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For OCTOBER, 1756.
A Short History of the Israelites. With an account of their
Manners, Cuftoms, Law, Polity, and Religion. Being an useful Introduction to the reading of the Old Testament. Tranpated from the French of Abbé Fleury, Author of the Ecclesia aftical History. By Ellis Farneworth, M. X. 8vo. 35. Whifton.
S this work has never before, that we know of, been
translated into English, and as the generality of our
Readers are therefore, probably, unacquainted with it; we shall, without any apology, lay before them the following
view of its contents.
The Abbé has divided his work into three parts, in the first of which he treats of the Patriarchs; in the second, of the Israelites, from their going out of Egypt, to the Babylonish captivity; and in the third, of the Jews, after they returned from captivity, to the promulgation of the gospel. In treating of the Patriarchs, he confiders, first, their nobility; nd tells us, that they lived after a noble manner, in perfect freedom, and great plenty, tho' their way of living was plain and laborious ; that Abraham knew the whole fucceffion of his ancestors, and no way leffened his nobility, fince he married into his own family; that he took care to provide a wife of the same race for his fon, and that Ifaac made Jacob obferve the same law. He observes farther, that the families of the Patriarchs were little states, of which the father was, in a manner, King. VOL. XV, Y
From treating of their nobility, he proceeds to confider their riches, which consisted chiefly in sheep, camels, horned cattle, goats, and affes. Notwithstanding which, the Abbé observes they were very laborious, always in the field, lying under tents, frequently upon the march, shifting their abode according to the convenience of pasture, and consequently often taken up with encamping and decamping.
"One may judge of the men's laborious way of living,' says he, by that of the young women. Rebecca came a good • way off to draw water, and carried it upon her shoulders;
and Rachael herself kept her father's fock; neither their • nobility nor beauty 'made them so delicate as to scruple it. • This primeval fimplicity was long retained amongst the • Greeks, whose good breeding we yet adınire with so much 6 reason. Homer affords us examples of it throughout his (works, and pastorals have no other foundation. It is certain, that in Syria, Greece, and Sicily, there were persons • of condition, who made it their sole occupation to breed cattle for more than one thousand five hundred
after the Patriarchs; and who, in the great leisure that fort of life afforded, and the good humour those delightful countries inspired them with, composed several little pieces of poetry, ftill extant, of inimitable beauty and fimplicity.'
He concludes his short account of the Patriarchs, with faying somewhat of their frugality; shewing, that they were far from being nice in their eating, &c. and that it was their plain and laborious way of life, that made them attain to such a great old age, and die fo calmly. Both « Abraham and Ifaac,' says he lived near two hundred years.
The other Patriarchs, whose age is come to qur • knowlege, exceeded an hundred at least, and we do not hear « that they were ever fick, during so long a life. He gave up " the ghost, and died in a good old age, full of days, is the man
ner in which the scripture describes their death. The first 6 time we read of physicians is, when it is said that Joseph
commanded his domeftics to embalm the body of his father. • It was in Egypt, and many have ascribed the invention of 6 phyfic to the Egyptians.
% The moderation of the Patriarchs, with regard to wives, $. is no less to be admired, when we consider they were allowed s to have several, and their defire of a numerous pofterity." And yet I do not undertake to justify all the Patriarchs in 6 this point. The story of Judah and his sons affords but
too many examples of the contrary. I would only shew, " that we cannot, with justice, accule those of incontinence,
« whom the scripture reckons holy. For with regard to the
rest of mankind, they were from that time very much corrupted. Such then, in general, was the first state of God's people. An entire fredom, without any government, but that of a father, who was an abfolute monarch in his own
family: A life very natural and easy, through a great a& bundance of neceflaries, and an utter contempt of superflui
ties; through an honest labour, accompanied with care and frugality, without anxiety or ambition.
The Abbé now proceeds to the fecond period of the history of the Israelites, viz. from their coming out of Egypt, to the Babylonish captivity. This period lasted more than nine hun- . dred
years, and most of the sacred writings relate to it. In treating this part of his subject; he sets out with considering the nobility of the Israelites, a point he feems very defirous of eftablithing
They were very exa&,' says he, in keeping their genealo• gies, and knew all the succession of their ancestors, as high
as the Patriarch of the tribe;, from whom it is easy going « back to the first man. Thus they were really brethren, that
is to say kinfmen, according to the eastern language, and • of genuine nobility, if ever there was such a thing in the < world.
They had preserved the purity of their families, by taking care, as their fathers did, not to marry with the nations « descended from Canaan, that were under a curse. For we 6 do not finds that the Patriarchs avoided matches with any
other people, or that they were exprefly forbidden by the . law to marry with them. Their families were fixed and ( tied down, by the same law, to certain lands, on which they
were obliged to live, during the space of the nine hundred
years I have mentioned. Now, methinks, we should esteem • that family very noble indeed, that could fhew as long a “ 'fuccession of generations, without any disgraceful weddings ' in it, or change of mansion. Few noblemen in Europe can prové so much.
