Patriarchal Palestine eBook

Archibald Sayce
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 240 pages of information about Patriarchal Palestine.

Geographically, Palestine was thus a country of twofold character, and its population was necessarily twofold as well.  It was a land of mountain and plain, of broken highlands and rocky sea-coast.  Its people were partly mountaineers, active, patriotic, and poor, with a tendency to asceticism; partly a nation of sailors and merchants, industrious, wealthy, and luxurious, with no sense of country or unity, and accounting riches the supreme end of life.  On the one hand, it gave the world its first lessons in maritime exploration and trade; on the other it has been the religious teacher of mankind.

In both respects its geographical position has aided the work of its people.  Situated midway between the two great empires of the ancient Oriental world, it was at once the high road and the meeting-place of the civilizations of Egypt and Babylonia.  Long before Abraham migrated to Canaan it had been deeply interpenetrated by Babylonian culture and religious ideas, and long before the Exodus it had become an Egyptian province.  It barred the way to Egypt for the invader from Asia; it protected Asia from Egyptian assault.  The trade of the world passed through it and met in it; the merchants of Egypt and Ethiopia could traffic in Palestine with the traders of Babylonia and the far East.  It was destined by nature to be a land of commerce and trade.

And yet while thus forming a highway from the civilization of the Euphrates to that of the Nile, Palestine was too narrow a strip of country to become itself a formidable kingdom.  The empire of David scarcely lasted for more than a single generation, and was due to the weakness at the same time of both Egypt and Assyria.  With the Arabian desert on the one side and the Mediterranean on the other, it was impossible for Canaan to develop into a great state.  Its rocks and mountains might produce a race of hardy warriors and energetic thinkers, but they could not create a rich and populous community.  The Phoenicians on the coast were driven towards the sea, and had to seek in maritime enterprise the food and wealth which their own land refused to grant.  Palestine was essentially formed to be the appropriator and carrier of the ideas and culture of others, not to be itself their origin and creator.

But when the ideas had once been brought to it they were modified and combined, improved and generalized in a way that made them capable of universal acceptance.  Phoenician art is in no way original; its elements have been drawn partly from Babylonia, partly from Egypt; but their combination was the work of the Phoenicians, and it was just this combination which became the heritage of civilized man.  The religion of Israel came from the wilderness, from the heights of Sinai, and the palm-grove of Kadesh, but it was in Palestine that it took shape and developed, until in the fullness of time the Messiah was born.  Out of Canaan have come the Prophets and the Gospel, but the Law which lay behind them was brought from elsewhere.

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Patriarchal Palestine from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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