Jesus in Iscariot and Dothan. Cure of Issachar
Next morning Jesus left the inn with the disciples and journeyed eastward to Iscariot, distant not quite an hour. On the swampy ground of a deep ravine stood a row of houses, about twenty-five, near a stream of water black and full of reeds. Here and there it was dammed so as to form pools for tanning. Very frequently this water failed, and then they had to let in other sources. The cattle for slaughter belonging to Meroz were pastured around these parts. When needed in Meroz, they were slaughtered here, then flayed, and the hide handed over to the tanners of Iscariot. The ravine in which the little place lay was directly to the north of Machmethat. The tanner’s trade, on account of the odors attending it, was held in detestation by the Jews. Although for tanning the hides of the slaughtered cattle pagan slaves and others of the most despised races were needed, yet in Meroz they dwelt apart from the other inhabitants. In Iscariot no calling was carried on but tanning, and it seemed to me that most of the houses of this place belonged to old Simeon, the uncle of Judas.
Judas was very dear and quite useful to his old uncle in his leather trade. Sometimes he dispatched him with asses to purchase raw hides, sometimes with prepared leather to the seaport towns, for he was a clever and cunning broker and commission merchant. Still he was not at this time a villain, and had he overcome himself in little things, he would not have fallen so low. The Blessed Virgin very often warned him, but he was extremely vacillating. He was susceptible of very vehement, though not lasting repentance. His head was always running on the establishment of an earthly kingdom, and when he found that not likely to be fulfilled, he began to appropriate the money entrusted to his care. He was therefore greatly vexed that the worth of Magdalen’s ointment had not passed as alms through his hands. It was at the last Feast of Tabernacles in Jesus’ lifetime that Judas began to go to the bad. When he betrayed Jesus for money, he never dreamed of His being put to death. He thought his Master would soon be released; his only desire was to make a little money.
Judas was, here in Iscariot, very obliging and ready to serve; he was perfectly at home. His uncle, the tanner Simeon, a very busy and active man, received Jesus and the disciples at some distance from the place, washed their feet, and offered the customary refreshments. Jesus and the disciples visited his house where were his family, consisting of his wife, his children, and his servants.
Jesus paid a visit to the opposite side of the place where, in the midst of a field, was a kind of pleasure garden in which the tabernacles were still standing. All the inhabitants of the place were here assembled. Jesus taught upon the parable of the sower and the different kinds of soil. He exhorted the people to let the instructions they had heard from Him on the mountain near Meroz find good soil in their hearts.
Jesus afterward, with the disciples and Simeon’s family, took a little repast standing. During it old Simeon begged Him to admit Judas his nephew, whom he praised in many ways, to a participation in His teachings and His Kingdom. Jesus responded in pretty much the same terms as He had used toward Judas himself: “Everyone may have a share therein, provided he is resolved not to relinquish his portion to another.” Jesus performed no cures here, for the sick had already been healed on the mountain.
Jesus and the disciples went from Iscariot back toward the west almost as far as the inn. Then turning to the north, they traversed the valley having the mountain upon which Jesus had taught to the left, turned somewhat northwestwardly, then again to the north, and journeyed along a low mountain terrace toward Dothan, which could be seen lying low in the eastern vale of the plain of Esdrelon. To the east rose the mountains above, and to the west lay the valley below it.
Jesus was accompanied by three troops of men who, having been present at His instructions on the mountain, were now returning in bands to their homes for the Sabbath. When one party left Him, another came up to bear Him company. It was almost three hours from the inn to Dothan, a place as large as Munster. I had a vision in which I saw that it was here that the soldiers sent by Jeroboam to seize Eliseus were struck blind. Dothan had five gates and as many principal streets; it was traversed likewise by two highways. One of the latter led from Galilee down to Samaria and Judea; the other came from the opposite side of the Jordan and ran through the valley of Apheca and Ptolomais on the sea. Trade in wood was carried on in Dothan. On the mountain chain around here and near Samaria there was still much wood; but across the Jordan near Hebron, and at the Dead Sea, the mountains are quite bare. I saw in the neighborhood of Dothan much work going on under tents in the preparation of wood. All sorts of beams for the different parts of ships were put into shape, and long, thin slats were prepared for wicker partitions. Outside the gates on the highways that crossed each other in Dothan were several inns.
Jesus went with the disciples to the synagogue, where a crowd was already assembled, among them many Pharisees and Doctors. They must have had some intimation of Jesus’ coming, for they were so polite as to receive Him in the court outside the synagogue, wash His feet, and present to Him the customary refection. Then they conducted Him in and handed Him the roll of the Law. The sermon was on the death of Sara, Abraham’s second marriage with Ketura, and the Dedication of Solomon’s Temple.
The Sabbath instructions over, Jesus went to an inn outside the city. There He found Nathanael the bridegroom, two sons of Cleophas and His Mother’s eldest sister, and a couple of the other disciples who had come hither for the Sabbath. There were now about seventeen disciples with Him. The people from the house on Lazarus’ estate near Ginaea, where Jesus stopped recently when He went to Ataroth, were also here to celebrate the Sabbath.
Dothan was a beautiful, well-built old city, very agreeably situated. In the rear, though at a considerable distance, arose a mountain chain, and in front it looked out upon the delightful plain of Esdrelon. The mountains of this region are not so steep and rugged. Peak rises above peak, and the roads are better. The houses were of the old style, like those in David’s time. Many had little turrets on the corners of the flat roofs capped by large domes, or cupolas, in which an observer could sit and view the surrounding locality. It was from such a cupola that David saw Bethsabee. There were also on the roofs galleries of roses and even of trees.
