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monition, Jotham fled from the vengeance of his brother, and took refuge in Beer. A compact founded in blood could not be permanent : in the course of three years, dissention and treachery brought on a civil war between Abimelech and his subjects, in which their atrocious cruelty to the sons of Gideon was most woefully returned on their own heads.
Their city was destroyed by the tyrant, and their citizens slain :
: a thousand men and women at one time were put to death in a tower to which Abimelech set fire; and whilst he besieged another, his own death by the fall of a stone from the walls, and from the desperate hand of a woman, put an end to the tragedy !
The death of Abimelech restored order, and the commonwealth enjoyed peace during the administration of several succeeding judges, nearly fifty years. But their authority
. was insufficient to restrain the people, for they became themselves inattentive to the laws : the events of that period exbibit the most dreadful licentiousness, insomuch, that the tribe of Benjamin was at one time almost exterminated in a war with the other tribes.
CATHERINE. How could such a deplorable event come to pass amongst brethren united by so many and such peculiar ties?
Mrs. M. A shocking act of barbarity, a comment indeed on the foresight of Jacob, when he said, “ Benjamin shall raven as a wolf,” had been committed in Gibeah, a city of that tribe, upon two unoffending travellers, a Levite and bis wife, by which the latter lost her life. The surviving sufferer made an affecting appeal to the nation, who, with one accord, declared, that “ no such deed had been done since the day that the children of Israel came
up out of Egypt !” and an assembly of the principal people, from Dan to Beer-sheba, and from all the land of Gilead, was convoked before the Tabernacle of the Cove nant, to determine what measures should be taken to obli. terate their disgrace.' Willing that the offenders alone should be punished, the assembly sent a deputation to require that they might be surrendered to the death they had merited. But the Benjamites not only resused to deliver up the murderers, but prepared with alacrity to defend them. A civil war of the most savage character ensued five and twenty thousand of the Benjamites fell in battle, their cities were burned-their women, and even their cattle, were all slain : The city of Jabesh-gilead next fell a sacrifice to the maddened rage of the warriors, because they had neglected the summons to attend the national council.
Their vengeance thus completely sated, reason and nature resumed their authority, and the inhuman Israelites beheld with horror the sanguinary deeds they had done.
The devastation of a kindred tribe awakened their compassion, and repentance brought them to humble themselves before the altar of that God to whom injustice and cruelty are abominable. Deprecating His anger, they presented peace-offerings, and spent the whole day in fasting and tears. A deputation was then sent to a few. Benjamites, about six hundred, who had escaped from the general massacre, and concealed themselves in the caves of an immense rock called Rimmon, in the wilds of Judah Four months they had been in this dreary abode, and were now glad to receive a conciliatory invitation to return to their homes. But what a home of desolation had their misguided brethren prepared for the unhappy exiles! Their
dwellings all in ruin, and their smiling fields laid waste their females cut off--and their whole substance destroyed! The penitence of their persecutors could not repair these multiplied evils—and in one respect they had tied their own hands. . In their phrenzied indignation, at the national assembly, they had made a solemn vow, that no man in Israel should give his daughter in marriage to a Benjamite ! To save their rash oath, and yet do something to express their returning kindness to the ruined tribe they sent them four hundred young women whom they had spared at the massacre of Jabesh-Gilead. Still, as many were left without companions, another act of injustice was undertaken to remedy the first-and to avert from themselves the curse pronounced on him who should give a wife to the proscribed people.
A religious festival was held annually at Shiloh, at which the maidens were accustomed to dance, in imitation of the idolatrous rites of the heathens. This was now the season, and the unmarried Benjamites were advised to repair thither, and concealing themselves in the vineyards, seize upon the young women when an opportunity offered, and thus would their fathers remain guiltless !
CATHERINE. Then it appears, after all, that the other tribes were a thousand times more criminal than the original offenders, whom they affected to punish !
Mrs. M. Thus it is, my dear, with poor human nature. We censure without charity the faults of others, whilst we do the same, or worse, ourselves!
CATHERINE. Did the reigning judge remain an inactive spectator of these horrible disorders ?
Mrs. M. The immorality and impiety of the Israelites
during the administration of the Judges, might lead us to conclusions unfavourable to the characters of the latter; but the chronology of some parts of their annals is so indistinct, that we may charitably refer their greatest deviations to the times when their historian
“ there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes," or in other words, perhaps, in that interregnum which might happen between the death of one Judge, and the appointment of another, not indeed to apologize for them, for they were never without an infallible monitor, had they chosen to ask counsel-but to relieve this distinguished order from the censure implied in your very obvious question.
About the same period in which the transactions I have been relating occurred, we find a man sacrificing his own daughter, or otherwise disposing of her, to perform a fash vow, in direct opposition to the law and custom of his country.
FANNY. To whom, mother, do you allude?
MRS. M. To Jephthah, whose disposition of his daughter has occasioned some discussion, not altogether satisfactory at last. The Israelites, ever ready to burst from the shackles of their own divine institutions, had renewed their forbidden intercourse with the natives, who on their part were ever ready to ensnare them. They married into their families, adopted their manners, and acknowledged their gods.
Incense arose from their verdant hills, and their vines and palms were interwoven into bowers for Baalim and Ashtaroth, the patrons of Zidon and Syria ! Insolence and domination were the fruits of familiarity with an unprincipled people, and eighteen years the deluded Israelites reaped their merited reward in the depredations of the Philistines on the one hand, and the Ammonites on the other. At length awakened from their delirium, they acknowledged the justice that had afflicted them, and implored the pity of their heavenly father; and to manifest their sincerity, they cut down the groves and demolished the altars they had impiously built. Resolving to drive out the invaders, they formed a camp in Mizpah, and chose Jephthah for their chief.
The gallant Jephthah was a Gileadite, who had been driven by his brethren from his father's house, because “ he was the son of a strange woman".
-a gentile perhaps, and therefore obnoxious to the hatred of a Hebrew family. An enterprising spirit, which made him famous in his retirement beyond Mount Hermon, on the border of Syria, and had probably given uneasiness to his fellow-citizens, was the true cause of his banishment, while the other served as a fair pretext. Fitted by a daring soul to conduct the projected war, he was invited by his native town to take the command of the troops, with a promise to continue him as chief, if he should subdue their enemies. Remembering their former injustice, he reproached the envoys, with coming to him in their distress, and refused to assist them until he had obtained a confirmation of their offer.
Before Jephthah took any hostile step, he sent to the king of Ammon, to enquire why he appeared in Gilead with an army? “ Because Gilead is mine,” returned the king, “ from the river Arnon unto Jabbok and Jordan. Those lands were wrested from me by the Israelites when they came out of Egypt: restore, therefore, peaceably my right.” A second message from the chief reminded him, that his ancestors had lost their lands by their active oppos