Page images

tice of mankind in the infancy of the world. The earliest instance of these oblations on record is that of Cain, the eldest son of the first great husbandman, who, doubtless following paternal precedent, brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord; and of Abel, who also, to the sacred altar of God brought of the firstling's of his flock. The Jews, whose religious customs are, in many respects, similar to the Hindoos, in every age and period of their empire, inviolably consecrated to heaven, the first-fruits of their oil, their wine, and their wheat, and, by the divine institution, even whatsoever opened the womb, whether of man or beast, was sacred to the Lord. (Numb. xviii. 12.)

There was, according to Porphyry (De Abstinentia, p. 73.) a very curious and ancient festival, annually celebrated at Athens, to the honour of the Sun and Hours, which, in the simplicity of the offerings, remarkably resembled the practice of the first ages. During that festival, consecrated grass was carried about, in which the kernels of olives were wrapped up, together with figs, all kinds of pulse, oaken leaves, with acorns, and cakes composed of the meal of wheat and barley, heaped up in a pyramidal form, allusive to the sun-beams that ripened the grain, as well as to the fire in which they were finally consumed.” MAURICE's Indian Antiquities, vol. v. p. 132. See also Eusebius's Preparation for spreading the Gospel, b. i. p. 29. Eng. edit.


No. 603.-iv. 15. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain.] Among the laws attributed to Menu, the following appointment is a remarkable instance of coincidence with, if it cannot be admitted to have been derived from, the punishment of Cain. “For violating the paternal bed, let the mark of a

****** be impressed on the forehead with a hot iron.

For drinking spirits, a vintner's flag:
For stealing sacred gold, a dog's foot:
For murdering a priest, the figure of a headless

corpse :
With none to eat with them,
With none to sacrifice with them,
With none to be allied by marriage to them;
Abject, and excluded from all social duties,
Let them wander over the earth;
Branded with indelible marks,
They shall be deserted by their paternal and ma-

ternal relations,
Treated by none with affection,
Received by none with respect,

Such is the ordinance of Menu." “ Criminals, of all the classes, having performed an expiation, as ordained by law, shall not be marked on the forehead, but be condemned to pay the highest fine.”

He says,

No. 604.- viii. 11. And the dove came in to him in the evening, and, lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off.] The connection between Noah's dove and an olive leaf will not appear at all unnatural, if we consider what Dr. Chandler has related. (Trav. in Asia Minor, p. 84.) that the olive groves are the principal places for shooting birds.' And in the account of his travels in Greece, (p. 127.) he observes, that when the olive blackens, vast flights of doves, pigeons, thrushes, and other birds repair to the olive groves for food. See also Hasselquist, p. 212.

HARMER, vol. iv. p. 191.

No. 605.-xii. 7. There builded he an altar unto the Lord, who appeared unto him.] The patriarchs took care to preserve the memory of considerable events by setting up altars and pillars, and other lasting monoments. Thus Abraham erected monuments in divers places where God had appeared to him. Gen. xiii. 18. Jacob consecrated the stone which served bim for a pillow while he had the mysterious dream of the ladder. Gen. xxviii. 18. And the heap of stones which was witness to his covenant with Laban be called Galeed. Gen. xxxi. 48. Of this kind was the sepulchre of Rachel, the well called Beer-sheba, Gen. xxvi. 33. and all the other wells mentioned in the history of Isaac. Sometimes they gave new names to places. The Greeks and Romans relate the same of their heroes, the oldest of whom lived near the time of the patriarchs. (Pausan. Dion. Hal. lib. iii.) Greece was full of their monuments. Æneas, to mention no others, left some in every place that he passed through in Greece, Sicily; and Italy. (Virgil. Æn. passim.)

FLEURY's Hist. of Israelites, p. 8.

No. 606.--xiv. 18. Melchizedec king of Salem.] It was customary among the ancients to unite the sovereignty and chief priesthood together.

Pex Anius, rex idem hominum, Phæbique sacerdos.

Æn. iii. 80.

King Anims, both king of men, and priest of Apollo.

No. 607.--. 10. Divided them in the midst.] There is no footstep of this rite any where in the scripture, except in Jer. xxxiv. 18, 19. (on which passage, see Oriental Customs, No. 294.) But from this affair of Abraham, it appears to have been very ancient. St. Cyril, in his tenth book against Julian, derives this custom from the ancient Chaldæans. Others derive the word nga, birith, which signifies a covenant, from 7na, batar, which signifies to divide or cut asunder, because


covenants were made by dividing a beast, and by the parties covenanting passing between the parts of the beast so divided : intimating that so should they be cut asunder who broke the covenant. We find in Zenobius, that the people called Molotti retained something of this custom ; for they confirmed their oaths, when they made their covenants, by cutting oxen into little bits.

PATRICK, in loc.

No. 608.---xvi. 13. And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me.] The religion of names was a matter of great consequence in Egypt. It was one of their essential superstitions: it was one of their native inventions: and the first of them which they communicated to the Greeks. Thus when Hagar the handmaid of Sarai, who was an Egyptian woman, saw the angel of God in the wilderness, she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, ELROI, the God of vision, or the visible God: that is, according to the established custom of Egypt, she gave him a name of honour : not merely a name of distinction, for such all nations had (who worshipped local tutelary deities) before their communication with Egypt. But after that they decorated their gods with distinguished titles, indicative of their specific office and attributes. Zachariah (chap. xiv. 9.) evidently alluding to these notions, when he prophecies of the worship of the supreme God, unmixed with idolatry, says, in that day shull there be one Lord, and his name one.

Out of indulgence therefore to this weakness, God was pleased to give himself a name. And God said unto Moses, I am that I am. Exod. iii, 14,

WARBURTON's Divine Legation, b. iv. sec. 6.

No. 609.-xvii. 10. This is my covenant.] Covenants were anciently made in the eastern countries by

dipping their weapons in blood, (as Xenophon tells us) and by pricking the flesh, and sucking each other's blood, as we read in Tacitus: who observes (1. i. Annal.) that when kings made a league, they took each other by the hand, and their thumbs being hard tied together, they pricked them, when the blood was forced to the extreme parts, and each party licked it. This was accounted a mysterious covenant, being made sacred by their mutual blood. How old this custom had been we do not know; but it is evident God's covenant with Abraham was solemnized on Abraham's part by his own and his son Isaac's blood, and so continued through all generations, by circumcision : whereby, as they were made the select people of God, so God, in conclusion, sent his own Son, who by this very ceremony of circumcision was consecrated to be their God and Redeemer.

PATRICK, in loc.

No. 610.--xviii. 1. And he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day.] Those who lead a pastoral life in the East, at this day, frequently place themselves in a similar situation. 66 At ten minutes after ten we had in view several fine bays, and a plain full of booths, with the Turcomans sitting by the doors, under sheds reşembling porticoes; or by shady trees, surrounded by flocks of goats."

CHANDLER's Travels in Asia Minor, p. 180.

No. 611.-xviii. 4. Let a little water, I pray you, fetched, and wash your feet.] One of the first rites of hospitality observed towards strangers amongst the ancients, was washing the feet : of this there are many instances in Homer :

Τον νυν χρη κομεειν" προς γαρ Διος εισιν απαντες, &c.

Od. vi. 207.

« PreviousContinue »