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In a word, we may not only in reference to the, matter in hand, take notice of what Lucian relates concerning the religion of the Affyrians (s); which did fo lively preferve the memory of the deluge, and of what was done to Noah by his fon Cham, when he fcoffed at the nakedness of his father (t); but alfo, that the god of the Sichemites was called Baalberith, whofe fymbol was the figure of the privy parts of a man, which feems a manifeft allufion to their descent from the family of Cham, the Sichemites being some of the pofterity of Canaan.
It is alfo very natural to conceive, firft of all, that it was from those old pretenfions that the Canaanites took occafion to prophane the most holy things, with fuch fhameful idea's.
Secondly, That it was in deteftation of these idea's, that God ordered the killing of the priests of Baal. And,
Thirdly, That it was for the fame reafon, that the Jews were commanded to destroy them utterly.
Fourthly, This was alfo the reason why the Ifraelites were so often defirous of imitating their crimes.
In the fifth place, As we fee that upon the like account the Moabites. and Ammonites took Chemofh for their god, and that the women of those nations were very zealous to propagate their religion, of which we have an inftance in Jezabel the wife of Ahab, fo God was also willing to infpire his people with horrour and deteftation, for their religion or any alliance with them.
Laftly, As there does appear a very great conformity and resemblance, between the firft birth of the world from the firft chaos, and its being born again after the deluge; between Adam the first man, and Noah the fecond, and between the jealoufies fprung up in both their families upon the account of the promife of the Meffiah: So this conformity could not but very naturally contribute, to preferve the memory of thofe ancient events which Noah and his children had delivered to their pofterity with all the care which is taken to preserve the tradition of the fundamentals of religion.
CHA P. XV.
That we find the Family of ABRAHAM and his Pofterity till JACOB fully perfwaded of thofe Truths.
**T is no less eafie to conceive how the diftinct knowledge of these truths, was in procefs of time handed down to Jacob and his
xx pofterity. This I fhall briefly explain.
(s) Judg. viii. 23. & ix. 8. Talm. Hier. fol. 11. col. 4. & gloss, in b. 1.
Avodazara c. iii. fol. 43. col, 1.
(t) De Dea Syr. p. 1069.
I I need not take notice here, that the religion practis'd by Abraham and his pofterity fuppofe thefe matters as conftantly owned and
It cannot be deny'd, but that Lot having followed Terah and Abraham when God called the latter out of Chaldea, might thence suppose, that this heavenly call did feparate and diftinguifh him from the reft of the pofterity of Shem, and gave him a right as well as Abraham, to pretend to the priviledge of fulfilling the promise of the Meffiah, or at least to fee it fulfill'd in his pofterity. This we may infer from the inceft of Lot's daughters; their crime, which in another view appears very monftrous, doth clearly prove, that they were strongly poffefs'd with this hope which their father had raised in them.
I know that fome interpreters fuppofe (u), that they were moved to commit this inceft from a pious intention of preferving mankind, as imagining to themselves, that as the deluge had drowned all men, befides Noah and his family, fo the flames which deftroy'd Sodom, had confumed all mankind; which they were the more ready to believe, because they might have heard from their father, that the world one day was to perish by fire. But indeed, it may be confider'd as proceeding from a very different motive, the Jewish Doctors (x) plainly averring, that this was done by them in hopes of bringing forth the promised Redeemer.
And if we look upon this action of theirs in this view, with reference to the promise of the Meffiah, which was the grand object of the hopes of all thofe that fear'd God; it is natural to conceive, that confidering their father, as one whom God had peculiarly chofen from amongst the pofterity of Shem, to execute the promise of the Meffiah, and seeing that their mother was changed into a ftatue of falt, they conceived themselves in fome fort authoriz'd to furprize their father in that manner; and the rather, because they conceived on the one hand, that none of the Canaanites (upon whom God had now begun to pour forth fo hideous a ven geance, as a beginning of the execution of the curfe against Cham) having any part in this chiefeft of bleffings, could ever marry them, after that God had fo manifeftly separated and call'd forth their father from amongst them; and on the other hand, fuppofing that God would difpence with the irregularity of this action, by reafon of their being reduced to an extremity.
There be three circumftances which greatly confirm this my remark upon the motive of their incest.
The first is, That they are represented to us as those who had behaved themselves very chaftly, in the midft of the impurities of Sodom; and that befides we find they defign'd no fuch thing, till after the death of their mother.
