"Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran." Genesis 28:10

The world in many of its outward phases has undergone important alterations since the era of the Pilgrim Fathers of Canaan. Its infancy has been merged in the maturity of age. And yet the heart that beat under a Beersheba tent, or under the nightly sky of Palestine, is identical in all the "unchanged humanities" which pulse and throb to this hour under a British tree in the nineteenth century. With little variations there are the same struggles of inexperienced youth, the same stern conflicts of ripened manhood. Looking, too, to the Divine side, we have to note a similar continuity of spiritual influence. The moral forces which arrested and controlled the patriarch in his flight to Haran have their repetition now. That dream was the rehearsal of Divine revelations to the individual soul ever since. Many a heart, during the intervening three thousand six hundred years, has become a Bethel, many a dwelling, the pathway of angels.

Outset from Home! How much is implied in the brief words which head this chapter! Few there are, regarding either themselves or others, in whom they do not awaken mingled recollections; all the more so, if, corresponding with the case of Jacob, it be the first blank in the tent--the first break in the magic household-circle--the first vacant chair by the fireside. At the inexorable calls of life, the cherished nest sooner or later must be broken up. Not a day passes but there are thousands of such departures--the scene in the desert and pasture-lands of southern Judah repeated amid the green lanes and smiling fields of modern England--the remnants of the long-unbroken group gathered at the door, whether of lordly castle or of thatched cottage, uttering the last farewell, and then re-entering that which will never be the same to its inhabitants again. Many an Isaac and Rebekah have thus watched their favorite boy until lost from view in the winding road or receding glades; or standing with mute tears upon the harbor, have followed the wake of the disappearing vessel until they caught the last wave of the "vanishing hand."

Each may conjure up their own remembrance of that hour; whether in the remoter past or recent present. The first entrance at school or university, waking up under the strange roof, listening to the strange voices, and noting the unfamiliar ways. The more frequent case still in humbler life, the commencement of the novel toils and duties of ordinary domestic service. How many have lain down thus in their new dream-land, to whom may have come, in visions of the night, the glow of familiar faces in the "fitful firelight" with its "shadows on the parlor wall;" or the picture of loved ones seated on the mossy turf, where childhood was used to weave its necklace of primrose and daffodil, the ringing laugh still echoing over the meadows; or while listening to the music of the tuneful brook, singing its way through rocky dell amid birch and heather. How many such have opened their eyes in early morn, with the consciousness that to them at least these cherished scenes and sounds are amid the visions and echoes of the past--"as a dream when one awakens."

"Far away a place is vacant
By a humble hearth for me,
Dying embers dimly show it,
Where I would sincerely be!

Faded Autumn leaves are trembling
On the withered jasmine tree,
Creeping round the little casement,
Where I would sincerely be!

There some simple hearts are waiting,
Longing, wearying for me;
Far away where tears are falling,
Where I would sincerely be!"

Yes, few among us can fail to recall the day, with its bygone vistas of holy sunshine (a tear may be condoned for its memories) when we went out from our Beersheba towards some unknown Haran!

"Happy, thrice happy," says one of the most illustrious secular writers of the past age in concluding one of his works, "as an after remembrance, be the final parting between hopeful son and fearful parent, at the foot of that mystic bridge, which starts from the threshold of home--lost in the dimness of the far-opposing shore--bridge, over which goes the boy who shall never return but as the man."

The first home-leaving, in the case of the patriarch, was in many ways singular and exceptional. Its sadness must have been augmented by the fact that he was no youth when he thus took his pilgrim staff to begin the pilgrim life. For many long unbroken years of fellowship he had lived, either within, or at all events near, the paternal tent. His one only brother from boyhood had been devoted to a roving life. Impatient of the restraints of home, the latter despised the dull, unexciting monotony of sheepfolds and pasture lands. From dewy dawn until the sun crimsoned with its last rays the desert sand, Esau, the cunning hunter, the Nimrod of his day, loved to roam the woods and scale the rocks with his bow and quiver, rejoicing his father's heart by bringing home trophies of the chase from forest, and breezy upland; or, when marauding tribe made a foray on the peaceful tents and herds of the Hebrew settlers, we may conjecture he would be off for days with his picked band of fighters to make reprisals. For this very reason, had his been the departure from the family home, it would not have created the blank caused by the absence of the more domestic brother, whose simple tastes seem to have made him, at all events, his mother's undisguised favorite. Rebekah had kindred sympathies with Jacob which she seemed never to share with Esau. In the case of the elder-born there was nothing in common to unite save the strong bond of nature--while, in addition to other causes of repulsion and estrangement, the mother's jealousy was pronounced and irrepressible towards the Hittite wives of her nomadic son. The ascendancy of these idolatrous women over his pliable disposition, seemed to have formed her chief domestic trial (Gen. 26:35; 27:46).

There were well-known impelling reasons in Jacob's sudden outset from home which rendered it especially painful. It does not fall within the scope of these pages to rehearse the thrice familiar story of the too successful impersonation; the duped and deceived father; the wronged, and defrauded heir; the anguish of the unscrupulous mother when she woke up to the full consciousness of the peril for which her duplicity was responsible.

All companionless and alone, this too apt pupil in the school of treachery and intrigue goes forth on his journey.

Not many years before, that same route had been traversed by a trusted servant. Slave as he was, old Eleazar of Damascus was not allowed to undertake, in behalf of his young master, the long pilgrimage to Haran unaccompanied. He had ten richly adorned and well-laden camels with their drivers. While now "the heir of promise," with vast material and spiritual wealth, if not in possession at least in promise, is allowed to leave with nothing but the small bag slung on his shoulders, and the pilgrim staff in his hand.

The reason of the contrast is obvious. Jacob is fleeing for dear life. The wrath of a deeply-injured brother has compelled him to dispense with all preliminary preparations, and to resort to instantaneous flight. With the thought of the fleet, vindictive huntsman tracking his footsteps, he hastens along the rugged plateau of South Palestine (scarce knowing where), with the dim purpose of reaching, after days and nights of wandering, the home of his maternal relatives on the other side of the Euphrates, a distance of 400 miles. We cannot venture with confidence to describe the precise route he would follow, nor how long time it would occupy before he reached Bethel. The distance between the latter and Beersheba would render the completion of the journey, in less than two days, at least, an impossibility. He would pursue his way through rustic stretches of hill and valley, then all void of historic renown, but which, in coming ages, were to assert for themselves a name and a place unrivaled in sacred interest. Among these, he could hardly miss skirting the gorge from which was to rise the future walls of the great capital, and whose rocky heights were at this time occupied by the strong Canaanite fortress of Jebus. On he would speed through the tortuous windings of the green hills of Judah and Benjamin, sprinkled here and there with clusters of the indigenous olive tree. Probably on the second evening, the sun which had been pouring its rays on the head of the fugitive during the noontide and afternoon hours, was fast sinking behind the mountains of Ephraim; or perhaps as he surmounted at times the higher slopes, he could see beyond the Plains of Sharon--what, after his stationary home-life would be to him a less familiar feature--the great orb dipping its disc in the western wave.

Be this as it may, "the last faint pulse of quivering light" was gone; the stars were gemming the heavens, as we watch the lone figure of the exile, his body weary with fatigue, his soul filled with conflicting "home memories," seeking a halting place for the night in the dreary surrounding uplands.

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