Syria and Arabia.
A Paper on some Curious and Original discoveries, concerning the re-settlement of the seed of Abraham, in Syria and Arabia, with mathematical and geographical Scripture proofs. Read before the British Association of Science, at Aberdeen, September 16,1859, by Major J. Scott Phillips.
To the President and Members of the British Association of Science.
Perhaps it may be permitted to me to observe, that circumstances of discovery have laid upon me the duty of appearing in your presence today, in order that I should read before this great assembly a paper upon some curious and original matter concerning the future civilisation and settlement of the seed of Abraham within the borders of Syria and Arabia. And upon so vast and important a subject I could not have ventured to speak, had I not been guided to the consideration and combination of some very precise mathematical and geographical facts, which I trust may only need to be exemplified and simply explained, to obtain your recognition as realities, and your application of them, as may best suit your views, to a variety of useful purposes.page 2
To proceed, however, with my present duty; I would observe, that possibly there exists no need for my detailing at any length the present condition of the countries which I have mentioned. We know that Syria has been a land flowing with milk and honey, and that it is now waste and desolate. We know that Arabia may be generally described as a waste and howling wilderness; that Syria has for centuries been trodden beneath the hoof of the Turk; Arabia trodden by the feet of the wandering Arab; while both alike have lost all tokens of civilisation, existing at this day under the decadence of the Turkish empire and the very dregs of the Mahommedan religion. We know also, that the seed of Abraham, under the general name of Jews, have been and still are scattered throughout the world; and yet they have been called the chosen people, and Arabia bordering upon Syria may be spoken of as the very cradle of the human race.
Who that has careered along the Red Sea, gazing on desert shores where even the trading Arab does not land—who that has numbered the stones of Zion, and have we not, all been enabled to do so by the means of that beautiful art Photography—who that has the civilisation of his species at heart, and has compared our glorious Britain, cultivated like a garden, with the barren sands of Syria and Arabia,—but must wish for the time and the means whereby the sands of the wilderness shall be watered, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.
And if, among the various wonderful developments of the days in which we live, a new development can be produced even out of a very old book, and if such can be brought to bear upon the lands we have been speaking of, page 3 is it not worthy of scientific pursuit to inquire upon this subject; and while Layard has been digging into that book, and digging up foundations, and producing things new and old, and while Rawlinson has been deciphering names and dates, which also illustrate the value of that old, old book, may it not be permitted to us to turn to our geographical maps, and turn to the pages of what is written, and comparing tilings past, present, and to come, see if we cannot also decipher somewhat, amid the latitudes and longitudes, the elevations and depressions, the coast and river lines, the sites of cities and of plains, which may throw light upon the return of civilisation to Syria and Arabia, the return of the Jews to their own land, and their re-settlement upon that land, amid fertility, and wealth, and science, and all that dignifies and exalts the human kind.
In the maps which we have the pleasure to submit to your inspection, it is proposed to show the actual boundaries of the whole extent of the earth's surface which is to be re-inhabited by the seed of Abraham, fixing those boundaries by the needful quotations—then the bearing, line, and centre of construction for the orderly re-settlement throughout the said extent, the same to be proved by mathematical proportions—then the geographical alterations which the formation of Syria will admit, illustrating the same with the effects of such geographical alterations—rand lastly we would carry out their effects even upon the tongue of the Egyptian Sea, the Sea of Suez, and upon the Kile and land of Egypt.
Let us, then, draw attention to the Geographical Map, No. 1, of Syria and Arabia, and refer to the record which tells us that when page 4 Abraham was dwelling in Canaan, between Bethel and Hai, about ten Roman miles north of Jerusalem, it was said to him (Genesis xiii. 14), "Lift up now thine eyes and look from the place where thou art, northward and southward, and eastward and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever."
But as this was only a general, and an indefinite, though magnificent declaration, we must go farther to ascertain the precise boundaries of this promised land. And so turning to the 18th verse of the 15th chapter, where God covenants with Abraham, saying, "Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates" (evidently contrasting one great river with the other); we take the Nile and the Euphrates to aid us in our search for boundaries, and are thus far aided on the north and south.
