Page images

bylon, and reduced their history to a written volume. This has been the case with all illiterate nations, and it is thus that the heathen mythology became so exceedingly numerous: but each of the gods and goddesses had a birth, parentage, education, and a full memoir. The Jewish writings are got up in the same stile, and are entitled to no further respect. We should read them only to study the march of the human mind, and acquaint ourselves with the prodigious influence of the printing press on mankind, and what that further influence will become, when it ceases to be shackled by kings and priests, and is no longer used to corrupt as well as to enlighten. It is thus that I read the history of the past, and this is the only benefit which I feel from the perusal of antient history.

The chapters four, five and six, contain a lamentable tale about the ark of the Israelites being taken in battle by the Philistines, and how that the former were totally discomfited. Old Eli falls and breaks his neck at hearing that the Israelites had lost their ark, and a general lamentation is said to pervade all the land of the Israelites. Much faith was, no doubt, placed in the ark as an holy chest, and the receptacle of the Jewish God *. This story about the ark is too important to be passed over lightly, therefore I shall insert the whole of it.

"And the word of Samue! came to all Israel. Now Israel went out against the Philistines to battle, and pitched beside Eben-ezer: and the Philistines pitched in Aphek. And the Philistines put themselves in array against Israel; and when they joined battle, Israel was smitten before the Philistines; and they slew of the army in the field

* In the course of my mock trial, and whilst I was reading the Preface to Sir William Drummond's Edipus Judaicus, which mentions that the Jews carried about their god in a box of Shittim Wood, Judge Abbott interrupted me and said, it was a falsehood, and that there was no mention of any thing of the kind in the Bible. I was not sufficiently acquainted with the minutia of the Bible at that moment to explain the particulars which were necessary to verify the assertion of Sir William Drummond, but it is literally a fact. The ark is said to have been made of Shittim Wood, and it is well known, that all the nations who ever possessed an ark, believed that their God dwelt in it, and they worshipped. it as such. The tale on which I am now commenting, is a strong proof of the assertion of Sir William Drummond, for we see what a dreadful lamentation is related, at the loss of the ark, and we read that the Philistines were alarmed at first, because the Israelites had brought their God into battle with them, and they cry out that such a circumstance was never known before.

[ocr errors]

about four thousand men. And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the Lord smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies. So the people sent to Shiloh, that they might bring from thence the ark of the covenant of the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth between the cherubims: and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God. And when the ark of the covenant of the Lord came into the camp, all Israel shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shout, they said, What meaneth the noise of this great shout in the camp of the Hebrews? And they understood that the ark of the Lord was come into the camp. And the Philistines were afraid, for they said, God is come into the camp. And they said, Woe unto us! for there hath not been such a thing heretofore. Woe unto us! who shall deliver us out of the hand of these mighty Gods? these are the Gods that smote the Egyptians with all the plagues in the wilderness. Be strong, and quit yourselves like inen, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight. And the Philistines fought, and Israel was smitten, and they fled every man into his tent; and there was a very great slaughter; for there fell of Israel thirty thousand footmen. And the ark of God was taken; and the two sons of Eli, Hoplini and Phinehas, were slain. And there ran a man of Benjamin out of the army, and came to Shiloh the same day with his clothes rent, aud with earth upon his head. And when he came, lo, Eli sat upon a seat by the wayside watching; for his heart trembled for the ark of God. And when the man came into the city, and told it, all the city cried out. And when Eli heard the noise of the crying, he said, What meaneth the noise of this tumult? And the man came in hastily, and told Eli. Now Eli was ninety and eight years old; and his eyes were dim, that he could not see. And the man said unto Eli, I am he that came out of the army, and I filed to day out of the army. And he said, What is there done, my son? And the messenger answered and said, Israel is fled before the Philistines, and there hath been also a great slaughter among the people, and thy two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God is taken. And it came to pass, when he made mention of the ark of God, that he fell from off the seat backward by the side of the gate, and his neck brake, and he died; for he was an old man, and heavy: and he had judged Israel forty years. And his daughter in law, Phinehas' wife, was with child, near to be delivered; and when she heard the tidings that the ark of God was taken, and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she bowed herself and travailed; for her pains came upon her. And about the time of her death, the women that stood by her said unto her, Fear not, for thou hast born a son. But she answered not, neither did she regard it. And she named the child I-cha

bod, saying, The glory is departed from Israel: because the ark of God was taken, and because of her father-in-law aud her husband. And she said, The glory is departed from Israel; for the ark of God is taken."

"And the Philistines took the ark of God, and brought it from Eben-ezer unto Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord; and the head of Dagon and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold: only the stump of Dagon was left to him. Therefore neither the priests of Dagon, nor any that come into Dagon's house, tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod unto this day. But the hand of the Lord was heavy upon them of Ashdod, and he destroyed them, and smote them with emerods, even Ashdod and the coasts thereof. And when the men of Ashdod saw that it was so, they said, The ark of the God of Israel shall not abide with us; for his hand is sore upon us, and upon Dagon our god. They sent therefore and gathered all the lords of the Philistines unto them, and said, what shall we do with the ark of the God of Israel? And they answered, Let the ark of the God of Israel be carried about unto Gath. And they carried the ark of the God of Israel about thither. And it was so, that, after they had carried it about, the hand of the Lord was against the city with a very great destruction; and he smote the men of the city, both small and great, and they had emerods in their secret parts: therefore they sent the ark of God to Ekron. And it came to pass, as the ark of God came to Ekron, that the Ekronites cried out, saying, They have brought about the ark of the God of Israel to us, to slay us and our people. So they sent and gathered together all the lords of the Philistines, and said, Send away the ark of the God of Israel, and let it go again to his own place, that it slay us not, and our people; for there was a deadly destruction throughout all the city; the hand of God was very heavy there. And the men that died not, were smitten with the emerods: and the cry of the city went up to heaven."

