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worst is, that the example of the rich and noble influences every body else: whoever thrives so as to be never so little above the dregs of the people is ashamed to work, especially at husbandry. Hence come so many shifts to live by ones wits, so many new contrivances as are invented every day, to draw money out of one purse into another. God knows best how innocent all these unnatural ways of living are. They are at least most of them very precarious ; whereas the earth will always maintain those that cultivate it, if other people do not take from them the produce of it.
So far then is the country and laborious life of the Israelites from making them contemptible, that it is a proof of their wisdom, good education, and resolution to observe the rules of their fathers. They knew the first man was placed in the terrestrial paradise to work there;* and that, after his fall, he was condemned to more laborious and ungrateful toil. † They were convinced of those solid truths so often repeated in the books of Solomon: that Poverty is the fruit of laziness.f That he who sleeps in summer, instead of minding his harvest, or that plows not in winter for fear of the cold, deserves to beg and have nothings. That plenty is the natural consequence of labour and industry # That riches, too hastily got, are not blessed. There we see frugal poverty, with cheerfulness and plainness, preferred to riches and abun
blem is then
dance, with strife and insolence;* the inconvenience of the two extremes of poverty and wealth, and the Wise Man's desires, confined to the necessaries of life. He enters into a minute detail of economical precepts: Prepare thy work, says he, without, and make it fit for thyself in the field, and afterwards build thine house ;I which is the same with that maxim in Cato, that planting requires not much consideration, but building a great deal.
Now that which goes by the name of work, business, goods, in the book of Proverbs, and throughout the whole Scripture, constantly relates to country affairs ; it always means lands, vines, oxen and sheep. From thence are borrowed most of the metaphorical expressions. Kings and other chiefs are called shepherds; and the people, their flocks; to govern them, is to find pasture for them. Thus, the Israelites sought their livelihood only from the most natural sources, which are lands and cattle : and from hence, all that enriches mankind, whether by manufactures, trade, rents, or trafficking with money, is ultimately derived. What a blessing would it be to the world, were these times of primitive simplicity restored to mankind!
* Prov. xvii. 1. xix. 1.
Proy. xxiv, 27.
Prov. xxx. 8, 9.
The Nature of the Soil.-Its fruitfulness.
THE Israelites dwelt in the land that was promised to the Patriarchs, which the Scripture often describes as flowing with milk and honey, to express its great fertility. This country, which is so hot in comparison of ours, lies a great way within the temperate zone, between 31 and 33 degrees of northern latitude. It is bounded on the south by very high mountains, that defend it from the scorching winds that blow from the Arabian desarts, and which run as far to the east as they do. The Mediterranean, which bounds it to the west north west, supplies it with refreshing breezes; and mount Libanus, that is situated more to the north, intercepts those that are colder. The Mediterranean is what the Scripture commonly calls the Great Sea; for the Hebrews knew little of the ocean, and gave the name of seas to lakes and all great waters. The inland part of the country is varied with a great many mountains and hills proper for vines, fruit trees, and small cattle; and the valleys abound with streams, very necessary to water the country, which has no river but Jordan. There is seldom any rain, but at certain times: it falls in the spring and autumn, and is therefore called the early and latter, or the evening and morning rain, in Scripture, which reckons the year as one day. In summer, the great dews compensate for the
scarcity of rain. They had plains fit for tillage and pasture, particularly the great plain of Galilee : and this variety of land, within so small, a compass, must needs afford very beautiful landscapes, especially where a country is well peopled and cultivated.
For we are not to judge of the Holy Land from the condition it is now in. From the time of the Crusades, it was laid waste by continual wars, till it became subject to the Turks. By this means it is almost desolate. There is nothing to be seen but little paltry villages, ruins, lands uncultivated and deserted, but full of high grass, which shews their natural fertility. The Turks neglect it, as they do their other provinces; and several of the Arabian clans, called Bedouins, encamp there at pleasure, and plunder it with impunity. To know then what it was formerly, we must consult antient authors; Josephus, but above all the holy Scriptures.* Consider the report which the spies made that were sent by Moses, and the prodigious bunch of grapes they brought back.t And that we inay not be surprised at it, let us compare the grapes in France with those in Italy, which is a cold country in comparison of Palestine. It is the same with regard to most of our fruits. Their names still shew that we had them originally from Asia and Africa: but they have not retained their bigness and natural flavour with their names.
The Israelites had vast crops of corn and bar.
ley: wheat is reckoned among the chief commodities that they carried to Tyre.* They had plenty of oil and honey. The mountains of Judah and Ephraim were great vineyards. The palm trees that grew about Jericho yielded a considerable profit; and it was the only place in the world where the genuine balsam tree was to be found. I
This fertility of their country, and the pains they took to cultivate it, account for its maintaining such a multitude of people, though it was of so small extent. For what the Scripture says of it seems hardly credible at first sight. When the people first came into this land, there were more than six hundred thousand men bearing arms, from twenty years old to sixty.s In the war of Gibeah, the tribe of Benjamin alone, which was the least of all, had an army of twentysir thousand men, and the rest of the people had one of four hundred thousand.ll Saul headed two hundred and ten thousand men against the Amalekites, when he rooted them out., David always kept up twelve corps, each consisting of twenty-four thousand men, which served by the month, and amounted to two hundred and eighty thousand.** And when he numbered the people, which brought down the wrath of God upon him, there were one million three hundred thousand fighting men.tt Jehoshaphat had more in proportion: for though he had scarcely