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originated the schools of the prophets, will be the most highly appreciated by those readers who have noted the evils which arose from its suppression among the Ten Tribes; and, finally, in the kingdom of Judah itself. The separation of the Israelites under Jeroboam, led, in the first instance, to a defection from the Mosaic ritual, and, in the end, to the establishment of a rival worship; a revolu. tion which compelled all the Levites, who remained attached to the primitive faith, to desert such of their cities as belonged to the revolted tribes, and to seek an asylum among their brethren who acknowledged the successor of Solomon. Hence the reign of idolatry, and that total neglect of the law which disgraced the government of the new dynasty; though it must be granted that, with a view to perpetuate their relationship to the Father of the Faithful, the people preserved certain copies of the Pentateuch, even after the desolation of their land and the complete extinction of their political independence.
It is more surprising to find that, even among the orthodox Hebrews at Jerusalem, the law sank into a gradual oblivion; insomuch that, in the days of Jehoshaphat, the fifth from David, it was found necessary to appoint a special commission of Levites and priests, to revive the knowledge of its holy sanctions in all parts of the country. "And they taught in Judah, and had the book of the law of the Lord with them, and went about throughout all the cities of Judah, and taught the people."*
At a later period; after a succession of idolatrous
* 2 Chronicles xvii. 9.
princes, the neglect of the Mosaical writings became still more general, till at length the very manuscript, or book of the law, which used to be read in the ears of the congregation, could nowhere be found. Josiah, famed for his piety and attention to the ceremonies of the national religion, gave orders to repair the Temple for the worship of Jehovah ; on which occa. sion, Hilkiah the high priest found the precious record in the house of the Lord, and sent it to the king. * A momentary zeal bound the people once more to the belief and usages of their ancestors; but the example of the profane or careless sovereigns, who afterwards filled the throne of Josiah, plunged the country once more into guilt, obliterating all recollection of the Divine statutes, at least as a code of public law. The captivity throws a temporary cloud over the Hebrew annals, and prevents us
from tracing beyond that point the progress of opi• nion on this interesting subject. But upon the re
turn from Babylon a new era commences; and we now observe the same people, who in their prosperity were constantly deviating into the grossest superstitions and most contemptible idolatry, remarkable for a rigid adherence to the ritual of Moses, and for a severe intolerance towards all who questioned its heavenly origin or its universal obligation. Ezra is understood to have charged himself with the duty of collecting and arranging the manuscripts which had survived the desolation inflicted upon his country by the arms of Assyria ; at the same time substituting, for the more ancient characters usually known as the Samaritan, the Chaldean alphabet, to
* 2 Kings xxii. 8.
which his followers had now become accustomed. From these notices, however, which respect a later period, we return to the more primitive times immediately succeeding the era of the Commonwealth.
We have ascribed the cultivation of sacred know. ledge to the schools of the prophets, without having been able to trace very distinctly the institution of these seminaries to the Levitical colleges, the proper fountains of the national literature. In the days of Samuel, it would appear that the necessity of certain subordinate establishments had been admitted, in order to supply a class of persons qualified to in. struct such of the people as lived at a distance from the cities of the Levites. The rule of the propheti. cal schools seems to have borne some resemblance to that of the better description of Christian convents in the primitive ages ; enjoining abstinence and labour, together with an implicit obedience to the authority of their superiors. The clothing also, it may be presumed, was humble, and somewhat peculiar. A rough garment fastened with a girdle round the loins is alluded to by Zechariah ; while the impression made on the courtiers at Ramoth-gilead, by the appearance of one of the sons of the prophets sent thither by Elisha, would lead us to the same conclusion.' " Wherefore,” said they, “ came this mad fellow to thee?” Nor is it without reason that some authors have attributed the conduct of the children who mocked Elisha to the uncouthness of his dress, and to the want of a covering for his head. Be this as it may, there is no doubt that from the societies now mentioned sprang the most distine guished men who adorned the happiest era of the Jewish church.
Were we allowed to form a judgment from the few incidents recorded in the books of the Kings, we should : conclude that the accomplishment of writing was not very general among the subjects of David and Solomon. It is ingeniously conjectured by Michaelis, that Joab the captain of the host, and sister's - son of the inspired monarch himself, could not handle the pen ; else he would not, for the purpose of concealing from the bearer the real object for which he was sent, have found it necessary to tax his ingenuity by putting the very suspicious detail of Uriah’s death into the mouth of a messenger to be delivered verbally to the king. He would at once. have written to him that the devoted man was killed.* • As to science in its higher branches, we cannot expect any proofs of eminence among a secluded people, devoted as the Hebrews were to the pursuits of agriculture and the feeding of cattle.' Solomon, indeed, is said to have been acquainted with all the productions of nature, from the cedar of Libanus to the hyssop on the wall; and we may readily believe, that the curiosity which distinguished his temper would find some gratification in the researches of natural history,—the first study of the opening mind in the earliest stage of social life. But astronomy had not advanced farther than to present an interesting subject of contemplation to the pious mind, which could only regard the firmament as a smooth surface spread out like a curtain, or bearing some resemblance to the canopy of a spacious tent. The schools of the prophets, we may presume, were still strangers to those profound calculations which determine the distance, the magnitude, and the periodical revolutions of the heavenly bodies. · Even the sages of Chaldea, who boast a more ancient civilization than is claimed by the Hebrews, satisfied themselves with a few facts which they had not learned to generalize, and sometimes with conjectures which had hardly any relation to a fixed principle or a scientific object. Long after the reign of David, these wise-men had not distinguished the study of the stars from the dreams of astrology.
* 2 Samuel xi. 18, 22. Commentaries on Laws of Moses, vol. i. p. 257.
The first application of astronomical principle is to the division of time, as marked out by the periodical movements of the heavenly bodies. The Hebrews 'combined in their calculations a reference to the sun and to the moon, so as to avail themselves of the natural measure supplied by each. Their year accordingly was lunisolar, consisting of twelve lunar months, with an intercalation to make the whole agree with the annual course of the sun. The year was farther distinguished as being either common or ecclesiastical. . The former began at the autumnal equinox, the season at which they ima
gined the world was created; while the latter, by · Divine appointment, commenced about six months
earlier, the period when their fathers'were delivered from the thraldom of Egypt. Their months always began with the new moon; and before the captivity they were merely named according to their order, the first second, third, and so on, down to the twelfth. But upon their return they used the terms which they found employed in Babylon, according to the following series :