« PreviousContinue »
close of the sixth chapter, that Jehovah was considered to travel about in this ark, for the Bethshemites curiously pry into it, and are slain to the amount of fifty thousand and threescore and ten—a moderate number this to inhabit a village! After the Bethshemites are killed they cry out, "Who is able to stand before this Lord God?" Now Mr. Justice Abbott, what do you think about Jehovah dwelling in a box of shittim wood? Can you doubt after reading this.
The above tale commences with introducing Samuel as leading on the Israelites to this fatal battle, for it begins thus, "And the word of Samuel came to all Israel:" priestly commentators will get over this by saying, that those words should be attached to the last chapter. Whether they ought or not, I neither know nor care, but this I know that they stand very awkward at the head of the fourth chapter, and evidently connect Samuel with the loss of the ark; whereas we are subsequently informed that Samuel was omnipotent in all he undertook. Whether there be any veracity or not, in the various tales of the various encounters between the Philistines and Israelites, I cannot pretend to say; in viewing it historically, I should say it is probable enough; but it is evident, from the manner in which those tales are related, that they were not reduced to writing for a long time after they are said to have happened, and it is on this ground that I would reject the slightest improbability. In the book of Judges and the different books of Kings, the Israelites are painted in a contemptible light, both for paucity of numbers and influence as a people; there are certain deviations from the general rule when we find them swelled into importance and magnitude, but the contrast is so strong that the latter circumstance must be rejected as improbable.
I pass over the seventh chapter, as it only contains a tale about Samuel and Jehovah being reconciled to the Israelites, after they had once more promised to behave well and forsake all other gods, and fighting the Philistines with a thunder storm in revenge for old grievances-for their taking Jehovah's habitation and place of rest the ark, &c., and defeating both God and worshippers at the same time.
I come now to the eighth and an interesting chapter; it is as follows:
"And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. Now the name of his first-born was Joel; and the name of his second, Abiah: they were judges in Beer-sheba. And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and
took bribes, and perverted judgment. Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah, And said unto him, behold thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways: now make us a king to judge us like all the nations. But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said, Give us a king to judge us. And Samuel prayed unto the Lord. And the Lord said unto Samuel, hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them. According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, wherewith they have forsaken me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. Now therefore hearken unto their voice: how beit yet protest solemnly unto them, and shew them the manner of the king that shall reign over them. And Samuel told all the words of the Lord unto the people that asked of him a king. And he said, this will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you; he will take your sons and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots. And he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and will set them to ear his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and instruments of his chariots. And he will take your daughters to be confectionaries, and to be cooks, aud to be bakers. And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. And he will take your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your sheep and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king which ye shall have chosen you; and the Lord will not hear you in that day. Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he rehearsed them in the ears of the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, hearken unto their voice, and make them a king. And Samuel said unto the men of Israel, go ye every man unto his city."
The philosopher and the politician might draw two important lessons from this chapter: the first is on the impropriety of hereditary offices, or distinct offices or power continued to the successive members of the same family: the second is a true picture of monarchy and its influence on society. In the first place we find the sons of Samuel are made to resemble the sons of Eli, who although their fathers are represented as upright men, deviated from the character imposed upon them, and took advantage of the power placed
in their hands to oppress and injure the people subject to them. This is represented as the cause of the Israelites demanding a king, that he might screen them from the oppressions of those two priests, for we are not told that the power of prophecying was hereditary, but the sons of Eli and Samuel are represented as priests and judges.
The objection to any office being hereditary is insuperable onthis one ground, that the capacities of mankind differ, and it generally happens, that the son of a very clever man, turns out a fool, or an ideot, or a rogue, or something very objectionable. This is not a general rule, but the exceptions are not many. Every one will admit it to be a laudable axiom, that he, who by his abilities, or exertions, or valour, serves a state, should reap a benefit from that state for such services: but it by no means follows, that his children are entitled to a continuance of such benefits after the father's decease. Those children may be the veriest enemies of the state, or the veriest blockheads, and their continuance in office, out of respect to the father, might injure that state to a much greater degree than the father had benefitted it. We have daily and practical proofs of this under the English government, until it is reduced to a state of wretchedness, the people wanting the common necessaries of life, and the country disgraced beyond measure in the eyes of all other countries.
