James Silk Buckingham.

Travels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) online

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Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 26)
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adds the same historian, " that one hundred
thousand subjects were extirpated in the Sama-
ritan war, which converted the once fruitful pro-
vince into a desolate wilderness, But," he con-
tinues, " in the creed of Justinian, the guilt of
murder could not be applied to the slaughter of
unbelievers, and he piously laboured to establish,
with fire and sword, the unity of the Christian
faith.' , *

Since that period, a remnant of them has,
however, always been found rallied round what
might be called the local standard of their reli-
gion, the Mountain of Gerizim.t In the year

* Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. vi.
c. 47. p. 276. 8vo.

f In the time of Benjamin of Tudela, who visited Neapolis
or Sichem, and describes it with great accuracy as seated in
a valley between Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal, there were
in this city about a hundred Cuthaei, (of whom there were two
hundred at Cesarea) who did not observe the law of Moses,
and were then, as well as now, called Samaritans. Their
priests were of the race of Aaron, and they were called Aaron-
ites. They offered sacrifice on Mount Gerizim, on the Pascal


1 (>?/>, there was a correspondence between the
chief* priest of the Samaritans at Nablous, and the
learned Scaliger, on the differences between the
Hebrew and Samaritan pentateuch ; and in the
year 1697» Mr. Maundrell had a personal confe-
rence with the then residing dignitary ; but I
was assured by all those who knew of the exis-
tence of this people at Nablous, though these
were very few, that their numbers were more
reduced now than at any former period, and
that, at most, there were not more than a dozen
families composing their church j these, they
said, never visited the summit of Mount Gerizim,
but performed their religious rites in studied se-
clusion and obscurity, and were, if possible,
more despised here than the Jews are in other
Mohammedan cities.

and other feasts, on an altar constructed of stones brought from
the Jordan by the children of Israel. They called themselves
of the tribe of Ephraim, and had custody of the sepulchre of
Joseph the son of Jacob, whose bones were brought up out of
Egypt, and buried in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which
Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem,
for an hundred pieces of silver. Aaron was also buried in a
hill here that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given
him in Mount Ephraim, the name of all this range of the
mountains of Nablous. (Josh. xxiv. 32, 33.) Their omission of
certain letters in writing the names of the patriarchs, and their
substitution of others in their places, was assumed by Benjamin
as sufficient proof of their not being of the true seed of Israel.
He describes their customs, purifications, &c. at large. Ber-
geron's Collection.

GG 2


These Jews, of whom there are none resident
here*, accuse the Samaritans of believing the
Godhead to be a corporeal being. Epiphanius,
who numbers them in his catalogue of heretics,
insists that they worshipped the traphim or idols,
which Rachel had stolen from her father Laban,
and which they digged up from under the oak
in Shechem, where Jacob had buried them.f
And other Jews, again, give out that their reli-
gion consists in the adoration of a calf J; but, say
the commentators, " Credat Judaeus."

The account which .they themselves give of
their own origin, is that they are descended from
Joseph by Ephraim ; that their temple on Mount
Gerizim was built by Joshua, after his taking
possession of the promised land ; and that they
have preserved their genealogy, in uninterrupted
succession, from Ruz, of the seed of Aaron, who
was their first high-priest, down to the present
time. Of the first captivity of the Israelites,
they say that the kings of Jerusalem and Syria
having revolted against Nebuchadnezzar, he

* As Nablous is a place of great trade, (and commerce
seldom fails to draw these scattered sons of Israel together,) it
is not improbable but that some religious prejudice may keep
them from residing here ; but, from not meeting with any Jews
in the place, I could not ascertain this from any authority to be
relied uppn.

f Genesis, xxxv. 4.

