake of it in halls adjoining. They slept on the roofs of their houses under tents. There were large dyeing establishments in this city, for they were skillful in the art of coloring, producing especially beautiful violets. The manufacture and embroidery of large carpets were also carried on here with more skill and to a greater extent than in Ramoth. Between the city and the wall ran tent after tent where women sat and worked at long strips of stuff stretched before them. On account of the delicate nature of their employments, the people of Arga were famed of old for their exceedingly great cleanliness. Quantities of oil of superior quality were produced around Arga. The olive trees grew in long rows neatly tied to trellises. Down in the valleys toward the Jordan, the people had numbers of camels and excellent pasture grounds. There grew also in this region a precious wood, which was used in the building of the Ark of the Covenant and the table of showbread. The bark of the tree that produced it was smooth and beautiful, the branches hung like those of the willow, the leaves were like pear leaves, though very much larger, green on one side and on the other covered with some gray-colored stuff. It bore berries like the fruit of the dog rose, though larger. The wood was exceedingly hard and tough, and could be split into very fine strips like bark. When dry and bleached, it became firm and beautiful and almost indestructible. The tree contained a very fine pith, which was extracted by incisions so as to leave in the center of the inmost plank only a delicate, reddish vein. The wood was made into little tables, and used for all kinds of inlaid work. They dealt also in myrrh and other spices, although these did not grow there. They obtained them from the caravans that often unloaded their camels and rested here for weeks at a time. They pressed the spices into balls and prepared them to be used by the Jews in embalming the dead. The cows and sheep of Arga were very large.
When on the following morning Jesus and His disciples went toward Arga, the Levites and chief men of the city met Him with every mark of respect, conducted Him to a tent, washed His feet, and presented Him refreshments. Some of the disciples had gone on before Jesus to apprise the townspeople of His coming. He taught in the synagogue, after which He cured a great many sick, among them numbers of consumptives. He went likewise to many of the sick in their homes. Toward three o’clock a dinner was spread. Jesus dined with the Levites in a public hall, the dishes having been brought thither from the eating house. In the evening, He taught again in the synagogue, for it was the commencement of the Sabbath. Next morning He gave another discourse, speaking at length of Moses in the wilderness on Mounts Sinai and Horeb, of the construction of the Ark of the Covenant, of the table of showbread, etc. As the ancestors of His hearers had sent offerings for the same, Jesus alluded to them as symbolical. He exhorted them now, in the time of their fulfillment, to bring heart and soul as an offering by penance and conversion, and He showed them the connection between that offering of their forefathers and their own present condition. But I do not remember it. The substance of this discourse was as follows:
While Jesus was speaking, I had an extended and circumstantial vision of the departure of the Israelites from Egypt. I saw that Jethro, the father-in-law, and Sephora, the wife of Moses, dwelt in Arga with the two sons and a daughter of the latter. I saw Jethro with the wife and children of Moses journeying to join him on Mount Horeb. Moses received them most joyfully, and related all the miracles wrought by God for the deliverance of His people from Egypt, whereupon Jethro offered sacrifice. I saw too that Moses at this time settled the disputes of all the Israelites himself, but Jethro counseled him to nominate subordinate judges. He then returned home, leaving Sephora and her sons with Moses. I saw Jethro recounting in Arga all the wonders he had seen, and many were thereby roused to great reverence for the God of the Israelites. Then Jethro sent Moses presents and offerings on camels, to which the Argites had contributed. The presents consisted of fine oil, which was afterward burned before the tabernacle; very fine, long strands of camel’s hair for spinning and weaving into covers and curtains; and most beautiful setim wood, which was afterward made into the poles of the Ark of the Covenant and the table for the showbread, I think, too, they sent a species of grain out of which the showbread was made. It was made from the pith of a reed like plant, from which long before I saw Mary making pap.
