The angel of the Lord encampeth
round about them that fear him, and
O taste and see that the Lord
is good; blessed is the man that
trusteth in him.
O fear the Lord, ye his saints;
for there is no want to them that
THE BATTLE OF THE DITCH.
The leaves above me and around me
Are red with blood.”
In the year which followed, Mohammed’s forces were more than once directed against Syrian caravans, and the plunder divided among the Moslem troops after one-fifth had been appropriated by the prophet; but otherwise the truce was unbroken, until at the end of the year, the Koreish, uniting with neighboring tribes, many of whom were Jews, formed the plan of a grand attack which was to free El Hejaz forever from the power of the Islam despot.
From the Caaba the call was given to all who could be appealed to through religion, through the interests of commerce, or through desire for blood-revenge in consequence of the battles of Bedr and Ohod. To the more earnest Jews the undertaking took the form of a vast religious war, undertaken against the hosts of Satan for the deliverance of a land in bondage; to the Meccan merchants it assumed the guise of a commercial transaction which would again restore the trade so long ruined by Mohammed’s hostile measures; to the Koreish and the desert tribes it seemed the grand opportunity of clearing the honor stained by the unrevenged death of their friends.
Accordingly a host of volunteers to the number of one hundred thousand offered themselves, and the vast array set out. Among the volunteers were Yusuf, Amzi, Asru, and the valiant Manasseh, all of whom deemed the necessity of the hour a sufficient reason for entering upon a course foreign to the laws of peace which they would fain have seen established.
A mighty host it seemed in a land whose battles had chiefly been confined to skirmishes between different tribes. As it wound its way down the narrow valley, the women of Mecca stood upon the housetops, listening to the trampling, and beseeching their household gods to bless the enterprise.
Long ere they reached Medina the prophet had received word of their advance, and had had a ditch or entrenchment dug about the city as a sort of fortification.
Abu Sofian ordered his tents to be pitched below on the plain, and, this done, he at once laid siege to the city.
But his bad generalship ruined the undertaking. For a month he kept his men wholly inactive, and during that time Mohammed busied himself in sending emissaries in the midst of Abu Sofian’s men for the purpose of sowing disaffection among them; and so completely was this done that the besieging force became hollow and rotten to its core. Tribe after tribe left. The few faithful besought their leader to permit them to attack the city, and when at last the order was given, but a feeble remnant of the original host remained. Notwithstanding this, the command “Forward!” was hailed with tumultuous joy, and the besiegers pressed forward in irregular yet serried masses.