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We do not see that there were any sacrifices offered upon the occasion, that they went to the temple, or sent for the priests: all was transacted betwixt the relations and friends: so that it was no more than a civil contract.
As to circumcision, it was really a religious act, and absolutely necessary, at that time, for all that would enter into the covenant of Abraham. But yet it was performed in private houses, without the ministry of Priests or Levites. If any body of a public character was sent for, it was a sort of surgeon used to the operation, whom they called Moled : and such sort of people the Jews have still. In all these ceremonies we must take care not to be imposed upon by modern pictures, as I said about clothes.
The Israelites were so far from being afraid of plenty of children, that it was what they wished for. Besides, their natural inclination, they had great motives to it from the law. They knew that God, when he created the world, and repaired it after the deluge, had said, Increase and multiply in the earth; that he had promised Abraham a numerous posterity: in a word, that from among them was to be born the Saviour of the world; we may add to this, that they were not influenced by those narrow considerations, which make the blessing of children now a days looked upon as a misfortune.
By reason of their frugal way of life, they were at small expence in feeding them whilst they were little, and less in clothing them, for in those hot countries they often 'let them go naked; and when they grew up, they helped them in their work, and saved the expence of
slaves or hired servants: and indeed they had but few slaves in proportion to their work. Ziba, Saul's servant, ploughed Mephibosheth's estate with his fifteen sons and twenty servants.* They were in no pain about providing for their children, since they had no fortunes to raise for them: all their ambition was to leave their children the inheritance they had received from their ancestors, better cultivated if possible, and with a larger stock upon it. As for the daughters, they never inherited but in default of male issue;t they were sought in marriage more upon account of their families than their riches.
It was therefore a convenience, as well as an honour, to have a great many children. He - was esteemed happy, who saw himself father of a large family, and surrounded with a great number of children, and grand-children, always ready to receive his instructions and execute his commands; and was under no apprehension of having his name forgotten whilst his posterity · subsisted. Children's children are the crown of old men, $ says the Scripture; and when it takes notice of the number of children, it is commonly in praise of their parents : as those two judges of Israel, one of whom had thirty sons, the other . forty, and thirty grand-sons ;|| as David, nineteen of whose sons are named, besides those that he had by his concubines; Rehoboam, who had twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters,** and Abia, who had twenty-two sons and sixteen
of the Israelites. [Part II. daughters.* In the same manner the Poets make mention of the fifty sons of Priamus, for the Greeks had no less esteem for fruitfulness. Virginity, considered as a virtue, was at that time little known, and looked upon in the same light with sterility; and the women that died unmarried, were reckoned unfortunate. Electra, in Sophocles, bemoans herself expressly upon it, and this was the occasion of the repining of Jephtha's daughter.f Hence, barrenness came to be a reproach to married women, as we see by Samuel's mother, and many others. I This misfortune was looked upon as a curse from God. · This care for posterity was the foundation of the law that enjoined a man to marry his brother's widow, when he died without children. A law, existing in the Patriarchal times, as appears by the story of Tamar;s and looked upon as a duty, that the name of the deceased night not be forgotten: and so the children were reckoned his by a sort of adoption. From hence proceed the two genealogies of Jesus Christ; one, according to St. Matthew; and the other aecording to St. Luke. For thus it was found, that Joseph had two fathers, one by whom he was begotten, and the other by legal adoption. Besides, the marrying a sister-in-law was not contrary to the first law of nature, which allowed marrying even one's own sister, before. God forbad it.
It was the desire of having a great number of
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children, that induced the Israelites to take several wives at a time: which they esteemed an honour, and sign of dignity. It is thus that Isaiah, to shew how much valued those of God's people should be, whom he should preserve, says, that seven women shall take hold of one man,* offering to live at their own expence, provided they had the honour to be called bv his name. Thus it is likewise said, that Rehoboami had eighteen wives and threescore concubines, and that he gave many wives to his son Abia, whom he chose for his successorit.
They were yet very sparing in the use of marriage; they did not only abstain from it, whilst their wives were big with child, and otherwise indisposed, but all the time they were nurses, for two or three years together : and mothers did not often dispense with themselves from giving suck to their own children. We find but three nurses mentioned in the Scripture, that is, Rebecca's, I Mephibosheth's, s and she that nursed Joash king of Judah.||
We ought not then to wonder that God tolerated polygamy, which was introduced before the deluge, though it was contrary to the first institution of marriage. For when it was instituted in the terrestrial paradise, there was yet no concupiscence. Polygamy then was like divorces, which Jesus Christ told the Jews had never been allowed them but for the hardness of their hearts.** Besides wives, they had likewise con
cubines, who were commonly slaves; lawful wives had no other advantage over them, than the honour of having their children preferred to the inheritance. So that the name of concubinage had no ill signification, as with us. It was only a less solemn wedding.
This liberty, besides, was very far from rendering the state of matrimony more convenient; it made the yoke of it much heavier. A husband could not so equally divide his heart ainongst many wives, as to please them all: which obliged him to govern them in an absolute manner, as the eastern people still do. So that there was no longer any equality, friendship, or society in marriage. It was still harder for the rival wives to agree amongst themselves: there was no end of divisions, cabals, and domestic quarrels. All the children of one wife had so many mothers-in-law, as their father had more wives: each espoused the interest of it's own mother, and looked upon the children of the other wives as strangers or enemies. From hence comes the way of speaking so common in Scripture, it is my brother and the son of my mother. We see examples of these divisions in the family of Da. vid, and still worse in that of Herod.
The liberty of being set loose by divorce, had also very bad consequences, People engaged themselves more unwarily, and took less pains to please one another; and a man had it in his power to have so many wives, that it was no better than an excuse for debauchery. We know the disorder there was at Rome, after the decay of the commonwealth; whereas, whilst good manners subsisted there, that is, till the