[ocr errors][merged small]

The Education of their Children, their Exercises,

and Studies.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

THE education of children seems to have been very nearly the same among the Israelites as that of the Egyptians, and the most antient Greeks.* They formed their body by labour and exercise, and their mind by literature and music. Strength of body was greatly esteemed; and it is that for which soldiers are mostly commended in Scripture, as David's valiant men are. Foot-racing must have been one of their chief exercises, since men were known by their running at a distance, as those who brought the news of Absalom's defeat ; they must needs have seen them run often. It is also said of Asahel, Joab's brother, that he was as light of foot as a wild roe. Zechariah speaks of a burdensome stone, which St. Jerom takes for one of those stones which served to try men's strength by seeing who could lift it highest.' For


• Plato Rep. 2, 3.

• 2 Sam. xxiii. 1, &c. • 2 Sam. xviii. 27.

2 Sam. ii. 18. Zech. xii. 3.

St. Jerom assures us, that this was an ancient custom in all the cities and towns of Palestine, which subsisted even in his days: and that he had seen a great brazen ball at Athens in the

which reason one may imagine they had that sort of exercise. The example of Jonathan shews they used to exercise themselves in shooting with the bow. 5

But they did not make the exercise of the body their main business like the Greeks, who reduced it to a profession, and studied the greatest improvements in it. They called this art gymnastic, because they exercised themselves naked ; and the schools gymnasia, which were spacious, magnificent, and built at a great expense. There the best masters, with many assistants under them, formed the bodies of young people by a very exact discipline and regular exercise. Some took such delight in it, that they practised nothing else all their lives, and were wrestlers, &c. by profession. By this means they acquired prodigious strength; and brought their bodies into such exact shape, that they served as models for the finest statues. But in other respects it made them brutal, and incapable of any application of mind; nor were they even fit for war, or any sort of enterprise that deprived them of their usual diet or rest, or put them at all out of their regular way of living. The Hebrews were too serious to give in to these niceties; and it was an odious novelty to them, when there was an academy built at Jerusalem,

citadel, near the statue of Minerva, which was used to try the strength of the Athletæ, that those of similar powers might be paired together, that all circumstances on each side might be equal. See his comment on the above text.

. 1 Sam. xx. 20. Hier. Mercurial. De Arte Gymnast.


under Antiochus Epiphanes, after the Greek fashion.' They were content with field labour, and some military exercises, as were the Romans.

Nor had they occasion for hard study to improve their mind, if by study we understand the knowledge of several languages, and reading many books, as we commonly mean by it.

For they despised learning foreign languages, because that was as much in the power of slaves as those of higher rank. Their native language was sufficient for them, that is, the Hebrew, in which the Scripture is written. It has a resemblance of their manners; the words of it are plain, all derived from few roots, and uncompounded: it has a wonderful luxuriance in its verbs, most of which express whole phrases. To be great, to make great, to be made great, are all simple words, which no translation can fully express. Most of the prepositions and pronouns are no more than single letters added to the beginning or end of other words. It is the most concise tongue we know, and consequently comes nearest to the language of spirits, who have little need of words to make themselves understood; the expressions are clear and weighty; they convey distinct and sensible ideas, and the farthest from bombast of all others.

The genius of this language is to make one proposition follow another, without suspending the sense, or perplexing us with long periods, which makes the style extremely clear. Thence it comes, that in their narrations, those that are concerned in them speak with the utmost plainness, and in their own persons, and do not scruple to use repetitions. They almost constantly relate the same thing in the same word. And this is what makes us, at first, think the Scripture style flat and heavy; but it is in reality a mark of good sense, solidity, and a clear head, in those who spoke in that manner. Though the style of the sacred books is

1 Macc. i. 14. 2 Macc. iv. 12. Joseph. Antiq. lib. xx. c. 11.


different, we do not find that the language altered from the time of Moses to the Babylonish captivity.

All their grammar then consisted, like that of the most ancient Greeks, in speaking in their own language well, and in writing and reading it correctly; with this difference, that it does not appear they had reduced it into an art, and learnt it by rules. Their letters were those which we call at present Samaritan, because the Samaritans have preserved them: and as they do not run well, nor are they easy to shape, it may reasonably be doubted, whether it was very common among the Israelites to know how to write; and the rather, as learned men are called in Scripture Sopherim, that is to say, Scribes, according to the old translations. Labouring people, too, have much less occasion for writing than merchants and men of business. But it is probable that most of them knew how to read; since it was recommended to all to learn the law of God, and meditate upon it day and night:" and this study was their whole employment upon the Sabbath days.'

* Deut. vi. 6, 7,

Joseph. Ant. lib. xvi. c. 2. s. 3. Orig. cont. Cels. lib. iv.

This book alone was sufficient to instruct them thoroughly; they saw in it the history of the world, till their settlement in the Promised Land; the rise of all the nations which they knew; and more especially of those they were most concerned to be best acquainted with, the descendants of Lot, Abraham, Ishmael, and Esau. There they saw the whole of their religion, its doctrines, ceremonies, and moral precepts; and there they found their civil laws. This volume alone, which is the pentateuch, or five books of Moses, contained all that they were obliged to know. Not because they had not many other books: for, to omit those of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and several that were written after, in the time of Moses the book of the wars of the Lord" is mentioned, and in other places the book of Jasher." The books of Kings

* Numb. xxi. 14.

· Josh. X. 13. and 2 Sam. i. 18. Our author calls it liore des justes, after the Vulgate liber justorum: but the Chaldee paraphrast, The book of the law: the Syriac, The book of Canticles, in one place; and The book of Ashir, in the other. Now it may be doubted whether


of these come up to the original DD that is, literally, The book of the upright, or, The book which is right, as the Seventy seem to have understood it, by translating it ETI T8 616218 T8 eu88s. The sacred writer appeals to the authentic copy of Joshua and Samuel that was preserved by the high-priest, as the law was, Deut. xxxi. 26. and xvii. 18. it may be, in the tabernacle or the temple; for Jo. sephus, when he mentions the sun's standing still, Ant. lib. v. cap. 1. says, This is manifest by the writings deposited in the temple. The Arabic in 2 Sam. i. 18. gives the passage a strange turn :-66 Behold it is written in the book of Ashir, that is, the book of Samuel, the interpretation of which is the book of Canticler."

« VorigeDoorgaan »