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166 § 157. MARRIAGE, ETC.
§ 156. FRUITFULNEss IN THE MARRIAGE STATE.
This was greatly desired. A large number of offspring was considered an instance of the divine favour of the highest kind. Sons were generally more desired than daughters, because they transmitted the name of the father in genealogies. Sterility was looked upon, not only as a ground of great reproach especially to wives, but as a punishment from God, 1 Sam. 1:6, 7. Ps. 127: 3–5. 128:4. Hos. 9:14. Prov. 17:6. Eccles. 6:3.
Hardly less reproach was attached to a state of celibacy, and no prospect, accordingly, was more unpropitious and forbidding to virgins, than that of living and dying unwed and childless, Gen. 16: 2–14. 13:30–32. 30. 13. Isa. 4: 1. 47:9. In such a state of things, barren wives thought it expedient to make use of various means to produce or to increase fruitfulness, Gen. 30:15, 16. Cant. 7: 18. They even offered their maids to their husbands, whose offspring they adopted, Gen. 16:1–3, 30: 1–18.
§ 157. MARRIAGE of A CHILDLESS BROTHER's Widow.
There was an ancient law, existing prior to the time of Moses, Gen. 38:8–12, to this effect. If in any case the husband died without issue, leaving a widow, the brother of the deceased or the nearest male relation, Esá, was bound to marry, bio, the widow, to give to the first-born son the name of the deceased kinsman, to insert his name in the genealogical register, and to deliver into his possession the estate of the deceased. This peculiar law is technically denominated the Levirate law, and had its origin without doubt in that strong desire of offspring, which has been mentioned in the preceding section. Moses was aware, that the LEVIRATE LAw was in some respects pernicious, but when he recollected the feeling which was at the bottom of it, and the importance of that feeling being cherished, he did not think proper to abolish it. While, therefore, he did not withhold from it his sanction, and thought proper to make it one of the permanent laws of the Jewish state, he reduced it within certain limits, and thereby rendered the injurious consequences as small as possible. He, accordingly, enacted, that whoever was unwilling to marry the wife of his deceas§ 158, conceRNING ADULTERY. 167
ed kinsman, might decline it in the presence of judges, in case he would allow the woman the privilege of taking off his shoes, of spitting in his face and of addressing him with the discreditable salutation of unshod, an appellation, which in effect would be the same with stigmatizing him, as the destroyer of his brother's house, Deut. 25: 5–10. The disgrace, which would be the consequence of such treatment from the widow, was not so great, but a person, who was determined not to marry, would dare to encounter it, Ruth 4:7, 8. Matt. 22:23–28.
§ 158. ConceRNING ADULTERY.
In those countries, where polygamy prevails, the sentiment in respect to the perpetration of ADULTERY is this. If a married man has criminal intercourse with a married woman, or with one promised in marriage, or with a widow expecting to be married with a brother in law, it is accounted adultery. If he is guilty of such intercourse with a woman, who is unmarried, it is considered fornication, too. Adultery, even before the time of Moses, Gen. 38:24, was reckoned a crime of a very heinous nature, and was accordingly punished. In Egypt the nose of the adulteress, in Persia the nose and ears were cut off, Ezek. 23:25. In the penal code of Moses the punishment annexed to this crime was that of death, but the mode of being put to death is not particularly mentioned, because it was known from custom, Lev. 20:10. It was not, however, as the Talmudists contend, strangulation, but stoning, as we may learn from various parts of scripture, for instance, Ezek, 16:38, 40. John 8:5, and as in fact Moses himself testifies, if we compare Exod. 31: 14. 35:2, with Numbers 15:35, 36. If the adulteress were a slave, the persons guilty were both scourged with a leather whip, noz, the number of the blows not exceeding forty. The adulterer in this instance, in addition to the scourging, was subjected to the further penalty of bringing a trespass offering, viz. a ram, to the door of the tabernacle of the con
gregation, to be offered in his behalf by the priest, Lev. 19:20 –22.
The power was given to the husband, who suspected his wife of infidelity, of exacting from her in the temple or tabernacle, what may be termed the ordeal oath, Num. 5:11–31. To this oath were attached such dreadful penalties, that a person really guilty certainly could not take it without betraying her criminality by some indications, unless she possessed the extremity of hardihood. Moses appears to have substituted this oath and the ceremonies attending it, instead of an ancient and pernicious custom, of which some traces still remain in Africa; see Oldendorp's Geschichte der Mission, S. 266, 267. Dreadful as it was, there were not wanting wives, who set it at defiance; licentiousness increased, and adulteries were multiplied, especially in the later periods of the Jewish state. The Talmudists themselves state, Sota c. 9, that the law in regard to the suspected wife was abrogated as much as forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem. The reason they assign for it, is, that the men themselves were at that period generally adulterers, and that God would not fulfil the horrid imprecations of the ordeal oath upon the wife alone, while the husband was guilty of the same crime, comp. John 8: 1–8.
§ 160, BILL of Divorce.
