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priesthood, they occupied the whole field of literature and science ; extending their inquiries to phi. losophy, theology, natural history, mathematics, jurisprudence, civil history, and even medicine. Perhaps, too, it was in imitation of the sages of the Nile that the Hebrews made these pursuits hereditary in a consecrated tribe; whence flowed this obvious advantage, that the sons of the Levites, from the very dawn of reason, were introduced to scientific researches, and favoured with a regulated system of tuition suited to the occupation in which their lives were to be spent. In short, the institution bears upon it all the marks of that wisdom for which the Mosaical economy is so remarkably distinguished, when viewed as the basis of a government at once civil, religious, and political.*
The youngest reader of the Sacred Volume cannot fail to have perceived, that the character and government of the Hebrew Judges withdraw the attention from the ordinary course of human events, and fix it on the marvellous or supernatural. These personages were raised up by the special providence of God, to discharge the duties of an office which the peculiar circumstances of the Chosen People from time to time rendered necessary; and the various gifts with which they were endowed, as they constituted the main ground of vocation to their high employment, so were they suited to the difficulties that they had to overcome, and to the achievements they were called to perform. The sanctity of their manners did not, indeed, in all cases correspond to the dignity of their station ; and the
• Michaelis' Commentaries on the Laws of Moses, vol. i. art. 52. Jablonsky Panth. Ægypt. Prolegomena, 21, 41, 43.
76 HISTORY OF THE HEBREW COMMONWEALTH. miracles which they wrought for the welfare of their country were not always accompanied with self-restraint and the due subordination of their passions. Their military exploits were worthy of the highest admiration ; while, in some instances, their private conduct calls forth only our surprise and regret. For examples of heroism and bravery, we can with confidence point to Gideon, to Samson, and to Jephthah ; but there is not in their character any thing besides, that a father could recommend to the imi. tation of his son, or that a lover of order and pureness of living would wish to see adopted in modern society. We observe, in the greater number of them, uncommon and even supernatural powers of body, as well as of mind, united with the gross manners and fierce passions of barbarians. We applaud their patriotism, admire their courage and talent in the field, and even share in the delight which accompanied their triumphs; yet, when we return to their dwellings, we dare not inspect too narrowly the usages of their domestic day, nor exa mine into the indulgences with which they sometimes thought proper to remunerate the toils and cares of their public life. Divine Wisdom, stooping to the imperfection of human nature, employed the instruments that were best fitted for the graci. ous ends which, by their means, were about to be accomplished; though it does not appear to have been intended that mankind should ever resort to the history of the Judges for lessons of decorum, humanity, or virtue.
Historical Outline from the Accession of Saul to the
Destruction of Jerusalem.
Weakness of Republican Government-Jealousy of the several
Tribes-Resolution to have a King-Rules for regal Government -Character of Saul_Of David- Troubles of his Reign-Accession of Solomon-Erection of the Temple-Commerce— Murmurs of the People_Rehoboam-Division of the Tribes—Kings of Israel_Kingdom of Judah-Siege of Jerusalem_Captivity-Kings of Judah_Return from Babylon-Second Temple_Canon of Scripture_Struggles between Egypt and Syria-Conquest of Palestine by Antiochus-Persecution of Jews_Resistance by the Family of Maccabæus_Victories of Judas—He courts the Alliance of the Romans_Succeeded by Jonathan_Origin of the Asmonean Princes-John Hyrcanus-Aristobulus-Alexander Jannæus-Appeal to Pompey-Jerusalem taken by Romans-Herod created King by the Romans-He repairs the Temple_Archelaus succeeds him, and Antipas is nominated to Galilee—Quirinius Prefect of Syria_Pontius Pilate_Elevation of Herod AgrippaDisgrace of Herod Philip—Judea again a Province_Troubles Accession of Young Agrippa - Felix - Festus – Florus — Command given to Vespasian-War-Siege of Jerusalem by Titus.
The weakness and jealousy which seem inseparable from a government comprehending a number of independent states, had been deeply felt during the administration of Eli, and even under that of Sa. muel in his latter days. Established in different parts of the country, the several tribes were actuated by local interests and selfish views ; those in the north, who were exempted from the hostile inroads of the Philistines and Ammonites, refusing to aid
their brethren, the children of Simeon and Judah, whose territory was constantly exposed to the ravages of those warlike neighbours. In the time of the more recent Judges, the federal union on which the Hebrew commonwealth was founded appeared practically dissolved. Nay, a spirit of rivalry and dissension occasionally manifested itself among the kindred communities of which it was composed ;Ephraim, stimulated by envy, vexed Judah, and Judah vexed Ephraim.*
Meanwhile, several powerful kingdoms in the east, as well as the south, threatened the independence of the Twelve Tribes, especially those on the borders of the Desert. Assyria had already turned her views towards the fertile lands which skirt the shores of the Mediterranean; and Egypt, in order to protect her rich valley from the aggressions of that rising monarchy, began to open her eyes to the expediency of securing the frontier towns in the nearest parts of Palestine. In a word, it was fast becoming manifest that the existence of the Hebrews, as a free and distinct people, could only be secured by reviving the union, which had origi. nally subsisted among their leading families, under a form that would combine their physical strength and patriotism in the support of a common cause. An aged priest, although he might with the utmost authority direct the solemnities of their na. tional worship, and even administer the laws to which they were all bound to submit, could not command the secular obedience of rude clans, or, with any prospect of success, lead them to battle
* Isaiah xi. 13.
against an enemy practised in all the stratagems of war. The people, therefore, demanded the consent of Samuel to a change in the structure of their government, that they might have a king not only to preside over their civil affairs, but also to go out before them and fight their battles.*
The principal reason assigned by the elders of Israel for the innovation which they required at the hands of their ancient prophet was, that they might be “like all the nations ;" evidently allud. ing to the advantages of monarchical power, when decisive measures become necessary to defend the interests of a state. It is remarkable that Moses had anticipated this natural result in the progress of society, and even laid down rules for the admi. nistration of the regal government. This wise legislator provided that the king of the Hebrews should not be a foreigner, lest he might be tempted to sacrifice the interests of his subjects to the policy of his native land, and perhaps to countenance the introduction of unauthorized rites into the worship of Jehovah. It was also stipulated that the sovereign of the Chosen People should not multiply horses to himself, lest he should be carried by his ambition to make war in distant countries, and neglect the welfare of the sacred inheritance promised to the fathers of the Jewish nation.t
The qualities which recommended Saul to the choice of Samuel and the approbation of the Tribes, leave no room for doubt that it was chiefly as a military leader that the son of Kish was raised to the throne. Nor was their expectation disappointed in
* 1 Samuel viii. 421.
of Deut. xvii. 14-20.