Rabbat-Ammon in 1847

“The dreariness of its (Ammon’s) present aspect,” says Lord Lindsay, “is quite indescribable,—it looks like the abode of death,—the valley stinks with dead camels, one of which was rolling in the stream; and though we saw none among the ruins, they were absolutely covered in every direction with their dung. That morning’s ride would have convinced a sceptic; How runs the prophecy? ‘I will make Rabbah a stable for camels.'”

The prophecy to which Lord Lindsay referred is Ezekiel 25.5:
I will make Rabbah a pasture for camels
and Ammon a fold for flocks.
Then you shall know that I am the LORD

The excerpt from Alexander William Crawford Lord Lindsay’s Letters on Egypt, Edom, and the Holy Land (London, 1847) is quoted in Rev. Alexander Keith’s Evidence of the Truth of the Christian Religion Derived from the Literal Fulfillment of Prophecy; Particularly as Illustrated by the History of the Jews, and by the Discoveries of Recent Travellers (phew!), 35th edition [!], Edinburgh, 1854, page 174. I also have a copy of the 39th edition, from 1872. The book’s multiple editions made it a mainstay of popular religion throughout the Victorian Age. He also wrote the entirely fascinating The Signs of the Times, as Denoted by the Fulfillment of Historical Predictions, Traced Down from the Babylonish Captivity to the Present Time (Edinburgh, 1834), in which the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation are tied, in the historicist manner, to various events in European history, most notably to Napoleon’s campaigns! The two small volumes are half-calf with marbled covers and marbling on the edges, and include some pullout maps which are fine examples of early nineteenth century mapmaking.

The Rev. Alexander Keith and his son George Skene Keith were also responsible for taking the first ever photographs of the Holy Land in 1844. These photographs, converted into engravings, appear in various editions of the Evidence… book. Rev. Keith (1791-1880) was also one of the many ministers involved in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland.

The primary value to moderns of the Evidence… book is its important picture of the state of the territories of the Holy Land in the years before Jewish settlement in the area and a counteracting/corresponding Ottoman transfer of Muslim populations into those territories. The picture described is one of a beautiful, fertile, productive land which is only sparsely populated by melancholy and oppressed inhabitants. What little settled population lived there was constantly intimidated by bands of marauding bedouin Arabs or the Turkish authorities. Although I would certainly think we can all regret the loss of the unspoiled natural beauty of the region which has since occurred, no one can miss the oppression of people in those days.


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