From Genesis we proceed to the 31st verse of the 23rd chapter of Exodus, where we read upon the same subject, the promise made through Moses to the seed of Abraham. "I will set thy bounds from the Red Sea even unto the Sea of the Philistines, and from the desert unto the river." And here we gain the Red Sea as the great southern boundary, stretching its line up to the river Nile; and for a western boundary, we have the Great Sea, Mediterranean or Sea of the Philistines. The expression "from the desert unto the river," most probably applied merely to the first partial settlement in the promised land; and in that case, but a small portion of the Red Sea formed a short southern boundary.
But lest we should be lost in the idea that it was only that partial settlement detailed in the page 5 34th chapter of the book of Numbers which was proposed, let us, bearing in mind the grand boundaries for the full-grown expansion of the promises, turn to the 24th verse of the 11th chapter of Deuteronomy, wherein God, speaking by Moses to the children of Israel, describes their full inheritance, saying, "Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon to the southern roots of Sinai in the wilderness, and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be." Now, rule a line from the northern roots of Lebanon to the southern roots of Sinai in the wilderness, and will not a perpendicular thereto point out the uttermost sea to be the East Sea, the Sea of Oman? And the uttermost sea, opposite the river Euphrates, is it not the Red Sea?
And therefore as by our geographical map, we presume to judge that the Euphrates, the Mediterranean, the Nile at the prolongation of the Sea of Suez, the Red Sea, and the Sea of Oman, and of course, though not described, the Gulf of Persia (surrounding all Syria and Arabia), are proved to be the boundaries of the promised land; while we will next proceed to consider ancient land measures; endeavour with mathematical precision to strengthen the fixity of these external boundaries; and then go on with measurements therein.
But secondly: For these purposes we require above all a standard land measure; and to obtain that is difficult, because the Scripture measure, the cubit (and the reed of 6 cubits, each cubit a cubit and a span)—is hardly to be obtained, that is directly, with any certainty, so great are the differences between the best and wisest calculators. But if we compare page 6 three different constructions mentioned in different parts of the same great Book, the oblation of Ezekiel, the wine-press of the 14th chapter of Revelation, and the Holy City New Jerusalem, we shall find the first to be a square of 25,000 reeds—the second, a square of 400 furlongs—and the third, also to have a square base of 400 furlongs or 50 miles. And if we refer to the Greek original, we shall find that the word stadious has been injudiciously rendered furlongs; whereby the mind of the reader has been directed to English common measure, instead of the ancient Roman measure; the former of 8 furlongs containing 5280 feet per mile, the latter of 8 stadia 4864.64 feet per mile—a very essential difference.
Now, so close are the analogies, as will be proved in our practical working, between the three square areas already mentioned, that while the medium of other investigations gives 20.168 inches as the standard cubit, we decide for our standard, to take the cubit by deduction from the Roman mile of 8 stadia, each 608.08 feet, and thence, the cubit being 19.45856 inches, which will give the reed of 6 cubits, equal to 116.75136 inches; and 25,000 of such reeds will correspond with 50 Roman miles, while 75 such miles correspond, as by Van de Velde's latest map of Syria published last year, with one geographical degree. And the correctness of our views will, we believe, be fully proved, both when we apply the Roman mile along our line of construction across the breadth of the promised land, and when we apply the reed and cubit to the measurements of Jerusalem and its temple.
But Thirdly: We require a bearing before we proceed with our construction, and to find that, we fix by latitude and longitude the sites page 7 of two places—Geba and Rimmon, as by careful consideration of the best authorities; having been led to select these places, where it is written, (Zech. xiv. 10), "All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem; and it shall be lifted up and inhabited in her place," that is, in Jerusalem's place, for in the following passage it is stated that (Zech. xiv. 11,) "Men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited."
And Fourthly: We require authority for the line of construction, and this we find, where it is written (Zech i. 16), "Thus saith the Lord. I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies, my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of Hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem."
And Lastly: We require an actual centre of construction, and this we find to be in Mount Zion, because it is written (Isaiah, xxviii. 16) "Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner, a sure foundation."