Jesus entered many of the fore courts of the dwellings, where He found sick whom He cured. The occupants standing at their doors implored Him to come in, which He did accompanied by two of the disciples. They also in different places begged the disciples to intercede for them, which they accordingly did. Jesus went likewise to the place in which the lepers abode, separated from all others, and there He healed the sufferers. There were many lepers in this city. It may have been on account of their frequent communication with strangers for trading purposes, for besides the trade in wood, the inhabitants of Dothan carried on other branches of industry. They imported carpets, raw silk, and similar goods which they unpacked and again exported.
I saw goods like the above at the house of the sick man whom Jesus was entreated by Nathanael to visit. Nathanael lived at his house. It was a very elegant looking dwelling surrounded by courtyards and open colonnades, and situated not far from the synagogue. The occupant was a wealthy man of about fifty years named Issachar, who was suffering from dropsy. Notwithstanding his miserable condition, Issachar had a few days previously to the coming of Jesus espoused a young woman named Salome, aged twenty-five years. This union was according to legal prescription analogous to that of Ruth and Booz—it gave Salome the right to inherit Issachar’s property. The evil tongues of the city, especially the Pharisees, found great fault with this marriage, which at once became the general talk. But Issachar and Salome put their trust in Jesus, for at His last visit to this part of the country, they had recommended their affairs to Him.
The family had been long acquainted with Jesus, even during the lifetime of Salome’s parents, for Mary and Joseph when journeying from Nazareth to visit Elizabeth had found hospitality with them. This happened shortly before the Paschal solemnity. Joseph went with Zachary from Hebron to Jerusalem for the feast, after which he returned to Hebron and then went home leaving Mary there. Thus had Jesus, while still in His Mother’s womb, received hospitality in this house, to which He now came thirty-one years later as the Saviour of mankind, to discharge in the person of their sick son the debt of gratitude He owed to the goodness of the parents.
Salome was the child of this house and the widow of Issachar’s brother, Issachar himself being the widower of Salome’s sister. The house and all the property were to revert to Salome, for neither she nor Issachar had had children by the previous union. They were childless and the only descendants of an illustrious race. They had espoused each other trusting to the merciful healing power of Jesus. Salome was allied to Joseph’s family. She was originally from Bethlehem, and Joseph’s father was accustomed to call her grandfather by the title of brother, although he was not really his brother. They had a descendant of the family of David among their forefathers who, I think, was also a king. His name sounds like Ela. It was through respect to this ancient friendship that Mary and Joseph were there entertained. Issachar was of the tribe of Levi.
Upon His entrance into the house Jesus was met by Salome, her maids, and the other servants of the household. Salome cast herself at Jesus’ feet and begged her husband’s cure. Jesus went with her into the chamber of the sick man, who lay covered up on his couch, for he was dropsical as well as paralyzed on one side. Jesus saluted him and spoke to him words full of kindness. The sick man was very much touched and gratefully acknowledged the salutation, though he could not rise. Then Jesus prayed, touched the sufferer, and gave him His hand. Instantly the sick man arose, threw another garment around him, and left his bed, when he and his wife cast themselves at Jesus’ feet. The Lord addressed them a few words of exhortation, blessed them, promised them posterity, and then led them out of the chamber to their assembled household, who were all filled with joy. The miraculous cure was kept a secret all that day.
Issachar invited Jesus and all His followers to stay that night at his house and, after the exercises of the synagogue, to dine with him. Jesus accepted the invitation, and then went to preach in the synagogue. Toward the end of His discourse the Pharisees and Sadducees began to strive against Him. From the explanation of Abraham’s marriage with Ketura, He had come to speak of marriage itself. The Pharisees broached that of Issachar and Salome. They declared it insane in a man so sick and old to marry a young woman. Jesus replied that the couple had married in obedience to the Law,
and He asked how could they, who held so strictly to the same, blame them. They answered by asking how He could look upon such a union as prescribed by the Law, since so old and sick a man could hope for no blessing on his marriage, consequently such an affair was no other than a scandal. Jesus responded: “His faith has preserved to him the fruit of wedlock. Do ye set limits to the almighty power of God? Has not the sick man married in obedience to the Law? In trusting in God and believing that He will help him, he has done excellently well. But this is not the cause of your indignation. Ye hoped that this family would die out for want of heirs, and then ye would get their property into your own hands.” Then He cited the example of many devout old people whose faith had been rewarded with posterity, and said many other things upon the subject of matrimony. The Pharisees were furious, but had not a word in reply.
The Sabbath over, Jesus left the synagogue and, accompanied by the disciples, went to Issachar’s, where a grand banquet had been prepared for Him. Jesus, the disciples related to Him, and Issachar himself sat at one table, while Salome, the wife, came and went doing the honors of the same. The other disciples ate in a side hall. Previously to sitting down Jesus had healed several sick. It was dusk, and the miracles were performed by torchlight outside the synagogue and near Issachar’s dwelling, where the sick had gathered. I saw among the disciples Judas Iscariot, Bartholomew, and Thomas, also an own brother and a stepbrother of the last named. Thomas had two stepbrothers. They had come thither for the Sabbath from Apheca, seven hours distant, and they put up at Issachar’s, Thomas being well-known to him on account of his commercial pursuits. Though he had acquaintances among the disciples, he had never yet spoken to Jesus, for he was anything but obtrusive. James the Less also had come from Capharnaum for the Sabbath, likewise Nathanael, the son of the widow Anna, eldest daughter of Cleophas, who was now living with Martha. Nathanael was the youngest of her sons engaged at Zebedee’s fishery. He was about twenty years old, gentle and amiable, with something of the appearance of John. He had been reared in the house of his grandfather, and was nicknamed “Little Cleophas,” in order to distinguish him from the other Nathanaels. I learned that on this Sabbath when I heard Jesus say: “Call little Cleophas to Me!”
