« AnteriorContinuar »
pillar of cloud and fire, it might be supposed that they had no need of Hobab. But it should be remembered, that the cloud directed only their general journeys, not their particular excursions. Parties took several journeys while the grand army lay still, (ch. xiii. xx. xxxi. xxxii.); and, therefore, they needed such a person as Hobab, well acquainted with the desart, to direct these excursions; to point out the watering places, and where they might meet with fuel, &c. &c. See some valuable observations on this subject in Harmer, ch. v. Observ. 34., and Dr. A. Clarke.*
The miraculous supply of quails, Exod. xvi. 12, 13.—5w, selav, in Chaldee rsd, seluiv, Syriac, calm, and Arabic, usglw, selwa, is without doubt the quail : so the LXX. render optuyountpa, a large kind of quail, Josephus (Ant. 1. iii. c. 1. $ 12.) oprv, Ethiopic 4.645+, ferferat, and Vulgate, coturnices, quails, with which agree Philo (Vita Mosis, 1. 1.) and the Rabbins.—The quail is a bird of the gallinaceous kind, somewhat less than a pigeon, but larger than a sparrow. Hasselquist describes the quail of the larger kind as very much resembling the red partridge, but not larger than the turtle dove; found in Judea as well as in the deserts of Arabia Petræa, and Egypt; and affording a most agreeable and delicate dish. (Travels, pp. 203, 209, 442.) But Ludolf, (Com. ad. Hist. Æthiop. p. 168.) endeavours to prove that a species of locust is intended; and Sheuchzer and Bp. Patrick, from the difficulties which seem to encumber the text, follow his opinion. The opinion of Ludolf, however, is ably confuted by Paxton, (Illustrations of Scripture, vol. ii. pp. 84—101.) and the objections of Bp. Patrick fairly and fully met by Mr. Harmer, (Observations, vol. iv. pp. 359—366.)* To this I subjoin an authority which Ludolf himself, who thought it was the locust, was desirous of consulting. Ludolf, when Mr. Maundrell visited him at Francfort, recommended this to him as a subject of enquiry when he should come to Naplosa (the ancient Sichem) where the Samaritans live. Mr. Maundrell (Travels, March 24.) accordingly asked their chief priest what sort of animal he took the selav to be. He answered, they were a sort of fowls; and by the description, Mr. Maundrell perceived he meant the same kind with our quails. He was then asked what he thought of locusts, and whether the history might not be better accounted for, supposing them to be the winged creatures that fell so thick about the camp of Israel. But by his answer, it appeared he had never heard of such a hypothesis.t In Psa. Ixviii. 10. we read, “Thy congregation (or rather, Thy living creatures,' 70, chayathecha, ta Swa, LXX. animalia, Vulgate,) hath dwelt therein,” which is probably a reference to the immense number of quails which were miraculously brought to the camp of the Israelites, and, in a manner, dwelt around it.*
The miraculous gift of manna, Exod. xvi. 14—36.—Manna is the common name for the thick, clammy, and sweet juice, which in southern countries oozes from certain trees and shrubs, partly by the rays of the sun, partly by the puncture of some kinds of insects, and partly by artificial means. The manna common in our druggists' shops comes from Calabria and Sicily, where it oozes out of a kind of ash tree, from the end of June to the end of July. But the European Manna is not so good as the Oriental, which is gathered particularly in Syria, Arabia, and Persia, partly from the Oriental oak and partly from a shrub which is called in Persia Teranjabin. Rauwolf (Travels, vol. i. p. 94.) and Gmelin (Travels, vol. iii. p. 282.) say that the manna is as white as snow, and consists of grains like coriander seed as above described. But though this manna very much resembles that described by Moses, in its form, appearance, &c., yet we find a peculiar circumstance by which it is distinguished from the common. It is expressly said (v. 14.) that the manna lay round the camp like hoar frost, which does not agree with the manna which exudes from trees and plants. Hence Oedman supposes that it falls with the dew; being formed in the air from the quantity of sweet juices expelled from different kinds of shrubs, &c., by the great heats of Arabia. But what the substance called Manna was, is utterly unknown. From the circumstances in the text, it is evident that it was not a natural production, but was miraculously sent by Jehovah. These the learned Abarbinel, a most judicious Jewish interpreter, has thus enumerated : The natural manna was never found in the desert where this fell :-where the common manna does fall, it is only in the spring time, in March and