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Art. IV.- A History of the Hebrew Monarchy from the
Administration of Samuel to the Babylonish Captivity.
THE Hebrew nation seems never to have had a genuine historical spirit. It is certain they have left us no pure historical compositions in the scanty records of their national literature. Perhaps none of their historical books preserved in the Old Testament are wholly authentic and free from fiction. In the early ages of the world it was natural that Mythology should take the place subsequently occupied by Philosophy, and that events should be referred directly to God which come only by the usual mediation of finite causes. An intelligent reader would be surprised to find Mr. Bancroft referring the war against King Philip to the direct counsel of God miraculously given to the governor of Massachusetts, but he will not be at all surprised to find similar events referred directly to the counsels of God miraculously given to Moses, or to Agamemnon, in the poetic writings of an earlier day. He would be surprised at the absence of such phenomena. We should be astonished if we did not find a mythology among the Hebrews in their earlier history, as well as among the Greeks and Hindoos. The earliest historical works of the Greeks which have come down to us are poems, not histories, and are of course mythological and not philosophical. At length we find a genuine historical literature in which the attempt is seriously made to relate historical facts in their natural historical order, referring human events to human and obvious causes; to tell a round, unvarnished tale. But such a genuine historical literature is scarcely found in the Hebrew records; all are more or less tinged by this mythological character. The books which treat of the earliest periods are, as it is natural, most strongly tinged with it.
Let any impartial man undertake to study the rise and progress of the nations of western Asia by the help of the He. brew literature alone, and he would arrive at very remarkable results if he treated his documents as purely historical, and placed implicit confidence in their authority. Let us take the first work — Genesis. We shall not speak of the omissions, nor of ordinary mistakes, which are natural and unavoidable, but of the fact that an attempt seems studiously made to blacken the characters of the numerous nations hostile to NO. II.
the Hebrews, by pointing out some bend sinister on their escutcheon, or some enormous fault in their early progenitors
thus ascribing to them an infamous descent. At the same time an attempt equally studious seems made to dignify and elevate the original stock of the Hebrews, referring that nation to ancestors the most celebrated and unimpeachable.
Abraham is regarded as the common father of many nations in western Asia who speak substantially the same language, and have many
customs and traditions in common, The curious traditions respecting him may easily be seen in D'Herbelot and elsewhere. The book of Genesis traces the descent of the Hebrews directly to Abraham. He is descended from Shem, the oldest son of Noah, and is but the tenth removed from that patriarch, deriving his lineage through nine generations of oldest sons. Abraham marries a wife, Sarah, of the same stock, she being his half-sister. They dwell in Ur, the land of the Chasdim, or Chaldees, but emigrate thence at the command of Jehovah. Now, the patriarch has also other wives of an inferior rank, but the Hebrews are descended from Sarah, the first wife, who is of superior rank, and also of the same illustrious birth with Abraham himself.
That is not all. Isaac, the son of Abraham, from whom the Hebrews originate, is born under peculiar circumstances; in the old age of his mother, born, too,
miraculously, in fulfilment of a promise made directly to Abraham and by Jehovah himself- a promise which seemed ridiculous even to the mother, and notwithstanding the dignity of the Being who made the promise. Other promises likewise are made ; his posterity are to possess the territory of ten distinct tribes or nations, all the land from the Euphrates to Egypt. When the miraculous child is born, God commands the father to sacrifice the new-born son, but the offering is miraculously prevented. The son grows up to manhood ; a wife must be found for him. But she must not be a woman of ordinary descent, coming from the nations of his own neighbourhood. She must come from the classic and distant land whence Abraham himself had emigrated; must be of the same lineage as her husband. So Rebekah, the daughter of a wealthy and conspicuous man, is found, and becomes the wife of Isaac. Jehovah takes a special care of the son, not less than of the sire. Rebekah bears two sons, twins, Esau and Jacob. One of these, Jacob, is the ancestor of the Hebrew race.
He is the young er of the two, but for a trifle buys the rights of the first-born from his elder brother, and gains in consequence a blessing from his father, which for ever entails upon him and his posterity all the favors that Jehovah had promised to bestow upon the children of Abraham. Jacob is thus represented as born of most illustrious ancestry, having a lineage spotless and august, and is heir of the promises formerly made by God.
When he also grows up to manhood, a wife must be sought for him, but not among the women of the neighbourhood. To keep the race pure and unmixed, he must return to the native land of his grandparents, and take a partner from the celebrated family which had already given to the world an Abraham, a Sarah, and a Rebekah. Jehovah watches over Jacob with the same speciality of affection he had formerly bestowed on Isaac and Abraham. He visits Jacob by night, gives counsel by day - instructing him in the art of overreaching his wives' father, and cautioning that father against interfering. To Jacob are born twelve sons and two daughters. The family are the special objects of Jehovah's care.
In this way a genealogy is made out which no ancient herald would find fault with. The Hebrews are the noblest of the noble, descended from the prime nobility of the earth. It is true, the character of Jacob is base and treacherous, when measured by the Christian standard of modern times; but in the estimation of the author of the narrative, the characteristic vices of the Supplanter were doubtless virtues, and seem to be related as if in themselves deserving praise. Had it seemed otherwise to him, he probably would have represented Jehovah as interposing to punish Jacob, or to prevent the birthright from descending to his posterity.