£ Maundrell's Journey, p. SO. 8vo.


came and took Jerusalem, and went from thence
to the Shechemites, whom he ordered to leave
that country in seven days, on pain of being
massacred, which they did accordingly. The
strangers whom he settled in Judea and She-
chem in their stead, could not live there, because
the fairest fruits of the land were tainted with a
mortal poison, so that at last the Hebrews were
sent back to their own pestilential land again.
These are the devouring lions of the Scriptures,
axi& \he plague of Josephus, before mentioned;
and the sending back a priest of Israel to restore
the worship of the true God. On the return of
the captives, say the Samaritans, a dispute arose,
whether they should rebuild the temple of Jeru-
salem or that of Gerizirn. Zerubbabel was for
the former, and Sanballat for the latter, and each
pleaded the sanction of the pentateuch ; but as
their copies even then differed, one of them
fixing on Jerusalem as the site, and the other on
Gerizirn, each insisted that the copy of his anta-
gonist was corrupted, and his own pure, as still
continues to be mutually done by the doctors of
the three great sects among whom the writings
of Moses are divided. To end the dispute, these
champions of truth bethought themselves of
an expedient, and agreed that the copy which
should withstand the fiery trial should be ad-
mitted to be the authentic one. Accordingly

g g 3


Zerubbabel flung his own into the fire ; and,
sacred as the materials were, they were instantly
consumed. Sanballat followed the example, but
the word of the Lord God of Israel being impe-
rishable, it came three times out of the flames
untouched by fire.* Such a miracle was of
course enough to confirm those who were con-
vinced before in the propriety of their choice ;
yet it had no effect on those who were before of
a contrary opinion. But when " the eyes are
blinded that they shall not see, and the heart is
hardened that it shall not believe, what power
can open the one or soften the other ?"

It is clear, from the many instances already
cited, that the hatred of these two sects to each
other was quite mutual. Even Jesus reproached
them with worshipping they knew not what; and
he is thought to have excluded them from salva-
tion, when he told them that this was of the
Jews, t The Jews, in their turn, when they
wished to express their greatest abhorrence of
Christ, replied to his reproaches, " Say we not
well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a
devil ?" % His disciples themselves could not
contain their indignation against them, when
they refused to receive their Master, because his

* Anc. Univ. Hist. vol. x. p. 228. f St. John, iv. 22.

+ St. John, viii. 48.


face was as though he would go up to Jerusalem,
but angrily exclaimed, " Lord, wilt thou that
we command fire to come down from heaven
and consume them, even as Elias did ?" * And
though Jesus then rebuked them, by telling
them that he was not come down to destroy
men's lives, but to save them ; yet when he sent
his disciples forth to preach to the lost sheep of
the house of Israel, he expressly commands them,
" Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and
into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not." t
The summary of their opinions, as collected
from the pentateuch, and from the correspon-
dence of their chief priest with Scaliger, before
adverted to, is given under the following heads :
— They believe in one God, and in the laws of
his servant Moses, which they profess to adhere
more scrupulously to the observance of than the
Jews do 5 they circumcise their male children
invariably on the eighth day ; they confine them-
selves to one wife, and never marry so near in
kindred as is common among the Jews ; they
are rigid in the observance of certain ablutions ;
they keep the sabbath with all the rigour of a
penance ; they light no fires in the houses on
that day, nor quit their dwellings but to visit the
place of worship : the passover is with them the

* St. Luke, ix. 54. t St. Matthew, x. 5.

G G 4


chief festival ; but they observe the pentecost
and feast of tabernacles with great attention, and
regard the great fast of expiation most strictly ;
they never offer any sacrifice but on Mount
Gerizim, and the head of their religion must
reside at Shechem.

Their copy of the five books of Moses, on
which they found these doctrines and observ-
ances, is thought by some to have been brought
from Assyria into Samaria by the priest of Israel,
whom Esarhaddon or Shalmaneser sent over to
destroy the lions that devoured the people
because they knew not the God of the * land.
Others again think that Manasses, the first high-
priest of Gerizim, transcribed it from the copy
of Ezra, on his return from the second captivity,
or that of Babylon. The authors of the Uni-
versal History candidly confess, however, that
when and how this manuscript came into the
hands of the Samaritans, it is hard to guess, and
that each system has its difficulties, which are
not easily solved, t

Besides the old Hebrew copy, there was one
used among them, in the vulgar tongue, which
was a mixture of Assyrian, Babylonish, and
Chaldee, besides a Greek version of it for the
sake of those to whom that language was then

* Anc. Univ. Hist. vol. x. p. 233. f Ibid.