April, whereas this fell throughout all the months in the year ;-the ordinary manna does not melt in the sun, as this did (v. 21.);-- it does not stink and breed worms as this did, when kept till the morning (v. 20.); it cannot be ground, or beaten in a mortar, so as to make cakes, as this was ;-the common manna is medicinal and purgative, and cannot be used for food and nutriment, as this was ;-—this fell in a double proportion on the sixth day, and not on the sabbath, as it certainly would have done had it fallen naturally ;-it followed them in all their journeys, wherever they pitched their tents ;-and it ceased at the very time of the year when the other falls, namely, in March, when the Israelites were come to Gilgal. Whatever this substance was, it does not appear to have been common to ths wilderness. From Deut. 8. 3, 16. it is evident that the Israelites never saw it before; and from a pot of it being preserved, it is probable that nothing of the kind ever appeared again.*
The miraculous supply of water from the rock at Horeb, Exod. xvii. 6, 7. -This rock, which is a vast block of red granite 15 feet long, 10 broad, and 12 high, lies in the wilderness of Rephidim to the west of mount Horeb, a part of Sinai. There are sufficient traces of this wonderful miracle remaining at this day. This rock has been visited, drawn, and described by Dr. Shaw (Travels, p. 314. 4to.) Dr. Pocock (vol. i. p. 143. et seq.) Norden (p. 114. 8vo.) and others; and holes and channels appear in the stone, which could only have been formed by the hursting out and running of water. No art of man could have done it,
• Comprehensive Bible, in locis.
any motive could be supposed for the undertaking in such a place as this. *
The destruction of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, &c., Num. xvi. 26 49.—This was altogether so miraculous, that Moses speaks of it in the following remarkable terms : 11748724778°oxy, wëim beriah yivra Yehowah, ' And if Jehovah should create a creation,' i. e. do such a thing as was never done before, (Is. 45. 7, 12.) and the earth open her mouth and swallow them up,' &c. Yet it is not unlikely, that the people afterwards persuaded themselves that Moses and Aaron had used some cunning in this business ; and that the earthquake and fire were artificial; for, had they discerned the hand of God in the punishment, they would scarcely have dared the anger of the Lord in the face of his justice. And while they thus absurdly imputed this judgment to Moses and Aaron, they impiously called the persons, thus perishing in their rebellion,' the people of the Lord !' God therefore punished them by a secret blast, so as to put the matter beyond dispute—his hand, and his hand alone, was seen, not only in the plague, but in the manner in which the mortality was arrested. It was necessary that it should be done in this way, that the whole congregation might see that these men who had perished were not the people of the Lord,' and that God, not Moses and Auron, had destroyed them. What the plague was we know not; but it seems from ver. 48. to have begun at one part of the camp, and have proceeded regularly onward."
The resurrection of our Lord.--After his death, every thing was done which human policy and prudence could, to prevent a resurrection, which these very precautions had the most direct tendency to authenticate and establish. Mat. xxvii. 66.* So also the disbelief of the apostles is the mean of furnishing us with a full and satisfactory demonstration of the resurrection of our Lord. Throughout the divine dispensations, every doctrine and every important truth is gradually revealed ; and here we have a conspicuous instance of this progressive system. An angel first declares the glorious event. The empty sepulchre confirms the women's report.-Christ's appearance to Mary Magdalene shewed that he was alive: that to the disciples at Emmaus proved that it was at least the spirit of Christ; that to the eleven shewed the reality of his body; and the conviction given to St. Thomas, proved it the self same body that had been crucified. Incredulity itself is satisfied; and the convinced apostle exclaims, in the joy of his heart, “My Lord and my God!'t
The darkness at the crucifixion.—That this general darkness was wholly preternatural, is evident from this, that it happened at the passover, which was celebrated only at the full moon, a time in which it is impossible for the sun to be eclipsed, natural eclipses happening only at the time of the new moon. See also p. 114, infra.
(2.) The sacred writers would not attempt to impose on others : which is shewn by their strict impartiality.