The other is, That we fee them contriving the thing together, and that in a matter which naturally is apt to feparate the greatest friends, where the motive proceeds from a spirit of uncleannefs: nor indeed, do we find that they continued in this incest.
The third is, That they were fo far from being afham'd of an action, in it self so criminal, or concealing the knowledge of it from pofterity, that they gave those names to the children born of this their inceft, that might
(u) Lyra in Genef. xix.
(x) Beref, Rab. part 23.
might perpetuate and divulge the memory of this their action, the one calling her fon Moab, as much as to fay, born of my father, and the other hers Benammi; a name of a like fignification with the former.
This observation is very neceffary, because these two sons became the heads of two great people, the Moabites, and the Ammonites, whofe kingdoms lafted above 1300 years, and lived on the borders of the holy land, and were jealous of Abraham and his pofterity, as pretending that Abraham could not be chofen before Lot their father, who being the fon of Abraham's elder brother, was to be confider'd as the firft-born of Terah and who were apt, without doubt, to take it for granted, that if God had brought Abraham out of Chaldea, and refcued him from Ur, he had in a more peculiar manner, faved Lot alone from the conflagration of Sodom, by the ministry of Angels, and that Abraham and Lot being equally defcended from Terah, the right of accomplishing the promife, did equally belong to them.
And indeed, we find that in all fucceeding times, thefe thoughts did predominate with them, as may easily be made out from the hiftory of Balaam.
We fee therefore, that the Moabites who were descended from the eldest daughter of Lot, look'd upon the pretenfions of the Ifraelites, that the Meffiah was to be born of their feed, in exclufion to all others, with great impatience, and it was for this reason, that they sent for Balaam, to decide (by Divine authority) the difference between them, concerning the right or the promised bleffing.
We may make very near the fame reflexions upon the calling of Ruth the Moabitefs, when the faith to Naomi her mother-in-law, Thy God fhall my God, and thy people shall be my people; which fignifies a renouncing of the pretenfions of her own people, and an acquiescing in the justice of thofe of the Ifraelites, and it was upon this occafion, that Ruth is more. particularly taken notice of in the genealogy of our Saviour, as I fhall have occafion to fhew hereafter.
That which I have hinted concerning the intention and aim of the daughters of Lot, hath been obferved before by the Jewish Rabbins, as we may fee in the most ancient of their Commentaries upon thefe words of Genefis, Chap. XIX. v. 32. Come let us make our father drink wine, &c. Upon which words, R. Tanchumah following the footsteps of R. Samuel, makes this reflexion, That we may preferve feed of our father; it is not faid, that we may preserve a fon from our father, but that we may renew the pofterity of our father, becaufe (faith he) they had regard to that feed, which was to proceed from a strange place, and what feed is that? It is the King Meffiah.
After this obfervation upon this action of Lot's daughters, it can no longer rationally be doubted, but that the violent paffion which Sarah had for a fon, proceeded from the very fame impreffion which made her contrary to the inclinations of that fex, to deliver her fervant into her husband's bofom, especially if we join to this the particular promife God had made to Abraham, which fhe could not be ignorant
Sarah fees her felf deftitute of children, and her barrennefs having cortinued fo long a time, fhe had no hopes of ever being a mother, what
remain❜d therefore for her, but to think of adopting a fon of her bondwoman? And in confideration of this, the perfwades her husband, who had no inclination to any fuch thing by any thing that appears (at least precedent to this defire of his wife) to take her unto him. He fought the Jeed of God, that is, the feed which God had promised, as Malachy expreffes it, Mal. II. 15.
At least it is certain, that the Jews have taken these words of Malachy (x) in this fenfe for a very long time, as they do ftill to this day.
We may eafily perceive, that this was a predominant impreffion throughout that whole family, if to what we have already obferv'd of Lot's daughters and of Sarah, we do but add the forrow Rebecca conceived because of her barrennefs, and the contentions happening between the wives of Jacob, for their husband's company, without which fuppofal, the relation of such a matter, would be a thing of no impor
Certainly, as it would be ridiculous to fuppofe, that so wise an historian as Mofes was, fhould ftoop to the recital of fuch mean and low particulars (not to speak worse of them) without aiming at something very high and confiderable, fo it is rational to believe, that in all thefe relations, he pointed at the promise of the Meffiah, which at that time was the great object of the religion of the faithful, which God in process of time did explain by little and little more diftinctly.
