National Geographic : 1944 Feb
On the Trail of King Solomon's Mines The Bible, in Addition to Its Spiritual Values, Continues to Prove a Rich Geography and Guide to Exploration of the Holy Land BY NELSON GLUECK THE school children of Palestine use the Bible as a guidebook when they hike through the land. The close relation ship between Holy Book and Holy Land, fostered by generations of pilgrims, is being confirmed anew by those who delve for facts in the very earth. When General Allenby conquered Palestine in 1917-18, he relied mainly on two books for information concerning its topography, geography, strategic roads, important sources of water, and naturally strong sites. These books were the Bible and George Adam Smith's Historical Geography of the Holy Land. Upon them he based his tactics and the conduct of the deliverers. Explorations Confirm Bible Geography It is amazing how much of the Bible story is verified by finds made in archeological exploration or excavation. The Bible requires no "proof" for its validity, because it is primarily concerned with theology and only secondarily with history. But the spade is sometimes mightier than the pen in throwing light on facts long buried under the debris of centuries. Archeological finds continue to substantiate the details and the general back ground of Biblical accounts. In August, 1943, I was flown from Jeru salem to Washington in three days, on the way back from my latest explorations in Bible Lands. Shortly before that I had stood by the ruins of Ezion-geber on the Gulf of 'Aqaba, looking toward Arabia (map, page 236). From it, some 3,000 years previously, had come the Queen of Sheba. And when the Queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with very hard questions. She came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that carried spices, very much gold, and precious stones (I Kings 10: 1, 2).* The richly burdened caravan of the Queen of Sheba probably strung its slow-paced length through Ezion-geber, which the Bible tells us was situated "on the shore of the Red * Bible quotations are the author's own transla tions from the Hebrew. "My main reason for using my own translations," Dr. Glueck explains, "is that the word in the original which means 'copper' is generally mistranslated 'bronze' or 'brass,' which were not known in ancient times." Sea, in the land of Edom" (I Kings 9: 26). For almost 3,000 years, all positive evidence of the location of Ezion-geber had disap peared from the minds of men, as if it had been an Atlantis sunk in the sea. Ezion geber was mentioned in Bible dictionaries. Its root meaning ("backbone of the man") was explained in the back pages of the family Bible. Its approximate position was shown on maps. But no modern scholar had pre cisely located this historic seaport. In 1936, I swayed to the awkward but not unpleasant stride of my camel, seeking for positive identification of Solomon's seaport. A long, wearying, fascinating camel trip through the Wadi 'Araba was nearing its end. Our Arab guides had been telling us that soon we should see the blue waters of the Red Sea. The stifling heat, the hard living conditions, the jolting of the heavily laden camels-all these, coupled with several bouts of malaria, had worn us down during almost two weeks' steady ride. Then suddenly, as the camels ambled along, new life seemed to spring into the group of weary animals. They quickened their pace, lengthened their stride, and, before we real ized what had happened, the ungainly beasts had broken into a run. Mounting a rise, we saw what the camels had smelled. Before us were the waters of the Gulf of 'Aqaba, the eastern branch of the Sinai-split Red Sea. Our weariness was gone, the mighty past again rode supreme, and like mad we raced toward the shore. Site of Solomon's Ancient Port Headlong we burst upon the site where lay our goal, the ancient mount called Tell el Kheleifeh, halfway between the eastern and western sides of the Gulf of 'Aqaba. A German explorer named Fritz Frank had visited it shortly before and collected some potsherds which he judged to be older than Roman. He realized only that it was an ancient site. From its location on the shore of the Red Sea, from the correspondence of its situation with the Biblical description, it seemed prob able to me that this might be the long-sought, long-lost site of Solomon's famous port city of Ezion-geber (page 240).