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ILLUSTRATIONS OF SCRIPTURE,
ILLUSTRATIONS OF SCRIPTURE FROM THE PASTORAL
LIFE OF THE ORIENTALS. THE first man was no sooner expelled from the garden of Eden for his breach of covenant, and doomed to earn his bread by the sweat of his brow, than he attempted to reduce the more useful animals under his yoke; and with so much success, that the sacred historian marks it as the proper employment of Abel, his younger son, that he was a keeper of sheep.” But it is in Jabal, a son of Cain, that we find the first example of an oriental shepherd : 6 he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle."* No further notice is taken of antediluvian shepherds, in the rapid narrative of Moses ; but it is reasonable to suppose, that the descendants of Jabal continued, according to the manners of the east, to follow the employment of their father, till the deluge swept them all away. Noah, it is probable, was devoted to husbandry from his earliest years; for Moses observes, that immediately after the deluge, he “ began to be an husbandman;"† he resumed his labours in the field, which had been interrupted by that dreadful catastrophe. But the cares of the shepherd devolved upon his eldest son Shem, the great progenitor of God's ancient peoplea man, it would seem, imbued with a religious spirit,
+ Ch. ix. 20.
* Gen. iv. 20.
and devoted to a contemplative life, to which that employment is peculiarly favourable. By him it was transmitted to his renowned descendant Abraham, with whom he lived more than a hundred years. While it appears from the history of Laban, that the other branches of his family continued, after his example, to tend their flocks and their herds on the banks of the Euphrates and its tributary streams; the posterity of Abraham followed the same employment in the fertile pastures of Canaan, for several succeeding ages. This is the account which Joseph gave to Pharaoh, when his family came down into Egypt: 6 The men are shepherds; for their trade has been to feed cattle; and they have brought their flocks, and their herds, and all that they have."* And he directed them to say, when they should be admitted to an audience of the king “ Thy servants' trade has been about cattle, from our youth even until now, both we and also our fathers."
The patriarchal shepherds, rich in flocks and herds, in silver and gold, and attended by a numerous train of servants purchased with their money, or hired from the neighbouring towns and villages, acknowledged no civil superior; they held the rank, and exercised the rights of sovereign princes; they concluded alliances with the kings in whose territories they tended their flocks; they made peace or war with the surrounding states; and, in fine, they wanted nothing of sovereign authority but the name. Upfettered by the cumbrous ceremonies of regal power, they led a plain and laborious life, in perfect freedom and overflowing abundance. Refusing to confine themselves to any particular spot, they lived in tents, and removed from one place to another, in search of pasture for their cattle. Strangers in the countries where they sojourned, they refused to mingle with the permanent settlers, to occupy their towns, and to form with them one people. They were conscious of their strength, and jealous of their independence; and although patient and forbearing, their conduct proved, on several occasions, that they wanted neither skill nor courage to vindicate their
* Gen, xlvi. 32.
rights, and avenge their wrongs. In the wealth, the power, and the splendour of patriarchal shepherds, we discover the rudiments of regal grandeur and authority; and in their vnumerous and hardy retainers, the germ of potent empires. Hence the custom so prevalent among the ancients, of distinguishing the office and duties of their kings and princes, by terms borrowed from the pastoral life:-Αγαμεμνονα ποιμενα λαών, is a phrase to be met with every where in the strains of Homer. The sacred writers very often speak of kings under the name of shepherds, and compare the royal sceptre to the shepherd's crook: “ He chose David also bis servant, and took him from the sheepfolds; from following the ewes great with young, he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands."* And Jehovah said to David himself: “ Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.”+
The royal Psalmist, on the other hand, celebrates under the same allusions, the special care and goodness of God towards himself, and also towards his ancient people. “ 'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." 6 Give ear, 0 Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubim, shine forth.” But to multiply quotations is useless ; in a hundred places of Scripture, the church is compared to a sheepfold, the saints to sheep, and the ministers of religion to slepherds, who must render at last an account of their administration to the Shepherd and Overseer to whom they owe their authority.
The patriarchs did not commit their flocks and herds solely to the care of menial servants and strangers; they tended them in person, or placed them under the superintendance of their sons and their daughters, who were bred to the same laborious employment, and taught to perform, without reluctance, the meanest services. Rebecca, the only danghter of a shepherd * Psa. Isxviii, 70. * 2 Sam. v. ? + Psa, xxi. 1, ud fxxx, 1.
prince, went to a considerable distance to draw water; and it is evident, from the readiness with which she let down her pitcher from her shoulder, and gave drink to the servant of Abraham, and afterwards drew for all his camels, that she had been long accustomed to that humble employment. From the same authority, we know, that Rachel, the daughter of Laban, kept her father's flocks, and submitted to the various privations and hardships of a pastoral life, in the deserts of Syria. The patriarch Jacob, though he was the son of a shepherd prince, kept the flocks of Laban, his maternal uncle; and his own sons followed the same business, both in Mesopotamia, and after his return to the land of Canaan. This primeval simplicity was long retained among the Greeks. Homer often sends the daughters of princes and nobles, to tend the flocks, to wash the clothes of the family at the fountain, or in the flowing stream, and to perform many other menial services.* Adonis, the son of Cinyras, a king of Cyprus, fed his flocks by the streaming rivers :
“ Et formosus oves ad flumina pavit Adonis.” The flocks and herds of these shepherds were immensely numerous. So great was the stock of Abraham and Lot, that they were obliged to separate, because the land was not able to bear them.” From the present which Jacob made to his brother Esau, consisting of five hundred and eighty head of different sorts, we may form some idea of the countless numbers of great and small cattle, which he had acquired in the service of Laban. In modern times, the numbers of cattle in the Turcoman flocks, which feed on the fertile plains of Syria, are almost incredible. They sometimes occupy three or four days in passing from one part of the country to another. Chardin had an opportunity of seeing a clan of Turcoman shepherds on their march, about two days' distance from Aleppo. The whole country was covered with them. Many of their principal people, with whom he conversed on the road, assured him, that there were four hundred thousand beasts of carriage, camels, horses, oxen, cows,
Iliad, b. 6. 1, 59, 78,
Vir. Ecl. 10.