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the God of Israel was a very jealous god, and would not suffer his glory to be given to another. Moses had ex. pressly ordained that all the people should be instructed in religious matters; but in the course of their many changes, this had often, and for long periods, been entirely neglected. After their restoration to the Promised Land, a regular and permanent system of public instruction was, for the first time, established; and strict injunctions against idolatry were repeated with redoubled diligence.
The restoration of the old ritual of worship devolved on Ezra, a priest, whose education and habits rendered him very likely to impress on the people a character of austere devotion, and rigid observance of ceremonials. He was a direct descendant from the High Priest who was slain by Nebuchadnezzar. He had probably been much occupied with sacerdotal studies during his residence in Babylon, for he is praised as "a ready scribe in the Law of Moses." The Jews held bim in high estimation, and were wont to call him the second founder of their Law. It was a common saying among them, that "if the Law had not been given by Moses, Ezra was worthy it should have been declared by him." He talked with the aged people, who returned from captivity, and gathered all they remembered to bave seen or heard concerning ancient usages. He collected the old writings of the nation, which he probably found in a dislocated and fragmentary state. To these he added what was necessary to connect and complete them, and caused copies to be made, one of which was kept in the temple, as an authentic record, by which others might be corrected. He was assisted in these labours by a council of one hundred and twenty learned elders, called the Great Synagogue. A series of these ecclesiastical councils continued, under the same name, down to the time of Alex. ander the Great. When the revised copy of the Law was ready for public use, Ezra called all the people together, and read it to them, from a high pulpit, while all stood up and listened; “men and women, and all that could hear with understanding." It was the more necessary that the
Law of Moses should be well understood, because, like the Hindoo Code of Menu, it comprised both the religious and civil code of the country, and thus regulated all questions of trade or inheritance, as well as matters of worship.
Prayers three times a day, morning, noon, and evening, were prescribed in Hindoo Vedas, and scrupulously repeated in all Braminical colleges and Buddhist Lamaseries. It was believed that laws which kept the hierarchy of beings in order, and planets in their places, would be disturbed, if these ceremonials were neglected. The Hebrew king David said: “Morning, noon, and evening, will I pray.” Three times every day prayers were offered in the temple. It was a general and devout feeling among the Jews that the universe would fall into disorder, if they stopped praying to Jehovah. After Ezra’s time, places of worship called synagogues, were erected. Prayers were read there three times a day, and people assembled three times a week, the Sabbath included, to hear the Law of Moses read and expounded by learned teachers called Rabbis. It was not allowable to use the synagogues for any secular purposes, but the word Jehovah was never uttered there, that being reserved for the temple only.
Jewish rabbis greatly eulogize the zeal of Ezra in restoring the Mosaic ritual, even in the minutest particulars. They inform us that after the return from captivity, he burned a red heifer, with all the ceremonies ordained by God, that the people might have holy ashes to purify themselves whenever they had touched the dead, or passed over a grave. If the heifer had one single hair white or black, she was deemed unfit for this purpose.
