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THE HEBREW MONARCHY.
A History of the Hebrew Monarchy from the Administration
of Samuel to the Babylonish Captivity. London: 1847. 1 vol. 8vo, pp. xii. and 372.
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 hisVOL. X.-Critical Writings, 2.
tories, 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 Hebrew 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 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 com
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 şame illustrious birth with Abraham himself.