Imágenes de páginas

stances, and in the absence of any divine prohibition, there was no reason against it. ii. 29. xx. 11.

116. And here we may remark an interesting circumstance, showing a harmony in the recorded statements of the book on which our discussions are employed. At first we know that brothers must have married sisters; at least one or more such instances must have occurred. This being so, we the more readily account for a union between near relations at a later day; and it may throw some light on what would otherwise seem incredible in the conduct of the daughters of Lot, when they supposed all the rest of the world to be destroyed, and the only hope of a future race, depended on themselves. They had no divine command to restrain them. They had the union of very near relations, as a not uncommon practice. Their residence in Sodom had not improved their sensibilities; and the mountain cave shut out their crime from all the rest of the world, even if they did not suppose (as the passage seems to indicate) that all the rest of the world were destroyed. xix. 30, 38.

117. It was not anciently necessary that the parties who were to be united in marriage should be previ ously acquainted. Hence Abraham sent his servant to procure a wife for Isaac, whom he had never before seen. It will be farther observed that the parties themselves had very little to do in the matter. The principal things were attended to by their parents. The case of Abraham, just alluded to, is to the point. So when Shechem, son of Hamor, became enamored of Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, he immediately applied to his father, saying, "Get me this damsel to wife." Judah took a wife for Er, his first born. In this particular there is a remarkable coincidence with the practice of the Aborigines of our own country. It may be a matter of question whether this arrangement, if it existed now, would not be quite as favorable to domestic happiness, as the one

that prevails among us. It seems a little inconsistent, that the most important transaction of life, should be put wholly into youthful and inexperienced hands that the father should allow his son to select a wife, when he would not trust him to buy a horse or a cow. xxiv. 4; xxxiv. 4; xxxviii. 6.

[ocr errors]

118. Another interesting circumstance connected with ancient marriages, is, that the wife was, in some sense, purchased. Hence the presents given to Rebekah by Abraham's servant, and the "precious things" given to her mother and brother; and the labor of seven years exacted by Laban from Jacob, in consideration of giving him his daughter. Hence, too, the offer of Shechem to give to Jacob amount he might exact for his daughter, Dinah. xxiv. 22, 30, 53; xxix. 20, 34, 12.


119. Every wife seems to have been furnished with a maid to go with her and to be her special companion and attendant. Sarah had the maid Hagar. Leah had Zilpah, Rachel had Bilhah, Rebekah, too, had her "damsels," among whom Deborah is especially named. xvi. 1; xxix. 24, 29; xxiv. 61; xxxv. 8. When Jacob was married, it is said that Laban, his father-in-law, "gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast;" which shows that marriage entertainments are very ancient. xxix. 22.

120. It will be observed that the Hebrew patriarchs were exceedingly desirous of avoiding all marriage relations, outside of the family or tribe to which they belonged. Abraham sent far away to procure one of his relations for Isaac, and exacted an oath of his servant that he would not obtain for him a wife of the daughters of Canaan. And when Esau married among the people of the land, it was a great grief to his parents. The language of Rebekah to Isaac, betrays the feeling that prevailed on this subject:"I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth. If Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are the daughters of the land,

what good shall my life do me." This feeling was at length expressed in the law of the land. xxix. 3; xxvi. 35; xxviii. 8; xxvii. 46.

121. There must have been something very peculiar in the marriage rights of those days, else we shall find it difficult to understand, why Jacob should not have known, at the time, whether it was Leah or Rachel, that shared his marriage bed, the first night of his wedded life. That such customs did exist, as would involve this uncertainty is not, however, a thing to be disbelieved, so different were their cus toms from ours.

122. The reason of the fraud practiced by Laban on that occasion, viz., "it must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn," may be construed as a mere pretence, or it may be understood as indicating the usual custom. But if the last, we need not extend the custom beyond the immediate vicinity of Laban, who, it is well known, resided far away from Canaan, the land of the Hebrews. xxix. 26.

123. The language of Laban to Jacob:-"Fulfil her week, and we will give thee this also, for the service which thou shalt serve me, yet seven other years," may be understood as denoting the "week" during which the wedding feast was continued. It would not be proper to give him another wife, till all the ceremonies of the first wedding had been observed. xxix. 27.

124. A somewhat singular custom existed at that time, that, when a brother died, leaving a wife with no children, the next brother should marry the surviving widow, and the fruit of this new marriage, should be regarded in the same light, as if they had been the product of the first union. xxxviii. 8, 9.

125. The wearing of a veil, by unmarried women, in the presence of their intended, is shown in the case of Rebekah, as she approached Isaac, when about

to become his wife. The maid descended from the back of the camel, and placing her veil over her face, went forward to meet her husband. xxiv. 65.


126. It is worthy of remark, that, nowhere in the book of Genesis, is there any reference to ill health, save in one single instance. The references that come the nearest to this, do not imply actual disease. Leah was tender-eyed; but this may have no allusion to disease. The patriarchs became blind in their extreme old age. So the infirmity of barrenness was not uncommon. Men died in those days, sometimes prematurely by violence, as Abel did by the hand of Cain; and as they were slain in the battle field; or swept away by some divine judgment, but we can recall no instance where they are said to have died of disease. The sickness of Israel, just before his death, xlviii. 1, was evidently nothing more than the infirmity of old age, as life gradually faded away, and the lamp was about to become extinct.

127. How the dead body was prepared for burial, in ordinary cases, we are not informed. In Egypt it was customary to embalm the body and place it in a coffin. At least, this was done with persons of distinction. But Egypt had its own usages, which must not be produced as those of Canaan or the patriarchs, xxx. 26. The place of burial in Canaan was usually a natural cave. Such was the cave of Machpelah which Abraham bought of the sons of Heth. There Abraham was himself buried, and Sarah, his wife. There too were buried Isaac and Rebekah, and there Jacob buried Leah. Rachel was buried near Bethlehem, and a pillar was placed over her grave, which remained there a long time. Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, was buried under an oak near Bethel. xxiii. 16; xlix. 31; xxxv. 19, 20.

128. The Hebrews, like others, had a strong desire to be buried in their own land. Hence Israel exacted an oath of Joseph that he would carry him back to the land of Canaan, and bury him with Abraham, and Isaac, in the sacred cave near Hebron; and this oath was faithfully executed. Joseph, too, was embalmed, and kept in Egypt, till the removal of the children of Israel from that country. xlvii. 29; 1. 25, 26. 129. Mourning for the dead is sometimes mentioned. Abraham mourned for Sarah; but what ceremonies were observed we are not informed. The Egyptians mourned "threescore and ten days" for Israel, such being their custom. And when the procession that attended the body of that patriarch from Egypt to Canaan, had passed into that land they mourned seven days, that being, perhaps the patriarchal custom. The language, "they made a mourning," shows that the allusion is not to the exercise of grief, but to certain funeral ceremonies. It appears that widows were accustomed to wear a peculiar dress, to indicate their widowhood. Hence it is said of Tamar, that she "put off her widow's garments." xxiii. 2; 1. 3, 10; xxxviii. 14.


130. The necessity of dress, became obvious even to our first parents; hence they sewed fig leaves together to make themselves aprons; hence, too, they were afterwards supplied with coats of skin. Allusion is made to the garments of Noah; but whether they were made of skin or other material, does not appear. Other allusions are equally indefinite. The coat of many colors, given to Joseph, was evidently unusual; but more than this cannot be ascertained. Sackcloth, worn on occasions of mourning, was, doubtless, something manufactured; but of what material is left wholly to conjecture. It took

« AnteriorContinuar »