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CHAP. I. The Israelites.-Their Mobility. THOUGH the people were already very nu. merous, they were still called the children of Israel, as if they had been but one family; in the same manner as they said, the children of Edom, the children of Moab, &c. Indeed all these people were still distinct: they knew their own origin, and took a pride in preserying the name of their author. Thence probably it comes that the name of children signified, with the antients, a nation, or certain sort of people. Homer often says, the children of the Greeks, and the children of the Trojans. The Greeks used to say, the children of the physicians, and grammarians. With the Hebrews, the chil. dren of the east, are the eastern people; the children of Belial, the wicked; the children of men, or Adam, mankind. And in the Gospel we often see, the children of this world-of darkness, and of light-and also, the children of the bridegroom, for those that go along with him to his wedding.
The Lsraelites were divided into twelve tribes,
* Gen. xxv. 15.
There was the same number of the Ishmaelites, and as many of the Persians. The people of Athens were at first composed of four tribes, afterwards divided into ten, to which they gave the names of ten heroes, who for this reason were called Eponymi, and whose statues were set up in the public Exchange*, The Roman people were also distributed into three or four tribes, which increased to thirty-five. The names of them are still upon record, But these Athenian and Roman tribes were made up of different families collected together to keep order in their assemblies and elections: whereas, those of the Israelites were naturally distinct, and were only twelve large families, descended from twelve brothers,
They were very exact in keeping their gę. nealogies, and knew all the succession of their ancestors, as high as the patriarch of their tribe, from whom it is easy going back to the first man. Thus they were really brethren, that is to say, kinsmen, according to the eastern language, and of genuine nobility, if ever there was such a thing in the world.
They had preserved the purity of their families, by taking care, as their fathers did, not to marry with the nations descended from Canaan, who were under a curse f. For we do not find that the Patriarchs avoided matches with any other people, or that they were expressly forbidden by the law to marry with them. Their
* Xenoph. Cyrop. Demosth. in Timocr. in Leptin. et ibi Ulpian. + Exod. xxxiv. 16. Deut. vii. 3.. D2
families were fixed and tied down by the same law to certain lands, on which they were obliged to live, during the space of the nine hundred years I have mentioned. Should we not esteem that family very noble indeed, that could shew as long a succession of generations, without any disgraceful weddings in it, or change of manşion? Few noblemen in Europe can prove so much.
We are deceived by not seeing titles among the Israelites like those of our nobility. Every one was called plainly by his own name; but their names signified great things, as those of the Patriarchs. The name of God was part of most; which was in a manner a short prayer. Elijah and Joel are made up of two of God's names joined in a different way: Jehosaphat and Sephatiah signify the judgment of God: Jehozadak and Zedekiah, his justice : Johanan, or John, the son of Hananiah, his mercy: Nathanael, Elnathan, Jonathan, and Nethaniah, all four signify, God given, or the gift of God, Sometimes the name of God was understood, as in Nathan, David, Obed, Uzzah, Ezra or Esdras: as is plain by Eliezer, God my helper: Uzziel, God my strength : and Obadiah, the Lord's servant; where it is expressed. Some of their names were mysterious and prophetical, as that of Joshua or Jesus, Saviour, and those which Hosea and Isaiah gave their children by the order of God *. Other names shewed the piety of their fathers; and we may see instances
* Hosea i. 4. Isaiah viii. 3.