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Monday, November 13, 2006

Beulah

I previously posted on the old song, "Is not this the Land of Beulah?"

I thought I would do some further research on the word, Beulah.

The Free Dictionary says:
Beu·lah n.1. The land of Israel in the Bible.2. The land of peace described in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

The same source notes that the word occurs in Mosses from an Old Manse and other stories by Nathanael Hawthorne, where it refers to a pleasant land. A link from that source says that the word also occurs in Jane Eyre.

The word is Biblical, occurring in Isaiah 62:4, as a land, and meaning "married." (Some versions do not use the word, beulah.)

Isa 62:4 Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate: but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Beulah: for the LORD delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. (KJV)

The first reference I can find in literature is, as the Free Dictionary says, in John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Here it is:
{382} Now I saw in my dream, that by this time the Pilgrims were got over the Enchanted Ground, and entering into the country of Beulah, whose air was very sweet and pleasant, the way lying directly through it, they solaced themselves there for a season. Yea, here they heard continually the singing of birds, and saw every day the flowers appear on the earth, and heard the voice of the turtle in the land. [Isa. 62:4, Song of Solomon 2:10-12] In this country the sun shineth night and day; wherefore this was beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and also out of the reach of Giant Despair, neither could they from this place so much as see Doubting Castle. Here they were within sight of the city they were going to, also here met them some of the inhabitants thereof; for in this land the Shining Ones commonly walked, because it was upon the borders of heaven. In this land also, the contract between the bride and the bridegroom was renewed; yea, here, "As the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so did their God rejoice over them." [Isa. 62:5] Here they had no want of corn and wine; for in this place they met with abundance of what they had sought for in all their pilgrimage. [Isa. 62:8] Here they heard voices from out of the city, loud voices, saying, "'Say ye to the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy salvation cometh! Behold, his reward is with him!' Here all the inhabitants of the country called them, 'The holy people, The redeemed of the Lord, Sought out'", etc. [Isa. 62:11,12]

This passage is about Christian, the Pilgrim, and his companion. Bunyan also wrote about the separate pilgrimage of Christian's wife, Christiana. Here's what he had to say about Beulah:
After this, I beheld until they were come into the land of Beulah, where the sun shineth night
and day. Here, because they were weary, they betook themselves a while to rest. And because this country was common for pilgrims, and because the orchards and vineyards that were here belonged to the King of the Celestial country, therefore they were licensed to make bold with any of his things. But a little while soon refreshed them here; for the bells did so ring, and the trumpets continually sound so melodiously, that they could not sleep, and yet they received as much refreshing as if they had slept their sleep ever so soundly.

His idea was that there is a place where the Christian is close to Heaven, having passed through most of the trials of this life, and rejected most of its temptations, where we can be close to God. The word has also been used, more recently, to refer to Heaven itself, but that's not what Bunyan had in mind.

There was a radio show, and related TV program, named Beulah. This TV show was the first TV comedy to star an African American. Ethel Waters was the first TV Beulah. The show used some racial stereotypes, unfortunately.

There are some Christian songs that use the idea of Beulah, but not all of them use it in the original sense. Some of them use the word to mean "Heaven." The most widely used is probably "Beulah Land" by Squire Parsons, who meant Heaven.

Thanks for reading.

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