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In the east, the right of calling an offender to account is claimed either by the person who receives the injury, or his nearest relation; and the same person, with the permission or connivance of his people, sustains at once the character of party, judge, and executioner. In such a state of things we are not to be surprised if the exercise of justice be often precipitate and tumultuary. The act of the Philistines, in burning the spouse of Samson and her father with fire, was entirely of this character; not the result of a regular sentence, but the summary vengeance of an incensed multitude *. In the law of Moses, , the right of the private avenger was distinctly recognized; but to prevent the dreadful effects of sudden and personal vengeance, cities of refuge were appointed at convenient distances through the land of promise, to which the man-slayer might flee for safety, till he could be brought to a regular trial, before a court of justice.
In almost every part of Asia, those who demand justice against a criminal throw dust upon him, signifying that he deserves to lose his life, and be cast into the grave; and that this is the true interpretation of the action, is evident from an imprecation in common use among the Turks and Persians, Be covered with earth ; Earth be upon thy head. We have two remarkable instances of casting dust recorded in Scripture; the first is that of Shimei, who gave vent to his secret hostility to David, when he fled before his rebellious son, by throwing stones at him, and casting dust t. It was an ancient custom, in those warm and arid countries, to lay the dust before a person of distinction, and particularly before kings and princes, by * Judg. xv. 6.
+2 Sam, xvi. 13. VOL. II.
sprinkling the ground with water. To throw dust into the air while a person was passing, was therefore an act of great disrespect; to do so before a sovereign prince, an indecent outrage. But it is clear from the explanation of the custom, that Shimei meant more than disrespect and outrage to an afflicted king, whose subject he was; he intended to signify by that action, that David was unfit to live, and that the time was at last arrived to offer him a sacrifice to the ambition and vengeance of the house of Saul. This view of his conduct is confirmed by the behaviour of the Jews to the apostle Paul, when they seized him in the temple, and had nearly succeeded in putting him to death; they cried out “ away with such a fellow from the earth, for it is not fit that he should live; and as they cried out and cast off their clothes, and threw dust into the air, the chief captain commanded him to be brought into the castle *." A great similarity appears between the conduct of the Jews on this occasion, and the behaviour of the peasants in Persia, when they go to court to complain of the governors, whose oppressions they can no longer endure. “ They carry their complaints against their governors by companies, consisting of several hundreds, and sometimes of a thousand ; they repair to that gate of the palace nearest to which their prince is most likely to be, where they set themselves to make the most horrid cries, tearing their garments, and throwing dust into the air, at the same time demanding justice. The king, upon hearing these cries, sends to know the occasion of them : the people deliver their complaints in writing, upon which he lets them know that he will commit the cognizance of the affair to such an one as he names; in consequence of this, justice is usually obtained f."
Those who were summoned before the courts of justice were said to be agovergaj JL EVOI EIS agrow, because they were cited to appear, by posting up their names in some public place; and the judgment of the court was published or declared in writing.
* Acts xxii. 23. + Chardin's Trav, Burder 1. ob. 503,
Such persons, the Romans called proscriptos or proscribed, that is, whose names were posted up in writing, in some public place, as persons doomed to die, with a reward offered to any that should kill them. These are the terms which the apostle Jude applies to the ungodly, who had crept unawares into the church; they were before of old, negoyeryga,,LEVO, or. dained to this condemnation; persons, who must not only give an account of their crimes to God, but are proscribed or destined to the punishment which they deserve. In Persia, malefactors were not allowed to look on the king; this was the reason, that as soon as Haman was considered a criminal they covered his face. From Pococke, we find the custom still continues, for speaking of the artifice by which an Egyptian bey was taken off, he says, “A man being brought before him, like a malefactor just taken, with his hands behind him as if tied, and a napkin put over his head, as malefactors commonly have, when he came into his presence suddenly shot him dead *."