This argument applies as well to the kingly office as any other, whether it be that of a legislator, judge, sheriff, or magistrate. An hereditary prince is almost certain to be corrupted by flattery before he attains to his office, and being bred up in the idea that he is entitled to reign over a nation, his mind is destroyed, inevitably, before he arrives at the years of maturity. I am not aware of any one instance on record, where a prince, claiming an hereditary right to the throne of any country, and having been brought up under that idea, ever proved a virtuous man, and studied the interest of those over whom he was called to rule. If Alfred be an exception to this observation, we should consider what he had to contend with before he was firmly seated on the throne, and how strong must be his attachment to his country after he had rescued it from a powerful and insolent invader. Alfred was placed beyond the means of corruption in his youthful days, and his mind was inured to virtue, to courage, and to patriotism, before he could recover his throne. Kings are not naturally bad men or fools, they are corrupted by power and flattery, and if they find no obstacles to encounter
in their youth, their virtues, although latent, are never brought into action. Vice is always their example and they know nothing else. A king, that has ever had to rescue a nation from slavery, has all his virtues called into action, and generally spends the remainder of his days in endeavouring to benefit that nation; but he who comes to a throne without any obstacle, and continues on it without any obstacle, is prone to lust and oppression only: if there be an innate depravity in human nature, (which I do not admit) it is certain here to be predominant and to have full sway. There is no check, every surrounding object seems to cherish the darling passion, every individual administers to it with a hope of obtaining the means to gratify his own. A nation may prosper where its monarch was the choice of the people, or of the majority, as every other part of the legislature ought to be; but with an hereditary monarchy, whether it be limited or not, a nation must inevitably continue to receive injury and disgrace. The power is too great for any man to possess, but he who can lay claim to it by known virtues and abilities, and even then, it should be limited as to time, and not go down with the dotage and imbecility of old age. The foregoing chapter of Samuel is an excellent delineation of monarchy, and it might be wondered at that it has not been expunged from the Bible.
The ninth chapter forms an excellent and striking burlesque on monarchical governments; or, at least, on the origin of that among the Jews. Saul, a country youth, is sent to seek his father's strayed asses, and he most appropriately finds a kingdom. He goes to Samuel, the fortune-teller or seer, to enquire which way the asses have strayed, and Samuel tells him, that his asses are found, and forthwith anoints him king of Israel. In this chapter, it is evident that the prophets among the Jews were thought nothing more of than our fortune-tellers in the present-day: it is an adjunct of priestcraft, the latter forms a distinct and legalised order in the state, the other is not recognised; this is all the difference between priests and fortunetellers, they are equally impostors and robbers and proceed on the same plan, the one tells you what is to befal you in the next life, the other in the present, but your money is the object of both.
There is one thing striking in this narrative, and that is the mode of communication between Jehovah and Samuel: in the 21st verse of the 8th chap. we have the following words"And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he re
hearsed them in the ears of the Lord." In the 15th verse of the 9th chapter we have the following:-" Now the Lord had told Samuel in his ear a day before Saul came." What ideas are we to infer of the Jewish God from this statement? Had ever the Jews any idea of Jehovah being an ærial being and absent from them, they could not, or they would not have narrated such a tale, as whispering in his ear, and he in return, whispering in their ears. Let all who venerate the God of nature cease to connect him with Jehovah, an household God and idol of the Jews.
I must have a laugh before I quit this subject at the act of anointing kings, or pouring a vial of oil on their heads. This ridiculous act is continued to this day, only the oil, instead of being poured down over the head in a running stream, is merely applied with the tip of the finger, in the same manner, as the blood and oil was applied to the tip of the right ear, the thumb, and great toe of a Jewish priest, and he who offered sacrifice. I have before stated that the word Christian has no other meaning but anointed, and for my part, I am not so fond of grease and oil, as to be made a christian or a king. I'll warrant it, the Americans do not pour any oil on the head of their President, and he makes a much more respectable king than any we have in Europe. Sanctified folly must cease.
Samuel not only made Saul a king, but he teaches him the art of prophesying too, for whoever reads the Bible attentively must perceive, that prophecy was an art and mystery with the Jews, and was taught like any other profession, and just as the secrets of fortune-telling by cards and palmistry is now communicated from one old woman to another. Thus we read of the company of prophets, and of Elijah instructing Elisha in the profession, &c. Still Samuel seems much dissatisfied with having a superior, and never forgives the Israelites for opposing his will. In the twelfth chapter, we find him harping on the old grievance, and punishing or rather frightening the Israelites with a thunder storm in harvest for this wickedness in asking a king. Jupiter was not more severe with the frogs. However, thunder-storms are not uncommon in harvest time in this country: I can say nothing about Judea.
The thirteenth chapter introduces us to some strange contradictions. In the first place we are told that Jonathan, the son of Saul, with a thousand men, smote a garrison of the Philistines, in consequence of which, the Philistines wage war with the Israelites, and they are said to muster "thirty thousand