On the Sabbath Jesus taught in the synagogue from and from 21:26. He spoke also of Balac and the Prophet Balaam. I saw many things connected with both, but I cannot now recall them. That evening in the Sabbath instructions, He related from the Law of Moses, which had previously been read, the history of Zambri and the Madianite stabbed by Phineas ( 25:7).
(Here Anne Catherine repeated in an admirable manner, although she had never heard nor read them, a number of the Laws of Moses as set forth in 21:26. They were those that especially corresponded to her own position in childhood and the ideas peculiar to the occupations connected with it; for instance, the law forbidding one that has found a bird’s nest to take the parent birds as well as the young; that which commands the gleanings of the harvest to be left for the poor; that which prohibits pledges to be taken from the poor, or borrowing from them, etc. Jesus touched upon all these points, dwelling at length upon the law that forbids defrauding laborers of their wages, because the people of Arga lived by labor, Sister Emmerich was rejoiced when told that all those laws could be found in the Bible, and she wondered at having heard them so correctly.)
The Sabbath over, Jesus went to an inn belonging to the pagans who had sent Him, by the disciples, a most pressing invitation to that effect. He was received with great humility and affection. He instructed them upon the call of the heathens, telling them that He was now come to gain over those that had not been conquered by the Israelites. They questioned Him upon the fulfillment of the prophecy that the scepter should be taken away from Juda at the time of the Messiah, and He gave them an answer full of instruction. They knew the story of the Three Kings, and begged for Baptism. Jesus explained what the ceremony meant, that it was to be for them a preparation for their sharing in the Kingdom of the Messiah. These good pagans were travelers, and had been a couple of weeks at Arga, awaiting the arrival of a caravan. They numbered five families, about thirty-seven souls in all. They could not go to the Baptism at Ennon, for fear of missing the caravan. They asked Jesus where they should take up their future residence, and He indicated to them the place. I never heard Him speaking to the heathens of circumcision, but He always insisted on continence and the obligation of having but one wife.
These heathens were at once baptized by Saturnin and Judas Barsabas. They stepped into a bathing cistern, and bowed over a large basin in front of it which Jesus had blessed. The water was thrice poured over their head.
All were clothed in white. After the ceremony they presented to Jesus golden bracelets and earrings for the money box of the disciples. Those articles formed the principal part of their commerce. They were changed into money, which by Jesus’ orders was distributed to the poor. Jesus taught again in the synagogue, cured the sick, and dined with the Levites.
After the meal, accompanied by several people, Jesus went a couple of hours farther on to the north to a little place named Azo, where were many people gathered for the celebration of a feast commemorative of Gideon’s victory begun that evening. Jesus was received outside the city by the Levites. They washed His feet and offered Him to eat, after which He went into the synagogue and taught.
In Jephte’s time, Azo was a fortified city, but was destroyed during the war that called him from the land of Tob. It was in Jesus’ time a very clean little place, the houses in one long row. There were no heathens in it, and the inhabitants were singularly good, industrious, and well-behaved. They had many olive trees skillfully planted on terraces outside the city, and which they carefully tended. Stuffs were also fabricated and embroidered here. The manner of living was the same as at Arga. The people of Azo looked upon themselves as Jews of exceptional purity, since they lived entirely apart from the pagans. Everything was very clean in Azo. The road led down through a gently sloping valley, in which lay the city flanked on the west by a mountain.
When Deborah ruled in Israel and Sisara was slain by Jahel, there lived for a long time at Maspha a woman disguised as a man. She was descended from a woman who had survived the destruction of the tribe of Benjamin to which she belonged. This descendant assumed male attire and knew so well
how to conceal her sex as to arouse the suspicion of no one. She had visions, she prophesied, and often served the Israelites in quality of spy. But whenever they employed her in that way, they met with defeat. The Madianites were encamped at that time near Azo, and that woman went out to them in the dress of a distinguished military officer. She called herself Abinoem after one of the heroes present at the defeat of Sisara. She passed unperceived through several quarters of the camp, spying as she went. At last she entered the general’s tent and expressed her readiness to deliver all Israel into his hands. She had been accustomed to abstain from wine and to conduct herself with great reserve and circumspection. But upon this occasion she became intoxicated, and her sex was discovered. They nailed her hand and foot to a plank, and cast her into a pit with the words: “May even her name be here buried with her!”
