1872: Sharon is like a wilderness

Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits [Isaiah 33.9]
No precise illustration of these predictions was given in several previous editions of this treatise; but an extract from the work of a more recent traveller may show how the celebrated plain of Sharon not only partakes of the general desolation, as predicted, but how it also bears witness to the word that has fallen upon itself. “The plain of Sharon,” says Mr Robinson, “celebrated in Scripture for its fertility, and the beautiful flowers that grow spontaneously from the soild, stretches along the coast, from Gaza on the south to Mount Carmel in the nort, being bounded towards the east by the hills of Judea and Samaria. The soil is composed of very fine sand, which, though mixed with gravel, appears extremely fertile, and yet it is but partially cultivated, and still less inhabited. On either side of the road ruined and abandoned villages present themselves to the view of the disappointed traveller, impressing him with a species of melancholy which he is at a loss to account for, seeing no just cause for the existence of such a state of things in a lang ‘so plenteous in goods,’ and so abundant in population as once it was. If he should attribute it, as most likely he will, to the misrule of those that govern, he may, after mature reflection, ask himself the question: The judgments pronounced against the land, ahve they yet received their full completion? And are not its present rulers the visible instruments of those judgments? ‘You land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers.'”

Having since passed through Sharon from end to end, we may affirm, from personal observation, that Sharon is a wilderness. With very special exceptions it is now abandoned to the Bedouins, who in the present day pitch their tents near to the sea-shore, as well as on the borders of the desert. In an extensive view over the plain from the elevated ground beside the village of Mukhalid, not a village nor habitation was to be seen, as far as the eye can reach, and before arriving there from the north, not an inhabited village had we passed or seen, for the distance, along the coast, of six hours and a-half, or about twenty miles, though the ruined capital of Herod lay in our path; and the nearest in any direction, we were told, is ten miles distant. But true it is of Sharon, as of other plains, that, while strangers have devoured it, and the wicked of the earth have made of it a prey and a spoil, many pastors or herdsmen tread it under foot, and have made the pleasant portion of the Lord a desolate wilderness. We there saw nine or ten flocks of cattle and sheep, some of which were large, spread over the nearest borders of the plain. The habitations of the solitary village are wretched hovels, and the cattle pertaining to it, far too few to depasture the adjacent plain, where the flocks of the wandering Arabs freely roam.

But deserted and desolate as it lies, the wilderness retains not a little of the beauty of Sharon, ere, unsheltered as it is, it is scorched by the summer sun, its grass withered and its flowers faded. The ground is in many places covered with beautiful flowers. About midway between Mukhalid and Jaffa, the borders of a stream (the Phaalek) were extremely rich, after the earlier rain, in wild spontaneous produce; and vigorous plants were matted together in impenetrable closeness and the richest luxuriance.

Yet even there desolation is still advancing in unarrested progress; and one of its causes, not overlooked in prophecy, may be witnessed in its defacing and destructive effects, where the traveller seems to be leaving a desolated plain for a rich orchard, or a shady grove, or—what all the land shall yet be—a garden like that of Eden. But on a closer inspection several of the trees were withering away, but not from age. They had not been scathed from the top by lightning; but, with less instantaneous but not less destructive efficacy, they had been burned at the root by Bedouins. The lowest part of the trunks, half through or more, had been turned into ashes, and the tress were left standing to wither and die, till the hand could pull them down, or a blast lay them on the ground, when their withered branches would be fitted for the fires of the Bedouins, with the trunks, perhaps, of other trees for their hearths. In some instances, the soil had been partly scraped out beneath, to form hollows for the fire, as seen by the uncovered and burned roots. While desolation thus continues to spread over Sharon and other plains—where all manner of fruit trees of old adorned and enriched the land—the time is long past in which one generation had to tell another of such judgments ere they came; but how true as to the past, with such direful causes in operation still, is the word of the Lord, whether figuratively or literally,—a nation is come up upon my land—he hat laid my vine waste, and barked by fig-tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.—The vine is dried up, and the fig tree languisheth; the pomegranate tree, the palm tree also, and the apple tree, even all the trees of the field are withered: because joy is withered away from the sons of men [Joel 1.6, 7, 12].—Numberless are the trees that have thus been withered, till over extensive plains there is no fruit to be plucked from a tree, and Bedouins have often far to wander ere they pitch their tents near any trees that remain, not for fruit to eat, but for branches to burn. Sharon is like a wilderness. . . .

Rev Alexander Keith. Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived From the Literal Fulfilment of Prophecy: Particularly As Illustrated by the History of the Jews and by the Discoveries of Recent Travellers. Thirty-Ninth Edition. London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1872. Pages 173–176. Emphasis his.

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