The idea of atonement by blood, common in all ancient religions, remained prominent in the Jewish system, as renewed by Ezra. If a man was killed, and the murderer could be found, his blood must be shed as a compensation for the crime. But if the murderer could not be found, a heifer was beheaded; because it was supposed the sin would be imputed to the whole nation, and God would punish them for it, unless his wrath was pacified by blood. The laws of Moses permitted and regulated polygamy, merely providing for the interests of children, by ordaining that a man should not set the son of a beloved wife above a first-born son by a wife that was bated. A previous contract was made with parents, and legal ceremonies performed. Poor women, who had no dowry, were taken as concubines, or inferior wives. Their children received such gifts as the father chose to bestow, but the children of his superior wives succeeded to the inheritance. Taking a concubine implied nothing disreputable to either party. Wives themselves often promoted such connections, when they had no children. Jacob married two sisters, and they gave him two of their servants for concubines. Abraham took Hagar at the request of his wife, though she afterward made the poor foreigner a victim of her jealousy. Gideon had many wives, and seventy sons. Samuel's father had two equal wives. Only one wife and one concubine is mentioned as belonging to Saul, the first king. But David had at least eight wives. Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. Rehoboam had eighteen wives and sixty concubines. Rabbinical expounders of the Law limited the number of wives to four, by way of counsel. The general tendency was not to have more than one. The condition of Hebrew women, both married and unmarried, was, at all periods of their history, very honourable and free, compared with other nations where polygamy prevailed. Something of this might perhaps be owing to impressions Moses had received in Egypt. For the Egyptians married but one wife, and their customs awarded a singular degree of respect and freedom to women. The entire absence of voluptuous rites or customs in Hebrew worship was likewise favourable to the same result. In many countries, votaries gave women as donations to the temples, in the same spirit that they offered doves, or sheep, or golden vases; and the money obtained by a sale of their persons was put into the sacred treasury. But all such customs were excluded from Egyptian temples, and they were also an abomination unto the Hebrews. It was expressly ordained by Moses: “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel. Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore into the house of the Lord thy God, for any vow.” When the daughters of Zelopbehad complained to Moses that their father's estate had passed away from his descendants, because he had died in the wilderness without sons, he immediately made a law: “If a man die and have no sons, then he shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.” Women never belonged to the priesthood, but they are often mentioned as prophets. Deborah was both a prophetess and a judge in Israel. Hulda the prophetess dwelt at the college in Jerusalem, and Anna the prophetess lived in the temple. Men and women always worshipped apart. Women had seats by themselves in the Synagogues, and an outer court provided for them at the temple.
Moses forbade the descendants of Israel to marry any woman out of their own tribes. The general violation of this law was a source of great grief to Ezra. He said sorrowfully: “The people, the priests, and the Levites have not separated themselves from the people of the lands. For they have taken of their daughters for themselves and for their sons; so that the holy seed have mingled themselves with the people of those lands. Yea, the hand of princes and rulers hath been chief in this trespass. And for our iniquities have we, our kings, and our priests, been delivered into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword and captivity.” Ezra rent his garments and plucked the hair from his head and beard, and fell on his knees, and spread out his hands in prayer to God. And the people came to him and wept very sore, and offered to put away all their wives of foreign extraction, and all the children that had been born of them. He ratified a covenant with them to that effect. The foreign women were sent away with their children, and sacrifices were offered to the Lord for the trespass that had been committed.
Strangers were allowed to live within the gates of Jewish cities, without conforming to Mosaic ceremonies, provided
they renounced idolatry, and observed what were called the seven precepts of Noah, viz.: "To worship one God; not blaspheme holy things; not murder; not steal; not commit adultery; to deal justly; and not to eat flesh with the blood in it;" by which they meant flesh cut from any living creature. Jews believed the observance of these moral precepts was all God required, except of their own nation. Therefore they allowed such to live among them, under the name of Sojourning Proselytes, or Proselytes of the Gate. Being uncircumcised, they were deemed unclean, and therefore not permitted to enter the temple, or to dwell in Jerusalem.
There was another class of foreigners, called Proselytes of Righteousness, who were thorough converts to the Jewish system, and regularly adopted among them by the initiatory rites of circumcision, baptism, and sacrifice. The proselyte was not deemed sufficiently purified, if any of his hair, or even the tip of his finger, remained unwashed. When he came out of the water, he recited a prayer that he might be clean from Gentile pollution, and become a sound member of the Jewish church. Children were likewise admitted by immersion in water, generally at the same time with their parents; but they had liberty to retract, if they chose, when they were old enough to judge for themselves. This class of proselytes were bound by the same obligations as Jews, and shared all their privileges, except that some of them were forever excluded from intermarrying with Israelites, and those of other nations were not permitted to intermarry for several generations.
When the promised land was divided among the children of Israel, descendants of Levi had no portion assigned them. They were set apart for religious services, and were scattered through all portions of the country to prevent each tribe from setting up an independent priesthood for itself. None of them were priests, except the families descended from Aaron. Descendants of all the other families of the tribe were called Levites, whose business it