The entertainment consisted of birds, fish, honey, and bread. There were in this city numbers of pigeons, turtledoves, and colored birds which ran like hens around the houses, and often took flight to the beautiful plain of Jezrael. During the meal, Issachar spoke of Mary. He recalled the fact of her having been in that house in her youth, and said that his wife’s parents had often related the circumstance, telling how young and beautiful and pious she was. He expressed the hope that God, who had cured him through Joseph’s Son (he guessed not his Saviour’s origin), would likewise give him posterity. All the disciples found hospitality at this house. There were large, open porticos around it on which beds were prepared for them, separated from one another by movable partitions. Of the Dothanites, some were very good, and some very bad. On account of the antique style of its houses, Dothain compared with the other cities in its neighborhood as Cologne with our other German towns.
Next morning when Jesus and the disciples went to walk outside the city, Thomas approached and begged Jesus to admit him to the number of His disciples. He promised to follow Him and fulfill all His commands for, as he said, by His preaching and by the miracles he had witnessed, he was convinced of the truth of what John and all the disciples of his acquaintance had said about Him. He begged, also, to be allowed a part in His Kingdom. Jesus replied that he was no stranger to Him and that He knew that he, Thomas, would come to Him. But Thomas would not subscribe to that, He asserted that he had never before thought of taking such a step, for he was no friend of novelty, and had only now determined upon it since he was convinced of His truth by His miracles. Jesus responded: “Thou speakest like Nathanael. Thou dost esteem thyself wise, and yet thou talkest foolishly. Shall not the gardener know the trees of his garden? The vinedresser, his vines? Shall he set out a vineyard, and not know the servants whom he sends into it?” Then He related a similitude of the cultivation of figs upon thorns.
Two of John’s disciples who had been sent to Jesus by the Baptist had an interview here with Jesus and then returned to Machaerus. They had been present at the sermon on the mountain near Meroz and had witnessed the miracles there performed. They belonged to the disciples that had followed their master to the place of his imprisonment and had received his instructions outside his prison. They were warmly attached to him. As they had never witnessed any of Jesus’ actions, John had sent them to Him that they might be convinced of the truth of what he himself had told them of Him. He commissioned them to beg Jesus in his name to declare openly and precisely who He was and to establish His Kingdom on earth. These disciples told Jesus that they were now convinced of all that John had announced of Him, and they inquired whether He would not soon go to free John from prison. John, they said, hoped to be released through Him, and they themselves were longing for Him to establish His Kingdom and set their master at liberty. They thought that would be a more profitable miracle than even His curing the sick. Jesus replied that He knew that John was longing and hoping soon to be freed from imprisonment, and that he should indeed be released, but that He should go to Machaerus and deliver John who had prepared His ways, John himself never even dreamed. Jesus ended by commanding them to announce to John all that they had seen and say to him that He would fulfill His mission.
I do not know whether John was aware that Jesus was to be crucified and that His Kingdom was not to be an earthly one. I think that he thought Jesus, after converting and freeing the people, would establish a holy Kingdom upon earth.
Toward noon Jesus and the disciples returned to the city and to Issachar’s, where many people were already assembled. The mistress and domestics were busy preparing the noonday meal. Back of the house was a charming spot in the center of which was a beautiful fountain surrounded by summerhouses. The fountain was regarded as sacred, for it had been blessed by Eliseus. There was a handsome chair nearby for the preacher’s use and around it an enclosed space with shade trees, in which quite a number might assemble for instructions. Several times in the year, especially at Pentecost, public instructions were given here. There were besides, in the region of the fountain, places with long, stone stalls or narrow terraces, where caravans and the crowds going to Jerusalem at the Paschal time could rest and take refreshments. Issachar’s house stood near enough to command a view of the fountain and its surroundings. The arrangements of the resting place and the customs observed there were also superintended from Issachar’s, where a kind of freight business was carried on. The caravans unloaded and unpacked their goods here for Issachar to forward to other places, and very frequently the merchants and their servants received hospitality at his house, although it was not a public inn. Issachar’s business was like that of the father of the bride of Cana in Galilee. The beautiful fountain had one inconvenience. It was so deep that the water could be pumped only with great fatigue. When pumped up, it ran into basins standing around.
There were crowds assembled around the fountain on the invitation of Jesus and Issachar. Jesus, from the teacher’s chair, delivered a discourse to the people on the fulfillment of the Promise, the nearness of the Kingdom, on penance and conversion, and of the way to implore the mercy of God and to receive His graces and miracles. He alluded to Eliseus, who had formerly taught in this same place. The Syrians sent to take him prisoner were struck with blindness. Then Eliseus conducted them to Samaria into the hands of their enemies, but far from allowing them to be put to death, he entertained them hospitably, restored their sight, and sent them back to their king. Jesus applied this to the Son of Man and the persecution He endured from the Pharisees. He spoke also for a long time of prayer and good works, related the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, and told His hearers that they ought to adorn and perfume themselves on their fast days instead of parading their piety before the people. The inhabitants of this place, who were very much oppressed by the Pharisees and Sadducees, were greatly encouraged by Jesus’ teaching. But the Pharisees and Sadducees, on the contrary, were enraged upon seeing the joyous multitude and hearing the words of Jesus. Their rage increased when they beheld Issachar in perfect health going around among the people, joyfully helping the disciples and his own servants to distribute food to them as they seated themselves along the stone benches. This sight so exasperated them that they stormed violently against Jesus. It looked as if they were about to take Him into custody. They began again to rail at His curing on the Sabbath. Jesus bade them listen to Him calmly. He placed them in a circle around Him and, making use of His customary argument, said to the chief among them: “If on the Sabbath you should happen to fall into the well here, would you not wish to be drawn out at once?” And so He continued to speak until they slunk back, covered with confusion. After this Jesus left the city with several of His disciples, and descended into the valley that runs from south to northwest of Dothan.