Thus, having obtained the boundaries of the land to be re-occupied, the standard measure, the bearing, the line, and the centre of construction, we would now, by your leave, proceed with our developments and proofs. Having drawn the connection between Geba and Rimmon, we stretch out a line of construction through the given centre in Mount Zion, and prolong the tame to the great river Euphrates, the northern boundary, and down to the Red Sea, the southern boundary. At the centre we construct a square of 50 Roman miles, which, according to Scripture, is called the Holy Oblation; and now, taking the same measure, viz. 50 miles, in our compass, we step it northward page 8 along the line of construction, and find that there are exactly seven spaces of 50 miles each to the boundary at the Euphrates where that river abruptly turns away to the north; and stepping the same measure southward, we find that there are precisely five spaces of 50 miles each between the Oblation and the southern boundary, the Red Sea.
Thus we have thirteen equal distances upon the breadth of the promised land, one for the Oblation and twelve for the Tribes. And if, after having fixed the Oblation upon independent principles, we turn to the 48th chapter of Ezekiel, and read of the re-settlement as stated there, we find a most complete coincidence along the line of construction. We find Ban to the North, then the tribes in succession down to Judah, next to Judah the Oblation, and then the remaining five tribes in succession ending with Gad, all marked off by perpendiculars across the line of construction, and extending from the cast side unto the west (the east sea being the cast side, as proved by Ezekiel, 47,48), entirely occupying all Syria and Arabia (for the portion marked Dedan on Geographical Plan, No. 1, goes to fill up the complement of Dan and Asher, the monstrous cantle cut out by the Gulf of Persia), and leaving only the long triangular space below Gad unoccupied, concerning which tribe it is written (Deut. xxxiii. 20), "Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad."
Now, these developments are, we trust, so literal and precise, that we may venture to ask your attention to another geographical argument which will greatly tend to illustrate our subject, and which leads us to make mention of the mode whereby Jerusalem will be made thepage break page break page 9
chief city of the whole earth, and also to speak of the internal measurements of the Oblation which we have obtained, and its developments for the inhabitation, commerce, and conservancy of Jerusalem delivered.
In two volumes, entitled "The Dead Sea, a new route to India by Captain Allen, R.N.," we have had an ingenious proposition for connecting the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, by a canal across the plains of Esdraelon, and clearing out the old bed of the Jordan. And under political and engineering reprobation, we know of the plan of the Suez Canal. But neither of these would give to Jerusalem the prominence and position which would be effected by an earthquake valley dividing the land of Syria through the Mount of Olives, as seen in our 2nd Geographical plan; and concerning which, we have a very curious quotation (Zech. xiv. 4—8), where it is written:—that on a certain day "the Lord's feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. And ye shall flee the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earth-quakein the days of Uzziah king of Judah." And good reason for flying—for the Mediterranean will come rushing in. For Symonds and other surveyors have shown to us that the level of the Dead Sea is 1,312 feet below the Mediterranean, and if we draw a line to represent the major axis of the Mount of Olives, and divide that line by a perpendicular thereto, we shall find that on the east, the division im- page 10 mediately reaches the Dead Sea—and on the west, if prolonged so as to indicate the course of a very great valley, it will reach unto As-calon, whereof the sc changed into s produces Azalon, and cutting off the termination on will bring the valley even unto Azal on the coast of the Mediterranean, fulfilling Scripture where it is written, "Ascalon is cut off the remnant of their valley." In the plan presented, the small lines show the valleys which bound the Mount of Olives to the north and south, while up the centre of the mountain runs the little valley of Achor, whereof it is written:—"I will give thee the valley of Achor for a door of hope;" and, accordingly, while you may perceive that the line A B shows the major axis of the mountain, and the line C D gives the perpendicular thereto, passing precisely over Ascalon, we have taken the course of delineating the Straits of Azal, as we venture to term them, according to the present natural water lines, save only where it has seemed appropriate to cut into main channels, and so through water sheds. An earthquake valley being opened, the waters of the Great Sea, falling eight times the depth of the falls of Niagara into the Dead Sea, will speedily cause its waters to rise; and while a mighty whirlpool will be created in the vast basin of the Dead Sea, its rising waters will be quietly permeating the drift sands of four thousand years which now conceal the southern bed of the Jordan. Yes, as surely as the waters of the Mediterranean shall enter the Dead Sea at an angle—and admirably prepared as the geographical construction of the surrounding mountains is to produce a grand gyration—so surely will that gyration of commingled waters rise page 11 from a hollow swirl to a mighty overpowering swell. And when at length the waters stand upon a heap, and the sustaining power of gyration ceases to uphold, the mass of water falls and separates and strikes against the surrounding mountain sides: and now, "let the sea roar and the fulness thereof, let the floods clap hands before the Lord, for He cometh to judge the earth and the peeple with His righteousness," and God will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.
