carcase; but Samson was allowed, for a special purpose, to eat of the honey which he found in the dead lion. The priests only were permitted by the law to eat the shew bread; yet David, and his men, were justified by our Lord himself in using the consecrated loaves, when no other could be procured.

Many are the reasons assigned by different writers, for the employment of ravens on this occasion ; but they are so trifling, or so fanciful, that it is unnecessary to state them; the true reason, perhaps, was to convince the dejected prophet, that although his nation had forsaken him, the God whom he served, continued to watch over him with unceasing care; and that he would employ the most unpromising means, and counteract the most powerful instincts, rather than suffer him to want the necessaries of life. And when he saw those voracious birds, the cravings of whose appetite are seldom entirely satisfied, part, of their own accord, with their favourite provision, morning and evening, for many days, and bring it themselves to the place of his retreat; he could not mistake or disregard the secret influence under which they acted.

The brook Cherith, on whose border the miracle was wrought, is supposed to be the same as the river Kana, mentioned in the sixteenth and seventeenth chapters of Joshua, which watered the confines of Ephraim and Benjamin. This brook derived its name Kana, from the reeds, which, in great abundance, clothed its banks; among which the prophet found a secure retreat from the persecution of his enemies. Its other name, Cherith, may be traced to the verb Charah, which the Greek interpreters render to feed ; because on its margin the prophet was fed by the ravens. Were this conjecture true, the name must have been given by anticipation; for which no satisfactory reason can be assigned. It is more natural to suppose, that, as the verb commonly signifies to dig, and sometimes to rush on with violence, the name Cherith alludes to the violent rapidity of the stream at certain seasons of the year, or to the deep pits, which, like many other torrents in those regions, it excavates in its furious course.

The particular situation of this brook is more distinctly marked by the sacred historian, who says, it is before Jordan." This phrase seems to mean, that it flowed into the Jordan; and from the second clause of the verse we may infer, that its course lay on the west side of the river, because it is said by God to Elijah, “ Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan;" for Elijah must have been on the west side of Jordan, when he was commanded to go eastward to a stream that flowed into the Jordan on that side.

The Hauk. This bird is distinguished by the swiftness of her flight, and the rapid motion of her wings in flying. But as it is the first of these which naturally fixes the attention of an observer, the Hebrews, according to their invariable custom, selected it as the reason of the name by which she is known in their language; they call her (ra) nets, from the verb natsa, to fly. She was reckoned, by many of the ancients, the swiftest of the feathered race In Homer, the descent of Apollo from heaven, is compared to her flight :

5371946. Eorus
Ωκει φασσoφoνω, ος' ωκιδος πετεηνων.

II. b. 15. 1. 237. 6 From the mountains of Ida he descended like a swift hawk, the destroyer of pigeons, that is the swiftest of birds."

In the thirteenth book, Ajax tells Hector, the day should come when he would wish to have horses swifter than hawks, to carry him back to the city. Θασσονας ιρηκων εμεναι καλλίγριχας ιππ8ς. .

1. 819. Among the Egyptians, the hawk was the symbol of the winds; a sure proof that they contemplated with great admiration, the rapidity of her motions. For the same reason, according to some writers, she was consecrated to the sun, which she resembles in the surprising swiftness of her career, and the facility with which she moves through the boundless regions of the sky. This custom of consecrating the hawk to Apollo, the Greeks borrowed from the Egyptians, among whom


[ocr errors]

no animal was so sacred as the ibis and the hawk. So great was their veneration for these animals, that if any person killed one of them, with or without design, he was punished with death; while for the destruction of any other animal, he was only subjected to an arbitrary fine.

This bird, so highly venerated among the heathen, was pronounced unclean by the Jewish lawgiver; it was to be an abomination to the people of Israel ; its flesh was not to be eaten, nor its carcase touched with impunity. The reason of this law may probably be found in her dispositions and qualities; she is a bird of prey, and, by consequence, cruel in her temper, and gross

in her, manners. Her mode of living too, may probably impart a disagreeable taste and flavour to the flesh, and render it, particularly in a warm climate, improper for the table. Nor do we know that it was ever relished by any people, although the pressure of necessitous circumstances may have occasionally reconciled individuals to use it for food. Her daring spirit, her thirst of blood, the surprising rapidity of her flight, and her perseverance in the chace, soon pointed her out to the hunter as a valuable assistant; but even he willingly resigns her carcase to be meat to the beasts of the field.