It was from Azo that Gedeon went out against the camp of the Madianites. Gedeon was a very handsome, powerful man of the tribe of Manasses. He dwelt with his father near Silo. Israel was in a critical condition at that time. The Madianites and other idolatrous tribes overran the country, laid waste the fields, and carried off the harvest. Gedeon, a son of Joas the Ezrite, dwelling in Ephra, was very brave and liberal. He often threshed his wheat before his neighbors and generously divided it among the needy. I saw him going out at early morn before daybreak, while the dew still lay on the ground, to a very large tree with spreading branches under which his threshing floor lay concealed. The oak covered with its broad branches the wide rocky basin in which it stood. This basin was surrounded by a mound-like wall that reached to the branches of the tree, so that a person standing at the foot of the oak was as if in a large vaulted cave and could not be seen from without. The trunk was, as it were, formed of many single branches wound together. The soil was firm and rocky. Around in the walls were large cavities in which the grain was stored in casks of bark. The threshing was done with a cylinder that revolved on wheels around the tree, and on it were wooden hammers that fell upon the grain. High up in the tree was a seat from which one could see around. The Madianites pitched their tents from Basan down across the Jordan, and even to the very field of Esdrelon. The valley of the Jordan swarmed with grazing camels, which circumstance greatly served Gedeon’s purpose. He reconnoitered for several weeks, and with his three hundred men, moved slowly toward Azo. I saw him slipping unperceived into the camp of the Madianites, and listening to what was said in one of the tents. Just at that moment, a soldier exclaimed to one of his companions: “I have been dreaming that a loaf of bread fell down the mountain and crushed our tent.” The other answered: “That is a bad omen! Gedeon will certainly fall upon us with his Israelites.” On the following night, Gedeon and his handful of warriors, with lighted torches in one hand and the trumpets upon which they were blowing in the other, pressed into the camp. Other bands did the same from opposite sides. The enemy became panic-stricken. They turned their swords against one another, while being slain and routed on all sides by the Children of Israel. The mountain from which the bread rolled down, as seen in the soldier’s dream, was directly back of Azo and it was from there that Gedeon made his attack in person.
The annual commemoration of Gedeon’s victory was now being celebrated in Azo. Outside the city was a large oak on a hill and at its foot an altar of stone. Between this tree and the mountain from which the soldier had seen the bread rolling down, the disguised prophetess lay buried. This tree was different from our oaks. It bore a large fruit with a green husk, under which was an exceedingly hard kernel in a little cup like our acorns. The Jews of Azo used these kernels for the tops of their walking sticks. For the accommodation of the large concourse of people, there was from that tree down to the city a whole row of tabernacles made of foliage and adorned with all kinds of fruit.
Jesus and the disciples went with the Levites in procession to the Ark. Five little he-goats, their necks adorned with red wreaths, were led in advance of the cortege. When they reached the oak, they were shut up in little grated caverns cut out of the side of the hill around the tree. Little cakes were also carried thither for sacrifice, and trumpets were blown. Different passages of Gedeon’s life were read from rolls, and canticles of victory sung. Then the goats were slaughtered and cut up, several pieces along with some of the cakes being laid upon the altar around which the blood was sprinkled. A Levite blew fire from a tube into the wood lying under the grating of the altar, in memory of the angel’s having enkindled Gedeon’s sacrifice with a rod. ( 6:21).
