« AnteriorContinuar »
We read in the gospel a circumstance which brings to mind the above-mentioned Oriental custom, of each guest at an entertainment contributing some part of the provision or the perfume. When Jesus sat at meat, a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard, very precious, came and brake the box, and poured it on his head. The weight of this, another evangelist informs us, was a pound, and its value more than three hundred pence, that is, nearly nine pounds of our money. It was evidently no Syrian production, no preparation of fragrant grass growing in the neighbouring districts, but the true concentrated extract of a choice perfume, brought from a distant clime; the ointment of spikenard of India, very costly. We are informed that a box of real spikenard ointment was reckoned quite a family possession; and that the use of it was reserved, to honour some grand family occasion, such as a wedding-feast, or the visit of some exalted personage, or perhaps the burial of the head of the family. Hence if such a curiosity happened to come into the possession of a family, it was often kept for years before an occasion presented itself, of sufficient importance to call for its expenditure. How highly the grateful affectionate woman valued the honour of Christ's presence, may be inferred from her willingness to break her box of precious ointment, and pour the contents on His sacred head. The hypocritical Judas observed the action, and murmured at the waste, saying, Why was it not rather "sold for
more than three hundred pence, and given to the psor?" His Divine Master, though He was never unmindful of the cause of the poor, yet justifies this act of affectionate liberality; declaring that she had anointed Him beforehand to His burial; and that as this ointment had been brought from a distant part of the world, and diffused its odour through all the place where they were assembled, so should her labour of love be spread far and wide, and a memorial of her be conveyed to all the world, wherever the gospel was preached, Mark xiv. 3-9, John xii. 1—8.
[Many other fragrant perfumes are mentioned in Scripture, and should now be noticed; but as they are produced from woody trees, and this section is confined to herbaceous plants and shrubs, we are compelled here to break off, and conclude the notice of that class with a few remarks on the Weeds and other noxious productions mentioned in Scripture.]
The word "Weeds" in our translation occurs only in the complaint of Jonah from the bottom of the sea, where he says, "the weeds were wrapped round his head," Jonah ii. 5. This evidently alludes to seaweeds, most probably submarine weeds, &c. or at least such as grow on the border of a river or sea, and are continually swept in by the waves.
The Red Sea is called in Hebrew, the weedy sea, (see Jer. xlix.21. margin,) probably from its abounding with large trees or plants of coral, which are every where spread on its bottom exactly in the same manner as plants on dry land.
Thorns and Thistles.
The earliest mention of weeds is in the ancient curse, when man had rebelled against his Maker: “Cursed,” said the Lord, “shall be the ground for thy sake; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee,” Gen. iii. 17, 18. The amazing fertility of these productions of the degenerate earth, strikingly evince their adaptation for the fulfilment of this sentence against man. Some species of thistles produce from 30 to 40 heads, each containing from 100 to 150 seeds; and others produce above 100 heads, each containing from 300 to 400 seeds. The common hedge thistle, beside the immense number of winged seeds it sends forth in all directions, spreads its roots very widely, and throws up many suckers around, which in like manner scatter their seeds, and extend their roots, and threaten to stifle and destroy all vegetation but their own.
As to thorns, how common, and how extremely mischievous, is the bramble! and how vain are all attempts to clear the ground of it! The Furze, too, is allowed to be one of the most mischievous shrubs on the face of the earth: scarcely any thing can grow near it; it is so thickly set with prickles, that it is impossible to touch it without being wounded ; and so abundantly does it multiply, and takes so firm a hold of the ground, that large tracts of land are rendered useless by it.
There are many different kinds of thorns: we are informed by travellers, that of the trees of Egypt,
nine out of ten are furnished with thorns. It is not easy always to trace the particular kinds of thorn intended in the references of Scripture; the same words which in the original curse are rendered "thorns and thistles," in other parts of the sacred writings are translated "thorns and briers :"-but it is not always obvious whether any particular sort of thorn is intended, or whether the word is used generally for all those prickly obnoxious shrubs, plants, &c. by which the labours of the husbandman are impeded, and which are only fit for burning: the latter seems to be the signification in Exod. xxii. 6. Ezek. xxviii. 24. Heb. vi. 8.—What a humbling emblem of the human heart is presented in this picture of the earth, since the fall, spontaneously and abundantly bringing forth thorus, thistles, and every evil weed; while to beautiful, valuable productions, it is comparatively sterile. Alas! the weeds of sin, and every evil temper, are indigenous in our nature, and need constant attention and effort on our own parts, aided by the influence of divine grace, to keep under, and eradicate them; but the lovely plants of virtue and holiness are exotics, and require diligent culture, and exposure to the influences of Heaven, or they will soon wither and die.
Judges viii. 16. we read of Gideon taking thorns and briers of the wilderness, with which he "taught," or chastised, the men of Succoth, for their inhospitality to him and his followers, when they went in pursuit of the kings of Midian. No doubt, some
sharp, jagged kind of plant is here intended, probably somewhat not very unlike the blackberry bushes or furze bushes on our commons, with which undoubtedly a very severe castigation might be inflicted.
Another word is used repeatedly, to express the inconveniences with which the Israelites were threatened, if, in disobedience to the command of God, they suffered the Canaanites to remain among them: "they shall be as pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell," Numb. xxxiii. 55. Josh. xxiii. 13.
any image have given a livelier idea of constant irritation and pain? and exactly such was the experience realized by the Israelites, in consequence of their disobedience.
Where it is said, Job v. 5. that the harvest of the foolish man is eaten up by the hungry, and taken "even out of the thorns," the allusion is probably to a hedge of thorns, which surround for security a threshing-floor or granary: the rhamnus paliurus has been mentioned; this is a deciduous plant or tree, a native of Palestine, as well as of the southern parts of Europe. It grows to the height of fourteen feet, and is armed with sharp strong thorns, two of which are at the insertion of each branch, one of them straight and upright, the other bent backwards: this would prove a formidable defence. The idea conveyed seems to be, that the ill-gotten goods of the wicked shall consume and disappear, notwith