ye shall give glory unto the god of Israel : peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your lands."" These words undoubt edly intimate, that Palestine was very often visited by this scourge, and that the sufferings of its inhabitants were very severe. The devastations of this little destructive creature were so frequent, so extensive, and followed by consequences so dreadful, that even the unenlightened Philistines considered them as an immediate judgment from God himself. But this terrible scourge was not peculiar to Palestine: Strabo mentions that so vast a multitude of mice sometimes invaded Spain, as to produce a destructive pestilence; and in Cantabria, the Romans, by setting a price on a certain measure of these animals, escaped with difficulty from the same calamity. In other parts of Italy the number of field mice was so great, that some of the inhabitants were forced to leave the country. In Thrace, the frogs and mice sometimes united their hordes and compelled the inhabitants to seek new settlements. In modern times, instances of the same calamity are not wanting About the beginning of the twelfth century, innumerable swarms of locusts and mice, during four successive years, so completely ravaged that country, as to produce almost a total failure of the necessaries of life. So great and general was the distress of the people, that a kind of penitential council was held at Naplouse, in the year 1120, for the reformation of manners, and to invoke the mercy of the Almighty, who had been pro. voked by their sins to inflict upon them such terrible judgments.k

h 1 Sam. vi, 4, 5. i Bochart. Hieroz, lib. iii, cap. 34, p. 1018. · Buffon's Nat. Hist. vol. iv, p. 293, 294. * Harmer's Observ. vol. ii, p. 395.

The Badger. To enter into the history of this animal is unnecessary, as it is mentioned in Scripture only on account of its skin. This part of the animal seems to have been in great request among the people of Israel, for it is mentioned among the valuable articles which they were permitted to offer for the tabernacle : “ Rams' skins dyed red, and badgers' skins."! These last formed the exterior covering of that splendid structure, and of all the sacred utensils, which the Levites were commanded to spread over them during their march. Of these also the shoes of the mystical bride were formed, when, according to the representation of the prophet, she was richly adorned for the marriage. Jehovah had chosen Israel to be his peculiar people, and had bestowed upon them innumerable favours, but they had become ungrateful and perfidious, like a woman who proves inconstant and unfaithful to her husband, who had raised her from the meanest condition, to the greatest affluence and splendour : “ Thou becamest mine. Then I washed thee with water; yea, I thoroughly washed away thy blood from thee, and I anointed thee with oil. 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." In this passage, badgers’ skin is mentioned as a very precious and splendid substance, such as might be made into shoes for ladies of the highest rank, and worn on their marriage day; while, in the book of Exodus, it is represented as very coarse and homely, fit only to be made a covering for the tabernacle, and its furniture, during the journies of the tribes. These very different representations cannot easily be re'Exod. xxv, 5, and xxxv, 23.

m Ezek. xvi, 8-14.

conciled, and involve the subject in doubt and uncertainty. And indeed the original word (wan) thahash, which our translators render badgers' skins, is of very uncertain meaning. It is evident from Scripture, that it was a kind of skin which, being capable of resisting rain, was manufactured by the people of Israel into coverings for the tabernacle and its furniture, and into shoes for persons of the highest rank in the state. But the inspired writers furnish no details from which it can be inferred, to what animal it originally belonged; it is even extremely doubtful, whether the word rendered badger, denotes an animal at all. The Seventy interpreters considered it merely as the name of a colour, and uniformly translate it hyacinth, or hyacinthine. In this opinion, they were followed by all the ancient translators of the Scriptures, without one exception; and the same idea has been adopted by the learned Bochart, and other eminent moderns. The reasons on which their interpretation is founded, seem to be quite conclusive."

In the first place, no evidence can be found that the badger ever existed in Palestine, Arabia, or Egypt. Dr. Shaw made particular inquiry, but could hear of no such animal in Barbary.' Harmer was unable to discover in. modern travels, the smallest traces of the badger in Egypt, or in any of the adjacent countries ; Buffon represents it as unknown in that part of Asia. So little was the badger known to the ancients, that the Greeks had not a word in their language by which to express it; and the Latin term which is supposed to denote this animal, is extremely doubtful. But if the badger is not a native of the east,

n Bochart. Hieroz. lib. iii, cap. 30, p. 989.

. Shaw's Trav. vol. i, p. 318,

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 suffieient 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, 1. 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

« VorigeDoorgaan »