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he was, for he risked his life for his sheep, 1 Sam. xvii.
remind us of the best shepherd, even CHRIST, John, x. 14. and we should recollect how in. finitely great is his love for his sheep, for he actually laid down his life for them; even while they were yet sin. ners, and therefore at enmity with him. Christ died for them, Rom. v. 6–8. Surely, we should love Him who first loved us !
King Uzziah was fond of husbandry, 2 Chron. xxvi. 10, Mesha, king of Moab, was a sheepmaster, 2 Kings iii. 4. Several of the prophets were also from this class ; as Elisha, 1 Kings xix. 19. Amos, ch. i. and others.
Perhaps this little book may be read by some persons who are employed as shepherds, or in farming. Surely they may he encouraged to be diligent and faithful in their service, by remembering that kings and prophets, and rulers, have followed the same employment. The women, even of high rank, attended to the flocks and herds. Rebecca drew water for the camels, Gen. xxiv. 20. Rachel kept her father's flocks, Gen. xxix. 9. and Zipporah, with her sisters, who were daughters of the prince or chief priest of Midian, Exod. ii. 16. A travel. ler who lately visited the neighborhood of Mount Sinai, says that the women of the Arab tribes who inhabit that part of the country, look after the flocks, which in many other parts are left to servants or slaves.
When the Israelites first settled in the land of Canaan, each family had a portion of land assigned to it, and this could not be parted with for more than a few years, as it always returned to the family in the year of jubilee. Tlfey were also forbidden to take interest for money from their brethren, Lev. xxv. 10, 36, 37. These, with other laws, made them less able to live by trade, so that they were obliged to attend more to the produce of the earth, and to their flocks and herds.
We do not read many particulars respecting the man ner in which the Jews cultivated the land ; but some things are mentioned upon this subject in the scriptures. They used to manure the ground, and some persons have supposed that the dove's dung, mentioned 2 Kings vi. 25, is a proof of this, as it is still much used in Persia. Oth. ers say, and appear to be more correct, that the word means the seed of a plant which was called by that name, and it is supposed to be the same that we call the Star of Bethlehem, which is found in many gardens in our country, but which grew much larger and more plenti. fully in Judea. Salt also was used, Matt. v. 13. Luke xiv. 34, 35.
The river Jordan overflowed its banks every year; see Josh, iji. 15. i Chron. xii. 15. The mud which was left by the flood, not only made the fields on its banks very fertile, but probably was also used on other lands. When the waters had diminished, seed was sown on the wet ground, and trampled in by the feet of cattle. This is the method still used in Egypt and many parts of India, particularly with respect to rice, and is alluded to, Ecc. xi. 1. Isa. xxxii. 20.
But a great part of the labor in the cultivation of the land, was the watering it; this was, and still is, very ne. cessary in eastern countries, where no rain falls for a great part of the year. For this purpose the water is raised, by various machines, and different contrivances, from the rivers and streams, to cisterns in the upper parts of the gardens or fields. See the methods of watering lands exhibited on p. 60. When the rows of plants re. quire watering, some of the water is let out of these cis. terns and runs in streams, while the gardener stands rea. dy, and from time to time stops these rills by turning the earth against them with his foot, opening a new channel with his spade. This is alluded to in the first Psalm, as the rivers of water mentioned there mean these little streams, rather than large rivers. The cisterns are al. luded to in 2 Chron. xxvi. 10. See the marginal reading; the word translated wells, means also cisterns, and observe other passages.
This method of watering by the foot was practised in the land of Judea, but was still more necessary in Egypt, where it so seldom rains that this is described as the principal difference between that land and Judea ; see Deut. xi. 10, 11. “ The land, whither thou goest in to possess it, is not as the land of Egypt, from whence ye came out, where thou sowedst thy seed, and wateredst it with thy foot, as a garden of herbs; but the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven.” In the greater part of the land of Egypt rain never fell, which made the storm mentioned Exod. ix. 22–32. so much the more grievous. The river Nile every year overflows all the land on its banks for several hundred miles, and renders it exceedingly fertile.
We must also notice, that watering with the foot may mean raising water by machines turned with the foot, something like a tread-mill. This method is used in the east, particularly in China, but it more likely means what is just described. The expression of Balaam, Numb. xxiv. 7. “ He shall pour the water out of his buckets," is understood by some persons to refer to those machines, in which water was raised by a number of buckets; it points out the future flourishing state of Israel.
My readers will recollect the curse denounced against man after the fall, Gen. ii. 17--19. 6 Cursed is the ground for thy sake ; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life: thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field ; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” That is, by hard labor shalt thou procure it.
We see this curse fulfilled to the present day; the ground, if left to itself, everywhere brings forth thorns and thistles, and other weeds. In like manner the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil; and unless God prevents, will only do wicked works. This is an awful consideration, and should remind us of the importance of looking to Jesus for pardon and peace, through the blood which he shed upon the cross, which, by the Holy Spirit, is of power to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Let us pray earnestly, that God the Holy Spirit may sanctify our hearts, “ lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble us ;” and may we all be 6 filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God,” Heb. xii. 15. Phil. i. 11.
At first, men probably dug the earth, and had few or no tools or implements to assist them. Noah is spoken of as “a husbandman,” Gen. ix. 20. perhaps he con. trived ploughs and other instruments of agriculture. We find ploughs mentioned by Moses, Deut. xxii. 10. when he is referring to an idolatrous custom of the heathen; al. so by Job, iv. 8. The prophets Jeremiah, iv. 3. and Hosea, x. 12. mention ploughing up the fallow ground, and Job, xxxix. 10, speaks of harrows, which are also noticed in other passages of scripture. Ploughing is also mentioned in Gen. xlv. 6, when Joseph says, “there are five years in which shall neither be earing nor harvest ;" for the word earing is an old English word which means ploughing, and the Hebrew word which is there translated by it, is ren. dered ploughing in some other texts. The expression ear the ground, is also used 1 Sam. viii. 12, and means to plough or till the ground. The ploughs were much smaller and weaker than those used in England : they had a share and coulter, but much smaller than those now used, as we may conclude from the prophet proposing that the swords should be beat into ploughshares, Isa. ii. 4. Joel iii. 10. Mic. iv. 3. See the drawing prefixed to this chapter. As the ploughs were smaller and lighter, they required more care in directing them; this may assist to explain Luke ix. 62. “ No man, putting his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the king. dom of God;" for, referring to the care and attention necessary in ploughing, our Lord shows the necessity of going forward with steadiness, in our attention to the concerns of our souls, and the work we are appointed to perform in this service. I hope even my youngest readers will remember that they have souls, and that they can do something for the good of others.
Oxen were used in these ploughs, as we read respect. ing Elisha ; also 1 Sam. xiv. 14. and in other places. They were driven by goads or long sticks with a sharp iron point, which were of large size, as would be necessary when many oxen were used. We read of twelve yoke or pairs, used with Elisha’s plough. Maundrell de. scribes the goads used in Syria, not long ago, as eight feet long, and having a small spade at one end; with one of these Shamgar slew the Philistines, Judg. ii. 31 : these also are the pricks mentioned Acts ix. 5.