common. The Samaritans themselves indeed
say, that, at the time of the translation of the
Jewish scriptures into Greek by the seventy
elders, from which it derives its name, their
own high-priest was also invited by Ptolemy to
come to Alexandria at the head of a number cf
learned men, to make a translation of the Sama-
ritan copy ; and they add, that on a review of
both these works, their own copy was preferred
to that of the Jews, and placed in the library of
the Egyptian king. *

The most learned critics are of opinion, that
it was only the first five books of Moses which
were translated into Greek, at the Alexandrian
court, and that the remaining books of the
Jewish Septuagint bear evident marks in their
style and language of being done by different
hands, and at a much later period, which
strengthens the notion that both pentateuchs
were translated at the same time. Among the
early fathers, Origen and St. Jerome mention
the Samaritan pentateuch as differing from that
of the Jews ; and as these theologians are said
both of them to have understood Hebrew, it was
probably the copy in that language which they
had seen. But there are several other fathers
of less learning, who, in their allusions to it, are

* Anc. Univ. Hist. vol. x. p. '21 J.


thought to have mentioned the Greek copy, since
they are conjectured to have been incapable of
understanding either the original Hebrew, or the
vulgar version of it.

The learned Scaliger was the first who set
about enquiring after this work, by the corres-
pondence already mentioned ; and the munifi-
cence of Archbishop Usher soon procured several
copies of it from Syria and Palestine, the most
accurate of which has been printed in the Poly-
glot of Walton, where it may serve to gratify
the curiosity of antiquaries ; but, in the language
of the Scriptures, " adds not a jot or a tittle to
the law or the prophets."

In enquiring for the Bir-el-Yakoab, or Jacob's
Well, we were told by every body that this was
in the town, which not corresponding with the
described place of the well we were desirous of
seeing, led to further explanation ; and at length,
by telling the story attached to it, we found it
was known here only by the name of " Ber
Samareea," or the well of Samaria.

Procuring a Christian boy to accompany us,
we went out by the eastern gate, and passing
through a continuation of the same valley in which
Nablous stands, thickly covered with olive-trees,
we reached the end of it in about a quarter of
an hour, on foot, the pass opening into a round
and more extensive vale, and the mountains east


of the Jordan being in sight. On the right were
some Mohammedan buildings on the sides and
at the foot of Mount Gerizim, either mosques
or tombs, now called Mahmoodeea, and said to
stand over Joseph's sepulchre. On the left, at
the foot of Mont Ebal, were several well-hewn
grottoes in the rock ; some with arched and
others with square doors, most probably ancient
sepulchres, without the old city of Sychem or
Sychar. These grottoes were called here Khallat
Rowgh-ban *, but we had no time to examine

From hence, in another quarter of an hour,
we reached the Well of Samaria. It stands at
the commencement of the round vale, which is
thought to have been the parcel of ground
bought by Jacob for a hundred pieces of money,
and which, like the narrow valley west of Nablous,
is rich and fertile. Over this well stood anciently
a large building, erected by St. Helena, of which
there are now no other remains than some shafts
of granite pillars ; all the rest lying in one un-
distinguished heap of ruins. The mouth of the

* Rowghwan or Rowghban is a name given in Syria to
monks, and more particularly to those who live in convents
and other dwellings, remote from towns, and from society ;
and though Kallah means generally a castle, yet here it would
imply only " the retreats of hermits," a purpose to which
these caves were very probably at one time or other applied.


well itself had an arched or vaulted building
over it, and the only passage down to it at this
moment is by a small hole in the roof, scarcely
large enough for a moderate-sized person to
work himself down through.

We lighted a taper here, and taking off my
large Turkish clothes, I did not then get down
without bruising myself against the sides, nor
was I at all rewarded for such an inconvenience
by the sight below. Landing on a heap of dirt
and rubbish, we saw a large flat oblong stone,
which lay almost on its edge across the mouth
of the well, and left barely space enough to see
that there was an opening below. We could
not ascertain its diameter, but by the time of a
stone's descent, it was evident that it was of
considerable depth, as well as that it was per-
fectly dry at this season ; the fall of the stone
giving; forth a dead and hard sound.

