Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

POSSESSION OF PALESTINE.

319

The Hebrews, very possibly, may have found it necessary on more than one occasion to defend their conquests by word and pen as well as by the sword.” In the execution of this plan genealogy forms the epic thread on which events are strung together, and by which they are continued downwards. Poverty of invention is however strikingly visible in most cases, and especially where the hostile feeling of the writer towards national enemies or neighbouring tribes suggested to his fancy the adoption of the most invidious means of displaying his enmity. Cain must murder his brother, in order that he may draw down the curse of the Almighty; Canaan must uncover the nakedness of his drunken father, that he may become accursed; the Moabites and the Ammonites are represented as the offspring of incest, the Arabs are described as the bastard children of the patriarchs, and Esau is made the butt of unfeeling mockery,-inventions, all of which would do little honour to the character of their author, if they were not to be regarded from a national point of view, and were not to a great extent redeemed by higher and nobler features. The remainder of the narratives will be mostly found to turn on famines, on the barrenness of women, the blessings bestowed by blind fathers on their children, the substitution of wives for sisters, and similar expedients, which are repeatedly employed.

Legends, connected with wells and other places (Sthalapuranas), are of very frequent occurrence, and are constantly interwoven with the history of the patriarchs, in order, not only to give a sacred character to the spots themselves, but to authenticate the ancient records by an appeal to existing objects. In this too, as in every mythical history, etymology is liberally employed as an embellishment and in

[blocks in formation]

many different ways. The Hebrew writers are singularly partial to interpretations of names and to etymological allusions, and the nature of their language affords a remarkable facility for indulging in them. Thus the Mount of Olives (har hammish chah) has been turned, by a slight variation, into the mount of corruption (har hammish chith); and in more modern times the Christian cathedral or dome has been changed into těhom, an abyss, and the liturgical service or mass into matha, death. This tendency to explain existing names, or to adapt them to the current narrative, is remarkably developed in Genesis, which surpasses in this respect every other book of the Old Testament, and contains more than fifty such etymologies. In some cases foreign names were conformed to their own language, and the fiction adapted to suit them?, just as the Greek enriched his myths of Dionysos from the Indian Meru, formed an Erannoboas from the river Hiranyavaha, or an Astroarche from Astarte; believed that Pelusium was built by Peleus, and that Rhinokorura (the promontory of Koruna, in Arabic 'anf kurun,) was founded by a colony with mutilated noses 3. In some cases the names of nations were personified, and these imaginary heroes were in their turn made the source of other myths4; an easy expedient, which

1 “And the high places that were before Jerusalem, which were on the right hand of the Mount of Corruption, which Solomon the king of Israel had builded for Ashtoreth the abomination of the Zidonians, and for Chemosh the abomination of the Moabites, and for Milcom the abomination of the children of Ammon, did the king defile.”—2 Kings xxiii. 13.

2 See Commentary on Genesis ii. 8; iv. 1, 12, 16, 25; v. 29; ix. 27; xvi. 1, 11; xvii. 8, 15, in Vol. II.

3 Diodor. i. 60. Stephanus, De Urbibus, p. 654. Pott, Etymol. Forschungen (Researches), xxxiv. Altes Indien (Ancient India, by Von Bohlen) i. 142.

4 See Commentary on Genesis, chapter x. 3 It is commonly supposed that Cæsar was brought into the world by the Cæsarian operation, and was so named “a cæso matris utero.

[blocks in formation]

has supplied the fertile source of many a classic legend; thus the name of Armenius was derived from the Armenians, Medea from the Medes, and Perseus from the Persians. It is indeed generally found that the origin of names soon becomes obscure, and a different etymology is then not unfrequently adopted"; thus the Hindoo analyses mánsa, flesh (that which has life, manas) into , and “that which ought not to be eaten;" and the Greek derives the ancient name of [Ceres or] Demeter, Anó (deva, goddess) from Snelv, to find, as one who will discover (or the source of intelligence]; and even where an ancient legend is already connected with a name, later writers scruple not to add a new one, as may be seen in the double etymologies of Genesis?. Even Barhebræus, when discussing the wellknown legend of the birth of Cæsar', condescended to seek additional support in a far-fetched derivation from the Syriac* ; and a fortunate hint was obtained for amplifying the mythical account of the deluge of Deucalion by observing

[ocr errors]

4 See Ewald, p. 178. VOL. I.

[blocks in formation]

the similarity between Xâas, a stone, and Naòs, people, and deducing from thence a new mode of repeopling the world. Additional support was also given to the narrative by the invention of new names: thus Abel means what is perishable [alluding to his short life), and Esau is so named from his hairiness ; but in many cases the author was compelled to have recourse to other dialects to explain the existing names?, and his etymologies are frequently forced?. On all these points however the requisite explanation will be given in the Commentary; and we now therefore proceed to consider the book of Genesis itself, in order to prove from that work the truth of the statements which have been here advanced.

[ocr errors]

APPENDIX

TO VOLUME I,

1. Remarks of Professor Von Bohlen on the Week, from his

Ancient India (vol. ii. p. 244).*

The short period of seven days may be traced back to the most remote antiquity, and belongs to the general institutes of the ancient East; we meet with it among the Hindoos, Chaldæans, Egyptians, Hebrews, and conjecturally also among the Persianst. There is no doubt that this division of time was originally connected with the moon's phases; but as far back as our knowledge extends, it is everywhere associated with the planets; from which heavenly bodies the days of the week received their names, or to which they were dedicated,—among other nations, by the ancient Arabians, who began the week with Sunday, and dedicated the Friday to Venus, named Arubah, the Belovedi. Even among the Greeks we may conjecture

* See above in this work, vol. i. p. 216.

of Compare Esther i. 10, 'On the Seventh Day,' The Seven Chamberlains,' and the numerous references to the sacred number Seven among this nation.

I See Ahmed ibn Jusuf in Pococke's Specim. Hist. Arab. p. 317. Selden, de Diis Syris, p. 285. It is also well known that human sacrifices were offered to the planets on the days dedicated to them. See Abutaleb in Norberg. Onomast. to the Cod. Nasir. pp. 4, 10, 30, 78, 97, 138.

« AnteriorContinuar »