The principal distinction that birth occafioned among the Ifraelites, was that of the Levites and Priests. The whole « tribe of Levi was dedicated to God, and had no inheritance < but the tenths, and the first fruits, which it received from (the other tribes, Of all the Levites, the descendants of Aa
ron only were priests: the rest were employed in the other
functions of religion ; in singing psalms, taking care of the • tabernacle, or temple, and instructing the people. Two of • the other tribes were sufficiently distinguished. That of Y a
Judah was always the most illustrious, and the most numerous; of which, according to Jacob's prophecy, their Kings, and the Messiah himself, were to come.
That of Ephraim held the second rank, on account of Joseph: yet the eldest branches, and the heads of each family, were most esteemed in every tribe; and this made Saul say, furprized with the
respect that Samuel paid him, Am not I of the smallest of the • tribes of Israel, and my family the leaft of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin?
Our author now goes on to treat of their employments; and here he tells us, that there were no diftinct professions amongst the Ifraelites, but that from the eldest of the tribe of Judah, to the youngest of that of Benjamin, they were all husbandmen and shepherds, driving their ploughs, and watching their flocks themselves. He is at great pains to vindicate the honours of agriculture, and to thew that the laborious life of the Israelites, was a proof of their wisdom; after which he
proceeds to consider the fruitfulness of their foil, their riches, their arts and trades.
- We know no people,' says he, more entirely addicted to agriculture, than the Israelites. The Egyptians and Syrians joined manufactures, navigation, and trade to it: but
above all, the Phoenicians, who, finding themselves straitned ' in point of room, from the time that the Israelites drove them
out of their country, were obliged to live by trade, and be in a manner brokers and factors for all the rest of the world. The Greeks imitated them, and excelled chiefly in arts. On the contrary, the Romans despised mechanics, and applied themselves to commerce : as for the Israelites, their land was sufficient to maintain them; and the sea-coasts were, for the most part, pofTeffed by the Philistines and the Canaanites, who were the Phænicians. There was only
the tribe of Zabulon, whose share of land lay near the sea, ! that had any temptation to trade; which seems to be fore' fold in the blessings of Jacob and Mofes.
· Nor do we fee, that they applied themselves any more to ( manufactures. Not that arts were not then invented :
many of them are older than the flood: and we find that the “Ifraelites had excellent workmen, at least, as soon as the $ time of Moses. Bezaleel and Aholiab, who made the ta
bernacle, and every thing that was necessary for the service of God, are an instance that puts it out of dispute. It is surprizing how they came to be so well skilled in arts that
were not only very difficult, but very different from one • another. They understood melting of metals, cutting and
engraving precious stones: they were joiners, makers of • tapestry, embroiderers, and perfumers.
But whether these two famous workmen had learned from the Egyptians, or their skill was miraculous and inspired by 5, God, as the scripture seems to say, it does not appear that
they had any to succeed them, nor that any of the Ifraelites were artificers by profession, and worked for the public, till
the time of the Kings. When Saul began to reign, it is • taken notice of, that there was no workman that understood
forging iron in all the land of Israel. ... If one was to reckon up all trades particularly, it would appear
that many would have been of no use to them. Their <plain way of living, and the mildness of their climate, made
that long train of conveniences unnecessary, which we think & it hard to be without, tho' vanity and effeminacy, more than
real want, have introduced them. And as to things that
were absolutely necessary, there were few of them that they ç did not know how to make themselves. All sorts of food
cooked within doors. The women made bread and « prepared the victuals, they spun wool, made stuffs and wearsing apparel : the men took care of the rest.
• Homer describes old Eumæus making his own shoes, and says, that he had built fine stalls for the cattle he bred. Ulysses himself built his own house, and set up his bed with great art, the structure of which served to make him known to Penelope again. When he left Calypso, it was he alone that built and rigged the ship; from all which we see the
spirit of these antient times. It was esteemed an honour to 4 understand the making of every thing necessary for life one's
felf, without any dependence upon others; and it is that
which Homer most commonly calls wisdom and knowlege. « Now I must say, the authority of Homer appears to me very great in this case.
As he lived about the time of the pro. phet Elias, and in Asia-minor, all the accounts that he gives of the Greek and Trojan customs, have a wonderful relemblance with what the Scripture informs us of, concerning the manners of the Hebrews, and other eastern people: only the Greeks, not being so antient, were not so polite. • But luxury increasing after the division of the two kingdoms, there is reason to believe they had always plenty of ''workmen. In the genealogy of the tribe of Judah, we
may observe there is a place called the Valley of Craftsmen, - because, says the Scripture, they dwelt there. There is 5 likewise mention made, in the lame place, of people that
wrought fine linen, and of potters, who worked for the