« AnteriorContinuar »
significant names besides that of Canaan; it is called The Land of Promise, from the fact of its having been promised to Abraham and his family; Palestine, from the Philistines; Judea, from the tribe of Judah possessing its most fertile division. It is frequently called The Holy Land, from the circumstances recorded in the Holy Scriptures, especially as the ministry of Christ was exercised in that country; and as there the obedience, and death, and resurrection of Christ took place for our eternal salvation.
On the completion of the work of redemption, the apostles were commissioned to “go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature ;” and the fulfilment of their ministry opens to us a new field of geography. Asia Minor, Greece, and several other parts of the Roman empire, especially the countries around the shores of the Mediterranean, might claim a particular notice in this place, did the nature of this work allow of an extension of the subject.
1. The patriarchs were the fathers who lived in the early ages of the world, and who became famous on account of their long lives, and their descendants. Adam, Seth, Enoch, &c. were eminent before the deluge: Noah and his sons after that event. Job, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and his sons, are the other most celebrated patriarchs of the Old Testament; they were the founders of mighty families. The patriarchs exercised a kind of sovereign authority in their respective households, being both priests and princes. In Job and Abraham we see excellent examples of the patriarchal government.
2. The prophets were illustrious persons who were divinely raised up among the Israelites, to be the extraordinary ministers of the dispensations of God. They flourished in a continued succession during a period of more than a
thousand years, reckoning from Moses to Malachi; all cooperating in the same designs, uniting in one spirit to deliver the same doctrines, and to predict the same blessings to mankind.
3. The priests were those persons who were set apart to offer sacrifices to God, and make intercession with him for the people. Before the call of Aaron, patriarchs, elder brothers, and princes, or every man for himself, offered sacrifice; as is evident from the history of Cain, Abel, Noah, Job, and Abraham. Among the Israelites, after their departure from Egypt, the priesthood was confined to one tribe, and it consisted of three orders — the high priests, common priests, and Levites.
The high priest was the first character among the Israelites, as he was the medium of communion with God. The priesthood was hereditary in the family of Aaron, and the first-born of the oldest branch of it, if he had no legal blemish, was always the high priest. He was consecrated with solemn pomp, and officiated at the daily sacrifice in splendid robes; especially on the day of atonement, on which occasion he wore the precious breastplate, with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel engraven on gems, set in it, that he might be admonished to bear on his heart the whole community, for whom the sacred ornament was a memorial before the Lord. In his appointment to his office, and in his consecration, sacrifice, and intercession for the people, the high priest was an eminent type of Jesus Christ, Exod. xxviii. xxix. Lev. xvi. Heb. iii. v. vii. viii. ix. x.
The priests were also of the family of Aaron; they were the ordinary ministers of religion, and their duty was to offer the daily and other sacrifices, under the direction of the high priest; to conduct all the various services of the tabernacle; to manage all the religious ceremonies of the people, and to instruct them in the law of God They
were divided into twentyfour ranks, each rank serving weekly in the temple.
4. The Levites were the descendants of Levi, but not of the family of Aaron ; they were a lower grade of ecclesiastical persons, inferior to the priests, and their assistants in the inferior part of the sacred service. The Levites corresponded to the deacons under the gospel. In this subordinate capacity were all the posterity of Moses; affording a proof that he was not influenced by ambition, but acted by the Divine direction. The Levites applied themselves to the study of the law, and they were dispersed through the country as the ordinary teachers, magistrates, and judges of the people. They had no landed property except fortyeight cities; for God was their inheritance, and be appointed the tithes of the produce of the land, as a reward for their services among the people, Num. xviii. 20 – 32. xxxv. 1-8.
5. The Nethinims, from the Hebrew word Nathan," to give,” were servants, who had been given up to the service of the tabernacle and the temple, at which they officiated in the more laborious duties of carrying wood and water. They were the Canaanites whose lives were spared, Joshua ix. Ezra viii. 20.
6. Nazarites were persons devoted to the peculiar service of God, for a week, a month, a year, or for life. Samson and John the Baptist were Nazarites by birth; others were voluntary, Num. vi. Acts xviii. 18. xxi. 21 – 26. The Rechabites were of this class of persons,
Jer. xxxv. 7. The Scribes among the Israelites were writers of the Jaw; persons who addicted themselves to literary pursuits. They were a class of lawyers by profession ; at first they were only the copiers of the law, or secretaries to the government; but from transcribers of the sacred writings, they assumed the office of its expounders, till in the time of our Saviour, their commentaries had, in many things, superseded the Word of God.
HEBREW FESTIVALS, The Israelites had two different periods, from wbich they began the computation of their year; - one for civil purposes, the other for the regulation of their religious festivals. The sacred year commenced in the month Abib, which corresponds with our March; because in that month the Israel. ites were emancipated from their slavery in Egypt; the civil year began in the month of Tisri, answering to our September. The Hebrew mode of reckoning months was not as ours, but strictly lunar; they, therefore, cannot be reduced to correspond exactly with ours, as they consisted of 29 and 30 days alternately. To make their year equal to the solar, the Jews took care every three years to add a month to Adar, and called it Ve-Adar, or second Adar.
The natural day the Israelites distinguished from the civil; the civil day was from the rising to the setting of the sun; and the natural day was of 24 hours, reckoning from one sun setting to another. The night was divided into four watches, each watch containing the space of about three hours.
The Bible contains two collections of writings, distinguished by the titles, The Old and The New Testament. The former comprises the successive revelations of the divine will to the Hebrews, both the Israelites and Jews, before the advent of Christ; and the latter contains the inspired writings of the apostles and evangelists of our Lord and Saviour. The two parts include sixtysix books. The thirtynine books of the Old Testament were classed in three divisions by the ancient Jews: these portions were called, 1. The Law; 2. The Prophets ; and 3. The Holy
Writings. The law, containing the five books of Moses, was called the Pentateuch, from a Greek word signifying five instruments. The Prophets included Joshua, Judges, the two books of Samuel, and the two books of Kings, which were called the Former Prophets; and the Latter Prophets comprised Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve lesser prophetical books from Hosea to Malachi, which were reckoned as one book. The Hagiographa, or Holy Writings, comprehended the Psalms, Proverbs, Job, Solomon's Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Daniel, Ezra, with Nehemiah and the two books of Chronicles.
That arrangement of the sacred books, which has been adopted in our Bibles, is not regulated by the exact order of time in which they were severally written; the book of Genesis is, however, universally allowed to have been the first, (the book of Job being perfected by Moses about the same time,) and the prophecy of Malachi was the last of the Old Testament.
The Psalms were, from the first, distinct compositions ; but the other sacred books were divided into fiftythree larger and smaller sections ; so that one of each being read in the synagogue every sabbath day, the whole of the Old Testament was read publicly once a year.
The sacred writings had, originally, no marks of punctuation, and letter followed letter, as if every line were but a single word. Necessity, therefore, led to the adoption of some marks of distinction, both for public and private reading. The Jews began early to point their sections; some say in the time of Ezra; others attribute this improvement to the second century of the christian era. The New Testament was first pointed by Jerome, in the fourth century ; and divided into church lessons and sections by Ammonius and Euthalius in the century following.