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Statistics, Facts, and Dates, for the Sunday Recitations of the Junior Class in the University:
Electronic Edition.

Mitchell, Elisha, 1793-1857

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(title page) Statistics, Facts, and Dates, for the Sunday Recitations of the Junior Class in the University. 15 p.
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[Title Page Image]

Sunday Recitations


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        Whatever is written respecting Palestine, at the present day, whether it be something entitled to the name of a volume, or a few notes prepared for the use of a Class, must be largely indebted, as the following pages are, to "Robinson's Biblical Researches" in that country.

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For the Sunday Recitations of the Junior Class in the University.


        Extent. The words "from Dan to Beersheba," are nine times used in the Old Testament to express the whole extent of the country inhabited by the children of Israel. Beersheba is in latitude 31° 15', and Dan in 33° 15', so that they are about 140 miles apart. But as the possessions of the Israelites extended to some distance north of Dan and south of Beersheba, the whole length of Palestine may be estimated at 160 miles. Its greatest breadth was about 70 miles; but it was narrower than this towards the northern end, so that its area may have been about 10,000 miles, or a little more than one fifth of that of North Carolina (48,000 to 50,000).

        Face of the Country. The middle and southern part of Palestine--comprising what in the time of our Saviour bore the names of Samaria, Judea, and Peræa, is composed of two strips of low, and two bodies of high, land, running nearly north and south, and parallel to the sea-coast.

        1. There is a fertile plain, from 10 to 25 miles in breadth (narrowest at the northern end), along the shore of the Mediterranean or "Great Sea." In this the tribes of Simeon and Dan had their whole portion, in the division of the land by Joshua; and Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, a part. It was extensively occupied for a long period by the inveterate enemies

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of the Israelites--the Philistines. From them the name of the country in common use (Palestine) was derived.

        2. The deep valley of the Jordan is from 10 to 12 miles across, and has at its southern end the Dead Sea. Nearly the whole of the middle and southern part of it is a desert.

        3. Between these is a high ridge or body of table land, rising gradually as it advances towards the south, and bearing in different parts the names of Mount Ephraim, and the Mountains of Judah, or the hill country of Judea. It is fertile along the top and on the western, but barren on the eastern side. Jerusalem is nearly on the water-shed or dividing ridge. The brook Kidron, which flows under its walls, empties its waters into the Dead Sea; whilst the rain that falls on the plain of Rephaim, less than a mile distant, runs into the Mediterranean. Its elevation above the ocean is two or three hundred feet greater than that of the low gaps in the Blue Ridge, over which the roads pass, in North Carolina. From some points not far from the city, the Mediterranean Sea, at the distance of between 25 and 30 miles, and the Mountains beyond the Jordan, are both visible. The Dead Sea is 16 miles from the city. Mounts Ebal and Gerizim are low peaks on the ridge of Mount Ephraim, which towards the north-west extends quite to the sea, and forms the promontory of Mount Carmel.

        4. Beyond the Jordan the country is made up of mountains and table land, but has hitherto been very little explored in modern times.

        The northern part of Palestine, comprising what in the time of our Saviour bore the names of Galilee and Batanæa (the first on the west and the other on the east of the Jordan), has a general resemblance to the rest of the country, but with some points of difference. The ridge of table land sinks down into the great fertile "plain" (it is in fact a broad valley) of Esdraelon, which extends in a south-easterly direction, with no great elevation at its highest point, from the sea quite across to the Jordan. The valley of the Jordan will of course disappear near

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its head springs, at the foot of Mount Hermon. There is, however, a ridge of considerable elevation, between the upper waters of the Jordan and the Mediterranean, in which Mount Tabor, Mount Gilboa, and the Little Hermon, are important, though not high, ridges or peaks; and the mountainous tract on the eastern side of the Jordan valley is continuous throughout the whole length of the river and of the Dead Sea. This northern division of Palestine is fertile.

        Rivers and Lakes. In such a country the streams, with the exception of the Jordan, will of course be mere mountain torrents. They are in fact, most of them, what are called in the Arabic tongue, that is now spoken in Palestine, Wadys--valleys that carry a considerable volume of water in the winter, but are dry in summer. Those mentioned in the Bible are, the Kishon, which drains the plain of Esdraelon, the Besor, the Sorek, and the River of Egypt, emptying into the Mediterranean; the Kidron flowing into the Dead Sea on its western, and the Arnon into the same sea, and the Jabbock into the Jordan, on their eastern side. The Hieromax, or Yarmouk, another considerable tributary of the Jordan from the east, joins it a little below the sea of Tiberias.

