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of iron” which Zedekiah made for himself, when he presumed, in the name of Jehovah, to flatter his prince with the promise of victory over his enemies: “ Thus saith the Lord, with these” military insignia “shalt thou push the Syrians until thou hast consumed them.”* They were military ornaments, the symbols of strength, and courage, and power.
But while the orientals had their emblems of honour, and tokens of regard, they had also peculiar customs expressive of contempt or dislike; of wbich the first I shall mention is cutting off the beard. This is reckoned so great a mark of infamy among the Arabs, that many of them would prefer death to such a dishonour. They set the highest value upon this appartenance of the male ; for when they would express their value for a thing, they say it is worth more than his beard ; they even beg for the sake of it: “ By your beard, by the life of your beard, do.” This shews, according to the oriental mode of thinking, the magnitude of the affront wbich Hanan offered to the ambassadors of David, when he took them and shaved off the one half of their beards.f It was still, in times comparatively modern, the greatest indignity that can be offered in Persia. Sha Abbas, king of that country, enraged that the emperor of Hindostan had inadvertently addressed him by a title far inferior to that of the great Shah-in-Sbah, or king of kings, ordered the beards of the ambassadors to be shaved off, and sent them home to their master. I This ignominious treatment discovers also the propriety and force of the type of hair in the prophecies of Ezekiel ; where the inhabitants of Jerusalem are compared to the bair of his head and beard, to intimate that they bad been as dear to God as the beard was to the Jews; yet for their wickedness they should be cut off and destroyed.
To send an open letter, was considered as a mark of great disrespect. A letter has its Hebrew name from the circumstance of its being rolled or folded together. The modern Arabs roll up their letters, and then
flatten them to the breadth of an inch; and, instead of sealing
* Calmet, vol. 3. 1 Kings xxii, 11.
† 2 Sam. x. 4:
Chardin observes, that spitting before any one, or spit
them, paste up their ends. The Persians make up their letters in a roll about six inches long, a bit of paper is fastened round it with gum, and sealed with an impression of ink. In Turkey, letters are commonly sent to persons of distinction in a bag or purse; to equals they are also enclosed, but to inferiors, or those who are held in contempt, they are sent open or unenclosed. This explains the reason of Nehemiah's observation : 6. Then sent Sanballat bis servant unto me--- with an open letter in his hand."* In refusing him the mark of respect usually paid to persons of his station, and treating him contemptuously, by sending the letter without the customary appendages, when presented to persons of respectability, Sanballat offered him a deliberate insult. Had this open letter come from Geshem, who was an Arab, it might have passed unnoticed, but as it came from Sanballat, the governor had reason to expect the ceremony of enclosing it in a bag, since he was a person of distinction in the Persian court, and at that time governor of Judea.
The last mark of disrespect, which is by no means confined to the east, is to spit in the face of another.
ting upon the ground in speaking of any one's actious, is, through the east, an expression of extreme detestation. It is, therefore, prescribed by the law of Moses, as a mark of great disgrace to be fixed on the man who failed in his duty to the house of his brother.t To such contemptuous treatment, it will be recollected, our blessed . Redeemer submitted in the hall of the high priest, for the sake of his people. The'' practice has descended to modern times; for in the year 1744, when a rebel prisoner was brought before Nadir Shah's general, the soldiers were ordered to spit in his face; which proves that the savage conduct of the Jews corresponded with a custom which had been long established over all the east.
ILLUSTRATIONS OF SCRIPTURE FROM THE HONOURS SHEWN
TO THE DEAD.