"And the ark of the Lord was in the country of the Philistines, seven months. And the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners, saying, what shall we do to the ark of the Lord? tell us wherewith we shall send it to his place. And they said, if ye send away the ark of the God of Israel, send it not empty; but in any wise return him a trespass offering: theu ye shall be healed, and it shall be Then said known to you why his hand is not removed from you. they, what shall be the trespass offering which we shall return to him? They answered, five golden emerods, and five golden mice, according to the number of the lords of the Philistines: for one plague was ou you all, and on your lords. Wherefore ye shall make images of


[ocr errors]

emerods, and images of your mice that mar the land; and ye shall give glory unto the God of Israel: peradventure he will lighten his hand from off you, and from off your gods, and from off your land. Wherefore then do you harden your hearts, as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts? when he had wrought wonderfully among them, did they not let the people go, and they departed? Now therefore make a new cart, and take two milch kine, on which there hath come no yoke, and tie the kine to the cart, and bring their calves home from them: And take the ark of the Lord, and lay it upon the cart; and put the jewels of gold, which ye return him for a trespass offering, in a coffer by the side thereof; and send it away, that it may go. And see, if it goeth up by the way of his own coast to Beth shemesh, then he hath done us this great evil: but if not, then we shall know that it is not his hand that smote us; it was a chance that hap ned to us. And the men did so; and took two. milch kine, and tied them to the cart, and shut up their calves at home: And they laid the ark of the Lord upon the cart, and the coffer with the mice of gold and the images of their emerods. And the kine took the straight way to the way of Besh-shemesh, and went along the highway, lowing as they went, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left; and the lords of the Philistines went after em unto the border of Beth-shemesh. And they of Beth-shemesh were reaping in their wheat harvest in the valley, and they litted up their eyes, and saw the ark, and rejoiced to see it. And the cart came into the field of Joshua, a Beth-shemite, and stood there, where there was a great stone: and they clave the wood of the cart, and offered the kine a burnt offering unto the Lord. And the Levites took down the ark of the Lord, and the coffer that was with it, wherein the jewels of gold were, and put them on the great stone: and the men of Bethshemesh offered burnt offerings and sacrificed sacrifices the same day unto the Lord. And when the five lords of the Philistines had seen it, they returned to Ekron the same day. And these are the golden emerods which the Philistines returned for a trespass offering unto the Lord; for Ashdod one, for Gaza one, for Askelon one, for Gath one, for Ekron one; And the golden mice, according to the number of all the cities of the Philistines belonging to the five lords, both of fenced cities, and of country villages, even unto the great stone of Abel, whereou they set down the ark of the Lord: which stone remaineth unto this day in the field of Joshua, the Beth-shemite. And he smote the men of Beth-shemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. And the men of Beth-shemesh said, who is able to stand before this holy Lord God? and to whom shall he go up from us? And they sent messengers to the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim, saying, the Philistines have brought again the ark of the Lord; come ye down, and fetch it up to you."

It will be quite superfluous to say any thing more about the impotence or omnipotence of Jehovah, the Bible makes him such a strange fellow, and displays him in so many opposite characters, that it is impossible to come to any conclusion about him, or to define him, unless the reader is of my opinion as to his nonentity. The Gods of the Philistices seem to triumph over him in every sense of the word, and this too whilst a Jew tells the tale. How noble and manly is the conduct of the Philistines when contrasted with that of the Jews. After the Philistines had recovered the shock of the first idea of fighting with the Jewish God, they address each other in the following words: "Be strong, and quit yourselves like men, O ye Philistines, that ye be not servants unto the Hebrews, as they have been to you: quit yourselves like men, and fight." This is language truly manly; but the Jews have painted their ancestors as a timid, dissatisfied, and irresolute race, who could perform no manly feat, and were not to be roused to action but by fanaticism and intrigue. We are continually told of their hiding themselves in caves and dens when an enemy approached, whilst in the same breath we read of their being as the sand of the sea shore for multitude. The Bible forms a strange mixture of hyperbole, exaggeration, and barefaced lies.

The tale of the several feats performed by the ark whilst in the possession of the Philistines, and the disasters which befel them, is truly ludicrous. Poor Dagon is made te humble himself before the empty box of the Jews; and into whatever part of Palestine it was carried, it proved itself to be the box of Pandora rather than the habitation of a God. I have felt some amusement in reading of the presents which the Philistines presented to Jehovah, namely, five golden mice, and five golden emerods; but I am at a loss to conceive what the golden emerods could be like, and I have no longer the assistance of Dr. Adam Clarke to give me light on this subject, as I have out stripped the doctor and travel faster with my commentary than he does with his. Emerods are represented as a disease, in the Bible, and in an "Abridged Johnson," which 1 have, they are termed the piles; but in a larger dictionary by Bailey, and in an Encyclopædia, I have no definition of them whatever. Rather curious that the ark should infect the Philistines with the piles, and still more curious that the emerods or the piles should be represented in gold. I am happy that I am ignorant of what the piles are, but to represent them in gold is beyond my conception. There is another proof at the

« PreviousContinue »