Jesus delivered a discourse to the assembled crowd, and thus the morning passed. In the afternoon He went with the Levites and the principal citizens to a valley south of the city where, around a little fountain, were a public bathing place and pleasure garden. In a garden apart were the women and maidens playing at games and enjoying themselves. An entertainment had been prepared here and, according to an ancient custom, the upper tables were assigned to the poor. Jesus took His place at one of them. He related the parable of the Prodigal Son and told of the calf that his father commanded to be slaughtered for him. He passed the night under a tent on the roof of the synagogue, for the people of this place were accustomed to sleep on the roofs.
The feast was continued during the next day. The tabernacles of foliage were intended for the Feast of Tabernacles also, which was to begin in about fourteen days. Next morning Jesus delivered an instruction in the synagogue, and outside the school cured many blind, many consumptives, and several harmless possessed. After that He partook of a dinner and then left the city, accompanied by the Levites and others, about thirty in all.
The road led first over that mountain from which the soldier had seen the barley loaf rolling down into the camp of the Madianites. ( 7:13). Then the travelers climbed by a defile over another mountain narrow, long, and high, on the opposite side of which they journeyed northward through the valley for about an hour. They reached at last a pleasant little lake near which rose some buildings belonging to the Levites of Azo. A brook flowed through it and down through the valley into the Jordan. About six hours northeastwardly from this point was Betharamphtha-Julias built around a mountain.
Jesus partook of a luncheon by the lake. It consisted of roasted fish, honey, bread, and a beverage of balm from a little jug, all of which the party had with them. The lake was about three hours’ distance from Azo. All along the route, Jesus had related parables of the sower and the stony soil, for it was over such they were then journeying. He also related another of fishes and how to catch them. There were some little boats on the lake fishing with draw nets, the capture being intended for the poor.
An hour and a half distant was Ephron. It could not be seen from here, though the high mountains in its vicinity were distinctly visible. Jesus now took leave of those that had accompanied Him from Azo, and proceeded to Ephron. Azo was the best place He had met on His way in these parts. Jesus was as usual received outside of Ephron by the Levites of the place, and here too were found already waiting for Him a crowd of sick. They lay in wooden chests to which handles were attached for convenience in carrying. Jesus cured them all. Ephron lay on the southern height of a narrow pass through which flowed a stream down into the Jordan. The latter could be seen far away through the defile. The stream of which I speak was often dried up. Opposite Ephron rose a narrow but lofty mountain. It was upon it that Jephte’s daughter with her maids awaited the signal of her father’s victory, namely, the rising of a column of smoke. The moment she descried it, she hurried back to Ramoth whence with great pomp she set out to meet her father. Jesus instructed and cured many here.
The Levites of this place belonged to an ancient sect called Rechabites. Jesus reproached them for the hardness and severity of their opinions, and advised the people not to observe many of their prescriptions. In His instruction He alluded to the punishment of those Levites of Bethsames that had irreverently (too curiously) gazed upon the Ark of the Covenant which had been brought back by the Philistines. ( 6:15 ). The Rechabites were descended from Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. In early times they lived under tents, carried on no husbandry, and abstained from the use of wine. They exercised the office of chanters and gatekeepers in the Temple. Those men that near Bethsames had, contrary to orders, gazed upon the returning Ark and had for so doing been punished with death, were Rechabites who there dwelt under tents. Jeremias tried once, but in vain, to make them drink wine in the Temple. He afterward held up to Israel as an example the obedience of these men to their laws. In Jesus’ time they no longer dwelt under tents, though they still preserved many of their peculiar customs. They wore a hairy ephod (a scapular) as a cilicium [hair shirt] next their skin, and over that a garment made from the skins of beasts. Their outer robe was white, beautiful and clean, and was confined by a broad girdle. One of the points in which they differed from the Essenians was in their better mode of dressing. Their rules relating to purity were excessively strict, and they had very singular customs with regard to marriage. They passed judgment after examining blood drawn from the candidate for marriage. According to this test they decided whether he should marry or not, enjoining it upon some of their sect and forbidding it to others. In early times they were to be found in Argob, Jabesch, and in Judea. They offered no opposition to the words of Jesus, but took His instructions and His reproaches alike humbly and in good part. He reprehended them most of all for their unmerciful severity to adulterers and murderers to whom they granted no quarter. There were on this mountain many foundries and forges. They made pots and gutters, also water pipes. These last were formed of two pieces soldered together.
