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Dothan And The Goodness Of The Samaritan

( Originally Published 1908 )

OVER the steep mountains that fence Samaria to the north, down through terraced vales abloom with hawthorns and blood-red poppies, across hill-circled plains where the long, silvery wind-waves roll over the sea of grain from shore to shore, past little gray towns sleeping on the sunny heights, by paths that lead us near flowing springs where the village girls fill their pitchers, and down stony slopes where the goatherds in bright-coloured raiment tend their flocks, and over broad, moist fields where the path has been obliterated by the plough, and around the edge of marshes where the storks rise heavily on long flapping wings, we come galloping at sunset to our camp beside the little green hill of D˘than.

Behind it are the mountains, swelling and softly rounded like breasts. It was among them that the servant of Elisha saw the vision of horses and chariots of fire protecting his master. (II Kings vi: 14-19.)

North and east of D˘than the plain extends smooth and gently sloping, full of young harvest. There the chariot of Naaman rolled when he came down from Damascus to be healed by the prophet of Israel. (II Kings v : 9.)

On top of the hill is a spreading terebinth-tree, with some traces of excavation and rude ruins beneath it. There Joseph's envious brethren cast him into one of the dry pits, from which they drew him up again to sell him to a caravan of merchants, winding across the plain on their way from Midian into Egypt. (Genesis xxxvii.)

Truly, many and wonderful things came to pass of old around this little green hill. And now, at the foot of it, there is a well-watered garden, with figs, oranges, almonds, vines, and tall, trembling poplars, surrounded by a hedge of prickly pear. Outside of the hedge a big, round spring of crystal water is flowing steadily over the rim of its basin of stones. There the flocks and herds are gathered, morning and evening, to drink. There the children of the tiny hamlet on the hillside come to paddle their feet in the running stream. There a caravan of Greek pilgrims, on their way from Damascus to Jerusalem for Easter, halt in front of our camp, to refresh them-selves with a draught of the cool water.

As we watch them from our tents there is a sudden commotion among them, a cry of pain, and then voices of dismay. George and two or three of our men run out to see what is the matter, and come hurrying back to get some cotton cloth and oil and wine. One of the pilgrims, an old woman of seventy, has fallen from her horse on the sharp stones beside the spring, breaking her wrist and cutting her head.

I do not know whether the way in which they bound up that poor old stranger's wounds was surgically wise, but I know that it was humanly kind and tender. I do not know which of our various churches were represented among her helpers, but there must have been at least three, and the muleteer from Bagdad who "had no religion but sang beautiful Persian songs" was also there, and ready to help with the others. And so the parable which lighted our dusty way going down to Jericho is interpreted in our pleasant camp at D˘than.

The paths of the Creeds are many and winding; they cross and diverge; but on all of them the Good Samaritan is welcome, and I think he travels to a happy place.

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