Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

of it in the names of David's brethren and children * .' - Such are the names which appear so barbarous to us for want of understanding the He: brew tongue. "Are they not full as significant as those of castles and towns which our nobility assume? The Greek names, whose sound we are so fond of, are of the same import. Many are composed of the names of their gods; as Diodorus, Diogenes, Hermodorus, Hephæstion, Athenais, "Artemisia. But several are derived from their love of exercise, particularly of riding, as Philip, Damasippus, or Hippodamas, Hegesippus, Hippomedon, &c. • They often added the father's name,, either for distinction or respect's sake, to shew that the father was a man of renown: perhaps Solomon had this custom in his eye, when he said, the glory of children is their fathers f. Thus we see in Homer, that the Greeks took the paternal name for a mark of honour 5. Sometimes the mother's name was given for the surname; as when the father had many wives, or when the mother was of the better family. So Joab and his brethren are always called the sons of Zeruiah, who was David's sister $. If the name of the father was not distinction enough, they added the grandfather's, as Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan ||. And this is the reason of so many names that appear tiresome to us: for they went sometimes as high as the great-grandfather, or higher. Sometimes a sur

* i Chron. ii. 13. and iii. 1. + Prov. xvii. 6. Iliad x. v. 68. $ i Chron. ii. 16. Jerem. xxxix. 14.

name

name was taken from the head of a particular branch, from a town, a country, or a nation, if they were originally strangers; as Uriah the Hittite, Araunah the Jebusite. . · The Greeks had no surnames but what they took from their father or country. The Romans had family names, to which they only added the distinction of some great office or remarkable victory; but in deeds, they always set down the father's name. Many of the European nations still retain the same custom; and most of our surnames come from the proper names of the fathers, which have remained with their children. As to the titles of lordships, they are not abovę seven hundred years old, no more than the lordships themselves. We must not be surprised to see in Scripture, David the son Jesse, and Solomon the son of David, any more than Alexander the son of Philip, and Ptolemy the son of Lagus, in Greek authors.

The principal distinction that birth occasioned among the Israelites, was that of the Levites and priests. The whole tribe of Levi was dedicated to God, and had no inheritance but the tenths and the first-fruits, which it received from the other tribes. Of all the Levites, the descendants of Aaron only were priests; the rest were employed in the other functions of religion ; in singing psalms, taking care of the tabernacle or temple, and instructing the people. Two of the other tribes were sufficiently distinguished. That of Judah was always the most illustrious and the most numerous; of which, according to Jacob's prophecy, their

kings, kings, and the Messiah himself, were to come*. That of Ephraim held the second rank on account of Joseph. Yet the eldest branches and the heads of each family were most esteemed in every tribe: and this made Saul say, surprised with the respect that Samuel paid him, Am not I of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin t? - Age too made a great distinction; and the name of old man in Scripture generally denotes dignity. Indeed, there was nothing but age and experience that could distinguish men equally noble, and of the same education and employments, and almost equally rich. got into the good graces of Boaz by gleaning at his harvest. Saul, though a king, was driving oxen, when he received the news of the danger Jabesh Gilead was in*. Everybody knows that. David was keeping sheep, when Samuel sent to look for him to anoint him kingt; and he returned to his flock after he had been called to play upon the harp before Saulf. After he was king, his sons made a great feast at the shearing of their sheeps. Elisha was called to be a prophet as he drove one of his father's twelve ploughs. The child that he brought to life again was with his father at the harvest when it fell sick. And Judith's husband, tho' very rich, got the illness of which he died on the like occasion.** The Scripture abounds with such examples.

CHAP. II. .. Their Employments ---Agriculture. W E do not find any distinct professions among the Israelites. From the eldest of the tribe of Judah to the youngest of that of Benjamin, they were all husbandmen and shepherds, driving their ploughs and watching their flocks themselves 1. The old man of Gibeah, that lodged the Levite, whose wife was abused, was coming back at night from his work, when he invited him to sojourn with him. . Gideon himself was threshing his corn when the angel told him he should deliver his peoples. Ruth

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

This, without doubt, is what most offends those who are not acquainted with antiquity, and have no opinion of any customs but their own. When one speaks of ploughmen and shepherds, they figure to themselves a parcel of clownish boors, that lead a slavish niiserable life, in poverty and contempt, without courage, without sense or education. They dont consider, that what makes our country-people commonly so wretched, is their being slaves to all the rest of mankind : since they work not only for their own maintenance, but to furnish necessaries for all those that live in a better man

* 1 Sam. xi. 5.
§ 2 Sam. xiii. 23.

+ 1 Sam. xvi. 11. .
| 1 Kings xix. 19.
** Judith vii. 3.

I 1 Sam. xvii. 15.
q 2 Kings iv. 18..

ner.

ner. For it is the countryman that provides for the citizens, the officers of the courts of judicature and treasury, gentlemen, and ecclesiastics : and whatever ways we make use of to turn money into provisions, or provisions into money, all will end in the fruits of the earth, and those animals that are supported by them. Yet when we compare all these different conditions together, we generally place those that work in the country in the last rank: and most people set a greater value upon fat idle citizens, that are weak, and lazy, and good for nothing, because, being richer, they live more luxuriously, and at their ease.

But if we imagine a country, where the difference of conditions is not so great, where to live genteelly is not to live without doing any thing at all, but carefully to preserve ones liberty, which consists in being subject to nothing but the laws and public authority; subsisting upon ones own stock, without depending upon any body, and being content with a little, rather than do a mean thing to grow rich; a country where idleness, effeminacy, and ignorance of what is necessary for the support of life, were discountenanced, and where pleasure was in less esteem than health and strength: in such a country it would be more creditable to plow, or keep a flock, than to follow diversions, and idle away all ones time. Now there is no necessity of having any recourse to Plato's commonwealth to find men of this character, for so lived the greatest part of mankind for nearly four thousand years.

Το

« PoprzedniaDalej »