Jesus in Betharamphtha-Julias. Abigail, the Repudiated Wife of Philip the Tetrarch
From Ephron, Jesus went with His disciples and several of the Rechabites about five hours to the north to Betharamphtha-Julias, a beautiful city situated on a height. On the way He gave an instruction near a mine from which was obtained the copper that was wrought in Ephron. There were some Rechabites in Betharamphtha, and among them priests. Those of Ephron appeared to me to be under their jurisdiction.
The city was large and extended far around a mountain. The western part was inhabited by Jews, the eastern and a portion of the heights by idolaters. The two quarters were separated by a walled in road and a pleasure garden full of shady walks. High on the mountain arose a beautiful castle with its towers, its gardens, and trees. It was occupied by a divorced wife of the Tetrarch Philip, who had settled upon her all the revenues of this part of his territory. She was descended from the kings of Gessur, and had with her five daughters already well grown. She was named Abigail and, although tolerably advanced in years, was still active and beautiful. Her disposition was full of goodness and benevolence.
Philip was older than Herod of Pera and Galilee. He was a pagan of peaceable inclinations, but a lover of pleasure. He was half-brother of the other Herod, born of a different mother, and had first married a widow with one daughter. When Abigail’s husband was dispatched by Philip to a war or to Rome, I know not which, he left his wife behind. She meanwhile was seduced by Philip, who married her, whereupon her husband died of grief. When after some years Philip’s first wife, whom he had repudiated for the sake of Abigail, was about to die, she begged him on her deathbed to have pity at least on her daughter. Philip, who had by this time grown tired of Abigail, married his step-daughter, and banished Abigail and her five daughters to Betharamphtha, called also Julias in honor of a Roman empress. Here she occupied herself in doing good. She was favorably disposed toward the Jews, and cherished a great desire after truth and salvation. She was, however, under the watchful guardianship of some of Philip’s officers, who had to render an account of her. Philip had one son, and his present wife was much younger than himself.
Jesus was received cordially and hospitably in Betharam. The morning after His arrival He cured many sick Jews, and taught that evening in the synagogue, as also on the next morning, His instructions turning upon the tithes and the offering of the firstborn, and the sixtieth of Isaias. ( 26-30, 60).
Abigail was held in esteem by the inhabitants of Betharamphtha. She sent gifts down from her castle to the Jews for the more honorable entertainment of Jesus and His disciples. On the first of the month of Tisri the new year was celebrated, which fact was announced from the roof of the synagogue by all kinds of musical instruments, among them harps and a number of large trumpets with several mouthpieces. I saw again one of those wonderful instruments I had formerly seen on the synagogue of Capharnaum. It was filled with wind by means of a bellows. All the houses and public buildings were adorned on this feast day with flowers and fruit. The different classes of people had different customs. During the night many persons, most of them women clothed in long garments and holding lighted lanterns, prayed upon the tombs. I saw too that all the inhabitants bathed, the women in their houses and the men at the public baths. The married men bathed separate from the youths, as also the elder women from the maidens. As bathing was very frequent among the Jews and water not abundant, they made use of it sparingly. They lay on their back in tubs and, scooping up the water in a shell, poured it over themselves; it was often more like a washing than a bath. They performed their ablutions today at the baths outside the city, in water perfectly cold. Mutual gifts were interchanged, the poor being largely remembered. They commenced by giving them a good entertainment, and on a long rampart were deposited numerous gifts for them, consisting of food, raiment, and covers. Everyone that received presents from his friends bestowed a part of them upon the poor. The Rechabites present superintended and directed all things. They saw what each one gave to the poor and how it was distributed. They kept three lists, in which they secretly recorded the generosity of the donors. One of these lists was called the Book of Life; another, the Middle Way; and the third, the Book of Death. It was customary for the Rechabites to exercise all such offices, while in the Temple they were gatekeepers, treasurers, and above all, chanters. This last office they fulfilled on today’s feast. Jesus also received presents in Betharamphtha of clothing, covers, and money, all of which He caused to be distributed among the poor.