Not far from the well of Samaria is the " Bir
Yusef," over which is a modern building ; and
it is said to be, even at this day, frequented for
water from Nablous. The well of Samaria might
also have been so, therefore, from Sychar,
although that city should not have extended
farther east than the present town ; and indeed
it is no uncommon thing in Syria, as I myself
have often witnessed, for water to be brought
from a much greater distance. It is highly pro-


bable, therefore, that this is the identical well at
which the interesting conference of Jesus with
the woman of Samaria really happened.

I could find nothing of the old wall mentioned
by Maundrell, and as the sepulchres of Khallat
Rowgli-ban are much nearer the town than the
well, though they must have been without the
city from the nature of the cliffs there, the wall
did not probably extend more easterly than the
site of the present town. Near the well of
Samaria, and at the end of the narrow valley, or
where it opens into the broader plain, are several
round towers on the hills on each side, of an
unknown date, probably watch-posts to guard
this passage to the city.

One of the chief differences between the
Jewish and the Samaritan pentateuch being the
transposition of the names of Gerizim and Ebal,
I had taken particular notice of these two moun-
tains, or rather hills, both in going out and
coming in. But it unfortunately happens, that
neither relative positions nor local features are
given of these in the sacred records, by which
the point at issue might be decided. Josephus,
however, is more explicit ; for in his version of
that command of Moses which has given rise to
the dispute in question, he says, "Their leader or-
dered that, when they had got possession of the
land of the Canaanites, and when they had de-


troyed the whole multitude of its inhabitants as
they ought to do, they should erect an altar that
should face the rising sun, not far from the city
of Shechem, between the two mountains, that of
Gerizim situate on the right hand, and that
called Ebal on the left ; which, with reference
to the sun-rising, fixes the former indisputably
on the south, and the latter on the north. *

In the commands of Moses, delivered to the
Israelites while yet on the other side of Jordan
eastward, he expressly names Gerizim as the
mountain from which the blessings are to be pro-
nounced on the congregation, and Ebal as the
one from which the curses are to be uttered t ;
yet, in a subsequent chapter, the same lawgiver
is made to order that an altar of unhewn stones,
over which no iron was to pass, should be raised
to the Lord, and the great stones set up plastered
with plaster, on which the law was to be written ;
and those reared on Mount Ebal, which had
before been made the mountain of cursing. %
Joshua, his successor, is afterwards represented
as setting up the altar on Ebal, and offering
burnt-offerings and peace-offerings to the Lord,
and inscribing on the plastered stones, as directed,
the law which Moses had left to the children of
Israel. §

* Joseph. Ant. Jud. I. iv. c. 8. s. 44. f Deut. xi. 29.
% Deut. xxvii. 1 — 4. § Joshua, viii. 30 — 32.


The Samaritans have, in these places, substi-
tuted Gerizim for Ebal, and they accuse the
Jews of having maliciously altered their text,
out of odium to the Samaritans, putting for Ge-
rizim, Ebaly upon no other account but only
because the Samaritans worshipped in the former
mountain, which they would have, for that rea-
son, not to be the true place appointed by God
for his worship and sacrifice. Such was the
account of the chief priest of these people to
Mr. Maundrell, who questioned him on the sub-
ject. To confirm this, says the same traveller,
he pleaded that Ebal was the mountain of
cursing, as we have seen before, and in its own
nature an unpleasant place ; but, on the contrary,
Gerizim was the mountain of blessing by God's
own appointment, and also in itself fertile and
delightful ; from whence he inferred a proba-
bility that this latter must .have been the true
mountain appointed for these religious festivals,
and not, as the Jews have corruptly written it,
Hebal *

Mr. Maundrell thought that there was some
truth in the Samaritan priest's observations on
the superiority of Gerizim to Ebal j for, says
he, though neither of the mountains has mucli

* Maundrell's Journey, p. 81. 8vo.