Thus Moses relates, that “ Amram took him Jochebed his father's sister to wife; and she bare him Aaron and Moses.” Exod. vi. 20. tho, has been supposed to mean his cousin, and not aunt; on the authority of the LXX. and Vulgate, who render it, Ouyatepa 78 adeApov rov natpos avrov, patruelem suam, his paternal cousin :' but this construction was probably put on the original word to save the credit of Moses and Aaron, because the marriage of an aunt is afterwards forbidden, Lev. xviii. 12, 14; for the meaning of the word is fixed by another passage, where it is said, • The name of Amram's wife was Jochebed, the daughter of Levi, whom her mother bare to Levi, in Egypt. Nu. xxvi. 59. Moses, then, is more impartial than his commentators. *
Thus also he represents himself as addressing God in the following terms: “The people, among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh, that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?” Num. X. 21, 22. There is certainly a considerable measure of weakness and unbelief manifested in these complaints and questions of Moses; though his conduct appears at the same time so very simple, honest, and affectionate, that we cannot but admire it, while we wonder that he had not stronger confidence in that God, whose stupendous miracles he had so often witnessed in Egypt.*
He also states most impartially the cause why he and Aaron were excluded from Canaan: “Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel.” Num. xx. 12. Though the people were rebels, and Moses called them so at other times without offence, yet he evidently spoke at this time with an angry spirit. He also assumed the honour to himself and Aaron, instead of ascribing it to God: “Must we fetch you water out of this rock?' He also seems not firmly to have believed that water would be given, and did not think it sufficient simply to speak to the rock, as he was commanded ; and he therefore hastily smote it twice. Thus it appears, that they neither properly believed in God, nor did him honour in the sight of the people.*
The sacred historian relates, that David said in reply to the inquiry of Achish, “ Whither have ye made a road to-day?"_“ Against the south of Judah, and against the south of the Jerahmeelites, and against the south of the Kenites." 1 Sam. xxvii, 10. David here meant the Geshurites and Gezrites, and Amalekites, which people occupied that part of the country which lies to the south of Judah. But Achish, as was intended, understood him in a different sense, and believed that he had attacked his own countrymen. David's answer, therefore, though not an absolute falsehood, was certainly an equivocation intended to deceive, and therefore incompatible with that sense of truth and honour which became him as a prince, and a professor of true religion. Of the same description is the instance of
Comprehensive Bible, in locis,
another prevarication recorded in 1 Sam. xxix. 8; of his feigning madness, ch. xxi. 14; and his adultery with Bathsheba, 2 Sam. xi. xii.; upon which see the notes in the Comprehensive Bible. From these, and similar passages, we may observe the strict impartiality of the Sacred Scriptures. They present us with the most faithful delineation of human nature; they exhibit the frailties of kings, priests, and prophets, with equal truth; and examples of vice and frailty, as well as of piety and virtue, are held up, that we may guard against the errors to which the best men are exposed.* See also observations on the Acts, p. 52.
From the sacred writers, especially those of the New Testament, having nothing to gain by the imposture, but on the contrary bringing upon themselves the most dreadful evils and most cruel deaths. Our Lord foretold to his disciples, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and they shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.” (Mat. xxiv. 9.) We have ample evidence of the fulfilment of this prediction in the Acts of the Apostles, (Act. iv. 2, 3. v. 40, 41. vii. 59. xii. 1, &c. xxi. 31, 32. xxii. 19–21. xxviii. 22. Rev. ii. 10, &c.); but we have a more melancholy proof of it in the persecutions under Nero, in which fell, besides numberless others, those two great champions of our faith, St. Peter, and St. Paul, (Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. ii. c. 25.) It was, as Tertullian says, (Apol. c. 2. p. 4.), nominis prælium, a war against the very name.t The detestable Nero having set fire to Rome, on the 10th of July, A. D. 64, endeavoured to remove the odium of that nefarious action, which was generally and justly imputed to him, by charging it upon the Christians, who had become the objects of popular hatred on account of their religion; and in order to give a more plausible colour to this calumny, he caused them to be sought out, as if they had been the incendiaries, and put great numbers to death in the most barbarous and cruel manner. Some,' says Tacitus, (Annal. lib. xv. c. 44.) 'were covered over with the skins of wild beasts, that they might be torn to pieces by dogs; some were crucified: while others, having been daubed over with combustible materials, were set up as lights in the night time, and thus burnt to death. For these spectacles, Nero gave his own gardens, and, at the same time, exhibited there the diversions of the circus; sometimes standing in the crowd as a spectator, in the habit of a charioteer, and at other times driving a chariot himself.' (See also Suetonius, in Vit. Nero. c. 16.) To these dreadful scenes Juvenal alludes in the following lines ;
Pone Tigellinum, tæda lucebis in illa
Quà stantes ardent, qui fixo gutture fumant, • Describe a great villian, such as Tigellinus, (a corrupt minister under Nero,) and you shall suffer the same punishment with those who stand burning in their own flame and smoke, their head being held up by a stake fixed to a chain, till they make a long stream (of blood and sulphur) on the ground.' So also Martial in an epigram concerning the famous C.
Et latum media sulcum deducit arena.--Sat, lib. i. 155-157.