Issachar had distributed large alms in Dothan, and sent also to the inn of the little community asses with various necessaries. The provisions and beverages provided by the disciples and which had become somewhat stale, he caused to be exchanged for better. He gave to each of them a cup like those used at Cana, and a flat jug, or pitcher, made of white material with a ring by which it could hang. The stoppers were a kind of sponge tightly compressed. The jugs contained a refreshing drink made of balm. He gave likewise to each disciple a sum of money for alms and other necessities.
Judas Iscariot and many other disciples returned from Dothan to their own homes. Jesus kept with Him only nine, among whom were Thomas, James the Less, Jude Barsabas, Simon Thaddeus, little Cleophas (Nathanael), Manahem, and Saturnin.
After Jesus’ departure, the Pharisees recommenced their mockery and insults. They said to the people: “One can easily see who He is. He has allowed Himself to be sumptuously entertained by Issachar. His disciples are a set of lazy vagrants whom He supports and feasts at the expense of others. If He did right, He would stay at home and support His poor Mother. His father was a poor carpenter. But that respectable calling does not suit Him, and so He goes wandering around disturbing the whole country.”
While Issachar was distributing his alms, he constantly repeated: “Help yourselves freely! Take freely! It is not mine. It belongs to the Father in Heaven. Thank Him, for it is only lent to me!”
Jesus Goes From Dothan to Endor. Cure of a Pagan Boy
After a journey of about five hours, and night having set in, Jesus and the disciples arrived at a lonely inn where only sleeping accommodations were to be found. Nearby was a well that owed its origin to Jacob. The disciples gathered wood and made a fire. On the way Jesus had had a long conversation with them, intended principally for the instruction of Thomas, Simon, Manahem, “Little Cleophas,” and the others newly received. He spoke of their following Him, and through the deep conviction of the worthlessness of earthly goods, of their leaving their relatives without regret and without looking back. He promised that what they had left should be restored to them in His Kingdom a thousand fold. But they should reflect maturely whether or not they could break their earthly ties.
To some of the disciples, and especially to Thomas, Judas Iscariot was not particularly pleasing. He did not hesitate to say plainly to Jesus that he did not like Judas Simonis, because he was too ready to say and . Why, he asked, had He admitted that man among His disciples, since He had been so difficult to please in others. Jesus answered evasively that from eternity it was decreed by God for Judas, like all the others, to be of the number of His disciples.
When the disciples had retired to rest, Jesus went alone into the mountains to pray.
Early the next morning some inhabitants of Sunem came to Jesus at the inn earnestly begging Him to go with them, for they had some children seriously sick whom they wished Him to cure. Sunem was a couple of hours to the east of where Jesus then was. The poor people had long been vainly expecting Jesus’ coming. But Jesus replied that He could not go then, because others were awaiting Him, but that He would send His disciples to them. They rejoined that they had already had some of them in their town, but the cure of their children had not followed. They insisted upon His coming Himself. Jesus exhorted them to patience, and they left Him.
He now went with His disciples to Endor. On the road from Dothan to Endor were two wells of Jacob, to which his herds used to be led, and for which he often had to struggle with the Amorrhites.
Lazarus owned a field near Jezrael at some distance from Endor. Joachim and Anne owned another two hours to the northeast of Endor, and it was to it that the latter accompanied Mary on her journey to Bethlehem. It was from this field that the little she-ass, that ran on so gaily before the holy travelers, had been taken to be presented to Joseph. Joachim owned another field on the opposite side of the Jordan on the confines of the desert and forest of Ephraim, and not far from Gaser. Thither had he retired to pray when he returned sad from the Temple, and there, too, had he received the command to go to Jerusalem, where Anne would meet him under the Golden Gate.
Jesus paused at a row of houses outside of Endor and taught. At the earnest request of the people, He entered some of them and cured the sick, several of whom had been carried thither from Endor. Among the sufferers were some pagans, but they remained at a distance. One pagan however, a citizen of Endor, approached Jesus. He had with him a boy of seven years possessed of a dumb devil, and he was often so violent that he could not be restrained. As the man drew near Jesus, the boy became quite unmanageable, broke loose from his father, and crept into a hole in the mountain. The father cast himself at Jesus’ feet, bewailing his misery. Jesus went to the hole and commanded the boy to come forth before his Master. At these words, the boy came out meekly and fell on his knees before Jesus, who laid His hands upon him and commanded Satan to withdraw. The boy became unconscious for a few moments, while a dark vapor issued from him. Then he arose and ran full of talk to his father, who embraced him, and both went and fell on their knees before Jesus, giving thanks. Jesus addressed some words of admonition to the father, and commanded him to go to Ennon to be baptized. Jesus did not enter Endor. The suburb in which He was, possessed more beautiful edifices than the city itself. There was something about Endor that spoke of death. Part of the city was a waste, its walls in ruins, its streets overgrown with grass. Many of the inhabitants were heathens under the power of the Jews, and were obliged to labor at all kinds of public works. The few rich Jews found in Endor used to peep timidly out of their doors and quickly draw in their heads, as if they feared that someone was stealing their money behind their back.
