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feast, but a national festival, in which the poor and the
The women are not permitted to associate with the other sex at an eastern banquet; but they are allowed to entertain one another in their own apartments. When Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, treated all the people of his capital with a splendid feast, Vashti, the queen, we are informed, “ made a banquet for the women in the royal house, which belonged to king Ahasuerus.” This, observes Chardin, is the custom of all the east; the women have their feasts at the same time, but apart from the men. And Maillet informs us in his letters, that the same custom is observed in Egypt. This is undoubtedly the reason that the prophet distinctly mentions "the voice of the bridegroom, and the voice of the bride;"+ he means that the noise of nuptial mirth was heard in different apartments. The personal voices of the newly married pair cannot be understood, but the noisy mirth which a marriage feast com
nly excites; for in Syria, and probably in all the surrounding countries, the bride is condemned to abso
lute silence, and fixed by remorseless etiquette to the spot where she has been seated.*
ILLUSTRATIONS OF SCRIPTURE FROM THE MARRIAGE CERE
MONIES OF THE EAST.
AMONG the Jews, the state of marriage was, from the remotest periods of their history, reckoned so honourable, that the person who neglected, or declined to enter into it, without a good reason, was thought to be guilty of a great crime. Such a mode of thinking was not confined to them; in several of the Grecian states, marriage was held in equal respect; it was greatly encouraged by their laws, and the neglect of it discountenanced or punished.' The Lacedæmonians subjected to severe penalties those men who deferred, or wbolly abstained from marrying The Athenians enacted a law, by which all who were entrusted with public affairs, were to be married, and have children and estates; for these were regarded as so many pledges of their good behaviour.
The Jews did not allow marriageable persons to enter into that honourable state without restriction ; the high priest was forbidden by law to marry a widow, and the priests of every rank, to take a harlot to wife, a profane woman, or one put away from her husband. To prevent the alienation of inheritances, an heiress could not marry but into her own tribe. The whole people of Israel, being a holy nation, separated from all the earth to the service of the true God, and to be the depositaries of his law, were forbidden to contract matrimonial alliances with the idolatrous nations in their vicinity. To check the licentiousness of the human heart, and to distinguish the chosen people from the
* Russel's Hist.
heathen around them, that were exceedingly dissolute in their manners, and betrayed a violent propensity to marry their nearest relations, certain degrees of affinity were fixed by divine authority, within which the conjugal relation was not to be formed. Since it pleased the Creator to make of one blood the whole human race, it was not possible in the first generations of our family, to avoid the intermarriage of very near relations. The Jewish writers maintain that marriage, within the degrees of affinity, was not forbidden before the giving of the law, that with one's own mother, or step-mother, or the sister of the saine mother excepted. An incident in the history of Abraham seems to corroborate this opinion. When Abimelech, the king of Gerar, conplained that the patriarch had imposed upon him by calling Sarah his sister, when she was in reality his wife, the latter replied : “ And yet indeed she is my sister, she is the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife.”* The same liberty was claimed in other parts of the world. The Lacedæmonian lawgiver allowed marriages between the children of the same mother, but of different fathers. At Athens, they were forbidden to marry sisters by the same mother, but not those by the same father. Thus the renowned Cimon being unable, on account of his extreme poverty, to provide a suitable match for his sister Elpinice, married her himself. Plutarch says this was done publicly, and without any fear of the laws; and Cornelius Nepos likewise assures us, that it was nothing but what the custom of their country allowed. The greater part of the Greeks, however, considered it as a scandalous thing to contract marriage within certain degrees of consanguinity. Hermione, in Euripides, reprobates the custom which permitted a brother to marry his sister, with no less detestation than that which permitted a son to marry his mother, or a father, his daughter. The Lacedæmonians were forbidden to enter into the married state with any of their kindred, in the degrees either of ascent or descent; but collateral relations might contract marriage; for ne
phews married their aunts, and uncles their nieces. The marriage of brothers and sisters was utterly illegal. But several of the barbarous nations disregarded altogether the rules of decency, and allowed unlawful and incestuous mixtures: the Persians are particularly distinguished by such practices; for their Magi, the most sacred persons among them, were the offspring of mothers and their own sons.*
The time of marriage was not the same in all countries; the Spartans and Athenians were not permitted to marry till they arrived at full maturity; but among the Jews, a young man might be given in marriage after he had completed his thirteenth year and one day; and a virgin when she was twelve years old and one day; but the males were commonly married at the age of eighteen. In Italy, the age of puberty, or marriage, was from fourteen for men, and twelve for girls.t
The marriage engagement of a minor, without the knowledge and consent of the parents, was of no force; so sacred was the parental authority held among that people. Grecian virgins were not allowed to marry without the consent of their parents; whence Hero, in Musæus, tells Lysander they could not be honourably joined in marriage, because her parents were against it:
Ου γαρ εμοις τοκεεσσιν επευαδεν. .
Ην γας δη με σα ωσι Θεοί, και οικαδικομαι
Il. 6. 9. 1. 39. These customs appear to have been derived from a very remote antiquity; for when Eliezer of Damascus went to Mesopotamia to take a wife from thence unto his master's son, he disclosed the motives of his jour
• Potter's Gr. Antiquities, v. 2. p. 268. † Adam's Rom. Antiq. p. 451.
ney to the father and brother of Rebecca ;* and Hamor applied to Jacob and his sons, for their consent to the union of Dinah with his son Shechem.f Samson also consulted his parents about his marriage; and entreated them to get for him the object of his choice. The right of the parents, in all ordinary cases, to dispose of both their sons and their daughters, under the law, is recognized in many parts of the Old Testament; but it appears from the conduct of Samsom, that it was not absolute in every case, for when his parents objected to his choice, he renewed his suit in a more peremptory tone: “ Then bis father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, get her for me, for she pleaseth me well."
In Mesopotamia the younger daughter could not be given in marriage before the elder. This rule of conduct Laban pleaded as his excuse for substituting Leah in the place of Rachel : “ It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the first-born." The existence of this rule, and its application to practice, in those parts of the world, is confirmed by the Hindoo law, which makes it criminal to give the younger daughter in marriage before the elder; or for a younger son to marry while his elder brother remains unmarried.
Marriage is evidently meant by Scripture and reason, to be the union of one man with one woman.
When God said, “ It is not good that the man should be
lone;" he promised him the help only of a single mate: " I will make him an help meet for him."|| This gracious promise he soon performed in the formation of one woman; a clear intimation of his will that only one man and one woman should be joined in wedlock. This design Adam recognized, and acknowledged in express terms; and bis declaration was certainly meant as a rule for his descendants in every succeeding age : “ There fore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and * Gen. xxiv. 34. fCh. xxxiv. 6.
# Judg xiv. 2, 3. $ Maurice's Ind. Antiq. also Gen. xxix. 26.
// Gen. ii. 18.