The tumultuous waters finding no other outlet will rush down the Jordan's bed, cleansing it as in a moment. The Red Sea, rising above its desolated shores, will overflow by the Valley of Edom, completing the Straits of Azal into the long Red Sea, by the Gulf of Akabah. Thus Jerusalem, become the central city of the earth, will stand upon the highway for all nations. And the riches of the East and of the "West will there find their great emporium; and religion, reigning above commerce in those coining happy days, will fill that long-despised down-trodden city with the glory of the earth; and "God will extend peace to her like a river; and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream."
Doubtless the ancient bed of the Jordan was the Valley of Arabah. The broad valley "is one wide waste of sands, worked by the winds into driving clouds." Its boundary rocks "show as an old sea coast, grooved by torrents, and worn with water marks." And though, between the north wind and the south, its sands may be heaped to the height of 485 feet—and thus give drainage to the north and south—yet, how soon would the swellings of Jordan, and the rush of the ocean waters by the Straits of Azal, sweep off the sand-drift of page 12 4000 years, and cause the commerce of ancient Petra, and of Tyre, that overthrown merchant city, to centre in the emporium of the Holy City, the City of Jerusalem.
The Sea—the Dead Sea—shall receive the living waters of the Ocean; and thus shall be formed the great pool of Jerusalem—the harbour for the commerce of the world.
Having thus, as we trust, been enabled to show the possibility of Jerusalem possessing the great gate of commerce between the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, we would endeavour to add what we hope may be found to be a great confirmation of our last-mentioned geographical development. For, if as by scale and measure of the cubit, we construct, as in Plan No. 2, the new Temple on Mount Zion, which, on the given scale, would be one mile square—and if, also, considering the conservancy of the great city ten miles square, around the same centre—we seek for an abundant supply of waters rising from a central spot; we shall find on turning to the 47th chapter of Ezekiel, a vision of waters rising from beneath the altar of the Temple, and issuing out from the threshold of the house eastward. These waters at a thousand cubits, going east, were ankle deep—at a thousand more they were knee deep—at three thousand they reached to a man's loins—but, at four thousand cubits, behold "a river that could not be passed over, for the waters were risen"—the Straits of Azal were opened, the Dead Sea was risen, and the river shown was of "waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over." This last development is shown by scale and measure in our plan; and having, as we trust, been enabled to illustrate these curious combinations of scripture with geography, we would be content with having page 13 demonstrated their possibility, leaving all our hearers to judge of their probability; only observing, that, as it is written, "a fountain shall go forth of the house of the Lord, and shall water the valley of Shittim;" and, as its waters are described as going down into the Dead Sea and healing the waters, so that "for the multitude of the fish thereof, the fishermen shall stand thereon from Engedi to Engallim," so when upon our maps we find Shittim just above the Dead Sea, and Engedi and Engallim on its borders, we can no longer be led to accept what are called spiritualizing views upon such precise statements, and can but smile, when the multitude of fish, described as the fish of the great sea after their kinds, are attempted to be applied to believers in the truth of the Bible.
We would, however, beg to detain your attention a few minutes longer, when, having completed our geographical illustrations, we would turn to quote the peculiar sayings recorded in scripture concerning the three Northern and the three Southern Tribes.
Of Dan it is written, "He shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel—Dan is a lion's whelp." They were wont to place lions—we frequently place them at entrances—and judges of old sat in the gate; so Gad is in the northern entrace to the land.
Of Asher it is written, "Let him dip his foot in oil, thy shoes iron and brass, and as thy days thy strength." Antioch is just within the border of Asher; and, in his blessing, we read a just emblem of a modern railway, which, from Antioch, running up the Oroutes, and taking the first turn possible through the mountains on its right bank, would run a course parallel, yet sufficiently distant from the Eu- page 14 phrates, down to the settled sea-shore of the Persian Gulf.
Of Napthali it is said, "O. Napthali! possess thou the west and the south"—harbourage on the Mediterranean and on the Persian Gulf.