From here Jesus went two hours to the northeast into a valley that ran from the Plain of Esdrelon to the Jordan, north of Mount Gelboe. In this valley lay on a hill, like an island, the city of Abez, a place of moderate grandeur surrounded by gardens and groves. A little river flowed before it, and eastward in the valley was a beautiful fountain, called Saul’s Fountain because Saul was once wounded there. Jesus did not go into the city, but to a row of houses on the northern declivity of Mount Gelboe between the gardens and fields, on the latter of which were high heaps of grain. Here He went into an inn in which a crowd of old men and women, His own relatives, were awaiting Him. They washed His feet and showed Him every mark of genuine confidence and reverence. They were in number about fifteen, nine men and six women, who had sent Him word that they would meet Him here. Several of them were accompanied by their servants and children. They were mostly very aged persons, relatives of Anne, Joachim, and Joseph. One was a young half-brother of Joseph, who dwelt in the valley of Zabulon. Another was the father of the bride of Cana. Anne’s relatives from the region of Sephoris, where at His last visit to Nazareth, Jesus had restored sight to the blind boy, were among them. All had journeyed hither in a body and on asses in order to see and speak with Jesus. Their desire was that He would fix His abode somewhere and cease wandering about. They wanted Him to seek a place where He could teach in peace and where there were no Pharisees. They set before Him the great danger He ran, since the Pharisees and other sects were so embittered against Him. “We are well aware,” they said, “of the miracles and graces that proceed from Thee. But we beg Thee to have some settled home where Thou canst quietly teach, that we may not be in constant anxiety on Thy account.” They even began to propose to Him different places which they thought suitable.
These pious, simple-hearted people made this proposal to Jesus out of their great love for Him. The bitter taunts uttered in their hearing against Him by the evil-minded gave them pain. Jesus replied in affectionate, but vigorous terms, very different from those He was accustomed to use when addressing the multitude or the disciples. He spoke in plain words, explained the Promise, and showed them that it was His part to fulfill the will of His Father in Heaven. He told them moreover that He had not come for rest, not for any particular persons, nor for His own relatives, but for all mankind. All indiscriminately were His brethren, all were His relatives. Love rests not. Whoever dreams of succoring misery, must seek out the poor. After the comforts of this life He did not aim, for His Kingdom was not of this world. Jesus took a great deal of trouble with these good old people, who listened with ever increasing astonishment to His words, whose deep significance gradually unfolded to their understanding. Their earnestness and their love for Jesus grew at each moment. He took them separately for a walk on the shady part of the mountain, where He instructed and comforted them, each according to his or her special needs, and after that He spoke to them again all together. And so the day closed, and they took together a simple repast of bread, honey, and dried fruits which they had brought with them.
That evening the disciples presented to Jesus a young man from the environs of Endor, the son of a schoolmaster. He was a student preparing to hold a position similar to that of his father. He begged Jesus to receive him among His disciples. He had been informed, he said, that Jesus might perhaps have some need of him, that He might possibly give him some office. Jesus replied that He had no need of him, that the knowledge He came to bring upon earth was different from that which he had acquired, that he was too attached to material things, and so He sent him away.
About noon on the following day, Jesus’ relatives started for Mount Thabor, where they separated and returned to their homes in different directions. Jesus had quite consoled and enlightened the good, old people, had infused new life into them. Although they may not have understood all that He told them, yet they felt a great calm fall upon their soul, and they journeyed home with the firm conviction that He had spoken divine words and that He knew better what to do and how to shape His course than they could tell Him. Still more touching than their meeting was their departure when, with tears and smiles and gracious nods, their demeanor expressive of confidence mingled with respectful reserve, they took their way down through the valley. Some rode on asses, others went on foot leaning on their long staves, and all with their garments girded for travelling. Jesus and the disciples, after helping them to mount their asses and arrange their bundles, accompanied them a part of the way.
Jesus in Abez and Dabereth on Thabor
Jesus and the disciples now went through the valley to a beautiful well, about a quarter of an hour east of Abez. Several women were standing by it, having come out of the city to draw water. When they saw Jesus coming, some of them hurried into the neighboring houses and soon came back accompanied by several men and women. They brought basins and towels, bread and small fruits in baskets; they washed His feet, and gave Him and the disciples to eat. Many others had joined the little group, and Jesus delivered to them an instruction. Then they conducted Him into the city where He was met at the gate by children, little girls and boys, bearing wreaths and festoons of flowers. They surrounded Him in triumph, and at every step, at every street corner their numbers increased. The disciples, thinking the throng too great, wanted to send the children away. But Jesus exclaimed: “Do ye fall back, and let the little ones come forward!” At these words the children pressed around Him more closely than before. He embraced them, pressed them to His Heart, and blessed them. The mothers and fathers were looking on from the doors and vestibules of their courtyards. At last He reached the synagogue, where He preached to a crowded assembly. That evening He cured some invalids at their own homes. A repast was laid under an arbor still standing from the Feast of Tabernacles, and of it many people of the city partook.
Thomas had gone back from Endor to Apheca, I saw here in Abez some women afflicted with an issue of blood. They mingled with the crowd, slipped behind Jesus, kissed the hem of His robe, and were cured. In large cities such women would have remained at a distance; in smaller places they were not so punctilious.
