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The houses at Damascus, Mr. Wilson tells us, are built of these bricks, not dried by fire, but by the heat of the sun ; and in summer they crack and crumble by the heat, creating a most offensive dust, especially when rain is followed by wind; while, during wet weather, the slough arising from them renders the streets almost impassable.—See RAE Wilson's Travels, vol. ii. pp. 117-119.
Many of the villages in Barbary “are made up in a careless, slovenly manner, with mud, stone, timber, hurdles, and such materials as are not the most durable, but the most easily procured.”—Shaw's Barbary, vol. i.
“When villages built of these bricks fall into rubbish, which is often the case, the roads are full of small particles of straw extremely offensive to the eyes in a high wind. Village after village may be seen in Egypt, built of unburnt brick, crumbling to ruins, and giving place to new habitations .... In every part of Egypt we find the towns built upon the ruins, or rather the rubbish of former habitations.”—JOWETT's Researches in the Mediterranean.
Another traveller has taken notice of the mouldering down of some Eastern buildings upon a shower of rain, as an illustration of the untempered mortar of which Ezekiel speaks. “ The rains cause the walls to fall, which are built of clay, the mortar plastering dissolving. This plaster hinders the water from penetrating the bricks ; but when the plastering has been soaked with wet, the wind cracks it, and occasions the rain in some succeeding shower to get between, and dissolve everything."
“ When I was at Tozer," writes Dr. Shaw, “in December 1727, we had a small drizzling shower, that continued for the space of two hours; and so little provision was made against accidents of this kind, that several of the houses, which are built only as usual, with palm branches, mud, and tiles baked in the sun, corresponding perhaps to, and explanatory of the untempered mortar, fell down by imbibing the moisture of the shower. Nay, provided the drops had been either larger, or the shower of a longer continuance, or overflowing, the whole city would have undoubtedly dissolved and dropped to pieces.”—Shaw's Travels in Barbary, vol. i. p. 250.
DEUT. i. 28. “The cities are great, and walled up to heaven.”
iii. 5. “ All these cities were fenced with high walls... beside unwalled towns, a great many."
Rev. xxi. 12. “ And (the city) had a wall great and high.”
If they raised up anciently the walls of their cities so high as not to be liable to be scaled, they thought them safe ; the same simple contrivance is to this day sufficient to guard places from the Arabs, who live in the very wilderness in which Israel wandered when the spies discouraged them by saying, “ The cities are walled up to heaven ;” and who are a nation more inured to warlike enterprises than the Israelites were ?
“ The great monastery at Mount Sinai,” Thevenot says, “is well built, of good freestone, with very high smooth walls. On the east side there is a window, by which those that were within drew up pilgrims into the monastery with a basket, which they let down by a rope that runs in a pulley, to be seen above at the window, and the pilgrims went into it one after another. [In something of this way St. Paul must have been let down the walls of Damascus, which were low.] These walls are so high that they cannot be scaled, and without cannon the place cannot be taken.”—See HARMER'S 06servations, vol. i. pp. 390, 391.
The town of Shohba (in a district east of the Haurān,) was formerly one of the chief cities in these districts, as is attested by its remaining town walls,... (which) may be traced all round the city, and are perfect in many places.”——BURCKHARDT'S Syria, &c. p. 70.
DIGGING THROUGH WALLS.
JOB xxiv. 16. “In the dark they dig through houses, which they had marked for themselves in the day-time.”
EZEKIEL viii. 7-9. “ And he brought me to the door of the court; and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall! Then said he unto me, Son of man, dig now in the wall ; and when I had digged in the wall, behold a door. And he said unto me, Go in, and behold the wicked abominations that they do here."
Matt. vi. 19. Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth .... where thieves break through and steal.”
xxiv. 43. “ But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up” (or, to be dug through).
In entering premises by burglary, the Easterns do not break through doors or windows, for these are not easily accessible, but they make their way through the walls. The words “ break through,” and “ broken up,” properly mean to “ dig through.”
Nothing is more common in India, than for thieves to dig through the mud walls at night, and plunder the inhabitants.
NAILS IN EASTERN WALLS.
EZRA ix. 8. “And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place, that our God may lighten our eyes, and give us a little reviving in our bondage."
ISAIAH xxii. 23-25. “ And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place... And they shall hang upon him all the glory of his father's house,...all vessels of small quantity, from the vessels of cups even to all the vessels of flagons.
“ In that day, saith the Lord of Hosts, shall the nail that is fastened in the sure place be removed, and be cut down, and fall; and the burden that was upon it shall be cut off; for the Lord hath spoken it."
Speaking of the houses at Damascus, Mr. Wilson says, “In building, the plan is to fix nails or pins of wood in the walls while still soft, to suspend such domestic articles as are required, since, consisting altogether of clay, they are too frail to permit of the operation of a hammer."-RAE Wilson's Travels, vol. ii. p.
118. It is evidently to this custom that the sacred writers refer in the texts quoted above, making it expressive of security and perpetuity. For Ezra, after speaking of the afflictions of his people, and representing them as delivered to captivity and the sword, in strange lands, where they wandered defenceless, having no secure dwelling, nor place of refuge, adds, “And now for a little space grace hath been shewed from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a nail in his holy place;" thus restoring them to their own land, to the city and the house which he had chosen to put his name there, giving them once again a constant and sure abode in his holy mountain and temple.
And in like manner, Isaiah, when prophesying in the name of the Lord concerning the honours which should be conferred upon Eliakim, declares that he should be fastened as a nail in a sure place; thus signifying his security, and that upon him shall hang all the glory of his father's house.
“ The words sure place' (observes Mr. Wilson) are very expressive, for usually the walls of the Eastern houses are most insecure.”
GATES OF EASTERN CITIES.
GENESIS xxiii. 10-end. “ And Ephron the Hittite answered Abraham in the audience...of all that went in at the gate of his city... and the field of Ephron... and the cave which was therein...were made sure unto Abraham for a possession... before all that went in at the gate of his city.” (xxxiv. 24.)