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subsequently becomes the heroine of a stirring drama, full of energy and importance.

Rebekah was the chosen object of a glorious prophecy, and the agent, like her august mother-in-law, of the Divine Will. In a temporal point of view, she is also to be considered as the secondary cause of power to her husband and her family. Rebekah gained favour in the eyes of the king of the Philistines, (as Sarah had done with the king of Egypt) to whose territories Isaac had deemed it expedient to resort (during a second famine). Isaac availed himself of the example of his father; but, the king, discovering that Rebekah was his wife, charged his people, saying: He that toucheth this man or his wife, shall surely be put to death." Isaac thus protected, "waxed great, and went forward," "for he had possessions of flocks, and possessions of herds, and great store of servants, and that which he sowed returned ten fold," and "when he removed to the valley of Gerar, he was visited by the king and the chief captain of his army,” and he was sufficiently powerful to enter into a covenant of alliance with Abimelech himself.

Rebekah, too, was honoured beyond all human distinctions, by having been divinely pronounced to be the predestined mother of two nations," whose founders "struggled in her womb." Yet, thus spiritually elevated, she was, humanly speaking, not the less wretched. Her partiality for her younger and superior son, who was predicted to be such by God himself,* originated those devices which perilled the lives of both, and extorted from the depths of her heart those pathetic exclamations :"Why shall I be deprived also of you both," "I am weary of my life!" Still in the end, she was the cause of the fulfilment of the prophecy, and "secured to Jacob the blessing of Abraham to him and to his seed with him."

That the unhappy Rebekah, however, fell a victim to the morbid affections of maternity, and the perverted activity of her deviceful mind, may be inferred from the fact of the mysterious obscurity which hung upon her death and burial,-the more remarkable as the death and

* Genesis, chap. xxv.

burial of her old Syrian nurse Deborah, who on her bridal day had accompanied her from her father's house, is recorded with graphic detail.*

It appears, then, that both Sarah and Rebekah were deeply interested, and energetically active in forwarding the ordinances of the all-ruling will, in favour of their sons Isaac and Jacob; and they had both to combat and evade the passions and predilections of their husbands, which had hurried Abraham and Isaac into preference for Ishmael and Esau, in contradiction of the divine promises.†

The changing of Jacob's name to Israel,‡ (for as a prince had he power "with God and with men") justified the conduct of his mother, and fulfilled the prediction which preceded his birth.

The increasing wealth of the Hebrews, under the patriarchal government of Israel, which forwarded its temporal power, was, however, morally counteracted in its influence by Polygamy,§ the fatal tendency of which was soon discovered in the domestic misery distracting the family, and embittering the days of the fondest and best, as he was the most unfortunate of fathers. The jeal ousies of the sisters Rachel and Leah for supremacy in their husband's affections, and the contentions of the sons of Bilhah, of Zilpah, produced those dark divisions, which finally ended in the expulsion of Joseph. This event,

* "But Deborah, Rebecca's nurse, died, and she was buried beneath Allon Bachath, under an oak, the oak of Weeping.' "The burial of the nurse of Eneas is similarly described by Virgil.

+"For the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob is the lot of his inheri tance." "He found him in the desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness, He led him about, He instructed him! He kept him as the apple of his eye." "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreading abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings, so the Lord alone did lead him, and there was no strange face with him."-Deuteronomy, chap. xxxii., verse 9, 10, 11, 12. In this passage, the most poetical and sublime, the special intervention of the Deity in favour of Jacob is the justification of the conduct of Rebekah! It is remarkable, that when the women of the Patriarchs had become antiquity to the Jews, they were still referred to as the foundresses of "the house of Israel."--See Ruth, chap. iv.

Genesis, chap. xxviii. verse 13, 14, 15.

Esau had three wives and five sons, Jacob four wives and twelve sons. "If thou shalt afflict my daughters," (says Laban in his paternal wisdom, when parting with Jacob)" or if thou shalt take other wives besides my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness between thee and me."-Genesis, chap. xiii.

though it seated the great grandson of Sarah near the throne of the Pharaohs, eventually caused the future slavery, during four centuries, of the tribes of Israel, with all the struggles and crimes that ensued. It was polygamy, also, that relaxed the spiritual faith of the Israelites, it was the women of strange tribes, and the demoralizing offspring of such ties, that aided mainly to substitute a superstitious devotion to idols, for the pure theism and simple worship of their fathers.*

These many wives of one husband, these numerous servants of one master, these slaves to selfish and to sensual passions, these victims of uneasy sensations, became the future mothers of those ill-organized, stubborn, and dogged generations, which, in spite of their prophets and their legislators, drew down the reprobation of the "God of Abraham and of Isaac." "How long will these people provoke me, and how long will it be ere they believe me, for all the signs I have shown among them."‡

Throughout the remainder of their eventful history, the Israelites, indeed, appear perpetually relapsing into rebellion against the visible majesty of their Creator; refusing faith to the evidence of their own senses; ready under every temptation of discontent or of novelty, to desert, for the idols of other nations, or even for their own creations, the sanctuary of Jehovah. It was thus the violated law of nature reacted in virtue of its own wisdom, and that the injustice committed by the selfishness of the master was avenged in its results by the wrongs and the consequent perversion of his servant.

