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delay, to follow their leader to the battle: the rest took up water in pitchers, or some kind of vessel, and bending down upon their heels and knees, or with their knees placed upright before them, either of which might be called bowing their knees to drink, they handed these drinking vessels slowly from one to another, as at an ordinary meal; an act which procured their dismission. The Hottentot manner of drinking water from a pool, or stream, seems exactly to coincide with the mode adopted by the three hundred, and gives a very clear idea of it: They throw it up with their right hand into their mouth, seldom bringing the hand nearer than the distance of a foot from the mouth, and so quickly, that however thirsty, they are soon satisfied. Mr Campbell, who had an opportunity of seeing this operation, when travelling among that people, frequently tried to.imitate it, but without success *.
The oriental feast has been from time immemorial, enlivened with music and dancing. In the heroic ages, dancing was reckoned an amusement so becoming persons of honour and wisdom, that the Grecian poets give Apollo the title of the dancer, from his fondness of this diversion; and represent the supreme Jupiter himself, as by no means reluctant to display his agility in this way.
Μεσσοισιν δ' ωρχειτο πατης ανδρωντε Θεωντε. . At Rome, the custom was quite different, for there, to use the. words of Cicero, Nemo fere saltat sobrius, nisi forte insanit, &c. “No man dances unless he is either drunk or mad, either in private, or at a modest and decent entertainment; dancing is the very last effect of luxury and wantonness." Even in Greece, where dancing was numbered among the liberal sciences, wanton and effeminate dances were condemned as indecent in men of wisdom and character. This amusement was not withheld from God's ancient people; but it was confined chiefly to the female sex, who seem, in every instance mentioned in Scripture, to have enjoyed it by themselves. The men and women
* Campbell's Trav. p. 112.
of Israel never mingled in the dance, so far as the writer can perceive from the sacred history, except on one occasion, when they worshipped the golden calf. Nor is the view now given contradicted by our Lord's allusion, in the parable of the pro: digal son; for he only mentions music and dancing, without saying a word about the mode; we have therefore a right to conclude, it was conducted in the manner usual among the Jews *
But the highest pleasure which the ancients experienced at their feasts, arose from agreeable conversation. In the opinion of the ancient Greeks, says Athenæus, “it was more requisite and becoming to gratify the company by agreeable conversation, than with variety of dishes." And in the heroical ages, as Plutarch observes, it was usual to consult about affairs of the greatest importance at entertainments ; hence Nestor, persuades Agamemnon to invite the Grecian commanders to an entertainment, in order to deliberate concerning the management of the wart. The Spartan youth frequented the public tables, as the schools of temperance and prudence, where they heard discourses of public affairs, and conversed with the most liberal and best accomplished masters. The same custom obtained in several other cities of Greece, in Persia, and other oriental states. This partly accounts for the discourses which our Lord delivered, and the interesting conversations he maintained, at public entertainments. It is not to be supposed, that the Son of God and the Redeemer of men, would suffer any favourable opportunity of doing good to escape, without improving it to the very best advantage ; but when he graciously drew the attention of his company to matters of the deepest interest, he availed himself of a custom familiar to every part of the east.
It was also customary to unbend their minds by turns, and divert them from serious affairs, by discourses on ludicrous subjects; but no pastime was more common, than that of pro posing and answering difficult questions. The person who • Luke xv. 25.
+ I. b. 9. ! 70.
solved the question was honoured with a reward'; he who failed in the attempt suffered a certain punishment; both the rewards and penalties were varied, according to the disposition of the company. T'hat the custom of proposing riddles was very ancient, and derived from the eastern nations, appears from the story of Samson, in the book of Judges, who proposed a riddle to the Philistines at his nuptial feast. Nor were these questions confined to entertainments, but in the primitive times, were proposed on other occasions, by those who desired to make proof of another's wisdom and learning. Agreeably to this custom, the queen of Sheba came to prove Solomon with hard questions *.
