Imatges de pàgina

first, he quitted it before night, for a still more elevated and safe retreat. And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the MOUNTAIN, for he feared to dwell in Zoar. (Gen. xix. 30.) How natural is the incrustation of his wife on the same hypothesis ? Remaining in a lower part of the valley, and looking with a wistful eye towards Sodom, she was surrounded, ere she was aware, by the lava, which rising and swelling, at length reached her, and (while the volcanic effluvia deprived her of life) incrustated her where she stood; so that being, as it were, embalmed by the salso-bituminous mass, she became a conspicuous beacon and admonitory example to future generations. The power of this asphaltic substance in preserving from corruption, is evident, from its being employed by the Egyptians for embalming their mummies. She is said to have been converted into a pillar of salt, on account of the quantity of that substance which appeared in the crust, and its abundance in those regions is notorious, both from sacred and profane history : so much so, that the lake which now fills the caverns made by the earthquake, has, among other names, that of the “ Salt Sea.”3

In confirmation of the conflagration of the ground about Sodom and Gomorrah, we may cite the description in Deut. xxix. 22. All the land BURNING with brimstone and salt, LIKE THE OVERTHROW OF Sodom and GOMORRAH. Nor was the fire, thus kindled, extinguished for ages; but continued to send forth flames, smoke, bitumen, &c. in the first century of the Christian æra, as we learn from the testimony of Josephus. To these eruptions of flame the apostle Jude appears to allude in the seventh verse of his epistle : and antient geographers, as well as modern travellers, have attested the existence of volcanoes in this once highly favoured country. Thus, the Koran, adverting to the destruction of Sodom, says that “ a terrible storm from heaven assailed them, at sun-rise, and we turned the city upside down ; and we rained on them stones of baked clay,"5 that is, lava, and other volcanic matters. The oriental geographer Ebn Haukal, (who travelled in the tenth century,) says,

The land of the tribe of Lot is called Aredz al Moukloubah (the land turned upside down). Neither corn, nor herbage, nor cattle, are found here; the ground is black; and stones are seen scattered about, which one would imagine to be the stones showered down on that wicked race."6 The late Mr. Volney states that the whole

1 Lot's wife is not the only person who has suffered by proximity to volcanic effluvia. The elder Pliny perished in this manner. See the account of his death in the epistles of his nephew, the younger Pliny, lib. vi. ep. 16.

2 Diod. Sic. Bib. Hist. lib. xix. c. 109. 3 Henderson's Iceland, vol. i. pp. 153, 154. 4 De Bell. Jud. lib. iv. c. 8. 4. 5 Sale's translation of the Koran, p. 213. See also p. 184. 4to. edit. 6 Sir William Ouseley's Translation of the “ Oriental Geography of Ebn Haukal." p. 46. London, 1800. 4to.

south of Syria is volcanic ;' and volcanic vestiges were traced by Mr. Buckingham, in the year 1816.3

7. But the greatest of all the calamities that ever visited this highly-favoured country, is the pestilential blast, by the Arabs termed the Sam wind, by the Persians, Samoun, by the Turks Simoom or Samiel, and by the prophet Jeremiah a dry wind of the high places in the wilderness. (Jer. iv. 11.) It blows in Persia, Arabia, and the deserts of Arabia, during the months of June, July, and August ; in Nubia during March and April, and also in September, October, and November. It rarely lasts more than seven or eight minutes, but so poisonous are its effects, that it instantly suffocates those who are unfortunate enough to inhale it, particularly if it overtake them when standing upright. Thevenot mentions such a wind, which in 1658 suffocated twenty thousand men in one night; and another, which in 1655 suffocated four thousand persons. As the principal stream of this pestilential blast always moves in a line, about twenty yards in breadth, and twelve feet above the surface of the earth, travellers in the desert, when they perceive its approach, throw themselves on the ground, with their faces close to the burning sands, and wrap their heads in their robes, or in a piece of carpet, till - the wind has passed over them. The least mischief which it produces is the drying up their skins of water, and thus exposing them to perish with thirst in the deserts. When this destructive wind advances, which it does with great rapidity, its approach is indicated by a redness in the air; and, when sufficiently near to admit of being observed, it appears Like a baze, in colour resembling the purple part of the rainbow, but not so compressed or thick. When travellers are exposed to a second or third attack of this terrible blast, it produces a desperate kind of indifference for life, and an almost total prostration of strength. Camels and other animals instinctively perceive its approach, and bury their mouths and nostrils in the ground. The effects of this blast on the bodies of those whom it destroys are peculiar. At first

1 The following is Volney's description of the modern state of this district :- The south of Syria, that is, the hollow through which the Jordan flows, is a country of volcanoes: the bituminous and sulpherous sources of the lake Asphaltites, the lava, the pumice stones thrown upon its bankş, and the hot baths of Tabaria," (the antient Tiberias) “ demonstrate that this valley has been the seat of a subterraneous fire, which is not yet extinguished. Clouds of smoke are often observed to issue from the lake, and new crevices to be formed upon its banks. If con. jectures in such cases were not too liable to error, we might suspect that the whole valley has been formed only by a violent sinking of a country which formerly poured the Jordan into the Mediterranean. It appears certain, at least, that the catas trophe of five cities destroyed by fire, must have been occasioned by the irruption of a volcano then burning. Strabo expressly says, "that the tradition of the inhabitants of the country (that is, of the Jews themselves) was, that formerly the valley of the lake was peopled by thirteen flourishing cities, and that they were swallowed up by a volcano.' (Geographia, lib. xvi. p. 1087. edit. Oxon.) This account seems to be confirmed by the quantities of ruins still found by travellers on the western border. These eruptions have long since ceased; but earthquakes, which usually succeed them, still continue to be felt at intervals in this country.” Travels in Egypt and Syria, vol. i. pp. 281, 282. 2 Buckingham's Travels, pp. 443. 448. VOL. III.