Of this bird Jehovah demands, 6 Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings towards the south ?" Jerome and several other interpreters render the words, By thy prudence doth the hawk renew her plumage, having expanded her wings towards the south; because the verb (13N") abar, in the future of the Hiphil, seems to be formed from the noun (928) Æber, or (1928) Æbrah, which signifies a feather. This law, by which the eagle, the hawk, and other birds, annually shed their feathers, was not contrived by the wisdom of man; although it appears he is able, by certain managements, to accelerate the moulting season, as well as the renovation of the plumage. But, as means and remedies derive all their efficacy from God, and depend for success only upon his co-operation, it may still be demanded, Doth the hawk renew her plumage by thy

[ocr errors]

wisdom, expanding her wings towards the south? It is said, by an ancient writer on this passage, that humid and warm places are favourable to this change, and are therefore diligently sought for by hawkers, with the view of promoting the moulting of their fal

When the south wind blows, the wild hawks, instructed by their instinctive sagacity, expand their wings, till their limbs become heated; and by this means, the old plumage is relaxed, and the moulting facilitated. But when the south wind refuses its aid, they expand their wings to the rays of the sun, and, shaking them violently, produce a tepid gale for themselves, and thus their bodies being heated, and their pores opened, the old feathers more easily fall off, and new ones grow up in their place.

According to others, these words refer, not to the annual renovation of the plumage, but to the long and persevering flight of the hawk towards the south, on the approach of winter. Her migration is not conducted by the wisdom and prudence of man; but by the superintending and upholding providence of the only wise God. The words of Jehovah cannot be undertsood as veferring to the falconer's art; for we have no evidence that the hawk was employed in hunting, till many ages after the times in which the patriarchs flourished. Besides, if the divine challenge referred to that amusement, the direction of her fight could not be confined to the south; for she pursues the game to every quarter of heaven.

The renowned Chrysostom on this passage inquires, why Jehovah has made no mention of sheep and oxen, and other animals of the same kind, but only of useless creatures, which scem to have been formed for no beneficial or important purpose. But is it to be supposed, that God, who is wonderfal in counsel and excellent in working, bas made any part of his works in * vain? We may not be able to discover, after the most careful investigation, the end which the Almighty had in view, when he created some of his works; but shall we presume, on this account, to pronounce them useless or insignificant? So far from being a useless bird, the


[ocr errors]


hawk, in some cases, brings the most important and effectual assistance to the hunter. It has already been observed, that the antelope, which seems rather to fly than to run, leaves the swiftest dog far behind; and could never be overtaken without the help of the fal

The hawk, then, is not the useless and insignificant creature which the Greek father represents her; on the contrary, she has conferred benefits on mankind of no inconsiderable value.




The Dove. THE allusions in the sacred volume to this bird, arc both numerous and important. She was known to the ancient Hebrews by the name (7121') yona, perhaps, says the learned Bochart, to intimate, that she is a native of Greece ; for the Greeks were anciently called (lwves) Iones, as has been already proved; and in Hebrew () yonim, or Javanim, that is the sons of Javan, the father of the colony which settled in those parts. One thing is certain, if any conclusion may be drawn from the fabulous history of Greece, that the dove has resided in that country from the remotest antiquity. Herodotus mentions a very ancient tradition among the Greeks, that the Dodonæan dove, taking her place on a spreading beech, pronounced with human voice, That it was in the decree of the fates, that an oracle of Jupiter should be established there ; which was by far the most ancient of all the oracles in Greece. Another is recorded by Plutarch, which was evidently transmitted from the mountains of Ararat; and proves that Deucalion was no other than the patriarch Noah, the second father of our species : That a dove sent from the ark by the former, was a sign of tempesi when

[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »