« AnteriorContinua »
Both the first and second temples were contemplated by the Jews with the highest reverence: of their affectionate regard for the first temple, and for Jerusalem, within whose walls it was built, we have several instances in those psalins which were composed during the Babylonish captivity; and of their profound veneration for the second temple we have repeated examples in the New Testament. They could not bear any disrespectful or dishonourable thing to be said of it. The least injurious slight of it, real or apprehended, instantly awakened all the choler of a Jew, and was an affront never to be forgiven. Our Saviour, in the course of his public instructions happening to say, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again;” it was construed into a contemptuous disrespect, designedly thrown out against the temple; his words instantly descended into the heart of a Jew, and kept rankling there for several years; for upon his trial, this declaration, which it was impossible for a Jew ever to forget or to forgive, was immediately alleged against him as big with the most atrocious guilt and impiety: they told the court they had heard him publicly assert, I am able to destroy this temple.” The rancour and virulence they had conceived against him for this speech, which they imagined had been levelled against the temple, was not softened by all the affecting circumstances of that excruciating and wretched death they saw him die: even as he hung upon the cross, with infinite triumph, scorn, and exultation, they upbraided him with it, contemptuously shaking their heads, and saying: Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself! If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. (Matt. xxvii. 40.)
The superstitious veneration, which this people had for their tem. ple, further appears from the account of Stephen. When his adver. saries were baffled and confounded by that superior wisdom and those distinguished gifts which he possessed, they were so exasperated at the victory he had gained over them, that they suborned persons to swear that they had heard him speak blasphemy against Moses and against God. These inflaming the populace, the magistrates, and the Jewish clergy, the holy man was seized, dragged away, and brought before the Sanhedrin. Here the false witnesses whom they had procured, stood up and said,. This person before you is con: ionally uttering the most reproachful expressions against this sacred place,” meaning the temple. This was blasphemy not to be pardoned A judicature composed of high priests and scribes would never for give such impiety.
Thus also, when St. Paul went into the temple to give public notice, as was usual, to the priests, of his having purified and bound himself with a religious vow along with four other persons, declaring the time when this vow was made, and the oblations he would offer for every one of them at his own expense when the time of their vow was accomplished, some Jews of Asia Minor, when the seven days prescribed by the law were almost completed, happening to see him in the temple, struck with horror at the sight of such apprehended profanation, immediately excited the populace, who all at once rushed upon him and instantly seized him, vehemently exclaiming, JMen of Israel, help! This is the man that teacheth all men everywhere against the people, (the Jews) and the law, and this place; and, further, brought Greeks into the temple, and hath polluted this holyplace." They said this, because they had a little before seen Trophimus an Ephesian along with him in the city, and they instantly concluded he had brought him into the temple. Upon this the whole city was immediately raised; all the people at once rushed furiously upon him, and dragged him out of the temple, whose doors were instantly shut. Being determined to murder him, news was carried to the Roman tribune that the whole city was in a commotion. The uproar now raised among the Jews, and their determined resolution to imbrue their hands in the blood of a person who had spoken disrespectfully of the temple, and who they apprehended had wantonly profaned it by introducing Greeks into it, verify and illustrate the declaration of Philo; that it was certain and inevitable death for any one who was not a Jew to set his foot within the inner courts of the temple.” It only remains to add, that it appears from several passages of Scripture, that the Jews had a body of soldiers who guarded the temple, to prevent any disturbance during the ministration of such an immense number of priests and Levites. To this guard Pilate referred, when he said to the chief priests and Pharisees who waited upon him to desire he would make the sepulchre secure. Ye have a watch.” go your way, and make it as secure as ye can. Over these guards one person had the supreme command, who in several places is called the captain of the temple, or officer of the temple guard. “And as they spake unto the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them.” (Acts iv. 1. v. 25, 26. John xviii. 12.) Josephus mentions such an officer."
1 John i. 19.
* Matt. Xzvi. 61. “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build in three days.”
* Acts i. 13.
of THE HIGH PLACEs, AND PROSEUCHE, or ORATORIES OF THE JEWS.