        The whole length of the Jordan, from the head springs to its mouth, is about 100 miles. Much of its course is in a deep valley, below the level of the ocean. It passes through two lakes. The uppermost is that called in the Book of Joshua the Waters of Merom, and which is not elsewhere mentioned in the Bible. It is about 5 miles in length, and 4 in breadth; and has a deep marsh, not susceptible of cultivation, of about the same extent on its northern side. The lake of Gennesareth, or sea of Tiberias, is about 13 miles long, and 6 broad. The water is limpid and sweet, abounding in fish, and the shores generally bold and steep. The fish are of five different kinds, all well flavored. The largest are about a foot long, and four or five inches wide. From this lake to the Dead Sea is 60 miles in a direct line. Through this distance the Jordan is a very winding

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stream, with many falls, deep and rapid, but fordable at some places in the summer, and from 40 to 60 yards across. The soil in the upper part of the valley of the Jordan, near the lake of Gennesareth, is fertile. Lower down, the course of the stream is through a desert, almost without inhabitants, except that near its mouth, three or four springs, two of which are very large and copious, issue from the hills that bound the western side of the valley, and form a very fertile tract, where the city of Jericho formerly stood. If there are other oases in this desert valley, they are not known. The Dead Sea is about 40 miles in length, and 8 or 9 in breadth. The water has a high specific gravity (1212, pure water being 1000), in consequence of its holding dissolved a great quantity of the salts of magnesia, soda, and lime. It is of course very nauseous and bitter. In a brine so strong as this fish cannot live, and even if they could, they would perish for want of food, in waters whose shores are so naked and barren. The story that birds cannot fly over it is a fable.

        Rocks and Minerals. The principal rock of Palestine is a secondary limestone. Rocks of volcanic origin are found on the western side of the sea of Tiberias, where also there are hot springs. There is a crater of an extinct volcano some 10 miles north-west of the lake. There are others (hot springs also) in the country of Moab, on the eastern side of the Dead Sea, so that this is one of the volcanic regions of the Globe. It is therefore subject to earthquakes. No mines of the metallic ores are now known within the limits of the Holy Land; there is no coal. Small quantities of sulphur, and of bitumen or asphaltum, are found on the shores of the Dead Sea, from the last of which substances this water has often been called the Lake Asphaltites. Near its south-western extremity is a body of rock salt--a ridge called Usdum, from 100 to 150 feet in height, and 5 or 6 miles in length. Throughout this whole region, the rocky strata are in many places so impregnated with salt, that the springs which rise out of them cannot be used by reason of the brackishness of their waters.

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        Climate. Chapel Hill is in latitude 35° 54' 21''. Our parallel, continued eastward, passes through the southern part of the Straits of Gibraltar, strikes the continent of Africa near Oran, runs south of Carthage, across the island of Malta, north of Crete and Cyprus, and strikes the continent of Asia near the mouth of the Orontes, or a little south of Antioch. The whole of Europe is north of our parallel. But the olive and orange flourish, and are profitably cultivated, in Spain, Italy, and Greece. The western parts of the eastern continent are therefore warmer than the corresponding latitudes on the Atlantic shore of America. They have both a higher and a more equable temperature. The latitude of Palestine is that of the southern part of Georgia or Alabama, but its climate is much warmer.

        The tree which serves especially to mark the climate of Palestine is the Palm, which however flourishes only in the deep and hot valley of the Jordan, as at Jericho ("the city of Palm trees"), where there is the temperature, and to some extent the vegetation, of a more southern clime; and near Gaza, in the southwest corner of the land. Small as the country is, there is a considerable variety of climate, and this even in places only a few miles from each other, in consequence of the difference of elevation. At Jericho the wheat harvest is in the first and second weeks of May, in the third week on the western plain, and in the first and second weeks of June on the high lands around Jerusalem and Hebron. It is in the third and fourth weeks of June in Orange Co., N. C. It is probable, but not certain, that it is the same kind--late and not May wheat--that is gathered at the dates mentioned, in Palestine, as well as in North Carolina. Besides our own division of the year into the cold and hot seasons--winter and summer--there is in Palestine that of wet and dry. The rain begins to fall in the latter part of October, is abundant in November and December, continues through the month of March, and there are occasional showers in April and May. During the remaining four and a half months, June, July, August, September, and the early part of

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October, rain very seldom falls, and the sky is almost constantly serene. The early and latter rains are, therefore, not two distinct rainy seasons, but the earliest showers of October, and the latest of May. These facts determine the culture that is in use in Palestine.

