Imágenes de página



For OCTOBER, 1756.

A Short History of the Ifraeliteś. With an account of theit

Manners, Customs, Laws, Polity, and Religion. Being an useful Introduction to the reading of the Old Testament. TranNated from the French of Abbé Fleury, Author of the Ecclesiaffical History. By Ellis Farneworth, M. X. 8vo. 35. Whiston.


S this work has never before, that we know of, been

translated into English, and as the generality of our

Readers are therefore, probably, unacquainted with it; we shall; without any apology, lay before them the following

view of its contents.

The Abbé has divided his work into three parts, in the first of which he treats of the Patriarchs; in the second, of the Israelites, from their going out of Egypt, to the Babylonish captivity; and in the third, of the Jews, after they returned from captivity, to the promulgation of the gospel. In treating of the Patriarchs, he considers, first, their nobility; nd tells us, that they lived after a noble manner, in perfect freedom, and great plenty, tho' their way of living was plain and laborious; that Abraham knew the whole succesfion of his ancestors, and no way leffened his nobility, fince he married into his own family; that he took care to provide a wife of the same race for his fon, and that Ifaac made Jacob observe the same law. He observes farther, that the families of the Patriarchs were little states, of which the father was, in a manner, King VOL. XV. Y


From treating of their nobility, he proceeds to consider their riches, which consisted chiefly in sheep, camels, horned cattle, goats, and affes. Notwithstanding which, the Abbé observes they were very laborious, always in the field, lying under, tents, frequently upon the march, shifting their abode according to the convenience of pasture, and confequently often ta-, ken up with encamping and decamping.

One may judge of the men’s laborious way of living,' says he, by that of the young women. Rebecca came a good « way off to draw water, and carried it upon her shoulders;

and Rachael herself kept her father's flock; neither their • nobility nor beauty 'made them so delicate as to scruple it, • This primeval fimplicity was long retained amongst the

Greeks, whose good breeding we yet admire with so much

reason. Homer affords us examples of it throughout his (works, and pastorals have no other foundation. It is cer

tain, that in Syria, Greece, and Sicily, there were persons • of condition, who made it their sole occupation to breed cattle for more than one thousand five hundred


after the Patriarchs; and who, in the great leisure that fort of

life afforded, and the good humour those delightful countries • inspired them with, composed several little pieces of poetry, s still extant, of inimitable beauty and simplicity.'

He concludes his short account of the Patriarchs, with faying, somewhat of their frugality; thewing, that they were far from being nice in their eating, &c. and that it was their plain and laborious way of life, that made them aitain to such a great old age, and die so calmly. ( Both

Abraham and Ifaac,' says he,“ lived near two hundred years.

The other Patriarchș, whose age is come to que « knowlege, exceeded an hundred at least, and we do not hear o that they were ever fick, during so long a life. He gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, full of days, is the man( ner in which the scripture describes their death. The first

time we read of phyficians is, when it is said that Joseph

commanded his domeftics to embalm the body of his father. • It was in Egypt, and many have ascribed the invention of • phyfic to the Egyptians.

The moderation of the Patriarchs, with regard to wives, sis no less to be admired, when we consider they were allowed s to have several, and their desire of a numerous pofterity.-• And yet I do not undertake to justify all the Patriarchs in • this point. The story of Judah and bis fons affords but

too many examples of the contrary. I would only shew, that we cannot, with justice, accule those of incontinence,


. FLEURY's Hiftory of the Israelitet. 323 whom the scripture reckons holy, For with regard to the & rest of mankind, they were from that time very much cor• rupted. Such then, in general, was the firft state of God's

people. An entire fredom, without any government, but • that of a father, who was an absolute monarch in his own

family: A life very natural and easy, through a great a$ bundance of neceffaries, and an utter contempt of superflui

ties; through an honest labour, accompanied with care and frugality, without anxiety or ambition.

The Abbé now proceeds to the fecond period of the history of the Israelites, yiz, from their coming out of Egypt, to the Babylonish captivity. This period lasted more than nine hundred years, and most of the sacred writings relate to it. In treating this part of his subject; he sets out with considering the nobility of the Israelites, a point he feems very desirous of eftablishing

* They were very exact,' says he, in keeping their genealo• gies, and knew all the fuccesfion of their ancestors, as high

as the Patriarch of the tribe;. from whom it is easy going o back to the first man. Thus they were really brethren, that

is to say kinsmen, according to the eastern language, and • of genuine nobility, if ever there was such a thing in the 6 world,

• They had preserved the purity of their families, by tak

ing care, as their fathers did, not to marry with the nations « descended from Canaan, that were under a curse.

do not finds that the Patriarchs avoided matches with any

other people, or that they were exprefly forbidden by the • law to marry with them.' Their families were fixed and ( tied down, by the same law, to certain lands, on which they

were obliged to live, during the space of the nine hundred

years I have mentioned. Now, methinks, we should esteem • that family very noble indeed, that could fhew as long a « fucceffion of generations, without any disgraceful weddings ' in it, or change of mansion. Few noblemen in Europe can prové so much.