During the feast Jesus went to visit the pagans. Abigail had pressed Him earnestly to come to see her, and the Jews themselves, upon whom she bestowed many benefits, had begged Him to have an interview with her. I saw Jesus with some of His disciples crossing the Jewish quarter of the city to that of the pagans. He reached the public pleasure grounds, pleasant and shady, that lay between the two quarters, and where the Jews and pagans usually met when necessary. Abigail was already there with her suite, her five grown daughters, many other heathen maidens, and some pagan followers. Abigail was a tall, vigorous woman of about fifty years, almost the same age as Philip. She wore an expression of sadness and anxious yearning. She sighed after instruction and conversion to a better life, but she knew not how to set about its attainment, for she was not allowed to act freely and was jealously watched by her wardens. She cast herself at Jesus’ feet. He raised her up and, walking up and down, instructed her and her companions. He spoke of the fulfillment of the Prophecies, of the
vocation of the Gentiles, and of Baptism. From all the places at which Jesus had been since He left Ennon proceeded caravans of Jews and Gentiles thither in uninterrupted succession, to receive Baptism from the disciples left there for that purpose. Andrew, James the Less, John, and the disciples of John the Baptist were all busy administering Baptism. Messengers were constantly going and coming between them and the imprisoned Baptist.
Jesus received from Abigail the customary marks of honor. She had appointed Jewish servants to wash His feet and to offer Him the refreshments usually extended to strangers as tokens of welcome. She very humbly begged His pardon for desiring an interview with Him, but, as she said, she had so long sighed after His instructions. She begged Him to take part in an entertainment she had prepared in His honor. Jesus was very condescending toward all, but especially toward Abigail herself. His every word and glance made a strong impression on her soul. She was full of anxiety, and was not without some glimmering of the truth. This instruction to the pagans lasted till nearly afternoon. Then at Abigail’s invitation Jesus passed to the east side of the city not far from the pagan temple. There were many baths in the vicinity and a kind of public feast going on, for the heathens also celebrated the new moon today with special magnificence. In coming hither Jesus took the road that separated the two quarters of the city, the Jewish from the heathen. In the abodes formed in the walls were many poor, sick pagans lying in chests full of straw and chaff. The destitute among the heathens were numerous. As yet Jesus cured none of their sick.
On the pleasure grounds of the heathens, where the entertainment was prepared, Jesus taught for a long time, sometimes walking around, and again during the meal. He made use of all kinds of parables relating to animals, in order to illustrate to them their own vain and fruitless lives. He spoke of the unwearied and often useless labor of the spider, of the active industry of the ant and wasp, and placed before them as a contrast the beautifully ordered work of the bee. The viands of the entertainment, at which Abigail assisted in person, reclining at the table, were for the most part distributed at Jesus’ request to the poor. There were also on this day great solemnities in the pagan temple, a very magnificent building with large open porticos on five sides through which was afforded a view into the interior. It was capped by a high cupola. There were many idols in the different halls of the temple, the principal one being named Dagon. The upper part of its body was like a human being, the lower part like a fish. There were others in the form of animals, but none so beautiful as the idols of the Greeks and Romans. I saw young maidens hanging wreaths on and around the idols, then singing and dancing before them, while the pagan priests burnt incense on a little three-legged table. On the cupola was a very wonderful and ingenious piece of mechanism which revolved the whole night. It was a brilliant globe covered with stars. As it slowly revolved, it could be seen from the interior of the temple as well as from without. It represented something connected with the course of the stars and the new moon, or the new year. The globe revolved slowly. When it had reached one of the extreme points in its orbit, the songs and rejoicings in the temple ceased on the opposite side, to be taken up on that to which the globe had turned.
