Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

auction, and divided their lands among their own citizens, whom they sent to establish colonies there : which was the certain way to secure their conquests. Neither the Jews nor Israelites were so hardly used by the Assyrians. Some had great liberty allowed them, as Tobit by king Enemessar; and there were some rich among ihem, as Tobit himself, his kinsman Raguel, and his friend Gabael;* and at Babylon Joachim, Susanna's husband. It appears likewise by the story of Susanna, that the Jews, notwithstanding their captivity, had the exercise of their laws, and the power to appoint judges of life and death,

However, it was impossible but this mingling with strangers should cause some change in their manners, since one of their chief maxims was to separate themselves from all other nations. Many were prevailed upon to worship idols, eat forbidden food, and marry wives from among strangers, and all conformed to their masters in things indifferent, one of which was their language. Thus, during the seventy years that the captivity lasted, they forgot Hebrew, and none but the learned understood it, as it is now with the Latin among us. Their vulgar tongue was the Syriac or Chaldee, such as that in which a large portion of Daniel and Ezra are written, and the Targums or Paraphrases upon Scripture that were composed afterwards, that the people might understand it. They changed their letters too, and, instead of the old ones which the Samaritans have preserved, took the Chaldean, which we erroneously call the Hebrew,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

CHAP. II.

The Return of the Jews, and their State under the

Persians.

HEN Cyrus gave them their liberty, with Jeave to go back into Judea and rebuild the temple, they did not all return, nor at one time. There was a great number that stayed at Babylon, and in all places where they were settled: And they that came back were not all Jews: some few of the ten tribes joined themselves to them, and yet they made but a small number altogether. The first, that Zerubabel conducted, did not amount to fifty thousand, with the servants that attended them:* and one may see their poverty by the small number of their servants and cattle. What comparison is there betwixt fifty thousand souls, and what there must have been in the time of Jehoshaphat to make up twelve hundred thousand fighting men? There came besides with Ezra about fifteen hundred, and we may suppose there were several other companies.

They did what they could to discover their former inheritances, and preserve each family's share. Upon this account Ezra collected all the genealogies that are at the beginning of the Chronicles, where he chiefly enlarges upon the

* Ezra ii. 64.

Ezra viii.

three

three tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin; and carefully sets down their habitations. To people Jerusalem, they received all that would come and settle there, which confounded, no doubt, the order of their shares.* Besides, it was just, that such as were present should take possession of their lands, who had no mind to return, or perhaps were not in being. So, in the later times, Joseph dwelt at Nazareth in Galilee, though his family was originally of Bethlehem; and Anna the prophetess lived at Jerusalem. But still they knew what tribe they were of, and carefully preserved their genealogies, as we see by Joseph's, who was only a poor artificer. They likewise carefully distinguished the true Israelites from strangers that had been admitted into their society,t whom they called geiores in their own tongue, and proselytes in Greek. I

Thus one of their first concerns, after their restoration, was to separate themselves from strangers, and to make the prohibitions of the law, relating to marriages with infidels, observed :$ which they extended to nations not

* Two sortent out of replay

*** Nehem. xi. 3.

+ Two sorts of men joined themselves to the Israelites, when they went out of Egypt: One sort were native Egyptians, called by the Septuagint autoxboves, those born in the land; the others were a mixed multitude, who are termed by the Septuagint yowgass, Exod. xii. 19. from 7gur, a stranger. These were extraneous persons among the Egyptians, who took the land to till at a certain rent: such were the Jews before they went up out of Egypt. Both these sorts of men the Scripture comprehends under the denomination of a mixed multitude, Exod. xii. 38. See Valesius's Notes on Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. i.c.7.

African apud Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. i. c. 7. Ś Ezra ix. i, &c.

specified

:sed in the law ort of the Phillshites.

The

specified in the law; namely, to the people of Azotus, who were part of the Philistines; to the Egyptians, Ammonites, and Moabites. The evils that the Jews were sensible they had received from these marriages, since the bad example of Solomon, inclined the wise men to interpret the law in this sense, and extend it rather beyond the import of the letter, that they might more effectually fulfil the intention of it. The priests were most strict in observing these prohibitions: they married none but women of their own tribe, and Josephus has informed us of the precautions used about it even in his time. * In general the Jews were never so faithful to God; and, after they returned from captivity, we never hear idolatry once mentioned among them: so much were they struck with that severe punishment, and the accomplishment of the prophecies that threatened them with it. Indeed, apostates were entirely at liberty to stay among the Infidels: so that there appeared none but such as were really Jews.

Under the first kings of Persia, they were still very weak, envied by the strangers their neighbours, especially the Samaritans, exposed to their insults and calumnies, and in danger of having their throats cut upon the least signification of the king's pleasure; as we see by the cruel edict that Haman obtained against them, from the effects of which they were saved by queen Esther. They could not finish the rebuilding of the temple, till twenty years after

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

their first coming back, nor raise the walls of Jerusalem again, under sixty years more; so they were fourscore years in renewing the whole. The country must have been very poor, since Herodotus, who lived at that time, comprehends Syria, Phænicia, Palestine, and the Isle of Cyprus, under one single government, that paid Darius but three hundred and fifty talents tribute,* which was no more than was paid by one of the least provinces: whereas that of Babylon alone paid a thousand. This revenue was doubled in the time of the Romans for Palestine alone : it brought in to Herod and his sons seven hundred and sixty talents, which, to compute by the smaller talent, amount to about sixty-eight thou. sand seven hundred and fifty pounds sterling.t.

By little and little, the Jews were established again, and during the reign of the Persians they lived under their own laws, in the form of a commonwealth, governed by the high priest, and the council of seventy-two elders. The country was repeopled, the towns new built, and the lands better cultivated than ever. Plenty was seen again, and there was such a profound peace and tranquillity, that, for near three hundred years, there happened no commotions, nor any thing thar makes the common subject of his

tories; and thence proceeds that great void that a we find between the time of Nehemiah and the

Maccabees, The temple was honoured even by strangers, who visited it, and brought offerings thither.1 In short, the prosperity of the

* Herod. lib. iii. . t Joseph. Bell, Jud. l. ii. c. 4,
Philo, leg,

Jews

« PoprzedniaDalej »