to boast of as to their pleasantness, yet, as one
passes between them, Gerizim seems to discover
a more fruitful aspect than Ebal. My own im-
pression, from seeing both these hills from
several points of view, was, that Gerizim was by
far the more agreeable, and might be made the
more productive of the two, not only from its
principal side, or that hanging over Nablous,
having a northern aspect, and being therefore
less burnt up by the sun in summer, but
from its slope of ascent being less abrupt than
that of Ebal, and from the soil being therefore
more liable to accumulate, and less subject to be
washed down by the vernal and autumnal rains. *
Their altitudes appeared to be nearly equal, and
neither of them exceeded seven or eight hun-
dred feet from the level of the valley, though
much higher from the sea, as the whole
country here is elevated. We had not an
opportunity of ascending either of the hills
ourselves ; but from all the information I could
collect regarding them, no one knew of any
great stones or other vestiges of buildings re-
maining on them, though it must be confessed

* When Benjamin of Tudela visited this spot, he says
that Mount Garizim was full of fountains and gardens ;
while Ghebal, as he writes it, was arid and rocky. — Bergeron's


that we met with only two persons out of at
least fifty whom we consulted, that had ever
been on the summit of both these hills ; and
to these the subject, as well as the motive of
our enquiry, was alike strange and unaccount-

VOL. II. h H

( 466 -)



1 he call to afternoon prayers was heard as we
re-entered Nablous, and as there was no time to
be lost, we mounted and set out on our way
back to Sanhoor. We now went out at a
northern gate in the side of the town, and
ascending a hill there, to go by a shorter road,
we had a commanding view of the city, and of
the valley in which it stands, from the heights
above. Nothing could be more interesting than
this sight ; the lofty hills of Ebal and Gerizim
approaching close to each other ; the beautifully
fertile valley at their feet, covered with olive-
woods, and corn-fields of the freshest green, and
the white mass of flat-roofed dwellings and tall
minarehs, which the busy town offered in con-
trast to the rest of the scene, formed altogether
a new and charming picture.

When we lost sight of the town, the remain-
der of our way was over rude and barren hills,
almost constantly ascending and descending;
and as it was altogether an unpractised road, we


neither saw a human habitation, nor a single
living being, till we came out at the village of
Jubbagh, near to Sanhoor. It was now already
sunset ; but spurring our horses across the rest
of the way on plain ground, we arrived in time
for supper, which had been retarded for us by
our kind host, from the moment that advice had
been given him of our being seen from the
Castle-gate, galloping towards the fort with all
speed across the valley.

Nothing could exceed the welcome with
which we were received on our return ; and
there appeared to be as much sincerity as
warmth in the gladness of the chief and of his
dependants. We supped together on several
excellent dishes, and when we had finished, all
the rest partook in their turns, as is usual among
them. Our conversation was as interesting as
that of the preceding evening ; and I only
regretted, as I had done a thousand times before,
the impossibility of remembering all the new
and curious observations which occur in inter-
views and parties of this kind.

My disappointment in not finding the caravan,
and the best route of proceeding to the north-
ward, were also talked of j and Hadjee Ahmed
pressed me, by the kindest invitation, to remain
with him for the next month, until the Damas-
cus caravan should again depart from Nablous,
h h 2



assuring me, at the same time, that nothing in
his power should be wanting to make my stay
agreeable. I told him how sensible [ felt of so
much generosity, and said, what I really thought
at the moment, that I knew of no suitable re-
turn which it would ever be in my power to
make for it ; when he replied, that, besides the
satisfaction of doing good, in entertaining the
stranger who is distant from his home, his
country, and his friends, the curious facts which
my knowledge of other people and of other
lands had made me acquainted with, would
always make my conversation interesting, and
cause me to be as agreeable as I should be a
welcome guest.

If I could have followed my own inclination,
I would certainly have remained here for a few
days at least ; but I considered my duty to call
me to fresh exertions, and determined therefore
to return to Nazareth, to make new enquiries.
When this determination was communicated to
my host, he did all he could to combat it, and
it was matter of so prolonged a dispute, that it
was past midnight before our party broke up,
when I retired to the excellent bed I had before
slept in, and was attended by the hasnader or
treasurer of the pilgrim chief in person.

As I could not with delicacy make any direct

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Online LibraryJames Silk BuckinghamTravels in Palestine, through the countries of Bashan and Cilead, east of the River Jordan; including a visit to the cities of Geraza and Gamala, in the Decapolis (Volume 2) → online text (page 25 of 26)