        Wheat is the principal grain, which is sown after the rains commence in October and November. The grain is commonly good, and it is well gathered. Spring crops, to be profitable there, must be such as mature their seed very soon. Such is millet (dhourra), which ripens in four months after it is sown, and bears a drought well. But maize or Indian corn (the most valuable present made by the western to the eastern continent, and which is a food in very common use in Spain, Southern France, Italy, and Turkey) is not planted in Palestine, except where, as at Jericho, it can be sustained by irrigation. The rains of July and August "make" the corn crop in North Carolina. Fruit is abundant and excellent; figs, grapes, apricots, and olives, throughout the country, and oranges in the plain of the coast. During the dry season the cattle are watered from springs, sinks, or holes, in which stagnant water has been collected during the rainy season, cisterns, and wells that are large and deep, and have been dug and walled with great labor.

        The use of pork being forbidden both by the Jewish law and in the Koran, the hog is almost an unknown animal in Palestine. But little meat is eaten there. Flour of wheat, ground in handmills, unbolted, moistened with water, and baked often in the coals, with a little fruit, is the common food--it was probably the daily food of the Redeemer of mankind.

        Snow often falls at Jerusalem to the depth of a foot or more, but does not usually lie long; thin ice is also formed there. For the same reason that an east wind, bringing the moist air of the sea over the land, is the parent of rain and storms, and the west or land wind brings clear weather, with us, they produce the opposite effects in Palestine. The west wind from the Mediterranean is damp, and the north-east wind dry and cool.

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        A hilly country, where the rains cease in May, and which remains dry till the middle of October, is likely to be, if not healthy, at least free from those miasmata which are so common a cause of sickness in some parts of North Carolina. The valley of the Jordan is of course an exception. The people of Jericho are so sickly and feeble that they exist merely as tenants of the soil. Families come in from the hill country to sow the wheat in autumn, and again to reap it and carry off their share in the time of harvest. The Pontine Marshes, a little south of Rome, are cultivated by the peasants of the Appenines in the same way.

        Boundaries. On the south Palestine is bounded by a "great and terrible wilderness," where some four or five thousand persons obtain a scanty subsistence, by the cultivation of a few spots that are less barren than the rest, and from their flocks and herds; on the east are Moab, Ammon, and Hauran (called Trachonitis in the New Testament), small and poor countries, beyond which is the great Arabian and Syrian desert; on the north are the ridges of Lebanon, and on the west the Great Sea. A country so little extensive, and so little susceptible of enlargement by alliance or conquest, can never have had much physical strength.

        The children of Israel were God's chosen people, selected by Him to preserve the knowledge and worship of the one true and living God in the earth. He was in a peculiar manner their King. His covenant with them was, that if they would obey his laws, he would interpose in their behalf, and, by the exertion of his mighty power and over-ruling Providence, cause the course of the seasons to be favorable, so that they should enjoy plenty and health, and also make them victorious over their enemies. As they fell into idolatry, they became subject to other nations; and the object of what immediately follows is to furnish a very brief outline of the fortunes of this people, and of the connexion between sacred and profane history, down to the time when Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by Titus.

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        Abraham, a native of Ur of the Chaldees, a country on the eastern side of the Euphrates, in latitude about 37°, was called of God, 1921 years before Christ, according to the commonly received chronology, and directed to go into the land of Canaan, or Palestine, which was promised to him and his descendants. Himself, his son and grandson, Isaac and Jacob, lived as nomades--wandering herdsmen and shepherds--in the land, but oftenest and longest at Hebron (which they appear to have considered as their home, and where they were all buried), until Jacob was driven by famine into Egypt. His family had settlements assigned them near the eastern or Pelusiac branch of the Nile, where they multiplied exceedingly, and were reduced to slavery, and from whence they were led out by Moses and Aaron in the year 1491. The Levitical law given by Moses was not all new, but to some unknown extent the common law, that had previously existed amongst the Israelites, corrected and enlarged (see Genesis, chap. 38). A man was already required to marry his deceased brother's widow.