I. Of the High Places.—II. Of the Proseucht, or Oratories.
BESIDES the tabernacle, which has been described in a former section, the Old Testament makes frequent mention of places of worship, called High Places, which were in use both before and after the building of the temple. In the early ages of the world, the devotion of mankind seems to have delighted greatly in groves, woods, and mountains, not only because these retired places were naturally fitted for contemplation, but probably also because they kindled a certain sacred dread in the mind of the worshipper. It is certain that nothing was more antient in the East, than altars surrounded by groves and trees, which made the place very shady and delightful in those hot countries. The idolaters in the first ages of the world, who generally worshipped the sun, appear to have thought it improper to straiten and confine the supposed infiniteness of this imaginary deity within walls, and therefore they generally made choice of hills and mountains, as the most convenient places for their idolatry; and when in after-times they had brought in the use of temples, yet for a long time they kept them open-roofed. Nay, the patriarchs themselves, who worshipped the true God, generally built their altars near to some adjacent grove of trees, which, if nature denied, were usually planted by the religious in those days. When Abraham dwelt at Beersheba, in the plains of Mamre, it is said, He planted a grove there, and called upon the name of the Lord the everlasting God (Gen. xxi. 33), and doubtless that was the place to which the patriarch and his family resorted for public worship." But at length these hills and groves of the heathen idolaters, as they were more retired and shady, became so much the fitter for the exercise of their diabolical rites, and for the commission of the obscene and horrid practices that were usually perpetrated there; for they came at length to be places purposely set apart for prostitution. In many passages of Scripture it is recorded of the Israelites (who in this respect imitated the heathens) that they secretly did the things which were not right, that they set up images and groves in every high hill, and under every green tree, and there burnt incense in all the high places, and wrought wickedness to provoke the Lord, as did the heathen. (2 Kings xvii. 9–13.) On this account therefore God expressly commanded the Israelites, that they should utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations of Canaan, whose land they should possess, served their gods upon the high mountains and upon the hills; and to pay their devotions and bring their oblations to that place only which God should choose. (Deut. xii. 2–15) Nay, to prevent every approach to the idolatrous customs of the heathens, they were forbidden to plant any trees near the altar of the Lord. (Deut. xvi. 21.) It was not therefore from any dislike of hills or groves, that God prohibited the offering of sacrifices there, or that pious kings so zealously suppressed and destroyed them, but because God intended to keep up an unity in the place of worship among his people, (at least in sacrificing) as the best preservative against idolatry: sor as the Israelites were a people naturally inclined to go a whoring after other gods, and were under great temptations of doing so, from the practice of the Canaanites who lived among them, and were gross idolaters, it gave them too visible an advantage of following these abominations, when every one was at liberty to offer sacrifices where he pleased, and without proper restrictions in the way and manner of doing it. And as the imitation of the heathens in their places of worship was one step towards their idolatry, so it was a considerable advance towards the commission of all the gross obscenities, which these places of darkness and obscurity afforded ; and we may readily conclude that if once they fell into the same religion, they would also fall into the same immoral practices which that religion taught them to be acceptable to their gods. Now, that wickedness of the grossest sort did attend the idolatrous worship in such places, is sufficiently evident from 1 Kings xv. 12. 2 Kings xxiii. 7. Rom. i. 21. 28., &c. It is therefore clear from the command of God, so pathetically enforced in the above-cited text, (Deut. xii. 2–15.) that after God should fix upon a place for his public worship, it was entirely unlawful to offer sacrifices upon high places, or any where else but in the place God did choose ; so that after the building of the temple, the prohibition of high places and groves (so far at least as concerned the sacrificing in them) unquestionably took place. And it was for their disobedience to this command, by their sacrificing upon high places and in groves, even after the temple was erected (2 Kings xv. 35.), and for not destroying the high places of the heathens, where their idol gods were worshipped, which by that command and in many other places of Scripture (Numb. xxxiii. 