When the company were ready to separate, a servant entered and sprinkled them profusely with rose water, as a vale dictory mark of his master's regard. In some places, this was done at the beginning of the entertainment, and was considered às a cordial welcome. Mr Bruce informs us, that when he rose to take his leave of an eastern family, he “was presently wet to the skin, by deluges of orange-flower water t." « The first time," says Niebuhr, “we were received with all the eastern ceremonies, (it was at Rosetta, at a Greek merchant's house) there was one of our company who was excessively surprised, when a domestic placed himself before him, and threw water over him, as well on his face, as over his clothes.” It appears from the testimony of both these authors, that this is the customary mode of shewing respect and kindness to a guest in the east. The prophet Isaiah seems to refer to this custom, in a passage where he describes the character and functions of the Messiah : “So shall he sprinkle many nations, the kings shall shut their mouths at him." As the Father's chosen servant, he shall appear in the fulness of time, to display his infinite love, and impart the blessings of salvation, through his own blood, to the children of men He shall welcome them to the feast of the gospel, by the effusion of his holy Spirit; and
* 1 Kings X. l. Travels, vol. 3. p. 14. Isa, lii. 18.
when they bid adieu to the courts of God's house on earth, he will see them again, and refresh their departing souls with “ showers of blessing." The kings and princes of the earth, shall fall down in silent wonder and astonishment before him, and all nations shall serve him *.
The entertainer occasionally dismissed his guests with costly presents. Lyssimachus, of Babylon having entertained Himerus the tyrant of the Babylonians and Seleucians, with three hundred other guests, gave every man a silver cup, of four pounds weight. When Alexander made his marriage feast at Susa in Persia, he paid the debts of all his soldiers out of his own exchequer, and presented every one of his guests, who were not fewer than nine thousand, with golden cups t. The master of the house among the Romans, used also to give the guests certain presents at their departure, or to send them after they were gone, to their respective habitations f. It is probable that this custom, like many others which prevailed in Greece and Rome, was derived from the nations of Asia ; for the sacred writers allude repeatedly to a similar custom, which closed the religious festivals or public entertainments among the chosen people of God. When David brought up the ark from the house of Obededom, into the place which he had prepared for it, he offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before the Lord. And as soon as the solemnity was finished, “ he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a flaggon of wine S.”
Their ardent hospitality did not permit them to forget their relations and acquaintances that happened to be detained from their public banquets, by personal or domestic afflictions, or any
To such persons it was the custom tò send a part of what remained from the feast. Nehemiah alludes to this kind and generous usage, in his charge to the people: “Go your
See Taylor's Calmnet, vol. 3. # Adam's Rom. Antiq. p. 446.
* Potter's Gr. Antiq. vol. 2. p. 410. § 2 Sam. vi, 19.
way, eat the fat and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared.” Another instance of this custom occurs in the book of Esther: “ Therefore the Jews made the fourteenth day of the month Adar, a day of gladness and feasting, and a good day, and of sending portions one to another *.” The command of Nehemiah to send portions to those for whom nothing was prepared, has been generally understood to mean the poor; but as it was not a private feast, but a national festival, in which the poor and the rich were equally concerned, it cannot, with propriety, be restricted to the former, but ought to be understood of all such as were unavoidably absent, and particularly of those that were in a state of mourning. In the last instance, their sending portions one to another, is expressly distinguished from gifts to the poor, in a subsequent verse t, and, therefore, cannot have the same meaning. An oriental prince sometimes honours a friend or a favourite servant, who cannot conveniently attend at his table, by sending a mess to his own home. When the grand emir found that it incommoded d’Arvieux to eat with him, he politely de. sired him to take his own time for eating, and sent him what he liked from his kitchen at the time he chose. And thus, when David, the king of Israel pretended, for secret reasons too well known to himself, that it would be inconvenient for Urijah to continue at the royal palace, he dismissed him to his own house: "and there followed him," says the historian, "a mess of meat from the king."
The women are not permitted to associate with the other sex at an eastern banquet; but they are allowed to entertain one another in their own apartments. When Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, treated all the people of his capital with a splendid feast, Vashti, the queen, we are informed, “made a banquet for the women in the royal house, which belonged to king Ahasuerus." This, observes Chardin, is the custom of all the east; the women have their feasts at the same time, but apart from * Esth, ix, 19,
of Verse 22.