A messenger from Cana came to Jesus in Abez. The chief magistrate of the city implored Him to come to see his son, who was seriously sick. Jesus tranquilized him and told him to wait yet a little while. Then two Jewish messengers arrived from Capharnaum. They had been dispatched to Him by a pagan who had already, through the disciples, implored Jesus’ aid in behalf of his sick servant. They begged Him earnestly to return at once with them to Capharnaum, for the servant was nigh unto death. Jesus replied that He would go in His own good time, that the man was not dying. The messengers, hearing this, remained for the instruction.
The inhabitants of Abez were chiefly Galaadites of Jabes. They had settled here in the time of the High Priest Heli in consequence of a struggle that had arisen among the people of Galaad. The Judge ruling at that time was consulted in the affair, and he decided that some of the Galaadites should remove to Abez. Saul was wounded near the well of Abez and, on one of the heights to the south, breathed his last. From this circumstance the well was called Saul’s Well. The people of Abez belonged to the middle class of society. They made baskets and mats of reeds that grew abundantly in the neighboring morasses formed by the streams running down from the mountains. They prepared also wicker work for putting light huts together, and gave some attention to agriculture and grazing.
Saul and the Witch of Endor
The Israelites were drawn up before Endor near Jezrael, and the Philistines were marching against them from Sunem. The struggle had already begun when Saul, with two companions—all three in the garb of prophets—went in the darkness of evening to the witch of Endor, who dwelt in some old ruins outside the city. She was a poor, despised creature still somewhat young. Her husband went around the country with a puppet show upon his back, practicing sorcery and exhibiting his wonders to the soldiers of the garrisons and other idlers. When Saul resolved to consult the witch, he was already half desperate. The witch at first was unwilling to satisfy his desire. She was afraid of its coming to the ears of King Saul, who had strictly prohibited all dealing in witchcraft. But Saul assured her with a solemn oath that that should not happen. Then she led him from the room in which they were, and which had nothing extraordinary in its appearance, to an obscure cellar. Saul demanded that Samuel’s spirit should be evoked. The witch drew a circle around Saul and his companions, traced signs around the circle, and spun threads of colored wool in all sorts of figures before and around Saul. She stood at some distance in front of him, a basin of water on the ground before her, and plates like metallic mirrors in her hands. These latter she waved toward each other and over the water, muttering some words and at times calling something aloud. She had previously directed Saul through which part of the crossed threads he was to gaze. By her diabolical skill, she was able to bring up before the eyes of her interrogators scenes of whole campaigns, battles, and the figures of those engaged in them. Such a delusion she was now preparing to evoke for Saul, when suddenly she beheld near her an apparition. Out of herself with astonishment and dread, she let the mirror fall into the basin and cried out: “Thou hast deceived me! Thou art Saul!” Saul bade her fear nothing, but say to him what she then saw. She replied: “I see a saint rising out of the earth.” Saul beheld nothing, and again he questioned: “What does he look like?” The woman, trembling with fear, answered: “An old man in priestly robes!” and with these words she rushed past Saul and out of the cave. When Saul beheld Samuel, he fell prostrate on his face. Samuel spoke: “Why hast thou troubled my repose? The chastisement of God will soon fall upon thee! Tomorrow thou wilt be with me among the dead, the Philistines shall conquer Israel, and David will be king.” At these words Saul, overcome by grief and horror, lay on the ground like one dead. His companions raised him and placed him leaning against the wall. They tried to rouse him, the woman brought bread and meat, but he refused to eat. The witch advised him not to engage in the battle, but to retire to Abez where the inhabitants, being Galaadites, would give him a good reception. Saul went thither next morning at dawn. The Israelites were routed beyond Mount Gelboe. Saul was attacked not by the whole army of Philistines, but only by a roving party. He was at the moment seated in his chariot, with an officer standing behind him. The Philistines, rushing by, shot spears and arrows at him, though not dreaming that it was Saul himself. He was grievously wounded, and his attendants led the chariot to the plain south of the valley and out of the road upon which Jesus had yesterday been with His relatives. When Saul felt himself mortally wounded, he requested his officer to kill him at once, but the latter refused. Then Saul, supporting himself in the chariot, which had a railing in front, tried to fall on the point of his own sword, but he could not succeed. The officer, seeing his determination, opened that swinging railing in front of the chariot, thus enabling Saul to fall on his sword, while at the same instant he pierced himself with his own. An Amalecite passing at the moment recognized Saul, possessed himself of his regal ornament, and carried it to David. After the battle, Saul’s body was laid beside his sons, who had fallen to the east of the scene of slaughter. They had been killed before their father’s death. The Philistines used to hack the bodies of their enemies to pieces.
The brook flowing through this valley was called Kadumin. ( 5:21). It is mentioned in Deborah’s Canticle. The Prophet Malachias once sojourned here for a time and prophesied. Abez was about three hours from the pagan city Scythopolis.
On leaving the well, Jesus and the disciples proceeded some distance to the east, then turning, pursued their journey northward. He crossed the height that closed in the valley on the north and, after about three hours, reached another at the foot of Mount Thabor to the east. The brook Cison, which rises to the north of the mountain, here flowed around it and off to the Plain of Esdrelon. Here lay the city Dabereth in an angle of the first plateau of Thabor. The view from the city takes in the high plain of Saron and extends to the region in which the Jordan flows from the lake of Genesareth. The brook Cison ran through the whole of this quarter.