Not far from the festive scene where Jesus had been entertained was a large pleasure garden, and in it were the young girls amusing themselves at various games. Their robes were slightly raised and their lower limbs strapped with bands. They were armed with bows, arrows, and little spears wreathed with flowers. A kind of race course had been ingeniously formed of branches, flowers, and decorations of all kinds, along which the girls ran, shooting their arrows at the same time after the birds that were fastened here and there for that purpose, and darting their spears at the different animals, the kids and little asses, that were fenced in around the course. On this festal race course was a horrible idol with broad, open jaws like a beast, and hands hanging before it like a human being. It was hollow, and under it blazed a fire. The animals killed by the girls were placed in its jaws, where they were consumed, their ashes falling into the fire below. Those that had escaped the darts of the young huntresses were set aside and regarded as sacred. The priests laid upon them the sins of the people and set them free. It was something like the Jewish scapegoat. Were it not for the torture of the animals, so painful to behold, and the horrible idol, the fleetness and skill of the young girls would have been a very pleasing sight. The feast lasted till evening and, when the moon rose, animals were offered in sacrifice. When night closed, the whole temple and Abigail’s castle were ablaze with torches.
Jesus taught again after the repast. Many of the heathens were converted and went to Ennon for Baptism. That evening Jesus went up the mountain by torchlight and had an interview with Abigail in the portico of her castle. Near her were some of Philip’s officers, who watched her constantly. Her every action was on that account one of constraint, and she gave the Lord to understand her embarrassing position by the look she cast upon those men. Jesus, however, knew her whole interior and the bonds that held her captive. He had compassion upon her. She asked whether she might hope for pardon from God. One thing in particular constantly harassed her, namely, her infidelity to her lawful husband and his death. Jesus comforted her, saying that her sins would be forgiven her, she should continue her good works, persevere and pray. She was of the race of Jebusites. These heathens were accustomed to allow their deformed children to perish, and were very superstitious about the signs that accompanied their birth.
In all the places through which Jesus had passed lately, preparations were busily going forward for the Feast of Tabernacles. They were transporting lathwork from place to place and putting up light tents and huts made of foliage here and there on the roofs of Betharamphtha. The maidens were busied with plants and flowers which they put into water and set in the cellars to keep fresh. There were so many fast days before the feast, and so much was needed on account of the entertainments given upon it, that everything had to be prepared some time before. Such cares were entrusted to many of the poor, who received food and money in return for their services. When all was over they were entertained at a grand feast and again recompensed. In all these places no open shops were to be seen. Outside the Temple in Jerusalem, there were some places around upon which stood shops; in other cities, here and there, but chiefly at the gate, was a tent in which covers were sold. One never saw in Palestine people sitting together in the public houses. Here and there in the corner of a wall might be seen a man standing with a leathern bottle or pitcher. The traveler in passing got his little jug replenished, but rarely did he sit down to drink. A drunkard was never seen on the streets. The water vendors carried a pole across the shoulder on which were hung two leathern bottles, one in front, the other behind. As for dishes and vessels of iron, to procure them a man had to mount his ass and go to where they were fabricated.
On the following day Jesus cured, on the walled in road between the Jewish and the heathen quarters, all the poor, sick pagans who were lying so miserably in the cavities of the wall, and the disciples distributed alms among them. After that until the time of His departure, Jesus taught in the synagogue. As the feast then celebrated was likewise commemorative of the sacrifice of Isaac, Jesus spoke of the true Isaac, but His hearers did not understand Him. In all these places, He alluded very significantly to the Messiah, though without saying in express terms that it was Himself.