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No. 736.-xxiii. 1. Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven ranis.] The ancients were very superstitious about certain numbers, supposing that God delighted in odd numbers,
Terna tibi hæc primum triplici diversa colore
YIRG. Eclog. viii. 73.
Around his waxen image first I wind
No. 737.xxiii. 23. What hath God wrought !] When the Baron du Tott was endeavouring to make the Turks better gunners, for want of which they suffered such great losses in the war with the Russians which terminated in 1774, he was forced by them, very contrary to his wish, to fire a cannon at a certain mark. Upon redoubled solicitations he was prevailed on to point the piece, and was not less surprised than those around him to see the bullet hit the piquet in the centre of the butt. The cry Machalla ! resounded on all sides, (Mem. vol. ii. part 3. p. 96.) At the bottom of the page is this note: Machalla! what God has done! an expression of the greatest admiration. There is a singular coincidence between this and the exclamation of Balaam.
HARMER, vol. iv. p. 462.
No. 738:---xxiv. 21. Thou puttest thy nest in a rock.] When Balaam delivered before Balak his predictions respecting the fate that awaited the nations which he then particularized, he says of the Kenites, Strong is thy dwelling, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock. Alluding herein to that princely bird the eagle, which not only delights
in soaring to the loftiest heights, but chooses the highest rocks and most elevated mountains as the most desirable situations for erecting her nests. The metaphor signifies security. See Hab. ii. 9. Obad. iv.
No. 739.-xxv. 8. And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman.] The zeal of Phinehas on this particular occasion received the divine approbation, both in personal commendation and public deliverance. Similar impunity with respect to shedding of blood was given by the lawgivers of other nations : Pausanias relates that Draco the Athenian legislator granted impunity to any body that took revenge upon an adulterer. Such also was the institution of Solon, “ If any one seize an adulterer, let him uşe him as he pleases.” Thus Eratosthenes answered a person who begged his life after he had: injured his bed, “ It is not I who slay thee, but the law of thy country.” But it was in the power of the injured person to take a pecuniary mulct by way of atonement: for thus Eratosthenes speaks in Lysias, “ he entreated me not to take his life, but exact a sum of money."
No. 740.--xxvi. 55. The land shall be divided by lot.] This appears to have been a very ancient method of dividing land. It was not only adopted in the present instance in the distribution of a whole country, but was commonly resorted to in order to apportion particular inheritances. See Hesiod, b. i. 55. Thus also in Homer, Ulysses is made to say,
Sprung of a hand-maid from a bought embrace,
The large domain his greedy sons divide,
Odyss. xiv. 234. Pope.
No. 741.--xxxi. 23. It shall be purified with the water of separation.] The Jews have continued from the time of Moses particularly to observe such precepts, whether written or traditional, as respect purification. In many instances they have carried their regard to a superstitious extreme. Leo of Modena, (p. 8.) says, “ If they buy any new vessel of glass, earth, or metal, they wash it first thoroughly, plunging it under water in some river, well, or bath.”
No. 742.-xxxv. 21. The revenger of blood shall slay the murderer when he meeteth him.] “ The civil law declared a man to be unworthy to enjoy the inheritance of one that was murdered, if he neglected to prosecute the person that killed himn, in some court of justice. But the Jewish law allowed, or rather required, a great deal more-that the next of kin should kill the murderer with his own hands, if he met him. Thus the Abyssinians at this day (as Ritterhusius observes out of Alvarez) deliver the murderer into the hand of the next kinsman to torture him.” PATRICK, in loc. The ancient Greeks had no public officer charged by the state to look after murderers. The relations of the deceased alone had a right to pursue vengeance. (Homer, Il. ix. 628.) Pausanias in many places speaks of this ancient usage, (lib. v. c. 1. p. 376. lib. viii. c. 34. p. 669.) an usage that appears to have subsisted always in Greece. GOGUET's Origin of Laws, vol. ii. p. 71.
No. 743.-DEUTERONOMY vi. 7.
And thou shall teach them diligently unto thy children,
and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house.
AMONG the Chinese moral maxims are inculcated by the aged on the younger branches of the family: and plain sentences of morality are hung up in the common hall, where the male branches of the family assemble. This appears to be exactly the same method as was practised by the ancient Hebrews in the time of Moses. See MACARTNEY's Embassy to China.
No. 744.--vi. 9. Thou shall write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.] Leo of Modena (History of the Jews, p. i. c. 2.) says, that in his time the Jews continued this practice, writing on parchment certain passages of scripture, which they roll up, and inscribe with the name of Shaddai. This they put into a piece of cane, or other hollow wood, and fasten to the doors of their houses, and of each particular room in them; and as often as they go in and out, they make it a part of their devotion to touch this parchment, and kiss it. According to Huetius (Demonstratio Evangelica, p. 58.) other nations used to write their laws
No. 745.vii. 15. The Lord will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt upon thee.] In that country they were subject to ulcers called Ægyptiaca and Syriaca, as Casaubon observes on Persius, sat. v. p. 467. With these the priests of Isis used to threaten and terrify poor people, if they did not worship her. In opposition to this Spencer (de Legibus Heb. I. i. c. 3.) thinks that God
made this special promise to his people, to preserve them from all such evil diseases, if they kept themselves pure from idolatry. If the worship of Isis, says Bp. Patrick, were as ancient as the days of Moses, this supposition is very ingenious.
No. 746.-vii. 22. Lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.] That wild beasts are at present in that country in considerable numbers, and terrify strangers, appears in that passage of Haynes, where, describing his arrival at Cana of Galilee, he says, (p. 118.) “ the approaching to Cana, at the close of day, as we did, is at once terrifying and dangerous. The surrounding country swarms with wild beasts, such as tigers, leopards, jackals, &c. whose cries and howling, I doubt not, as it did me, would strike the boldest traveller, who had not been frequently in a like situation, with the deepest sense of horror." See also Ezek. xxxiv. 25.
HARMER, vol. iv. 171.
No. 747.-xii. 31. For even their sons and their daughters they have burnt in the fire to their gods.] This was notoriously practised by the Carthaginians, who, it is certain, derived it from the Phænicians, the ancient inhabitants of this country. Plato mentions it in Protagora, where he says, - the Athenian laws did not permit them to sacrifice men; but among the Carthaginians it was a holy rite; so that some of them permitted their sons to be offered to Saturn." This wicked custom at last overspread all nations, even the Greeks themselves, See more in ORIENTAL Customs, No. 54.
No. 748.-xiii. 8. Neither shalt thou conceal him.] This law, which requires that relations should both reveal and punish the wickedness of those who were the nearest in blood to them, though apparently severe,