view, its victims appear to be asleep : but if an arm or leg be smartly shaken or lifted up, it separates from the body, which soon after becomes black. In Persia, in the district of Dashtistan, a sam or simoom blew during the summer months, which so totally burnt up all the corn (then near its maturity), that no animal would eat a blade of it, or touch any of its grain. The image of corn blasted before it be grown up, used by the sacred historian in 2 Kings xix. 26., was most probably taken from this or some similar cause. The Psalmist evidently alludes (Psal. ciï. 15, 16.) to the desolating influence of the simoom, which was unquestionably the blast that destroyed the army of Sennacherib in one night. (2 Kings xix. 7. 35.).

1 Bruce's Travels, vol. vi. pp. 462, 463. 484. Harmer's Observations, vol. i. pp. 94-96. Sir R. K. Porter's Travels in Georgia, Persia, &c. vol. č. p. 230.

2 Morier's Second Journey, p. 43.

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



1. Patriarchal Government.-II. Government under Moses-a The

ocracy ;—its nature and design.-1. Notice of the heads or princes of tribes and families.-2. Of the Jethronian Prefects or Judges appointed by Moses.—3. Of the Senate or Council of Seventy Assessors.-4. Scribes.—III. Government of the Judges.-IV. Regal Government instituted ;---the Functions and Privileges of the Kings ;-Inauguration of the Kings ;-Scriptural Allusions to the Courts of Sovereigns and Princes explained.--V. Revenues of the Kings of Israel.-VI. Magistrates under the Monarchy.-VU. Officers of the Palace.-VIII. The Royal Harem.-IX. Promul gation of Laws.-X. Schism between the twelve tribes ;—the King

doms of Israel and Judah founded in their Duration and End. 1. Of the forms of Government which obtained among mankind from the earliest ages to the time of Moses, we have but little information communicated in the Scriptures. The simplicity of manners which then prevailed would render any complicated form of government unnecessary; and accordingly we find that the patriarchs exercised the chief power and command over their families, children, and domestics, without being responsible to any superior authority. Such was the government of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. So long as they resided in the land of Canaan, they were subject to no foreign power, but tended their flocks and herds wherever they chose to go (Gen. xiii. 6–12.), and vindicated their wrongs by arms whensoever they had sustained any injury. (Gen. xiv.) They treated with the petty kings who reigned in different parts of Palestine as their equals in dignity, and concluded treaties with them in their own right. (Gen. xiv. 13. 18—24. xxi. 22–32. xxvi. 16. 27—33. xxxi. 44-54.)

The patriarchal power was a sovereign dominion : so that parents may be considered as the first kings, and children the first subjects. They had the power of disinheriting their children (Gen. xlix. 3, 4. 1 Chron. v. 1.), and also of punishing them with death (Gen. xxxvij. 24.), or of dismissing them from home without assigning any rea. son. (Gen. xxi. 14.) Further, the patriarchs could pronounce a solemn blessing or curse upon their children, which at that time was regarded as a high privilege and of great consequence. Thus Noah cursed his son Čanaan (Gen. ix. 25.); Isaac blessed Jacob (Gen. xxvii. 28, 29. 33.); and Jacob blessed his sons. (Gen. xlix.) On the decease of the father, the eldest son by a natural right of succession inherited the paternal power and dominion, which in those days was one of the rights of primogeniture. To this right the sacerdotal dignity, in the first ages, seems to have been annexed; so that the heads of families not only possessed a secular power, but also officiated as priests in the families to which they belonged. (Gen. viii. 20. xii. 7, 8. xxxv. 1-3.)

Although the sons of Jacob exercised, each, the supreme power in his own family, during their father's life (Gen. xxxvii. 24.), yet the latter appears to have retained some authority over them. (Gen. xlii. 1-4. 37, 38. xliii. 1–13. I. 15–17.) Afterwards, however, as the posterity of Jacob increased, in Egypt, it became necessary to have magistrates or governors, invested with more extensive authority; these are termed Elders (Exod. ii. 16.), being probably chosen on account of their age and wisdom. The Shoterim or “officers of the children of Israel” (Exod. v. 14, 15. 19.), have been conjectured to be a kind of magistrates elected by them: but, from the context of the sacred historian, they rather appear to have been appointed by the Egyptians, and placed over the Israelites in order to oversee their labour.

II. On the departure of the Israelites from the land of their oppressors, under the guidance of Moses, Jehovah was pleased to institute a new form of government, which has been rightly termed a THEOCRACY ; the supreme legislative power being exclusively vested in God or in his ORACLE, who alone could enact or repeal laws. The Hebrew government appears not only designed to subserve the common and general ends of all good governments ;

-viz. the protection of the property, liberty, safety, and peace of the several members of the community in which the true happiness and prosperity of states will always consist); but also to set apart the Hebrews or Israelites as a holy people to Jehovah, and a kingdom of priests. For thus Moses is directed to tell the children of Israel, Ye hare seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself. Now therefore if ye will hear my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people ; for all the earth is mine, and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation. (Exod. xix. 3, 4, 5, 6.) We learn what this covenant was in a further account of it. Ye stand this day all of you before the Lord your God, your captains of your tribes, your elders and your officers, and all the men of Israel; that should enter into covenant with the Lord thy God, and into his oath which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day; that he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself

, and that hre

may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath


« AnteriorContinua »