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14

CHAP. II.

From the Deluge, to the Confusion of Languages at Babel.

B. C.

47. ANXIOUS to express his gratitude for that distinguished act of mercy which had preserved his family from the recent judgment, Noah, immediately upon his debarkation, built an altar, and offered a sacrifice of every clean beast and of every clean fowl. An action which proved so acceptable, that God is said to have smelled a sweet savour, and to have declared that he would no more curse the ground for man's sake; but that it should enjoy an uninterrupted succession of seasons, till the period of its final dissolution. The patriarch and his family were also honored with a solemn blessing, and received the Divine permission to appropriate the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea to their own use, and to eat of them as freely as they had hitherto done of the herbs and fruits of the earth: they were, however, strictly enjoined to abstain from the blood of every living creature, to avoid shedding that of their fellow mortals, and to punish the crime of murder with death.

The Deity, likewise condescended, on this memorable occasion, to make a covenant with the objects of his especial favor, respecting the future safety of the terraqueous globe, and promised as a token of his immutable determination, to set his bow in the clouds when it rained, that the sons of men might look on it, and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature that moveth upon the earth.

Noah, having received these inestimable marks of affection from the Great Object of his adoration, descended from the mountains of Ararat, whereon the ark had rested, and applied himself to the labours of husbandry. He also planted a vineyard, where, at the time of the vintage, he drank too freely of the inebriating juice of the grape, and lay carelessly uncovered within his tent. In this disgraceful attitude he was discovered by his son Ham, who instantly ran to apprise his brothers of the circumstance, and to invite them to behold and ridicule the infirmity of their parent. Shem and Japhet, however, were too tenacious of the patriarch's honor and their own obedience to comply with so improper a request; and therefore, having provided themselves with a garment, they walked backwards and covered their father, with filial respect and decorum; in consequence of which Noah, when he awoke, bestowed a solemn benediction upon them; but denounced a dreadful curse against Canaan, the fourth son of the offender, saying, "Cursed be Canaan, a * servant of

servants shall he be unto his brethren."

*As we have already observed that some authors are in clined to suppose Cain the progenitor of the Blacks, on account of the mark which God set upon him; so many persons imagine that the origin of that people may be traced to Canaan, on account of this singular and heavy curse. This paint we shall leave to the private judgment of our readers: but it is proper to remark, that the curse was awfully accomplished in the extirpation, or subjugation of the Canaanites by the Jews; in the subsequent expeditions of the Assyrians and Persians; in the memorable conquests achieved by the Greeks and Ro mans in Phoenice and Palestine; and in the total subversion of the Carthaginian state and people.

No farther particulars are recorded respecting Noah, but that he died in the nine hundred and fiftieth year of his age. The Orientals, however, affirm that he was buried in Mesopotamia, where his sepulchre is still shown, in the vicinage of an edifice which is called Dair Abunah, or "the monastery of our father."

As all mankind are descended from the three sons of Noah, who were preserved from destruction by the merciful appointment of their Creator, it seems requisite to sketch out some particulars concerning these persons, and their immediate descendants, not only for the instruction of our juvenile readers, but also to render this department of our work complete.

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Japhet, who appears to have been the eldest son of Noah, was blessed for his dutiful behaviour to his father, in these terms:- "God shall enlarge Japhet, and hẹ shall dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan shall bẹ his servant." This benediction seems to have been uttered in the spirit of prophecy, and has been fully completed in the great possessions which fell to the posterity of Japhet, viz. to Gomer, the father of the Gauls and Germans; to Javan, the ancestor of the Greeks; and to Meshech, the progenitor of the Muscovites and other European nations.

Shem, though the second son of Noah, seems to have had the right of primogeniture vested in him, and his posterity are twice recited by the inspired historian: but as the histories of these patriarchs are more brief than those of the descendants of Ham, nothing can be collected from Scripture respecting them, except their ages and the time when they begat their sons, which merely enables us to collect the chronology of this period. The birth of Shem seems to have happened about the year

of the world 1558, for at the birth of Arphaxad, two years after the flood, he is said to have been one hundred years old. He received a solemn blessing from Noah, as a remuneration of the dutiful action which he performed in conjunction with his brother Japhet, and died in the six hundreth year of his age, leaving behind him five sons: viz. Elam, Ashur,, Arphaxad, Lud and Aram, from whom sprang the Persians, the Assyrians, the Hebrews, the Syrians and other Asiatic nations.

With respect to Ham, the youngest son of Noah, we have already remarked that he was cursed, for his irreverent conduct, toward his father, not in his own person, but in a branch of his posterity. This curse, falling upon Canaan, rather than upon the offender him. self, has given rise to many conjectures and disputations among the learned, some of whom suppose that the patriarch expressed his resentment in this manner to avoid cursing Ham, whom God had recently blessed, on his landing from the ark; and others imagine, with a greater appearance of reason, that Moses designed, by reciting this prediction, to show the Israelites that the people of Canaan laboured under an ancient curse, and consequently to prepare them for the destined subjugation of that idolatrous race. Of the transactions of Ham, subsequent to that disgraceful one which has been already noticed, nothing is recorded in the blessed volume of inspiration. He appears, however, to have left four sons, Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan, who became the progenitors of the Ethiopians, Egyptians, Philistines and Canaanites, with other nations inhabiting Africa and Asia.

B. C.

Shortly after the demise of Noah, his three 1996. sons, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, removed with

their respective families, from the neighbourhood of Ararat, and travelled from the east, till they arrived at an extensive plain in the land of Shinaar, where they immediately resolved to take up their abode. In con sequence of this determination, it was proposed to build a city, and a tower whose top might reach to heaven, for the express purpose of preventing the dispersion of their families, and in order to make them a sign, or name, on the earth. Accordingly the foundations were laid, and the structure carried on to a considerable height, bricks supplying the want of stone, and slime, or bitumen, being used instead of mortar: but God, who, in infinite wisdom, had decreed the welfare of his creatures, by that identical circumstance which they so anxiously sought to elude, compelled the builders to relinquish their design, by introducing a total confusion of languages. The city immediately took the name of Babel, or confusion; and the whole race of Noah, who had hitherto spoken one language, and lived in one great community, were scattered abroad upon the face of all the earth, as a requisite preliminary to the planting of commonwealths, states, and kingdoms.

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