The jealoufie also which arose between Ishmael and Ifaac, is no lefs confiderable. Ishmael was the eldest son of Abraham, and circumcis'd as well as Ifaac; he was faved from death by the miniftry of an angel; and was the head of a great people, who from that time to this very day, have always been circumcifed.
It may be alfo of great use to take notice here, that Ishmael could not but be inftructed by Abraham concerning the promise God had made to him, to which he pretended, as being the elder, and therefore mocked at the great ftir was made at the weaning of Ifaac, as thinking that he being the eldeft, could not be deprived of the natural right of his primogeniture. At least, it is very probable, that except it had been thus, Sarah's anger (approved by God himself) would not have prov'd fo violent, as well against Ishmael, as Hagar, who flatter'd him in these pretenfions, nor would Abraham fo far have comply'd with it.
And forafmuch, as Ifaac on the other fide, was born to fulfil a particular promife, was circumcifed, and faved from death by an angel; and that befides all this, Ishmael and he had been equally educated in the practice of religion, 'tis impoffible, but that this conformity of events (which has been the caufe of fuch lafting contests between them and their posterity) must have engaged them to inquire into the truth of the creation, and the promise of the Messiah, and into all other matters which did any way concern them.
We have a like instance, if not stronger for our purpose, in Efau and Jacob, who were both born of the fame mother, but Efau being the firft-born, we find the fame jealoufie arifing between them, as before be
(x) Targ, Jonath. in h. 1. & Kimchi in h ̧ 1.
tween Ishmael and Ifaac. Sarah feem'd fomewhat cruel in cafting out her adopted fon Ishmael, and here we see that Rebecca preferred Jacob before Efau her first-born, and affifted him in robbing his elder brother of the bleffing due to him of right: but without queftion, her defign in all this was to entail this bleffing on her family, by making it fall on Jacob, as being afraid (and that not without caufe) that Efau by his fins and his marriage with the Canaanites, had made himself uncapable thereof.
Now as this was the occafion of a great difpute between these two Patriarchs educated in the fame belief and religion, fo it plainly fhews us how ftrong a perswasion they had of the creation, and the promise of the Meffiab.
And befides, it is further very remarkable.
First, That Mofes reprefents Efau as a prophane perfon, for which, not only this reafon may be alledged, that he fold his birth-right for a mefs of pottage, to which birth-right the priesthood was always annexed, but we must further take notice.
That he being educated by his father in the hopes of this bleffing, he feem'd to laugh at it in all his actions; for firft he married the daughter of Heth, by which he fufficiently intimated, that he neither minded the bleffing nor the curfe of God; for Canaan and his pofterity had in a very folemn manner been curfed by Noah, with a particular regard to the promife of the Meffiah, as I hinted before.
In the second place, he married a daughter of Ishmael, as if he intended to renew the pretenfions of Ishmael against Ifaac his father.
In the third place we fee, that when he repented of this prophane humor, he was pierced with extream forrow for the crime he had committed, because he could not obtain pardon for it.
This jealoufie and difference between Efau and Jacob, is the more confiderable, because Efau was the head of a great nation, viz. the Edomites, a people circumcifed as well as the Jews, jealous of the pofterity of Jacob, and living upon the borders of Judea, as well as the Moabites, Ammonites, and Ishmaelites, but yet put by their hopes by that oracle, The greater people fhall ferve the leffer.
Were it needful to afford a greater light to thefe reflexions, 1 might here add a very natural one, from the oath which Abraham made his fervant Eliezer take, when he fent him to Padan Aram, to procure a wife for Ifaac. We may eafily judge, that he was not willing he fhould marry a Canaanite as Lot had done; and that for fear of forfeiting his hopes, and weakening the just pretenfions of Ifaac to the right of accomplishing the promife, from whence the Canaanites were excluded by the prophecy deliver'd by Noah. But that which made Abraham to oblige his fervant to fwear, putting his hand under his thigh; that is, touching that part which was the fubject of circumcifion (y), and which bore the mark of the covenant, deferves a further confideration.
We find first of all, that the Patriarch Jacob, obferves the fame cuftom, when he made his fon Jofeph to take an oath, that he fhould not bury him in Egypt.
Secondly, We find that this custom of beholding that member which
(y) St. Jerom.