        After the conquest and division of the promised land by Joshua, the civil and political condition of the country for about 450 years bore a greater resemblance to what existed amongst the clans of Scotland, not very long ago, than to what has been seen elsewhere in modern times. But the similarity is remote and general. Within a country of small extent, the members of political associations nearly independent of each other, were held together by the ties of blood and a common name. One tribe, that of Levi, had been set apart to the duties of literature and religion, and had therefore no inheritance with the rest, certain cities scattered over the whole country excepted; and in the family of Aaron, who was of this tribe, the priesthood was hereditary. But Jacob having on his death-bed adopted the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, the original number of 12 tribes was restored, and amongst them the land was divided;

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Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh, receiving their portion on the eastern side of the Jordan, and the others on the west. Each tribe was divided into families, and the Princes of the tribes, and the heads of these families, whose authority probably depended partly on descent and prescription, and partly on personal character, were the repositories of power, by whom the opinions of the populace were directed, and their actions controlled. Such a government would necessarily be feeble, and we are told that, whilst it continued, "every man did what was right in his own eyes."

        The nation fell into idolatry, and were, in punishment of their wickedness, subjected and oppressed by the neighboring small States, as the Moabites, Ammonites, Midianites, Philistines, and others. Men of energy, courage, and piety, arose from time to time, led their countrymen to victory, and, as their reward, were permitted to exercise the supreme power during the remainder of their lives. These were the Judges, resembling somewhat in their position and character those who bore the name of Tyrants among the Greeks. In the book bearing that name we have sketches of the history of Palestine, rather than a continuous history, during a long series of years.

        Weary of this government, the people at length demanded a king, and three monarchs--Saul, David, a hero and conqueror, and Solomon, an amiable and polished despot--ruled in succession over the whole land. A milder government was demanded of Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, as the condition of his receiving the crown; and when he refused to promise this, 10 tribes revolted, and thenceforth, till the country became subject to a foreign power, there were two kingdoms, generally hostile to each other. Judah and Benjamin formed the kingdom of Judah, whose princes were of the house of David, and its capital, Jerusalem; the other ten, the kingdom of Israel. Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, the first king of Israel, reigned at Shechem; and his successors, first at Tirzah, and after the year 908 at Samaria. The true God was worshipped, but not perfectly, at Jerusalem.

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To hinder his subjects from resorting to that city, Jeroboam instituted the worship of the golden calves, one of which was set up at Bethel, and the other at Dan.

        The great nations that had grown up on the banks of the Nile. and of the Euphrates and Tigris, now began to interfere in the Jewish affairs. Shishak, king of Egypt, plundered Jerusalem. The Assyrians invaded the kingdom of Israel, and imposed a tribute on the land; they afterwards took and destroyed Samaria, and carried the inhabitants into captivity. After the lapse of 115 years, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, took Jerusalem, plundered the temple, and carried away many of the principal persons, leaving, however, the King Jehoiakim to reign with delegated authority (606). This was the beginning of the seventy years' captivity, foretold by Jeremiah (chap. 25). But though the city was a second time taken and plundered by the Babylonians in 598, it was not finally destroyed by them, and an end put to the Hebrew Monarchy, till 10 years afterwards, when both the temple and city were set on fire, the walls torn down, and the king and many of his subjects, with whatever valuable articles, such as gold, silver, and other metals, could be collected, were carried to the banks of the Euphrates and Tigris.

        Cyrus, the Persian, having overturned the Babylonian Empire, issued a decree for the return of the Jews, and the rebuilding of the city and temple. Two great caravans of exiles returned; one with Zerubbabel, the other with Ezra. The Jews were now subject to the Persians for more than 200 years, till the time of Alexander. They appear to have lived in quiet, paying a yearly tribute.

        Of the four monarchies that were formed out of Alexander's conquests, only those of Egypt and Syria exerted any considerable influence over the condition of the Jews. Alexandria and Antioch, their capitals, are at nearly equal distances, somewhat less than 400 miles in right lines, from Jerusalem; and for 157 years after Alexander's death, the Jews were subject sometimes

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to the Ptolemies, and sometimes to the Seleucidæ. Both of these families becoming feeble, and the oppressions of Antiochus Epiphanes intolerable, they revolted, and, under the guidance of the Maccabees, established their independence, which also they maintained under a race of native princes, until they were at length, like the other nations, absorbed by the Roman Empire.

