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The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary
by Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich

29.2 THE SPRING AT MATAREA - ABRAHAM LIVES A LONG TIME BY IT.




When Abraham was in Egypt, he also had his tents beside this spring, and I saw him teaching the people here. [177] He lived in the country several years with Sarah and a number of his sons and daughters whose mothers had remained behind in Chaldea. His brother Lot was also here with his family, but I do not remember what place of residence was assigned to him. Abraham went to Egypt by God's command, firstly because of a famine in the Land of Canaan, and secondly to fetch a family treasure which had found its way to Egypt through a niece of Sarah's mother. This niece was of the race of the shepherd-people belonging to Job's tribe who had been rulers of part of Egypt. She had gone there to be serving maid to the reigning family and had then married an Egyptian. She was also the foundress of a tribe, but I have forgotten its name. Hagar, the mother of Ishmael, was a descendant of hers and was thus of Sarah's family. [178]

The woman had carried off this family treasure just as Rachel had carried off Laban's household gods, and had sold it in Egypt for a great sum. In this way it had come into the possession of the king and the priests. This treasure was a genealogy of the children of Noah (especially of the children of Shem) down to Abraham's time. It looked like a scales hanging on several chains from inside a lid. [Please refer to Figure 22.] This lid was made to shut down onto a sort of box which enclosed the chains in it. The chains were made of triangular pieces of gold linked together; the names of each generation were engraved on these pieces, which were thick yellow coins, while the links connecting them were pale like silver and thin. Some of the gold pieces had a number of others hanging from them. The whole treasure was bright and shining. I heard, but have forgotten, what was its value in shekels. The Egyptian priests had made endless calculations in connection with this genealogy, but never arrived at the right conclusion.

Before Abraham came into their country, the Egyptians must have known, from their astrologers and from the prophecies of their sorceresses, that he and his wife came from the noblest of races and that he was to be the father of a chosen people. They were always searching in their prophetic books for noble races, and tried to intermarry with them. This gave Satan the opportunity of attempting to debase the pure races by leading the Egyptians astray into immorality and deeds of violence.

Abraham, fearing that he might be murdered by the Egyptians because of the beauty of Sarah, his wife, had given out that she was his sister. This was not a lie, since she was his step-sister, the daughter of his father Terah by another wife (see Gen. 20.12). The King of Egypt caused Sarah to be brought into his palace and wished to take her to wife. Abraham and Sarah were then in great distress and besought God for help, whereupon God punished the king with sickness, and all his wives and most of the women in the city fell ill. The king, in alarm, caused inquiry to be made, and when he heard that Sarah was Abraham's wife, he gave her back to him, begging him to leave Egypt as soon as possible. It was clear, he said, that Abraham and his wife were under the protection of the gods.

Figure 22. Family treasure of Abraham -- a genealogy of Noah's children down to Abraham's time.

The Egyptians were a strange people. On the one hand they were extremely arrogant and considered themselves to be the greatest and wisest among the nations. On the other hand they were excessively cowardly and servile, and gave way when they were faced by a power which they feared was greater than theirs. This was because they were not sure of all their knowledge, most of which came to them in dark ambiguous sooth-sayings, which easily produced conflicts and contradictions. Since they were very credulous of wonders, any such contradiction at once caused them great alarm.

Abraham approached the king very humbly with a request for corn. He won his favor by treating him as a ruler over the nations, and received many rich presents. When the King gave Sarah back to her husband and begged him to leave Egypt, Abraham replied that he could not do this unless he took with him the genealogy that belonged to him, describing in detail the manner in which it had come to Egypt. The king then summoned the priests, and they willingly gave Abraham back what belonged to him, only asking that the whole transaction might first be formally recorded, which was done. [179] Abraham then returned with his following to the land of Canaan.

I have seen many things about the spring at Matarea right down to our own times, and remember this much: already at the time of the Holy Family it was used by lepers as a healing well. Much later a small Christian church was built on the site of Mary's dwelling. Near the high altar of this church one descended into the cave where the Holy Family lived until Joseph had arranged their dwelling. I saw the spring with human habitations round it, and I saw it being used for various forms of skin eruptions. I also saw people bathing in it to cure themselves of evil-smelling perspirations. That was when the Mohammedans were there. I saw, too, that the Turks always kept a light burning in the church over Mary's dwelling. They feared some misfortune if they forgot to light it. In later times I saw the spring isolated and at some distance from any houses. There was no longer a city there, and wild fruit trees grew about it.











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