Jesus remained at an inn outside the city until the following day, when He went into Dabereth. A crowd instantly pressed around Him. He cured some sick, of whom, however, there were not many, as the air of this place was very pure.
The city of Dabereth was very beautifully built. I still remember one of the houses. It was surrounded by a large courtyard and porticos, from which two flights of steps led up to the roof. Behind the city rose an eminence projecting from the foot of Thabor, and around it wound serpentine paths. It took about two hours to reach the top. All along inside the city walls dwelt Roman soldiers. Dabereth was one of the cities named for the collection of taxes. It had five large streets, each of which was occupied by the workmen belonging to one trade. It was not exactly on the highroad, for the nearest was at a distance of half an hour; nevertheless, all kinds of business were carried on in it. It was a Levitical city, and the imposts raised in it were devoted to the support of sacred worship. The boundary posts that marked the limits of the tribe of Issachar were scarcely a quarter of an hour distant. The synagogue stood upon an open space, also that house mentioned above. Jesus went into the latter, for its occupant was a nephew of His foster father, Joseph.
Joseph’s brother, the father of this nephew, was called Elia. He had had five sons—of whom one named Jesse, now an old man, dwelt in that house. His wife was still living, and they had a family of six children, three sons and three daughters. Two of the sons were already between eighteen and twenty years old. Their names were Kaleb and Aaron. Their father begged Jesus to receive them as disciples, which He did. They were to join the band when He should again pass through that part of the country. Jesse collected the taxes destined for the support of the Levites. He superintended also a cloth factory in which the wool that he purchased was cleansed, spun, and woven. Fine cloth was manufactured there, and a whole street was in Jesse’s employ. He had also, in a long building, a machine for expressing the juice from various herbs, some of which were found on Thabor, and others were brought hither from a distance. The juice of some was used in dyeing; others, for beverages; and others, again, were made into perfumery. I saw hollow cylinders standing in troughs, in which by means of a heavy pounder the herbs were pressed. The pipes through which the expressed juice flowed ran outside of the building and were provided with spigots. When the pounders were not in use, they were kept in place by means of wedges. They prepared also the oil of myrrh. Jesse and his whole family were very pious. His children went daily, and he often accompanied them, to pray on Thabor, Jesus and the disciples made their home with them while at Dabereth.
There were both Pharisees and Sadducees in this city. They formed a kind of consistory, and held council together as to how they could contradict Jesus. That evening Jesus went with the disciples to Mount Thabor, whither a multitude had preceded Him. There He taught by moonlight until far into the night.
On the southeastern side of Thabor lay a cave with a little garden in front. There the Prophet Malachias had often sojourned. Farther up the mountain were another cave and garden where Elias and his disciples sometimes lived retired, as upon Carmel. These caves were now held as shrines by
pious Jews, and thither they used to go to pray. To the north of Mount Thabor was situated the city of Thabor, whence the mountain derived its name, and about an hour westward in the direction of Sephoris was another fortified place. Casaloth was in the valley on the south side of the mountain, northward from Naim, and in the direction of Apheca. The tribe of Zabulon extends farthest to the north on this side. I have heard a more modern name given to this place, and I saw that relatives of Jesus once dwelt there, namely, a sister of Elizabeth, who, like the maid servant of Mary Marcus, bore the name of Rhoda. She had three daughters and two sons. One of the daughters was one of the three widows, friends of Mary, and her two sons were among the disciples. One of Rhoda’s sons married Maroni, and died without issue. His widow, in obedience to the Law, entered into a second marriage with one of her first husband’s family named Eliud, a nephew of Mother Anne. She lived at Naim and by her second husband had one son, who was called Martial. She was now a widow for the second time, and she is the so-called widow of N aim whose son Martial was raised from the dead by the Lord.
Jesus taught on the open space in front of the synagogue. Numerous sick had collected there from the neighborhood around, and the Pharisees were greatly irritated. There was a rich woman in Dabereth named Noemi. She had been unfaithful to her husband, and he had died of grief. For a long time she had promised to marry the agent that attended to her business, but he, too, was being deceived by her. Noemi had heard Jesus’ instructions in Dothain and had been, in consequence, very much changed. She was full of repentance and desired only to beg of Him pardon and penance. She attended Jesus’ teaching here in Dabereth, was present at the cures He wrought, and tried by every means to approach Him, but He always turned away from her. She was a person of distinction and well-known in the city, and as her disorders were not public, she had not fallen into general disesteem. While she was trying to approach Jesus, she encountered the Pharisees, who asked her whether she was not ashamed of herself and bade her return to her home. Their words, however, did not restrain her; she was as if out of herself in her eager desire for pardon. At last she succeeded in breaking through the crowd. She threw herself down on the ground before Jesus, crying out: “Lord, is there grace, is there pardon still for me? Lord, I can no longer live so! I sinned grievously against my husband, and I have deceived the man that now has charge of my affairs!” And thus she confessed her sins before all. All, however, did not hear her, for Jesus had stepped aside, and the Pharisees pressing forward had made a great uproar. Jesus said to Noemi: “Arise! Thy sins are forgiven thee!” She obeyed, begging at the same time for a penance, but Jesus put her off till another time. Then she divested herself of her rich ornaments: the strings of pearls around her headdress, her rings, her bracelets, and the golden cords around her arms and neck. She handed them all over to the Pharisees with the request that they should be given to the poor, and then she drew her veil closely around her.
