Imatges de pÓgina


divided their figures into six modules. We have seen that, according to the Chaldeans, God created the world in six gahambars; but 7 was the most marvellous number; for there were at first but seven planets, each planet had its heaven, and that made seven heavens, without any one knowing what was meant by the word “heaven.' 'All Asia reckoned seven days for a week. We divide the life of man into seven ages. How many reasons have we in favour of this number!

The Jews in time collected some scraps of this philosophy. It passed among the first christians of Alexandria with the dogmas of Plato. It is principally displayed in the Apocalypse of Cerinthus, attributed to John the Apostle.

We see a striking example of it in the number of the beast:

“ That no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred three score and six.”+

We know what great pains all the great scholars have taken to divine the solution of this enigma. This number, composed of three times two at each figure, does it signify three times fatal to the third power ? There were two beasts, and we know not yet of which the author would speak.

We have seen that Bossuet, less happy in arithmetic than in funeral orations, has demonstrated that Dioclesian is the beast, because we find the Roman figures 666 in the letters of his name, by cutting off those which would spoil this operation. But in making use of Roman figures, he does not remember that the Apocalypse was written in Greek. An eloquent man may fall into this mistake.

* Apocalypse, xiii. 17, 18.

+ This passage may serve to discover the time in which the Apocalypse was composed. It is probable that it was under the empire of the tyrant whose name is formed by letters answering to the numeral value of 666. From this we find that it was written in the reign of Caligula.

The power of numbers was much more respected among us when we knew nothing about them.

You may observe, my dear reader, in the article FIGURE, some fine allegories that Augustin, bishop of Hippo, extracted from numbers.

This taste subsisted so long, that it triumphed at the Council of Trent. We preserve its mysteries, called • Sacraments’ in the Latin church, because the dominicans, and Soto at their head; allege that there are seven things which contribute to life, seven planets, seven virtues, seven mortal sins, six days of creation and one of repose, which makes seven ; further, seven plagues of Egypt, seven beatitudes; but unfortunately the fathers forget that Exodus reckons ten plagues, and that the beatitudes are to the number of eight in St. Matthew and four in St. Luke. But scholars have overcome this difficulty; by retrenching from St. Matthew the four beatitudes of St. Luke, there remain six, and add unity to these six, and you will have seven. Consult Fra Paolo Sarpi, in the second book of his history of the Council of Trent.



The most ancient numberings that history has left us are those of the Israelites, which are indubitable, since they are extracted from the Jewish books.

We believe that we must not reckon as a numbering the flight of the Israelites to the number of six hundred thousand men on foot, because the text specifies them not tribe by tribe;* it adds, that an innumerable troop of people gathered together and joined them. This is only a relation.

The first circumstantial numbering is that which we see in the book of the · Viedaber,' which we call Numbers.t By the reckoning which Moses and Aaron made of the people in the desert, we find, in counting all the tribes except that of Levi, six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty men capable of bearing arms; and if we add the tribe of Levi, supposing it equal in number to the others, the strong with the weak, we shall have six hundred and fifty-three thousand nine hundred and thirty-five men, to which we must add an equal number of old women and children, which will compose two millions six hundred and fifteen thousand seven hundred and forty-two persons, who departed from Egypt.

* Exodus xii. 37, 38.

+ Numbers i.

When David, after the example of Moses, ordered the numbering of all the people, * he found eight hundred thousand warriors of the tribes of Israel, and five hundred thousand of that of Judah, according to the book of Kings; but according to Chroniclest they reckoned eleven hundred thousand warriors in Israel, and less than five hundred thousand in Judah.

The book of Kings formally excludes Levi and Benjamin, and counts them not. If therefore we join these two tribes to the others in their proportion, the total of the warriors will amount to nineteen hundred and twenty thousand. This is a great number for the little country of Judea, the half of which is composed of frightful rocks and caverns : but it was a miracle.