THE duties belonging to the dead, have been reckoned eminently sacred in every age, and among every people. The most barbarous nations have regarded the dust of their departed relatives as sacred and inviolable. In Greece, to refuse the manes of their departed friends any part of their accustomed regard, or to neglect any the least duty to which they were thought entitled, was deemed a greater crime than to violate the temples, and plunder the shrines of their gods. They preserved their memories with religious care and reverence; they went so far as to honour their remains with worship and adoration; at the grave of an enemy, they relinquished for ever their hatred and envy, and stigmatised a disposition to speak evil of the dead as cruel and inhuman. To prosecute revenge beyond the grave, was classed with the foulest actions of which any man could be guilty; no provocations, no affronts from the deceased while alive, or from their children after their death, were deemed sufficient to warrant so nefarious a deed. To disturb the ashes of the dead, fixed a stain on the character of the perpetrator, which no length of time, nor change of circumstances, could remove.*
These sentiments, refined and directed by the dictates and influence of a purer faith, were deeply graven on the heart of a genuine Israelite. In mournful silence, he attended the dying bed of his friend or parent, to receive his last advice, and obtain his blessing. Persuaded that the souls of good men acquired a greater degree of vigour and elevation, as they drew near the end of their course, and were favoured with a clearer and more extensive prospect of things to come, he reckoned it bis
Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. 2.
duty and his privilege to catch every sentence from the lips of the dying, and especially to mark the solemn moment when the vital functions ceased, and the liberated soul took her flight into the world of spirits. As soon .as the last breath had fled, the nearest relation, or the dearest friend, gave the lifeless body the parting kiss, the last farewell and sign of affection to the departed relative. This was a custom of immemorial antiquity; for the patriarch Jacob had no sooner yielded up his spirit, than his beloved Joseph, claiming for once the right of the first born, “ fell upon his face and kissed him." It is probable he first closed his eyes, as God bad promised he should do, (Joseph shall put his hands upon thine eyes,) and then parted from his body with a kiss. In these particulars, the ancient Greeks clearly imitated the Jews; when they saw their friends and relations at the point of resigning their lives, they came close to the bed where they lay, to bid them farewell, and catch their dying words, which they never repeated without reverence. T'he want of opportunity to pay this compliment to Hector, his widowed spouse laments in these affecting strains:
Ου γας μοι θνησκων λεχεων εκχειρας ορεξας, σc. Il. 24. 1. 743. 6. For when dying, thou bast not stretched out thy hand from the bed to me: thou hast not given me sound advice, which I might still bear in sad remembrance, and, with tears, repeat night and day.” They also took their last farewell, by kissing and embracing the dead body. Thus Ovid represents Niobe as kissing her de. ceased sons; and Corippus, Justin the younger, as falling upon Justinian, and kissing him with many tears.
The parting kiss being given, the company rent their clothes, which was a custom of great antiquity, and the highest expression of grief in the primitive ages. This ceremony was never omitted by the Hebrews when any mournful event happened, and was performed in the following, manner; they took a knife, and holding the blade downwards, gave the upper garment a cut in the right side, and rent it an hand's breadth. For very near relations, all the garments are rent on the right side.
After closing the eyes, the next care was to bind up
the face, which it was no more lawful to behold. The
Ody88. “ to close with her hands his eyes and his mouth.” And in Euripides, when Hippolytus felt himself at the point of death, he called upon his father Theseus quickly to cover his face with a sheet:
Κρυψον διμε πςσωπον ως ταχος πεπλοις. . The next care of surviving friends is to wash the body, probably, that the ointments and perfumes with which it is to be wrapped up, may enter more easily into the pores, when they are opened by warm water. This ablution, which was always esteemed an act of great charity and devotion, is performed by women. Thus the body of Dorcas was washed, and laid in an upper room, till the arrival of the apostle Peter, in the hope that his prayers might restore her to life. After the body is washed, it is shrouded, and swathed with a linen cloth, although in most places, they only put on a pair of drawers and a white shift; and the head is bound about with a napkin : such were the napkin and grave clothes, in which the Saviour was buried.
The Greeks and Romans, after washing, anointed the body with oil, or some precious ointment. Homer frequently mentions the custom of anointing the dead, but takes notice of no other unguent but oil. Thus they anointed the body of Patroclus.
Και τοτε δη λεσανο, και ηλειψαν λιπ’ ελαιω.
“ As soon as washed, they anointed him with oil.” After it was washed and anointed, they wrapped it in a