It was the custom among the Jews for the judge to sit on a trial, and those who were judged to stand, especially while the court were examining the witnesses. The station of the accused was in an eminent place in the court, that the people might see them, and hear what was alleged against them, and the proofs of it, together with the defence made by the criminals. This explains the reason of the remark, by the evangelist Matthew, concerning the posture of our Lord at his trial ; “Jesus stood before the governor ;" and that, in a mock trial, many ages before the birth of Christ, in which some attention was also paid to public forms, Naboth was set on high among the people f. The accusers and the witnesses also stood, unless they were allowed to sit by the indulgence of the judges, when they stated the accusation, or gave their testimony. To this custom of the accusers rising from their seats, when called by the court to read the indictment, our Lord alludes, in his answer to the scribes and Pharisees, who expressed a wish to * Harmer's Obs, vol. 2. p. 403.
+ Kings xxi, 9.
see him perform some miracle: “ The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it *". According to this rule, which seems to have been invariably observed, the Jews who accused the apostle Paul, at the bar of Festus the Roman governor, “stood round about," while they stated the crimes which they had to lay to his charget. They were compelled to stand as well as the prisoner, by the established usage of the courts of justice in the east.
. The Romans often put criminals to the question, or endeavoured to extort a confession from them by torture. Agreeably to this cruel and unjust custom, “ the chief captain commanded Paul to be brought into the castle, and bade that he should be examined by scourging ."
It was usual, especially among the Romans, when a man was charged with a capital crime, and during his arraignment, to let down his hair, suffer his beard to grow long, to wear filthy'ragged garments, and appear in a very dirty and sordid habit; on account of which they were called sordidati. When the person accused was brought into court to be tried, even his near relations, friends, and acquaintances before the court voted, appeared with dishevelled hair, and clothed with garments, foul and out of fashion, weeping, crying, and deprecating punishment. The accused sometimes appeared before the judges clothed in black, and his head covered with dust. In allusion to this ancient custom, the prophet Zechariah represents Joshua, the high priest, when he appeared before the Lord, and Satan stood at his right hand to accuse him, as clothed with filthy garments . After the cause was carefully examined, and all parties impartially heard, the public crier, by command of the presiding magistrate, ordered the judges to bring in their verdict. The most ancient way of giving sentence, was by white and black sea shells, or pebbles. This custom has been mentioned by Ovid in these lines:
“ Mos erat antiquis, niveis atrisque lapillis
His damnare reos, illis absolve culpa.” * Matth. xii. 42. + Acts xxv. 7. Ch. xxii. 24. Burder in loc. & Zech. ii. 3.
« It was a custom among the ancients, to give their votes by .white or black stones; with these they condemned the guilty, with those acquitted the innocent." In allusion to this ancient custom, our Lord promises to give the spiritual conqueror“ a white stone; and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it *;" the white stone of absolution or approbation, and inseparably connected with it, a new name of dignity and honour, even that of a child of God and heir of glory, which is known only to himself, or the inhabitants of that world to which he shall be admitted, and who have already received it. When sentence of condemnation was pronounced, if the case was capital, the witnesses put their hands on the head of the criminal, and said, Thy blood be upon thine own head. To this custom the Jews alluded, when they cried out at the trial of Christ, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” Then was the malefactor led to execution, and none were allowed openly to lament his misfortune. His hands were secured with cords, and his feet with fetters; a custom which furnished David with an affecting allusion, in his lamentation over the dust of Abner : “ Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put in fetters t."
Executions in the east are often very prompt and arbitrary. In many cases the suspicion is no sooner entertained, or the cause of offence given, than the fatal order is issued; the mesa senger of death hurries to the unsuspecting victim, shews his warrant, and executes his orders that instant in silence and solitude. Instances of this kind are continually occurring in the Turkish and Persian histories. When the enemies of a great man among the Turks have gained influence enough over the prince to procure a warrant for his death, a capidgi, (the name of the officer who executes these orders) is sent to him, who shews him the order he has received to carry back his head; the other takes the warrant of the grand signior, kisses it, puts it on his head in token of respect, and then having performed his ablutions, * Rev. ii. 17.
+ 2 Sam. iii. 34.