Imágenes de páginas

in the company at the height of his grief with a piece of cotton in his hand, with which he carefully collects the falling tears, and which he then squeezes into the bottle, preserving them with the greatest care. This was no difficult matter ; for Homer says the tears of Telemachus, when he heard of his father, dropped on the ground. They were placed on the sepulchres of the deceased as a memorial of the affection and sorrow of their surviving relations and friends. It will be difficult to account, on any other supposition, for the following expressions of the Psalmist : “Put thou my tears into thy bottle."g If this view be admitted, the meaning will be : “ Let my distress, and the tears I shed in consequence of it, be ever before thee.”

The kings and princes of the oriental regions, are often subjected to trial after their decease by their insulted and oppressed people, and punished according to the degree of their delinquency. While the chosen people of God were accustomed to honour, in a particular manner, the memory of those kings who had reigned over them with justice and clemency, they took care to stamp some mark of posthumous disgrace upon those who had left the world under their disapprobation. The sepulchres of the Jewish kings were at Jerusalem; where, in some appointed receptacle, the remains of their princes were deposited ; and from the circumstance of these being the cemetery for successive rulers, it was said when one died and was buried there, that he was gathered to his fathers. But several instances occur in the history of the house of David, in which, on various accounts, they were denied the

.! e Morier's Trav. vol. i, p. 177, et seq.
Odyssey, lib. iv, 1. 113, 114.

& Psa. lvi, 8.

honour of being entombed with their ancestors, and were deposited in some other place in Jerusalem. To mark, perhaps, a greater degree of censure, they were taken to a small distance from Jerusalem, and laid in a private tomb. Uzziah, who had, by his presumptuous attempt to seize the office of the priesthood, which was reserved by an express law for the house of Aaron, provoked the wrath of heaven, and been punished for his temerity with a loathsome and incurable disease, “ was buried with his fathers in the field of the burial which belonged to the kings; for they said, He is a leper.”h It was undoubt edly with a design to make a suitable impression on the mind of the reigning monarch, to guard him against the abuse of his power, and teach him respect for the feelings and sentiments of that people for whose benefit chiefly he was raised to the throne, that such a stigma was fixed upon the dust of his offending predecessors. He was, in this manner, restrained from evil, and excited to good, according as he was fearful of being execrated, or desirous of being honoured after his decease. This public mark of infamy was accordingly put on the conduct of Ahaz: “ They buried him in the city, even in Jerusalem, but they brought him not into the sepulchres of the kings of Israel,"i

The Egyptians had a custom, in some measure similar to this, only it extended to persons of every rank and condition. As soon as a man died, he was ordered to be brought to trial; the public accuser was heard ; if he proved that the deceased had led a bad life, his memory was condemned, and he was deprived of the honours of sepulture. Thus were the Egyptians affected by laws h 2 Chron. xxvi, 23.

· Chap. xxviii, 27. VOL. III,

which extended even beyond the grave, and every one, struck with the dişgrace inflicted on the dead person, was afraid to reflect dishonour on his own memory, and that of his family. But what was singular, the sovereign himself was not exempted from this public inquest when he died. The whole kingdom was interested in the lives and administration of their sovereigns, and as death terminated all their actions, it was then deemed for the welfare of the community that they should suffer an impartial scrutiny, by a public trial, as well as the meanest of their subjects. In consequence of this solemn investigation, some of them were not ranked among the honoured dead, and consequently were deprived of public burial. The custom was singular; the effect must have been powerful and influential. The most haughty despot, who might trample on laws human and divine in his life, saw by this rigorous inquiry, that at death he also should be doomed to infamy and execration. «What degree of confor. mity," says Mr. Burder, “ there was between the practice of the Israelites and the Egyptians, and with whom the custom first originated, may be difficult to ascertain and decide; but the latter appears to be founded on the same principle as that of the former ; and as it is more circumstantially detailed, affords us an agreeable explanation of a rite but slightly mentioned in the Scriptures."

- Franklin's Hists of Ancient and Modern Egypt, vol. i, p. 374. See also Diodorus Sic. lib. i, cap. 72, vol. i, p. 84. ER 1000 de




Right of calling an offender to account. Dust thrown upon the criminal.

The names of the accused posted up in some public place. The proscribed. · Form of proceeding in Jewish courts. The accused among the Romans neglected their dress. Appeared before the judges clothed in black.An. cient way of giving sentence.—When sentence of condemnation was pronounced, the witnesses put their hands on the head of the criminal.-Executions in the east prompt and arbitrary.-Executions in secret.-Executions without the gate..Persons of the highest rank anciently employed as executioners.--Trial by ordeal. Punishment of stoning-Of burningBy the sword...Great criminals hanged upon a tree after they had suffered death. Stupifying draughts given to criminals. Punishment of drowningCutting asunder-Casting them from the top of a rock-Pounding in a mortarThe head, the hands, and the feet cut off, and fixed up in the most public places-Crucifixion. Condemned persons thrown into deep

pits. Among the Romans, criminals sometimes burnt alive Hewed in · pieces, and given as a prey to wild beasts--Exposed to perish of thirst.

Slighter offences punished by fines. Public and private bonds.Prisons in Jerusalem.--Keepers treated their prisoners as they pleased.State pri

soners treated with still greater severity._Reduced to slavery.-Scourging , among the Jews. The lex talionis. Offenders sometimes exposed to in

famy.-Sealing up their eyes.--Rendered unfit for business by being comspelled to swallow stupifying drugs.- The Romans exposed their criminals

to the rage of wild beasts in the theatres. Sometimes cast them naked to the savage arimals, exasperated by long fasting, to be devoured. At other times sent them armed into the theatre to fight with wild beasts.-Punish. ment of the tympanum or drum.

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 manslayer 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. 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 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 soye

a Malcom's Hist. of Persia, vol. ii, p. 452. Volney's Trav. vol. i, p. 307. b Judg. xv, 6. c 2 Sam. xvi, 13. d Pococke's Trav. vol. I, p. 17,

« AnteriorContinuar »