On the Shores of the Great Sea  by M. B. Synge

The Home of Abraham

"In the faith of little children, we went on our ways."


I T is strange to think of a very old world, when men knew nothing of the great salt sea that washed their shores, and nothing of the wonderful lands, that lay beyond. Each day the sun rose and set as it does to-day, but they did not know the reason why: the rivers flowed through the land, but they did not know whence they came, or whither they went.

These men of old, knew one great fact. They knew that they must live in a land, where there was plenty of water. How else could their sheep and oxen stay their thirst? how else should they and their children get food and drink? and how should the grain grow to save the land from famine?

So wherever a man settled down with his family in the old days, he chose some place near a river or spring. Perhaps others would wander over the land till they came to the same river, and there they would settle too, until there would be quite a little colony of families all attracted to the same spot by the fact that fresh, clean water, was flowing through the land.

And so it was that, long ago, the old stories tell us of a group of men, women, and children, who came and settled around a great river, called the Euphrates, away in the far East. It was one of the four rivers that watered the garden of Eden—a very beautiful and fertile spot.

This little group of settlers—known as the Chaldeans—grew corn in their rich country and became very prosperous, while other men were wandering about the trackless land with no fixed abode or calling.

These Chaldeans taught themselves many things. They made bricks and built houses to live in, they looked at the deep blue sky over their heads and learnt about the sun; they wandered about by night and learnt about the moon and the stars, they divided their time into seven days and called the days after seven stars, they taught themselves arithmetic and geometry. Of course they had no paper and pens to write with, but they scratched simple pictures on stones and tablets. For instance, a little drawing of one nail meant the figure I., two nails meant II., three nails in a row meant III., and so on.

Even to-day men go out to this old country, which has long since ceased to take any part in the world's history, and they find the old stones and tablets scratched by the Chaldeans, and learn more about these industrious people.

The Chaldeans knew a great deal, but they knew nothing beyond their own country, for how should they? There were no carts, no trains, no bridges over the rivers, no ships, in those early days. Travelling was very slow and difficult. On the backs of camels or asses the journeys must be made, under the burning sun and over the trackless desert land: food must be carted, and even water; for how could they tell where rivers ran in those unknown, unexplored regions?

But the day was at hand when one man with his whole family should travel from this land beyond the Euphrates, travel away from the busy life of the Chaldean cities into a new and unknown country.

That man was known as Abraham.

He was a great man in the far East; he was well read in the stars, and had learnt much about the rising and setting of the sun and moon. Why he was called to leave his native land is not known. "Get thee out of thine own country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee."

These were Abraham's orders.

And one day he rose up, and taking his old father Terah, his wife Sarai, and his fatherless young nephew Lot, with camels and asses bearing all his possessions, he left Chaldea.

The little party journeyed for a day, perhaps more, until they came to the frontier fortress of their own country, and here the old father Terah died before ever he had crossed that river that bounded the land of his birth.

And Abraham started off again to travel into the unknown land. The great river Euphrates rolled its vast volume of waters between him and the country to which his steps were bent. Two days' journey would bring him to the high chalk cliffs, from which he could overlook the wide western desert. Broad and strong lay the great stream below. He crossed it, probably near the same point where it is still forded. He crossed it and became known as the Hebrew—the man who had crossed the river flood—the man who came from beyond the Euphrates.