As the ancient Hebrews paid a stipulated price for the privilege of marrying, they seemed to consider it the natural consequence of making a payment of that kind, that they should be at liberty to exercise a very arbitrary power over their wives, and to renounce or divorce them, whenever they chose. This state of things, as Moses himself very clearly saw, was not equitable as respected the woman, and was very often injurious to both parties. Finding himself, however, unable to overrule feelings and practices of very ancient standing, he merely annexed to the original institution of marriage a very serious admonition to this effect, viz. that it would be less criminal for a man to desert his father and mother, than without adequate cause to desert his wife, Gen. 2: 14, compared with Mich. 2: 9. and Malachi 2:11–14. He also laid a restriction upon the power of the husband as far as this, § 160. Bill of Divorce. 169
that he would not permit him to repudiate the wife without giving her a bill of divorce. He further enacted in reference to this subject, that the husband might receive the repudiated wife back, in case she had not in the meanwhile been married to another person; but if she had been thus married, she could never afterwards become the wife of her first husband; a law, which the faith due to the second husband clearly required, Deut. 24:1–4. comp. Jer. 3:1, and Matt. 1: 19. 19: 8. The inquiry, “What should be considered an adequate cause of divorce,” was left by Moses to be determined by the husband himself. He had liberty to divorce her, if he saw in her any thing naked, no nox, i.e. any thing displeasing or improper, as may be learnt by comparing the same expressions in Deut. 23: 14, 15; any thing so much at war with propriety, and a source of so much dissatisfaction as to be, in the estimation of the husband, sufficient ground for separation. These expressions, however, were sharply contested as to their meaning in the later times of the Jewish nation. The school of Hillel contended, that the husband might lawfully put away the wife for any cause, even the smallest. The mistake committed by the school of Hillel in taking this ground was, that they confounded moral and civil Law. It is true, as far as the Mosaic statute or the civil Law was concerned, the husband had a right thus to do; but it is. equally clear, that, the ground of legal separation must have been, not a trivial, but a prominent and important one, when it is considered, that he was bound to consult the rights of the woman, and was amenable to his conscience and his God. The school of Shammai explained the phrase, NAKEDNEss of A THING, to mean actual adultery. This interpretation of the phrase gives to the law a moral aspect, and assigns a reason, as the ground of divorce, of the truest moral nar ture; but the truth is, that the phrase, in itself considered, will not bear this interpretation, and the law beyond question was designed to be merely a civil, and not a moral one. Jesus, who did not so much explain, as fill up the deficiencies of the Mosaic institutes, agreed with the school of Shammai as far as this, that the ground of divorce should be one of a moral nature, but he does not appear to have agreed with them in their opinion in respect to the Mosaic statute. On the contrary he denied the
equity, the moral correctness of that statute, and in justification of 170 - § 161. Child-birth.
Moses maintained, that he suffered it to be sanctioned by his authority, only in consequence of the hardness of the people's hearts, Matt. 5:31, 32, 18:1–9. Mark 10: 2–12. Luke 16:18. Wives, who were considered the property of their husbands, did not enjoy by the Mosaic statutes a reciprocal right, and were not at liberty to dissolve the matrimonial alliance by giving a bill of divorce to that effect. In the later periods, however, of the Jewish state, the Jewish matrons, the more powerful of them at least, appear to have imbibed the spirit of the ladies of Rome, and to have exercised in their own behalf the same power, that was granted by the Mosaic law to their husbands, Josephus, Antiq. XV. 7, 10. Mark 6: 17–29. 10: 12. In case the wife felt herself injured and aggrieved, we may infer, from the fact of the concubine's possessing that right, who had previously been a maid-servant, that the wife also possessed the right of obtaining a bill of divorce from a judge, Exod. 21:10.
§ 161. CHILD-BIRTH.
In oriental countries CHILD-BIRTH is not an event of much difficulty, and mothers at such a season were originally the only assistants of their daughters, as any further aid was deemed unnecessary, Exod. 1: 19. In cases of more than ordinary difficulty, those matrons, who had acquired some celebrity for skill and expertness on occasions of this kind, were invited in; and in this way there eventually rose into notice that class of women denominated midwives. The child was no sooner born, than it was washed in a bath, rubbed with salt, and wrapped in swaddling clothes, From: , Ezek. 16:4. It was the custom at a very ancient period, for the father, while musick in the mean while was heard to sound, to clasp the new-born child to his bosom, and by this ceremony was understood to declare it to be his own, Gen. 50:23. Job 3: 12. Ps. 22: 11. This practice was imitated by those wives, who adopted the children of their maids, Gen. 16; 2. 30: 3–5.
THE BIRTH DAY of A SoN, especially, was made a festival, and on each successive year was celebrated with renewed demonstrations of festivity and joy, Gen. 40:20. Job 1: 4. Matt. 14:6. Herodot. I. 133. Cyropaed. I. 3.9. The messenger, who brought the news of the birth of a son, was received with pleasure, and