The twelve sons which Jacob had by his four wives seem respectively to have partaken of the idiosyncrasy of their different mothers. Reuben, the eldest child of the

*After the treachery of the brothers of the beautiful and unfortunate Dinah, and the murder of her betrothed, the devoted Sehem, "who was more honourable than all the house of his father," Jacob, in fear and distrust of the conduct of his sons and of its consequences, was obliged to remove from Canaan to Bethel. Amongst the crimes of his sons, the founders of the future tribes of Israel, Jacob accuses them of idolatry, and commands them to "put away the strange gods that were among them, and be clean, and change their raiments."--Genesis, chap. xxiv.

† Josephus, in detailing the enormous wealth of Jacob, speaks of his domestic happiness in the excellent qualities of his sons. These eulogies are due only to Benjamin and Joseph.

‡ Numbers, iv.

meek and submissive, but unloved Leah, and Joseph and Benjamin, the offspring of the beautiful and too well beloved Rachael, seem alone to have been worthy of the house from which they sprung.

The envious brothers, who hated Joseph for his virtue, who meditated his murder, sold him to slavery, nearly broke their father's heart by the tale of his destruction, and presented to his wretched mother's eyes the afflicting image of a fragment of his dress steeped in his blood, were such sons and such brothers as Oriental despotism produces down to the present day-where woman is still the servant, man the master; and where polygamy is the ruling institute of the land.

The child of Jacob's first deep and legitimate love, the son of the wife of his choice, the well born offspring of a well organized mother, rose superior to the terrible destiny prepared for him by fraternal jealousies and family dissensions; and the betrayed and persecuted Joseph finally attained to the highest rank and consideration, in the most civilized nation of the earth, in that nation which was to enlighten future ages.*

The most precious reward for his services, which the all-forgiving Joseph could obtain from Pharaoh, was a grant of the frontier province of Goshen to his father and brethren. The settlement of the Hebrews in Egypt, however favourable to their interests in the first instance, terminated in their slavery, not, perhaps, unprovoked by that peculiarity of their constitutional characters, which "hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks" throughout the whole of their miraculous story, and rendered them a community always difficult to serve and impossible to rule, whom

"No king could govern, whom no God could please."t

*The Rabbinical writers assert that Abraham, in return for the wealth heaped on them, for Sarah's sake, by the Egyptian king, taught the Egyptians arithmetic and astrology, "which (says Josephus), thus coming from Chaldea into Egypt, passed from the Egyptians to the Greeks."

+ The slavery of the Iraelites seems to have arisen out of one of those revolutions, which brought to the throne of Egypt a foreign king. The king, "which knew not Joseph," could hardly have been of the same house with the Pharaoh who established his people in Goshen.

CHAPTER V.

The Women of the Hebrews. Under the Egyptian Captivity. At the Exodus. In the Desert of Shur. Miriam. The Daughters of Zelophehad. The inheritance of daughters among the Hebrews.

PRONE to murmur, slow to reform, turbulent, and prolific, the Israelites, increasing in numbers and in wealth, became, in the eyes of the Egyptians, a nucleus of sedition and an example of discontent. "The children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceedingly strong; and the king said they are more and mightier than we! so let us deal wisely, lest they multiply, and that it come to pass when there falleth out a war, they join our enemies and fight against us. Therefore they did set over them taskmasters, and afflicted them with their burthens; but the more they afflicted them the more they grew."

The consequences of this false policy in the Egyptian government led eventually to the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, to their forty years' wandering in the desert, and to their final conquest and settlement in the land of Canaan !

That the descendants of Jacob benefited largely by their sojourn in Egypt, that they borrowed from its superior civilisation many arts of luxury and refinement, many implements of agriculture, and of civil life, together with far juster ideas of commerce than they entertained in the days of the Patriarchs, may be inferred from the details of scripture, and from the evidences of corresponding discoveries, which science and enterprise are daily making in the earth-embosomed history of remote and unwritten antiquity.

That the condition of the Hebrew women was also improved by the long residence of their people in that land of wealth and refinement, may be deduced from their active agency at the stirring epoch of their delivery, when the flight of the enslaved colony, the simultaneous emi

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