The principal distinction that birth occafioned among the Ifraelites, was that of the Levites and Priests. The whole • tribe of Levi was dedicated to God, and had no inheritance « but the tenths, and the first fruits, which it received from (the other tribes. Of all the Levites, the descendants of Aa. • ron only were priests: the rest were employed in the other • functions of religion ; in singing psalms, taking care of the • tabernacle, or temple, and instructing the

Two of the other tribes were sufficiently diftinguished. That of Y 2


For we

Judah was always the most illustrious, and the most nume, rous; of which, according to Jacob's prophecy, their Kings, and the Messiah himself, were to come. That of Ephraim held the second rank, on account of Joseph: yet the eldest branches, and the heads of each family, were most esteemed in every tribe; and this made Saul say, furprized with the

respect that Samuel paid him, Am not 1 of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the leaft of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?

Our author now goes on to treat of their employments; and here he tells us, that there were no diftinet professions amongst the Israelites, but that from the eldest of the tribe of Judah, to the youngest of that of Benjamin, they were all husbandmen and shepherds, driving their ploughs, and watching their flocks themselves. He is at great pains to vindicate the honours of agriculture, and to shew that the laborious life of the Israelites, was a proof of their wisdoms after which he proceeds to consider the fruitfulness of their foil, their riches, their arts and trades.

. We know no people,' says he, more entirely addicted to agriculture, than the Ifraelites. The Egyptians and Syrians joined manufactures, navigation, and trade to it: but above all, the Phoenicians, who, finding themselves straitned in point of room, from the time that the Israelites drove them out of their country, were obliged to live by trade, and be in a manner brokers and factors for all the rest of the world. The Greeks imitated them, and excelled chiefly in arts. On the contrary, the Romans despised mechanics, and ap

plied themselves to commerce : as for the Israelites, their < land was sufficient to maintain them; and the fea-coasts

were, for the most part, potsessed by the Philistines and the Canaanites, who were the Phænicians. There was only the tribe of Zabulon, whose share of land lay near the sea, that had any temptation to trade; which seems to be foretold in the blessings of Jacob and Mofes.

Nor do we see, that they applied themselves any more to ( manufactures. Not that arts were not then invented : many

of them are older than the flood: and we find that the < Israelites had excellent workmen, at least, as soon as the s time of Moses. Bezaleel and Aholiab, who made the ta

bernacle, and every thing that was necessary for the service of God, are an instance that puts it out of dispute. It is

surprizing how they came to be so well skilled in arts that < were not only very difficult, but very different from one • another. They understood melting of metals, cutting and



engraving precious stones: they were joiners, makers of tapestry, embroiderers, and perfumers.-

But whether these two famous workmen had learned from the Egyptians, or their skill was miraculous and inspired by God, as the scripture seems to say, it does not appear that they had any to succeed them, nor that


of the Israelites were artificers by profession, and worked for the public, till the time of the Kings. When Saul began to reign, it is taken notice of, that there was no workman that understood forging iron in all the land of Israel.

If one was to reckon up all trades particularly, it would appear that many would have been of no use to them. Their plain way of living, and the mildness of their climate, made

that long train of conveniences unnecessary, which we think 6 it hard to be without, tho' vanity and effeminacy, more than « real want, have introduced them. And as to things that

were absolutely necessary, there were few of them that they ? did not know how to make themselves. All sorts of food

were cooked within doors. The women made bread and « prepared the victuals, they spun wool, made stuffs and wearsing apparel : the men took care of the rest.

• Homer describes old Eumæus making his own shoes, and " says, that he had built fine stalls for the cattle he bred.

Ulysses himself built his own house, and set up his bed with

great art, the structure of which served to make him known "to Penelope again. When he left Calypso, it was he alone

that built and rigged the ship; from all which we see the ' spirit of these antient times. It was esteemed an honour to

understand the making of every thing necessary for life one's

felf, without any dependence upon others; and it is that « which Homer most commonly calls wisdom and knowlege.

Now I must say, the authority of Homer appears to me very
great in this case. As he lived about the time of the pro-
phet Elias, and in Afia.minor, all the accounts that he gives
of the Greek and Trojan customs, have a wonderful relem-
blance with what the Scripture informs us of, concerning
the manners of the Hebrews, and other eastern people: only
the Greeks, not being so antient, were not so polite.--
"But luxury increasing after the division of the two king-

doms, there is reason to believe they had always plenty of ' workmen. In the genealogy of the tribe of Judah, we

may observe there is a place called the Valley of Craftsmen,

because, says the Scripture, they dwelt there. There is < likewise mention made, in the fame place, of people that wrought fine linen, and of potters, who worked for the

• King,

[ocr errors]

Y 3

« AnteriorContinuar »