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sition to the passage of the Israelites through it into Cain naan : that no claim had disturbed the possession these last had acquired, now, for three hundred years, and that they would defend what the Lord their God had given them. But the Ammonites persisted in their claim, and war was declared.
The Israelitish general having now the rights of his nation to defend, as well as personal honour to acquire, made a formal vow on the eve of the expected battle, that if the enemy should be given into his hand, he would offer a burnt-offering, or he would consecrate to the Lord whatsoever came forth first to meet him from his house when he returned in peace.
The war was successful, and Jephthah returned in triumph to his dwelling. But short-lived are the triumphs of mortals !-- The door of his house is opened, and a bem loved daughter comes forth with instruments of music to welcome his return! His daughter-the only child of his affection, the innocent victim of his unlawful oath, Jephthạh could not conceal his distress ! He told her his engagement, adding, “ I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back !" Full of pity for her father, and pious gratitude for the deliverance of her country, the amiable maiden submitted ; requiring only permission to retire with her female companions for a time, to lament her bard destiny !
CHARLES. Dear mother! do not tell us that Jephthah sacrificed his only child !
Mrs. M. Alas, my son lmthere is the difficulty which I am not able to solve to my own perfect satisfaction. The act was so unnatural, human sacrifices were so strictly forbidden, that some commentators have embraced a conStruction of the words“ he did according to his vow," less revolting than your apprehension. We are told in the conclusion of the story, that it became a custom for the daughters of Israel to go four days in the year, to lament, or to talk with the daughter of Jephthah; from which they suppose she retired to a solitude in the mountains, and was condemned to a single life. - CATHERINE. To relinquish altogether the society of his daughter-that daughter too his only child, might indeed fill the heart of Jephthah with sorrow: but a burntoffering implies the death of the victim.
MRS. M. The advocates for the more favourable construction of Jephthah's vow, make it convertible to the case as it might happen, by rendering the words, and offer åt, into a conditional promise
or offer it, as might be suitable, when the thing devoted should be seen. Certain animals no more than human creatures, might be offered in sacrifice but they might be vowed and afterwards redeemed. It is reasonable to suppose that Jephthah, having this alternative, would not hesitate to save his only daughter.
Amongst the Judges of Israel we must not omit the celebrated Samson, whose supernatural strength enabled him to perform such miraculous achievements.
CHARLES. Do you call Samson a Judge? I had supposed him a sort of lawless adventurer, who took advantage of his extraordinary strength, to commit depredations on his neighbours.
Mrs, M. Your error has arisen from reading the story of “ the strongest man” unconnected with the history of his nation. Great events fill the mind with delight, and sink deep into the memory, whilst the moral end is unattended to, or forgotten.
Samson was one of those men who was endowed from his birth with extraordinary qualities for the public service. His parents were informed of his honourable destiny before he was born, by a special message from Heaven, and commanded to “ let no razor come upon his head, for he should be a Nazarite of God.”
FANNY. What is a Nazarite?
MRS. M. The denomination is from a word which signifies, to separate. In the sixth chapter of Numbers you will see the law of Moses for the government of a Nazarite, or a person who had consecrated himself to the performance of a religious vow. Amongst other rituals to be observed, by his class, he was not to cut his hair until the days of his vow were fulfilled. Samson was devoted by God himself all the days of his life, therefore his hair was never to be shorn,
The Israelites were at this time in subjection to the Philistines,* descendants of Ham the son of Noah, who had emigrated from Egypt, and now possessed a strip of country along the Mediterranean, divided into five principalities, called Gaza, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Gath, and Ekron. The tribe of Dan, to which Manoah the father of Samson belonged, lay adjacent to Philistia. Possessing, as yet, but a part of the inheritance which had been allotted to them, and too much confined for their population in that which they occupied, they had lately sent an expedition against a place called Laish, routed the inhabitants, repaired the city, and given it the name of Dan. Their camp
* Palestine, one of the appellations of the land of Canaan, was derived from this people, and appears to have been as ancient as the days of Moses, (See Exodus, 15. 14.) but not much used until more modern times,
yet remained, and thither Samson, as he grew up, was accustomed to resort and display his uncommon strength in feats of activity. About his twentieth year, in one of his rambles, he fell in love with a beautiful woman of Timnath, a city of Gath, and entreated his parents to obtain her for him in marriage. They objected, that she was the daughter of an enemy, and advised him rather to seek a wife amongst his own people ; but unable to divert his unhallowed passion, they consented to accompany him to make the treaty. On the way to Timnath he attacked à young lion, and slew him as easily as he would have killed a kid. His father and mother being at some distance on the journey, did not witness this exploit, nor did he relate it to any one. Some time after, when he went to receive his bride, he found a swarm of bees in the carcass of the lion, and ate of the honey they had made. From this incident he contrived a riddle for the entertainment of the wedding guests, and to thirty young men amongst them especially, he offered each a change of garments if they should expound it, and if they failed, thirty changes should be given to him. 66 Out of the eater," said he, forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.” The seven days* of festivity were spent in unavailing endeavours to discover Samson's riddle, but the secret which their wit could not penetrate, was betrayed by the bride, whom the young men had entangled by the specious reproach of having invited them to a feast in order to defraud them of their goods, and at last, terrified with the threat of burning her, with all her father's house, unless she prevailed with her husband to explain his riddle to her.
See Leah's week, ante,
She too had her irresistible plea" thou dost' not love me,” said she weeping, when weaker arguments had assailed him without effect. This was not to be resisted : his contest with the lion was confided to his wife, and her countrymen were soon enabled to meet him exultingly with the solution-" what is sweeter than honey, and what is stronger than a lion ?”
The base manner in which the young Philistines had obtained the forfeit, might have exonerated the abused husband from his obligation, but the opportunity of giving them an earnest of his powers, was not to be neglectedhe therefore went down to Ashkelon, and procured the thirty garments, by slaying thirty Philistines. Thus the illegal marriage of Samson, so inauspicious in the eyes of his family, prepared the way for the emancipation of Israel. Disgusted, however, by the perfidy of his wife, he left her, and returned for a time to his father's house. Absence, in a few months, mollified his resentment, and returning love brought him back with a conciliating present in his band, to his fair wife, but resentment, was rekindled, and encreased into rage, when he found her in the possession of his friend! In vain her father excused himself, on the supposition of her having been entirely abandoned by Samson, and offered him a younger daughter, still more beautiful than she. Deaf to all overtures of accommodation, the injured husband flew to avenge himself on the Philistines, whose artifices had destroyed his domestic peace. Three hundred foxes were soon collected by Samson, which, after tying them in pairs, and attaching a firebrand to each pair, he let loose in their fields and vineyards, and laid the whole in ruin !
There was no difficulty in laying the mischief at the door