It is not for us to enter into the reasons for which the sovereign arbiter of kings and people punished David for an operation which he himself commanded to Moses. It still less becomes us to seek why God, being irritated against David, punished the people for being numbered. The prophet Gad ordered the king on the part of God to choose war, famine, or pestilence. David accepted the pestilence, and seventy thousand Jews died of it in three days.

St. Ambrosius in his book of Repentance, and St. Augustin in his book against Faustus, acknowledged that pride and ambition led David to make this calculation. Their opinion is of great weight, and we can certainly submit to their decision by extinguishing all the deceitful lights of our own minds.

* 1 Kings xxiv.

+ 1 Chronicles xxi. 5.

Scripture relates a new numbering in the time of Esdras,* when the Jewish nation returned from captivity. “All this multitude (say equally Esdras and Nehemiah,t being as one man) amounted to forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty persons.” They were all named by families, and they counted the number of Jews of each family, and the number of priests. But in these two authors there are not only differences between the numbers and the names of families, but we further see an error of calculation in both. By the calculation of Esdras, instead of forty-two thousand men, after computation we find but twenty-nine thousand eight hundred and eighteen; and by that of Nehemiah we find thirty-one thousand and eighty-nine.

We must consult the commentators on this apparent mistake, particularly Dom Calmet, who adding to one of these calculations what is wanting to the other, and further adding what is wanted to both of them, solves all the difficulty. To the computations of Esdras and Nehemiah, as reckoned by Calmet, are wanting ten thousand seven hundred and seventy-seven persons; but we find them in families which could not give their genealogy; besides, if there were any fault of the copyist, it could not destroy the veracity of the divinely inspired text.

It is to be believed, that the great neighbouring kings of Palestine made numberings of their people as frequently as possible, Herodotus gives us the amount of all those who followed Xerxes, without including his naval forces. He reckons seventeen hundred thousand men, and he pretends, that to arrive at this computation, they were sent in divisions of ten thousand into a place which would only hold this number of men closely crowded. This method is very faulty, for by crowding a little less, each division of ten thousand might easily contain only from eight to nine. Further, this method is not at all soldier-like, and it would have

# 1 Esdras ii. 64.
+ 2 Esdras, which is the history of Nehemiah, vii. 66.
| Herodotus, book vii.

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been much more easy to have counted the whole by making the soldiers march in rank, and file.

It should further be observed, how difficult it was to support seventeen hundred thousand men in the country of Greece, which they went to conquer. We may very well doubt of this number, and the manner of reckoning it; of the whipping given to the Hellespont; and of the sacrifice of a thousand oxen made to Minerva by a Persian king, who knew her not, and who adored the sun alone as the only emblem of the Divinity. Besides, the numbering of seventeen hundred thousand men is not complete, even by the confession of Herodotus, since Xerxes further carried with him all the people of Thrace and Macedonia, whom he forced, he says, to follow him, apparently the sooner to starve his army. We should therefore do here what all wise men do in reading ancient, and even modern histories—suspend our judgment and doubt much.

The first numbering which we have of a profane nation, is that made by Servius Tullius, the sixth king of Rome. He found, says Titus Livius, eighty thousand combatants, all Roman citizens : that implies three hundred and twenty thousand citizens at least, as many old people, women and children, to which we must add at least twenty thousand domestics, slaves and freemen.

Now we may reasonably doubt whether the little Roman state contained this number. Romulus only reigned (if we may call him king) over about three thousand bandits, assembled in a little town between the mountains. This town was the worst land of Italy. The circuit of all his country was not three thousand paces. Servius was the sixth chief or king of this rising people. The rule of Newton, which is indubitable for elective kingdoms, gives twenty-one years' reign to each king, and by that contradicts all the ancient his. torians, who have never observed the order of time, nor given any precise date. The five kings of Rome must have reigned about a hundred years.

It is certainly not in the order of nature that an

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