52.), they were expressly appointed to do;-that the prophets with so much holy zeal reproached the Israelites. We have indeed several instances in Scripture besides that of Abraham, where the prophets and other good men are said to have made use of these high places for sacrificing, as well as other less solemn acts of devotion, and which are not condemned. Thus, Samuel, upon the uncertain abode of the ark, fitted up a place of devotion for himself and his family in a high place, and built an altar there, and sacrificed upon it. (1 Sam. ix. 12. 19. 25.) Gideon also built an altar and offered a sacrifice to God upon the top of a rock (Judg. vi. 25, 26.); and the tabernacle itself was removed to the high place that was at Gibeon. (1 Chron. xvi. 39. and xxi. 29.) But all this was before the temple was erected, which was the first fixed place that God appointed for his public worship; after which other places for sacrificing became unlawful. That the Israelites, both kings and people, offered sacrifices upon these high places even after the temple was built, will evidently apj by noticing a few passages in their history; for (not to mention eroboam and his successors in the kingdom of Israel, whose prosessed purpose was to innovate every thing in matters of religion, and who had peculiar priests whom they termed prophets of the groves, o
1 Acts xxi. 28. 2 eavaros arapairmos πat Kara row to rows tyros reptookous trapodovrwo-row oux' •eets::v., Philo, Legat, ad Caium. p. 577. edit. Mangey. 3. Matt. xxvii. 65. Exort rougwāav, Ye have a guard. See Lamy's Apparatus Biblicus, vol. i. p. 267. * Tov wrparmyov Awavov, Ananias, the commander of the temple. Antiq. Jud. lib. xx.c. vi. § 2. Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 17. §2. Apopwort; tıs row EXea&apov arearmyovra, having the chief regard to Eleazer, the governor of the temple. Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 17. § 2. edit. Hudson. Harwood's Introd. vol. 2. o. 166. 170. and Dr. Lardner's Credibility, book i. ch. xi. § 1. ch. ix. § *...
* Many antient nations used to erect altars and offer sacrifices to their god: upon high places and mountains. See the examples adduced in Burder's Oriental Literature, vol. i. p. 233.
o 1 Kings xviii. 19.), it is clear that most of the kings of Judah, even such of them who were otherwise zealous for the observance of the law, are expressly recorded as blameable on this head, and but few have the commendation given them of destroying these high places. . No sooner had Rehoboam the son of Solomon, after the revolt of the ten tribes from him, strengthened himself in his kingdom, but we read that Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and built them high places, and images, and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree. "... xiv. 22, 23.) In the reign of Asa, his grandson, things took another turn, for of him it is said, that he took away the altars of the strange gods, and the high places, and brake down the images, and cut down the grotes (2 Chron. xiv. 3.), even without sparing those of his mother (xv. 16.) which passage seems to be contradicted by 1 Kings xv. 14. It should, however, be recollected, that there were two kinds of high places, one frequented even by devout worshippers who lived at a distance from Jerusalem, and made use of by them in sacrificing, and for other religious purposes; and which were tolerated contrary to the divine command by such of their kings who otherwise are said to be pious princes. . The other kind of high places were such as were considered as abominable from their first institution, and made the receptacle of idolatry and wickedness. These last were the high places which Asa took away; but those where God alone was worshipped, had obtained so long, and were looked upon with so sacred a veneration, that for fear of giving a general offence he did not venture to abolish them. But however well-meaning the pious intentions of good people in this respect were, yet the conduct of their kings was highly blameable in giving the least countenance to it, as being contrary to the divine command. The truth is, these high places were famous either for the apparition of angels, or some other miraculous event, had either been places of abode for the ark of the Lord, or those in which some prophet or patriarch of old had been accustomed to pray and sacrifice, and therefore they were regarded as consecrated to the service of God; nor was there strength enough in the government to overcome this inveterate prejudice, till Hezekiah and Josiah arose, who (to prevent the calamities that were coming on the nation) had the courage to effect a thorough reformation. Towards the conclusion of Asa's reign, when he grew more infirm in body, and perhaps more remiss in the cause of God, it appears that these wicked high places began to be renewed; for it is said 0 Jehoshaphat his son, that he took away the high places and grotes out of Judah (2 Chron. xvii. 6), which after all we must understand either of his having given orders only to have them taken away, or having seen it dome but in part, without totally removing such as devout worshippers frequented ; for afterwards, when his character comes to be summed up, there is this reservation (possibly more through the fault of his subjects than himself) howbeit the high places were not taken away. (2 Chron, xx. 32.)