Page images

if it is not to be found in those countries, from whence could the people of Israel in the wilderness, procure its skin to cover the tabernacle? It is an animal of small size, and is no where found in great numbers; and, by consequence, its skin could not in remote times, more than at present, constitute an article of commerce in the ports of Egypt, and come at last into the possession of that people. The exterior covering of the tabernacle, and its bulky utensils, must have required a greater number of skins, than could be procured even in the native country of the badger; and, therefore, it must have been formed of leather, fabricated from the skin of some other animal, which not only existed, but also abounded in Egypt, and the adjacent countries.

The coarseness of the leather, fabricated of badgers' skin, which in the east, is reluctantly employed for the meanest purposes of life, forbids us to consider it as the material of which the elegant shoes of an oriental lady are formed. When the prophet says in the name of the Lord, “ I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee with badgers' skin, and I girded thee about with fine linen, and I covered thee with silk,” he certainly meant, that the shoes, corresponding to the other parts of the dress, were formed of costly materials. The Targum accordingly translates the passage, “I put precious shoes upon thy feet;" but this could be said with no propriety of shoes made of badgers' skins.

Nor can it be supposed, that the skin of an animal, which the law of Moses pronounces unclean, strictly enjoins the people of Israel not to touch, or if they did happen to touch it, not to worship at the tabernacle, till the ceremonial pollution which they had accidentally contracted was removed according to the precept--would be employed to cover that sacred structure, and its consecrated utensils, and that the Levites should be obliged often to handle it in performing the duties of their office. The saered implements of Jewish worship, certainly were defended from the injuries of the weather, by the skins of clean beasts, which were easily procured, and that in sufficient numbers, even in the wilderness. This idea, so conformable to the spotless purity required in the ceremonial law, has been adopted and maintained by all the earlier Jewish writers, whose authority in matters of this kind is entitled to great respect. Many disputes indeed have been agitated among them, in relation to the particular animal employed; but none of them before the time of Jarchi, who flourished about the middle of the eleventh century, supposed that it was the skin of the badger.

These considerations leave no room for doubt in the mind of the writer, that the original term denotes neither the badger, nor any other animal, but merely a colour. What particular colour is meant, it may not be easy to ascertain ; but when it is considered, that people of rank and fashion in the east, were accustomed to appear in purple shoes, it is extremely probable, that purple was the colour intended by the sacred writer :

“ Virginibus Tyriis mos est gestare pharetram

Purpureoque alte cruras vincire cothurno.” Vir. Æn. lib. i, l. 336. The Chaldee Paraphrast accordingly, expounds the words of the Song, “How beautiful are thy feet with shoes,” how beautiful are the feet of Israel, when they go up to appear three times before the Lord in purple sandals ! The Roman emperors, and the kings of Persia, reserved by a formal edict, shoes of a purple colour for their own use ; and it is said, red shoes were among the insignia of the ancient kingdom of Bulgaria. Hence, Isaac Com. nenus, the Roman emperor, deprived the patriarch of Constantinople of his dignity, because he presumed to put on shoes of a crimson colour, although these were formerly worn at Rome by persons of the senatorial order.”

The Mole. The mole is doomed by its maker to a life of darkness and solitude, and to subsist on the meanest fare, in the trench which it is compelled to dig with its own hands, or in the vault where it deposits its young. Possessed of great strength in proportion to the size of its body, a perpetual vigour, and considerable industry and skill, it undertakes and executes works of much labour and singular ingenuity. It is a beautiful and harmless little creature, warmly attached to its mate, tremblingly alive to the safety of its young; and constructing its dwelling only in cultiyated countries.

The Bat. The bat is a winged quadruped, the link which connects the four-footed animal and the bird. It is a most deformed and hideous creature, which uniformly endeavours to shun the light of day, as if conscious of its disgusting aspect, and fixes its abode in the horrid cavern or the ruined habitation. The great or Ternat bat, belongs to the east, and was not altogether unknown to the ancients. It is noted for its cruelty, voracity, and filthiness. It is more mischievous than any other species of bat; but it carries on the work of destruction by open force, both during the night and day. It kills poultry and small birds; attacks men and often wounds them in the face. This unsightly animal, says Forbes, fixes its dwelling among owls and noxious reptiles in the desolate tower, or lonely unfrequented mausoleum, which it seldom or never leaves except in the dusk of evening. In the east, where they grow to an enormous size, their stench is so intolerable that it is impossible to remain many seconds to examine the place."s Into the vault or trench of the mole, and those dismal abodes frequented by the Ternat bats, which man can scarcely endure to visit, the idolater, terrified by the destructive judgments of a just and righteous God, shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold which he made for himself to worship; regardless of their intrinsic value, ashamed of the trust he reposed in them, and distracted by the terrors of the Almighty, he shall cast them in desperation and scorn out of his sight, that freed from the useless encumbrance he may escape for his life. “ In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats.”+ Instead of building magnificent temples for their reception where nothing to offend the senses is permitted to enter ; instead of watching over them with scrupulous care, devoting their days, their riches and all they possess to their service, instead of adoring them with insensate prostrations and offerings, they shall cast them to creatures so vile or dangerous, into places so dismal and loathsome, as to preclude the possibility of returning to their idolatrous practices. Or to cast their idols to the moles and the bats may * Oriental Memoirs, vol. ii, p. 254.

P See Essays on Sacred Zoology, Christ. Mag. vol. vi.

9 Buffon's Nat. Hist. vol. iv, p. 312. Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. x, cap. 81. Bochart. Hieroz. lib. ii, p. 349

Buffon's Nat. Hist. vol. iv, p. 318.

* Isa. ii, 20

signify the utter destruction of these objects of worship. When the Greeks said, Beri' ες κορακας, ,

cast him to the ravens, the meaning was, cast him to destruction : and this prophecy may refer to a proverbial expression among the Jews of similar import.



The Eagle.The Ostrich. The Owl.-The Pelican.-The Stork. The

Raven.-The Hawk.

The Eagle. The eagle is the strongest, the fiercest, and the most rapacious of the feathered race. He dwells alone in the de sert, and on the summits of the highest mountains; and suffers no bird to come with impunity within the range of his flight. His eye is dark and piercing, his beak and talons are hooked and formidable, and his cry is the terevery wing

His figure answers to his nature; independently of his arms, he has a robust and compact body, and very powerful limbs and wings; his bones are hard, his flesh is firm, his feathers are coarse, his attitude is fierce and erect, his motions are lively, and his flight is extremely rapid. Such is the golden eagle, as described by the most accurate observers of nature. To this noble bird the


ror of

a Bochart. Hieroz. vol. iii, lib. ii, p. 161, &c. Ælian de Nat. Animal. lib. ii, cap. 26. Plin. Nat. Hist. lib. x, cap. 3, sec. 3. Buffon's Nat. Hist. of Birds, vol. i, p. 49, 50, 52.

« PreviousContinue »