Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

1

of physicians is, when it is said, that Joseph commanded his domestics to embalm the body of his father'. This was in Egypt; and many have ascribed the invention of physic to the Egyptians.

The moderation of the Patriarchs with regard to wives is no less to be admired, when we consider, Ist, they were allowed to have several; and, 2dly, their desire of a numerous posterity. Abraham, whom God had promised to make the father of an innumerable people, though he had a barren wife, was so far from thinking of taking another, that he had made a resolution of leaving his substance to the steward of his house. He did not take a second till he was eighty-six years old, and it was his own wife who gave her to him. We must not say that he was still young with respect to his life, which was a hundred seventy-five years long; because thirteen years after he and Sarah, who was ten years younger, are called old, and laughed at it as an incredible thing, when God promised them a son. As old as Abraham was, and as desirous, as we may suppose him, to see the children of Isaac, he did not marry him till he was forty years old;' and though Rebecca had no child

" Gen. I. 2.
* Aug. de Civ. Dei, xvi. 25. -

* Gen. xv. 2. • Gen. xvi. 2. The handmaids, as they are termed, were a sort of slaves, one of which was usually given by a father to his daughter on her marriage : hence they were considered the unalienable property of their mistresses, who claimed not only the fruit of their labour, but also the very children they bore. See above, and also chap. xxix. 24, 29. ? Gen. xviii. 11.

4 Gen. xxv. 20.

for twenty years, and never but two, and those at one birth, Isaac had no other wife.

It is true, Jacob had two wives at the same time, and as many concubines ; but it is fit we should consider the reason of it. He staid till he was seventy-seven with his father, waiting for the important blessing which he had a right to by the resignation of his brother. At that age he thought of marrying; and asked for Rachel, but did not obtain her till he had served seven years.' At last then he married at eighty-four. They gave him Leah against his will; and he kept her, that she might not be disgraced. But as he might have more wives than one, or marry two sisters, without the breach of any law then existing, he took her too that he had first engaged to wed." When she found herself barren, she gave her husband a handmaid that she might have children by her. This was a sort of adoption practised at that time: and her sister did the same, that the family might be in. creased. From all which St. Augustin draws this conclusion: We do not read that Jacob desired any more than one wife, or made use of more, without strictly observing the rules of conjugal chastity." We must not imagine he had other wives before ; for why should the last only be mentioned ?

• Gen. xxix. 20. · When Joseph appeared before Pharaoh, he was thirty years of

age, Gen. xli. 46, at which time his father was 121; for when he appeared before Pharaoh he was 130 years old, Gen. xlvii. 9. and nine years had elapsed from the time Joseph was presented to Pharaoh till the time that Jacob and his family came into Egypt, viz. seven years of plenty and two of famine; conse. quently, Jacob was 91 years old when Joseph was born.August. De Civ. Dei, lib. xviii. c. 4. • Gen. xxix, 30.

* De Civ. Dei, xvi. 25, 38.

r Gen. xxv.

21, &c.

And yet I do not undertake to justify all the Patriarchs in this point. The story of Judah and his sons affords but too many examples of the contrary. I would only shew that we cannot, with justice, accuse those of incontinence whom the Scripture reckons holy. For, with regard to the rest of mankind, they were from that time very much corrupted. Such then, in general, was the first state of God's people. An entire freedom, without any government but that of a father, who was an absolute monarch in his own family. A life very natural and easy, throngh a great abundance of necessaries, and an utter contempt of superAuities; through an honest labour, accompanied with care and frugality, without anxiety or ambition.

Let us now proceed to the second period : which is, that of the Israelites from their coming out of Egypt to the Babylonish captivity. It lasted more than nine hundred years, and most of the Sacred Writings relate to it.

[ocr errors]

PART II.

CHAP. I.

The Israelites. Their Nobility.

THOUGH the people were already very numerous, they were still called the children of Israel, as if they had been but one family ; in the same manner as they said, the children of Edom, the children of Moab, &c. Indeed all these people were still distinct : they knew their own origin, and took a pride in preserving the name of their author. Thence probably it comes that the name of children signified, with the antients, a nation, or certain sort of people. Homer often says, the children of the Greeks, and the children of the Trojans. The Greeks used to say, the children of the physicians, and grammarians. With the Hebrews, the children of the east, are the eastern people; the children of Belial, the wicked ; the children of men, or Adam, mankind. And in the Gospel we often see the children of this world of darkness, and of light--and also, the children of the bridegroom, for those that go along with him to his wedding

[ocr errors]

The Israelites were divided into twelve tribes.. There was the same number of the Ishmaelites, and as many of the Persians. The people of Athens were at first composed of four tribes; afterwards divided into ten, to which they gave the names of ten heroes, who for this reason were called Eponymi, and whose statues were set up in the public Exchange.The Roman people were also distributed into three or four tribes, which increased to thirty-five. The names of them are still upon record. But these Athenian and Roman tribes were made up of different families, collected together to keep order in their assemblies and elections: whereas those of the Israelites were naturally distinct, and were only tweloe large families descended from twelve brothers.

They were very exact in keeping their genealogies; and knew all the succession of their ancestors, as high as the patriarch of their tribe, from whom it is easy going back to the first man. Thus they were really brethren, that is to say, kinsmen, according to the eastern language; and of genuine nobility, if ever there was such a thing in the world,

They had preserved the purity of their families, by taking care, as their fathers did, not to marry with the nations descended from Canaan, who

• Gen. xlix. 1-28.

Gen. xxv. 13-61.
Xenoph. Cyrop. p. 5. Edit. Steph. 1581.
« Demosth, in Timocr. in Leptin, et ibi Ulpian, EtWYuuong
Ηρωες. ,

« VorigeDoorgaan »