Now, as if this illustrious descent were not enough to dignify the Hebrew nation withal, a corresponding and parallel effort is made to cast a cloud over the origin of the other races most immediately in contact with them. Many of them, it is said, are descended from Ham, the second son of Noah, a mythological person held in high veneration by many of the Oriental races. But it is said that Ham committed an infamous offence which demanded the severest chastisement on the part of his father. Accordingly Noah curses Canaan, the youngest son of Ham. The Canaanites were the special objects of hatred to the Hebrews, in the early part of their history. The latter conquered and gradually absorbed” the
« territory of the former, expelling the inhabitants or reducing them to bondage. So the author of Genesis, after relating
the crime of Ham twice in a single paragraph, mentions the fact that Canaan is the son of Ham. The patriarch curses Canaan for his father's fault, and the curse is repeated three times in a single paragraph.
Thus, according to the ethnography of Genesis, one third of the human race are disgraced by the act of their great progenitor, Ham. His descendants are the numerous nations of Caucasian descent in the south and west of Asia, and the north of Africa, — the Ethiopians, Philistines, and the Egyptians. But though the disgrace must be shared equally by all the children of Ham, yet the curse falls specially upon Canaan. His posterity - taking the names from the common version of the Old Testament - are the Sidonians, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Amorites, Girgasites, Hivites, Arkites, Sinites, Arvadites, Hamathites, the Phoenicians, and the Syrians, with many others. These are the nations with whom the Hebrews are so often at war, and who were unworthy to furnish wives for Isaac and Jacob.
In language, manners, and institutions, some of the Arabian tribes were more closely allied to the Hebrews than the Canaanites, as it appears. This fact must be accounted for in the Hebrew history and ethnology. Accordingly they are derived from Abraham. But they also are polluted in their origin. They are not allowed to be descended from Sarah, the honorable and well-born wife of the great patriarch, but from Hagar, a secondary wife, or concubine, and also a slave in Abraham's family, whom Sarah once drove out of doors on account of her insubordination. In addition to this reproach, Hagar is herself an Egyptian woman, and therefore disgraced by her descent from the infamous family of Ham. However, after her expulsion from Abraham's household she returns, bears a son called Ishmael, and remains there until after the birth of Isaac, till Ishmael has nearly attained the age of manhood, as it appears. Then, at the instigation of Sarah, the slave-mother is turned out of doors and her son with her. God himself
approving of the expulsion, Ishmael must not be a joint-heir with Isaac, nor inherit the land or the promises. Still, as he also is Abraham's son, he must have a blessing and become a nation ; but when Ishmael's posterity are enumerated, pains are taken to add that he was the son of a female slave and she an Egyptian, a daughter, therefore, of the race of Ham.
Other kindred nations are also said to have been descended from Abraham, but having for their mother only an obscure
woman, Keturah, whom the author of the Chronicles seeks to degrade still more, calling her by a bad name, - calumniating Abraham while he blackens the origin of a hostile neighbour.
The Edomites, or Idumeans, had likewise a strong national resemblance to the Hebrews in many respects; they therefore must be referred to the same original. Accordingly they are descended from Esau, the twin-brother of Jacob. But Esau had shown himself unworthy of his privilege of primo geniture, and had shamefully sold the promises entailed upon the first-born. Thus the ancestry of the Idumeans is disgraced at an early period of the family history. But that is not enough ; Esau marries against his parents' consent, makes a shameful mésalliance, taking two wives, both of them Hittites, descendants, therefore, of the infamous family of Ham, and still more, of Canaan, the most infamous of that family, and inheritor of a special curse. Pains are taken to enumerate the descendants of this unfortunate marriage ; but we need not follow the children of Esau further than to show that the Edomites and Amalekites, powerful enemies of the Hebrews, were traced back to that original.
There remain yet two other nations often at war with the Hebrews, the Ammonites and the Moabites. The most intense national hatred appears to have existed between them and the descendants of Jacob, which continued long after the establishment of the monarchy. To these nations so formidable and de tested, an origin yet more disgraceful is assigned: they are the children of Lot and his own daughters - the sons of incest and drunkenness at the very beginning. When the birth of Moab and Ben-ammi is recorded, the author diligently adds that they are the parents of the Ammonites and Moabites. Thus the early and most important enemies of the Hebrews are disposed of, and referred to some disgraceful original. An ingenious man might put all these things together, and, considering also what nations are not thus traduced, might give a shrewd guess at the date of the book of Genesis itself.
The other four books of Moses, as they are called, are not more precisely historical than the first, equally legendary and mythical in the portions which relate to history, and marked by the same intense nationality, which is at times ferocious. Of the historical inaccuracies of Deuteronomy, the last of these, and of the apparent mode in which it was composed, we shall speak in a subsequent part of this article.*
* See also De Wette, Introduction to the Old Testament, Vol. II. pp. 144 - 164.