« PreviousContinue »
tween visits of the adventurous traveller, or the more frequent and startling interruptions of the wild Arabs on their predatory expeditions.
But neither church nor temple of any sort, nor inquiring traveller, nor prowling Arab, varied the tremendous grandeur of the scene, when the Israelitish host encamped there. Weary and toilsome had been the pilgrimage from the base of the mountain where the desolation was unrelieved by a trace of vegetation, to the upper country or wilderness, called more particularly, "the Desert of Sinai," where narrow intersecting valleys, not destitute of verdure, cherished perhaps the lofty and refreshing palm. Here in the ravines, in the valleys, and amid the clefts of the rocks, clustered the hosts of Israel, while around them on every side arose lofty summits and towering precipices, where the eye that sought to scan their fearful heights was lost in the far-off dimness. Far, far around, spread this savage wilderness, so frowning, and dreary, and desolate, that any curious explorer beyond the precincts of the camp would quickly return to the home which its vicinity afforded even there.
Clustered closely as bees in a hive were the tents of the wandering race, yet with an order and a uniformity which even the unpropitious nature of the locality was not permitted to break; for, separated into tribes, each one, though sufficiently connected for any object of kindness or brotherhood, for public worship, or social intercourse, was inalienably distinct.
And in the midst, extending from east to west, a length of fifty-five feet, was reared the splendid Tabernacle. For God had said, " Let them make me a Sanctuary, that I may dwell among them;" and behold, "they came, both men and women, as many as were willing-hearted, and brought bracelets, and earrings, and rings, and tablets, all jewels of gold; and every man that offered, offered an offering of gold unto the Lord. And every man with whom was found blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats' hair, and red skins of rams, and badgers' skins, brought them. Every one that did offer an offering of silver and brass brought the Lord's offering: and every man with whom was found shittim-wood for any work of the service brought it. And all the women that were wise-hearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen. And all the women whose hearts stirred them up in wisdom spun goats' hair. And the rulers brought onyxstones, and stones to be set, for the ephod, and for the breastplate; and spice, and oil for the light, and for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense."
And all these materials, which the "willinghearted" offered in such abundance that proclamation was obliged to be made through the camp to stop their influx, had been wrought under the superintendence of Bezaleel and Aholiab, who were divinely inspired for the task; and the Tabernacle was now completed, with the exception of some of the finest needlework, which had not yet received the finishing touches.
But what was already done bore ample testimony to the skill, the taste, and the industry of the "wisehearted" daughters of Israel. The outer covering of the Tabernacle, or that which lay directly over the framework of boards of which it was constructed, and hung from the roof down the sides and west end, was formed of tabash skins; over this was another covering of ram-skins dyed red; a hanging made of goats' hair, such as is still used in the tents of the Bedouin Arabs, had been spun and woven by the matrons of the congregation, to hang over the skins; and these substantial draperies were beautifully concealed by a first or inner covering of fine linen. On this the more youthful women had embroidered figures of cherubim in scarlet, purple, and light blue, entwined with gold. They had made also sacerdotal vestments, the "coats of fine linen" worn by all the priests, which, when old, were unravelled, and made into wicks burnt in the feast of tabernacles. They had made the "girdles of needlework," which were long, very long pieces of fine twined linen (carried several times round the body), and were embroidered with flowers in blue, and purple, and scarlet: the "robe of the ephod" also for the high priest, of light blue, and elaborately wrought round the bottom in pomegranates; and the plain ephods for the priests.
But now the sun was declining in the western sky, and the busy artificers of all sorts were relaxing from the toil of the day.
In a retired spot, apart from the noise of the camp, paced one in solitary meditation. Stalwart he was in frame, majestic in bearing; he trod the earth like one of her princes; but the loftiness of his demeanour was forgotten when you looked on the surpassing benignity of his countenance. Each accidental passer hushed his footsep and lowered his voice as he approached; more, as it should seem, from involuntary awe and reverence than from any understood prohibition.
But with some of these loiterers a child of some four or five summers, in earnest chase after a brilliant fly, whose golden wings glittered in the sunlight, heedlessly pursued it even to the very path of the Solitary, and to the interruption of his walk. Hastily, and somewhat peremptorily, the father calls him away. The stranger looks up, and casting a glance around, from an eye to whose brilliance that of the eagle would look dim, he for the first time sees the little intruder. Gently placing a hand on the child's head, "Bless thee," he said, in a voice whose every tone was melody: "Bless thee, little one; the blessing of the God of Israel be upon thee," and calmly resumed his walk. The child, as if awed, mutely returned to his friends, who, after casting a glance of reverence and admiration, returned to the camp.
Here, scattered all around, are groups occupied in those varied kinds of busy idleness which will naturally engage the moments of an intelligent multitude at the close of an active day. Here a knot of men in the pride of manhood, whose flashing eyes have lost none of their fire, whose raven locks are yet not varied by a single silver line, are talking politics—such politics as the warlike men of Israel would talk, when discoursing of the promised land and the hostile hosts through whose serried ranks they must
cut their intrepid way thither, and whom, impatient of all delay, they burn to engage. Here were elder ones, "whose natural force" was in some degree "abated," and who were lamenting the decree, however justly incurred, which forbade them to lay their bones in the land of their lifelong hope; and here was a patriarch, bowed down with the weight of years, whose silver hairs lay on his shoulders, whose snow-white beard flowed upon his breast, who as he leaned upon his staff was recounting to his rapt auditors the dealing of Jehovah with his people in ancient days; how the Most High visited his father Abraham, and had sworn unto Jacob that his seed should be brought out of captivity, and revisit the promised land. "And behold," said the old man, "it will now come to pass."
But what is passing in that detached portion of the camp? who sojourn in yonder tents which attract more general attention than all the others, and in which all ages and degrees seem interested? Now a group of females are there, eagerly conversing; anon a Hebrew mother leads her youthful and beautiful daughter, and seems to incite her to remain there; now a hoary priest enters, and in a few moments returns pondering; and anon a trio of more youthful Levites with pleased and animated countenances return from the same spot.
On a sudden is every eye turned thitherward; for he who just now paced the solitary glade—none other than the chosen leader of God's host, the majestic lawgiver, the meekest and the mightiest of all created beings—he likewise wends his way to these attractive tents. With him enters Aaron, a vener