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Half Hours in Bible Lands, Volume 2 Patriarchs, Kings, and Kingdoms

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 Job and His Three Friends.THE BIBLE AND THE HOLY LAND.PATRIARCHS, KINGS, AND KINGDOMS.SCENES IN THE LIVES OF THE PATRIARCHS.The patriarchs might be called family kings--the divinely appointedrulers of households. They were the earliest sovereigns under God ofwhich we have any account. Their authority was gradually extended by theunion of households, whose retinue of servants was often large, andtheir wealth very great. The founder and leader of the patriarchal linechosen by God from the wealthy nomades, or wandering farmers of thefruitful valleys, was Abram. A worshipper of the Infinite One, hemarried Sarai, a maiden of elevated piety and personal beauty. Anddoubtless they often walked forth together beneath the nightly sky,whose transparent air in that latitude made the stars impressively--"The burning blazonry of God!"Upon the hill-tops around, were the observatories and altars of Chaldeanphilosophy, whose disciples worshipped the host of Heaven. In theserenity of such an hour, with the white tents reposing in the distance,and the "soul-like sound" of the rustling forest alone breaking thestillness, it would not be strange, as they gazed on flaming Orion andthe Pleiades, if they had bowed with the Devotee of Light, while--  "Beneath his blue and beaming sky,   He worshipped at their lofty shrine,   And deemed he saw with gifted eye,   The Godhead in his works divine."But a purer illumination than streamed from that radiant dome, broughtnear in his majesty the Eternal, and like the holy worshippers of Eden,they adored with subdued and reverent hearts, their infinite Father.There is great sublimity and wonderful power in the purity and growth ofreligious principle, in circumstances opposed to its manifestation. Thetemptations resisted--the earnest communion with each other--theglorious aspirations and soarings of imagination, when morning brokeupon the summits, and evening came down with its stars, and its risingmoon, flooding with glory nature in her repose. These, and a thousandlovely and touching scenes of that pastoral life, are all unrecorded.The great events in history, and bold points in character, are seized bythe inspired penman as sufficient to mark the grand outline of God'sprovidential and moral government over the world, and his care of hispeople.Just when it would best accomplish his designs, which are ever marchingto their fulfillment, Jehovah called to Abram, and bade him go to adistant land which he would show him. With his father-in-law, and withLot, his flocks and herds, he journeyed toward Palestine. When hearrived at Haran, in Mesopotamia, pleased with the country, and probablyinfluenced by the declining health of the aged Terah, he took up hisresidence there. Here he remained till the venerable patriarch, Sarai'sfather, died. The circle of relatives bore him to the grave, and keptthe days of mourning. But the dutiful daughter wept in the solitarygrief of an orphan's heart. A few years before she had lost a brother,and now the father to whom she was the last flower that bloomed on thedesert of age, and who lavished his love upon her, was buried amongstrangers.Then the command to move forward to his promised inheritance came againto Abram. With Sarai he journeyed on among the hills, encamping at nightbeside a mountain spring, and beneath the unclouded heavens archingtheir path, changeless and watchful as the love of God--exiles by thepower of their simple faith in him. Soon as they reached Palestine,Abram consecrated its very soil by erecting a family altar, first in theplain of Moreh, and again on the summits that catch the smile of morningnear the hamlet of Bethel.Months stepped away, rapidly as silently, old associations wore off, andAbram was a wealthy and happy man in the luxuriant vales of Canaan. Hisflocks dotted the plains, and his cattle sent down their lowing fromencircling hills. But more than these to him was the affection of hisbeautiful wife. Her eye watched his form along the winding way, whenwith the ascending sun he went out on the dewy slopes, and kindled witha serene welcome when at night-fall he returned for repose amid thesacred joys of home.At length there came on a fearful famine. The rain was withholden, andthe dew shed its benediction no more upon the earth. He was compelled toseek bread at the court of Pharaoh, or perish. Knowing the power offemale beauty, and the want of principle among the Egyptian princes, hewas afraid of assassination and the captivity of Sarai which wouldfollow. Haunted with this fear, he told her to say that she was hissister--which was not a direct falsehood, but only so by implication.According to the Jewish mode of reckoning relationship, she might becalled a sister; and Abram stooped to this prevarication under thatterrible dread which, in the case of Peter, drove a true disciple ofChrist to the brink of apostacy and despair.Results of Prevarication. Peter denying his Master.But his deception involved him in the very difficulty he designed toescape. The king's courtiers saw the handsome Hebrew, and extolled herbeauty before him. He summoned her to the apartments of the palace, andcaptivated by her loveliness, determined to make her his bride. Duringthe agonizing suspense of Abram, and the concealed anguish of Sarai inher conscious degradation, the hours wore heavily away, until thejudgment of God upon the royal household brought deliverance. Pharaoh,though an idolater, knew by this supernatural infliction, that there wasguilt in the transaction, and called Abram to an account. He had nothingto say in self-acquittal, and with a strange magnanimity, was sent awayquietly, with his wife and property, followed only by the reproaches ofPharaoh, and his own wakeful conscience.Abram returned to Palestine, became a victor in fierce battles with avastly outnumbering foe, and was in possession of a splendid fortune.Whether in Egypt, or in his tent on the plains of Palestine, Abram, withall the patriarchs, was a true gentleman. We may doubt whether anymodern school of refinement in manners could furnish any nobler examplesof dignity and civility in personal learning and manners, than were therich dwellers in ancient Palestine. Subjects fell prostrate beforesovereigns; equals, when they met, inclined the head toward the breast,and placed the right hand on the left breast. Of the Great King it iswritten, "Come, let us bow down; let us worship before the Lord ourMaker."Jehovah appeared to Abram in a glorious vision, talking with him asfriend to friend. He fell on his face in the dust, as did the exile ofPatmos ages after, while a voice of affection and hope carne from thebending sky: "I am the Almighty God; walk before me and be thouperfect." The solemn covenant involving the greatness and splendor ofthe people and commonwealth that should spring from the solitary pair,was renewed; and as an outward seal, he was named Abraham, The father ofa great multitude--and his wife Sarah, The princess. Still he laughed atthe absurdity that Sarah would ever be a mother, and invoked a blessingon Ishmael, but evidently said nothing to her upon a subject dismissedas incredible from his thoughts. For when the celestial messengers werein the tent, on their way to warn Lot, she listened to their earnestconversation, concealed by the curtains, and hearing that repeatedpromise based on the immutability of God, also laughed with bitter mirthat her hopeless prospect in regard to the marvelous prediction. And whenone of the Angels, who was Jehovah veiled in human form, as afterward"manifest in the flesh," charged her with this unbelief and levity, thediscovery roused her fears, and approaching him, without hesitation, shedenied the fact. He knew perfectly her sudden apprehension, and onlyrepeated the accusation, enforced by a glance of omniscience, like thatwhich pierced the heart of Peter....