Jesus now went into the synagogue, for the Sabbath had begun. The infuriated Pharisees and Sadducees followed Him. The reading for the day was about Jacob and Esau. ( 25:19-34 and ). Jesus applied the details connected with the birth of the two brothers to His own time. Esau and Jacob struggled in their mother’s womb, thus did the synagogue struggle against the piously disposed. The Law was harsh and severe, the firstborn like Esau, but it had sold its birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage, for the redolent odors arising from all kinds of unimportant usages and exterior ceremonies. Jacob, who had now received the Blessing, would become a great nation whom Esau would have to serve. The whole explanation was very beautiful, and the Pharisees could bring nothing forward against it, although they disputed long with Jesus. They reproached Him upon several heads: that He attached to Himself followers, that He established private inns throughout the country, employing for the same the money and property of rich widows which should have been given for the use of the
synagogue and the Doctors. And so, they said, would it now be with Noemi; besides, how could He forgive her her sins?
N ext morning Jesus did not go to the synagogue, but to the school for the boys and girls. The children followed Him even into Jesse’s court while He was taking dinner there, and Jesus instructed and blessed them again. The woman lately converted was likewise there with her steward. Jesus spoke with each alone and then to both together. On account of her present sentiments, Jesus advised the woman not to marry again, especially as her suitor was of low origin. She was to deliver to him a part of her fortune and, after reserving sufficient for her own support, distribute the rest to the poor.
After the Sabbath day repast, when the Jews were taking their customary promenade, some Jewish women came to visit Jesse’s wife. There, in Jesus’ presence, they engaged in an instructive game such as was usual on the Sabbath. The converted Noemi was present. The game consisted of a combination of parables, enigmas, or questions, calculated to instruct and edify. For example, such questions as the following were proposed: Where had each one her treasure? Did she put it out at high interest? Did she hide it? Did she share it with her husband? Did she leave it to her domestics? Did she carry it with her to the synagogue? Was her heart attached to it? Many of these questions turned upon the care of children and servants, etc. Jesus spoke also of oil and the lamp, of the burning of a well-filled lamp, of the spilling of the oil, applying all these things in a spiritual sense. One of the women was questioned on one of these points. She answered promptly and graciously: “Yes, Master! I take great care that the Sabbath lamp is always of the best.” Her neighbors were very much amused at her words. They laughed at her, for she had not caught Jesus’ meaning. He always gave a very striking explanation, and whoever made a wrong answer was obliged to give a present to the poor as a fine. The woman of whom I have spoken gave a piece of cloth.
Jesus wrote also, before each one, an enigma in the sand with a reed, the answer to which had likewise to be written in the same way by the one to whom it was addressed. In this manner He revealed to each her evil inclinations and defects, so that she trembled with fear, though without the necessity of blushing before her neighbor. He advised them especially of the faults of which they were guilty at the last Feast of Tabernacles, for in the greater liberty they enjoyed at that time and the merrymaking then customary, they may easily have sinned. Several of these women afterward spoke in private to Jesus, confessed their transgressions, and begged for penance and forgiveness. Jesus consoled them and reconciled them to God. During this instruction the women were ranged in a semicircle under the portico of the courtyard. They sat on rugs and cushions, their backs resting against the stone benches. The disciples and friends of the family were standing on either side at some distance. There was no loud speaking, since the loiterers on the street could, by climbing the wall, have created disturbance, for they were all out in the open air. The women had brought with them as presents for Jesus all kinds of spices, comfits, and perfumes. He gave them to the disciples with directions to distribute them to the sick poor who never could get such luxuries.
Before Jesus returned to the synagogue for the closing services of the Sabbath, the Herodians sent messengers to request Him to meet them at a certain place in the city, since they wanted to speak with Him. Jesus replied to the messengers with a severe expression: “Say to those hypocrites that they may open their double-tongued mouths against Me in the synagogue, for there shall I answer them and others.” He added other hard names, and then went to the school.
The Sabbath reading again treated of Jacob and Esau, of grace and the Law, and of the children and servants of the Father. Jesus inveighed so vehemently against the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Herodians, that their fury increased at each moment. The necessity in which Isaac had been of removing from place to place and the filling up of the wells by the Philistines, Jesus applied to His own teaching mission and the persecution He endured from the Pharisees. Passing then to Malachias, He announced the fulfillment of his Prophecy: “My Name shall be magnified upon the border of Israel. From the rising of the sun even to the going down, My Name is great among the Gentiles.” ( 1:5,6,11). Then He made known to them all the ways He had traversed on either side of the Jordan, in order to glorify the Name of the Lord. He declared that He would continue His course to the end, and in severe language He quoted against them these other words of the Prophet: “The son shall honor the father, and the servant his master.” ( 1:5, 6, 11). His enemies were confounded, and had nothing to reply.
When the crowd had left the synagogue and Jesus likewise had withdrawn with the disciples, He suddenly found His way blockaded in one of the courts by the Pharisees. They surrounded Him in one of the halls and demanded that He should answer some questions. It was not necessary, they said, for the people to hear all that they had to say. And then they proposed to Him all kinds of captious questions, especially upon their relations to the Romans who were here stationed. Jesus’ answer reduced them to silence. When at last, with flattery and menaces, they demanded that He should give up travelling around with disciples, desist from preaching and curing, else they would denounce and punish Him as a disturber of the peace, as a seditious character, He replied: “Until the end shall ye find upon My footsteps the ignorant, the sinful, the poor, the sick, and My own disciples—those whom ye have abandoned to their ignorance and sinfulness, whom ye have left in their poverty and misery.” Seeing that they could gain nothing by their artful words, they left the synagogue with Him. Outwardly they assumed a courteous demeanor, but inwardly they were full of rage, though not unmixed with admiration.