        The Romans, as their custom was, interfered first as friends and umpires, and at length as masters. When the Jews, driven to madness by the tyranny of the Roman Governors, revolted, Jerusalem was besieged, taken, and destroyed by Titus.

        From the time when the Old Testament history ends, till the revolt of the Maccabees, some 250 years, the materials for the history of the Jews are very scanty. From the latter date till the time of our Saviour, the books of the Maccabees, in the Apocrypha, and Josephus, furnish much fuller information.

Latitude of Jerusalem, . . . . . 31:46:43
Latitude of Malta, . . . . . 35:42:00
Latitude of Chapel Hill, . . . . . 35:54:21
Latitude of Gibraltar, . . . . . 36:04:44
Latitude of Antioch, . . . . . 36:06:00
Latitude of Virginia Line, . . . . . 36:30:00
Latitude of Anc. Carthage, . . . . . 36:44:00

Height of the highest peak of the Black Mountain, N.C., 6476 ft.
Height of the highest peak of the Sinai, St. Catherine, 8560
Height of Jerusalem, . . . . . 2671

Depression of the Sea of Tiberias below the Ocean, 84
Depression of the Dead Sea, . . . . . 1337

 Before Christ.
Calling of Abraham . . . . . 1921
Jacob goes down to Egypt . . . . . 1706
Cadmus carries letters to Greece . . . . . 1493
Discovery of America (after Christ) . . . . . 1492

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 Before Christ
Exodus of the Israelites . . . . . 1491
Troy taken . . . . . 1184
Saul anointed King . . . . . 1095
Revolt of the Ten Tribes . . . . . 975
Legislation of Lycurgus . . . . . 884
Rome founded . . . . . 753
End of the Kingdom of Israel . . . . . 721
Jerusalem taken by Nebuchadnezzar . . . . . 606
Jerusalem destroyed . . . . . 588
Cyrus's decree for the return of the Jews . . . . . 536
Expulsion of the Tarquins from Rome . . . . . 509
Battle of Marathon . . . . . 490
Peloponnesian war begins . . . . . 431
Old Testament History ends . . . . . 430
Alexander dies . . . . . 324
Battle of Pydna . . . . . 168
Revolt of the Maccabees . . . . . 167
End of the Syrian Empire . . . . . 64
Romans interfere with Jewish affairs . . . . . 63
Catiline's conspiracy . . . . . 63
Battle of Actium . . . . . 31
End of the Egyptian Empire . . . . . 30
  After Christ.
Crucifixion of Christ . . . . . 33
Jerusalem destroyed by Titus . . . . . 70
First eruption of Vesuvius . . . . . 79
Constantine begins to favor the Christians . . . . . 313
Council of Nice . . . . . 325
Hegira--flight of Mohammed from Mecca . . . . . 622
First Crusade . . . . . 1096
Jerusalem taken by the Crusaders . . . . . 1099
Christians driven from Palestine . . . . . 1291
Art of Printing invented . . . . . 1440
Constantinople taken by the Turks . . . . . 1453
Beginning of the Reformation . . . . . 1517

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        Many of the towns and villages mentioned in the Bible are now desolate and in ruins. The hill on which Samaria stood is a cultivated field.

        Jerusalem has a population of twelve or fifteen thousand. It is near, but a little east, of the water shed, or summit ridge, that divides the waters which flow east into the Dead Sea, from those which run west into the Mediterranean. Two wadys or valleys (those of the Kidron and of the Son of Hinnom), commencing at the ridge, run nearly south, and uniting at the distance of not more than two miles from the beginning of the longest, pass off towards the south-east to the Dead Sea. They become deep ravines a little before they meet. The ground between them is a ridge, which, near its termination, or in the fork, swells into four small eminences that were included within the city walls--Mount Zion, Acra, Bezetha, and Mount Moriah; on which last the temple of Solomon stood, and the mosque of Omar stands. The dividing line between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin ran through the city immediately north of Mount Zion. On the eastern, southern, and western sides of the city were precipices, which rendered it very strong against the ancient modes of attack. It could be approached by a hostile army only on the north. But it is surrounded by higher hills, from which it may be cannonaded and destroyed; from the Mount of Olives, for example, which is separated from it by the brook Kidron on the east. Psalm cxxv. 2, "As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people." These hills or mountains are nearly destitute of trees, and of very moderate fertility.

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