Sayfadaki görseller
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

for expiation by applying themselves to works of piety and alms-giving with uncommon diligence. The very devout often rose at midnight, and went to the synagogues to pray till morning dawned. Seven days previous to the fast, the High Priest was escorted to the temple by the Sanhedrim and a band of priests, that he might live there, apart from his wife, away from the world, and out of danger of contamination by anything unclean. He took a substitute with him, to be duly prepared, in case any

sudden disease, or accident, should render him unfit for the holy office of atonement. Both of them were sprinkled with the ashes of the red heifer, lest they had in some way contracted pollution unawares. The High Priest watched all the night previous. When the day dawned, he laid aside the rich dress, which he wore in the sanctuary on all other occasions, performed prescribed ablutions, and clothed himself in pure white linen. The people assembled at the temple as soon as it was light, and a young bullock was brought to him, as a sin-offering for the descendants of Aaron. He laid his hands on the head of the beast, and said: "O Lord, I have sinned, done perversely, and transgressed before thee, I and my house. O Lord, expiate the sins, perversities, and transgressions, whereby I have sinned, done perversely, and transgressed, I and my house." Then two goats, of equal colour, size, and price, were brought to him as a sin-offering for all the people. One of them was to be sacrificed to the Lord, the other was for a scape-goat. The goat for the Lord was chosen by drawing lots from an urn. The bullock and the goat were sacrificed, and the blood sprinkled on the holy of holies, the altar, and the sanctuary. A long piece of scarlet was tied to the other goat. The High Priest laid his hands on the head of the animal, and said :

o Lord, thy people, the house of Israel, have sinned, done perversely, and transgressed before thee. I beseech thee, O Lord, to expiate the sins, perversities, and transgressions, which the house of Israel have sinned, done perversely, and transgressed before thee. As it is written in

the Law of Moses, thy servant: for on this day he will expiate for you, to purge you from all your sins, that you may be clean before Jehovah." This was the only occasion on which the name of Jehovah was ever uttered, and then only by the High Priest. As soon as the priests and people heard it, they prostrated themselves to the ground, saying: “Blessed be the name of his glorious kingdom for ever and ever." The goat was carried with all speed to a wilderness ten miles from Jerusalem, and being led to the top of a precipice, was thrown off, with all the sins of the people on his head. The men who performed this office were considered unclean for the remainder of the day, and went through ceremonies of purification before they approached any sacred place. When the sacrifices were finished, the High Priest took coals from the altar, placed incense upon them, and went into the holy of holies to burn incense before the Lord. This was the only day when he entered that apartment, which no other human foot was allowed to touch. He went in four times. Once to burn incense, once to sprinkle the blood of the bullock, once to sprinkle the blood of the goat, and a fourth time, to bring out the censer in which incense was burning. If he entered it a fifth time, Jewish writers say he died for his presumption. By his prayers and sacrifices on this important Day of Expiation, the whole nation believed God was reconciled to them, and all their sins forgiven.

There were innumerable other observances and ceremonies attending birth, marriage, death, and all the most interesting events of life. In addition to prescribed sacrifices and oblations, there were many voluntary ones, to avert calamities, or express gratitude for good fortune. In the Hebrew language the same word denoted peace and prosperity; therefore offerings of thanksgiving were called peace-offerings. When a man was too poor to offer beasts or birds, the priests accepted an oblation of flour, in lieu of more expensive donations.

The character and mission of the prophets differed es. sentially from that of the priests. The priesthood rarely 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 hated. 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 Zelophehad 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

A*

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

« ÖncekiDevam »