Of Issachar it is written, "Rejoice, Issachar, in thy tents." They (Issachar and Zebulon) shall seek the abundance of the seas, and treasures hid in the sand. "Issachar is a strong ass, bowing down between two burdens." Our plan shows Issachar at the harbour mouth in the head of the Gulf of Akaba. There all who come by water and all who come by land will pitch their tents and unload their land and sea burdens; the treasures hid in the sand drifts of the Valley of Araba will speedily be developed, when the rush of the opening Straits of Azal shall establish for ever the "river which shall make glad the city of God."
"Zebulon shall dwell at the haven of the sea, and he shall be for a haven of ships, and his border unto Zidou." He as well as Issachar," shall suck of the abundance of the seas and treasures hid in the sands." "We look upon the geographical plan, and see Zebulon correctly placed.
Lastly, of Gad it is written:—"Blessed be he that enlargeth Gad," "he dwelleth as a lion" seated at the entrance; "and he provided the first portion for himself, because, there in a portion of the lawgiver was he seated." We have already observed upon the customary as the Gulf of Akaba is straight, and its sides steep, the sands will not rest there, but in the quiet back eddy behind the roots of Sinai-there among the narrows and the islands will the mass of sand be deposited: and when once the swell of the Red Sea is bounded thus, speedily the waters will fail from the tongue of page 15 the Egyptian Sea—the Sea of Suez; and as by the maps of the surveyors of the Red Sea, the Bay of Cosseir is opposite the Gulf of Akaba, and since, as by the maps of the savants who accompanied the first Napoleon to Egypt, as well as by the maps of the Society of Useful Knowledge, there exists an old river bed, stretching from Cosseir to the Nile; the rush of waters, swollen as aforesaid and pressed on by a mighty north wind, will push up that ancient river bed—plunge into the Valley of the Nile, with heaps of mud and sand; and in their refluent course drag after them the waters of the Nile—thus "beating off from the channel of the river" into the Red Sea.
Our Geographical Plan, No. 1, shows this old bed taking off in a right line straight below Thebes; and rushing waters in their refluent course would never pause to take the downward curve, but would go straight onward where they found a straight course, as shown upon our map, presented for their exit. Thus the river of Egypt, as described in Scripture, would be smitten in the seven streams thereof. Egypt would be at once smitten and healed; for the low lands would soon be freshly irrigated by means of wells and water-wheels, and the newly-opened mouth of the Nile would bring all nations from the sources of the Blue Nile in Abyssinia; and all from the undiscovered wilderness of the "White River—from the great mountains of the Moon in Africa, till
At Jerusalem should be fulfilled
That "Ethiopia spreads abroad the hand
And worships;" and its riches come to swell
The riches of the City of the Lord.
And not alone the passage shall be made
From Ethiopia to the long Red Sea,
But the Superfluous waters of the Nile
page 16 Shall be redeemed above each cataract,
And flowing westward o'er the wastes of sand
Shall through interior Libya be poured.
For "they shall turn the rivers far away
And I will cause thy rivers to flow like oil;"
And Science, guided by the hand of Faith,
In duteous cognizance of Prophecy,
Shall make the desert blossom as the rose
And fill the barren sands with teeming life.
And now having concluded a brief sketch of developments in Syria, Arabia, and Egypt, we would only, in conclusion, seek to note that when as at length in these our days, so remarkable for the increase of knowledge—we have, after so many centuries of ignorance and guesswork, such correct delineations of rivers and seas, correct latitudes and longitudes, and that wonderful fact correctly established by Lieutenant Symonds, and since by many others, of the actual great depression of the Dead Sea. Surely we may say, that veraciously dealing with geography, and taking words and things in their natural straightforward sense, we might expect to obtain some new developments of Scripture truth; and along with them bright prospects for the human race, and especial prospects of the chosen seed—the seed of Abraham.
If we have failed in deducing these, at least let us say we have not failed for want of earnest desire after true deduction. If our adduced combinations are not realities, we submit to your faithful judgment; and if happily we have been enabled to produce aught worthy of acceptance, let praise be given where alone it is due. We desire only, having fulfilled our humble duty of exposition, to make our courtesy to our kind auditors, and thankfully to retire.