Travel to Jerusalem

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With his father, or under the care of some other friend older than himself, Paul left Tarsus and went to Jerusalem for religious training. It is not probable that they traveled by the long and laborious land journey which leads from the Cilician plain through the defies of Mount Amanus to Antioch, and thence along the rugged Phoenician shore through Tyre and Sidon to Judea. The Jews, when they went to the festivals, would follow the lines of natural traffic. Now that the Eastern Sea had been cleared of its pirates, the obvious course would be to travel to Jerusalem by water. The Jews, though merchants, were not seamen.

We may imagine Saul, therefore, setting sail from the Cydnus on his first travel to Jerusalem, in a Phoenician trader, under the patronage of the gods of Tyre, or in company with Greek mariners. The vessel he sailed on would be adorned with some mythological emblem, like that Alexandrian corn ship which subsequently brought him to Italy, "whose sign was Castor and Pollux" (Acts 28:11).

Gradually, during their travel, they lost sight of Taurus and the heights of Lebanon came into view. The one had sheltered his early home, but the other had been a familiar form to his Jewish forefathers. How histories, is this important trip to Jerusalem, would crowd into his mind as the vessel moved on over the waves and he gazed upon the furrowed flanks of the great Hebrew mountain!

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Had Paul's voyage to Jerusalem been taken fifty years earlier, the vessel would probably have been bound for Ptolemais, which still bore the name of the Greek kings of Egypt. In the reign of Augustus or Tiberius, however, it is more likely that she sailed round the headland of Carmel, and came to anchor in the new harbor of Caesarea, the handsome city which Herod had rebuilt and named in honor of the Emperor.


Sailing in a strong wind
Sailing in a strong wind

To imagine the feelings of a Hebrew boy on his first visit to the Holy Land is neither difficult nor blamable. During this journey Saul had around him a different scenery and different cultivation from what he had been accustomed to, not a river and a wide plain covered with harvests of corn, but a succession of hills and valleys with terraced vineyards watered by artificial irrigation.

If it was the time of a festival, many pilgrims would travel together in the same direction to Jerusalem with music and the songs of Zion. The ordinary road would probably be that mentioned in Acts which led from Caesarea through the town of Antipatris (Acts 23:31). Those far hilltops on the left were close upon Mount Gilboa, even if the very place could not be seen where Israel lost their battle against the Philistines and King Saul lost his life (1Samuel 31:1 - 6).

After passing through the lots of the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, on the way to Jerusalem, the traveler from Caesarea came to the borders of Benjamin. The children of Rachel were together in Canaan as they had been in the desert. The lot of Benjamin was entered near Bethel, memorable for the piety of Jacob, the songs of Deborah, the sin of Jeroboam, and the zeal of Josiah (Genesis 28:19, Judges 4:5, 1Kings 12:29, 2Kings 23:15).

Onward a short distance of travel was Gibeah, the home of Saul when he was anointed King (1Samuel 10:26, 15:34) and the scene of the crime and desolation of the tribe, which made it the smallest of the tribes of Israel (Judges 20:43, etc.). Might it not be too truly said concerning the Israelites even of that period, "They have deeply corrupted themselves, as in days of Gibeah . . ." (Hosea 9:9, HBFV). At a later stage of his life, such thoughts of the unbelief and iniquity of Israel accompanied apostle Paul wherever he went.

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